Spring Isn’t Always Green

Sunken Boardwalk

Spring. Memory holds it as a time of bright green: new buds, and fresh growth. But before that the snow has to go away, and the first weeks of spring aren’t much different from late fall or those stretches of winter without snow. With one exception: it’s usually wet.

As the snow melts, the ground is still frozen below the surface and can’t absorb it, ponds come into being where there were none, streams overflow their banks into low fields, and flooding is commonplace. This isn’t helped by the rains, which usually come in shortly thereafter, bringing a stretch of gray, dreary and damp days. In the end, it brings us the green, but for a few weeks, it’s not exactly what I’d call scenic, even if it is finally not below freezing anymore.

This past week I didn’t get out, due to a late cold/flu bug, but the week before I’d gone on a long walk through the Massachusetts Audubon Society’s Moose Hill reservation in Sharon, Mass. This was their first reservation, created in 1922, and it’s an extensive one: 25 miles (40 km) of trails covering 1971 acres (798 hectares). I covered 5 miles, much of it up and down hill, but that’s a lot for me. Although the day was overcast and threatening rain, it was warm (well, relatively) and the sky stayed dry.  Not so my feet, as I took the boardwalk through the red maple swamp and discovered two things. First: boardwalks float, until you stand on them. And second: my boots weren’t as water proof as I’d thought.

Thankfully there was less than an inch (2 cm) of water above the boards, and little actually made it to my feet; they were dry in a few minutes. But I enjoyed the boardwalk enough that I crossed it again on the way out, rather than taking a parallel (dry) path to the exit.

The boardwalk goes through a swamp of Red Maple trees, or at least that’s what they say; I’m no expert on trees, but if these are maples they’re very young ones and not as bushy as I’d expect. Perhaps there are maples elsewhere that give the swamp its name. Per Wikipedia, Red Maples do grow in swamps. At this season, it’s a more open and airy swamp than the Cedar Swamp I visited last summer.  I’ll need to revisit this one once the leaves come out, and the water recedes, and see how it feels then.

I like this photo of the boardwalk because it captures the season perfectly: looming rain clouds, wet ground, and as-yet dormant growth. There’s one thing it can’t reveal though: the noise. It must be frog mating season or something, as this was the loudest swamp I’ve ever walked through (and I have a fair bit of experience of northern swamps). I suspect two people would have had trouble talking. Life may not be obvious in this photo, but it was inescapable in person.

This photo is an HDR composite of five images, at my preferred 1 EV offsets. The bracket was centered at 1/100th-second, f/11, and ISO 400, with the lens at 32 mm. A circular polarizing filter was used, both for the clouds and to reduce water glare. Before exporting, I made a chromatic aberration adjustment for the branches against the sky. In the HDR software, I took the “dark” preset, after dithering about for a while. The “deep2” preset actually looked quite good also, but its lighter tone just didn’t fit my memory of the scene. Otherwise the image is unmodified. One thing HDR does is add life to this image by improving the contrast. In the flat, directionless light of an overcast sky, the baseline image I took looks very washed out.

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