Monday, June 29, 2009

Riding the Wave (Venture Beyond the Obvious)

A few years ago, I had an opportunity to take a second trip to Western Australia, one of my favorite locations in the world. One of the stops on my itinerary was Hyden, WA; a place famous for the geological feature known as ‘Wave Rock.’ This ancient granitic formation, which is thought to be around 2,700 million years old, has been captured through the lenses of a lot of photographers from around the world. However, one curious thing that I’ve noticed is that most photographers tend to –seem to, anyway– only cover the famous aspects of the formation and stop there. What I found during my visit, was that there were a multitude of other aspects of ‘the wave’ that I found to be much more intriguing, albeit less well known.
One thing that I soon discovered after climbing on top of Wave Rock was that granitic dome offered a spectacular view of miles upon miles of rugged bush land. Additionally, the surface of the rock was filled (at least during my visit) with several ephemeral pools bursting with all sorts of interesting plant and animal life. The pool featured in the photo above contained sundews, tadpoles, insects and other interesting creatures. Further on, I came to several collections of huge boulders surrounded by gnarled scrub vegetation. These structures made for excellent photographic subject matter in the nice filtered light of an approaching storm.
Early the next morning, as I explored the fog-laden landscape surrounding Wave Rock, I photographed an eerie beauty of a ‘salt lake’ to the tune of honeyeaters, magpies & wattlebirds. This moment was followed up with a magical encounter with a pair of kangaroos, which silently bounded out of the mist just a few feet from where I was standing.
As I left Hyden, I remember thinking how strange it was that I had never seen any photographic representation of all of the very wonderful things that I had discovered there. I was reminded of just important it is for photographers and artists to push past the obvious and seek imagery that is unique to our own experiences. For all of the amazing wonders in the world, such as Wave Rock, there are a million more things just as amazing, waiting to be discovered, if we are willing to put in the effort.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Photographers Ephemeris: Free Download

Check out this really great tool for landscape photographers. If you've ever spent time researching a location for an upcoming photo shoot and wanted to see the angle of the sunset and sundown in combination with a topographical map, then I would recommend this free tool. Even better, The Photographer's Ephemeris works on both a PC and a Mac.

Thanks to Richard Bernabe for pointing this out to me.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Quiet Side of Nature

I imagine that anyone who is a fan of wildlife photography has a love for great action images. There is something mesmerizing about seeing a bird frozen in mid-flight or a still image of the moment just before a predator pounces upon its prey. However, there is another side to nature which I feel is often neglected in nature photography –the quiet side. This is the side that is often a better representative of the day-to-day activities of many species of animals.

In my photo-workshops, I often tell students to avoid the 'tourist mentality' when it comes to photographing nature. By bringing this up, I'm hoping that they'll learn how to become an observer of nature, not just a photographer who arrives at a particular location, makes a couple of quick snaps, and heads off to another site in search of bigger and better things.

By my own admission, I am a quiet person. So maybe this would explain why I find photos of quiet moments in nature so intriguing. It has been my experience, though, that there is so much emphasis on the natural world's 'book-ends' (birth, death, tragedy, etc) that we often miss all of the marrow in-between.

I made this photo of an eastern box turtle hidden away in a bed of running cedar on a summer afternoon. I really like photographing turtles and have made quite a few shots of the amiable reptiles doing a variety of things. However this image, in which the turtle isn't really doing much of anything, is one of my personal favorites. It is simply, an intimate portrait of an animal living its life, as it has for millions of years, in the moment, in sleep and in silence.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Living (Reluctantly) With Scorpions

I am obsessed with wildlife. I read everything that I can get my hands on regarding just about any type of animal; even finding society's least loved species among my personal favorites. I have no qualms about photographing snakes or spiders at eye-level and do so with great enthusiasm. The funny thing is, though, if I find one of the creatures in my home, a sudden carefully and deliberately suppressed fear starts to well up inside of my chest. Among those, one in particular brings the old ancient primal fear to the surface faster than any other: Vaejovis carolinianus AKA the Southern Devil Scorpion.

