Happy first day of spring! To celebrate the outgoing winter, here are a couple shots of a Savannah Sparrow making a living in the snow. These were taken at Clarence Cannon NWR.
A number of years ago one of the first hikes I remember into the Missouri Ozarks was a short spur trail off the OZT up to the summit of Stegall Mountain within Peck Ranch C.A. I had my first “serious” camera that I wanted to document Nature as I found her on these journeys and I made a couple images that I was satisfied with at the time. This past holiday break we found ourselves back at this location and enjoyed a pleasant winter’s day. Here are a few images from this visit.
One of the highlights of Stegall Mountain Natural Area are the Oak savanna and glades. Some of the most gloriously colored rhyolite in the state is found in this area. The trees pictured in thes images are mostly stunted and gnarled Post Oaks. I couldn’t get enough of them.
No, Steve and I did not take a daytrip to make it to the summit of K2 or one of the other Himalayan peaks, although we easily could. This image was made on one of this winter’s sub-zero days at Elephant Rocks. I had an idea of the image I wanted to make that may showcase an optical effect that Galen Rowell made famous called “diffraction fringe“. By putting oneself in the shadow of your back-lit subject at just the right difference and position, one may see a ring of hot light that outlines the silhouette of the subject. This proper geometry of sun, subject and camera (including optical settings) is just one requirement to observe and capture this effect. The other, as far as my understanding allows is the need for dry, clean air. On this particular day we had temps below zero degrees Fahrenheit and the air was as dry as could be with no interference from any noticeable smog. With the air quality requirement met, it was simply a matter of trying to position the model (Steve) at the correct position between myself and the sun. This part was more difficult in this setting and ultimately led to us missing our ultimate goal. Trying to work this out in minus 30 degree windchill proved our undoing. I could only ask Steve to climb so many boulders in this type of weather, which seemed to be increasingly affecting our mood and thought process the longer we were in these elements. Ultimately, I did not achieve the diffraction fringe. I am not sure as to the reasoning for this failure. I feel the geometry of our positioning, afforded by the placement of boulders and the limited availability of where I could position myself was the biggest factor. Getting the required distance that I believe necessary was impossible. Other factors that could have played a part were not having the most appropriate focal length and aperture settings, the air quality not being as suitable as I thought and perhaps the quality of the optics I was using. Many of these optical phenomena are the result of imperfection in lens design. Galen took most of his images with older generation optics that were often lower quality compared to today’s standards.
I’m not exactly sure what the reason for the failure in acquiring this diffraction fringing was. I guess this was just a very long explanation of an image I thought turned out to be pretty successful anyway. I look forward to trying this one again one day.
We finally seem to be primed for an excellent winter for viewing and photographing eagles at the Clarksville Dam. Steve and I visited for a couple of hours during a birding trip up Hwy 79, where surprisingly we were fortunate to find a little bit of nice light. Here are a few I think are worthy to share. I’m looking forward to paying another visit after a week or two in the deep freeze with hopes the ice will bring more birds and closer opportunities. Come on winter!
Happy winter solstice holidays to all my friends and family!
A Winter Eden
by Robert Frost
A winter garden in an alder swamp,
Where conies now come out to sun and romp,
As near a paradise as it can be
And not melt snow or start a dormant tree.
It lifts existence on a plane of snow
One level higher than the earth below,
One level nearer heaven overhead,
And last year’s berries shinning scarlet red.
It lifts a gaunt luxuriant beast
Where he can stretch and hold his highest feast
On some wild apple-trees tender young bark,
What well may prove the year’s high girdle mark.
So near to paradise all pairing ends:
Here loveless birds now flock with winter friends,
Content with bud-inspecting. They presume
To say which buds are leaf and which are bloom.
A feather-hammer gives a double knock.
This Eden day is gone at two o’clock.
An hour of winter day might seem too short
To make it worth life’s while to wake and sport.
“A Winter Eden”