Posts in Category: Rachel Carson NWR

Up tree!

Three trees obviously. Pine, Maple, and Birch. Two at Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge and one just down the road at Laudholm Farms. I don’t know if you can call it a “good” use of an ultra wide frame of view, but I like to try it on occasion. 🙂 Sony a5100 in-camera HDR at 18mm equivalent. Processed in Polarr and assembled in FrameMagic. The trick of course is to be really close to the tree…but then trees are not that shy.


I had a strange (and slightly wonderful) encounter yesterday. I decided to go down to the beach for a few moments to photograph the stormy sky. As I drove the access road, which runs along the top of a causeway, it was unusually high tide, with the normal marsh on either side of Back Creek where it empties into the Mousam River behind the dunes of our local beach was fully under water and the tide lapping high up on the causeway. I noticed what was obviously a fairly large bird right at the edge of the water, up against the causeway, not 6 feet from the road. My driving impression was that it was a Razorbill, and when I got the car parked and walked over to see, it was indeed a Razorbill. What it the world? What is a Razorbill doing behind the dunes, pressed up against a roadway? It seemed to be in relatively good shape. It stood and flapped both wings at one point, but when I approached it, instead of backing out into the water, it hopped out of the water altogether and came up the bank toward me, stopping right at my feet. Other than a slick of something brown on the chest I could see nothing wrong with it. Still, I called around trying to get help. I got an answering machine at both Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, which manages the marsh behind the beach, and the Wells Reserve (Estuarine Research Reserve, which is just down the road from Rachel Carson). I called the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Game Warden hot line, which is really for reporting wildlife violations. A lady answered and took my particulars and phone number and said someone would call. About 15 minutes later a Warden did call. He could not get anyone to me on Saturday afternoon. I expressed my concern that a dog was going to get the bird, as the beach is popular with dog walkers in the winter, and not everyone obeys the sign that says the dogs must be on a leash…or, more likely, that gulls would get it. He suggested that I either box the bird up and drive it an hour down the interstate to the Animal Rescue in York, where they might be able to help it, or that I move it to a more secluded spot out of the sight of any marauding dogs, and with some cover from gulls, and let it fend for itself. He said birds are often not really hurt…but just resting after some trauma, and will recover if left to their own devices…something I already knew from past encounters with apparently injured birds. My wife needed the car in just a few moments, so I did put a fabric shopping bag I had in the back seat of the car over the Razorbill and moved it to the shelter of some overhanging brush well off the road. Best I could do.

When I got home, of course, I did a bit of research, and discovered one concerning thing about stranded auks…they can not take flight from land. I worried I had put the bird too far from water, so this morning at first light I went back to the beach with heavy gloves and a box, intending a deeper intervention, perhaps even an attempt to clean the oil or whatever it was from the birds feathers, if it was still there. It was gone…and there was no sign of predication. I am taking that as good sign.

Of course I took a lot of photos while waiting for the Game Warden to call me back. As I said, the bird apparently had no fear of me, and I got closer than I ever hoped to get to a living Razorbill (close indeed since I actually had it in my hands when I moved it). That was certainly special.

The three photos above are from the Sony RX10iv, close-ups at 600mm and wide shot at 300mm. All in Program mode with my birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr and assembled in FrameMagic.

Fall fungus in the forest…

Fall has produced an abundant crop of interesting scale fungi on the fallen limbs at Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge. There is a beauty in the patterns and the shapes, at least to my eye. Sony RX10iv at 489mm equivalent. In-camera HDR. Processed in Polarr.


When I went out the other day to the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge headquarters trail looking for landscape photos for my “For the love of landscape” posts, I was, of course, captivated by the fall litter on the forest floor. It was a moody day, with the sun just beginning to break through clouds away off to the south. It had been raining up to an hour ago. The light in the forest was subdued, and everything was still damp. Between the light and the wet, the colors simply glowed. I framed a lot images that were simply about color and light and texture and shape. This ladder of scale fungi on the fallen birch log, and the brown maple leaf beside it is a good example. A quiet image of nothing in particular that I find still very satisfying. Sony RX10iv at 300mm equivalent. Program mode. Processed in Polarr.

Autumn Chipper

This little Chipmunk seemed to think he needed to explore me while I was walking the trail at Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters in Wells, Maine. I first saw him near the trail, but when he saw me he scampered back into the woods, only to make a loop at about 12 feet, and come back toward me. He eventually ran out into the trail and around me in a tight circle, inches from my feet, before heading back into the woods on the same side as he started from. Who knows? These three shots were taken at close to my lens’ minimum focus distance of 4 feet at 600mm equivalent. Sony RX10iv in Program mode. Processed in Polarr. 

Under the winter pines. Happy Sunday!

Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge. Wells, Maine

“If your eye is generous, your whole being is full of light!” Jesus

It snowed all day yesterday. After clearing the drive (lunch and a rest) I decided to brave the snow covered roads at least as far as Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge headquarters where I was pretty sure I could get in to park and walk in the snowy woods. I was all suited up for the adventure…longjons base layer to high snow boots and a fleece lined parka. I took my umbrella as I hoped to take some pictures and I wanted to keep the camera relatively dry. 

The woods were quiet. I was the only one foolish enough to brave the roads and the unplowed Rachel Carson driveway. The light was subdued. Snow fell steadily, in big flakes, to continue to fill the wood. Every tree and bush carried its burden of white. It was…I am tempted to say “magical”, but I don’t, on principle believe in magic. 

