Posts in Category: forest

Tiger Swallowtail

I have been seeing Tiger Swallowtails in the forest for several weeks now, and not been able to get one to light long enough for a photo. I have pretty much stopped chasing them. Yesterday, this one was sipping minerals on Gravely Brook Road near Emmon’s Preserve in rural Kennebunkport. I have had success in similar situations in the past, so I stopped my ebike and, with patience, caught it several times in several different poses. Since we are here in Maine, at the northern edge of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail range, and the southern edge of the Canadian Tiger Swallowtail range, it is impossible for me to tell which it is. It might be possible for someone who really knows…but not for me. Canadian is supposed be, on average, smaller than Eastern…but with a single specimen size is hard to judge. All I know is that it is big and bright and beautiful! Sony RX10iv at 1200mm equivalent (600 optical plus 2x Clear Image Zoom). Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr.

Pink Lady Slipper Orchid in the sun

As I mentioned in my previous Lady Slipper post, I do know of a few scattered and more isolated areas where the Pink Lady Slipper blooms here in Southern Maine, besides the reliable clumps along the trail at Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge Headquaters. There are always a few along the edge of the pond on the Kennebunk Plains…and these are the only ones I know of that are growing in full sun (at least part of the day). This an in-camera HDR shot with the Sony Ultra Wide, 18mm equivalent lens on the Sony a5100…and it puts the Lady Slipper in context. The flower is about 8 inches from my lens, and I used selective focus to focus on it, but the extreme depth of field of the ultra wide renders a scene rich in texture and detail. It would make an excellent 16×20 print to dominate a wall! Processed in Polarr.

Pink Lady Slipper, first of season

Yesterday I biked down to the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters trail to check on the Pink Lady Slipper orchids, which were just budding out the middle of last week, several weeks late. There is a large patch on the inside (land side) of the trail right behind the buildings, and there is a small patch below one of the overlooks where they maintain an opening onto the marsh view. The ones on the inside were still in bud, but at least two of the flowers on the sunnier marsh side had opened. There are more to come, clearly, in both spots and if we get a few warm days here they will all be open. The first blooms to open this year are pale compared to other years. Only time will tell if that is the trend this year, or just characteristic of the early bloom. The Lady Slippers are wonderful, ornate, delicate blooms…endangered due to habitat loss, and protected. I know of a few other more isolated spots where they bloom in the area, but the ones along the headquarters trail are certainly the most reliable and accessible. Sony RX10iv at 365mm equivalent. In-camera HDR. Processed in Polarr.

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.

The tree that holds up the sky… #2

Emmon’s Preserve, Kennebunk Maine

This is my second shot of “the tree that holds up the sky…” for this year. It is, of course, just a particularly attractive, and big, tree at Emmon’s Preserve along the Bascom River in Kennebunkport, Maine. But it definitely has a “the tree that holds up to sky” feeling to it, or so I think. 🙂 Sony RX10iv in-camera HDR at 36mm equivalent. Auto HDR mode. Nominal exposure 1/160th @ f3.2 @ ISO 100. 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!

Snow in the forest…

Snow. 120 Brown Street. Kennebunk Maine.

Carol and I were in New Mexico when the first snow fell in Maine, but we were home yesterday and watched, Frost like, the woods fill up with snow. It snowed most of the day, but never heavily, and by late afternoon we had about 2 inches on the ground. Gentle snow, and very little wind, so even that little bit built up on the evergreens to look like a much heavier fall. This is a little patch of mostly second growth forest (or 10th growth for all I know) just across the road from our house. It is posted, but I worked my way just far enough into the woods for this pic of the newly fallen snow, about 2:30 in the afternoon, before the light failed completely. There is always a quiet beauty to freshly fallen snow. 

Sony RX10iii in-camera HDR. 24mm equivalent field of view. Nominal exposure: 1/100th @ f2.5 @ ISO 100. Processed in Snapseed on my Android tablet. 

One of the best effects of HDR is maintaining green where it would otherwise go dark. Add a bit of shadow recovery in post processing, and the effect is very life-like. 🙂

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.

Shadow Darner?

Shadow Darner? Smith's Preserve, Kennebunkport Maine

Shadow Darner? Smith’s Preserve, Kennebunkport Maine

Here at the height of a unusually hot summer in Southern Maine, we have fewer dragonflies than I remember from last year. I went to Emmon’s Preserve in Kennebunkport yesterday in hopes of finding Mosaic Darners patrolling the meadows, but there were none at all. Lots of mosquitoes…probably, in part at least, because there were no dragons. The Mosaic Darners are among my favorite dragons. They big and generally boldly marked, and there is a certain elegance to their wasp wasted look and elaborate male appendages.

When I found little to photograph (and the sun very hot) in the open meadows at Emmon’s, I decided to drive the mile or so to Smith’s Preserve, where the trails are shaded by the forest. Parking is limited at Smith’s, and sometimes completely taken up by SUVs with bike racks, as the trails are very popular with mountain bikers. (SUVs with bike racks…that is a sad comment on our times.) I did find a place to park (the last one). It was quiet at Smith’s as well, though there was more bird song, and it was considerably cooler, and I did spot this Mosaic Darner patrolling a section of the trail. It hung up on a small pine along the side, and I was able to work my way close enough for a photo. I am thinking this is a Shadow Darner, but I could be wrong.

The light was not ideal in the deep shade, so this image is taken at ISO 1250. (1/250th @ f4 @ 541mm equivalent, zoomed back a bit to fit the full bug in). During processing in Lightroom, I ran it through the NIK Define 2 filter to eliminate some of the noise.