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November 17th, 2008 - Color me monochromatic...

Yesterday my wife Sharon introduced me to a favorite hiking spot of hers, near Chaska where she used to work. It is actually one of the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge units (where I often lead hikes) near the Minnesota River, but just one that I had never been to for some reason.
We packed up Happy the Dog and our day packs and trundled off in that direction, checking the weather radar and land-based navigation to best avoid the omniscient and ever-present HIGHWAY CONSTRUCTION that is a part of daily life here in Minnesota.
There used to be a joke that there are only two seasons in Minnesota: Winter and Road Construction. That joke was only funny to someone outside of MN back when it was invented, now it's just plain ludicrous because the construction season stretches all year round. 
Not that I'm knocking the much needed projects, no bridges to nowhere here. It just never goes away. 
I was driving thru Richfield the other day and my detour crossed another detour which crossed another detour. I now understand wormholes a lot better than when Stephen Hawking explained them.
Anyway where we ended up is called "Louisville Swamp", a lackluster title for a very beautiful area. There are miles of hiking trails thru this prairie / oak savannah / marsh / lakes topography, with very old granite poking up in spots and lots of old oak trees and transitional grasslands.

My first impression of the terrain and the very Novemberish day got me thinking of something I had wanted to try on a photohike lately, and that was to set my digital camera up as "monochrome", or black & white only and try to think in black & white. I thought it would be a good exercise as it forces you to consider contrast and composition a little differently, and definitely makes you be careful with your exposure metering, especially if you shoot with a tight center-spot or weighted center-spot as I normally do.
As always with digital it was cool to be able to see the results right away, altho as always it's really hard to make judgements off of the camera display. The telling thing for me were the histogram displays. You can really see the distribution of luminance more graphically and it made a lot more sense to me than when judging color images from the histogram.

At one point early in the hike, we came upon this pond (lake really) covered with THOUSANDS of swans, geese, and ducks. Shar asked me how many I thought there were, and I was dumbfounded to even guess. I know real birders are good at judging how much territory they are looking at and estimating how many birds per square yard or whatever, but I was overwhelmed. 
They just kept taking off in squadrons and there was literally a roar every time a new group took off just from their wings, which overpowered even the honking of all those in the water and already in flight. It was amazing.
The rocks were very cool too, I called them "Quarry Stones" because they looked like one long chunk that had been cracked to pieces.
Lots of grasses and oaks. The clouds always looked ominous, but it never really seemed likeit would rain, there were actually patches of blue at times. As I say, very Novembery.

Happy had a good time once we got away from civilization a bit and he could focus on all the smells and gopher diggings, of which there were also very many. 
In all, it was a nice outing and a stop for coffee in Chaska on the way home put the cap on it.
I really liked the "monochrome experiment". I will have to do a monochrome-themed digital photohike with the group one of these days to see what everyone comes up with.
Contrary to what Paul Simon says, everything doesn't look worse in black & white.

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