Archive for May, 2013

washed up plastic tricycle, Falls of the Ohio, May 2013

I was at the Falls of the Ohio last week when I spotted this plastic toy tricycle just sitting by itself near the river’s edge.  Although I didn’t see anyone around, I just assumed its owner must be nearby.  I took this picture and walked away.  After a time spent looking for driftwood and anything else, I was heading back to my studio under the trees when I was approached by this character I’ve come to know as the ” Off Road Triker”.  He was quickly peddling that tricycle I had seen earlier.

Off Road Triker, May 2013

With his trademark orange goggles, the Triker likes to explore the world from the seat of his three-wheeler.  I recognized him as the  subject of a few human interest stories in the newspaper, but this was a first spotting him on the shores of the Ohio River.  I have heard that he used to own a car, but now he just peddles everywhere he wants to go.  As a side benefit, he’s in the best shape of his life.  His legs alone must be as hard as wood.  The Triker’s ride came to a smooth stop in the sand in front of where I was standing.

the head of the Triker, goggles off, May 2013

Removing his goggles from his eyes the Triker greeted me pleasantly on a picture perfect day.  We introduced ourselves and talked about our observations and connections to this landscape.  The Triker remarked that he had seen a lot of rubbish along the water’s edge and I nodded in agreement.  He wondered why nobody did anything about this, but I had to tell him that the Falls does see several clean-up attempts a year, but with each new flood or high water the new “largess” in the river just washes up again.  It’s like rolling that proverbial rock up the hill only to have it roll back again and again.

Off Road Triker in motion, May 2013

The Triker said that there was a place where several old automotive tires were laying half buried in the sand and that I should check it out.  He put his goggles back on and I walked beside him as he peddled to the spot.  I didn’t tell him this, but I was already familiar with these tires and have photographed this feature many times.  I found the Triker to be amusing and so I just played along to get a sense of who he is and what he might do next.  The reason all these tires are in this particular location is that once upon a time a river clean-up had occurred and these loose tires were gathered here for future disposal.  Ironically, the future never came which left these tires mired in the present.  Now these tires are so full of mud, sand, and water that it would take a herculean effort to dig some of them out of the riverbank.

The Triker begins his run, May 2013

The Triker thought these tires would make an appropriate obstacle course to maneuver through and he asked me to photograph him while he made his run.    Everything started off well enough, but that was not to last.

The Triker runs the obstacle course, May 2013

The Triker swings wide, May 2013

The Trike over corrects, May 2013

The Triker clips the tire, May 2013

It’s at this point that the Triker hits a snag or rather a tire.  The slalom at the course’s start went fine, but midway through the Triker swung wide and he had to over correct to get around the next obstacle.  Here are some different close up views of the action.

View of Triker hitting the tire, May 2013

The Triker up on two wheels, May 2013

The Triker nearly falls off, May 2013

As you can see…hitting the tire caused the tricycle to go up on two wheels.  The speed and forward momentum nearly caused the Triker to completely lose his balance!

The Triker recovers his balance, May 2013

Fortunately as an experienced rider…the Triker held it together and was able to regain his composure and balance to complete this impromptu course.  He pulled off to the side near some willow trees and exhaled deeply.

The Triker recovers his breath, May 2013

“That was a close one my friend.  I thought for a micro second I was going to eat sand and rubber in a hard way!”  I praised him for his skill on the tricycle and told him I would post the images on the internet which seemed to please the Triker.  Recovering his breath, the Triker said he enjoyed his visit to the Falls of the Ohio, but it was now time to return to the city.  With his goggles back on, my last view of the Triker was of his back as he peddled his wobbly ride with a newly bent axle towards the skyline of the nearby city.

