3 Days in October
The third day was a mostly sunny day, but rather than walking around the lake in the morning, I waited until the afternoon so I’d get sidelight for many of the locations that I anticipated would have good subjects; that is, colorful trees. Rather than starting my walk on the north side of the lake like I did on the first two days, I opted to walk along an unpaved path that hugs the southern edge of the lake.
The “southern path,” as I call it, is an undocumented trail, and as such, is tricky to traverse in some sections. I like taking this path occasionally, because not a lot of people venture on it, and I can practice photography at my own pace without getting in people’s way. There are a couple of coves on the southern side of the lake that provide good views of trees at a short distance. On that sunny day there were a couple groups of very colorful trees.
I was walking on the final section of the southern path and making a lot of noise trouncing on the fallen leaves when I heard a “kerplop” of something entering the water. I figured it was a turtle that heard me coming on retreated into the cover of the lake. To my surprise, it was the heron from the foggy day! He was fishing on this side of the lake. I slowed down and kept my distance so not to make him fly away. He steadily walked along the shore looking for an appetizer. He allowed me to walk parallel and above him on the trail. He may not have seen me because of the trees between us and as he stopped to check for fish, I would search for a mostly unobstructed view of him to take a photo. The combination of the choppy water and blue sky made for an interesting background in a couple of the photos I managed to capture. The heron eventually turned around and I carried on to the north side of the lake.
There was one cove on the north side that provided my favorite scene of the three days. It is in a small cove and the same place I had taken photos the previous two days. On this day though, the water was perfectly still, reflecting the colorful trees. Unlike the first day, I could see all the way across the lake to some nice yellow and orange specimens among some pine trees.
The task of winnowing down the photographs to my favorites was a difficult, but fun, activity. It is especially fun when you come across something you didn’t realize while in the field. I discovered a delightful bonus when I was editing the photos from the last day. In the photo that focuses on a tree arching out over the lake, I noticed a white blob under the arch over on the other side of the lake. Looking more closely at it, I realized it was the heron, perched in some trees. That is probably where he was when I first encountered him earlier in the day and heard that “kerplop.”
3 Days in October
The following day was completely overcast, which made for great conditions to photograph colorful trees without any harsh sunlight to contend with. I wanted to go back to the locations I had been the previous day to see how things looked without the fog. Of course, I checked to see if the heron was in the same place as yesterday, and unsurprisingly, he wasn’t there.
As I began the walk on the north side trail, I noticed some trees that I couldn’t even see the previous day—trees on the southern shore of the lake. There were several groupings of trees that were brightly colored. I stopped to look at some of the same compositions from yesterday, but I wasn’t as impressed with the scenes because of the busy backgrounds. Not having the fog to isolate the subject trees made a big difference. The fog adds a lot of mystery and atmosphere to a scene. There were a few compositions I did like, and I’ve included them below.
After I had retraced my steps from the day before, I turned around and walked back to the dam and across it to the southern side of the lake. There is a small cove just across the bridge where in years past I had taken one of my favorite images from Lake Johnson. Unfortunately, the tree that provided some color to that photo has fallen into the lake. There are, however, still a couple of smaller trees that were showing off their Autumnal splendor. I would return the next day to make a full loop around the lake.
3 Days in October
One morning in late October a dense fog settled on the southern part of Raleigh. I thought about how nice it would be to go out and photograph in the fog, but I had other things to do. Around 9 o’clock, the fog was still quite thick and didn’t seem like it was going anywhere any time soon. “What the heck,” I thought. “I’m going out to have some fun.”
Since the autumn colors were just beginning to shine around town, I headed to Lake Johnson to see what I could see interesting there. I parked near the dam-side of the lake and upon walking toward the lake I was amazed at the denseness of the fog. I don’t think I had photographed in any conditions quite like this, with the fog so heavy I could barely make out a gaggle of geese 20 feet out into the lake. I got my camera out and had a look through the wide-angle lens. Before taking my first shot I lowered the camera and stood there, soaking it in, preparing my mind for what might be a great photoshoot. For some reason I then glanced to my right and there was a great blue heron maybe 30 feet away. I stood as still as I could. Normally it is about this time that the heron flies away. But it kept its position staring at the water in front of him. I slowly backed up out of his line of vision so he couldn’t see me changing my lens and switching the settings on the camera.
I slowly moved forward and began photographing the heron as wisps of fog moved behind him. Suddenly, the heron changed posture, stretching his neck, and crouching down. I figured he had breakfast in his sights. Then…BAM…his head went underwater and a second later he emerged with a fish skewered on his long bill. I continued photographing him for almost 15 minutes and he never so much as looked my way or flown away, which is a record amount of time I’ve spent with wildlife in such close proximity.
