Monday, February 28, 2011

Flat Light

Yesterday, I learned that it is difficult to take good photographs and help others take good photographs at the same time.  I volunteered to help Cherrie Corey with her Photo Foray, to help some of the newer photographers.  It was fun to share some of the lessons that others taught me.  I know the questions I asked them, help me think about my own photographs.

The most recent snow storm had just stopped, but the sky was still dark and foreboding.  That didn't stop some people, who were out cross country skiing or snow shoeing.  This family that bundled up their young children and took them along for the ride caught my eye.


Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110227 &emdash;

Since the light was pretty flat, I focused more on photos with high contrast between the snow & the subjects.  I had challenged myself by only bringing two lenses that I have used much recently - my 100mm macro lens and my wide angle lens.
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Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110227 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110227 &emdash;

Today's walk reinforced the value of coming back to the same place frequently.  Two days ago, the river was mainly frozen over; today it appeared navigable.  One of the beaver lodge's had been totally surrounded by ice; today there were signs of recent construction work on the lodge since the snow stopped.  Unfortunately, we were all looking towards some bluebirds feeding, when the beaver surfaced, saw us, and gave a loud tail slap, before diving under water to get away.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110227 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110227 &emdash;



Even with the flat light, there were points of beauty to enjoy.  These ranged from the snow delicately balancing on plants, to the different colors of ice.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110227 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110227 &emdash;


Just as we were packing up to leave, the clouds started to part ever so slightly to give a glimpse of the sunset.  It was like a promise that there would be more interesting days for photography in the future.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110227 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110227 &emdash;

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Looking More Closely

My life since the last post has been a whirlwind.  My wife, Amy, is a candidate for Town Clerk in Burlington (see AmyForClerk.com).  Someone took out nomination papers to run against her 1/2 hour before the deadline last week.  That spun us up into action - there were people to call, websites to build, mailings to send and strategies to implement to meet the challenge.  Thankfully, the deadline for that person to return their signatures has passed, without them being returned, so life has returned to "normal".

It was incredibly quiet this morning at Great Meadows.  The temperature at sunrise was a balmy 10F.  Despite the lack of wind, that seemed to scare away all the people, and most of the animals.  The lack of wind blowing through the trees and reeds combined with the lack of birds singing made for an eerie silence.  The silence broken only by the sound of snow crunching beneath my feet.

The extreme quiet was the perfect antidote to my crazy week.  The camera felt strange in my hands.  I wasn't sure what I wanted to shoot.   Stopping at the bridge over the outlet between the upper and lower impoundments, I stopped to photograph the interplay between ice and water.  

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110224 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110224 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110224 &emdash;

After a while I started to notice the hoar frost on the plants & surfaces surrounding the water.  Today, I seemed to be drawn to details.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110224 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110224 &emdash;

Continuing on, I was enticed to photograph the lotus seed pods embedded in the snow.  One was inverted looking like a witches hat, resting on a bed of white.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110224 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110224 &emdash;

Then I started noticing the trees are starting to bud, a sign that spring was soon coming.  One tree had a wonderful reddish brown bark on the new growth.  Like that moment in the Wizard of Oz, I could start to feel the monochromatic world of winter starting to thaw.  Down by the boat ramp, one tree was full of red buds.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110224 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110224 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110224 &emdash;

The temperature started to rise.  Walking in the sun, on the west side of the impoundments, I rapidly started to bask in its warmth.  Funny how back in November, mid-thirties seemed so cold; after months of winter, it now seems so warm.  Down by the holt, the Concord River has started to thaw.  I wonder how long it will be before there will be geese back swimming.  Soon the coyotes easy passage up, down and across the river will  be no more.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110224 &emdash;

Groups of Black-capped Chickadees and Tufted Titmice flew from branch to branch in the upper reaches of the trees.  On the far side of the lower impoundment, I saw a flock of 6 Blue Jays, flying into the woods squawking the whole time, sort of like an avian Hells Angels gang invading the still of the Timber Trail.

Back near the parking lot, the squirrels were quite active.  Many territory disputes were in progress as they chased each other leaping from tree to tree..  I'm not entirely sure, but there may have even been romance in the air.  I'll have to read more about the mating habits of squirrels, but I think I may have accidentally captured an intimate moment, and the resulting post coital bliss....or it may have just been some good clean squirrel play.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110224 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110224 &emdash;

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Quiet Anticipation

It was a solitary day at Great Meadows this morning.  Spring must be coming, because I saw the first intrepid jogger of the season, carefully picking her way along the icy path.

Even the animals were subdued.  I encountered  the "usual suspects" Black-capped Chickadees, some crows, and Downy  Woodpecker as I carefully circumnavigated the lower impoundment.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110216 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110216 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110216 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110216 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110216 &emdash;


I had been bouyed by the weather forecast that predicted a high of 40F, but warm temperatures were slow in arriving.  There was a cool breeze blowing from the west, which made me wish I had dressed more warmly.

It's interesting the changes that can happen in a week and a half.  Last visit, the impoundments were full of deep snow.  Now they are ice covered.  Like some sort of CSI episode all the footprints and activity of the coyotes, and the duck box repair are now preserved in ice.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110216 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110216 &emdash;


The paths, previously non-existant are now hard packed, covered with a light icy glaze.  I was appreciative that I had my Yak Tracks on.  The river is still ice packed and intact.  It won't be too long before the ice breaks as the snow melts and the river rises.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110216 &emdash;

The ice around the impoundment bridges has started to melt.  Though there weren't any animals at these watering holes, it was fun photographing the ever changing scene as ice, water and air interact.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110216 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110216 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110216 &emdash;

On the walk back to the car, I notice my first buds.  Spring will soon be here.  Winter will be a memory.  Soon we'll be standing behind curtains of cattails, yearning for the wide scenic vistas of winter.   Until then we all anticipate its coming.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110216 &emdash;

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Gotcha!

