Pic of the Week 11/19/21
“Fall on Medicine Creek”
Location: Medicine Bluffs Historic Site Ft Sill, OK
Date taken: 11/14/21
You would think that with all the hiking I do I would come back with more shareable images. But my hiking trips mostly consist of scouting out new photography locations and then returning to those locations in more photogenic or ideal conditions. Though it is a slower process, it hasn’t really let me down yet. One such location was an area we scouted just a few months ago after Ashlee and I’s bout with COVID-19. During that scouting trip, I thought we should return when the fall colors were closer to peak—so that’s exactly what we did.
Since I had the location, I now needed to know the conditions of the fall foliage to make a more informed decision. That Saturday, after work, Ashlee and I left Wichita Falls and requested access to Fort Sill in nearby Lawton, OK. Entering in the Visitor Control Center I saw a painting of U.S. Calvary men walking along the prairie of the area. Behind them the Medicine Bluffs loomed high above stretching into the cloudy sky. I appreciated the artists’ attention to detail when painting the bluffs, it seemed they included every crack and crevice of the rocky cliff face. When it was my turn, I secured our passes and we drove into Fort Sill.
My original idea was to see if we could actually get access to the bluffs themselves, but unfortunately those are closed off to visitors and unauthorized personnel. So we just drove back to the historic site instead. Along the way, we saw several trees in full autumn bloom. Reds, oranges, golds, browns, and even some purples were scattered all around the fort. My eyes were set on the creek scoping out the fall colors upstream. Maybe the foliage that lined the banks of the creek were in peak? We arrived to the parking area and were surprised to see quite a few people out enjoying the afternoon. We passed some hikers on the trail and ran into some lovers having a picnic near the historical marker. We even ran into some off-duty soldiers listening to music and having a campfire. It wasn’t likely they would be here when we returned early the next morning. I had found and locked in my composition and I was excited to see the fall colors along the creek were quite vibrant.
That following morning we were awoken by the alarm going off at 5:00am. We had some breakfast, gathered our gear, and were out the door by 5:40am. Our goal was to reach the Visitor Control Center before 7:00am so we would have enough time to get on location and ready for sunrise. After checking in, we made our way once again to the Medicine Bluffs Historical Site parking area. By now the sun was poised ready to break the horizon and a glorious pinkish glow fell on the landscape around us. I hurriedly grabbed my camera bag and began sprinting up the hill to get to my location. In the excitement, it appears I ran past my target and ended up having to turn around, but luckily I found it just in time.
I found my particular rock outcropping that permitted me an excellent view of the creek as it curled around Bluff No 3. I carefully placed my composition making sure as to not overlap any of the trees with near perfect reflection in the water. Oaks, elm, shaking cottonwood, hickory, gum, and ash trees in fall displays added an excellent source of color and vibrancy in the photo. Now I just needed some light on the bluffs. A few moments later, a beam of sunlight skimmed just the top of the bluffs and a small portion of the cliff face. The sky (as typical) was empty of clouds or texture, but the Belt of Venus added just a little bit of color in the uninteresting sky. Now the composition, fall colors, light, and subject were all lined up. I just had to wait for a lull in the wind.
For a brief moment, the wind died down to a manageable level and I was able to squeeze off a few frames before the reflection was ruined. I sat there taking a photo every fifteen seconds to make sure I hadn’t missed the best light, but after an hour it became clear that the best light was already behind us. I had captured the image that I wanted, however. I really like this shot. Something about it just screams “postcard”. The composition is simple, but the anchor points really help keep the eye moving directly to my subject. The rock in the lower left corner, the little tree with yellow leaves breaking up the dull reflection, the reflection of the bluffs in the creek, and the light on the bluffs all guide the eye through the scene. I was very pleased with how the final image came out and more importantly that my scouting paid off in a very big way.