Saturday, April 30, 2011

Field Trip

The nature photographers in my camera club were in need of a field trip so along with Mike McNeil, Bill Willis and Gray Hoyt we invited them to Great Meadows for some early morning photography.   At 6:30 AM the sun was hid behind some clouds, but there was promise of more light as the skies were clear to the west.  At the appointed time about 15 photographers set out across the refuge in 4 different groups.  A few stragglers ended up joining our regularly scheduled programming in progress.  

My group headed through the woods to the outflow end of the lower impoundment and worked our way back towards the parking lot.  There were carp trying to cross the spillway into the impoundment.  While they were trying to get in, this sunfish that had given up the fight and was resting with the lotus seed pods, waiting to be eaten or swept downstream.


Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110430 &emdash;

It was a bit early for the muskrats to be out feeding.  One industrious muskrat was busily expanding the size of his lodge.  He should probably consult with the beavers on construction techniques, since they had better luck with the coyotes this winter than the muskrats.  

In just a couple weeks the landscape has gone form dull and grey to green.  New growth is everywhere.  I was drawn to how the darker background highlights the miniature leaves. 

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110430 &emdash;

My group brought me luck.  We discovered a new tree swallow nest, near the beaver lodge.  It was on the underside of the branch.  I will be checking up on it's progress as time progresses.



Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110430 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110430 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110430 &emdash;

Up near the holt, a pair of White-breasted Nuthatches were busily preparing a new nest in a knot-hole from a broken branch.



Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110430 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110430 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110430 &emdash;

Back on the dike trail many of my fellow club members were learning the joys of trying to photograph the often heard, rarely seen for more than a few seconds, rarely photographed well - Marsh Wrens.  (I tried too, but came away with nothing I would want to share).  Between rounds of frustration, I did manage to shoot this pair of Red-winged Blackbirds - both male and female.



Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110430 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110430 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110430 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110430 &emdash;

Two other animals came by for close up photos.  Since they were so cooperative, I had to post them.  I believe the first one was a leopard frog.  (My identification skills for most plants and many animals are weak.  This blog is forcing me to learn more each trip.  I guess sthis year, I will have to learn the 6-8 different types of dragon flies we see in the summer.)  The other one is a Canada Goose, that flew very close as he tried to evade another aggressive and protective goose.


Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110430 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110430 &emdash;

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Quick Lap

The weather has been grey and rainy.  It was Easter weekend.  My mother-in-law is visiting.  So many reasons for not being able to get over to Great Meadows.  Today while doing yard work, the day kept getting warmer.  The sun burst through the clouds and it turned into a beautiful day.

To reward myself for a day of work well done, I decided to run over to Great Meadows to for the approach of evening and the setting sun.  As I arrived, the wind picked up significantly, changed from the Northeast and turned cold.

It was a typical spring day at Great Meadows.  The Canada Geese coming, going, eating, and nesting.  A Great Blue Heron was fishing.  Muskrats were all, feeding.



Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110426 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110426 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110426 &emdash;

As I continued around the impoundment, I happened upon a pair of Wood Ducks preening in the reeds.  Usually Wood Ducks are very skittish, but these stayed for a brief moment, before flying away.  Unfortunately, the combination of setting sun and flying bird meant that the flight photos were going to be a trade off between motion blur of the wings and lack of focus due to depth of field.  I like them anyways; probably since I have so few good Wood Duck photos.  They are pretty birds.


Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110426 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110426 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110426 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110426 &emdash;

Continuing my journey around the lower impoundment, I stopped by my favorite snag to see if the Tree Swallows were there.  They weren't, but a Downy Woodpecker was.



Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110426 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110426 &emdash;

The light of the setting sun light started to dance across the landscape.  I am always drawn to the blues and golden color of the cat tails.  Unfortunately, the sun soon retreated behind a cloud never to return this day.



Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110426 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110426 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110426 &emdash;

I had three interesting encounters to end my day.  First this carp was trying to migrate across the spillway into the impoundment.  Second was listening to woman, with whom I shared the walk back to the parking lot, describing how she she enjoyed the refuge this evening.  She had stopped by for a dose of natural tranquility as a tonic to her very stressful day.  Third, I encountered a Yellow Warbler in the bushes near the kiosk. 



Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110426 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110426 &emdash;

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Sunny Disposition Makes All The Difference

After my last outing, it was with a little trepidation that I answered the alarm at o'dark thirty.  After several dark and dreary days the promise of a sunny day was motivation to get going.  It was a race against the sun to see you would get to Great Meadows first.  There was a large moon in the sky, that was starting to set, I hoped to get a shot of it over the refuge, before the sun over powered it.

Light Chronicle | Photography: gm20110421 &emdash;

The US F&WS folks were already out taking a census of the refuge.  They confirmed my impressions that is seems like most of the spring migrants have passed through.

Light Chronicle | Photography: gm20110421 &emdash;

In the beautiful golden light of the morning, the Red-winged Blackbirds were busy calling.   They are always challenging to photograph, but as the morning progressed the wind picked up, the reeds were swaying.  The Red-winged Blackbirds were struggling to hold on, while I struggled to freeze them in the frame.

Light Chronicle | Photography: gm20110421 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: gm20110421 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: gm20110421 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: gm20110421 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: gm20110421 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: gm20110421 &emdash;

Alan Bragg, Francesca Belouin, and Frank Laak were taking advantage of the sunny day to fill in places where the path has caved in with dirt and gravel.  Muskrats and other animals burrow into the dike.  The spring thaw and flooding ends up caving in these areas.  I really appreciate their efforts.  Until today, I have had to have one eye on the path, while the other eye was searching for something to photograph, least I trip in one of these big hole and risk breaking a leg, or a lens.


Light Chronicle | Photography: gm20110421 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: gm20110421 &emdash;

Speaking of muskrats, they were also out in force.  Though there aren't many green stems poking up through the water, the muskrats were constantly diving and coming up with tender green shoots to eat. 



Light Chronicle | Photography: gm20110421 &emdash; Light Chronicle | Photography: gm20110421 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: gm20110421 &emdash;

The trees and bushes are all breaking buds.  Soon this grey world will be covered in green.  The birds we can now see easily will soon be hid in the tree canopy.  I found it interesting to notice the differences in how each plant buds.



Light Chronicle | Photography: gm20110421 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: gm20110421 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: gm20110421 &emdash;

While below the surface the reeds are sprouting new growth, above the surface many of the cattails are holding out until the bitter end.  When you think about Great Meadows, cattail reeds are one thing that will quickly pop into your mind.  I've struggled to date to get good photos of them.  I like this one because the sunlight from the side combined with the dark background, makes it stand out.

Light Chronicle | Photography: gm20110421 &emdash;

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Lessons Learned

Tuesday morning several of my photography buddies from camera club decided to join me for a "guided tour" of Great Meadows.  The day was gray and threatening rain, but thankfully Bill, Bob and Don's sunny disposition and sense of humor brightened the day.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110419 &emdash;

The day didn't get off to a good start.  I managed to come to Great Meadows without any memory cards.  Thankfully, my companions, the consummate professionals not only had theirs, but had some spares they lent me.  Lesson 1: Always check your gear before leaving the house.

I thought that maybe I should try to mix up my routine; try shooting different subjects with a different lens.  The problem is that I was with a bunch of photographers that were enjoying shooting the things that I normally shoot. As a result, I passed up perfectly good images, looking for something different.  Lesson 2: Shoot what's there, not what you hope may be there.  Experimenting is good, but better done on your own.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110419 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110419 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110419 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110419 &emdash;

The third lesson was watching three good photographers see things that I've walked by several times without seeing that photo.  They each had their own style and subjects that attracted them.  I also picked up a few tips that will help future compositions. Lesson 3: I need to challenge myself to look at the same thing with different perspectives.
Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110419 &emdash;

So I guess the big thought that I am taking away from today is that this project will be my perception of the spirit of Great Meadows, other people will see the same things and may have different perspectives.