The Cranes Have Started Their Spring Migration Earlier

It is said that Germany is incredibly grey in the winter. For sure, this year 2022 the skies have been grey with a low hanging clouds for weeks, although temperatures have been mild. And, as the days are really short, which makes it seem worse, the entire territory was plunged under gray skies.

After the snow falls of January, I was not really in the mood for going out to take pictures. After the snow melted away, the pale grayness of the sky soaked the entire landscape. Time to review my catalog and improve my post-processing skills.

And suddenly, for a week, almost every afternoon, I see these long meandering V-shaped flocks of the cranes coming back.

The Snow as a Shaman

One of the first days of January, a dick layer of snow covered the landscape. During the next few minutes I hesitated to awake, however at last I did it and went for a hike.

At that hour, I found quiet trails and deserted woodlands and between the bare trees it was a deep stillness. Being out there feeling the pure silence of winter was gorgeous. Only the sound of snow crunching under my boots broke the silence.

Although it was dark, I walked quickly as I knew the path very well, because it was crucial for me to be on location for the first light of the day. Once on location, I waited for the light, which came slowly, as it was an awfully cloudy day.

And, suddenly, it happened. The snow, acting as a Shaman, interacted as a medium between the spirits of the forest and me. Between the snow, the dark shapes of the trees were such as archaic, telluric Spirits of the Frozen Forest.

New Year

I spent the first days of January visiting a very interesting marsh and wetland area in Hessen, Germany, which is an important migration and resting place for migratory birds and winter guests.

When I crossed a stream I saw a great egret between the reeds. Every time I see an egret I must stop, step back, and look at the bird fascinated by its exquisite nature.

The white egret juxtaposed against the rusty reeds. After a few seconds in a characteristic pose of elegance and dignity, it slowly roamed the shallow waters on the edge of large reeds in search for its breakfast.

When it disappeared between the reads, I went in search of my breakfast, too.

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.