Fairytale Swans – Monochrome Madness Week 34

monochrome image of two mute swans swimming under treesClick on image for larger view.

At the beginning of August I featured the color version of this image, which I’ve included again below, but since it lent itself so well to black and white I decided to submit it to this week’s Monochrome Madness Challenge on Leanne Cole’s blog (click here to visit this week’s eclectic collection of great images).

While visiting the grounds of a small French chateau that was being restored, we found these two swans swimming at one end of a pond, where a a group of very old cedar trees leaned over the water, draping their branches close to the surface and obscuring most of the light. But a few small shafts of sunlight succeeded in penetrating the gloom, spotlighting the swans and reflecting some of the  light onto the tree trunks. I fired off a couple of quick shots before the swans moved out of the light, but I wasn’t optimistic about the results as my camera really struggles with low light situations, and I didn’t have time to set up a tripod even if I’d had one with me. But when I saw the image on my computer I was enchanted, and I found myself wishing I’d spent more time trying for different angles, just to see what might have come out of it. In any case, I love this shot. I love the green glow in the color version; the spotlighting of the swans; the reflected light; the way both swans appear to be checking out their own reflections; the serenity of it… I don’t think I could have designed the scene more perfectly, and I absolutely didn’t manipulate it in post processing, which was minimal — just minor, very basic Lightroom on a RAW image stuff. Well, okay I did pop the green a tiny amount in the color version, but really very little. I can’t decide if I like this one or the color one more. I really like the effect of the green from the moss and foliage which enhances the glow in the color image, and the pop of color of the swan’s bills, yet I think the black and white version works well, too. The emphasis in each feels different to me…possibly more about the swans in the monochrome, and more about the whole scene in the color one? Any opinions?

Two swans swimming in the dark

Images from Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary

heron in water, fall colors behind

With fall migration well under way we are seeing a lot of feathered visitors to the area. I went out three times in the last couple of weeks to Reifel bird sanctuary, on the coast just south of the city of Vancouver, BC. The first visit, the sanctuary was crawling with shorebirds, mostly Greater Yellowlegs and Dowitchers, more than 30 Sandhill cranes, and off in the distance, feeding along the intertidal flats, were the first tens of thousands of Snow geese who had flown in from Wrangel Island in the Siberian arctic. I’ll be featuring snow geese images in a future post.

On the second visit, there were not quite as many Snow geese, tho still a huge number, and a large number of them were resting in one of the fields just outside the sanctuary perimeter. The ground was white with geese. I was excited because I spotted a lone white headed, dark goose among the masses…at one time called a Blue Goose, but now known to be a Snow goose with one different color gene. Like the adult white geese, they have pink legs and bills, vs the grey legs and bills of the dark juveniles, so they can be definitively identified as the blue version. Since these blue colored geese are not common (I presume it is a recessive gene ie, needs two alleles to express the gene) I was pumped that I had spotted one among so many white geese. In the sanctuary proper a fair number of Northern Shoveler ducks had arrived…I love watching them, with their wide, goofy bills attached to birds that are really quite similar in appearance and color to Mallard ducks, tho somewhat smaller. Lots of Mallards, as usual, of course and the Pintail duck numbers had increased quite a lot too. The Yellowlegs had presumably moved on as their numbers were considerably lower than the week before.

