Saturday, January 14, 2017

Even from a Stone - Something can Grow


I went to Shenandoah National Park 3 times in 2016, and was struck by this wall and the things growing in it.

Today I was reminded of this image. 

Even from a Stone 

There is hope and determination in these plants. 

What is now almost a couple weeks ago, I had an experience that has stuck with me, and has had a strong impact on the way I see things, and the way I reflect on the choices I have made.

Life is not a sure thing.  Tomorrow is not a given.  But we live like both are guarenteed to happen every morning when we wake up.

I got a glimpse in to something truer, briefly.  Part of me is afraid that this new insight will fade away, and I will go blissfully on expecting to get a chance to do more, to live another day, when really today is the day to live in.

What do you think?  Do you take tomorrow for granted?

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Friday, December 30, 2016

Black Skimmers in NY and NJ - 2016

Black Skimmers in NY and NJ 2016.


I enjoy watching and shooting the Black Skimmers.  They are usually a mix of adults and immature birds - when I see them both in New York and New Jersey.

They will let me get pretty close, but often will also seemingly fly off for no reason.  But usually it is a jogger, a person with a dog, or a predator flying by (like a peregrine, which I have seen buzz them at Cape May).

Some times when they take off they will fly around and fly off and land a half mile or more down the beach.  Other times they will land right near where they took off from.  For this reason I usually give it a few minutes and stay where I was shooting from without moving or getting up.  This has occasionally worked, and they have landed right back in front of me.

I find that cool.  And even cooler is when the birds approach me.  Sometimes this has been due to other people approaching them from another side/area, and it has also been when they have the water/surf on one side of them and me on the other.  When they run away from the surf and towards me, to a safer location, I find that to be a sign that I am there and not bothering them and they are comfortable with me shooting them.

It is also interesting to see them as they move this way and that way, and how often there will be an immature bird that must be tired and it is either sleeping and not moving or it is just slower to respond and follow the movements of the flock.

The really do behave like one bird, all in sync, when it comes to responding to perceived danger.  If they think there's something bad about to happen they will all fly off together in a moment.  Only once or twice have I seen them leave a bird behind, and that bird has always been injured or weak.  To survive they've got to be able to go with the flock when danger approaches...

 D500 w/ 600mm f/11 1/1600th
Nickerson Beach, NY
Black Skimmer on Approach

D810 600mm f/5.6 1/500th
Cape May, NJ
Sunrise Skimmer


 D500 w/ 600mm f/5.6 1/800th
 Cape May, NJ
Juv. Black Skimmer

Happy New Year.

-Jon



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Sunday, December 25, 2016

EOY Thoughts on Seeing Differently Not Just Shooting Incrementally Better



My long time approach to making images has been to shoot, review, pick the best shots, and then try to do better the next time.

The next time I might have the past images in mind and I might try to reproduce the best images, with something new or with some element that was missing added this time.  Or maybe the next time I remove something that took away from the past images.

To me this is the standard approach.  And it is the kind of process that is needed to learn how to take or make better images in a large variety of circumstances and for a variety of subjects.

There are so many things to learn about gear and settings.  For example just coming up with when and if you want to shoot in manual mode or one of the auto-exposure modes takes time.  I shoot in a few different modes but mostly manual exposure with auto-ISO.  But there are still some times when manual ISO and manual exposure are better.  I like using auto-ISO when the light and conditions change a lot and dialing in some exposure compensation to adjust the exposure is easy to do.  Other times when the light is consistent, and the subjects are consistent going full manual can be better.  This allows for tighter control of the exposure and less variation, and I can try for more specific/artistic images.

Regarding exposure, picking shutter speeds for shooting can have a huge impact on the images and what is recorded, not just if the subjects are sharp enough or frozen given their speed and the size of the lens.  For this setting, there is the basic approach of calculating all the component parts of the setup and then trying to freeze the action.  Fast moving subjects - faster shutter speed.  Longer lens - faster shutter speeds. Hand holding the lens - faster shutter speeds. That's the basic math to be taken in to account.

