Last Days of November, First Winter Snowfalls

Yes, I know, strictly speaking, winter begins on 21st December, so, November ist not yet winter. Nevertheless, these last days of November, the landscape is covered with a thick layer of snow, and the temperatures are below 0º C, consequently, I may say, winter.

As I said in my last post, November, a gray, cold and wet month, could be considered as a transition, being, indeed, an anomalous month in which it’s challenging to be convinced to go out for taking pictures. Trying to admire the beauty in nature on a November day with gray skies and naked trees is a challenge in itself.

Despite these days, we know that the coronavirus pandemic is far from over and the virus spreads quickly, with a large part of the world unvaccinated, I went out to welcome the first snowfalls.

November as a Transition

Sometimes, transitions are not effortless, as they convey change, that is the movement from something that is ending, to something that could begin. In between, there is a “no man’s land” with incertitude, missteps and instability.

November has neither the colors nor the skies nor the light of October, is not yet the winter, quite the opposite: November has overcast skies with gray or dark blue clouds that come down to earth as thick fog, so the colors of fall have mostly fallen and the lack of foliage reveals the dark silhouettes of the trunks.

During my last hikes in the woodlands and mountains I was uncomfortable, due to the gloomy, if not sinister, appearance of the woodlands. For that reason, I decided to change the setting looking for more open, lighter landscapes and I spend a couple of days on the upper Rhine plains.

In the course of my hikes,there was a light fog that allowed a gentle light for making pictures and, luckily, I enjoyed some chance encounters with great egrets, roe deers, birds of prey and hares running between the piles of harvested sugar beets.

Autumn Is on Its Way

Yes, the Sun is going down, to the South Pole…. Colder, shorter and misty days, magnificent woodlands, splendorous trees, a perfect combination for a few hikes to the mountain, the Taunus range, in the centre of Germany.

Consequently, I made some hikes, early morning, in some foggy days. Solitude, peace, but unfortunately not silence, inasmuch always there is a concert for harvester or lawnmower, with the basso continuo of the airplanes flying in the sky.

One day, a little herd of roe deer went away quickly from me. Another day, a squirrel raved at me considering I was too close to its tree with my tripod… It looks like the forest animals don’t like us, the humans, very much…

Meanwhile, the United Nations Climate Change Conference takes place in Glasgow, on its 26th edition, after 26 years, and the conference is on its way…

Message in a Landscape

For me, summer is not the best season for taking photographs because the light is very hard on the bright summer days, and, in woodland, the patches of sunlight scattered on the trunks and on the forest floor create very harsh contrasts, what makes -at least for me – very difficult to make acceptable photos. And for good light I have to wake up too early. I’ve tried that, certainly, but I’m obliged to admit, that I couldn’t.

Nevertheless, at the beginning of July I did a hike following a part of the so called Limes hiking trail, which follows the border of the ancient Roman Empire – established by the beginning of the 2nd century AD -, and includes numerous forts of varying sizes, civilian settlements – some of which have extended bath facilities and residential buildings – and also towers as well as the border fortifications themselves.

Although the hike followed along a charming woodland path, in some places, the spruce plantations have been cleared, because many of the trees died. Spruces are not very resistant to heat and drought, two problems that affected central Europe last years, so shortage of water and heat weakened the trees defences and the bark beetle attacked the weakened trees.

It is on these cleared woodlands, between logs and death branches, where the poisonous common foxglove (Digitalis Purpurea) grows, with its nice purple flowers arranged in showy, elongate cluster. But this beauty doesn’t hide the danger: the leaves, flowers and seeds of this plant are all poisonous.

Were the logs, the death branches and the foxglove, messages in a landscape?

The Roaring Twenties Again?

I have curled mid the boles of the ash wood,
I have hidden my face where the oak
Spread his leaves over me, and the yoke
Of the old ways of men have I cast aside.

Ezra Pound. Personae.

After a cold and rainy May, June hat brought unusual hot days, days during which the people spread across the recreational areas as nature and city parks, woodlands, beaches, lakes and rivers, leaving behind them a trail of plastic bags, beer cans and masks. Are we facing a new Roaring Twenties period with dramatic social and political changes?.

In any case, I’m too old – and for this reason a little bit melancholy and very pessimistic about the future -, to participate in that cheerfulness.

However, I used a couple of nice days to hide my face where the oaks (or beech trees), spread their leaves over me.

Days of Wind, Cold, Clouds and Rain

This month of May, cold fronts and their associated depressions have swept across Western Europe, bringing us unusually wet, cold and miserable weather.