I suppose having not grown up with scorpions, I find these little (around 1.5") creatures to be very unfitting house-guests. I also find it sort of ironic that on their turf, I am completely comfortable around them. However, once they enter my personal space bubble, it is almost as if they suddenly become incredibly dangerous. In fact, their sting is about the same as that of a bee.

It is at this point that I suppose I should call myself out for being a hypocrite. You see, I am often going on about how irritated I feel when people, who build their home in the mountains, complain about the bears digging through their garbage. "The problem is," I say, "That's because you've built you home in their backyard" or some variation of this lecture. I guess this rule of law doesn't apply to lowly invertebrates.

When I can, I take the scorpions outside, and release them into the woods. "When I can," actually means, when I don't almost step on one in the middle of the night and happen to have a large book on wildlife in my hand. Then, things don't fare as well for unwelcome house-guests. Hey, nobody's perfect, especially me.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Garden & Gun: June / July Issue

I'm very happy to report that one landscape photo and several of my frog images are featured in the June / July issue of Garden & Gun magazine. Both articles are conservation focused. Garden & Gun is an excellent magazine that is "about the magic of the new South" and I would highly recommend it if you haven't heard of it before. It is packed with excellent content and beautiful photography.

"The Frogloggers", written by T. Edward Nickens, concerns the North American Amphibian Monitoring Program (NAAMP). A second piece, also written by Nickens and entitled "A Perfect Ten," discusses the beauty and brief conservation history of the Jocassee Gorges. I wrote about the photo in the latter piece a couple of months ago.

I am honored to have my photos appearing with articles by writer T. Edward Nickens; a contributing editor for Audubon Magazine, and a freelance writer for publications such as National Geographic and Smithsonian Magazines.

The issue is at the newsstands now. I hope that you have a chance to pick up a copy soon.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Return of the Summer Symphony

Earlier this week, I heard my first annual cicada. Here in the South, that familiar sound is nature’s way of marking the beginning of summer; hot, humid, sultry southern summers just bursting with life and causing pale English/Irish transplants like myself to sweat profusely.

There is something about this sound that is so comforting to me. Primordial in its origin, this siren’s song stretches back beyond the time of man and through it I’m reminded that my life is only a small link in a chain that was forged before the inception of memory. There are many sounds in nature that stir something deep within my psyche: the banshee cry of a pileated woodpecker deep within a forest gorge; the sound of trees dropping fruit into a still pond; the urgent trill of the fowler’s toads after a warm spring rain; and the rocking cadence of katydids in late summer. They are all part of a symphony of life here in the Southern Appalachians and the cicada is an integral part of that melody.

What a strange existence these creature’s possess: spending several years –up to 18 in the periodical cicada– milling around in darkness only to emerge into the light as adults whose sole purpose is to breed and die soon afterward. It recently occurred to me that the cicadas that I see each year represent an exclamation point at the end of a life of secrecy and the hopeful beginning of those to come. What a privilege it is to bear witness to such an amazing world each and every day.

Enjoy the summer.


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Twitter: AKA Digital Crack

If you regularly visit this humble blog you may have noticed that I've now added a Twitter Feed to the right column. That's where you can go to follow along with all the fun! After resisting the urge to join up for quite a while, I've found that I really like Twittering –perhaps a little too much.

I find that Twitter is a much better networking tool than Facebook. I quickly grew bored with FB and have now sufficiently spied on all of the people that I went to school anyway. C'mon, like you don't do the same thing. Don't judge me!!! As suspected, my classmates haven't changed all that much anyway, with the exception of hairlines and waistbands that is. Anyone want to hang out at the 7-11 and listen to the Cure?

I intend to use my Natural Imagery Twitter Feed to post cool things that I find on-line like this and this. Occasionally, I'll also update what I'm up to but if you're like me, you'd probably prefer to just skip that and download cool stuff like this free HDR software from FDR Tools.

So, why not support my latest habit and follow-my Twitter Feed? Pretty Please???