Wide on the Little for Wednesday

Sweep panorama near the mouth of the Little River on Laudholm Beach

On Sunday my photoprowl featured heavy skies over the October landscape. This is a sweep panorama taken just back from the mouth of the Little River where it crosses Laudholm Beach. I like these tall/wide shots, taken with the camera in portrait orientation. Of course this shot is all about the lowering sky, the sweep of the sand, and the curve of the water. The hint of color in the distant trees is an added highlight.

Sony HX400V. Processed in Lightroom on my Surface Pro 3 tablet.

October Marsh

Little River Marsh, Laudholm Farm, Wells ME

When October sends a gloomy day…you take gloomy day pictures. There is still a beauty to be had. The sky broods. The colors burn like late embers. I seem to be stuck in cliche mode, but you get the gist. This is from the observation deck on the boradwalk trail at the Well National Estuarine Research Center at Laudholm Farm in Wells, Maine.

Sony HX400V in-camera HDR. Processed in Lightroom on my Surface Pro 3 tablet.

October Sky, Laudholm Farm

Laudholm Farm, Wells ME

This is not the first time I have shot this view, and it almost certainly will not be the last. :) It is such a classic that the University of New Hampshire Panorama Project has put a panorama post on the spot, though this shot is from nearer ground level.

It is an in-camera HDR, and I used Program Shift to get a smaller aperture and greater depth of field, even on this day of subdued October light. Sony HX400V at 24mm equivalent. ISO 80 @ 1/500th @ f5.6. Processed in Lightroom on Surface Pro 3 tablet.

Masked Shrew. Happy Sunday!

Tiny Masked Shrew by my foot.

Tiny Masked Shrew by my foot.

Funny story. Carol and I went for a walk on the Carson Tail at Rachel Carson National Wildlife Headquarters yesterday afternoon. The day was struggling, with a bit of momentary sun here and there to lift it from its late October gloom, and rain threatening on the horizon. The maples are passing fast, and the oaks this year, most places, are going direct from green to brown. Still, it was good to be out. A Hairy Woodpecker flew ahead of us for a ways, until it was displaced from a particularly attractive (apparently…and to woodpeckers) dead branch tip by a Red-bellied Woodpecker. We don’t see many Red-bellieds here in Southern Maine, compared to Hairy and Downy that is, so that was a special.

We turned the corner by the overlook at the junction of Branch Brook and the Marriland River, where they join to become the Little River, in time to see 4 people…two couples, old and young…clustered around something on the trail, clearly excited about it. As we approached, they were debating what it was…mouse? mole? vole? They moved on and left their find to us. It was tiny and it was fast, but it did not seem to be going anywhere in particular. It certainly was not trying to get away. It scampered repeatedly across the trail and burled under and ran over the litter of fallen maple and oak leaves, as though looking frantically for something it had lost…its house keys perhaps, or a coat button. And it was strange. It was mouse like, but had tiny ears and a long mobile, almost prehensile, snout. Its tail and nose were both too long by far for a mole or vole, and it was so small…barely as wide as quarter, and only two quarters long, not counting the tail. We stood watching it, and I, of course was trying to get a shot of it as it zipped around under us.

Then suddenly it scampered up on my shoe and looked for a way up my pant leg. I was wearing field pants cinched with elastic around the ankle so It was defeated there, but then on its way down, it found one of the ventilation holes in my Crocs and nipped inside next to my foot…right inside my shoe. Perhaps that is an added benefit of the box toe on the Crocs: Room for visiting rodents. Fortunately, it popped back out and went off to explore the leaves beyond the edge of the trail. Carol was finding all this very exciting, but she was nearly and clearly, as they say these days, creeped out by the creature’s familiarity with my pants and shoes and wanted none of it for herself. She was rapidly backing way down the trail. The creature, however, apparently liked the experience in my shoe, because it came back for more, exploring several of the Croc holes before we moved on…though it never got right inside again. Maybe my socks smelled like insects? It kept me very busy, because, of course, I wanted a picture of it with my shoe. Priorities you know. And I got it going in…or thinking about it…but I never got it coming out…that would have been a picture! I think it would have played with us as long as we wanted to stay there, but I had visions of it actually getting caught inside my shoe, and hurt, so we moved on.

