The alarm clock goes off at 5 in the morning. Fortunately, in anticipation of my morning mood, past me already crammed everything into the backpack yesterday evening so I can get started right away. Why today? Because the forecast promised heavy fog for the whole morning. So, despite the apparent lack of fog at this early time, I hop onto my bike, and drive off into nature. All trust placed in the forecast. I have visited this wood many times before; last time in late winter when everything looked naked and cold. So how about today? It’s a different world:
The fog appears as the sun rises. First, it lingers on the fields and streets, but then it slowly creeps into the forest. And with every passing minute it becomes more dense as it wraps around the trunks and branches. The greens get so intense it looks like someone slipped on the saturation slider, while old leaves are scattered across the ground. The birds already conclude their morning symphony, everything is calm and peaceful.
I drift around, on paths, off paths, through the scrub, across small glades. And, as everytime, I realize: photographing woodlands is hard. Everything is cluttered, without structure, entangled. But with enough patience even the woodlands become untangled, as does the mind.
The land is flat and stretches out,
it seems that here the birches sprout
quite willingly in swamps and marsh,
the light is golden, never harsh.
The birds sing different and fly
towards far places, as the sky
turns orange and leaves us behind,
vanishing traces in the mind,
condensed adventure, precious time,
forgetting it might be a crime.
Besides their primary purpose, cemeteries exhibit properties that are hardly ever valued: First, they seem to offer great parking spots for a nights rest in a van (I guess this information shouldn’t be distributed widely, especially not on an internet blog). Secondly, they offer great potential to photograph wildlife – birds and squirrels in particular (however, the latter are rather quick, rendering the photography difficult for a sluggish human who just crawled out of bed). Also, as it should be, cemeteries are calm, quiet, and peaceful; and: very few people seem to visit them (myself included), especially when most graves are from long forgotten times. So, last week, I checked out the largest cemetery in our town, watched the squirrels, and took some pictures of the many many birds that scurried around:
Bright beam of light within the night,
a scenery in black and white.
Dreams are extremes
but, as it seems,
color soaks in and strokes begin
to rise and shine, a hopeful sign.
are leaving spots,
and what is left is sparse:
unite and fight for what is right,
do not incite, do bring delight.
I have written about botanical gardens earlier. We visited another one, and what a treat it was: Plants, birds, blossoms, greens, oranges, and everything in between – the botanical garden in Funchal belongs to the main attractions of the town for a good reason; and who would have thought that pigeons are such a photogenic subject.
Madeira – the island of ever-changing weather: From storm to rain to sun to clouds to an ocean breeze, there was a bit of everything. On the island of eternal springtime, it felt like we witnessed at least three seasons in two weeks. But one constant remained: clouds and trees, intermingled on the rolling hills and steep faces of the mountains. Always waiting to be photographed, always changing shape and color. Madeira didn’t get spared by wildfires though; as in most European countries in the recent years, forest fires destroyed large areas in 2016 and the damages can be clearly seen along the southern coast.
The extent to which forests help to battle climate change seems still to be rather unclear: it’s not only about the amount of carbon they can capture, but also about the amount of clouds they produce which in turn reflect sun light. In any case, cutting down trees or setting fire is detrimental – nevertheless, both will happen in the years to come. Trees, clouds, and the sun, here all coming together during our hike on Pico Grande:
After naming this blog post I also discovered that cloud forest is a real term and about 1% of all forests are considered to be cloud forests.
Above the small village of Ribeiro Frio, known for the breeding of trouts, a plateau promises a view towards Madeiras seconds highest peak: Pico Arieiro. The hike follows a narrow path along Levada do Furado. Mist rises from the valley deep below and the sun has brief appearances below the dense canopy of leaves. After following the Levada for a while an arduous ascent begins. We pass a hidden spring, wriggle through low-hanging branches, and cross small meadows with flocks of kinglets. In the end we reach the aspired plateau, but the reward remains absent: Instead of the expected peaks of the central mountain range, we can only see clouds of rain.
The Fanal forest on Madeira – probably one of the most photographed stretches of woodland in Europe. I thought that, by now, I enjoy the more simple and unknown scenes nature has to offer. But I have to admit, sometimes the hot spots of photography are revisited over and over for a reason. Fanal is wonderful. However, getting good conditions is an endless waiting game. Persistence is perseverance in spite of exhaustion or frustration. Persistence is the characteristic of data to outlive the process that created it. This was our first of three visits to the forest; this time during heavy rains and strong winds, but no clouds.
And even though
it's hard to show,
I like to offer
you a glimpse
of what I felt
and what I saw,
I was in awe:
so pure and clean,
And with this polished
all thoughts dropped to
The scene was peerless,
A single person
on a bike –
quite bold amidst the cold;
instead, I hike.
the moon seduces
as blue took over,
in the sky
a crescent, thin,
night settled in.
And I descend
with frozen skin,
a radiant grin,
as it has been