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Archive for the ‘Wetlands’ Category

 

The photographs accompanying today’s post mark the some of the last photos taken with my Nikon D200 and the last post for a couple of weeks. After a very long wait my newly purchased Nikon D800 has finally arrived and I will be heading out the door to have some fun with the new camera. Why did I upgrade? Certainly not because the D200 was not taking great images but quite simply, I require a new tool to capture the images I want, and I believe that the Nikon D800 will allow me to do just that. In the coming weeks we will see :)  The two images in today’s post are from Tiny Marsh Provincial Wildlife Area located neat Elmvale, Ontario. Do note in the last image I should have captured this photo a few seconds earlier when the highest part of the cloud formation was directly above the tallest tree on the right side of the image.

I hope everybody has a safe, fun-filled Canada Day weekend and to my friends south of the border, all the best on July 4 :)

Please click on each image to view a much larger version of the photos.

See you soon!

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While they may not be everybody’s cup of tea, Six-spotted Fishing Spiders are often found in frog ponds and they are very easy, and they are usually rather co-operative photographic subjects. While out in the ponds it is hard to pass up such interesting and cool looking critters that are easily photographed. In fact, last year several of the spider images I captured while photographing frogs and toads were featured in a children’s nature magazine, and one of the images was used as a double-page spread. Such ‘b-roll’ images also help to tell the story of life in the frog pond. A simple set-up of camera, macro lens, and a small flash on a user friendly flash bracket such as the Wimberley F-2 Macro Bracket to hold the flash out over the lens will do the trick every time. To read more about this set-up please refer to my earlier blog post regarding this set-up here.

Most often Six-spotted Fishing Spiders will rest on the water’s surface with their back legs hanging onto a cattail leaf or other vegetation on the surface of the pond. If my approach is to quick they will usually follow a cattail stem down to the bottom of the pond and rise to the surface again once they think the danger has passed. These very interesting spiders will frequently prey upon tadpoles and aquatic insect larvae. The first image below you will notice a small tadpole clinging to the cattail leaf beside one of the spider’s legs. In the above image note how the spider was positioned within the frame, so that the front legs are extending out into the two lower corners of the image to help create some symmetrical balance for the spider’s body being centered within the composition. Below you will see three additional images of Six-spotted Spiders including one carrying an egg sac.

Please click on each image to view a much larger version of these very interesting arachnids.

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After photographing so many frogs and toads this year I have decided that I would like to live a simpler, amphibious sort of life-style….and I just found the perfect piece of real estate. What do ya think? :)

Seriously though…I processed this abandoned trailer with Nik Software’s photoshop plugin Color Efex Pro 4 and ran the image through the ‘tonal contrast’ filter twice for a quick, down and dirty grunge look.

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Beaver Pond and Fall Colour

Over the last few days I was up at Horseshoe Lake and took advantage of the over-cast, rainy conditions to shoot some backwoods beaver ponds that I frequently explore. As usual, there are always a few trees that go into peak autumn foliage several weeks early than the rest of the trees. I made my way to this pond by following along several older beaver ponds and streams that connect the ponds, making note of the bear tracks along the way. As I made my way around a large fallen log at the edge of one pond I heard a splash in the water. I looked down to see my Lowepro lens case that I keep my Nikon 12-24mm lens floating in the pond. I jumped in to fetch the lens, unzipped the case and drained out the small amount of water that had leaked in. After drying the lens off with my t-shirt I began to examine the lens and it appeared that no water had leaked into the lens and no water reached the lens contacts. I further dried the lens with some micro-fiber cleaning cloths and created the image above, mostly to test the lens for moisture. So far all looks well, but just to be sure the lens will spend the next few days in a bag of silica gel that will absorb any moisture that cannot be seen. Being prepared for mishaps, should they unfortunately arrive, may just save the day. I always take along several micro-fibre cleaning cloths, clear plastic bags (for rain), knife, bear spray, electrical tape and an assortment of other things including my asthma inhaler. Many of these items are never needed, but you never know when they will be required.

