Friday, July 2, 2010

Southeastway Park: Off the beaten path

On Thursday, I visited Southeastway Park, a somewhat overlooked haven in one of the few remaining rural pockets of Indianapolis/Marion County. I've been curious about the place for some time, as it's a popular site for high school cross country meets, especially sectional and regional competitions.

What I found: Well-kept hiking (gravel) and biking trails, a playground, lots of picnic pavilions, an activity center, an expansive wooded area along Buck Creek, a pond favored by gaggles of geese, a few families trying to get kites up in the air, and -- perhaps its most distinguishing feature -- acres of yellow coneflowers populating the expansive park meadows.

I visited in the early afternoon, normally not an ideal time where optimum and dramatic lighting is concerned. But I had envisioned spending most of my time in the woods and near the creek anyway, so I wasn't too concerned. Ahhhh, but once I hit the woods, the mosquitoes let me know they weren't going to let me stay there very long, and ... they were right. Nevertheless, I did take advantage of some wonderful lighting opportunities along the forest fringe, where the developed park meets the woods. That's where a pedestrian trail was positioned, and on this day, I caught quite a bit of nature-made highlighting and shaded backgrounding of plant life along the path.

I also took advantage of the overhead sunlight to capture the coneflower meadow shots without tree shadow interloping.

Finally, to make the shoot even more challenging (and so as to be able to walk around lightly), I decided to take with me only two camera bodies, my 7D with a Canon 70-200mm and 1.4 extender, and my 30D with a Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 wide-angle. I was going to forgo quite a bit of the middle focal range to see what I could come up with. Yes, there were times I wish I had the middle-range lens and my macro lens, but I made do with what I had.

An attractive vista in the park, with the pond in the foreground and a wooden fishing deck overlooking it.

The first of several looks at the signature coneflowers populating Southeastway Park meadows.

Two pieces of heavy equipment sat near one of the hiking trails, which are still under development. The shadow on this backhoe's bed is from the overhead foliage.

A tractor adjacent to the backhoe. I liked the two tires' balancing element in this frame ... and 90-degree angles of the tires.

Wild grass from along the pedestrian path in the park's southwest corner. Nature delivered the spot lighting and shaded background.

A tree-lined path to the activity center, captured with the 10-20mm wide-angle lens.

At Buck Creek, this contrast in lighting -- the silhouetted driftwood in the foreground and the sun-splashed tree branch in the background -- caught my attention.

Angles, curves, rippling water and reflections combined to make this composition. Balancing the primary elements are foliage in the foreground and a sun-splashed whiteout in the background.

Normally, this way-too-slow shutter speed would be an outtake in a shoot. But I really loved the effect it had on these tall tree trunks in the forest along Buck Creek. With some time down the road, I'm going to play with the colors some.

Without my macro lens, I turned to the 70-200mm + 1.4 extender to grab this Royal Catchfly bloom in a garden outside the activity center. Because it was in a garden with limited maneuverability, I was challenged to position the frame with as little background clutter as possible. This was the best I could get without trampling other plants in the garden.

The gaggle, heading out -- in near perfect order -- into the pond for a cool-off and to forage for a snack.

Still in lock-step, er, glide formation, the geese are about ready to turn around ...

... and head back to shore.