Tempted by Friday's sighting of coyotes, I was drawn back to Great Meadows early Saturday morning ahead of the pending storm.  This time I was brought my 50-500 lens.

Unfortunately, the title of this post, isn't referring to the great coyote photos I took, but instead the Great Blue Heron photos I finally got.  During the summer there are usually a few Great Blue Herons around, and though skittish, often one will cooperate photographically.  This winter there is one Great Blue that has decided not to head to warmer climes, but to hang around and feed at the two bits of open water at the refuge.  This one has frustrated me.  It is even more skittish than your typical Great Blue Heron.  It often has hid out in a place obstructed by reeds or trees, or just decided to be somewhere other than where I was looking for it at the moment.

Today that all changed.  I managed to catch it feeding by the dike bridge.  Due to the weather there were only a couple of other people walking the paths.  When they crossed the bridge they would scared it away, but it soon returned.



Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110206 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110206 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110206 &emdash;

When I first arrived at GMNWR, I could see one of the coyotes near the dike, but it was moving quickly away.  Afraid that it would disappear before I could get setup, I wandered up the tower and tried to get a few shots, hand held.  Unfortunately, someone else arrived & started walking onto the dike, which scared the coyotes into the woods by the river.

One wandered back couple times over the course of the morning, but it was very skittish.  The closest it got was in the reeds next to the under bush near the tower.  But as soon at it saw me, it boogied away, later showing up on the fas side of the lower impoundment.  So even though I had my longer lens, the coyote photos are not as good as Friday's.



Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110206 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110206 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110206 &emdash;

While waiting for the coyotes to come back, I entertained myself by shooting a group of squirrels near the road that were busily running around, retrieving nuts from their caches.  That resulted in a couple of cute images with snow on their noses.  There must have been 6 to 8 squirrels in this one area.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110206 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110206 &emdash;

I assume it's only a matter of time before the red tail hawk decides that this would be a wonderful place to visit.  Hope I'm there then to get the shot.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Quiet, but Eventful

I am tired of shoveling snow off of everything, off the driveway, off the walks, off the deck, off the roof, off the foundation (after I shoveled it off the roof), I just needed to some time for myself with my camera.  Bundled in all my winter hiking gear, it was a frigid 16F as I left the house for Great Meadows.   

With each successive storm, it appears fewer and fewer people venture out to hike the trails at Great Meadows.  However, since Wednesday's storm there had been a couple of skiers and snow-shoers who had blazed a path.  

It was a very quiet morning.  There weren't many birds.  The kiosk's last entry was from 1/28.  The water by the bridge was 1/2 way frozen over & the marsh wrens were no longer there.

With not a lot to see, I focused on details.  The frost on the branches.  Plants buried in snow.  Noticing how the weathered snow is starting to get more crystalline, icy and crunchy.



Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110205 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110205 &emdash;

As I walked out towards the observation platform, you could see tell tale signs from the coyotes.  There were the weaving tracks across the snow and a place where one started to dig for something.  What was interesting is that the frozen snow was starting to bear their weight, with most of the foot prints just in the most recent dusting of snow.



Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110205 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110205 &emdash;

Out by the observation deck, the trail begins to narrow significantly as most people didn't continue on past there.  Stopping to rest, I started scanning the impoundments for anything interesting.  At first, it was dead still.  But then on the far side of the upper impoundment I noticed something in the distance.  At first I thought it was just one of the duck boxes, but I broke out the binoculars to get a clearer look.   Then it moved.  That was no duck box, it was a coyote.  Continuing to scan the horizon, I noticed another, and then a third coyote.  

Of course, wouldn't you know that today, I decided to travel light.  My 50-500mm lens was resting comfortably at home.  The distance was a bit far for my 70-300mm even with the 1.4 extender.  But since these were the first coyotes that I've seen outside of captivity, I took some shots for posterity.  It seemed like they have acute hearing.  They stopped to look at me whenever my shutter clicked.  They appeared somewhat bothered, but seemed more interested in foraging for food.



Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110205 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110205 &emdash;

If I wasn't able to get a career shot, I might as well observe them more closely.  So I hiked back to the tower, to use the telescope, to get a better view.  (I should have brought my shovel, but I kicked snow off of most of the stairs.)   One of the coyotes wandered off, while the other two wandered around hunting.  One spent quite a bit of time in the reeds, near the woods, while the other wandered across the middle of the upper impoundment.   I was able to watch them for probably 45 minutes to an hour.



Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110205 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110205 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110205 &emdash;

Up in the tower, they didn't seem so bothered by my camera.  I was able to use the telescope as a monopod to brace my camera.  One of the coyotes, wandered closer, so I was able to get these shots.  They are still extreme crops, but still worth sharing.

Just as I was packing up to head home, the Massachusetts Fish & Wildlife folks arrived.  They were there to maintain the duck boxes they couldn't get to in the fall because they were too tall, too muddy, etc.  They check each box, note if it had been used, clean it out, put in fresh sawdust, and made any repairs / replacements as appropriate.  They loaded up three sleds full of stuff and dragged it off into the marsh to begin their work.  (I always wondered how the duck boxes got there.)



Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110205 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110205 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110205 &emdash;