BACK TO SUMMER

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Comes June and my digital darkroom heads to the beach.  It isn’t easy, especially at my age (about 34 but, yeah, that’s just from the brain up).  It’s not like getting ready for a shore weekend; it’s packing for two to three months.  There are a couple of soft-goods trips but on the BIG day, the day of the groceries and frig contents, of 32 house plants, of  three printers and the spare inks and 15 varieties/sizes of print paper and the monitor and the tower and the Bose speakers and the wireless keyboard and mouse and the backup drives and all those cables and tiny power supplies (now which one goes where?) and the laptop, and………………

The BIG day is when my daughter, Sigrid, shows up with her GMC and loads up alllllllll that stuff and a couple suitcases, too.   And after she’s loaded the Jimmy she pulls out the two meat loafs she made for me and has time to fluff up the pillows in the town house before we leave.  Then she hauls all my stuff down Route 72 to the island and up to my suite.  Sweet.

Then, I have to find that button that causes everything to put itself away.  Right.

But I digress.  For such a major grunt, why do it?  In part so that I can see and capture the beauty and drama of scenes like the opening image.  It is soul-cleansing.

As my artist friend, Marilyn Flagler, once said “Living near the ocean means continual washing off of the sometimes grimy dust of living.”

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But they’re not all dramatic mornings, are they?  While I was preparing this post there was a foggy morning. My friend, Fog,  always creates a mood of mystery and this morning was on script.

All sound is softened.  It’s still … and moody.  Yes, follow this marker and the posts to …. to where?

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The stillness of sound and light, however, can also reveal other scenes as in this still life.

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On the beach there’s a parade of marching dune grass, added to help stabilize the new, giant dunes.

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Back at my house the fog had left droplets on my Rambler Roses.  The roses and I both liked that.

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As the day moved on the fog lifted to the point where I began to think about a sunset image.  In the event, however, the clouds proved more interesting than the sunset.

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“Don’t believe what your eyes are telling you. All they show is limitation. Look with your understanding. Find out what you already know and you will see the way to fly.”
–Richard Bach, Johnathan Livingston Seagull

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All but one of these captures were made in the past few days.  I’ve posted , however, on the 21st, the day on which summer began at 12:24 AM.  Glad to see it.

But, there’s always a slight concern for me. It means that the days will now start being a little shorter; a second or so today, three tomorrow…..

Does that mean I have to pack up and go back home already?

 

 

A YEAR IN RETROSPECT – 2016 – A SAMPLING FROM THE SELECTION

Photographers are uniquely well equipped to do a retrospective review of the year past; in fact, for all their years of photography.  They need only browse their image files. The digital era has also made such reviews easier.  No more page after page in heavy albums; just skim thru the folders on the hard drive.

I frequently browse through past years but I also make a point of doing an annual review of the immediate past year’s work.  I look for images from each event or subject that I most enjoy or that I think represent the best of my year’s work, and I publish these as a gallery.

Having made my selections for the 2016 gallery, I then asked myself if just a few of them could serve as symbols for how I think and how I shoot.  Surprise: some did.

These were not made in the camera; they were captured by the camera but they were made in the head (read “heart”) so you will see what I felt.  I hope you experience them as I did.

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The gold and brown tones tell of a soothing late twilight.  The channel marker counter-balances the boat.  The four guys in the boat are having a good time, and you can see their rods flexing with their fun.  The foreground grasses nicely place and isolate the viewer.  In a print, the homes of Tuckerton Beach are dimly seen as though to say, “Life and all that it brings is out there … but not right here … not right now.”

I recently sold a print of this to an older man who, somewhat choked up, talked about his memories of joining his father out there on Friday nights after his Dad came home from the week’s work.

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This Portrait of Two Mules is quite different for me but I’m fond of it.  It was made on a country road in Lancaster County on a warm August day.  The mercy of Photoshop enabled me to remove all of the flies on them which didn’t seem to be bothering them as much as they did me.  I was moved by the mules’ at-peace demeanor.  They had probably worked hard that morning and probably would do so again tomorrow, but for now they were just enjoying the warm rest and each other’s company.

