Stephen Kirkpatrick

Monday, August 29, 2011


Just landed a new contract with Jackson-Evers International Airport for photography in two concourses and a large mural near baggage claim. I've been proud to have my work displayed there for the past five years, and am looking forward to creating a "fresh" exhibit for the space. Look for it to go up in 2012. 

Photo below is currently displayed in baggage claim as an 8' x 16' mural.

Twelve-spotted Skimmer (Libellula pulchella) & Dew  
September 2003
from the book  

22) Purple Gallinule Searching - (V)
Rankin County
August 24, 2011, 6:54 am
Clear, 77 degrees
500mm, 1/50@f4, Tripod

23)  Gray Squirrel - (H)
Madison County
August 24, 2011, 3:22 pm
Partly Cloudy, 94 degrees
500mm, 1/30@f4, Tripod
24)  White-tailed Deer - Doe & Fawn - (H)
Madison County
August 29, 2011, 12:23 pm
Clear, 94 degrees
500mm, 1/80@f4, Tripod

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Splendor In The Grass

This morning, I experienced one of the most magical moments in my entire 30-year career as a wildlife photographer. 

I left my house at 5:40 a.m. and hiked to the edge of a nearby pond to wait for the sunrise. The dawning was pretty (really, is there ever an ugly one?), but not the killer sunrise I had hoped for. With no shots taken, I gathered my gear and headed home

Sunrise over pond...almost but not quite

Walking back in the early morning light, I crossed into a field bursting with striking yellow goldenrod and intensely purple ironweed. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted something that didn’t fit (that is how I usually search for subject matter). Upon closer inspection, I saw a smooth green snake weaving around a stalk of goldenrod – a great shot, certainly worthy of a place On A RollI dropped to my knees in the tall grass and wrestled the tripod into place. I was focusing on the snake when I heard a strange, faint “buuuaaazzzz.”

I peered through the tall grass – where I was crouching, the vegetation was above eye level – searching for what I thought must be a bumblebee (or something else making an unfamiliar sound).


I returned my attention to the snake, but the noise came again, only louder.

Smooth Green Snake (Opheodrys vernalis) in Goldenrod

Again, I looked...nothing. Again, back to the snake. Then again, the strange sound, but louder still. Okay, whatever it was had my attention.

I stopped and stared in the direction of the sound and heard a rustling in the grass. Still down on my knees, I could not see very far. There it was, the sound again, but very close now, and I could see the grass, goldenrod, and ironweed moving.

Suddenly two huge eyes appeared, literally five feet away from me, followed by a soft black nose and two white ears. A fawn, certainly no more than three weeks old, was staring me down, unsure what I was. The little face was framed by dew-covered grass and flowers, creating a scene right out of a Disney movie.

I moved to shift the camera, but the little fawn turned and jumped. Then he (or she) came back again, still bleating and obviously looking for his mother. It was apparent I couldn’t get a shot from where I was kneeling so I stood up slowly, still in a state of wonder and amazement. The fawn jumped through the grass, going back and forth and heading to the nearby woods.

Even though I didn’t get the shot for On A Roll, that memory will be etched into my mind forever. To come that close to a wild fawn in the wilderness, hear his soft little “bleats,” and have his curious eyes meet mine was a thrilling, magical experience, such a special moment that it really doesn’t crush me that I didn’t get the shot.

After all, I will always have the memory. And for once, I can make the statement, 
“You should’ve been here this morning!”   

15) Red-tailed Hawk Panting - (H)
Madison County
August 4, 2011, 7:23 pm
Clear, 96 degrees
500mm w/2xTC , 1/200@f8, Tripod
16) White-tailed Deer - (H)
Madison County
August 18, 2011, 9:58 am
Clear, 87 degrees
500mm, 1/15@f4, Tripod

17) Gulf Fritillary on Sunflower - (H)
Madison County
August 18, 2011, 10:53 am
Overcast, 89 degrees
17-35mm, 1/160@f5.6,  Hand Held

18) Praying Mantis - (V)
        Madison County

       August 18, 2011, 4:00 pm

        Cloudy, 81 degrees

        180mm, 1/500@f5.6,  Tripod

19) Green Tree Frog Resting - (H)
Madison County
August 22, 2011, 3:52 pm
Clear, 99 degrees
60mm, 1/2@f13, Tripod
20) Ruby-throated Hummingbird - (H)
Madison County
August 22, 2011, 5:12 pm
Clear, 99 degrees
500mm, 1/40@f4, Tripod
21) Smooth Green Snake - (H)
Madison County
August 23, 2011, 6:57 am
Cloudy, 77 degrees
17-35mm, 1/10@f9, Tripod

(photos shot with IPhone)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Should've Been Here Yesterday

In photography, timing is everything. That's clear in the split-second timing of an action photo, like the one below that captures a leaping deer the instant the jump reaches its apex. But there are other, more subtle examples of "perfect timing," like seasonal fall color at its peak or spring buds just as the flowers burst open. 

