Tisen and I arrive at the gate to the training hills; there are already two trucks waiting for the arrival of the instructors. I pull off as far as I can so cars can fit between us, hop out and start putting on my pack mule costume.
My costume consists of: a rain jacket, a book-bag sized backpack that weighs over 30 pounds, my tripod bag, my loupe, my camera with my 16-35mm lens, my five-in-one reflector, and my extension tubes. I hang each accessory off of my body in a fashion best described as “sherpa.”
A man waiting in a truck rolls down his window and asks if I’m a professional photographer. I assure him I am not, but I’d like to play one on TV. After swapping stories about professional photographers, I excuse myself on the basis that the sun is rising rapidly.
Tisen gets very excited when he realizes we’re going for a hike. He runs ahead of me doing his happy-dance-prance, with tail wagging, and turns to look back at me as if he thinks this is too good to be true. I love his happy-dance-prance. Never fails to make me smile.
We make our way down the gravel road until we reach an open field at the base of the mountain. This field provides a home to what might as well be an infinite number of life forms, but today, I am mainly interested in the homes built by spiders. Every time we’ve driven by this field early in the morning, the light has hit these dew-covered condos that are shaped roughly like a ball. I’ve said at least a dozen times that I want to come out some morning and shoot these spider webs; today is the day.
Tisen gets a little frustrated that our walk is so short, but he amuses himself by running around exploring in the vicinity, occasionally disrupting my shot by brushing against the plant holding the spider web I’m shooting. But once the vibration settles down, the spider web itself is undisturbed.
Interestingly, even though I end up shooting at least a dozen different spider webs, I never see a spider. This could be because I didn’t put on my reading glasses to look at the spider homes, but it at least implies that the spiders who build these webs are small and hard to see.
Eventually, I decide I have enough spider web pictures and we head down the road to see what else we can see. I grab a quick shot of a bend in the creek with the mist rising off of it with the 100mm lens still on my camera. When I hear a Pileated Woodpecker call, I switch to my 100-400mm and 1.4x teleconverter in the hope he’ll fly our way. We never see the woodpecker, but I do get a couple of shots of flowers high up in the trees.