Visual Geography

Before I begin with today’s photo essay, I’d like to share with you
our featured photograph from the amazing bird photographer Sharon
Landis. I must say, I do not believe I have ever seen a more
gloriously lit, or more detailed “spread winged” image of a Peregrine
Falcon before.  Sharon always hit’s a home run.
0PeregrineSharonLa0ndis

I have created “sense of place” or geographic landscape photos quite
often. Mainly here in America (precious few in Mexico and Canada), and
none from the northeast or from Florida, despite the fact that I have
been in those regions. Even in regions within regions, the topography
and the visual moods do change, and are worth their capture in
pictures.

The American west, has dozens of signature “types” of landscapes. You
can capture images that are very different, but they all say “the
American West”.

To me, there’s nothing like being high in a western mountain range,
particular the Colorado Rockies. This is from over 14,000 feet in
Rocky Mt. N.P., and it certainly is one way to say this is the west.
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High mountain meadows of green, with bright yellow flowers and a blue
sky, was one way I chose to interpret the San Juan region of the
Rockies.
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Another sure fire way to let viewers know you’ve been to the Rockies
through imagery, is to find a mirror like high mountain lake.

This is the iconic Maroon Bells and Maroon Lake up above Aspen, Colorado.
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The red rock country and the high desert of the four corners
(Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Arizona) area has as much natural
geographic artistry to itself, as anywhere in the world. These three
shots were among many I have made to show how I felt about this
region.
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Using the snow topped LaSal Mountains of Utah and the high desert red
rock country of Arches N.P all in one picture, to illustrate two
separate types of western landscape, was just plain fun for me. Not
only does the contrast of two sorts western landscapes exist in this
image, but the contrast of light and shadow produces drama as well.
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Sand dunes are a part of the topography of the west. White Sands, New Mexico.
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Nothing says desert more definably than Saguaro Cactus and some “low
desert” mountains. East of Tucson in the Sonora Desert.
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It can be easy to forget, but the old growth rain forest of the
Pacific Northwest also has a special place in “the west”.

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I’ve spent a little time in the south/southeast and on a few
occasions, created some landscapes as well.

In some of the central portions of the south, in the swampy areas,
there lives a tree that loves water more than most. It has become the
south’s own iconic symbol. That would be the Cypress Tree.
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The Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, have their own “flavor” if you will.
Springtime in the Smokys is of legendary acclaim.

Be It a river, or a green mountain valley, they both lead to the same
conclusion, The Smoky Mountains.

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The central part of America, sometimes called the Upper Midwest, or
the Great Lakes states, requires subtle visual statements of foliage
and the seasons.

There are still a lot of woodlands here and the spring Phlox explosion
of on the edge of those woodlands is a signal of where you are.
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Virginia Bluebells, are of course from Virginia and other places in
the southeast. We here in Wisconsin have claimed them as our own.
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Of course lakes (Lake Michigan), and wetlands are both a big part of this region.
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As much as spring says the south and southeast, autumn and  winter say
Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota.

There is nothing like a small road in Wisconsin’s autumn, unless it is
a road through a national forest.
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Where there are rivers, there are footbridges…at least in the Midwest.
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Pictures of trees only, may seem less defining to a region, but if
those trees are prevalent in that area, they tend to give meaning to a
photo.

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This next shot is a similar concept, except the featured tree trunks
are those of the western Quaking Aspen. This photo is Wyoming in fall.
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In reality, when most people think of the Upper Midwest, they think of
winter. To me, landscapes like these, say Wisconsin.
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The edge of light, can add much to an area that is not known for its
landscapes. Combing winter and dusk, is a fair and effective way to
frame the state in which I live.
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Summer can be powerful when Lake Michigan and a few trees are
photographed at sunrise. I think this fairly well defines the
immediate area in which I reside. It manages this, with minimal
detail.

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I love old buildings. This nation is old enough to contain within its
borders, a wide variety of old architecture. The style and feel of
many of those buildings, is often indigenous to where they reside.

This old Mormon barn and the legendary Grand Teton mountain range,
means the west, and shows it through both nature, and the history of
man.
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What happens to an old frontier town from western South Dakota after
the frontier has been tamed? Well, it tries to become a tourist
attraction, and when that fails it begins to crumble.
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How about New Mexico 17th Century, Spanish/American Indian ruins? They
become a National Historic Site. The materials with which this mission
was made, pretty much define this as a southwestern artifact. Vermont
or South Carolina do not come to mind when you see this, the west
does.
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Back home in “ole Wisconsin” we have two views of an old Norwegian
settlers cabin. This part of the country has much architectural
influence from European countries like Norway, Denmark, Sweden,
Austria and Germany.

Pictures can define places, and define their people as well.
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Certainly the west coast has light houses. Still, the Great Lakes
states, the eastern Gulf of Mexico, and the east coast of the country
are the home for most old light houses. A lot of them.

Once again, you do not need detail, when shape says it all. A little
color never hurts either. I live near the shores of the world’s third
largest lake, and scenes like this abound.
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Always take a little bit of wherever you are with you through
signature images.  Always leave a little bit of who you are
behind.

God Bless,
Wayne

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