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The Story of the Fox
6/21/2012 7:57:40 PM

Earlier this week I posted some photos of a fox that were taken last weekend.  The story behind those photos is one of coincidence and pleasant surprises along with some earlier disappointment.  Personal issues have made me stay close to St. Louis this year so I have concentrated my photography efforts in a small number of locations.  One of my favorites is Lone Elk Park where the county has free roaming herds of elk and bison along with a number of whitetail deer.

On Sunday I got off to a late start and decided to see what photo opportunities Lone Elk Park offered.  While there I was able to get a good photo of this wild turkey (one of three that I saw)

and some photos of this years bison calves like the one below.

Even so, the visit was something of a disappointment because of the limited number of animals seen.

As I started home, I decided to visit another park area, the Powder Valley Nature Preserve.  This is an area where I enjoy hiking in the winter and early spring.  I've seen a number of whitetail deer in the area and the Conservation Department also has feeding stations set up for the native birds.  Shortly after my arrival I was walking to the viewing blind near the feeding stations when I came across this doe at a salt lick about ten feet from the trail.

By moving slowly I was able to observe her for several minutes until she walked away undisturbed.  After looking for any feeding birds I decided to walk around one of the hiking trails.  Surprisingly, she came along the same trail and started feeding within three or four feet of where I was standing.  Had I seen nothing else, this would have made the visit a success.

I then moved back up around the visitor's center where I captured several shots of bees on the flowers in bloom like this one.

I also managed to get a couple of photos of this hummingbird on their feeders.

After this I decided to head home.  I was in my truck, leaving the parking area, when this guy jumped out of the bushes along the road and then jumped right back out of sight.  I paused for a moment and he suddenly jumped out again a short distance away.  Grabbing my camera I snapped off this shot thinking it would be my only opportunity.

Much to my surprise, instead of running away again, he decided to sit down and scratch. 

Each time my shutter snapped, his ears would perk up and he would look toward my truck but he seemed more curious than nervous.  He sat for two or three minutes offering several photo opportunities and then, shortly after the final photo below, bounded back into the woods not to be seen again.

I've never had the opportunity to photograph one of these guys in the wild before and doubt that it will happen again.  Even so, it motivates one to keep trying because you never know when a bad day will turn out to be really good.

I Hate Spammers
6/7/2012 10:22:49 AM

I enjoy posting an occasional item to my blog here and really appreciate comments from those who read the posts.  Unfortunately the world is full of people who want to spoil things for the rest of us.  The target of my comments are the "spammers" who have nothing better to do than to clutter our blogs, email, and web sites with trivial, worthless, and sometimes harmful posts.

For those who view my blog, please be assured that I do not use it for commercial purposes.  I don't support the supposed online sales of products from Caroline Herrera, Boss, or any other manufacturer.  I won't ask you to share any personal information nor will I ask you to click on a link to any other site without a clear and full explanation.

I have been trying to delete spam comments from my blog on a daily basis but the garbage continues to show up there each morning so I suspect it gets added throughout the day.  My apologies to anyone who finds the spam offensive as I do.

Thoughts on the Lantern Festival
6/3/2012 10:47:30 AM

For the last several weeks, the Missouri Botanical Garden has been preparing for their big event of the summer, the Lantern Festival.  A number of Chinese craftspeople, both men and women, came to St. Louis to build a number of large displays from steel, silk, and a variety of other materials.  While these displays can be visited during the day, the real beauty comes out when darkness falls and the lanterns are lit to show their full colors.

Much of the construction took place in the Garden parking lot while some also occurred in place.  I've taken a few photos as progress was made and shared them on my SmugMug site (http://frymanfoto.smugmug.com) and my Facebook site and other photos can be seen on the Garden's web and Facebook sites.

The Lantern Festival itself opened to the public on Memorial Day weekend.  I decided early that I wouldn't go to opening weekend because of the expected crowds and associated problems with parking and other things.  While I missed some of the extra events, I still believe that was a good decision.  Instead, I made my first evening visit on June 2.  There was still a large crowd but the Garden was well organized and prepared to support everyone.

Each Thursday - Sunday this summer (through August 19), the Garden will light all of the lanterns beginning at 8 PM and will be open for visitors until 10 PM.  As could be expected, when the lights first come on at eight, the effect is minimal because of the remaining daylight.  As it gets darker, the true colors and lighting affects really come into play.  I posted a set of photos from last night's display for all to view at http://frymanfoto.smugmug.com/MoBot-2012/Lantern-Festival-2012-06-02 .

I've really enjoyed taking photos of both the festival preparations and the lit lanterns and will probably continue to take photos of some of the displays throughout the summer.  At the same time, last night's efforts reminded me of some challenges associated with photographing events like this.

I made two trips to the Garden yesterday - first from seven to nine in the morning for early walking hours and then from six to nine in the evening.  The morning hours are some of the best for taking photos of the flora and fauna in the Garden because most people there are either walkers or other photographers.  Most visitors don't arrive until regular hours.  The evening visit was dictated by when the lanterns would be lit.   The two visits made for a long and tiring day (but I slept well last night :-)).

For me, an event like this really calls for the use of available light.  Few, if any, portable flash systems can provide enought light for large displays like those at the Lantern Festival and using artificial light could actually take away from the impact of the lantern lighting.  While there were lots of people using the flash in their smart phones or on their cameras, this probably added little to their photos.  Of course, available light means long exposures.  And this, in turn, means that some sort of camera support is needed to minimize (eliminate) camera movement.

I used a monopod for camera support.  While the monopod is better than hand holding the camera, it still isn't as stable as a good tripod.  The result was a number of images that were tossed because they were blurred.  Even so, the monopod was a good idea because the crowds would have made it difficult to use a tripod.  I saw several other photographers trying with mixed results.  If I go to another evening event I'm not sure if I will stick with the monopod or try to use a tripod even though it is less convenient.

The other problem with the crowd was finding good viewpoints to take photos where people would not block the shot or bump you while the camera lens was open.  Luckily my visit in the morning gave me some ideas for places where I could take photos that were a little out of the flow of most walking traffic.  Even so, I missed a few shots that I really wanted because the displays were blocked.

Although there were a number of challenges, I feel like the results outweigh any problems encountered and may do this again before the Lantern Festival closes.
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