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Yellow Pond Lilies in Horseshoe Lake Wetland

A quick post from one of my most favorite locations to photograph on Horseshoe Lake near Parry Sound, Ontario. I love shooting the water lilies in this wetland from my canoe. I will use a wide angle lens set to focus as close as it will allow, select an f-stop of around f16, hang-out over the edge of the canoe holding the camera just above the water’s surface, in front of a waterlily blossom and fire away.  I find it to be beneficial to remove the lens hood from the lens for such photography otherwise you will find the lens hood casts unpleasantly shaped shadows on the foreground lily pad leaves. It usually takes a few tries before I get the exact framing that I want, but it gives a different perspective of the wetland environment – a frog’s eye view if you will :)

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Tiny Marsh Provincial Wildlife Area at sunrise

Several days ago I drove over to Tiny Marsh for sunrise. I was greeted with a cloudless sky, not the most pleasing of situations for sunrise imagery. However, I ventured out across the wetland trails to see what might develop. As the sun rose above the horizon I captured a few images, minimizing the cloudless sky and allowing the wetland vegetation to dominate much of the image. Shortly after this I decided to walk out along the boardwalk trail to search for my favorite wildlife subjects – frogs. The boardwalk goes through a forested swampy section of  Tiny Marsh. My timing for this was perfect as there were many young Leopard Frogs at rest on fallen branches and resting among the duckweed in the water. I spent the next three or four hours shooting frogs. Since the frogs were in rather unpleasant lighting situations with the blazing sun casting harsh shadows as it streamed through the surrounding forest I decided to use my Nikon SB-400 on a home-made flash bracket to illuminate the scene. When I shoot frogs I always try to get down to their level if possible, so in this situation I lay down on the boardwalk to get as low as possible. The use of the flash solved the harsh, contrasting lighting, but it created another problem that I dislike very much – flash generated specular highlights. So began the task of eliminating these from the images. Often I will work on a photo very large (500-800%) to evict the highlights. I often use a variety of quick masks and clone stamp to complete this task. Due to the glossy, wet look of the amphibian`s skin this can sometimes be a time consuming task, taking 1-2 hours per image on occasion. I do find the extra effort is well worth the end result and when I complete the task why not try running through the photoshop plugin Fractalius.

Below you will see one of my Leopard Frog images from this day showing the original capture, the optimized file and of course the Fractalius rendering.

On another note, I have started a Facebook fan page today, still lots of work to do on it, but you may check it out here .

Original Capture

Optimized Image

Fractalius Version

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Tiny Marsh at sunrise (3-stop reverse graduated filter)

On Friday morning I made a quick trip up to Tiny Marsh for some sunrise photography. Tiny Marsh, located just west of Barrie, Ontario, is one of my favorite destinations for sunrise photography and wetland wildlife images too. Don’t let the name fool you, this is a very large wetland. The wetland section of this location is 600 hectares in size and is surrounded by 300 hectares of forest and fields. It is managed, in part, by Ducks Unlimited Canada. This was my first visit to the marsh this year as I have been too busy to get here sooner. I often arrive long before sunrise to allow time to walk out across the wetland trails to be where I want to be when the show begins. It is always a pleasure to listen to the sounds of the marsh as it awakens with the new day. Black Terns, Pied-billed Grebe, Osprey, Trumpeter Swans, Least Bitterns, Otters and many other critters abound here.

I have begun to use a Singh Ray 3-stop reverse graduated filter for sunrise photos where the sun is just above the horizon. The reverse graduated filter does a wonderful job at holding back the bright sun as it rises above the horizon. This filter yields more pleasing results for these type of images as opposed to using an ordinary graduated filter.

Tiny Marsh at sunrise (3-stop reverse graduated filter)

While waiting for the sun to rise don’t forget to look over your shoulder. Often you will find some rather pleasing colors in the sky. For the image below I used a combination of a Singh Ray 2-stop soft edge graduated filter with a Singh Ray Color Intensifier. The original image was composed with some wild rice poking into the foreground. To include the cloud formation reflections I was forced to include them in the composition and then evict them later in post processing.

