Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Adventures in Photography: Lupine in Sugar Hill, NH

The Fields of Lupine Festival in Sugar Hill, NH is a quintessential New England event. It offers a lot of small town charm and quaint country character for the modern soul. Many residents and businesses in Sugar Hill have planted thousands of lupine throughout their town, which is located in the heart of the beautiful White Mountains.

The lupine, a member of the pea family is one of my favorite flowers. Its tall spike of purple, white or pink flowers is simply stunning. Often found in meadows in large colonies, lupine add a serious punch of color to any scene.

Blooming in late spring, lupine are a herald of summer.   From grand landscapes to intimate macros, lupine provide an infinite amount of photographic possibilities. Used in the foreground, these colorful flowers make any vista more beautiful. Framed as the subject of the photograph, lupine are great for vertical compositions. Macro possibilities are endless with lupine.

When you are ready for something different, try camera painting these outstanding flowers. Slow the shutter speed of your camera to ½ second or longer and purposely move the camera up and down while the shutter is still open. This will create a blur. Vary the shutter speeds and the speed of the camera movement until you make images that please you.

Another great technique is to zoom your lens in or out with a slow shutter speed. This often creates a tie-dye like effect of swirling colors. It is best to try this where the lupine are numerous and growing close together.

The best time to photograph lupine may be on cloudy days. The lack of contrast allows for beautiful exposures and great saturation of colors.

This year's Fields of Lupine Festival will be held from June 1 through June 17. To attend the festival in Sugar Hill, head to Hartman’s Cheese and Country Store or Polly’s Pancake Parlor and pick up your guide to all of the best lupine sites. The guide costs five dollars and its map alone is worth every penny. Both Hartman’s and Polly’s are famous in their own right; with people in the know, coming from all over the northeast to fill up on their culinary delights.
After spending a day or a weekend making fantastic images of beautiful lupine, consider submitting your best images to the Fields of Lupine Photo Contest. The winner will have their photo featured on the cover of next year’s guide!

This Month’s Tip: When photographing flowers, be sure to wait until the wind is calm. Flowers swaying in the wind will often blur. Patience is the key. Be ready for when the wind finally calms. You may only get one chance at the shot before the wind picks up again.
Greg Lessard is a professional photographer. You can join him this summer for a fantastic adventure in California and Yosemite National Park. For more info, visit his blog at http://blog.greglessardphotography.com/2012/03/california-photographing-yosemite-san.html

Saturday, April 7, 2012

On the fence...

Yesterday I had a great time watching and photographing this snowy owl. It may have been the same one that was attacked by the osprey on Sunday. I found him at dawn on an observation tower. There were already two photographers there. By mid morning there were close to ten photographers. We kept our distance (about 50 yards)and made numerous photos as the owl surveyed the area for a potential meal. During that time we spotted a glossy ibis, a swan, a great egret with breeding plumage starting to show around the eyes, numerous blackbirds, a pair of buffle heads, and the infamous osprey. The osprey was fishing, but at one point it came very close to the owl. It seemed to consider attacking the owl, but decided to keep on fishing. It may have helped that the owl was much further away from the osprey's nest.

As the morning wore on, the owl perked up and flew off the tower. It landed a few hundred yards away on an old fence, covered with vines and thorns. With the blue sky behind the owl, it made for a beautiful setting.

The owl remained alert, looking for a meal. Soon, it flew from its perch to chase a flock of Canadian geese. It didn't attack them, it just scared them from a grassy spot into a pond.

After a few minutes it made an attack. It looked like it attacked a goose or duck, but it was hidden behind some tall grasses and very far away (at least 150 yards).

I moved for a better perspective and at the same time the owl jumped into the water. It seemed like it may have been drowning its prey. It would occasionally put its beak into the water and tear at whatever it held.

After a few minutes the owl flew off without its quarry. The scene left me baffled as to what the owl had attacked. It would have taken the owl much longer to eat a duck or goose and I couldn't imagine it would leave it in the water without eating it. The strangest part of the encounter was that the geese stayed very close to the owl while it was in the water (less than 5 feet).

Later, I spoke to an expert on snowy owls. His best guess was that the owl had caught a vole in the grass and was drowning it. Another photographer suggested that the geese didn't leave, because they felt confident in large numbers. I also think that geese tend to have a bit of an attitude and they were definitely bigger than the owl. This may have caused them to be overconfident when they were near the owl. Of course, if the owl was busy eating a vole, maybe the geese knew they were safe.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Snowy Owl vs. Osprey and Crows

This morning, I was fortunate to photograph snowy owls. One in particular had a very bad day. It was attacked by an osprey at least twice, crows at least twice and what looked to be swallows at least twice. It did manage to find an enormous mouse or vole for dinner in between all of the battles.

It was amazing to watch the interactions between the owl and the other birds. The osprey was protecting its nearby nest. As it flew to grab branches from tree tops to build its nest, it would occasionally fly close enough to harass the owl. On the osprey's first attack, the owl flipped upside down in the air and raised its talons towards the osprey. This action kept the osprey at a distance. The owl quickly flew to the ground with a blue bird box pole at its back for protection. The osprey gave up and returned to its nest.

Later in the day, the osprey found the owl even closer to its nest. It attacked again, coming much closer this time. After five or six swooping attacks, the osprey flew away. It was quickly replaced by a crow that took up the attack. After a few more passes at the owl, the crow also moved on.

It is tough to be a snowy owl at the top of the food chain. The other birds are quite aware of the owl's lethal potential and they do their best to make it unwelcome.

I have posted a few images that illustrate the owl's day. I will post more of the osprey soon.
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