Nature’s Mysteries

Sometimes I can’t figure out why Nature develops the way it does, from the big questions (How was the Grand Canyon carved?) to the little ones (why did this tree grow like this?)

Why did this tree grow with a twisted trunk? From a hike in Joshua Tree National Park, California.

Nature’s mysteries keep us coming back to explore some more, and keep us reading and wondering why. I’m always impressed when I see “opportunistic plants” growing in the desert from tiny cracks in the rock where rainwater pools.

I Wish I Were There

I know: the typical line on a scenic post card is “Having a great time, and wish you were here.” This weekend the opposite was true. My daughter Erin was hiking and loving the scenery in Grand Teton National Park, and I wished I were there!

My memories are fresh and sweet from Grand Teton National Park, because I was there recently in late September 2018 for six days of photography from before sunrise to after sundown. I’ll look up an image that I haven’t already shared with you.

The majestic Grand Tetons in early morning light. A patch of golden trees reveals the season: Fall.

Jackson Hole, I will be back! While some of roads are inaccessible in winter, I’m sure the Tetons are beautiful in all four seasons.

Full Moon Sets at Sunrise

If you visit someplace scenic like a National Park for the Full Moon, you can look forward to a Moonset with gentle morning light on untouched Nature. That’s what we found on the morning of May 20 in Joshua Tree National Park. The Full Moon (95% full) looks brightest when the sky is still a bit dark, and a little bit of light on the landscape allows you to see the amazing landscape in the foreground. You will only have a few minutes to balance the darkness and the light for optimum effect.

The rising sun has lit the distant mountains and clouds but not the Joshua Tree in the foreground, which appears almost in silhouette. The low light reveals some detail in the highly textured tree, but makes it a strong visual element in the composition where the moon is the “star.” May 2019

Ballet in the Desert

Whenever the shapes of Nature remind me of ballet, I have to stop and take a picture. This Joshua Tree seems to be arcing a curved arm overhead in a graceful reach to frame the desert.

A single leaning Joshua Tree frames the desert scene on a sunny day in May, 2019.

When you are visiting from the East Coast, you don’t normally think of rattlesnakes and jumping cacti (the cholla or teddy bear cactus), but I was watching my step too.

Was your week wet or dry?

We have had a wet and stormy week in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and other parts of the United States have endured worse — floods or even tornadoes. This late spring/early summer weather can be violent.

So, my mind is traveling back to last week in the dry high-altitude desert. We had cacti all around us in Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California. The Joshua trees themselves are as numerous as they are unique. This one, uniquely shaped, seemed to point toward the setting moon in the west.

Old Joshua Tree points toward the moon as it sets behind the mountains in Joshua Tree National Park, soon after sunrise in late May 2019. We were thankful for a clear day to enjoy some hiking.

Discovering the High Desert

As a part-time Floridian, I’m in love with the coastline, the ocean, tropical plants and birds. I wasn’t sure if I was going to enjoy an adventure into the California desert, but I did!

My daughter booked an Airbnb in Yucca Valley for a couple days’ visit to Joshua Tree National Park, and we got to hike and explore the “high desert,” something new to me. I found the Joshua Trees to be really funky, and the sandstone boulders fascinating too.

We could see the snowy peaks of the San Bernadino Mountains in the distance, while taking in the textures of the high desert terrain at our feet. Just a short time after sunrise, the sunshine was brilliant.

We were lucky that the temperatures were moderate for our May 20-21 visit, and that we stayed close to the national park, in order to get there for sunrise. Stay tuned to this blog for more photographs from this special national park, Joshua Tree.

Born White, Turning Blue

The Little Blue Heron is born as a stark white bird, and it gradually develops those vibrant slate blue feathers as it matures. If you were not aware of that color change, you might wonder about the identity of this unique bird when you see it in the Everglades.

This juvenile Little Blue Heron shows some blue feathers coming in around the neck. The bill is taking on its blue hue as well. The white branches underline its ghostly visage in the swamp. Shark Valley, Everglades National Park, 2019.

Standing on one leg, the heron rests the other while silently watching the water for fish. “Little” is a relative term, as it can grow to 29″ and have a wingspan of 41 inches. It is only “little” when compared to the tall “Great Blue Heron,” that can stand 4.5 feet high.