Tiny Marsh (Singh Ray 2-stop grad filter & Color Intensifier)

As I was walking out along the wetland trail towards my car, the sun was much higher in the sky and broke through an opening in the cloud cover producing rays of light that shone down on the wetland. For the image below I used a 2-stop graduated filter and a Cokin Blue and Yellow Polarizing Filter. I don’t particularly like using the blue and yellow filter, but do find that it has its place when used sparingly. Often when using this type of filter with digital capture some adjustment to white balance and color temperature is required. If you are interested in using this type of filter I would suggest you purchase the Singh Ray version (I keep putting it off, but need to replace the Cokin one with this one) which is called ‘Gold-N-Blue” and to use if effectively refer to Darwin Wiggett’s blog entry at Focus on Singh Ray Filters.

Tiny Marsh (2-stop grad filter & Cokin Blue & Yellow polarizer)

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The July/August 2011 issue of WILD, a children’s magazine, published by the Canadian Wildlife Federation features one of my Green Frog images on the cover, as well as two additional images inside. The cover photo is an older, film photograph shot with Fuji Velvia 50 during a visit to Ontario’s Point Pelee National Park with a Nikon F80 and a Nikon 105mm micro lens, handheld while leaning out over the boardwalk. The image was scanned using the discontinued Nikon Super Coolscan 5000 ED in a specialized tensioning mount. This specialized tensioning mount is designed to hold the film flat for scanning. I am always proud of my images that are used in children’s publications. It is important that today’s children learn as much as possible about the natural world. I often take my daughter with me when I am canoeing in the marsh at the family cottage or out for walks to nearby frog ponds to see the tadpoles and other critters along the way. WILD is only available through subscription from the Canadian Wildlife Federation and not available at newsstands. Please visit the Canadian Wildlife Federation’s website here and click on the subscribe section to subscribe to WILD and other magazines offered by the Canadian Wildlife Federation.

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After a wild wind and rain storm yesterday the skies cleared and the temperature stayed relatively warm throughout the night. Perfect conditions for resuming my frog pond adventures. Every year when I venture out in to the vernal ponds ( created by melting snow and rainfall) in the 40 acre, abandoned cattle pasture behind my home I wonder if I will see the turtle again. The turtle is a snapping turtle, one of the largest I have ever seen. Last night we crossed paths while I was stalking the chorusing frogs. Since I was wearing my chest waders I sat down beside the turtle and waited for it to come up for air. When it did I captured the above image. I was rather glad to be wearing my chest waders as there were numerous bloodsuckers on the turtle, as can be seen in the photo, and many swimming among the grasses. I have absolutely no idea where this turtle goes once it leaves these ponds, it will leave in about a month or two, but every year it returns to hibernate here and for the last 14 years we cross paths in the ponds. I sat with this old friend for about half an hour and also had the opportunity to photograph a Giant Water Bug that was no doubt feasting on the bloodsuckers. I was also able to find a few cooperative frogs. The toads have just begun to arrive at the ponds, so they should commence chorusing in the coming days.

Hope you enjoy the photos.

Giant Water Bug

Green Frog

Spring Peeper with vocal sac inflated

Wood Frog with vocal sacs inflated

Common Toad

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Hola! This will be my last post for about a week and a half. Tomorrow I will be traveling to Cayo Santa Maria in the Cuban archipelago,  Jardines del rey, a Unesco World Biosphere. I am including various images from my last trip to this region of Cuba on the small island of Cayo Guillermo. Hope you enjoy the images.

Hasta luego! (hope I said that right)

Sunset on Cayo Guillermo

Green-backed Heron

Rippled Beach Sand

Mangrove Wetland

Tricolored Heron

Black-necked Stilt

Sunrise on Atlantic Ocean

Sunrise on Atlantic Ocean

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