DRIVERS HEADING westbound on Interstate 44 in Saint Louis County are treated to a view of hilly wilderness beyond the commerce of Fenton. Sometimes called the ‘foothills of the Ozarks’, the Crescent Hills rise about 400 feet above the heavily-developed floodplain of the Meramec River. The Forest 44 Conservation Area, managed by the State of Missouri, is in these hills.
Properties owned by the Missouri Department of Conservation, including this property, are open from 4 a.m. to 10 p.m., giving adventurous souls the opportunity to visit these places during darkness.
However, on an overcast night like this, it really isn't very dark, due to electric lighting illumining the clouds. It was bright enough to take decent photography. These photos had exposure times varying from fifteen seconds to four minutes.
In the photo above, the lighting from the parking lot illuminated the grasses in the foreground.
Dense forest here was rare in the days before Columbus and European colonization. The Indians used burning to maintain open areas of prairie, a practice that terrified the Europeans; but a mix of forest and grassland attracts a greater variety of wildlife than either habitat alone. The Conservation Department actively maintains the prairie area in the foreground of the above photo.
Here I tried to be clever. With my camera fixed on a tripod, and keeping the camera's shutter open for a long period of time, I walked around the area of the photo, setting off a portable flash multiple times to illuminate the vegetation here. Although I attempted to always point the flash away from the camera, once by mistake I did set it off in the direction of the lens, so you can see a bright light in the center of the photo. More than just a gimmick, ‘Strobist’ or ‘Painting with Light’ techniques can create distinctive photos, but it requires careful execution and attention to proper exposure.
The sky was illuminated by surrounding electric lighting, and with my eyes I could see the various colors of the clouds, but I saw the ground and vegetation in only shades of gray and black. But when I set off the flash, the dark gray vegetation, for a moment, was revealed in color. These brief flashes of light didn't harm my night vision much.
A suspension footbridge over a stream, which is a tributary of Williams Creek. I know of at least five springs within the park, which includes one which is used by an adjacent stable to water the horses, and another with a dense growth of water cress (however, my photos of this spring didn't turn out good).
This part of the park is swampy, and the areas on either side of the walkway are perennially muddy or covered with water. In springtime the number of frogs here is tremendous, and the noise they make at dusk is almost deafening.
I was using an antique flash that quickly drained my cheap batteries, so I didn't take any more strobe pictures that evening. But I like the orange sky in this photo.
A view of part of a swamp. When I took this photo, an owl was hooting nearby.
A grassy path leads around to the other side of the swamp.
A view of Williams Creek. An obstruction in the creek bed is causing the water to pool a bit. As we had plenty of rain lately, the stream is flowing briskly, but normally the creek at this point is completely dry. Just upstream from here is a low rock ledge, and under normal conditions the water just flows into a crevice under the rocks, disappearing from view and flowing underground.
A view of a very muddy field.
A view of the hills. At this time, it started getting windy and the grasses in the foreground are blurry as a result.
Due to the nice bright sky, these photos were within the normal operating range of my camera. Click here for some of my older photos at this park, which includes two photos where it was really too dark for decent quality.
Click here for a map to the area.