Monday, October 31, 2005


Visitor from the forest

Visitor from the forest, originally uploaded by Bitterroot.

Happy Halloween!!

Sunday, October 30, 2005


The last of the blackberry patch

Saturday, October 29, 2005


Hillside mosaic

Country, originally uploaded by Bitterroot.

Soon the show will be over and the texture of this hillside will have a very different quality, that of muted grays and bare, latticed branches. We will be able to see the structure of the forest.

Friday, October 28, 2005


Random patterns

Random patterns, originally uploaded by Bitterroot.

Thursday, October 27, 2005


Staghorn sumac

Staghorn sumac, originally uploaded by Bitterroot.

Here is another sight that I've passed by many times in many years until I really stopped to study the scene while photographing it. This is the "horn" or fruit of the staghorn sumac that grows wild in the midwest. One recent evening I sallied forth to grab some shots in the last light and found this very commonplace fall feature glowing luminously in the setting sun. Just look at those colors of autumn, modulating from deep orange to almost white. Such a beautiful world!

Added note: having just posted this, I found a comment on the Flickr version of the photo from my friend MontanaRaven. She has such a lyrical way of expressing things that I have imported her comment here:

"She is a dancer taking a bow, and behind her on the stage her fellow dancers .... moving, flaming red, the color of fire and grace. They all run towards the front of the stage, bowing to wild applause. This .... this is the performance of the season, the way Autumn plies her graceful lithe way into Winter. One last show of color before they disrobe and go back once again ... to their (almost drab) street clothes."

Thank you M!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005


Impregnable fortress in Spain

Impregnable fortress in Spain, originally uploaded by Bitterroot.

Here's a textured scene of a very different sort from previous entries: an ornate, spiked grille serving the most pedestrian of functions: window protection. My eye was caught by the shadows of the spikes on the grainy surface of the building. This is a detail from the Palacio de Communicationes, or Spain's post office headquarters.

...and another perspective of the same building. The sunlight brings the myriad details of ornamentation into sharp relief.

Spain's post office (!), originally uploaded by Bitterroot.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005


Sunglow and rainclouds on a Sunday

Sunday was one of those dreary drizzly days in Wisconsin when you can feel quite virtuous about staying in by the fire on a lazy afternoon. Something (guilt over sloth) drew me outside as the sun was setting. I took a good brisk hike and came round a corner to see these hills.

Suddenly, just for a few moments, the clouds opened just enough to bathe the earth in these splendid colors. The effect was like a spotlight swinging over the landscape. Then the lowering clouds rolled in, the colors faded, and the rain gave me a good soaking. It was another moment when everything came together at the right time. I was really quite awestruck that I was the only person present for this elaborate production.

Monday, October 24, 2005


Untold stories in Wrangell, Alaska

Wrangell Harbor, Alaska, originally uploaded by Bitterroot.

Thinking about texture, this scene in Wrangell Harbor, Alaska has it all: the rough rock in the foreground fading back to the pine silhouettes and the mountains shrouded in clouds.

And the boats! What is their story? You can probably see by now that I am drawn to abandoned, derelict structures that obviously have had a rugged history. They are an antidote to the generic, plastic world that so often surrounds us. Perhaps that's why I like wild places with texture and dimension. They allow the imagination to unfold and peek into the nooks and crannies, the bumps and swirls and shrouds of mist. Texture is part of earth's richness.

Sunday, October 23, 2005


Abandoned farm

Abandoned barn, originally uploaded by Bitterroot.

The natural world is taking over this old abandoned farmstead. The grass is springing up everywhere and growing unheeded right into the doorway of the old barn. I was struck by the contrast between the weathering barn boards and the lush greenery overtaking the building.

Abandoned farmhouse, originally uploaded by Bitterroot.

And here is the house, sitting with dignity in the impersonal sunshine.

What happened here? This is a solidly constructed place, with loving attention to detail. It's situated in a lovely valley in southwestern Wisconsin, surrounded by other tidy and prosperous farm operations. What quirk of fate drove this family to leave a place that provided such fine shelter?

Saturday, October 22, 2005


Sunrise over Lolo Peak

Sunrise over Lolo Peak, originally uploaded by Bitterroot.

