Traveling through the Ozarks this past weekend I found myself up a bit before sunrise and decided to see how the light plays there on the end-of-summer foliage. It’s an interesting region of the country, more steep-edged valleys than actual mountains, carpeted by a seemingly unending sea of trees. Looking out over the rolling terrain on this day from the rare overlooks, the scene reminded me of the Smokies due to the late morning fog and haze in the air.
Morning light means low contrast and more saturated colors. I found some spots that indicated the trees are thinking about the coming autumn as early spots of color poked out among the summer-green of the forests. What agriculture that exists in the valleys is nearing harvest time, crops and fields ripe with produce awaiting the removal to winter storage.
Even though this area has been settled by non-Native Americans since the early 1800’s it’s still amazing how empty it can seem. Land where it’s easy to put down a foundation and build a house is limited to the tops of ridges or in the valleys along the stream edges. These are clearly visible in the openings seen from the high vantage points. The rest of the terrain is angled vertically, requiring sophisticated engineering to place a building and so mostly left to the trees to negotiate. The benefit of this is you can walk off the road for a half-mile or so and be on your own, away from the sight and sound of civilization.
Although not a large area (you can drive across it in a couple of hours) it is one where the details matter, where hiking is more visually rewarding than driving and stopping to pay attention more fulfilling than moving constantly. Photography workshops and tours are heavily biased to places west or international, yet here is a location one could spend years learning about through a viewfinder.