Of course I wanted to know what it was, so I did some research when we got home, first in Kaufman’s New England Guide, and then, when I could not find an exact match there, on-line. Kaufman’s got me as close as Shrew…not mouse, or mole, or vole…but certainly some kind of shrew. Eventually, by process of elimination, and consulting mammal lists for Maine, I narrowed it down to Masked Shrew…which is logical, as the Masked Shrew is the most common shrew in North America…and why should my first shrew encounter be anything other than the most common? The shrew population in New England is reputed to be among the most numerous of any mammal, but they are very rarely seen in daylight (though they are active around the clock), so they are, in fact, very rarely seen at all. They live among us, but we know it not :)

Last night, as I lay contemplating the writing of this story when I should have been sleeping, it occurred to me to wonder how “shrew” came to have its meaning, its monumental Shakespearean meaning, of “bad tempered woman.” I mean, there was nothing bad tempered about the Masked Shrew…on the contrary it was friendly and almost too cute for its own good. I am not sure but what, if it had gotten in my shoe once more, I would have been tempted to bring it home :)

Research. It turns out that shrew is a pure English word that seems to have sprung into existence, in either its rodent or anthropomorphic sense, about the time Shakespeare used it. There is some theory that moles and shrews were thought to have a venom that produced bad temper in women when bitten…and I suspect, from Carol’s reaction, that just being bitten by a shrew would be enough to produce bad temper in most women even without venom…but I simply can not imagine the shrew I encountered biting anyone…let alone a woman grown enough to cause her husband trouble. There has to be more to the story than that…and I certainly suspect the shrew has gotten a bad rap! One wonders, in fact, if Shakespeare coined the “bad tempered woman” usage based on his own dramatic conceit and the physical characteristics of a particular actor assigned the first role…perhaps that prehensile, unattractively mobile and narrow nose? The shrew is certainly in the habit of poking it where it does not belong, if my Crocs are any indication. Of course, we shall never know. Lost in the mists of time and among the many myths of Shakespeare.

It is Sunday, so of course, you are expecting the spiritual side of all this (or at least I am). I hope I have conveyed some of my delight in the shrew encounter. It filled me with quiet amazement…flooded me with pleasurable wonder. Exactly the opposite of bad temper…the shrew gave me the inestimable gift of good temper. Such a treat! You don’t often encounter wildlife that is willing to climb into your shoe. That sense of familiarity, of intimacy, is very special, and I feel wonderfully privileged to have been included. And that, my friends, is the pure essence of spirituality…the sense of being privileged to be included in something wonderful. Or that is what I think. Thank you, Masked Shrew, and I can only hope this piece does at least a little to undo the harm Shakespeare did your reputation. :)



Warbler of Autumn

Yellow-rumped Warbler

We do have other Warblers in Southern Maine during migration, but this year we are seeing huge numbers of Yellow-rumped Warblers coming through. I am not sure how that will play out nationally, but I suspect it was a super year for Yellow-rumps on the breeding grounds north of us. :) This specimen was along the Timber Island Trail at Rachel Carson NWR last Monday, being cooperative as only a migrating Yellow-rump can.

Sony HX400V at 1200mm equivalent field of view. Shutter preferred. 1/640th @ ISO 125 @ f6.3. Processed in Lightroom on my Surface Pro 3 tablet.