Morning light on the mountain: fresh snow gleams on Lolo Peak as first light transforms the sky. The hills in the foreground are still in semi-darkness at this hour.

Friday, October 21, 2005


Water, rock, leaf, & light

Water, rock, leaf, & light 3, originally uploaded by Bitterroot.

In thinking about texture, we can't confine ourselves just to landforms: for instance, take water. Or clouds. Or rays of sun. Though these don't have that nubbly or velvety texture that you can feel with your fingertips, their patterns provide a different sort of visual texture that is magical. There's something about those smooth rocks gleaming at the bottom of a swift stream...the combination of sunlight and water is a continuous source of reflection and delight to me. Here are some late-afternoon sunbeams dancing in Rattlesnake Creek just outside of Missoula, Montana.

Thursday, October 20, 2005


A brief blooming: the moonflower

Canyonlands, Utah, originally uploaded by Bitterroot.

Here is a moonflower, a cousin to the morninglory, growing wild in the Utah desert. Each flower opens once only and unfurls its beauty in the late afternoon or early evening, to bloom all night. On a hike in the Canyonlands, the soft delicacy of this ephemeral flower against the unyielding, timeless rock made a lovely vignette by the side of the trail.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


Too beautiful to be true: Salmon Lake

Salmon Lake 1, originally uploaded by Bitterroot.

Salmon Lake 2, originally uploaded by Bitterroot.

On my recent trip up the Seeley-Swan valley in western Montana, I just couldn't get enough of this tiny island in Salmon Lake with the dramatic backdrop of golden tamarack and the glass-smooth lake in the foreground. I am sparing you the majority of the multiple pix I took of the scene, and am contenting myself here with just two views of this elegant combination.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


Fall grasses in Wisconsin

Blackhawk Lake, Wisconsin, originally uploaded by Bitterroot.

This is a wonderful spot, near Blackhawk Lake in southwestern Wisconsin. I love the way the textured grass sets off the perfect sky and the gently rounded hilltop and trees. A scene like this can actually make you forget for a moment that the world is not always an orderly place...

Monday, October 17, 2005


Darkness and light in the canyons of Utah

Canyonlands, Utah, originally uploaded by Bitterroot.

This was taken in Canyonlands National Park near Moab, Utah. There's a dramatic contrast in texture here with the patterned, rugged rock rising up from delicate tracery of the leaves.

The sudden cool darkness as the sun slipped behind the canyon rim was striking and a mite alarming! We hiked quickly to climb up out of the canyon before night fell completely. We finished by swarming up a series of ladders set into the vertical cliff face to get to the top. If you enlarge this photo you can just barely see the hikers making their way up the trail.

Sunday, October 16, 2005


Forest floor in Wisconsin

Forest floor in Wisconsin, originally uploaded by Bitterroot.

Zooming in to an intimate perspective of fall texture, here is a miniature world on the forest floor in Iowa County, Wisconsin. The lichen, the tiny ferms, the jumble of leaves against the rock make a feast for the eyes.

Saturday, October 15, 2005


Luminous aspen in Canada

Autumn in the canyon, originally uploaded by Bitterroot.

To explore fall textures...this was taken from a small plane overlooking the Stikine River Canyon in northern Canada. The Stikine is the fastest navigable river in North America. You don't see the river here, but you see the velvety, nubbly texture of the aspen trees as they gleam in the afternoon sun on the cliff overlooking the river.

Friday, October 14, 2005


The texture of autumn

The texture of fall, originally uploaded by Bitterroot.

The gorgeous fall colors I've seen in the past couple of weeks have drawn me to focus on the textures of the earth. This combination of juniper and huckleberry bushes, taken by Clearwater Lake in the Swan Valley, is an example. The prickly green branches of the juniper set against the glowing red of the huckleberry leaves is a perfectly wrought woodland design. Had not a ray of late-afternoon sun touched this spot, I would have walked right by it on the trail.

More fall texture photos coming up; back to our spire photos down the road a piece...

Thursday, October 13, 2005


Letting in the light

Letting in the light, originally uploaded by Bitterroot.

