Morning Jewels
A Short Essay About Photographing
Dew-Covered Wildflowers & Insects

"What are you shooting?"

It was a question I'd heard many times before and although engaged by the task at hand—-photographing a dew-covered spider web in the weeds by the road—I lifted my head and politely answered. The response was also something I'd experienced many times before: A puzzling stare followed by a few mumbled words and then a "see ya later." On this particular morning, I was at a popular location in the Smokies where most visitors are in search of black bears, white-tailed deer, and wild turkeys. The fact that someone—a photographer, especially—would shun these grand subjects and crawl around on his knees taking photos of spider webs was just too much for this person to comprehend. What's difficult for me to understand is judging nature's merit based on the view from inside an SUV.

It's been said that the deep ocean is the last wilderness on earth, but we can find new worlds everywhere we look if we just look closely. One of my favorite places is an overgrown weedy field and the best time is late summer and early autumn. The warm days are abuzz with countless insects, and the cool nights have these critters roosting in the weedy vegetation. Any dew that develops on the insects keeps them from moving around until the sun comes up and dries their wings. If the night has been especially cool, it can take hours before the insects move. And it's not just insects putting on a show. Wildflowers, seedpods—anything—takes on a different look when covered in dew and illuminated by the sweet early-morning light.

Some people see an overgrown field and think what a waste. I see an overgrown field as a different world, another exploration awaiting. And a morning spent slogging through this world is a voyage in search of jewels.