I am pleased to announce that the May 2011 Print of the Month will be Mothers Love, an adorable image of a mother prairie dog and two of her young ones photographed in Wichita Mountains NWR, Oklahoma!
For my first Blog post of the new year, I want to share some images I made at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. For the last 4 years I have been making the Winter pilgrimage to this special place to photograph the amazing bird life that winters there, particularly the fabulous Sandhill Cranes. I spent 4.5 days there between Christmas and New Years and was lucky to have excellent conditions with lots of birds and wonderful light on several mornings. Photographing birds in flight is never easy, particularly when you are trying to get artistic compositions that do not have distracting elements.On this trip I managed to make a number of pleasing images that I am happy with. So to start out the new year here are the fabulous Sandhill Cranes of Bosque del Apache:
As the month of September draws to a close and the transition to Autumn is in full swing, I find myself thinking back to the last several months of Summer and the extremely satisfying time I spent in wild places photographing the amazing beauty and life of our planet. Personally, wilderness and wild places have always been very important to my life and it is in such places that my senses are most alive and connected to world. Perhaps it was my childhood growing up in rural Pennsylvania , where my backyard and playground were the local woods, fields and streams, that pointed me down this path of life, but as I grow older I seem to cherish more and more the time I can spend in truly wild places. It is with a bit of sadness that I ponder the fact that so many people have never had the opportunity to experience wild places and thus do not really understand the complexities and inter-relationships of our environment and life on earth. Certainly one of the goals of my photography is to try to capture the essence and sense of place that makes up the environment of natural and wild places so that people who have no personal experience may come to appreciate the beauty of such areas and then may at least consider why preservation of the environment and wild places is so important.
This Summer I was able to make a trip and experience a small part of what I consider to be one our most amazing and important wilderness areas in the US, The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. ANWR consist of over 19 million acres of incredible wilderness ranging from the stunning peaks and alpine environment of the Brooks Range to the amazing Arctic “prairie” of the arctic coastal plain and the shores of the Beufort Sea of the Arctic Ocean. I was lucky to experience a small part of it on two week river trip on the Canning River which we rafted for over 120 miles from the Brooks Range all the way to the Arctic Ocean . I have experienced a lot of wild areas but this trip was absolutely incredible, dare I say almost life changing. From fabulous alpine peaks and the absolutely crystal clear Marsh Fork to the vast sky and grasses of the arctic plain the entire trip was a visual delight and as a photographer, being able to work with the amazing quality of the ” midnight” low angle sun light was divine. In addition, the wildlife was incredible , particularly the large concentrations of nesting bird life on the arctic coastal plain. Having a close encounter with about 1000 caribou of the Central Arctic Herd crossing the river , some within 100 feet of us, was a sight I will never forget. Which brings me to the point of all this. There are some places on this earth that need to be preserved as they are and not developed on any scale, and ANWR is one of them. The threat of oil development on the Arctic Coastal plain in the Refuge is still very real, but we must resist. There is too much to loose for a few years supply of oil. I will leave you now with a few images. They are no substitute for experiencing ANWR in person but I hope at least they can convey some of the spirit of the place.
Caribou Antlers on the Tundra, ANWR, Alaska
Caribou crossing the Canning River, ANWR, Alaska
2AM light on the Arctic Coastal Plain, ANWR, AK
The Arctic Ocean shore, ANWR, AK
Posted in "landscape photography", Image Thoughts, Photographs, Trip reports
Tagged "landscape photography", Alaska, ANWR, Arctic Coastal Plain, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Brooks Range, caribou, l, National Wildlife Refuge, nature photography, Stephen Weaver, wilderness
I took my my annual trip down to Bosque del Apache NWR this year during the last week of December to coincide with the full “Blue Moon” on December 31/Jan 1. I often time my trips to coincide with full moons so that I may photograph moon rises and moon sets. The best time to photograph a moon rise is usually the day before the full moon, as the rising moon will occur before sunset and allow a nice balance with sunset light. Of course if there are clouds on the eastern horizon, the moon is obscured and that was the case at Bosque this year. The best time to photograph the full moon set is the morning following the full moon or occasionally one morning later. Again the idea is to balance the position of the moon with the pre-sunrise light. Another interesting element that may be present is the earth shadow. In the western US, if the horizons are clear before sunrise or after sunset, the presence of the earth’s shadow is often visible as a pink and blue band on the horizon opposite the rising or setting sun. The juxtaposition of such an earth shadow with the full moon can make a stunning image, and this was one of the images I was after at Bosque. I was fortunate to have almost perfect conditions on the morning of New Years Day and managed to make the image seen here. A few clouds were present that masked the effect of the earth shadow but they took on the wonderful pink glow of pre-sunrise light that photographers love. It was cold enough that a group of Sand Hill Cranes were huddled together with their necks buried in under their wings and their legs actually frozen in the ice. After the sun rose it was quite comical watching them trying to extract themselves and then run and slide across the ice to take off.
New Years day full moon set over the Crane Pools at Bosque del Apache NWR
Sandhill Cranes getting ready to takeoff at Bosque del Apache NWR
A Pair of Sandhill Cranes Captured in the Yin-Yang of Flight, Bosque del Apache NWR
For many years my photography has primarily concentrated on capturing the composition, light and form of the grand and intimate landscape. However for the last couple years, I have started to take up the challenge of bird and wildlife photography because I feel that as a photographer I needed to grow and challenge myself in new ways. Making artful images of wildlife is not easy and I have gained a great respect for those photographers who specialize in wildlife. One location I have traveled to for the last few years every December or January is Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. Here there is an amazing concentration of Sandhill Cranes and Snow Geese and it provides great opportunities to practice the art of birds in flight photography. Believe me it is addicting, and at least with modern auto-focus technology and high shutter speeds, the photographer has some chance to capture a sharp image. The real challenge is to make artful compositions of subjects that are in constant motion. The bottom line is that many many Birds in Flight images wind up in the trash, but occasionally you get lucky and capture a moment in time of grace and beauty. The image of a pair of Sandhill Cranes in flight I post above is an example of all things working together: light, form, and a perfect juxtapostion of elements captured at precisely the right moment in time. Sometimes you get lucky! I am very honored that this image has been awarded an Editors Choice Honorable Mention in this years Audubon Magazine Birds in Focus Photography Contest.
Ferns grow in a grove of Aspen in Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge, Minnesota ©Stephen Weaver
During my Mid-West trip I spent several days in Minnesota including time at Gooseberry Falls State Park on the North Shore of Lake Superior and Buffalo River State Park just east of Moorhead. The day I traveled to Buffalo River SP I passed through Tamarac National Wildlife refuge on a rather rainy afternoon. Tamarac NWR lies just at the western edge of the great northern forests of northern Minnesota and within 15 miles of the refuge you reach the prairie. The rainy day provided excellent soft light that is perfect for photographing forest environments. Wandering a bit in this forest I found this composition of aspen trees and ferns.