The Off Road Triker departs, May 2013

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foot wear for the right foot, May 2013

Every now and then it’s good to purge stuff that has been building up over time.  With my river project, I do this by emptying out my collecting bag(s) to make way for new finds and by deleting images stored on my camera’s memory card.  I have gotten into the habit of using the memory card as another form of digital storage just in case something bad happens to all the other places I store data.  In this post, I will feature favorite images of plastic flotsam and jetsam I have gathered at the river’s edge the past two months.  I will start with the image with the flip-flops and Croc-like shoes.  These are tiny to small kids’ sizes.  A few weeks a go, I picked up eight of them along a favorite walk and realized once I reached my outdoor studio that they were all meant for the right foot!  I have since added a few extras, but the initial shock of realizing there were no left shoes remains.  I wonder if subconsciously I selected for right-footedness?  Anyway, here is a still life photo portfolio of other plastic river junk toys.

unknown plastic character head, May 2013

"Scully" head from "Monsters Inc", May 2013

"Ken?" doll head and walnut, May 2013

plastic character head with fabric hair, May 2013

hollow plastic rabbit head novelty, May 2013

plastic squirrel bottle?, April 2013

green plastic alligator bottle, May 2013

old plastic dressed kitten toy, April 2013

plastic animal lidded box,  April 2013

two dog toys, May 2013

plastic dart gun, May 2013

ray gun-style water pistol, May 2013

broken plastic claw hammer, May 2013

hollow plastic toy telephone handset, May 2013

One last item and while it is not made of plastic…is nevertheless memorable.

tiny aerosol can of fart spray, April 2013

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Falls of the Ohio, mid May 2013

It’s mid May and the Ohio River is high at the Falls of the Ohio.  A now warm wind (it was cold yesterday) is driving muddy waves against the shoreline and the willow trees are in their element.  Except for me…there is no one else around.  Bird life, however, is ever-present and I count many newly arrived species that spent the winter south of the equator.  Eastern Kingbirds are establishing their territories and many different birds already have active nests going.  A bright blue Indigo Bunting flies into my sight line long enough to be identified before once again hiding from view in the tops of the trees. Because the river is taking up most of the bank, I’m walking on top of the driftwood on the parameter of the willow environment.  As I slowly walk along, I move as quietly as possible between the trees.  I’m always hopeful of seeing wildlife and although it is mid morning…I get lucky.  Something has caught my eye down the beach at the water’s edge and I reach for my camera.

young Styrobuck at the water's edge, Mid May 2013

It’s a young Styrobuck and it is nervously checking out the river.  The wind is blowing my scent in the opposite direction. This is indeed great luck because this unusual animal is also one of the rarest mammals in this area.  Years can go by between sightings and there is always conjecture on whether they still exist here at all.  Occasionally, tracks are found which renews hope that they still occupy their original range. I decided that this was too great a photo opportunity to pass up and so I changed my plans for the day.  I would follow and record this beautiful and odd animal for as long as I could.

Styrobuck at the river, May 2013

The Styrobuck is one of those hard to classify mammals.  Although genetically a deer…it also shares traits with goats and antelopes.  I recall getting caught up in the discovery in 1992 of a new large mammal discovered in the Annamite Range bordering Vietnam and Laos.  Science calls it a Saola, (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis) but it is also more colorfully known as the Asian unicorn.  Anyway, its resemblance to an antelope is striking, but technically it is a member of the cow family.  Just when it was looking like all the big animals on the planet had been discovered…out trotted the Saola.  The mystery of it was amazing!  Of course, the indigenous people had known about it for a long time.  Once in a while, they would catch one in their snares meant for the other forest animals.  Still, it was a great rarity for them as well…a near mythic animal.  It was probably tasty too.

head of a young Styrobuck, May 2013

Styrobuck, detail of head facing forward, May 2013

Styrobuck ,detail, head facing left, May 2013

The Styrobuck is by necessity a very nervous and wary animal.  It is about the size of a small dog and the perfect prey size for many of our predators.  It has large eyes and a keenly developed sense of smell.  There are also old first hand accounts that also suggest the Styrobuck has a sense of curiosity which can lead to its downfall.  Smallish antlers are grown and shed each year after the breeding season in the late autumn.  In the spring one to two fawns are born that remain with their mother until the following  summer.