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Next is my Zen Royal Tern … or is he stoned?  In an earlier appearance of him on line I suggested that he was murmuring, “Dude, sunrise on Sanibel is soooo cool.”  Well, you get the idea.  I was anthropomorphizing because I felt that way and so, I thought, should the bird.  I, too, revel in the warmth of the morning sun and in the gentle breeze off the ocean and the shhhhh of the waves and the glory of a new day alive, and I feel one with the universe.  Are we sure that a bird can’t also approach nirvana? Namaste.

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This image is  compelling for me.  A pair of cormorants were performing a post-breakfast cleanup.  What struck me was the arrangement of the branches, the birds’ positions, and the reflection  of the scene.  It also stood out because the background water was rippled while the foreground was quiet.   I further enhanced the image by giving it a slight selenium tone and a dodging of the center to lighten it.

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I find this image haunting in its isolation and starkness.  The strong diagonals are a part of it, and the shades and curtains, the slatted shutters, and the weathered siding have an Andrew Wyeth feel for me.

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I was pleased to encounter this group gathered for a communal breakfast at their diner.  I could see spots of white deep in a mangrove thicket and I discovered this when I slowly investigated.

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I recently attended a photography symposium where one of the speakers urged that we plan out our photo shoots.  If nothing else it helps ensure you have all of the lenses and filters you may need.  I agree with that; it’s good common sense.  What it doesn’t embrace, however, is the spontaneous, unplanned, never-to-happen-again kind of image.  I had just gotten off the Colonial Williamsburg shuttle bus and I was on my way to Duke of Gloucester Street for some images of the Grand Illumination.  I looked over my shoulder and here was this scene with the colonial style street lamp against a fading twilight.  Quick, stop, compose, shoot!  It was the best shot of the night, if not the whole trip …… and unplanned.

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That twilight scene above sets the stage for my last selection … a sunrise.

Sunrises … sunsets … there’s a zillion of ’em.  In fact (mea culpa) about 10% of my 2016 selections are in that category.  We are drawn to the spectacular color and its effect on adjacent clouds or bodies of water.  There’s way too many of them, but we can’t stay away from them.  In my occasional workshop on composition and content, however, I have a section called “What shall we do with this sunrise/sunset?”  They need something else to sustain viewer interest if not to create some depth or additional feeling to the image.  As to this selection from selections, I keep returning to it.  Yes, the color intensity gradient is nice and the cloud structures are interesting.  But it’s the diagonal line of the sand dune and the darkness below that keep me here, and the lone beach chair just where the orb will appear that holds me.  That spot is an example of what I call the emotional center of the image.

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Thanks for staying the course for this wordy blog post.  I hope it was at least entertaining.

If you’d like, take another coffee break tomorrow for the slide show of the full 2016 selections.  It’s less than three minutes.

Click here to get there.

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WHERE MY CAMERA TAKES ME III – Scenes from here and there.

This post is low on chatter (probably good) and long on miscellaneous images.  Every day-trip is not a photo workshop but we can bring home images that are nice and that jump out of the hamper when reviewing past trips, clamoring for their moment on the web.

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Fall is many things.  As with winter, and in contrast with spring and summer, most of fall is more striking and dramatic.  Contributing factors are the clarity that low humidity brings, and the power of stately cumulus clouds.  Add these to the red hulls of the Larson fishing fleet at Long Beach Island’s Viking Village and you have a classic fall scene.

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Fall is seasonal shapes and colors.
Here’s a table full of them at Russo’s farm market in Tabernacle.

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Fall is color, presented here abundantly by the most prolific, colorful weed I can think of.

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Fall is a time of special weekends, for art and craft shows and for people festivals for one reason or another.  It’s almost as though we sense the gradual fading of the daily light and the impending arrival of the cold and we want to dance and celebrate while we can.  (We are already at less than 12 hours of sun daily.)

My camera took me to one such festival at the Philadelphia Seaport.  While there I was taken with all of the lines of the 1901 tall ship Gazela.  There were men doing some kind of maintenance up there and I thought I even heard Captain Bligh scolding them.

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Two nearby ships provided contrasts between the three;  the seventy-three year-old New Jersey and the twenty year-old Ben Franklin vs. the 115 year-old Gazela.