It was not easy to go out to take pictures…!

But the skies were quiet interesting, and I could overcome the laziness.

I travelled across the northern and southern slopes of the Taunus range because I wanted big and clear views.

While on the southern slopes, a small-structured cultural landscape with extensive scattered orchards, I enjoyed an impressive view of a storm over the skyscrapers located in the financial district of Frankfurt city.

On the northern slopes, that fall gradually in the form of a plateau with steep and wooded valleys to the Lahn valley, I enjoyed a nice late and cloudy afternoon, with sunny intervals, building nice spots of light over the wooded hills.

Somewhere over the Red Cliffs

We are now approaching Nature.

Please disregard the subject-object split

Mike Roman.
Mind the Gap. Stravaig#5 Scottish Center for Geopoetics

Almost every year, I take one of my favorite walks over the red cliffs of a ryolithe massif, somewhere (remember one of the rules of Nature First – The Alliance for Responsible Nature Photography: Use discretion if sharing locations ), south of the Hunsrück massif, a long mountain range West of Germany.

It is a relatively easy hiking trail with convenient accessibility, and the woodland surrounding the cliffs has a huge number of thermophile species which remember me the vegetation of the Mediterranean region where I was born.

The path closely follows the edge of the cliffs offering incredible views of the vineyards bellow the cliffs and the surrounding valleys of he Hunsrück.

The cliffs are a very interesting landform, a laboratory for geomorphologists, a place where it is possible to study how the earth surface processes, such as air, water and ice, can mould the landscape. But as Mike Roman wrote, I´m in nature, consequently, it´s time for poetry, not for science.

Water hollows stone,

wind scatters water,

stone stops the wind.

Water, wind, stone.

Wind carves stone,

stone’s a cup of water,

water escapes and is wind.

Stone, wind, water.

Octavio Paz. Wind, Water, Stone.

At the beginning of the path, there is a view point which offers splendid views over the ravines, the pinnacles and crests that fall on the vineyards and into the river.

I try to take some pictures as I discover a pair of common kestrel flying tireless, making an incredible and beautiful dance between pinnacles and crests.

Behind me, two young couples with flaming sneakers are sitting down on a bench glued to their smartphones. Some minutes later, a middle age couple arrives, come near the edge of the cliffs, turn their backs to the cliffs, take a selfie, and quickly go back to the parking lot. – Two more picture-snapping posers – I say to me while I put the camera in the rucksack, fold the tripod and go on.

A country begins with a ground, a geology. When it loses contact with that, it’s no longer a country at all. It’s just a supermarket, Disneyland or a madhouse

Kenneth White, ‘The Re-Mapping of Scotland,’ The Wanderer and his Charts:Essays on Cultural Renewal.

Earth Day

On April, 22nd. I had planned a getaway in the Taunus mountain range, to „celebrate“ the Earth Day, an annual event on that day to demonstrate support for protecting the environment.

When the day came and the alarm clock went off at 6:00 am, I glanced through the window, seeing a rainy and cold day. It took me half an hour to get up.

Although the Taunus is a relatively low range, with smooth, rounded mountains covered with forest , in some points of the range emerge, between the woodlands, some cliffs of shale, cliffs which I’ve tried many times to photograph.

When I reached the edge of a cliff, there weren’t traces of the spring. The trees perched over the rock had no leaves, the fog came up from the valley giving a felt of mystery. After taking some pictures I began the celebration of Earth day: with a bin bag and rubber gloves I began to gather the waste that people had thrown away. The harvest was worse than expected: beer bottles, masks -last trend – , tissues, packets of cigarettes…

Mission accomplished!

At home, while looking at the calendar for the next Day Of.…, it seemed to me that Humankind is moving from one Day Of… to another Day of… without any result.

Spring is Here

The birds around me hopped and played,

Their thoughts I cannot measure:—

But the least motion which they made

It seemed a thrill of pleasure

William Wordsworth. Lines Written in Early Spring

I went for a walk two days after the astronomical spring, as I wanted to take a few pictures of flowers, provided that it’s a subject matter that I scarcely photograph.

The path wound between the bare shapes of leafless trees, and, on the edge there were some little lesser celandine, a harbinger of spring. The wood was silent and motionless in the cold air of the late afternoon. Only the birds celebrated the new season.

Suddenly, 100 meters away in front of me, in a bend in the trail, stood a border forsythia bush, full of flowers.

I spent some time practicing macro photography, while some strollers looked out of the corner of their eyes at me, an eccentric person who stuck their nose in a bush.