But the more advanced thinking would be to not just respond to those and only try to freeze the action, to make simply a sharp image with a frozen subject.  Years ago I remember seeing this panda photo shot my Nick Nichols and thinking that I was unaware of so much that goes in to a good image.  It was taken with a long lens, in what I would now consider challenging light and shot with a slow shutter speed.  This informs me now about how those early simple rules for photography are a good starting point but to make better images I need to keep pushing.

Here are some examples of images that use blur/slow shutter speed for positive effect:
Black Skimmers @ Cape May NJ///   Luke   ////Skimmer Blur
skimmin'Cheetah......................................!Cheetah on the moveSlowmotion


Realizing that the rules for sharp images are not rules to blindly live by has helped me grow.  Of the above images all are off a tripod with the intention of making the resulting image except for the last one of the eagle which was a 'happy accident'.

Capturing animals with some motion helps to bring them to life in an image that otherwise might be frozen and lack that feel.  Going back to that panda image - seeing some motion can really help bring more to a photo.

Capturing images that work with blur can be pretty difficult though.  Things that contribute to a motion blur image not working well are: too much blur, nothing being sharp, having to stop down the lens too much and seeing tons of sensor dust, the blur not going in the right direction due to imperfect panning technique, etc.

So what's the next technique, the next default thought process to get rid of or to question?  I have done a short project I called "going vertical" where I shot vertical composition for a while and that helped to break out of the way I was almost always shooting with the camera held in landscape/horizontal mode...  I even shot a vertical video...

IDK what's next.  Not shooting from eye-level is another approach to take.  It is easy to stand and shoot from that position.  Or to setup a tripod at eye-level and shoot from there.  But shooting from lower, or as low as possible really makes for a better/different perspective.

Black SkimmersThe Shadow Knows...Priceless - Red Fox @ Bombay Hook Refuge, DE

Another norm or standard that I've noticed was worth reconsidering is that of hoping for 'good weather'.  I now consider good photography weather usually anything other than clear blue skies or overcast and rainy.  As a result I like some overcast, or some clouds, or some rain and storms, or cold weather and things freezing or hot weather and animals that might be reacting to the weather...  This summer I specifically went to shoot osprey on 2 of the hottest days in order to see the birds hot.  It is harder to shoot on these types of days, be it hot or cold.  It takes preparation, and the right approach to pull it off successfully.  One of my go to things to help in all kinds of weather or times of year is to keep a case of bottled water in my trunk.  Being thirsty or dehydrated is easy to let happen.  But it is one of the simplest things to control when shooting and so many things aren't controllable.  It's just like always trying to be well fed, and to have ample snacks that are high in protein and good for me.  I often will do a day trip on a Saturday and drive 200-500 miles round-trip, where I get up a couple of hours before sunrise and get somewhere good, and then shoot all day and then drive home.  And then doing the same or similar the next day, on a weekend when most people might be resting, sleeping in and recovering from a hard week of work - to do it my way takes planning and execution.And being more prepared allows for something to not go my way, and not really be that bad or wreck a day of shooting.

So what's the next thing to mix it up and bring my photography to a new place?

I'm going to start 2017 by going West to a place I've never been, to shoot animals and landscapes I've never seen or shot.  I'm trying new things.

With the change in the year, I want to... think like I did at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens when I went a half dozen times this summer.  I went, and went, and got the images I had defaulted to, and then I started to explore more and try for different images and I think I captured my best images of the Lotus Flowers.  I've posted a few myself, and shared many more with Tara Brach to use with her talks and meditation posts.

Lotus petal

A photo posted by Jon (@the_real_nikographer) on



I wonder what it would take to quickly see the default program running, the program that tries to get me to make the same images again, to see the way I have seen before and repeat things.  I wonder if there are ways to do less pattern matching and finding less comfort in the old, and seeing new and fresh, quickly or quicker...

I'm going to try new experiences, new locations, new approaches when I can, and I'm going to try to advance my photography and not just make 'sharper images' but make new and different images.

Happy New Year.
-Jon Read more On "EOY Thoughts on Seeing Differently Not Just Shooting Incrementally Better"!
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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

July Osprey - 2016

July is a great time for photographing Osprey in Maryland.  The chicks are getting big, and still in the nests, not yet fledged.  They are also eating a ton of fish so the adults need to be active to keep up with the demand for food.