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And, as long as I’m talking about boats, here’s another from the Larson fleet in a dreamier presentation.

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One more from the boat files.  This is left over from my spring trip to Tangier Island, cropped to emphasize the ripple reflections.

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Getting back to fall scenes, here’s a dewy web in early morning warm light.  I guess the maker knows how to get in there for a snack if it comes along.  Colleagues: this was a four shot stacked image blend taken with a 100mm macro lens.

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Finally, fall greatly enhances sunrises over the beach.  It’s that crystal clear air again plus those puffy clouds.   I had just gotten up when this scene smacked me in the face.  I previously posted this on Facebook but not everyone gets to see that work so here it is again.  The stunning feature here is the “shadows” created by the clouds, i.e. the darker blue that seems to be radiating from the clouds.  Equally strong is the back- and side lighting of the clouds.

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“Oh, what a beautiful morning!”

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Happy Fall, Y’all!

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WHADDYA MEAN IT’S AUGUST???

Sigh, it is.  I’ve said it before but endless summer isn’t.  I moved to the beach mid-June and had the whole summer ahead of me.  But that was then, and now it’s August.  Actually, things don’t change that much.  Gregg Whiteside on WRTI tells me every morning that the day’s going to be another two minutes less of sunshine.  Two minutes a day I can deal with, and I’ve still got two months before I have to return to the Old Folks Farm.

The beach and the bay still beckon, whether a perfect day or one with a stiff wind out of the west with whitecaps.  Here’s the view we’ve enjoyed looking west from Barb’s place in Holgate this summer.

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Sunrise at the “new” beach?  Priceless.  The reclamation project is pretty much done at the southern end of LBI, with some fine tuning such as gravel walkways over the new dunes.  The scene below is from the parking lot at the end of Holgate.  The beach chair occupant?  He’s the over-night guardian to protect us from the replenishment pipes and equipment on the other side of the dune.

 

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By early July the project had extended this dune to cover the old wooden jetty that bordered the surfing beach at the beginning of the Forsythe Refuge.   The dredges at sea pumped tons of sand sludge onto the beach, and dozers such as this one moved it as the Corps of Engineers had decreed.  This took me back to my Sea Bee days.

Farewell to the jetty and also to the surfing beach because the jetty had created the surf.  Sic transit gloria.

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Being a photographer at the beach summer after summer is challenging;  where’s the new scene or the new perspective?  Well, you have to keep your eyes and your head open and hope you’ll luck out once in a while.  Here’s one that surprised me.   Sitting on Barb’s deck at sunset I noticed the bay’s reflection in the windows of the house next door, and I loved it.  Even more when I developed it and discovered that the undulations in the window glass had created a rolling sea on the quiet bay surface.

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Another surprise grab shot was this scene.  I had gone to the beach to photograph a post-storm rainbow.  Beautiful? Yes.  Impressive? Sort of.  But, (yawn) another rainbow on the beach.  When I turned around and climbed the dune to return, however, here was a reminder of how narrow this sandbar is on which we live.  I’m on the beach dune and one can see the end of the street at the bay, only 1900′ away.  Composition Guideline:  always look behind you after you’ve taken your shot.

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My favorite summer event is the Twilight Sail.  This year some heavy duty thunder storms were smashing the mainland so Barb and I demurred.  I felt it confirming when our Fleet Captain also declined.  Anyway, four vessels took off for the edge of the world, including our now Beach Haven resident A-cat, Ghost (the taller mast below).  They all returned safely.

I was impressed with the blue world into which they were sailing.  Made me think of a colleague’s photography business, Twilight Blue Photography.  (No charge, Pat.)

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Well, so what if it’s August.  Summer’s still here and I’m stickin’ around, too.

Here was the month’s first sunset;  Well Done August!

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WINTER WHITE STUFF (THE FLORIDA KIND)

We managed to escape on the last flight out of Philadelphia before winter storm Jonas (OK, maybe not literally the last but it felt that way).  Even with the last minute struggle to change our flight to Friday night and to make sure there was a car and a room in Sanibel, we were still apprehensive.  Indeed, after taxiing out to the runway the pilot announced a further delay in order to DE-ICE THE WINGS.  How comforting was that??  I was convinced he would abort but we made it and slipped in to our cottage about 1:00 in the morning.  Our first view of the beach the next morning (while Jonas was howling at home) …. WHITE STUFF …  but, a very comfortable kind.

