The Great Outdoors In My Urban Backyard

Since I started chronicling my photography recently, I have a whole back-log I can talk about. I thought it a good time to bring up how awesome Columbus is in regards to the Metro Park system. If you ventured to that link, you'll realize that Columbus/Franklin County owns metroparks.net. You can see it's serious business.
I'd lived in town or the 'burbs a handful of years before even setting foot in one. It was after having my Canon t6i about half a year (January, 2017) that a friend asked if I wanted to check out one of our local parks (Blacklick Woods) and I realized I had a whole new world to explore in and around the city.

I was captivated even by the moss

Still rocking the kit lens with no idea how to control settings

Really, a great park
Not great photos, by any means, but it was inspiring in my early learnings to find out that these places existed, and nearly all of them within a 30 minute drive. The next year was spent really honing my eye for things in nature. The best thing about nature is that you largely have to work with what's given and either develop a keen ability to adapt or simply rarely get a good photo. Being able to adjust and take what's given to you can help immensely in nearly any situation as a photographer.

I ventured to a few metro parks over the next few months to explore and get a feel, but primarily took my camera to an even closer location. Within walking distance of my house (which is kind of in the middle of Columbus if you were to put a dot in the center of the 270 outer-belt) is the Olentangy River Wetland Research Park. This place has some nice paved and off-road trails that are open to the public. I've gotten many great early and recent shots here. There are nearly always lighting challenges (it's too light or dark in damn near every situation). There's a dam that provides some particularly great shots of herons or egrets:


 







That one with the heron eating the big fish is always going to be one of my favorites. It's hard to believe I only captured that a year ago (7/3/18) - it feels like five. These shots span nearly the whole year in between. 
Aside from the dam, exploring the wetlands is something I've done since before I had the camera and started taking photography seriously. The area has some great scenes - one in particular is a large area devoted to Ohio wildflowers that both help the pollinators and provide some great visuals:




Definitely one of my favorites. Not much editing needed for that flower to stand out

And the area provides ample photo opportunities for those who seek it out all throughout:
Good scene for some heavy bok


 




The wetland area has easily been the biggest help in testing out equipment, techniques, strategy, and practice in general.

The next park I took my camera to was Blendon Woods. This park was pretty nice, and even had some areas to check out water foul (of which there was nothing happening on this trip). While I'm not huge in to birds, they provide great practice for needing to quickly adjust and get a good shot. I went back a few times over the past year and was able to grab a few nice pictures.
There are wild turkeys, which was a bit of a surprise

Photographing a chipmunk is like trying to catch the snitch - luckily there was some seed dropped

Almost walked right by this girl without even knowing it!
I think I just happened to go there during some down times when it comes to nature doing cool stuff.
Shortly after the trip to Blendon Woods, I scoped out Sharon Woods - which is probably the closest metro park to my house.We were getting in to early fall here, so my initial visit was a bit drab, though I've been back since and can say it is nice in all seasons.

This was a really interesting scene of all those dead plants.

It's a pretty spacious park with some nice views

In all seasons, there's always something beautiful to capture outdoors

Or something really odd

A nice overlook here. I believe this was the first test of my first wide-angle lens.

A more recent shot - wildflowers everywhere.

Oh yeah, and there's a small lake right in the middle (or big pond?)
Sharon Woods is probably my favorite park to head to and take my dog. While a majority of the best trails (ones where you can get a good view of nature or are far off the beaten path) are restricted to dogs, Sharon Woods' best path is not.

Next is probably my favorite place to go if I need to feel really at peace. This one's not a metro park and barely even on the map (really, I've got no link here). It's called Walnut St. Park and is near a very nice place to visit (Hoover Dam Reservoir/Park). What makes this place special is the scenery. It's a nice sized pine area, that then leads in to a regular Ohio forest. My wife and I found it while geo-caching with friends at night about five years earlier and we'd been pining to find it since (pun intended). The pine scene is just surreal for our location and simply beautiful (well, you be the judge)

One of the first shots when we re-found this place.

From a very recent visit

Editing can really change the feel.

So tall!
You can take a slightly steep, barely-worn trail down from the pines and scope out part of the reservoir not seen by many.

Really intrigued by that dock.


Be prepared for mud here.
Bonus view of the water:


It's a very nice place to fly the drone
Highbanks is up. This is a nice, big metro park. I walked far too long on my first solo trip there and definitely didn't bring enough water. I was feeling a bit delirious by the end. You have an opportunity to see some bald eagles and several other great sights. I've gotten some fun wildlife photos here:

Danger noodle
That young snake stopped to pose for a bit, which was rather kind. Along with the wildlife shots, there are also some good scenes to test things like long exposures with water:





It's full of great spots to just capture nature or for portrait photography!

A bit further outside of town is Clear Creek. This was a very nice park, though when we went (late winter/early spring) it was pretty well dead (of wildlife, greenery, and people). This was a bit more wild and had some REALLY steep climbs. It provided some nice views, though:
Someone made a home up the climb a long time ago. Naturally, they left.

 

The creek was clear, though

Very clear!
I've only been there once, and I would like to go again, so look for photos within the next few months. 

Next up is a park I've visited once, this past April - Slate Run. This park was a pleasant surprise. I found out I should have parked at the other end to see all the good stuff, but I certainly got some exercise this day. There were some great scenes in early spring:



A nice overlook of the wetland area.






This duder might be a frog I photograph next time

This fish was expecting things
This was one of my favorites and it was still during a relative slow period of activity. 

We even have a park with bison! Battelle Darby Creek. I'd been there before and didn't get much in the way of photos, but I went in spring of this year and took a marked trail leading into an unmarked trail to see one of the most peaceful/calming spots I could imagine:
I just wanted to set up a hammock and hang out




Not sure what that building was for
Not a soul was down there. Just my wife, dog, and myself. You could hear the bubbling creek, a handful of birds, and that was it. A lot of the main trail's out in the open, so it's not the best place on a hot, sunny day - but getting down to this area makes it worth the trip.
Oh yeah, the bison!



Umm... moo? Is that what we say? Moo?

This park is pretty well funded - the nature center is pretty awesome inside. One thing all the parks are great for is children. Lots of learning opportunities and constant activities throughout the year. So, if you're in the Columbus area and have kiddos, definitely go check 'em out!


The most recent park explored was Scioto Grove. I didn't get many shots here, and was restricted on paths with a dog in tow, but this park certainly has some promise (and a drone area!).

There were some very dense wooded areas.

AND A ROPE BRIDGE!

This guy hated the rope bridge, so had to take the rocky steps
 
I've scoped out a few more here and there, without any good (or any at all) photos. There are so many parks, I'll likely touch on them individually in the future, but this serves as a nice overview. There's a lot of nature in and around Columbus. It provides some great material to photograph and simply explore for fun. If you're in the area or even just visiting, I encourage you to check out metroparks.net or google some parks to hit up. You will not be disappointed. 




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