Channeling Monet

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Lately, when walking with Nora the Schnauzer and a Nikon camera at Mill Creek and Bennington Lake, I have sensed a vague kinship with the French Impressionist painters of the 19th century.

Of course my images don’t compare remotely well with their canvases.

Nevertheless, I have one thing in common with those innovators: I also spend days, weeks and years recording the same scenes and subjects.

They did so to study and explore the effects of natural light, how its changes illuminates subjects at varied times of the day, in varied seasons and in varied weather.

Claude Monet, for example, painted 25 canvases of haystacks (titled Haystacks) in a field near Giverny, France, after the 1890 harvest season.

He could see the haystacks from his doorway and continued the series through the spring of 1891.

Monet moved to Giverny in 1883 and painted mostly scenes within two miles of his home for the next 40 years.

Then he died.

So, I record the same, yet different, Mill Creek images almost daily while Nora works up another nap.

We do it rain or shine and in the snow, like Monet. In the winter of 1874-5, he painted 18 snow scenes at Argenteuil, northwest of Paris, mostly on the boulevard where he lived.

Nora and I walk along the stream to Rooks Park or around Bennington Lake several times each week. We vary the time of day to fit our busy schedule of television re-runs and naps.

We enjoy the golden-hour light at dawn and at dusk that spreads a special glow over water, grass, trees and shrubbery, as well as over otters, herons and mergansers.

In addition, our familiar subjects may actually DO something interesting or unexpected. Clouds break up to create vivid sunsets.

Recently, a great blue heron skimmed above the creek, headed upstream. It braked sharply and flopped onto the water.

The spear-pointed head flashed in a blur neck deep. It rose gripping a 14-16-inch rainbow trout.

The heron turned the fish length-wise and swallowed it in one jaw- and throat-swelling gulp.

The episode perhaps took two minutes. I snapped off 35 images, more than Monet created in a week, or a month.

Well, maybe not.

Monet spent six months painting the Rouen Cathedral, sometimes working on 10 canvases at a time to capture the way light played across the structure’s ornate details.

In 10 seconds, I snapped 10 images of a soft-ball-sized muskrat near Rooks Park after it swam to a rock and calmly preened eight feet away.

Then, two otters preened and scratched among the tall grass at the Rooks Park pond.

Hooded and common mergansers usually ignore me and Nora along Mill Creek.

Yet, sometimes for no apparent reason, they take off in wild thrashings of water that reflect magically in the natural light.

On foggy, low-light winter days after a light snow around Bennington Lake, downy woodpeckers, wrens, sparrows, finches and juncos may swarm among the red-hipped wild-rose bushes.

At low water, Nora may race around the lake’s mud flats past the beaver houses.

Recently, she jumped about a foot when two deer crashed through a nearby thicket.

Finally, after a typical day of recording 200-plus images, I may discover impressionistic images of my own. Sometimes more than a few, blurred because of shutter speeds or ISOs set way too low.

Well, shucks.

I would continue pondering French impressionists, but Nora dropped her stuffed hedge-hog by my foot and launched a relentless stare at my face.

I better take her out to Mill Creek.

Again.

Contact Don Davis at dondavis@wwub.com. More of Don’s photos can be found online at www.tripper.smugmug.com .

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