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Yet more white stuff is seen here.  Sanibel Island is known for being a shelling paradise.  For some reason the shape and position of the island in the currents of the Gulf of Mexico result in extraordinary deposits of shells with each high tide.

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It’s something to do every day.  The fanatics are on the beach before sunrise with headlamps, searching for the elusive and therefore prized Junonia.  It’s so rare, finders wind up with their pictures in the paper.  Aside from the Junonia, however, we enjoyed our beach walks and inevitably came home with shells that caught our eye.  The above sight is typical.  The image is now a part of my place mat collection.

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Another exciting activity is photographing the sea birds that meet daily on the beach.  Aside from the routine gulls we also enjoyed Willets, Ruddy Turnstones, skittering Sanderlings, and clusters of Royal Terns having bad hair days.  The terns are tolerant of walking humans ( dogs, another story) and gather in groups at sometimes the same spots along the beach each morning.  I’ve enjoyed photographing them over my fourteen years of occasional visits.  I posted recently about the need to get prone to capture some scenes and the terns are certainly in that category.

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I particularly love this image below.  He seemed to be zoned out in the joy of the morning sunlight and breeze.  I heard him murmuring, “Hey, Dude, is this cool or whaaat?”  I absolutely agreed.

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The tern was chillin’ in the sunrise along with others also drawn to dawn.  Most of us react to the drama of sunrises and sunsets and though I’ve seen and photographed lots of them I’m not immune to the next one.  Here’s one morning in which the sun was filtered more than usual but there was still light for the early morning shell seekers.

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And at the other end of the day, the sun’s farewell.

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Not every day was warm or clear or sunny, but at its worst it was better than being up home in February.  Even a foggy morning calls a photographer.

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Another major attraction of Sanibel is the 5200 acre “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge.  We managed to drive through on the eight mile Wildlife Trail almost every day.  It’s best to do so slightly before and after low tide as the bird life is then feasting on creatures from the exposed sand flats.  One sees a great deal of White Pelicans, Ibis, Herons, Willets, and Cormorants.  In fact they report over 200 species of birds.  Here are some selected captures.

Wilbur and Wilma Willet

Wilbur and Wilma Willet

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Doc, I have this really bad neck pain.

Doc, I have this really bad neck pain.

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This one made me literally laugh out loud.  They tolerate humans being close and I was about six feet away from his bath.

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Finally, an after-breakfast Cormorant Cleanup.

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This was a nice experience for us, and certainly warmer and sunnier than February at home.  We thoroughly enjoyed the relaxed and informal atmosphere at Beachview Cottages on Sanibel Island.  As always, glad to be home but also wondering why??

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There is a gallery of additional images from the two weeks.  To view it please click here.

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VERMONT FOG AND FOLIAGE

My last photo trip to Vermont was four years ago.  The itch was itchy.  I googled Vermont photo tours and serendipitously found Kurt Budliger Photography offering an early October tour in the more northern part of the state.  This was appealing as I’ve done plenty of touring down in the Weston-Chester area and below.  Budliger’s landscape images have a dreamlike quality so it’s no surprise that he’s part of the Dreamscapes team which includes Ian Plant, Joe Rossbach, and Richard Bernabe, with all of whom I’ve enjoyed previous productive workshops.  So, into the saddle and off to the great northland.

Evening from the Sparrow Farm

Evening from the Sparrow Farm

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I joined eight others at a nice Comfort Inn in the countryside outside of Montpelier, which served as our base.  We left early each morning to see the sunrises that absolutely no one else had ever photographed.  They would be followed by some early morning scenes before the sun became too harsh.  Then back to the inn for lunch, a rest, and afternoon classwork before setting out again for sunsets and twilight photography.  The classroom emphasis was on composition ideas and post-processing.  I learned things in both categories. Deep sigh:  I keep thinking I know what I need to know but along comes someone like Kurt, and suddenly there’s a couple of those “Why didn’t that occur to me?” things.

