Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Morning in the Swamp

Sandhills Alight
My favorite time of day is the morning, and one of my favorite places to be witnessing the day wake up is in a marsh or swamp.  Marshes are the lifeblood of the land here-filtering and holding water, and providing a unique place for so much of our native wildlife.  In a way, so much of the outdoor world starts it's day here.

Nearby is a small marsh area with some open water, the perfect place for waterfowl to roost overnight and a hangout for cranes and other birds and animals.  After setting a camo tent up the previous week to photograph some eagles, I decided to just move it down the road and find a concealed place to try my luck here.  Sneaking through the swamp grass in the pre-dawn and brightening sky, already the calls of cranes and nervous cackle of geese could be heard.  Managing to slip into the tent, the tripod was set and camera functions checked.  The small zippered window provided a great view of the water and hopefully wouldn't spook the birds.  Several pairs of geese noisily staked out their claims in different corners of the pond, while a drake wood duck made a quick landing in front of me.

My plan was to be all "professional-photographery" here, ready at an instant to click off award winning images.  It was not the case in the end.  Not wanting to have too much noise, I left the ISO fairly low, which in turn gave me too slow a shutter and blurry photographs of some of my feathered subjects.   Two cranes suddenly launched out from some cattails and quickly I just panned and fired away.  Everything was motion blurred, but the image above grew on me.  It looks like a slapped on Photoshop painterly filter, but in reality it was almost stock with some noise reduction.
Blackbird in Flight
The Red Winged Blackbirds really love this place and it was so loud with the mating calls and warble songs of the males flitting back and forth taking their places in the willows.  When the waterfowl action slowed (the geese had left for nearby fields) the camera found it's way their direction-they can be stunning as well for a common bird.
Hoodies Checking In
As Jim Brandenburg once said, a photographer needs to be ready in an instant, and on more than one occasion, I missed a picture.  This pair of Hooded Merganzers made a dive bomb entry into the marsh over my shoulder and I did manage a few frames as they flew past.  In this shot, I just liked the sun being filtered through the primaries on the wings...just wish I'd had a more interesting background-it needs a secondary subject to liven things up.
Sooo, back to the Black Birds.  It's not terribly exciting, but I did like the tack sharpness of the focus here, which is surprising considering the lens really had to hunt around to lock onto anything in this photograph.  A simple picture, but it holds my interest for a little while.  No worries that it'll end up in National Geographic!

As quickly as the day wakes with a start in the marsh, it also ends....most of the interesting wildlife has moved on to daytime duties and quickly it became much too warm for a mid March day-but that seems to be the theme this year.  I'll return and keep working on that winning (in my mind) photograph here in the swamp, a place with the sights, smells and sounds blend for a perfect start of a day.

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