Recent explorations on the streets of Washington, DC.
You don’t have to go to the four corners of the globe to find good photographs. However, there is something uniquely exhilarating about photographing virgin territory. When you explore new places with your camera every photograph is a discovery. Every click of the shutter is like unearthing a new fossil or an unknown society. You are more than a photographer you are an anthropologist, an archaeologist.
Few places are left on earth that human beings haven’t explored. But that takes nothing away from the thrill one gets from one’s own discoveries. Documenting those discoveries with the camera lifts our spirits and stokes our inquisitiveness. It pushes us to seek and find more.
Whether it’s 300 miles down the coast or on the other side of the planet, traveling to new lands stimulates your inner Indiana Jones. Adventure is around the next bend. Everything is new and different. The people, the food, the music, the art. The geology and the landscape. All there for you to discover for yourself. To fill your brain and broaden your mind; to stimulate your curiosity. It may not be a first for humanity but it’s a first for you!
That adrenaline rush, that increased heart rate, those hairs standing up on the back of your neck…that is real.
So what are you waiting for? Pack up the camera gear and get to discovering.
From far above the river I saw this great blue heron standing still on the rocks below. It was right on the river’s edge, waiting patiently for a passing meal. I carefully made my way down over fallen tree limbs and loose rocks. As I got closer I would stop occasionally and make a few photographs. After about five minutes I’d edge myself closer and wait and shoot some more. Then scoot a little closer still. I eventually got myself into a good position about 15 to 20 feet away.
From the moment I first saw the heron I imagined a photo of a good size fish struggling in that stiletto beak. I waited over an hour, sitting uncomfortably on solid rock, hoping for the bird to snag a catfish or bass from the water. There were several attempts, yet each came up empty. From my perch above I could see the occasional shadow of a fish swim by, but the heron either didn’t see it or it was too far out of reach to even try.
At one point another heron landed nearby. It was apparently just a little too close for comfort and this one chased it off. Then as it made its way back to its fishing spot I made this shot. Ultimately, other obligations made it impossible to stay any longer so I never got the fish-in-beak shot. But I’ll be back. And so will the herons. I’ll get the shot. Just going to take some patience.
My friend Julie Lang (@potomacsurfer) trying out her groovy new board. Wet Bottom wave in Mather Gorge on the Potomac River.
I photographed this young great blue heron the other morning in one of the locks at the C&O Canal National Historical Park in Potomac, Maryland.
Preening helps keep feathers in tip-top condition; realigning feathers for better aerodynamics, removing parasites and spreading secreted oils to each feather for waterproofing.
106º F is hot! How hot? So hot that when you stick your arm out the window doing 75 MPH it still feels hot! Like burning uncomfortably hot! Wind chill factor did not seem to apply. This was somewhere along I-10 just south of Joshua Tree National Park. I’d never experienced heat that great before, and I’ll be fine if I never do again.
It was 6 hours on the road through the southern California desert, on our way to Oceanside. We’d left Phoenix earlier that morning and had the A/C cranking nonstop. The temperature had dropped to 102º by the time we reached the Dinosaurs of Cabazon. So, you know… cool! Despite the heat we couldn’t resist that famous roadside attraction. Americana at it’s weirdest!
Eventually, jumped back in the air conditioned compact and pushed on to the coast to visit with family, attend nephew’s wedding, hangout by the beach and just generally explore Oceanside, California. Which, by the way, never broke 80º our entire stay.
Move slowly, be patient. This is my mantra when it comes to wildlife. And it is especially important when you’re without a telephoto lens!
This morning as I walked along the C&O Canal towpath I saw a heron far up ahead as it landed on the edge of the trail. I was armed only with my iPhone so I thought I’d see how close I could get before it took off. And who knows, I thought, maybe it’ll fly in my general direction and I’ll get a shot as it soars past.
This was my first photo. (I’ve edited out many more that were repetitious and didn’t add to the story) From this point on I closed in… little by little, pausing between each small step.
The bird did not seem troubled by my presence so I pushed on. Step… Pause… Step… Pause…
At this point I was kind of hoping the creature would just take off and give me that nice action shot I was thinking about. A bird standing still isn’t all that remarkable. But no… It seemed to be perfectly content to hang out. So I moved closer. Step… Pause…
Now it’s just getting ridiculous. I’m within 10 feet! It has to be feeling a little uncomfortable with this human’s presence, right? Surely you want to fly away! Apparently not.
The heron simply saunters a few feet down the path and stops there. However, now a bicyclist is barrelling down the path toward us and I feel certain this will freak the bird out and send it on its way. Action shot to come!
Nope. The creature casually ignores the bike and opens its wings and begins to dry itself in the sun. Its not going anywhere. OK, fine. Now I’m thinking, if it will let a mountain bike zoom past at close range I should be able to walk behind it and get a decent backlit photo from there. So I work my way slowly in that direction. (Careful to avoid that big pile of horse crap there on the left!)
I move around the backside and get into position. This photo will be OK, I think. Not great. But OK. Then I notice the water stretching out to the right has interesting shadows and light. So I move a little further to my left. And…
There. Much better. A groovy silhouette.
From start to finish this took about 15 minutes. Slow, deliberate movements, a laid back bird, and constantly on the lookout for an interesting composition, I finally ended up with this. Not bad for an iPhone, I’d say.
Thanks for tuning in.
Good light and good shooting.
In this week’s video we talk a little about composition. What is a well composed photograph? Tune in to find out.
This past weekend I met a group of Civil War re-enactors at the Canal. After talking to the men honoring the 7th Pennsylvania Reserves from 1861 I learned a good deal about what drives some to go into Living History representations. Very thoughtful fellows. Hope you enjoy:
Although hiking the Billy Goat Trail was more of an effort at 52 than I remember it being at 22, I did make it to the end! I’d forgotten what a spectacular hike it is. Definitely going back again soon.
Hope you enjoy this video.