Monday, March 30, 2009

Life is Stirring, Once Again

I love winter but I am particularly glad to see the arrival of spring this year. There are so many things that I'm looking forward to photographing and most of these things don't come out until the warmer weather shows up. This past weekend, my five-year-old son and I spent some time exploring the woods and photographing some of the creatures that we found around our home. Here are a few of the many things that we discovered (check out image of myself and a queen European Hornet (Vespa crabro) that had just come out of hibernation). I made this photo with a wide-angle macro technique that I began experimenting with a couple of years ago. My lens was literally about an inch away from the subject and I would normally never think of getting so close to these fairly docile, but potent members of the wasp family. However, due to the colder weather that we had on Sunday, she wasn't going anywhere fast.

My son was thrilled to find quite a few land snails crawling about.

We also discovered a number of salamanders moving around after last week's rains. This is one of the Plethodons –I suspect that it is a 'Mountain Dusky Salamander– but I wouldn't bet my life on it. As much as I love salamanders, I find certain individuals in this group to be very tricky to identify.

I am very hopeful that the increase in rain this past winter and so far this spring will feed the earth and brings lots of good things out, about and blooming. I'll be heading up into the Southern Blue Ridge Escarpment over the next few days to see how the ephemeral species of wildflowers are progressing so far.

Monday, March 23, 2009

More Charleston Aerials

Here are a few more aerial images from my Nature Conservancy sponsored shoot of Charleston's Marshes last week. Although the afternoon haze is pretty apparent in a lot of the shots, it only takes a little bit of imagination to understand just how beautiful the marshes are from this perspective.

This is Tibwin Creek where one of the oyster restoration projects is taking place.

Due to the high position of the sun, the image reminded me of something taken from the Mars Rover.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Bird's Eye View of Charleston's Marshes

I just returned yesterday from Charleston, SC where I was working with The Nature Conservancy to document their Oyster Habitat Restoration project being led by marine ecologist, Joy Brown. The flight time was donated by a wonderful organization called SouthWings whose slogan is 'Conservation through Aviation.' Although our pilot –a really nice guy named Hume Davenport– was held-up in Asheville due to fog, we were still able to fly, albeit somewhat later than we had originally planned. So much had gone into arranging the shoot that we felt like it would be best to go ahead and make the best of it.

I had never flown over South Carolina's marshes and coastal region before and I was amazed by the serpentine, almost circulatory patterns of the creeks flowing toward the Atlantic. Depending on the deposits in the water, the temperature (perhaps) and depth of the creek some of the water had a turquoise color which really contrasted with the pluff-mud and spartina grasses that each one passed through. One of the highlights of the trip was seeing Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge from the air. I could see Cabbage Palms growing naturally throughout the landscape and a 'skeleton forest' covering a rugged, untouched coastline. Joy tells me that this is one of the only places in the U.S. where a National Wildlife Refuge borders a National Forest (Francis Marion).

I will be posting more images when I complete my edit, but the image above is a sample of one the creeks that we flew over. The slow-moving waterways offer endless potential for abstract compositions.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Facebook Page: Why do I do this to myself???

Well, I've created a Facebook Page which will hopefully be a useful resource page for those of you who just can't get enough of social media outlets. One of the really good things about the page is that it will provide a central location for info for those who are interested in keeping up to date with my workshops, print specials and other activities. It will also feature other mouth-watering details of my life here on Terra Firma such as what type of toothpaste I prefer and how many one-armed push-ups I can do. Hint: The answer may be lesser or greater than you might imagine.

Anyway, the page is called "Clay Bolt Nature Photography", not surprisingly, or you can attempt to link to it here.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Shooting Through the Rain in Jasper

Since late last summer I've been traveling (and blogging some) about making images for a book focusing on the conservation successes of the South Carolina Conservation Bank. I've really learned a lot during this process and consider it a milestone in my photo-career from an experience stand-point.

Most of the properties are privately owned and directions to each are not exactly distributed without a lot of work and digging. When I first started out, I relied on some general maps that I had downloaded but quickly found that these were not always accurate. Since then, I've learned the value of having a network of friends in the conservation community who are willing to help me out and not being too proud (or shy) to ask for help. I've been amazed by the kindness of people who love the land as much as I do who are willing to go out of their way to make your work a success without asking anything in return. It has been really nice to involve others in the project and shed the self-assummed veil of secrecy that I often throw over my projects (character flaw, perhaps).

Another thing that I've learned is that conservationists come in all flavors. There are folks who have different views concerning why land should be saved. Hunting is a perfect example. I am not a hunter and don't expect to ever be. However, there are a lot of people who hunt responsibly, respectfully, and do a lot of great things for the natural world. Additionally, although I have always been one who prefers for land to be preserved and left to its own devices, I have witnessed sustainable harvesting of timber and other farming methods that, at the very least, preserve the current state of the land without losing acreage to development.

Due to the very hurried nature of this project (because of time sensitive issues and reasons for creating the book) I have been utilizing a photo-journalistic approach to landscape photography. I don't always have the luxury of waiting for the best light because of time and budget constraints and sometimes I only have a few hours at a given location. This is hardly enough time to really get a sense of place so I must force myself to really focus and search for the essence of a scene right away. On a recent visit to the South Carolina Low Country I shot in the rain for a couple of hours because I didn't know if I would be able to return to the sites that were on my schedule. It was terribly difficult to make a good image standing under an umbrella in 'side-ways rain' (as Forest Gump would say) but at the same time the process was invigorating!

This type of photography isn't for everyone and I will admit that I prefer the slow, methodical approach, which allows me to search for the perfect moment and subject matter. However, I believe that the experience that I've gained from this experience will allow me to be better prepared for any assignment, regardless of the conditions that I'm forced (or blessed) to work in.

The book is slated to come out in early summer. I don't mind admitting that it has been a grueling process. I believe that this sentiment would be echoed by everyone involved with the project. However, at the end of the day, I am hopeful that the resulting product will be a book that we are proud of and one that will hopefully change the hearts and minds of those who aren't aware of just how special the State of South Carolina happens to be.