In years past I have let other things grab my time and attention and I have missed out on shooting the osprey chicks.

But this year I took a day off of work, and I also took a weekend day and went to 2 specific nests near St. Michaels Maryland to shoot the birds.  There are so many nests in Maryland, but I liked these two because they are near but not too near to land, and they each had 3 chicks this year.

At the first nest I watched as one particular bird worked out, flapping away, gaining wing strength.

July Osprey [3]

What really caught my eye was how the adult was perched slightly higher than the chicks, and was surveying the area but also keeping a close eye on the chicks too.

July Osprey [2]

The other nest I shot at had the 3 chicks, and they spent more time being fed.  The male osprey was nearby and delivered 3 fish within about an hour while I was there for about 3 hours.  It was super hot, above 90/95 degrees.

While shooting from a nearby marina I drank 4 bottles of water to just keep up with the heat and sweat.

The above photos are new posts to flickr.  The below images I have shared already, here's the male at the second nest checking me out while carrying a fish, and then coming in for a landing at the nest.

MD Osprey

Osprey Family @ St. Michaels, Maryland

I really like how crowded the nest seemed and how they were all huddled together so closely.  They were also very eager to eat, and the female (adult) went right for the fish and then repositioned herself to feed the chicks.  The male was more tentative.

It is not that often that I have seen and photographed chicks and both adults in a nest.  Usually the male will stay away or fly away quickly.  This male was similarly edgy but delivered 3 fish, and stayed in the nest longer than I expected.

MD Osprey 

Part of the reason could be the distance of the nest from the shore.  It was not that close - I used a 600mm and crop body (D500) to shoot them, and with a 1.4 teleconverter for some images.  In addition, when the male came by and seemed to do a couple fly-bys checking out the nest and me, but not landing, I backed up slightly, until he landed on the nest.  At one point I also used a cheap wireless camera trigger - where I set up the camera on the nest, turned off auto-focus, and then walked away to see if the birds' behavior would change.

During this time the male caught the fish and then would land on a nearby channel marker and eat some of the fish and wait.  The male, and female actually while the male was hunting, took to the air to ward off other osprey that intruded on their territory.

Each day was about a 4 hour drive round trip, and probably around 4-6 hours shooting. 

 The osprey should be coming back in two and a half to three months.  It will be fun to see them again.

-Jon
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Saturday, December 17, 2016

Catching up in late 2016 - 3 photos from 3 locations



I was posting regularly and then well I wasn't.  I did it for a bit, but then fell back in to my old ways and got busy doing other things (but still shooting mostly).

As 2016 is winding down, I was thinking about using December to catch up and post a new photo a day, but that didn't happen.

So today I just posted 3 images, each from a different day and locations.

(In chronological order)

The first images is of some oystercatchers, an adult and chick, feeding in New York, in late August.  I grew up just down the beach, literally, from this spot where a bunch of different birds nest (common terns, black skimmers, oystercatchers, plovers, etc).

The oystercatchers can be a little hard to shoot if they get weary and react to being watched.  This day I tried to notice when they were watching me and then looked away and didn't eyeball them.  It mostly worked and I shot them from a fairly close distance as they went around hunting and feeding their chicks.  There were a handful of adults and chicks.

Feeding Time


Next I shared an image of a Green Heron from Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in Washington DC.

This year I went as many times as I had been in all previous years combined. Earlier in the year I photographed the lotus flowers a bunch, experimenting and doing some macro stuff in the last few visits.  By September when I got the heron the flowers were past, except for a few lotus, and for some water lilies in the back ponds.  Most of the busy summer traffic is over and I saw just a few other people there this morning.  Everyone comes for the lotus - so by September it is much more peaceful and low key.  And even if your thing is flowers there were enough water lilies to make it good.

Green Day

Finally from later in September, I shot some stars at Cape May along the beach.

I've only experimented with star photography a little bit, I think all this year.  It can be a challenge.  Getting good focus is hard because it is night out and the stars are small and far away - I used manual focus on nearby lights and tried to chimp and adjust but I need to work on the night focus techniques...  With the cold nights, it can be hard to keep the lens from fogging up (but I plan to use hand-warmers to keep the lens warmer than the ambient air temp and some special lens coating/spray to prevent fogging next time).  I also wonder if shooting from sand (ie not solid ground) contributed to softer images.