Speaking of spires, I was charmed by this tiny cupola atop a tiny house in Hot Springs, Montana. It's quirky and unique. What sort of room does it light up? And can you poke your head up inside there to peep out?

Wednesday, October 12, 2005


Golden spires reflecting last light

A fall day in Montana, originally uploaded by Bitterroot.

Golden tamarack in western Montana (see previous post of October 8.) This was taken near Clearwater Lake, in the Lolo National Forest. This is a little wilderness lake that gleams under the sun in absolute solitude and silence at this time of year.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005


Alpine fir reflections

Alpine fir reflections, originally uploaded by Bitterroot.

A variation on our spires theme: tiny points of alpine fir are reflected in this pool in the West Fork of the Clearwater River.

Monday, October 10, 2005


Glimpse of Swan Range from Seeley Lake, Montana

The lone spire of a young tamarack stands sentinel at the inlet of the Clearwater River as it flows into Seeley Lake in western Montana.

Sunday, October 09, 2005


A forest of golden spires

A fall day in Montana, originally uploaded by Bitterroot.

Continuing with the spires theme, here is a wilderness valley at the foot of the Swan Range in western Montana. The golden spires here are western larch, or tamarack, which turn golden and shed their needles in the fall. Magnifique!

Saturday, October 08, 2005


Marysville, Montana

Marysville, Montana, originally uploaded by Bitterroot.

Here's a sweet little spire on a frontier church in Marysville, Montana, a semi-ghost-town in the mountains outside of Helena.

Friday, October 07, 2005


Plumed grasses in Madrid

Plumed grasses, originally uploaded by Bitterroot.

Looking at spires of all sorts, here is a lovely feathery grouping of spire shapes in Madrid's Botannical Gardens. the name for this plant is Cortadera Selloana (Pumila,) a native of South America.

Thursday, October 06, 2005


Last burst of color as twilight brings the shadows

An up-to-the minute glimpse of autumn in Wisconsin. It's shaping up to be a beauty!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005


Notre Dame Cathedral spire

Paris, originally uploaded by Bitterroot.

Here is another pair of contrasting shapes, this time in France. The slender spire of Notre Dame cathedral is in the background. We were making our way along Paris streets in rapidly waning winter light, trying to find Notre Dame, and its spire beckoned us onward through the maze.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005


Spires in the Swan

Swan Valley, Montana, originally uploaded by Bitterroot.

Continuing with spires...I do love that aspiring shape that narrows into infinity. The trees with the sharp tops are subalpine fir. This was taken in the Swan Valley in Western Montana. The Bob Marshall Wilderness Area is just on the other side of the mountain.

Monday, October 03, 2005


A delicate pattern: the Eiffel Tower in Paris

Paris, originally uploaded by Bitterroot.

Here is the grande dame of all spires, the Eiffel Tower in Paris. This was taken on a gloomy gray day, which brought out the intricate silhouette of the branches set against the lacy ironwork of the tower. Two delicately patterned networks: one natural, one man-made.

As with all, this photo is best viewed large. See instructions on the left for enlarging pix!

Sunday, October 02, 2005


Anaconda-Pintler spires

Here is another favorite spire scene, taken at Discovery Ski Basin near the Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness in Montana. The camera caught the moment I call "the witching hour:" that interlude in a winter twilight when everything seems ghostly and unreal, yet somehow full of possibilities. This particular witching hour crept in at the end of a magnificent blue and white day of sky, snow, and sunshine.

Saturday, October 01, 2005


A sentinel for 1000 years

Mont St. Michel, Normandy, originally uploaded by Bitterroot.

Continuing with the spires theme...this fat round turret is one of my favorites. It guards the ramparts of Mont St. Michel, a Benedictine abbey and medieval village built on a rock in the sea off the coast of Normandy. This wondrous place is 1000 years old, and has endured many buffetings of history.

Beyond the turret you can see the stretch of sand that is covered by the tide twice a day. Pilgrims visiting the abbey had to wait for the tide to recede before they could cross from the mainland.

There is something so stalwart about this little spire, sitting solidly on a gloomy winter's day. The muted colors, the emptiness of the surroundings, and the weight of its history imparted a magical quality to Mont St. Michel that I'll not forget.

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