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These Grand Ohio Skies

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


 My entire trip home from Ithaca, all nine hours of it, was a sky show such as I've rarely experienced. Since I've bewcome such an avid iPhone photographer, I truly believe I appreciate clouds more. It's sort of like hunters say they love and understand deer (or whatever they're stalking) more because they hunt them. I see a magnificent skyscape, and I start plotting how best to capture it and keep it for myself. I watch for breaks in the hills and powerlines, good places to pull off, clear spots in the traffic. I'm stalking these clouds.

As breathtaking as the skies were in New York, Ohio had her cloudscapes all dressed up and waiting in the wings. And out they danced, one after another.

I have an absolute thing for anvilhead cumulonimbus. I adore this shot, with Ohio's omnipresent and iconic orange barrels standing watch. Really, it's time to take them down. They're a summer thing. It's like the buzzards returning to Hinkley. Summer comes, and ODOT rolls out the orange barrels to squeeze our already narrow highway passages down to one lane and make us all slow down to 55. That, or get ticketed. Which we do, we do.



But it was to get even more surreal, when a car bombed my next shot of this incredible autumnal landscape. 


 I was pulled over, just shooting away at these perfect hills and this killer sky. I wondered about everyone else, hurtling along. Were they experiencing an advanced and heightened state of rapture as was I?

The particular strength of the iPhone camera is its ability not to be so overwhelmed by bright sky that the land color and detail is lost. I remember so clearly my disappointment with my early Canon film camera, and later my Rebel, for its one-or-the-other approach to sky and land. A professional photographer explained it this way: Either you take your exposure on the sky, and capture that, with the land going completely dark, or you expose on the land and lose the sky, all its whites blown out. Later, I got a Canon GS-11, followed by a GS-12, and it was obvious that Canon had been working on that particular problem. I'm a little chagrined to say that the iPhone has rendered my blocky little Canon GS obsolete. I can actually do more with the iPhone.  Somehow, the iPhone knows that I want to capture both land and sky in perfect exposure. Sure, I have to do a little fiddling sometimes in post processing, which I never had before digital cameras came along. I'll sometimes open up the shadows on the landscape in iPhoto, but I do precious little fiddling. The iPhone 4S camera captures it all. And I love it for that. That, and the fact that it's always with me. No moment, no vista, goes unrecorded. Yay.

I kept my eye on that anvilhead,  rolled on a little farther, and BOOM there was the dilapidated barn and silo just waiting for me. All I had to do was compose the shot. Holy cow. Yes. Ohio is beautiful. You coast-huggin' people ought to give it a chance.


This experience only reinforces my contention that making a habit of photography makes us much more sensitive to beauty. It turns us into artists and composers. More importantly, it turns us into true appreciators. And the best part is you don't have to have "talent." How many times have I heard, "Oh I wish I could paint like you. You're so talented." Well, having started out as a kid able only to scribble, I believe that talent is more or less equivalent to hard work, and yes, we have to work and study to learn how to paint. We can't just wish it into being. On the other hand, anybody can paint like this, because we all have eyes, and almost everybody reading this has a cameraphone these days.

There were some very special things happening with sunbeams, brilliant green hills, and dark clouds. I started shooting through the windshield as I often do when seeing something amazing.


Rolled down the window and went for the unencumbered shot.


And boom! there was a green hill, and a beam spotlighting it, pointing to I don't know what. I always love the dark clouds that cross white ones, the violet-purple ones marching along the horizon. It all makes me want to get out of the darn car and walk those hills. It also makes me want to paint them. I have a fantasy where I chuck it all and just start painting watercolor landscapes, using these ephemeral photos as inspiration. It's nice to have a pipe dream. It's cuddled up against the one about having a specialty mail-order greenhouse growing odd little plants that I love. I think the growing would be a lot more fun than the order fulfilling. Maybe I could grow them for someone else who had an established business.

Soon, I came to our exit (these were all taken along I-77 South in Ohio) and I raced along our ridge to catch the last sunlight on sugar maples.


It's all so ephemeral, so quickly gone. I have to roll around in it while it's here, this light, these leaves. 

I'm thankful for sugar maples and cerulean skies, for slanted evening sun, for whatever basket of beauty the day brings.

By the time we reached The Three Graces, the light was gone, gone like the moa is gone. Color drained out of the landscape. The Graces all decided to go with understated Homecoming gowns this year. They didn't want to upstage each other. Red Maple (left) took it easy, as did Sugar Maple (center). And even gaudy Tupelo (right) decided against flaming red, her usual choice.


Whatever they choose, they're perfect and always beautiful.

7 comments:

Beautiful, as always! Thank you for the reminder to stay in the present and appreciate the beauty that surrounds one if one only bothers to look. I'll wager that very few people do, and are poorer in spirit for it. This is the time of year for amazing clouds, isn't it? The leaves around here seem to be turning rather slowly. Maybe it just hasn't gotten cold enough yet?

We have the traffic cones all around here in Delaware as well, but for a different reason: they are always doing road work, this year more than ever. I sometimes say that the orange traffic cone is our state tree. Thank goodness they don't put them there to control speed on our highways, though. That would really tick me off. Why build highways in the first place if you're going to act like a maiden aunt about people speeding? Sheesh!

Everything you said --
Every photo you posted --
so reflect how I feel ---
I love it all !!

Sometimes when I read you posts I have to stop and remember you don't know me.

Darlene Shamblin

Posted by Anonymous October 28, 2014 at 10:12 AM

Oh yes, those Ohio skies in the fall! To be enjoyed immensely while the season lasts. I am reminded of a story my late aunt loved to tell of shopping in Stern-Mann's Department Store in Canton, Ohio in the dead of winter in the '50s. An announcement was made over the intercom - "The sun is shining, please proceed to the nearest window!"
I love Darlene's comment - so true!

1886Stunningly beautiful. We don't get clouds like that in our southern California skies, so I am very envious of the beauty you are seeing!

Love this post. Love the photos. Love your painting comments. Since I took up watercolors, I see everything in a different light. Even the days I don't have time to paint, I am still painting the scenery in my head. Bet you do that too.

Fantastic post. I recently read that we are taking too many pictures and not looking enough, but I agree with you that composing pictures makes one see and appreciate the beauty all the more.

Oh, Julie. Your posts make me so happy to know that others out there, you and your followers, appreciate these wonders, free to all, just look and see!

Posted by Gail Spratley November 3, 2014 at 8:39 AM
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