Space Needle from Olympic Sculpture Park, Seattle

Space Needle from Seattle Olympic Sculpture Park

Having a couple of hours on my hands yesterday afternoon in Seattle while my client did other meetings, and being the best day in Seattle so far, I took a walk down to the waterfront park, and south along the waterfront to the Olympic Sculpture Park, and back around and uphill to the hotel again. I have to think that the Space Needle was an integral part of the artist’s conception here. The possibilities of framing the Needle through the sculpture are too many, and too apt, for it not to have figured into his thinking. :)

This is another in-camera HDR from the Sony HX400V at 24mm equivalent field of view. After my normal processing in Lightroom, I made a virtual copy and used the Vertical alignment tool to automatically pull the background buildings upright and eliminate the perspective distortion. Worked like a charm with a single click.



view from the roof of my hotel :)

I am in Seattle for a few days, working on a digital imaging project for a client. They put me up at the Mediterranean Inn just up the hill from the Space Needle. They have a roof garden/observation deck on the roof that offers this classic view of downtown Seattle. It rained all day, until about 4PM, and I got back to the hotel just in time to catch the low afternoon sun across the bay lighting up the city.

In-camera HDR with the Sony HX400V. 24mm equivalent. Processed in Lightroom on my Surface Pro 3 tablet.

Red Squirrel!

Red Squirrel at Laudholm Farm

As I mentioned the last time I posted an image of a Red Squirrel, way back in the spring, we do not see them much in Southern Maine. They are, obviously, here, but they manage to say well out of sight most of the year. In fact I have not seen a single one since that day this spring. And I spend a lot of time in the woods, comparatively speaking. :) Last Sunday, I went for a photoprowl at Laudholm Farm (The Well National Estuarine Research Center) and almost immediately saw this Red Squirrel scamper from the side of the path into a deep pile of brush, where it was, of course, almost completely hidden from my camera. So I clucked at it…doing my best to imitate an agitated squirrel…and, after a few moments, it popped up on a branch to answer the challenge. Way to go squirrel! It was, however, so dark in there under the old apple trees and in that brush pile that I had to, eventually, reduce the shutter speed to 1/160th before I came close to a proper exposure…and even then I was still maybe two stops under…and that was at ISO 1600. It is amazing how much detail the camera caught even 2 stops under exposed. A little work in Lightroom and this is an acceptable image. Or that is what I think. :) And as a bonus, I saw a second Red Squirrel near the very end of my photoprowl, but despite my best clucking efforts, that one eluded a photograph. :(

Sony HX400V at 1200mm equivalent field of view. Shutter preferred. 1/160th @ ISO 1600 @ f6.3. Processed in Lightroom on my Surface Pro 3 tablet.

Merlin on Timber Island


My wife and I made a return to the Timber Point/Timber Island trail at Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge yesterday early, to catch the low tide and walk out to the Island. It was a perfect October day in Maine. Cold enough for gloves when we left the house, but warm enough so we were unzipping and shedding layers on the way back. Big blue sky with just a few clouds. Leaves drifting down from the trees, but still a lot of color in the foliage. Autumn personified. Timber Point and Timber Island are wonderful places. I have already written a photoprowl about the Timber Point trail, and I will be adding a section on the Island itself. Lots of birds, great scenery. Wonderful.

This bird was perhaps the highlight of the walk. A female Merlin, perhaps, if memory serves, my first in Maine, and only maybe my 4th nation wide. I have seen them now in CA, NM, NJ, and Maine. This is stretching the limits of the 1200mm equivalent zoom on the Sony HX400V but it was a close to the bird asf I could get, and it will do nicely for a memory shot.

Sony HX400V at 1200mm equivalent field of view. Shutter preferred. 1/640th @ ISO 80 @ f6.3. Processed in Lightroom on my Surface Pro 3 table.

October Light in the Forest

Laudholm Farm, Wells ME

Yesterday was one of those clear-blue-sky October days in Southern Maine, just past peak foliage color, when the forest is full of drifting leaves and everything is hopping and popping. Birds and beasts are busy with the final collections for winter. The slant of the sun, and the trees dropping leaves already, bare limbs showing at the tips…there is a feeling of rush…not panic yet…but an unusual concentration, a compression of life that promises to get the most from this day. And, of course, it is all so beautiful!

This is a boardwalk at the Wells National Estuarine Research Center at Laudholm Farm in Wells Maine, just down the road from us. I think it catches the feeling pretty well.

Sony HX400V. In-camera HDR at 24mm equivalent field of view. Processed in Lightroom on my Surface Pro 3 tablet.