12 May 2014
Let me know which you prefer and why.
As you explore the above ground archaeology of Northern California, it can be uncanny how easy it is to ignore the small, detailed and barely seen. But I was determined to be attentive to textures of the tame and wild terrain as well as nuances of formations and structures before me.
Textures are found in obvious and not-so-obvious places such as bark of trees, surfaces of rocks, tree roots, rivers, skylines, trails, light and shadows, grasslands, open-spaces, and woodlands. The possibilities are limitless, but even more so in such richly-tempered Western landscapes.
On an outing to Hirschman Diggins, which is preserved open space funded by the Bear Yuba Land Trust, the trails echoed rebirth and local history at each turn. This pristine treasure is very much part of California’s Gold Rush’s past. Situated about a mile from the center of Nevada City (a national historic landmark whose elevation is a little over 2500 feet), the walk is a tour de force in the swift change between city life to uncultivated surroundings. But it unveiled even more as the path led to issues of human intervention and the balance between nature and human nature.
The trail system, which is one of five that is minutes from the heart of Nevada City, is packed with layers of nature’s abundance from past to present. The hike was filled with melodious birds, sipping hummingbirds, seasoned vegetation, piles of pine needles, native trees, and scores of the unnoticed hiding in wooded areas.
Hirschman’s Pond, which is named for the Hirschman brothers who were early miners and local merchants in the city, was lit with the afternoon sun and disdain cast light upon the stripped hillside. The area was one of the first to use hydraulic mining and other inventions to excavate placer gold from the river banks and its gravel, valleys and tops of ridges. In the 1860s streams of water were shot from canons and hoses to wash away the surface that could reveal golden nuggets.
One of the trail signs described the area: Mining left some areas “untouched. The aftermath was a surreal hummocky landscape framed by sheer cliffs and speckled with bedrock boulders.”
Individuals still pan for gold on Norther California’s river banks. But it is arduous, back-breaking, laborious work. My son spent many hours at the nearby American River excavating for materials that might produce flakes or small pieces. Reward was tiny. Nevertheless, Gold Rush folklore is embedded in American culture, and many are lured to mining towns along Highway 49, where you can reach Nevada City.
In the Lens section are four images that reflect how a close-up reveals unnoticed elements of nature. We bike, hike, run, stroll, and walk, yet we often miss the most luscious parts of the natural world. We are stunned by the massive, and leveled by the huge. The small can be equally monumental.
Image One shows a detail of a manzanita tree, which is eye-catching. Its coloration ranges from orange to red to deep browns. These small evergreens become eloquently shaped as they grow and respond to their surroundings. It is not unusual to see them lyrically tangled and twisted.
Image Two shows granite boulders that act like soldiers protecting Hirschman Trail. They are familiar throughout Northern California, where they are wildly present. Their eloquent shapes astonish with their bare, moss-covered or slitted surfaces. They simply amaze.
Image Three reveals a small opening between a tree and some boulders. The view previews Hirschman’s Pond, where stripped and mined hills are examples of the after effects of hydraulic mining.
Image Four is a small boulder that has split, where nature has managed to move pine cones and woodland debris. It was a magical discovery but by no means unusual.
This protected place exploded with humanity’s obsession to control and exploit the land. It exemplifies a passage from the past into the present, and symbolizes the human animal’s über footprint upon the earth..
Tip of the Week: I searched to find vintage postcards of Nevada City’s past. Then I realized that my ongoing wish to create a set of postcards may have found its subject: Northern California’s Tame and Wild. Have you considered producing a set of your photographs that may include: family memories or travels or favorite places or abstractions or events or friends…? Below is a vintage postcard with a town hall view of Nevada City that was taken at the Sierra foothills, circa 1940s-1950s.
View other entries for this week’s macro challenge:
As always I welcome any comment about this post or any part of my blog.
If you’d like to join the fun, please click here for details. If you have any questions about the Photo Challenge, please contact me.
Below is a reminder of the monthly schedule with themes for upcoming Photo Challenges:
1st Monday: Nature
2nd Monday: Macro
3rd Monday: Black and White
4th Monday Challenger’s Choice (Pick One: Abstraction, Animals, Architecture, Food Photography, Night Photography, Objects, Portraiture, Still Life, Street Photography, and Travel). (Animals and Objects are themes.)
5th Monday: Editing and Processing with Various Apps Using Themes from the Fourth Week.