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For me, the above was our best sunrise location (Marshfield Pond).  It was still quite gray when we got there and the fog was rolling in from the pond.  It was somewhat surreal; my mood was excited but in awe of what I was seeing.  I was so moved that I captured some video to better convey the mood.  (Please, no comments about watching grass grow; rather, think how you’d be feeling in such a setting.)

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Not all of our sunrises were so dramatic but they were at least peaceful, quieting, tranquil.  Here the boats await the day ahead on Seyon Pond.

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After our sunrise experiences we were guided to other locations to enjoy the scene as the day’s light evolved through the mists.  One such spot was Ricker Pond.

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I then hiked out on the above peninsula and was rewarded with lots of dewy spider webs.  I wish the leaf hadn’t been there or that I had pre-processed by snipping that twig but that’s nature.

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Just as we had early morning shoots, so did we have pre-sunset shoots on the way to a sunset location.  Among these was Moss Glen Falls on Route 100 north of Granville.  I had photographed this with Joe Rossbach in 2009 and had told Kurt that, having been there, I wasn’t keen on returning.  But, his workshop so back we went.  I was astounded at how large it had become as my four year old memory was of a rather unimpressive scene.  Wow!  I was glad we had returned to it.

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Sunsets were also lovely.  They induce mixed reactions.  One is the warm power of the scene.  Another is the primitive feeling of one’s own mortality: day is ending, darkness comes.  This image is of Lake Champlain from Oak Ledge just outside of Burlington.  It also brought back memories of piloting our rented houseboat on the lake years ago with my then two pre-teeners taking tricks at the wheel; of late afternoon anchoring and swimming, leaping from the roof of the boat; and cozying in for the night after a Marty Lou dinner.

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The glow from a sunset can also result in some powerful non-sky-sun images as in this case.  Note the rock alligator emerging at right from the grasses.  Careful!

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We finished the workshop on a hillside above Peacham, founded in 1776.  Here we are in the fog again, waiting for some sign of the valley, and photographing whatever appeared with some promise.

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It was here that I bid my new friends and colleagues goodbye.  On the way down the hillside, however, I passed the cattle on the farm below, ambling out to pasture in the mists.

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It was a splendid workshop, and I brought home some of the best images I’ve done in recent years.

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There is a gallery of these and many more images from the workshop.  It can be seen by clicking here.

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CHINCOTEAGUE FUN FOTOGRAPHY

In late November I returned for my fourth trip to the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge.

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This time I travelled with eight others, all members of the South Jersey Camera Club.  This was one of the many field trips the club sponsors during the year, and it was a fun and productive trip.   Full Disclosure:  We broke out eaaarrrrly Saturday morning to capture the sunrise, and I discovered that my camera was still in bed … back home.  I had all but one of my lenses, my filters, and my tripod and all other gear that we carry … but … no … camera.  So ashamed.  Fortunately there were three other spare bodies available so the weekend wasn’t a total loss.  And, the companionship made up for it.

Our field trip leader, Pat, had us out on the grinder at (it seemed like) 4:00 AM, actually more like 5:45.  We drove out to the parking area for the wildlife loop road and proceeded on foot with our flashlights in pursuit of a 7:00 AM sunrise.  There was a wonderful ground fog above which the scraggly pines stood starkly.  Sure enough, the dawn light began to illuminate the Snow Goose Pool and we could begin to make sense of things.   The opening image above was one I captured just as the sun broke above the horizon.

Here’s most of the group that dawn.  There were things to photograph on both sides of the road. 

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Here’s another scene that morning before the sun had actually risen.  These two images show why it was good for us to be there at that time.  Our leader, Pat, and colleague, Larry, had both come down a day early and had scouted out locations for us.

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After that session we returned for breakfast and planned the rest of our day.  That included scouting out some interesting wading bird shots and also the famous wild ponies.

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The day concluded with pleasant relaxing around a bonfire on the beach in the long shadows of the setting sun. 

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After that a great group dinner in town which concluded with a small birthday cake for me, it being but two days after the event.  I was so moved that I offered a birth-inspired toast;

Here’s to the finest years of my life

Spent in the arms of another man’s wife.

My Mother, God bless her.

A splendid field trip with some wonderful people.