– by Gary Marks
Missed Part 1 of the Cedar Creek – Winter Series? Click here to read.
The forest feels full, again. Snow slowly accumulates on branches outstretched like nets waiting to catch a trapeze artist. The forest without snow seems bare and devoid of something essential. The closeness and protection of a green forest is a sensation I have forgotten in the short time that it has been away. That feeling has returned today. The green forest has been replaced by a white forest.
I fold the legs of my tripod and sling the carbon fiber body onto its normal position. My shoulder seems naked without three black metal legs protruding from it. I continue up Cedar Creek, scanning the area for potential photographs. I know they are out there today, just waiting to be extracted from this temporary event.
The constant crunching of boots pressing into wet snow, compacting and ultimately progressing the melting cycle, keeps me company as the snow picks up pace. This place tries to turn me into a snowman as white particles find creases in my clothing. I refuse and come upon three trees perfectly aligned in a small clearing. I take my focus temporarily off the gurgling creek. This particular place seems old. A large rock overhang thrusts out from the sandstone bluff on the right. Below its presence is a natural auditorium where students could sit on large boulders instead of civilized desks.
I do not stay long, because my destination is not far ahead. I weave in and out of boulders that have taken the shape of small wintry covered mountains. I come to a halt at a creek scanning the area around to locate a shallow area to cross. I hop on smooth rocks just below the surface of the water. My foots slips loose from the impromptu bridge and my shoe quickly fills with icy cold water. I instantly draw my foot out of the water and make sure the rocks are secure as I make it to the other side.
I wring out my moisture wicking sock and dump water out of my waterproof boot. From experience I know that within an hour the sock and shoe will dry out. I am glad I spent the extra money to protect my feet in this type of weather. I put everything back on and continue up the trail with the creek now off to my right.
Withing in minutes I see the area that I have really come here today to photograph, The Bend. Cedar Creek flows generally southeast from its headwaters not far from the bend, but here where I am standing the creek has encountered a slowly eroding giant in the form of a sandstone bluff. Over time it has undercut the rock allowing huge boulders to plummet into the creek, because of this barrier the creek now takes a more southerly route eventually dumping into Bay Creek, which winds its ways through Southern Illinois eventually emptying into the Ohio River.
I have photographed this area in spring, summer, and fall, but this is the first time in winter and I am fortunately not let down by its display. I climb upon a flat rock with a natural step near its base and setup my tripod. I place the rock closest to me in the foreground making sure to include it all and position the camera with the natural bend of the bluff in the background.
Snow still spits all around and I try different shutter speeds to make sure I do not capture the snow in motion. I spend well over 40 minutes in this area looking for different angles. I soon seek shelter in the recesses of the bluff so that I can clean my damp lens and take a quick bite to eat.
I look out from my temporary home and wonder if I should venture on to one of the most unique landmarks in the Shawnee Forest. I consult my watch and smile with a knowing grin that I have come this far, so why not?
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