31 December 2009

Last Photos of 2009!

Its been an unfortunately long time since my last post.  I really meant to keep my posts more frequent, but I've been swamped with a host of family and school obligations since Thanksgiving.  I haven't had much time for trips and also little time in the evenings or on weekends to prepare posts.  I resolve to post at least once a week, if not more frequently, in the new year.  For my last post of 2009 I'll post a collection of images I've made since the Thanksgiving school break.

I'll start with some images from a literal "wild goose chase".  After striking out at Back Bay NWR on a very windy November day, I drove down to the Outer Banks of North Carolina in search of large flocks of photogenic snow geese.  My first stop was Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, just north of Rodanthe.  While there were many birds of various species there, the light was awful and the birds far out on the water due to the wind and a surprising concentration of hardy tourists.  On my way out of the refuge I ended up on the beach photographing flocks of brown pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis) diving for fish just offshore.  Due to my slow and limited AF system I didn't end up with many sharp images, but I was really drawn to the birds sailing just over the crests of the breaking waves (which had a lot of spray due to the strong offshore winds) and I was having a lot of fun.  I managed to capture this reasonably successful image of a non-breeding adult and a breaking wave amongst all the discards.  As I was walking back to the car (following the pelicans had led me down the coast quite a bit) I ran into this particularly photogenic herring gull (Larus argentatus) in 1st winter plumage and was able to get some flight shots as it flew ahead of my progress down the beach.

Next I headed inland to look for large flocks of snow geese I had heard congregated near Alligator River NWR and Pocosin Lakes NWR.  This is where the real "wild goose chase" began.  I decided to drive past Alligator River and find my way to the Pungo Unit of Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge.  The problem was that I hadn't brought directions and my atlas did not show all the small roads around and north of the lakes.  Through trial and error on small and sometimes dirt farm roads, I made my way to the northern side of Phelps Lake, but I did not find a way to Pungo Lake and I did not see much for wildlife.  As the sun was near setting, I decided to head back to the highway and go to Lake Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge which was off a road shown on the map.  I arrived at the middle of the lake just as the sun was setting, but the wind was now roaring, shaking my camera and tripod and making it extremely difficult to get a sharp image.

Next an image from Huntley Meadows Park after a record December snowfall in the DC area (~2ft).  Unfortunately I was snowed into my neighborhood for the first several days and I only managed to get out and through traffic in time to arrive just before sunset.  I liked this image of the marsh vegetation emerging from the snow.  The dark twigs and white snow have a simple graphic effect.

Finally, I'll post some images I made while visiting my parents in Greenfield, MA.  I went out on the morning of the 28th of December to photograph a heavy frost and then a snowstorm that moved in.  I spent a very pleasant morning taking macro photographs of plants covered in frost and playing with my new McClamp and 12" Lite-disc reflector (thanks Mom and Dad!).  Here are a few of the most successful images from that morning.

As the snow began, I was able to capture this reasonably successful image of snowflakes clinging to a spider web strung between the branches of a sapling hemlock (Tsuga canadensis).  This was the only image I was able to get despite several tries with this and other webs, because the snow fall began to get heavy and the webs were vibrating and then breaking from being hit with additional snowflakes.

The last three images are of frost and snowflake covered Winterberry (Ilex verticillata) berries.  The backgrounds of these images have not been desaturated in Photoshop.  The snow and grey branches combined with the extremely overcast lighting, along with carefully choosing my angles to eliminate background berries, led to this neutral gray background which so successfully contrasts with and highlights the red of the berries.  For the last image of this series, I have another image that has the plane of sharpest focus more on the front of the berries, but I like this image better, as you are able to see the details in the individual snowflakes.

Happy New Year everyone!  I wish you a peaceful and joyous 2010.

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