Then last week when I arrived, the field outside the sanctuary had a mass of Snow geese, but smaller numbers and very fidgety…perhaps with cause as there was a hunter with two dogs walking along the road nearby. I have to say, I find it quite unsportsmanlike to hunt birds across the road from a migratory bird sanctuary… It was interesting to find that a much greater number of geese, great hordes in fact,  were hunkered down in three large  fields -inside- the sanctuary, along with a relatively small flock of white fronted geese and two relatively small flocks of Canada geese, and there were Mallards in enormous numbers -everywhere- at that end of the sanctuary. There is a slough that parallels the entry road into the sanctuary, I guess it’s about a half mile? and it was wall to wall ducks, mostly mallards. And more of them in the fields with the geese, too. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many mallards in one place before. The Dowitchers were still hanging around, a handful of the cranes too, probably the mostly-resident ones. The American Widgeons have started to arrive, a few green-winged Teal, things are heating up. A Sawhet owl had been reported several times, but I failed to locate it. They are hard to spot, considering they’re the size of a tennis ball it’s a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack… Lots of herons this time, but too far off for most of them with my 250mm lens. But at the end of the day, I came across one perched above the trail in a pine tree. I brought home a considerable number of images of this bird, but altho I waited for nearly an hour for it to lift off and give me a great in flight image, it didn’t happen and I had to leave because the sanctuary gates were about to be locked…

Painted chickadee

I always forget to plant sunflowers in the garden until it’s too late — I’ve always wanted to see if the chickadees would come around for the seeds. I’m also reading about other bloggers visiting botanical gardens for photo shoots, and I would love to do that. But I don’t have one close by — at this time of year I want access to a garden full of dahlias and other flowers to shoot. Then this morning when I was wondering where I would go to shoot today, taking advantage of no rain for the moment, I remembered that there’s a large community garden close to one of the beaches I visit. They would be winding down and cleaning up for the season, but there would still be dahlias there! And sunflowers! I grabbed my camera and off I went…

Sure enough, dahlias there were and not only sunflowers as well, but chickadees visiting them! I didn’t like the background on the image that I want to feature on my blog today, and I’ve been playing in my software again, so I gave it a full art treatment.

chickadee hanging off sunflower head



blurred leavesClick on images for larger view.

Back in May I mentioned how much I like intentional blurs in photography, and featured two that I had created in post processing. Click here  and here if you’d like to see them. But I also make them in-camera, and this is the time of year when I tend to be out shooting them, when the flowers are becoming scarce and the weather is dreary (read low light), and I spend considerable time waiting around for birds at the bird sanctuary to do something other than just look pretty. Two things happened this week that made me think about blurs now in particular: I was talking to a fellow photographer and we got on the subject of intentional blurs and he mentioned a photographer who does a lot of them. In checking out her work, I was inspired to dig out my blur images and also to shoot some new ones. I also attended a watercolor painting demo by an artist I really like, and was inspired by him as well. Because I love to combine photography with painting, or at least make images that look painterly, intentional blurs really appeal to me because so often they look like paintings.

Apart from minor tonal adjustments in Lightroom (contrast, highlights, shadows, clarity, and a touch of vibrance on some), all of these images are as they came out of the camera. When shooting blurs I always take dozens of similar images because every one of them is different, and only a few tend to be worth keeping. I think my favorite in this group is the last one in the gallery…the clarity and transparency of the leaves appeal to me.



Woodland butterfly    Another Blurred Butterfly

Enjoying the outdoors

Click on image for larger view. two horseback riders disappearing the trees

Two riders enjoying a leisurely ride in nearby Campbell Valley park. This park has 29 km of trails, including 14 km hiking/equestrian trails, that wind their way through woodland and fields. Home to deer, coyotes, muskrats, raccoons, squirrels, owls, a few ducks, and other miscellaneous wildlife, there are occasional bear and cougar sightings, but these don’t live in the park but are just passing through. I understand a cougar sighting was reported in the last couple of weeks, but as far as I know these sightings haven’t ever been followed up by any incidents. The park is located amid farmland and more and more residential areas, and is a lovely place to get away from everything for a few hours.


Grooming session – Monochrome Madness Week 33

closeup of two horses grooming each other, in dark monochromeClick on image for larger view.

Time for Monochrome Madness again. I thought I’d offer a complete about-face from last week’s high key, minimalist image. It shows Oporto and friend having a thorough mutual grooming session in a tree-shaded corner.

Click here to head on over to Leanne Cole’s blog to check out all of Week 33’s great black and white images.