Dream Big

2016 has been an amazing year, I've seen and done a lot.  I've changed a lot of things I needed to change (in 2015 and 2016).  I've been meditating for a little more than a year, and chalk up a lot of the movement in my life to that slowing down practice.

-Jon

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Monday, November 28, 2016

The world we see is what we think it is, not what it actually is...

So much of our reality is self-invented, self-limited.
We see what we want to see.
We see what we have seen before.
We see what we expect.

We see what we allow our selves to see.

We are blind to what we do not expect.
We are blind to what we do not see with our eyes closed.

Reality is a fungible thing.  We don't think it is, but it is.  We bring so much to the table when it comes to enabling a reality to be experienced.  We bring so much that it doesn't seem right.  It should be an objective thing, something that just is.

I recently heard the saying "I'd rather be the person that bought the Bridge, than the person that sold the Bridge".  And I would rather have bought the bridge, than been the person that knowingly tricked and took advantage of another...

So what about photography?

As a photographer I see what I see and then make a choice to capture it.  But how can I capture what I don't see?

One way to overcome this might be to play.  Playing allows me to try things, to experiment, and to not have an expectation or result in mind.  An easy example of this is to play with slow shutter speeds and see what happens.  The pleasing results can be few and far between, but then there's that one that works.  (Kind of like most of my experiences on the golf course - the rare well struck ball that makes the day fun.)

Another way to overcome the expectations of experience and past sight is to put the camera up to my eye and see what I actually see.  This is different than looking without the camera, because the camera restricts vision, frames it in a little box and focusing the mind on just what is there.

And another way is to slow down, and sit, observe and stop looking for a pattern match.  This can be when I start to see past everything I've brought to the day.

--
I was in Florida this year (2016), my 5th year there to drive around and see nature, photograph birds and landscapes, etc.

While there I made it to Fort De Soto and looked for the GHO nest from the year before but I didn't see it and was disappointed.  So I did what I have learned to do when this happens and I found a local (park guy) and asked him some questions.  I learned that the nest I was looking for failed, as did another nest in the park - but there was a nest by the fort just up the road.

I have learned to value locals and their knowledge, and to not be afraid to get some advice.  When I go to a new National Wildlife Refuge for example, I will stop by the visitor's center and talk to them and try to learn from them. By contrast I also do not do a ton of prep/research when going somewhere new and try to have an open/fresh and unplanned approach.  It doesn't always work for the best results (images), but it removes stress and expectations and in that regard I am good with it.

Once I knew where there were owls I headed over there and quickly found the tree with the nest and 2 chicks.  It was in a grassy area just off of the parking lot and the tree itself was in a small area protect by some orange tape to instruct visitors to keep their distance.

Great Horned Owl Chick

I saw the chicks and took a few photographs.  Then I saw another photographer and we started talking a bit.  He said he had been there for a while and didn't see an adult around but he had looked this way and that way and was keeping his eyes opened.

By now I had just been here for maybe 5 minutes and he said he had been there for a couple hours.

What happened next is the reason for this post.

I could have taken his longer observation as fact, and shot the chicks and nest some more and then moved on.  But instead I used my own history with nests and birds and I had a hunch that the female/adult was nearby and within eye sight of the nest, watching over it.

A few years ago I watched another Great Horned Owl nest a few times, and learned that the female would hide in almost plain sight, but high up and blending in to the canopy.  This makes good sense to me - laying eggs and raising chicks is a huge investment in time and effort, and the adult is not likely to be off hunting or sleeping or whatever away from that investment if they have a choice.

With my own perspective, and not the other guy's perspective, I found the female perched in a tree, a tree INSIDE the taped off area, within just a few minutes.  From the perspective below, you can actually see the bird in this wide angle shot pretty clearly outlined.



She was there, clearly resting and watching the nest, from a very close vantage point.  She was hidden, but not that hidden.  One thing I remember the other guy saying after I spotted her was he didn't think she'd perch in a palm tree so he didn't really look there much.