White-tailed Deer Leaping at Sunrise  
December 2009
from the book  
SANCTUARY: Mississippi's Coastal Plain

With wild orchids, it's all about the bloom. I began shooting Mississippi orchids in May of 1992. My first exposure was of grass-pink orchids (Calopogon barbatus) in the 194-acre Sweetbay Bogs Preserve owned by the Nature Conservancy. Since that day 19 years ago, I have been gradually trying to photograph all of the state's native orchids, approximately 50 species.

Bearded Grass-pink Orchids (Calopogon barbatus)
May 1992
from the book

The blooming season for Mississippi orchids begins in March and continues through October. Photographing the orchids is the easy part. Finding them, getting to them, and timing the shots to coincide with that elusive bloom is another story altogether. Most Mississippi orchids are on the small side and are not overly "showy." A couple of listed species have either disappeared or have apparently never really been here in the first place, and a couple of others may have only one or two known populations in the entire state.  

I have often thought my autobiography should be titled, Should've Been Here Yesterday. I arrived in Alaska’s Denali National Park the day after a grizzly bear took down a moose in front of a bus full of tourists. I dove in the waters of Utila, Honduras, three days after a sighting of two 30-foot whale sharks. And I was once awakened in the Amazon rain forest by an unearthly screaming, which turned out to have been a jaguar killing chickens a few feet from where I slept. I missed that shot by a few seconds. 

This week, I wrote another chapter in that aggravating autobiography. I spent Monday and Tuesday in search of a new orchid, the crested coral root (Hexalectris spicata), a beautiful but inconspicuous species of orchid that derives food by parasitizing very specific fungi. I was accompanied by a different botanist each day, Heather Sullivan from the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science in Jackson on Monday and Kevin Philley with the Corps of Engineers in Vicksburg on Tuesday. Each had previously located and recorded this species. 

We drove a total of 424 miles over nine hours, followed by a sweaty search on foot. Alas, no orchids, even though this had been deemed the perfect week to see them. In the first location, several trees had fallen exactly where the orchids had been seen a couple of years before; it is possible the tiny orchids were crushed beneath them. At the second spot, we actually located the orchids, but they had already flowered and died. 

It will be another year before I can try again. 

So, nothing shot for On A Roll, but another chapter written for Should’ve Been Here Yesterday.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

River Run

Peaceful morning on Leaf River, fog and fungi.
Nothing for On A Roll. (shot with IPhone)

Foggy morning reflections on Leaf River

Eastern Cauliflower Mushroom (Sparassis crispa)

Friday, August 5, 2011

Passing Up Is Hard To Do

Hindsight is a new pain I am feeling while working on this project. Here are a couple of shots that I passed up this week (shot with IPhone).

Sunflower, Blazing Star and Bee

Sun rays through morning storm clouds 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Lessons Taught and Lessons Learned

It’s not even 11:00 a.m., and this has already been a full day.

When I stepped outside at 5:00 a.m. this morning, the thermometer was already registering 82 sticky degrees. By 6:20, I had my next shot for On A Roll, an image of canada geese at sunrise. Afterward, I was hiking through a field and spotted a two-week-old fawn. The lighting wasn’t good and a branch in the shot spoiled the composition. This was a shot I would have taken under “ordinary” circumstances, but in my quest for the ideal roll, I passed. It was a tough decision, but further proof that even a seasoned (okay, old) photographer like me can still learn to think in new ways. 

At 8:00 a.m., 
I met Sam Andrews, a 16-year-old, aspiring wildlife photographer, for a private photo lesson. We went to work together shooting flowers, bees, and butterflies. One of the most important tips I shared with Sam was to get out of the “auto” mode – turning the camera on and taking photos on automatic settings – and into the “manual” mode – adjusting the settings himself to not only get the best possible shot, but to create his own photographic look and style. Working with Sam was not only enjoyable, but also served as a reminder to myself  that a good photographer never stops “seeing” and thinking on the job.

By the time the lesson ended, the heat index was over 100 degrees, but I never noticed how hot it was until I was walking back to the car. Another reminder of how much pure fun you can have when you’re fully immersed in your craft.  

Sunrise on reservoir this morning, 6:25 am, 84 degrees!

9) Daisy Fleabane and Grasshopper - (V)
Madison County
July 29, 2011, 10:23 am
Cloudy, 90 degrees
180mm, 1/200@f7.1, Tripod
10) Trumpet Creeper and Clouds - (V)
Madison County
July 30, 2011, 11:29 am
Partly Cloudy, 90 degrees
17-35mm, 1/200@f14, Hand Held
11) Indigo Bunting Singing in Sunrise - (H)
Madison County
August 1, 2011, 6:28 am
Clear, 80 degrees
500mm w/2xTC, 1/4000@f8, Hand Held (resting on tree limb)

12) Eastern Box Turtles Mating - (H)
Madison County
August 1, 2011, 10:03 am
Clear, 90 degrees
17-35mm, 2.5 sec.@f22, Tripod
13) Bolete Pores - (H)
Madison County
August 2, 2011, 11:02 am
Clear, 90 degrees
60mm, 5 sec.@f32, Tripod
14) Sunrise and Canada Geese - (H)
Madison County
August 3, 2011, 6:20 am
Clear, 82 degrees
500mm, 1/250@f4, Tripod

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