I thanked the heron for sticking around and I left him to his fishing and I started walking the trail on the north side of the lake. The fog was so thick that seeing the other side of the lake was impossible, which is just the conditions that I had hoped for when I walked out the door. The thick fog would eliminate any otherwise busy background and allow me to better isolate any trees of interest and perhaps provide some mystery to the scene.
I spent an hour and a half walking along the trail and I only managed to cover a little more than a quarter mile and the fog was still like pea soup. At times it looked like it was going to start lifting and then it would thicken up. This fabulous day was the beginning of three wonderful photography days in a row in October.
We've been enjoying hummingbirds visiting our backyard on a consistent basis this summer. Having the little hummers around provides me some fresh subject matter on which to focus my photography. Capturing hummingbirds takes a different camera setup than what I usually use when I'm photographing the landscape. Two of the most important factors is a fast shutter speed and a long focal length on the lens (since you probably won't be able to get too close to them).
The longest focal length I have is 600 mm on a full-frame equivalent basis. For me, it is a 75-300 mm lens for my Olympus micro four-thirds camera. This allows me to get the hummers to be a good size in the frame without cropping, depending on where I'm sitting in my backyard.
As far as I can tell, we have only two hummingbirds around our house--one male and one female. Every once in a while I'll see them chasing each other away from the feeder, but they usually visit one at a time. We have a small feeder, which is appropriate for the two of them. Anything larger would risk the food going bad before they could eat it all. Since they zip in, get some food, and then zip out, it's difficult to get a photo without the feeder being in the composition. But, every once in a while, I get lucky. Here are a couple of my favorite pictures so far.
This past month we travelled to St. Simons Island and Jekyll Island to celebrate my sister-in-law's birthday. One of my interests in going there was to photograph at the Driftwood Beach on the northeastern side of Jekyll Island, especially at sunrise.
The weather forecast advised us of a small-craft warning for the weekend, meaning there might be a pretty good breeze out there. It was also going to be near high tide. Not having been there before, I was uncertain how much of the beach we were to have visible at high tide. Fortunately, it also meant that some of the trees might technically be in the ocean, which could be interesting.
We got to the beach around 6 AM, giving us about 30 minutes of twilight photography. Having not scouted the area beforehand, I moved around a lot, trying to find good compositions for as many trees as I could. I was quite pleased with what I was able to find as far as trees and compositions were concerned, and the light and clouds were beautiful, providing a variety of conditions and looks to the images.
My favorite image of the morning came just before sunrise as I thought about slowing down the shutter speed on the camera. I went from a 1/15th of a second exposure to a 6 second exposure. The longer shutter speed smoothed out the water and gave the image an ethereal look to photo.
We went back to Driftwood Beach during the afternoon of the next day. The tide was also up at that time as were some waves. Since the sky was blue with no clouds to add variety, the light wasn't as interesting as the previous morning, making rendering the images in black and white the better option.
Springtime in Raleigh
Spring has sprung in Raleigh. The trees are leafing out, the dogwoods are in bloom as I write this (the redbuds have come and gone), and the weather is doing its spring thing of warm-one-day-cold-the-next and back again dance. Of course, the pine pollen is in the air but the recent rains have (maybe, hopefully) washed it out of the air for the year.
I've been out a couple of times photographing a local garden and park: WRAL Gardens and Lake Johnson. Lake Johnson was the more recent one. The sky was still cloudy after raining the night before and I decided to go to the park right after I finished my bowl of cereal. The odds of more rain were quite low but before I could get out of the house it started pouring. And then hailing. And then it stopped raining and the sky overhead was clear blue. I gathered up my camera bag and headed to the park.
To my surprise, there was some mist on the lake and a couple of swimming geese. I was excited by what else I might find as I walked around the lake. As I was making my was back to my car, it started raining again. I was pretty drenched by the time I reached the car, but I was still grateful I was able to spend time in the outdoors, enjoying a quiet morning stroll through the park. Below are pictures from my visits to WRAL Gardens and Lake Johnson.
A while back I was driving through the NC State campus when I noticed some large oak trees that I thought might make for an interesting photo. I made a "note to self" to come back and take a closer look and bring along my camera. Later last summer I went back and really liked the area. Some of the oaks were close together and their arching branches made for an interesting composition. I decided to go back in the fall to see how the trees looked with some color in their leaves. And recently I went back to see the trees without their leaves. Below are three photos of the same composition at different times of the year. I've also added one of the winter scene in black and white.
As they say, timing is everything. It appears as that saying is going to be true with this little grove of trees. I noticed in the fall that some new little trees have been planted throughout the grove. In a few years they will be grown and photos of this location will look a lot different.