Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Some More Favorites from 2016 - Nature

Yesterday, I shared six of my favorite photos from last year and why I choose them out of the 11,686 from 2016 I have on my computer.  Today, I'm sharing a five more that are photos of plants and animals in nature.   Unlike yesterday when most of the photos were taken on a single trip, these were taken from Spring to Fall in a variety of locations.

I enjoy taking macro (close-up) photos of flowers and Spring is the best time to capture these beauties.  The first photo below was taken on April 10 in an area of our front yard where we are growing a variety of wildflowers.  Most of our flowers are native to our area and can be found in the woods and fields near by, but these Bleeding Hearts will not be found in the wild.   They are much showier than the native variety.  That is what makes them great photo subjects.
Bleeding Hearts
I picked this photo because of the brilliant colors, cool flower shapes, and tiny water drops that cling to each one.   This is also special because it is one of the best samples of a technique I have been learning called focus stacking.  This technique allowed me to get the flowers and water drops in very sharp focus while leaving the background out of focus. Click on the photo to zoom in for a larger version to see all the details.

From the font yard we travel to the Smoky Mountains and a photo that was taken just 9 days later.   We had spent a couple days in the park photographing wildflowers while hiking some of the trails.   Driving down Newfound Gap Road toward the Sugarlands Visitor Center we came upon a bunch of cars and people on the side of the road.   This can only mean one thing, a Bear Jam!   Not wanting to miss out, we found a spot down the road, walked back and found there was a mother with a couple cubs about 50 yards off the road.

The bears were often hidden behind trees and this is not a great photo, but the our memories of this time are a funny story.  This particular cub was sleeping high in a tree, oblivious to the crowds of people below with cameras and cell phones positioning to get a better view. As we were watching the bears, a well meaning but confused lady walked up and explained to us that the cub in the tree must be in distress and someone should do something.  We couldn't convince her that cubs sleep high in the trees and was just fine.  Frustrated with our lack of concern she moved on to plead her case to the next person.   Eventually the cub realized mom was moving on and he better come on down or be left behind.

Bear Cub
This funny story could have had a sad ending. In the crowd on the side of the road was one man with a cell phone that felt he had to get close to the bears to get a photo. This idiot was fortunate that mom didn't think he was threatening her cubs. People need to understand the Smoky Mountains is not a petting zoo.

The next wildlife subject was also not in distress but was getting his fill of sugar water at our Hummingbird feeder.  
Hummer Sunset
 I was trying something new when I took this shot. I have some flashes, stands, flash umbrellas and wireless flash triggers I purchased to do Real Estate photography.  I decided to use some of this equipment to photograph the fast moving little birds. By the time I figured out all the different settings I needed, it was getting late and the sky was golden with sunset colors. This is one of my favorites because of the way the bird is in sharp focus and the warm background is out of focus. If I do this again, I will change the aperture from f/11 to something wider to make the background even more out of focus.

There is something about birds of prey that draws our interest in ways that other birds just can't. Hawks, Eagles, and in this case, Osprey, fascinate June and I.  

This bird took up residence in Warriors Path State Park this past fall. Following it around gave us many photo opportunities, such as this one with dinner in it's talons. I enjoy photographing birds and catching them in flight is a fun challenge.   

The final photo in this set of favorites is not flowers in a perfect setting or wildlife in their habitats. I did not go out looking for this subject to photograph but instead found this literally right under my feet.

Fallen Leaves
I was at Cass Railroad State Park in West Virginia with my good friend Kent to photograph the historic steam engines that run up the mountains. It was fall and the colors on the trees were brilliant. However, this day it had been raining all day and everything was wet. I was walking back to our rental house along these raised wooden sidewalks or boardwalks when I came across these leaves that had fallen and stuck to the wet wood.  I had my camera with me and only had to point it straight down. Outdoor photographers are guilty of moving things like leaves around to improve a photo. The leaves in the photo are just where they dropped. Honest!

I like the simplicity of this photo.  The horizontal lines contrast with the randomness of the leaves. The wood is almost black, contrasting with the golden leaves. No brilliant sunset, expansive mountains, or wildlife here. Just simple fall leaves.

I've got 10 more favorites to share in the next couple days.   Come back to find out what others I like and why.

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