For my last field trip of the Potholes and Prairies Birding Festival in Carrington North Dakota, I went with a small van and a few people to explore the very edge of the drift prairies where they meet the Missouri Coteau…the terminal moraine of the last round of glaciers to scrub the area. They call the uplands there Hawk’s Nest Ridge, and it is a unique habitat in North Dakota: A tall hill or small mountain covered in Burr Oak forest. Until European settlers arrived on the prairies of North Dakota any trees were restricted to the deeper river valleys, right along the water…and the only real forest was found on the top of Missouri Coteau…where the Burr Oaks grow.
I was totally delighted to come to an open glade in the Burr Oaks and find it full of dragonflies. I can honestly say I have never seen as many of one species in any one place at any one time. There must have been a hundred of these bright golden, fair sized dragons working the bushes and low growth at the edge of the trees. There were also two Common Green Darners patrolling, and bunches of damsels and dancers in the grass. There was no hope for a shot of the Darners, but I tracked down a couple of the big golden guys who posed just long enough for some photography. I was excited. I was convinced that I was seeing something new to me.
So I got back to the hotel and processed the images in Lightroom. Still excited. Then I began to try to id the bugs. Oh. On closer look they were just Four Spotted Skimmers, one of the most abundant dragons around my home in southern Maine…the first dragon I photographed in Maine this year…and one that I have hundreds of images of already.
I was a little let down, I will admit. There in the clearing in the Burr Oak forest up on Hawk’s Nest Ridge the Missouri Coteau of North Dakota, with the skimmers all around me in the bright sunlight, I thought I really had something new. Four-spotted Skimmers! Who knew.
At the same time, having seen them in that number and in that light, I will never look at a Four-spotted Skimmer quite the same way again. They are a work of art, no matter how common.
Canon SX50HS with my usual tweaks to Program. 1800mm equivalent field of view. f6.5 @ 1/1000th @ ISO 640. Processed in Lightroom.
I suppose, in the winter, the Herring Gulls of Acadia National Park actually have to work for a living. During the summer months though, tourist season, they mostly hang out where people gather, and live off the bread-crusts, Fritos, and Cheezits (with the occasional whole hot dog and bun mixed in) that they extort from the tourists. They are absolutely without fear. They practice a kind of open sheath approach, sidling up in plain sight, ever closer, until they are, often, within arms reach. They will steal food right out of the hands of unsuspecting children. Of course they never make eye-contact. They seem to believe that if they can’t see your eyes, you can’t see them. That is a reasonable assumption if you are a gull. Not so much when dealing with humans, but since we are, gull wise at least, a fairly tolerant race, they get way with it.
Canon SX50HS. Program with iContrast and Auto Shadow Control. -1/3EV exposure compensation. 1200mm equivalent field of view. f6.5 @ 1/800th @ ISO 400. Processed in Lightroom for intensity, clarity, and sharpness.
The Rhododendrons in our yard, and on the boarder between our yard and the yard next door, are in full bloom these past few days. The weather was variable yesterday so I got two series of images of the flowers…one in the subdued light of the overcast morning, and one in direct sun, a little after noon. This is from the sunny shoot, and is close enough to turn the image, almost, into an abstract. I like the way the light is just catching on the two anthers and the tip of the stigma, which stand out against the bokeh of the petals in the background.
Canon SX50HS. Program with iContrast and Auto Shadow Control. -1/3EV exposure compensation. In order to create this effect, I backed away and shot at 1800mm equivalent field of view, from about 5 feet. f6.5 @ 1/160th @ ISO 80. Processed in Lightroom for intensity, clarity, and sharpness.
The Magnolia Warbler is on of the brightest spring warblers to pass through Magee Marsh and northern Ohio during migration. I heard Bill Thompson describe the Magnolia this way: it has one of every field mark. It has an eye-ring, an eyebrow, a mask, a black cap, wing-bars, streaking on the breast, under-tail patches. and white outer tail feathers. One of every field mark…and yet is uniquely and beautifully, unmistakably, itself. Magnolia!
Canon SX50HS. Program with iContrast and Auto Shadow Control. A collage of two shots, both at 1200mm equivalent. Processed in Lightroom. Assembled in PhotoShop Elements.
Garter Snakes get very little respect. They are very likely the most common and widespread snake in North America. No one seems to certain just how many species there are, or, if indeed there is only one. Common Garter Snake, one of several recognized species across North America, has been credited with up to 13 regional sub-species. To say that the Garter is highly variable is an understatement. They eat amphibians and earthworms, as well as the occasional rodent, fish or even small bird. Since they are everywhere, from seaside to mountaintop, from deep swamp to surburan backyards and city parks, and they are active by day, they are often seen. No one gives them a second glance. “Ah, just another garter snake.”
