Monday, April 26, 2010

I Noticed A Flying Jewel in My Garden

Every year around the 11th of April I take note of the return of our Hummingbirds. Give or take a couple of days, they arrive in my garden around the same date each Spring. This arrival seems to be perfectly timed with several flowering plants and bushes that provide a food source for these hungry little birds.
The other morning I decided to go take a few shots of our blooming Wiegelia, and I came face to face with this beautiful little Ruby throated hummingbird. They seem to love this bush, and more often than not, I can find one of them perched somewhere in the midst of it. Flying back and forth to our hanging hummingbird feeder, they return to the Wiegelia for a resting spot. It provides them with great cover and camoflage. Surprisingly, they blend right into the colors to the flowers and leaves.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Big Sensors and the Joy of Cropping

Digital photography has done so much for most of us in the field. We now have the ability to do so many things with our images that were much more difficult in the film era. As digital sensors advance, we are now seeing not only better images, but also much bigger images. While we thought 6 megapixel shots were great just a couple of years ago, we now expect cameras to offer us 12 - 24 megapixels as routine. Fullframe sensors are more common place today, and with the giant sensors and their increased size, we can now crop out small pieces of an image and still have plenty of resolution for a decent print.
The image above was a quick capture of a Goldfinch taken earlier this spring, and I then cropped a small portion of the image to produce this shot. The image you see here is roughly about one third of the complete shot. Still, using my Sony A900 with its' 24 mg. fullframe sensor, I was able to make a nice composition with sufficient resolution for a quality print. More and more I am finding that compositions can be enhanced with some selective cropping. I suggest you give it a try the next time you sit down to do some photo editing.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Things We Leave Behind

I am very fortunate to live where I do. Here in the midst of the Great Smokey Mountains, we have an abundance of beautiful scenery filled with an amazing variety of wildlife and plant life. It's hard not to be impressed with what is all around us.
For several years now, I have spent time exploring the local countryside and discovering a wealth of little hidden spots teaming with interest. One of those places is the abandon farm that lies behind my house. Just a couple of hundred yards down an old gravel road is an homestead that was once the home of a Tennessee family. Now, abandon and completely overgrown, it provides a special place for wildlife to roam without fear. Each time I visit this old farm, I find myself wondering about the family that once lived there. I never knew them, as the last member of the family had passed just shortly after I built my home nearby. I remember seeing their old pickup truck occasionally go out the road, but that was the extent of my knowledge of them.
What I do know, however, is that someone who once lived there, loved flowers. Today, even in the midst of all the entangled growth, are the remnants of flower gardens that must have been extraordinary in their day. Beds of Iris, patches of Columbine, gardens of native wildflowers, and plantings of Rhododendron cover most of the area around the old house. Spanning the length of front porch is a beautiful white Clematis, and within the vines of the plant are wild Shooting Stars. Yes, someone who loved flowers and who respected nature once lived here, and I am so thankful for what they left behind. My life, without ever knowing these folks, is now richer. Today I am thinking about what I want to leave behind.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Flowers and Feathers

It's always exciting to find a surprize, when you least expect it. Earlier this week, while pushing my way through some very tall grass and weeds trying to get some shots of wild Wisteria, I discovered this little Indigo Bunting enjoying a warm spot in the sunlight. These birds are common here in Tennesse during the summer months, but leave us early each fall to migrate south. This time of year we begin looking for them, along with the hummingbirds that seem to return about the same time.
Often mistaken for Bluebirds, these beautiful little birds can be found in open meadows, where they enjoy a diet of small grains and insects. The sight of their flash of blue is one you can't miss. The bird is a spectacular shade of blue that changes in the light as it catches different angles of the light beam. Sometimes appearing almost black, they may also show as a brilliant indigo blue.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tennessee Spring

Tennessee is perhaps known best for its' Smokey Mountains, although some would argue that the real draw is the Jack Daniels whiskey. Regardless of the attraction, we do have an amazing variety of birds that migrate through in the springtime. With a little patience, you can sit in the garden and see several species pass through during any given day.
This year has been especially beautiful, as we have had a spectacular bloom of redbud and dogwood, both of which are peaking this week in eastern Tennessee. I had the chance to do some shooting this week and just thought I would share one with all of you. I hope this gets you inspired to get out of the house and into the field. Trust me......the really good stuff is outside.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Springtime in the Bog Garden

As I travel around the country, I enjoy seeking out those hidden gardens that are missed by most folks, but hold endless pleasure to the locals who visit them on a regular basis. The Bog Garden in Greensboro, NC is a remarkable place, where local residents take their morning walks and bring the kids for an afternoon with nature. Thanks to the help of so many volunteers, the Bog Garden is kept spotlessly clean and cared for in the special way that only loyal volunteers can do.

Springtime in Greensboro is wonderful, as the entire city becomes alive with blooming flowers and shrubs of endless varieties. The neighborhoods explode with the colors of nature, and you just can't help being engulfed in the feeling of Spring. Greensboro makes you want to get up early and go for a walk, and when you do, you are never disappointed. The city is filled with beautiful parks that provide amazing color and fragrance. Flowers fill the air and birds relish in the abundant food sources that have been created.

My morning walk took me through the Bog Garden for the second day in a row, and once again I left feeling like I had spent the morning in yet another piece of paradise. How can you not love the sound of birds singing, and the sight of waterfowl landing on mirror lakes? Sometimes we just need to get ourselves out of the bed and get out early to see what nature has in store for us. I rarely get disappointed.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Special Places

Those of us who love nature and relish in its' beauty seem to always have found special places that draw us back again and again. For some it might be a mountain stream close to home, while for others it might be a secret spot deep in the desert. None of us can really explain the passion we feel for such a place, but all of us can understand the peace it can bring to our souls. I think all of us need such a place, and my hope is that everyone finds their own favorite spot in this world.
For me, I seem to be drawn to the marshes of the coastal regions of the eastern United States. Their I find the peace and solitude that feeds my creative soul. It is there that I find inspiration and restoration for my very being. Perhaps it's the quietness of the marsh or maybe the sound of the wind moving through the grasses that feeds my passion, but whatever it is .......I simply love it. I love the minute by minute anticipation of what will come next. The not knowing what lies ahead. I need the colors of the marsh to fill my head and warm my heart, and I marvel at the joy I can find there even in the midst of the rain.
I think man needs nature in ways he may not even know. I believe that in nature we are complete, and that when we open our hearts to what surrounds us, we see clearly and focus sharply. I wish everyone could find a special spot.....a place to reflect.....a place to learn about what is on the inside of all of us.