Dodge & Burn: Eastern Metro's Little Known Nature Next Door

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Big Haynes Nature Creek Center. All photos by John E. Ramspott.

Dodge & Burn is a series of photo essays documenting local culture with a focus on artful imagery, movement, and light.
Most Atlantans know they can head north into the mountains to find some great nature getaways or pay a fee and deal with the crowds at Stone Mountain. Folks who stay inside the perimeter enjoy Piedmont Park and similar intown destinations. One nice thing about metro Atlanta that not everyone knows is that natural paradises can be found nearby without a long drive, fighting crowds, or paying fees.
I live in Oxford, Georgia, which is between Conyers and Covington, just a short drive east of Atlanta. These images are all from within 15 minutes of my house. When you are in these locations, you feel like you are far from the madding crowd, but that crowd is much closer than your mind would lead you to believe.
Big Haynes Nature Creek Center.

Big Haynes Nature Creek Center.

Big Haynes Nature Creek Center.

The first location is Big Haynes Creek Nature Center in Conyers, across the street from the Georgia International Horse Park. It is a nice wetland area with plenty of trails, a pier, and a few docks for canoes. There are plenty of birds, including big blue herons. You feel like you are way out in the middle of a remote swamp, but the spot is next door to subdivisions and a golf course and down the road from a large apartment complex.
My favorite photograph from this set is the last one above, which was taken after 10:00 on the night of a full moon. It is a long exposure (about 20 seconds), and I used a flashlight to highlight the greenery that would otherwise be dark, a technique called “painting with light.”
Turner Lake.

Turner Lake.

My next spot is Turner Lake in Covington, Georgia. The lake is home to ducks and geese and is surrounded by a few miles of nature trails. How remote is it? Not very—it is part of a complex with baseball fields and next door to a suburban strip mall.
Lake Arabia, Arabia Mountain National Heritage Park.

Lake Arabia, Arabia Mountain National Heritage Park.

Lake Arabia, Arabia Mountain National Heritage Park.

Lake Arabia, Arabia Mountain National Heritage Park.

The final spot is Lake Arabia, part of the Arabia Mountain National Heritage Park. A long sidewalk winds through woods and rock formations, with a nature trail that splits off into the woods. Creeks, trees, huge rocks, and eventually a lake take you away from city life and into the realm of natural beauty. Once there, you again feel like you are far from civilization. However, you are around the corner from Stonecrest Mall, a library, and dozens of businesses ranging from restaurants to car dealerships. In Atlanta, nature is always closer than you think.
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