Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Skywatch Friday: 13 Ways of Looking at Spring Skies

Wallace Stevens's iconic poem "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird" was one of the first texts I studied in a graduate course on translation. The concept that understanding involves multiple perspectives wasn't all that new to me, but this poem drew me to Stevens and his other works, and has frequently prompted visual "thought experiments" that involve looking at familiar things in different ways.

Since many of the photos I take are of my little half-acre in north Texas, I'm frequently inspired to shoot the same object(s) over and over again, at different moments throughout the year. Now, midway through a rainy spring, and before the premature summer weather sets in, I thought it would be a good time to visit and revisit some of this year's subjects.

The opening photo is one I took just after I started posting on Skywatch Friday, and just as the trees in front of the house started budding. The one that follows is of a gloomier moment, as storm clouds began to gather in a spot nearby, about two weeks later:

Just before the official entrance of Spring (phenologically, it arrives early in Texas), I accidentally caught a flock of Cedar Waxwings on film, although I didn't realize what they were until I was choosing photos for this post. I wasn't sure even when I enlarged the image, because their little cockades didn't show up; but the tails and the yellow-grey vests give them away:

And here's a closeup:

Today, as soon as the sun arrived (after several soggy, cloudy, dismal days) I went out a'shootin' and to my surprise, there they were again, this time filching the mulberries that grow next to my front door (the mulberry overlaps with the enormous pecan that grows in the southeast part of the property):

And a closer view:

Concurrent with the first Waxwing photo, I snapped a pleasant surprise--a volunteer redbud that had settled in long enough to be bud (although the buds are really pink), and not far away from that the wisteria had also started to bloom,

to be followed in another ten days by voluptuous, frowsy vines all over the fence, perfuming the entire yard:

Some of the flora aren't quite as dramatic, but still contribute to the suggestion of heavy vegetation to come, such as my well-loved Bur Oak. Its acorns are majestic, as big as hens' eggs, and its rough bark forms a nice backdrop to its large crenelated leaves--here only just budding out, dripping catkins:

Most of the photographs featured so far have shamelessly used the sky as a backdrop; but in these last three, it provides most of the content. The first is of a fairly typical evening in March, just as baby leaves have started to obscure the sky. The skeletal branches of winter have been replaced by fuzz, and clouds move in on a regular basis, but in this shot there's still a bit of blue in the corner, and darkness hasn't quite won out. Within a month there would be little sky at all to see through the canopy.

The second was taken as I was getting ready to enter the hospital, knowing that this month (April) would end my quest to capture all the full moons of the year. As it turned out, on the night of the Full Pink Moon I was still in ICU, and it was the proverbial dark and stormy night (I remember the rain beating against the big windows in my room), so I wouldn't have caught it anyway. Still, this shot of the waxing gibbous moon (although a little fuzzy; I didn't even think to get out the telephoto lens) got fairly close to the proper date.

April showers were in full force for most of the month, and on the 28th I awoke to a mist-drenched back yard. The sky had fallen into my garden, and we got a bit of a respite from the rain.

As much as I complain about being exiled from the land of my birth, there are many things to love about what's left of the prairie. My little carbon sink and my accidental garden remind me that it wouldn't take too long for signs of human habitation to disappear, at least on this small piece of land. I'm trying to strike a balance between too much "civilization" and too little, and I'm frequently rewarded by the variety and density of nature, and the role the sky plays in bringing it to my attention.

Happy Skywatch Friday, People--and many thanks to the crew that put this meme together and keeps it thriving.

All photos taken with a Nikon D80, using either Nikkor 18-135 mm or Sigma DL Macro Super 70-300 mm lenses.


Anonymous said...

Great sequence of photos! love the photos of the birds.

Maria said...

This sequence of spring photos is gorgeous... I love the one of the cedar waxwings ... the closeup... it's my favorite photo of the evening...
I love birds! thank you... ~Maria

Martha Z said...

My boys used to ask me how I could hike the same trail once or twice a week, all summer. I told them it was never the same. You have explained it beautifully in this series of photos.

jabblog said...

I love the idea of sequential photography and this is a beautiful series of photos. Thank you.

Judy said...

i read the poem for the first time, and i am going to have to spend more time with it! so much to ponder! thank you!
and thank you for the photos! i like the way you show your little part of the world in its many moods! i know what you mean about it never being the same two days in a row, and my camera is making that ever more clear to me!

Arija said...

So often the familiar provides an infinite variety of photo opportunities with changing light, weather, conditions and seasonal changes and variations. A great show of love for your surroundings.

Wayne Batchelder said...

Your post reminds me of our new lot on Kentucky which has three Mulberries, some great wild brush for birds to hide out, and several pecans, one with a 41" trunk that is beautiful. My arborist told me we would attract every "passer through" to our area. I hope you'll come over when the time comes and help me plan how to keep the best trees and shrubs for birding.