Happy Earth Day to you, this April 22nd, 2018. I feel like I experience Earth Day every time I visit a national park. On this occasion, I was up with scads of other people at Sunrise Point in Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, watching: the sunrise.
As a rule, Texas enjoys nice, mild winters that are warm enough to encourage many bird varieties to stick around. So on a nice, sunny Saturday morning, I took my Canon 1DX and 5D Mk III along with my 100-400mm and 24-70mm lenses for a morning visit to a nearby state park.
A Warmer-Weather Harbinger
Early Morning on Creekfield Lake
Watching and Waiting
Quite A Mouthful
Aw Cmon, Baby, Just One More Kiss
Whenever I feel restless and in need of some photographic therapy, I head out to the Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge, a little less than 20 miles from my home in southeast Texas.
This past Saturday morning, I headed out that way with the intention of getting to my favorite spot in the refuge to capture some scenery shots with the ground-hugging mist floating above the landscape.
As I drove along the refuge road, I noticed all these spider webs sparkling in the morning sunlight.
Naturally, I had to stop.
Of course, this meant by the time I arrived at my favorite spot, all the mist was gone.
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Note: capturing images of dew-dappled silken strands strung across the air from one tree/fence post / plant stem to another is a bit of a challenge with a telephoto lens. The lens simply doesn’t want to autofocus on something that ephemeral, choosing instead to either focus beyond the web, or not at all. I probably should have used the manual focus except my eyes just don’t focus as well as they used to and manual focus on anything other than infinity is a chore.
For the images above, the ISO ranged from 400 – 500, shutter speed ranged from 1/125 – 1/320, f-stop ranged from 5.6 – 7.1 and the focal length was 400mm.
Most photographers come to Brazos Bend State Park in Texas for the wildlife. I do that too, but I also come to this place for the landscape photo ops. On this particular morning, I left home at a little before 7AM to arrive at 40-Acre Lake by 7:30; just in time for some nice morning light. This is the observation/fishing pier. Fishing is free here, but no boating or swimming is allowed (note the sign regarding alligators, of which I saw several).
Rain has been predicted for the past couple of days. With that rain, I figured there might be some interesting storm clouds over at the Brazoria NWR. I woke up this morning at 6AM, peeked out the window, saw some big puffy clouds, and was on the road to the refuge before 7AM.
The morning did not disappoint: dramatic storm clouds, distant thunder, sporadic flashes of lightning, and hordes of herons, egrets, black-necked stilts, terns, some roseate spoonbills in the background, and four different sightings of American alligators.
For photography with storm clouds (or any kind of clouds, really), always make sure you have a graduated ND filter with you. During the really dark part of the morning, I removed the circular polarizer. However, as the daylight progressed, I placed the polarizers back on the lenses. Polarizers make blue skies bluer, clouds more dramatic, and can darken water and either enhance or eliminate reflections, depending upon which way you turn the polarizer ring.
My first stop was the refuge center’s lawn, where I photographed a bunny that looked a little the worse for wear, bless its heart.
After that, it was a few hundred feet to the boardwalk over Big Slough (pronounced “slew”).
Before getting into the car to head to Olney Pond, I stopped to photograph this little mockingbird. They are wonderful posers.
As I closed in on Olney Pond, I could hear a cacophony of noise before I even saw the birds. I couldn’t believe my eyes – it was a freaking heron and egret convention (along with some stilts, terns, and one or two alligators in the mix). So, if you ever are in the area and want to visit the refuge, I’d say the early morning is the best time to see the birdlife. Oh, and make sure you have your bug repellant. Those Cutter wipes are awesome.
This guy was looking for breakfast, and no, it did not get the heron you see in the background.
As the thunder rolled in the distance, and a teeny bit of rain sprinkled on the car, I continued along down the road and set up my tripod.
This is looking back up the road from whence I came. I could see a “thunder bumper” beyond, as the storm rolled over and past me with but a few sprinkles.
By the time 8AM arrived, the storm clouds had departed the area and the sky was starting to get its typical hot, hazy look on a humid Texas day. Plus, the mosquitoes were ganging up on me (but the Cutter wipes held true), and I wanted to get home to start working with my new photos.
All in all, it was a very good, stormy morning, at the Brazoria NWR.
In my previous post about the Brazoria NWR, all of the photos in that post were taken during the morning hours of 9:30AM and after. The very next evening, the weather, sky, and clouds were perfect; I just had to return to the NWR for some evening images. I used the same camera (Canon 5D Mk II) and the same two lenses (70-200mm and 16-35mm). I tried to take photos of the same (or almost the same) locations as were taken during my morning shoot. See what a difference the time of day, lighting, clouds, and weather can make to change the looks of the same image location.