Great Horned Owl - Fort De Soto Florida

Reality is more than just what you see.  Look harder.


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Sunday, November 20, 2016

Making different images at the zoo

I enjoy going to the zoo.  I've been going now for over a decade, to the US National Zoo in Washington D.C.

By now I know where most things are, and try to time some photos for the seasons, the colors, and take care to make images that show the animals in a way other than the boring "animal at the zoo" kind of way I think a lot of people expect.  I think it is true that a lot of the time the zoo and the animals can be boring - they might not be outside, they might be hiding, they might be sleeping, they might be pooping.  There's a lot that can go wrong if you want to take interesting photos.

I try to focus on the framing, the colors and getting images that don't scream "captive animal", but I also don't want to mislead anyone and I label the zoo images as taken in a zoo.  In addition to the captive zoo animals I photograph there, I also shoot a lot of the native/migratory wildlife.

Here are 2 captive animals I recently shot.

Flamingo

Flamingo

Lioness

Lioness


And here are a couple of wild / non-captive birds from the zoo's grounds also.


Mallard

Big Flap

Red-Shouldered Hawk
Red-Shouldered Hawk


If you like to photograph wildlife one thing that can make a difference in the animals is what they are used to.  A RSH that lives off in the woods and rarely sees a human will be very likely to fly away when it sees a photographer.  However a RSH/animal, that often sees people/photographers, because that's what is in their home turf will likely not be so eager to fly away.  This is true anywhere.  I was surprised when I learned about the Red-Tailed Hawks on the Mall in DC, and other animals like ducklings, that people have photographed there.

-Jon Read more On "Making different images at the zoo"!
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Thursday, November 17, 2016

What's the value of an unshared photo?

 What's the value of an unshared photo?

Are you a photographer?
Do you take photos?
Do you share your photos?
Do you email them to friends?
Do you post them on facebook?
Do you post them on flickr/instagram/blogs/forums?
Are you a citizen reporter, and do you send your images to CNN or the Weather Channel?

Many people do share their images, and post them online at places like Facebook or Flickr, or Instagram.  Those are the places I regularly share images.

Do you only share small versions of your images?
Do you hold back the best images for yourself and don't share them publicly?

I used to share small versions, and only shared those photos that were everything but what I considered super special, or my best images.

Before I go on let me address the opposite of the problem I'm getting at.  Some people post all their images, every day they post photos.  And everyday they post too many photos.  They either don't know what the good ones are, or they think they're all great and want to share them with everyone.  Unless you're some amazing photographer, the chances are that you are not making amazing images every day.  If you're posting dozens of images from the same day of the same thing, you're doing it wrong.  As a photographer you need to curate your own work.  You need to find the best, new, unique images you've made, and share them, slowly, giving each image a chance to stand on its own.

I learned from flickr early on (2006) that posting multiple images at a time will distract from the group of images, and at best 1 image will get viewed and get feedback and appreciation.  Posting multiple images can be useful when you're not sure what a good image is, or what images others might like and respond to.  But once I got an idea of what works, sharing a single image at a time worked best.

In time I learned that I should not hold back some images, and these days I will eventually share just about any image, but I will delay the posting.  Delaying posting in general is another subject, which I will say is useful in that you can explore a subject/approach/technique/style and work on it for days without sharing an image and then when you've advanced you can share images that are much better than what you initially started capturing.

So what's the value of an unshared image?

What I'm getting at with this is the mindset of people that think:
  • People are going to steal my images
  • My images are special
  • My images will be worth less if I can't control them
  • I just take photos for myself, no one else needs to see them.
  • I don't care what other people think of my images
Or maybe people have a negative view and think:
  • My images aren't that good
  • People won't like my images
  • People will be mean and nasty and tell me how my images suck

Above are reasons I've thought of for not sharing images, reasons I've thought myself and that have made me wonder about sharing images publicly.

In recent years I've not shared a lot, and posted very infrequently.  I guess I got burned out on the social aspects of photography.  And I got burned out on the competitive nature of photography.  While some people might appreciate my/your images, there is a group of people that are only interested in getting their own images, copying my/your images, and wanting to know how you got what you got!