But look! They are beautiful. This fresh specimen from along boardwalk between Sieur de Mont Springs and Great Meadow in Acadia National Park is particularly attractive. (“Fresh” in the sense that it appears to have recently shed its skin and still has that “brand new” look.) The delicate greens and browns, the intricate woven look of the scales, the strong, compact body…this snake is a beautiful creature.
Canon SX50HS. Program with iContrast and Auto Shadow Control. -1/3EV exposure compensation. 1200mm and 1800mm equivalent field of view. f6.5 @ 1/400th @ ISO 800.
Processed in Lightroom for intensity, clarity, and sharpness.
Rhodoa, a New England relative of the rhododendron family, was in bloom all over Mt Desert Island…in any damp spot with sun, from hollows in the tops of the mountains, to the edges of marshes in the valleys. I caught this bee making the most of it along the shore of Jordan Pond.
Tel-macro. Canon SX50HS. 1200mm equivalent from 5 feet. f6.5 @ 1/1000th @ ISO 640. Program with iContrast and Auto Shadow Control. -1/3EV exposure compensation. Processed in Lightroom for intensity, clarity, and sharpness.
Sometimes it is just about light, no matter what your subject is. This Lady Slipper, along the tail at Rachel Carson NWR Headquarters, is as lovely as any of its kind, and particularly symmetrical, but it is the light in the background that makes the shot, along with the translucency of the bracts at the top, and the light caught in the tiny hairs that coat the bloom along the edges.
I used my favorite macro combination. Full wide angle (24mm equivalent) for the 0 cm focus, and 1.5x digital tel-converter for image scale and working distance. The combination managed to give me effective bokeh in the bright background. Program with iContrast and Auto Shadow Control. -1/3EV exposure compensation. f4 @ 1/320th @ ISO 160. Processed in Lightroom for intensity, clarity, and sharpness.
Spring in Maine may be catching up with itself. We were running 4 to 5 weeks later than last year, and a week or two behind a normal year. The Lady Slippers were in full bloom on May 23rd in 2009, the 20th in 2010, the 21st in 2011, and the 19th in 2012 (no, I do not keep a journal. It is as easy as looking at the exif data on my images from previous years . This year close to full boom was yesterday, on the 27th. That is a week difference yet, but we are catching up.
I am, of course, obliged to photograph the Lady Slippers along the loop trail at Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge headquarters every year. I should say, I am privileged to photograph the Lady Slippers every year. This year there are fewer than in past few years, with one prominent clump missing altogether, and the blooms are not as bright as they are most years. Still, it is magnificent plant! I would certainly miss photographing them. (I will be in Acadia National Park this weekend, and I hope to find the Yellow (Canadian) Lady-Slipper in boom there as well.)
Canon SX50HS. Program with iContrast and Auto Shadow Control. -1/3EV exposure compensation. 24mm macro with 1.5x digital tel-converter (my preferred macro setting). Processed in Lightroom for intensity, clarity, and sharpness.
Compared to the Black-throated Green Warblers, which were everywhere and very visible…often right in your face, the Black-throated Blue Warblers at Magee Marsh during The Biggest Week in American Birding, were scarce and very hard to see. They were especially hard to photograph as they feed deep in the foliage, not at the edges like the BTGW. I did manage a few half way decent shots over the course of the 11 days I spent at Magee. On the other hand, I have lots of shots of where the bird was when I started to press the shutter.
Canon SX50HS. Program with iContrast and Auto Shadow Control. -1/3EV Exposure compensation (unneeded for this shot!). 1200mm equivalent field of view. F6.5 @ 1/1000th @ ISO 800. Processed in Lightroom for intensity, clarity, and sharpness.
I included a Trillium in my set of “yard” flowers last week, not because it grows in my yard, but as a true touch of wildness in an otherwise pretty tame set of wildflowers. Still, the Trillium deserves a post all its own. The Trillium of the Maine woods is the Painted Trillium, with it’s delicate purple veining. This is a telephoto macro, taken at 1800mm equivalent from the safety of the path. The lighting on this flower is, I think, particularly effective.
Canon SX50HS. Program with iContrast and Auto Shadow Control. f6.5 @ 1/1000th @ ISO 800. Processed in Lightroom for intensity, clarity, and sharpness.