We hear a lot about “magical thinking” today. Many people seem to believe that results can be achieved without effort if you just know the right thing to say. And many more seem willing to believe that our leaders will be able to achieve what they want, and have promised, just by saying it so and waving a hand (or wand as the case may be). And apparently there are those who want to be deceived by slight of hand, for the entertainments’ sake. They find it amusing, and admire the skill of the trickster. If you stop to think about it, magical thinking explains a lot about what has happened recently in American politics. 

So “magical” is out as a way of describing the silent woods with the snow falling. Even this slightly other-worldly “under the snowy pines” scene. We need another word for what the generous eye sees. It has to catch the sense of awe…wonder…the sense that we are experiencing something out of the ordinary, beyond ordinary…the sense we are glimpsing the work of forces and intelligence larger than we are. It has to imply that we are touching the divine. And yet none of the words suggested: awesome, wonderful, extraordinary, supernatural, divine…at least in common usage, quite catch my meaning either. Maybe all of them together, but no one alone. If I were writing this in German I could just string them all together into one long unpronounceable word…or in English I could hyphenate them, or use the modern “/” (as in awesome/wonderful/extraordinary…which basically says I don’t know which word to use.) Though it still is not quite right, as it depends on this contrast with “magical” for part of the meaning, “blessed” or “full of blessing” comes close. The silent snowy woods with the snow still falling in big flakes was full of blessing.” 

But then, everything we see is if we look with the generous eye. Happy Sunday!

Found on the forest floor. Happy Sunday!

Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, Wells Maine

“If your eye is generous, your whole being is full of light!” Jesus

Photography is essentially the art of putting the world in frames. All the technical stuff matters…exposure, white balance, focus, image quality, etc…but it does not matter nearly as much as what is and is not inside the frame, and how the elements inside the frame work together to fill the frame. The frame is our focused attention…it says “look at this and see what I am seeing.” The only talent a photographer has is his or her vision…the rest is skill, and can be learned with enough teaching and practice…but the ability to see what needs framing, and how it fills a frame…that is the gift that sets the photographer apart from the casual snapshot shooter. (And the world being what it is, even those who consider themselves casual snapshot shooters may have the gift, and many who consider themselves very skilled in the techniques of photography may, apparently, lack it.) It is a gift…it can be developed like any talent…but it can not be acquired or learned. 

Dr. Suzuki, creator of a well known system of music education, believed that musical talent is a gift that is given to all children, and that it only needs to be developed from an early age, to allow every person to enjoy and to make beautiful music. To him, hearing music is equivalent to seeing beauty…to seeing how the world fills the frame of our attention…and the skill of actually playing an instrument can be taught and learned. It only requires practice. 

I believe photography is the same. Everyone, as part of his or her birthright, has the ability to see beauty, to appreciate the harmony and energy of the world, and if given a frame can place it effectively it to say “look at this and see what I am seeing”.  Being a man of faith, I believe that gift is part of our birthright as children of God…part of the “created in God’s image” truth that can and should shape our lives. It is part of the generous eye…part of the light within us. And, again, looking with a generous eye, I see evidence of the gift of God at work in people around me, whether they are aware of it or not, in every effective photograph. Whether on Facebook, or Google+, or Instagram (or wherever you look) the digital stream today is full of images that testify to the light within us. 

It is a common complaint among “skilled photographers” that today, anyone with a phone thinks they are a phtographer. Isn’t it rather, that today everyone has a frame, and more and more people are discovering that if they put it around the the things they see and value, others can share that value. And isn’t that something to celebrate…and to enjoy?

I saw this apparently random arrangement of sticks and leaves on the forest floor, on a wet fall day. The textures, the colors, the angles formed by the white birch branches caught my eye, so I took the frame of my camera and put it around what I saw, being careful to fill the frame so that you could see what I saw. That is my only gift. And now it my gift to you. Happy Sunday!

November forest floor

Fungi, Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, Wells, Maine

My wife and I took a walk around the loop trail at Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge near our home in Maine yesterday. The day was overcast, a real late November fall day…no snow yet here in Southern Maine (like most of the nation). The forest was largely bare. Even the oak leaves were all off. The fungi on fallen birches and maples showed easily with all the undergrowth died back. This found still-life was just off the trail. I like the mix of textures here, the way the wintergreen pokes out beneath the fungi, the way the small maple leaf rests, and the richness of the damp colors.

Sony RX10iii in-camera HDR. 200mm equivalent field of view. Nominal exposure: f4 @ 1/200th @ ISO 800. Processed in Snapseed on my Android tablet. Cropped for composition.

Abstract of sun, shadow, tree bark…

Shadows on a tree trunk. Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, Wells Maine

The green filtered light of shadows on a tree trunk at Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters paints an abstract design. It is all about texture and light. Sometimes it is enough to just put a frame around it. 🙂

Sony RX10iii at 192mm equivalent field of view. In-camera HDR. Nominal exposure: ISO 1000 @ 1/200th @ f4. Processed in Lightroom.

Snow Egret fishing…

Snowy Egret fishing. Lower Mousam River marsh, Kennebunk Maine

Snowy Egret fishing. Lower Mousam River marsh, Kennebunk Maine

There are often Egrets in the marsh pools along the lower Mousam River near my home in Kennebunk Maine. The river edge and marsh there is part of Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge. I caught this Snowy Egret in the act, doing a fishing dance more typical of it’s Reddish cousin. Ah well, success is all that matters…though I know fishermen who would say it is not about the catch at all. I have a feeling Egrets would not agree. 🙂

Sony RX10iii at 600mm equivalent field of view. Sports Mode. 1/800th @ ISO 100 @ f4. Processed in Lightroom and assembled in Coolage.