So what good is a photograph if no one gets to see it?  What good is the work if it is locked away, a secret to be kept?

I would argue that the unshared photograph isn't worth that much, but there's also the experience of going out and taking the image that is of value.  That's what kept me going when I was put off from sharing.  I did it for myself, not motivated by likes/favs/etc.  But it had a bitter taste to it, like I was upset with the world for trying to make photography in to something besides what I wanted it to be and what I appreciated.

But sharing images has many positive aspects.  When I joined flickr in 2005 I knew next to nothing about photography, or animals, or the area I lived in (MD/VA/DE),  Sharing photos changed that, and I met people, got better at photography, and learned a lot.

So - are you making images and hiding them away, keeping them just for yourself because of some of the reasons I listed above?  Do you want to get better at photography, discover new places, new people, new ?  Then you should overcome that resistance, make a profile on flickr or instagram, and start sharing images.  If you're new to it, that's where you have to start.  I've removed many of my earliest posts from flickr, but there are some up there still that kind of suck.

Here are a few images I shared when I first started:




DSC_3657av_red_car

2nd BWI Trip 8

Turtle at Rivermeadow

Here are a few images I made in the last few years:

RED ROBIN


Happy Birthday America


Am I Blending?


Proud Parents


Luke in B&W


As I'm sure you can tell, my images went from awful to pretty good.  It took a decade of shooting, learning, buying new gear, and finding what I liked shoot and what others like to see.  I still shoot what I like, I haven't just started shooting what other people like - but the aspect to consider is that feedback on your images, the ones you like, from others will make you a better photographer.  And if you don't share your images you will most likely not get much better.  Or if you do get better it will be very slow and then for what?

If no one else sees your images, it's like that saying "if a tree falls in the woods, and no one is there to hear it, did it make a sound?"

Make images.  Share images.  Make more images.  Sharing your images won't make them worth less, it will make you a better photographer.

-Jon

Original content posted at http://natureandwildlifephotography.blogspot.com/
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Sunday, October 30, 2016

Fall in Virginia - Foliage shooting 2016


Unlike all previous years I went to Shenandoah National Park 3 times in October.  I think all other years I've only gone once, usually on or about October 20th.

This year I went in very early October and there was no fall color, just green.  And on this visit I hiked up Hawksbill Mountain, and that was also a first.  I've always taken the easy approach to SNP and shot from the road, from the overlooks and walked very very little, almost not at all exploring.  But this year was different, and the hike and views were good.  It was a bit of a scouting trip to see what the views would be like, as well as a good day of exercise, hiking with ~3 cameras, ~4-5 lenses, and a tripod.

Then I went back on Saturday October 22nd.  The fall colors were late arriving, and according to the SNP fall foliage reporting page, it was here finally, in gloriously fine colors here, there, and all over...  It was much better on the 22nd, but it was also very windy.  Like, 50 mph windy, so a good bit of the turned leaves were blown off.  The SNP site did it's report on the 21st, and probably described views of foliage that had subsequently fallen from the trees by the time I got there.  But as with any day out in nature, exploring, and hunting for cool images it was worth it.

My new found routine was to get to SNP ~45 minutes before sunrise (6:30am-ish) and then drive along Skyline Drive and see what the sunrise might do and pick a spot.  The sunrise wasn't as spectacular as past ones, mostly cloudy but still great to be out.  And I just checked to see what the images looked like from sunrise in my edited folder, and there was nothing.  So I checked my lightroom app to see what happened and it was ok, and I did bulk edit hundreds of RAW files in to TIFs and then in to HDR TIFs.  I do that in bulk to save time and see what comes out, and then if I like an image either post process that HDR file, or start over the process it fresh with unique settings for that group of source files.  Part of what I was disappointed with from the files is that due to the wind and slow shutter speed I used a lot of the images have motion/blur and that didn't seem appealing at least so far...

Anyway, I shot as normal for much of the morning, and was among a number of photographers all shooting sunrise from the same overlook.  Then after a little bit everyone had left and I was the only photographer still there.  At this point I realized there were probably many more images to be had if I just slowed down and looked for different things, and kept an open mind.