My previous post was getting a little long – not so much with words as with images. So I knew I needed to break my visit to Seattle into two separate posts.
I am not a lazy person at all, but I must tell you that most of the photos you see of the waterfront in both the previous post and this post, were taken from my hotel room window! I managed to stay in the comfort of my own room, complete with bed, desk, TV, and fridge – and look out the window to capture some wonderful, quintessentially-Seattle images. All I had to do was aim my 70-200mm lens (handheld) either straight ahead, to the right, or to the left (sometimes hanging out of the sill a little bit).
As I mentioned in my previous post, the view window of my room was such that I could open it up and literally drop a line and fish out of it if I wished! No screen and only a very short railing protecting me from the elements. The bellman told me that on occasion, they still had to drag people out of the bay because they’d fallen overboard…..usually, that incident involved alcohol. Big surprise.
Since I had just arrived in Washington the day prior, my body clock still operated on Texas time. Needless to say, I was up at about 3AM Seattle time (5AM according to my body clock – time to get up for work). So I dressed, made coffee (yes, I brought my own coffee and purchased real cream up at Pike Place Market Creamery the afternoon prior), opened the windows to let in the fresh, crisp, salt air, and sat down to my laptop to process photos. Occasionally, I would get up to look out the window. The scenes that greeted me that morning made me realize just how lucky I was to be there right at that moment.
At dark-thirty, when the ferries begin their day.
The blue hour, as the morning progressed.
The Mountain was out on that day.
A low bank of heavy, cottony clouds partially obscured the Olympic Mountains.
Clouds, Elliott Bay, the Olympic Mountains peeking out, and Shilshole Marina.
A quintessential Seattle day.
I’d decided earlier that morning to visit the Seattle Aquarium. I needed more practice taking fish photos and wanted to test my brand new lens. But first, I wanted to take a walk along the waterfront. For this day, I used my own Canon 5D Mark II and 24-105mm lens plus the rented Canon 5D Mark III and the 50mm f1.2 lens. I wanted that 50mm lens for aquarium shots because it’s a fast, sharp prime.
The Seattle Aquarium opens at 9:30AM. It costs $19 and some-odd cents for a ticket (why they just don’t make it an even $20, I don’t know). On this particular day (the Saturday before Easter), the place was jam-packed with kids and parents. Try battling that combo to get a particular photo.
The first sight to greet the visitor is this scene. The docent (just outside of this view) is chatting with the diver feeding the fish, educating and entertaining the audience at the same time. The really little kids are the most fun to watch.
From there, one passes on through various exhibits including a number of petting tanks, where kids (and grown-ups like moi) can touch the anemones and star fish. After touching wet, soft, squishy sealife, one looks up toward this very cool circular aquarium, a portion of which is hidden beneath the floor. They call that the Moon Jelly exhibit.
Next are the exhibits for the giant Pacific octopus, then a number of other fish that I can’t identify; and the frustrating thing about the gift shop is that it’s geared toward kids – I never saw a decent fish identification guide in the shop….oh well, that’s what Amazon.com is for.
Although I used a fast lens, I kept the ISO pretty high in order to allow for a relatively fast shutter speed to try and get a clear image of the fish, which are constantly on the move. I think I maybe used my 24-105mm lens once or twice. It’s not a fast lens, but I needed the wide angle view for a couple of shots.
After the aquarium visit, I realized I was tired and my shoulder hurt from the cameras and lenses (and souvenirs and food I’d purchased at the Market earlier that morning – no more hotel re$taurant for me).
I was not going to kill myself trying to do everything on this visit to Washington. I simply could not do it all and still enjoy the scene and the moment. So, I took my goodies, camera, and self back to the hotel to process images and photograph more wonderful Elliott Bay water scenes from my room window.
It was definitely a great day to be in Seattle
Note: If you have the opportunity to travel to Washington, by all means, stay in Seattle a night or two. And, if you can afford to splurge a little, stay either at the Inn At The Market (located smack dab in the midst of Pike Place Market), or at the Edgewater Hotel – and get a water view room. Both hotels have discounts during various times of the year. A discount based upon a reservation 7 days ahead of time with no refund was how I snagged my room. Worth every penny to me. Their restaurant is lovely, with wonderful views, outdoor dining, and awesome food. However, it’s on the pricey side. Thankfully there are a bunch of neat places to dine up in Pike Place Market, with prices ranging from $2 to $$$, depending upon your food budget. My room was clean and comfortable, which is all I really ever require of any room in which I stay. I don’t need many amenities, although an in-room fridge and coffee maker are nice (I actually packed a small 4-cup coffee maker and a package of ground coffee in my luggage, since I tend to wake up very early in the morning to review and edit my photos – during this WA trip, I took around 3000).