Each spring, before the marshes, fields, and woods return to green, I spend more of my active shooting time on wildlife, especially birds. One of my favorite locations is Bell’s Neck in Harwich. Ducks, geese, and other waterfowl can be seen, and then the osprey show up with the arrival of herring in the run. Eagles, herons, and egrets join the action. As the leaves begin to pop out, song birds return.
Paine’s Creek Beach is one of my favorite places to photograph. The visual elements there appeal to me, especially at low tide, and when conditions seem good, I can get there in two minutes.
Here are some of my favorite nature images that I have made in the past few months. Being able to get out in the natural world has helped keep my spirits up in these troubled times.
On Saturday, we had a big storm. With high winds and above average tides due to an approaching full moon the east facing beaches were really stirred up . On Monday evening I went to Nauset Beach to photograph full moon rise at sunset, one of my favorite themes. Upon arrival, I noticed large areas of sand were covered in gull tracks. Then I realized why there was so much bird traffic. The storm had washed up a huge number of sea clams, and the gulls were having a feast!
Here’s another example of how I work with images. I started by selecting a small area of the scene before me. Looking through the viewfinder of my Canon 7D mark II, I moved forward and back, side to side, and up and down, changing the visual relationship of the posts and what was included and excluded in the scene. After pressing the shutter, I checked the histogram on the rear of the camera, to make sure I had a full range of values, without losing highlight or shadow detail.
The next part of the process is downloading the image with Adobe Lightroom. I add key words so that I can easily search my collection in the future. Then the digital magic begins. I won’t go into all the steps, but according to the history window, there were 25. I did crop to different proportions, adjusted lighting, and cloned out a piece of concrete wall in the lower right corner.
Years ago I read in a photography magazine, and I can’t remember the author’s name, that serendipity is the intersection of preparation and chance. Last night’s sunset is a good example. For decades I have been honing my photographic skills- technical and artistic. I have acquainted myself with many nearby locations, studied weather and cloud movement, and the different seasonal looks.
Yesterday, I was planning to photograph the end of day. Looking at the clouds from my front yard, and watching their movement, I thought if I went west and south, the light would be more likely to illuminate the clouds from below. I decided to go to West Dennis Beach.
The beach itself, along that part of Nantucket Sound, is a straight band of sand, not offering much of visual interest, and the small waves broke up what on a still evening would have been great reflections. I drove the mile length of the parking area, seeing how the sky and foreground related to each other. The color started to come up as the sun disappeared. I turned around and decided the best foreground was a section of dune and pathway. And then this was my reward-
Last week, I was at Priscilla Landing in Orleans, working with the early autumn colors along the shore of Nauset Harbor. My Canon 70D with a Canon 100-400 L series lens were on my tripod, my other camera on a neck strap. As I turned and raised the camera, I saw the tripod going over. Smack- right on a rock. Foul word or two. Checking the gear, I found the flash shoe on the camera punched down, and the zoom lens wouldn’t zoom.
I had already been thinking of upgrading this set-up, but the plan had been to sell the old gear to help defray the cost. Now it would be all out of pocket. I went ahead and ordered a Canon 7D Mark II with the new version of the 100-400. A day later the new gear arrived.
Now for the karma- in the next two days, I sold enough work to pay for the new gear, and I was back to zero…
This photo of an immature sharp-shinned hawk is from my first session with the new gear. Hand held and a heavy crop. I am very pleased with the performance.
I love being able to respond to interesting light and weather by heading to Paine’s Creek. I can be there in two minutes. Watching the weather radar, I saw the storm heading across the north side of Cape Cod Bay. As I set up on the breakwater, the sky opened and the shaft of light shone on the water. In the sand someone had drawn “Cape Cod 2019”, which became the title for this image. I also took a series of images to make a panorama.
When you shoot photographs in Raw format, which I nearly always do, the images show reduced contrast and saturation, and appear softer. I started by dealing with these issues using Lightroom but continued to work to make the image more like what I saw and felt at the time. After reaching the middle image, the history window in the program showed more than 60 entries. One thing still bothered me. I wanted more space on the left side of the picture between the boat and the edge. Over to Photoshop to use the content aware fill function, then back to Lightroom for a few more tweaks, and the final image on the left has me satisfied.