I shot leaves gathered in the corner of one part of the stone wall.  I hopped over the wall and shot some of the trees, leaves, rocks, etc.  I shot the road with the wall, and used the wall and it's graphic line to lead the eye in to the image...  And then I started to also focus on the wall and the smaller details.  There were a handful of vines and growing plants on the wall itself. 

When I go shooting to a place like SNP I bring a lot of gear, multiple bodies, multiple wide angle lenses, a zoom or two, and occasionally a macro lens.  The below images was taken with a D4 and 24-120mm f/4 lens.  I've had the D4 for a while, and 24-120mm is new to me, and I got it used less than a year ago - it has a nice smallish aperture, and good close focusing distance.  As I was playing around, I realized I could get the background blur to have the color of the leaves and that would complement the stone wall and vine in the foreground.  I like the resulting image, and managed to get some other varieties of the same theme later in the day with different plants and background that I may still share.

If there's a point or take away from this blog post it is to keep looking and exploring, and be open to seeing images that you didn't plan on taking or didn't immediately reveal themselves.  And also don't just go with the crowd - I could have easily left the overlook and moved on when I noticed everyone else had done that.

Searching for something different I started to explore around the overlook for something other than the big views:

Fall in Virginia 
After sunrise and this area, I drove south on Skyline Drive and then hiked Hawksbill Mountain.  I took this image after being up there for a while (HDR) and posted it already to flickr...

Hawksbill Mountain - Shenandoah National Park, VA
 -Jon


Updated with more images I processed and shared after writing the above post:

This year I climbed a mountain

Skyline Drive!



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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Sunrise at Hemingways near the Chesapeake Bay Bridge March 2016

The first time I ever went to Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, many years ago, I had the pleasure of witnessing the sunrise while crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. I say pleasure because I had not planned it right and didn't know how far I had to drive (no smart phone at the time, no google maps, and no proper prior planning) and while I was less than half way there I got to see the sunrise and realized I had blew it, and would be more than an hour "late" for sunrise...

Pretty much every visit since, over 50 easily in the last 9 or 10 years I've made it to Blackwater before sunrise, sometimes 45 minutes before... It is around a 100 miles to drive for me, and can take nearly 2 hours in the early morning. And it is totally worth it. Here are a couple sunrises from Blackwater that were awesome/epic/wow'd me, etc... Any many more here.

Sunrise @ Blackwater
Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, MD
Blackwater NWR Sunrise
And finally this sunrise, from my second visit when I did actually make it in time for sunrise... ( Taken on December 16, 2006)
Blackwater

In March 2016 I think the weather wasn't supposed to be great and I slept in and then decided anyway to go east, and instead of getting up at 4am I got up at 5:30am or something. As I was driving I saw the amazing sunrise and these strange clouds and it was something to see. So for the first time, I stopped on the East side of the Bay Bridge at sunrise and went to the marina there.
Previously I'd shot the Snowy Owl that was there in the evening, while coming back from the Eastern Shore:


All that lead up to show off these two images I've shared so far from this spot... I shot a bunch, walked on the docks a bit, shot looking east, looking west, and took a few hundred photos. Then I continued east and hit a couple other spots without going to Blackwater.
Empty Docks
Empty Docks @ Sunrise

Sunrise @ Chesapeake Bay Bridge
Sunrise @ Chesapeake Bay Bridge

Finally, here's a 'contact sheet' from the images I processed and rated from this day in March 2016. I've only posted the 2 above so far. There might be another couple to post from the sunrise timeframe... Later in the day the images were not unique, though it was fun to see the osprey early in the season the ducks as well.



If you're wondering about how I rate images, here it is:
1= come back and find this image and process it later.
2=used for an automated image/hdr creation, not editing by itself for single export
3=any edited image that is not rated higher
4=hdr images (TIF's then processed and exported), or regular images that are a "4". So just because an HDR is a 4 doesn't mean it is an image I really like.
5=highest rating, any image that I REALLY like...

Original content posted at http://natureandwildlifephotography.blogspot.com/
Nikographer.com / Jon Read more On "Sunrise at Hemingways near the Chesapeake Bay Bridge March 2016"!
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