Celebrating the Ordinary
The Northeast’s varied seasons offer something for everyone, but summer may rightfully claim the most fanfare. This August has delivered favorable weather to the region, and plenty of opportunities to get out the camera. Free time is arguably best spent on the water these days, and many of the migratory birds tend to agree. The Connecticut River has been running low in my neck of the woods, making entry to some of my favorite swampy stomping grounds a bit tedious. Nonetheless, wrestling a kayak through the mud is well worth the effort when there’s a busy marsh waiting on the other side.
The low water has created added shoreline, and the local herons have taken notice. I’ve been spotting great blues, greens, and black-crowned night herons wading about upon each and every launch. The newcomer for me however, is the double-crested cormorant. While these guys have a strong grip in other parts of the state (noteably Lake Champlain) I spotted my first local in a Connecticut River tributary in Bradford, Vermont. This youngster posed for a few shots on a log I’ve grown quite familiar with. It’s a spot I keep a close eye on, as it has hosted snappers, muskrats, herons, and more during my frequent visits.
This month I’ve found myself paddling a bit further down river, which has provided more than just good exercise. The extra effort has exposed some beautiful settings for photography just waiting for the right model to shape the scene. Of course, all wildlife and nature photographers seek that three-course helping of perfect light, a pristine setting, and a trophy specimen, but it’s a tough hat trick to pull off. I’m often content with two out of three, and any willing participant to play understudy for the day. Even the common Canada Goose will suffice. I used a large aperture to soften the scene in this photo, maximizing the drama and focus on the fleeting bird.
I carry this same philosophy into the woods as well. While I’ve been keeping an eye open for bull moose this summer, I must first find photogenic scenery and flattering light. Now I just need a nice pair of antlers to step out on stage. Luckily moose habitat tends to have natural beauty and interest, and the crepuscular habits of moose place them under the soft light of dawn and dusk. My last brief attempt turned up plenty of cow moose, but not a single bull. Nonetheless, I was able to capture some nice close-ups in the flor-abundant August forest.
I see about five cow moose for every bull, and the ratio of doe to buck sightings is even higher. Against these odds, I spotted a massive buck sporting a beautiful velvet rack up in Dixville, NH last weekend. Unfortunately, this guy bolted out of sight faster than my shutter finger leaving behind an eyewitness account but no evidence. While you might think this would leave an eager photographer deflated, it actually had the opposite effect. The wildlife experience is the real reward for the time I put in scanning the woods and water. The impressive buck turned a dull, bug-bitten evening into an exciting and memorable experience. It restored my patience. These are the creatures that keep my imagination stirring as I hear the twig-snapping approach of an unknown visitor.
The next morning I was paddling through a long narrow hallway of cattails on the Androscoggin when this very circumstance unfolded: the crackle of hooves on the forest floor grabbed my attention. My imagination filled-in the mysterious scene with a large bull moose just around the corner. I drifted into view to uncover the less-than-spectacular group of does, exchanging their careful tip-toing for a high-tailed retreat. Still no trophy, but beautiful creatures no less and another moment to remember from the woods.