Styrobuck in the willow woods, May 2013

The animal I was watching was more than likely born last year and probably newly separated from its mother.  To my eye, it did appear that the young Styrobuck was searching for something in the vicinity.

young Styrobuck, mid May 2013

The Styrobuck certainly was concentrating in an area between the river and the margins of the woods.  If there were any other members of its species around here…they remained well hidden.  Every now and then the young buck would browse on young tree leaves and tender grasses.

Styrobuck in the water, may 2013

My last image of the Styrobuck in the water was taken from a vantage point in the top of a willow tree that I quietly shinnied up.  I could feel the wind shifting and sure enough the young buck caught my all too human odor and bolted for parts unknown.  I shared my images with the Interpretive Center who were glad to receive them.  I hope exposing this one animal won’t lead to a stampede by the public that drives this vulnerable species from our area for good.  The Falls of the Ohio is a richer for having this interesting animal call this place home.

Falls of the Ohio, looking east, May 2013

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Into the light, May 2013

Styrofigure in early May, 2013

Stepping away from the place where it was constructed revealed a whole new world for the Polystyrene Person to explore.  The sun was shining and birds were singing and the Falls of the Ohio were once again turning green with emerging tree leaves.  Driftwood was everywhere along the river and there were plenty of micro-environments to experience.

Polystyrene Person dancing in inner tube, May 2013

Being made of trash caused the Polystyrene Person to be less judgmental of the discarded man-made items it came across.  An old inner tube became a tiny arena perfect for dancing.

figure with plastic cable in the trees, May 2013

alternate view of figure with plastic cable in the trees, May 2013

A tough plastic cable captured by the willow branches during the last bit of flooding became another object of interest.  The Polystyrene Person admired the graceful  arcs and how the cable defined this bit of space.  The white figure played with the cable by walking around and stepping through the loops.  There was still more stuff snagged in other trees.

barge cable and figure, May 2013

Discovering a fraying barge cable tangled in the willow branches and dragging on the ground gave the new figure an odd mental image.  What if this was how the sky was tethered to the earth?  What would happen if this cable broke?  Would the blue sky with its flimsy clouds just drift off into space?  Remembering that this was simply a rope caught in a tree brought the smile back to the figure’s face.

Polystyrene Person among willow roots, May 2013

Standing among the roots of a fantastic willow tree, the Polystyrene Person marveled at how the tree maintained its grip on the earth.  Beneath the larger roots was a dense mat of very fine rootlets that held the soil together.

Polystyrene figure standing in water, May 2013

figure among water and willow roots, May 2013

The figure moved to the river’s edge and couldn’t wait to experience water.  It was such an entirely different sensation than standing on solid ground.  Cold water splashed up onto the Polystyrene Person’s face and being wet wasn’t the most pleasant feeling.  The literal tug of the river caused the figure to scramble up on the roots of a nearby willow to keep from being drawn further into the liquid.  Instinctively, the figure realized that it would be lost if the river was allowed to have too tight a grip.  Pulling the Polystyrene Person  back upon the shore, I explained it was time for me to go home.  I offered two choices to my creation.  It could stay at the river and face an uncertain but potentially exciting future where it more than likely would be destroyed by either nature or the hand of man.  Or, it could go home with me and see a different part of the world.  Perhaps because the river was a little scary, the Polystyrene Person opted to go home with me.

The Polystyrene Person opening my car door, May 2013

Because my hands were full…the figure opened my car door for me.  It’s really a very polite and innocent being.  During the short ride from the river to my house…I asked the Polystyrene Person what it would like to do?  The figure replied that it would like to continue to be out in nature and so I found the perfect place in my yard for it.  Happily, my latest creation takes pride in watching over my spring plants as they reveal themselves during the new season.

Polystyrene Person among the Hostas, May 2013

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My outdoor studio at the Falls, May 2013

After watching the goldfinches in the willows and collecting the latest the river had to offer…I headed to my outdoor studio.  I have the day off from my day job and it is also Kentucky Derby weekend.  The weatherman is telling me that today will be the day to be outdoors because a cold, wet front is coming through the Ohio Valley.  It has been a few weeks since I last visited as life has taken me in other directions.  When I was last at this spot,  I stashed the surviving and repaired “Flood Brother” next to a tree.  In the interim, other people have come across my spot and looked through the junk I’ve assembled here.  As for my Styro-figure…I found what was left of him nearby.  Here’s a look at the remains.

Styro-body of destroyed Flood Brother, May 2013

I found his body first resting upon the older driftwood.  He was missing his head and arms.  Scouting around, I was able to find bits and pieces including his head staring at the world through his remaining cyclops eye.

Flood Brother head, May 2013

Rather than reconstruct him for a third time, I decided to recycle him.  I gathered the pieces and parts and hauled it back to my studio.  For now, I will let these chunks of polystyrene rest.

Outdoor studio in disarray, May 2013

found art materials, May 2013

The first step in creating some sense of order is to straighten out the mess my previous visitors have left me.  I sort through my sticks that I will use for potential arms and legs.  I gather up the smaller pieces of Styrofoam and put them in the river-chewed milk crate.  I rummage through my collecting bag and select the elements that will make up the face of a new character.  I take a few moments to watch robins chasing a young Cooper’s Hawk through the willow trees.  Near me, I hear the first notes from a Northern or Baltimore Oriole.  It’s reassuring to know that they have returned.  Also, there is a noticeable increase in insect life and I’ve observed bumble bees, hornets, and small butterflies going about their business.  The sound of running water is always in the background.  Picking up a head-shaped piece of Styrofoam I begin to form a new figure.

Head of a new figure in my hands, May 2013

So far, it’s a smiling figure with a segment of pliable found plastic for a mouth.  The ears and nose are also plastic toy pieces.  The eyes are river-tumbled pebbles of coal.  I use my pocket knife to do this work. The next step is to add a body.

In process Styro-figure, May 2013

I chose a hunk of Styrofoam from my larder that seemed torso-like.  Feeling that it required additional detail, I added two walnuts to reinforce the chest idea.  I further added a third piece of Styrofoam that simulates a pelvis and gives the figure added length.  Some internal sense for proportion told me I needed to do this even though the entire idea and the resulting figure strikes me as being absurd and who else would notice or even care about this?  Beaver-gnawed willow rods connect the head and hips to the torso. Over the years, my working methods have evolved and I definitely have material and form preferences where none existed at the start of this project in 2003.  Through trial and error I selected wooden driftwood arms and legs to give my static figure some life, energy, and a suggestion of movement.  Here is the first photograph of this spring figure made in the place it was created.  Later, the two of us would go out to explore the landscape around the Falls of the Ohio State Park.

Spring Styro-figure with yellow ears, Falls of the Ohio, May 2013

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willow, early May, Falls, 2013

Falls of the Ohio State Park…early May.  Many of the willows along the river whose fibrous roots are holding fast are also in bloom.

black willow catkins, Falls of the Ohio, May 2013

The yellow flowers are  catkins and open before the long, thin leaves appear.  It’s warm and windy along the river.  Tomorrow it will be different.  American goldfinches are feeding on the willow blooms.

male American goldfinch and willow, May 2013

American goldfinch, male, May 2013

goldfinch on willow, May 2013

goldfinch willow 4.5_1_1

American goldfinch on willow, May 2013

The sound of rolling river waves against Indiana are interrupted every now and then with goldfinch song.  The males are becoming more and more yellow.  Does the pollen of the black willow also help this bird?

black willow catkins, May 2013

For me, it’s blooming willow on Oak’s Day.  The derby is tomorrow.  I’ve a lot of river to explore for a few hours more.  Who knows what else I might find?

wet willows at the Falls of the Ohio, May 2, 2013

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