Stephen Kirkpatrick

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Say Cheese!

Tuesday was "portrait day" at Kirkpatrick Wildlife Photography.

Bumble Bee (Bombus rufocinctus)

Green Tree Frog (Hyla cinerea)

Green Lynx Spider (Peucetia viridans) Eating
 Notch-tipped Flower Longhorn (Typocerus sinuatus)

Great Black Wasp (Sphex pensylvanicus)

Praying Mantis (Mantis religiosa

Water Moccasin (Agkistrodon piscivorus)

(all photos taken with Nikon P7000)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Daily Double

Yesterday afternoon turned out to be rich in interesting subject matter and I ended up getting two shots On A Roll. Below are a few other things I encountered while I was out. By the way, a few readers have asked me how I’m posting photos on the blog when the roll is still in the camera. To clarify, I’m taking the shots you see here with another camera or sometimes even with my iPhone, not with the camera that still holds THE roll.

Muscadine Vine (Muscadinia rotundifolia) and Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum)

The edge of the marsh was thick with plant life and the butterflies and bees were converging on the boneset, one of their favorite foods.

Immature Water Moccasin (Agkistrodon piscivorus)

This little guy was less than a foot long. I thought he was cute but I would guess most people would disagree. When they are young their coloration can be a lot more bold. Be warned -  their bite is every bit as potent as that of an adult.

Changing Leaves

I isolated a composition in this group of leaves and got it On A Roll. With the odd, contrasty lighting I'm curious to see how it turns out.

32)    Decaying Fall Leaf - (H)
Madison County
September 26, 2011,  5:23 pm
Clear,  79 degrees
500mm, 1/200@f7.1, Tripod


The vegetation was bustling with activity, full of katydids, grasshoppers and green tree frogs.

Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) at Dusk

This is the same flock of geese I shot On A Roll. This shot was taken a few minutes later as they headed to a nearby cornfield.

33)    Canada Geese in Flight at Sunset - (H)
Madison County
September 26, 2011,  6:44 pm
Clear,  76 degrees
500mm, 1/500@f8, Hand Held

Oak Tree at Sunset

(all photos taken with Nikon P7000)

Friday, September 23, 2011

How'd You Do That?

I often get questions about how specific photographs were taken, and thought I’d use this blog to answer from time to time. These answers lean toward the technical aspect of capturing the shot rather than the adventurous aspects of finding the wildlife featured. 
The two photos below have generated a lot of questions. They are both single in camera photos on film using natural light. They were not put together from two different shots in photoshop or otherwise manipulated.  

                    Equipment used for these shots was:
                    Nikon F100 Camera
                    17-35mm f2.8 Nikkor Lens 
                    Subal Split Diopter + 3/ND2  Filter (bullfrog only)
                    Subal Underwater Housing
                    Dome Port  
                    Fuji Velvia Film

Bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana) on Lily Pad
July, 2006

The bullfrog photo cannot be accomplished in camera without using the split filter. Simply put, water magnifies, and a diopter is needed for the focus to be equal above and below the water’s surface. Since the light above the surface is usually brighter than below, the top half of the split needs darkening to balance the lighting across the entire image. This filter accomplishes that as well. As a side note, the diopter/neutral density optics come in different graduations of power for use in different situations.

Southern Stingray (Dasyatis americana) and Boat
May, 2008

The stingray photo, on the other hand, was taken without this filter because the ray and boat are two different subjects, not connected above and below the water. The distance between the ray and boat were about the same, the water magnified the scene, making it appear as though the ray was much closer. I also increased the depth of field by using a smaller aperture. The shallow, crystal clear water and white sand of Grand Cayman negated the need for a graduated split neutral density filter. Lighting above and below the water’s surface were about equal.

Other lessons learned in taking these photos: When a large bullfrog eats another, smaller frog, he tends to be too full to hop out of the frame, and stingrays have no problem making eye contact with the camera.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Blood Suckers

I don't know where you are located but around here these suckers (pun intended) are eating me alive. They are extremely bad right now and yes, that red belly you see here was filled from my veins. 

Southern Mosquito (Culex quinquefasciatus)

With 210 to 240 frost-free days (temperate climate) and 50 to 60 inches of rainfall per year, Mississippi's climate is favorable for mosquito development. The insect is found on every continent except Antarctica. In fact, Canada has 74 species, some of which develop in snowmelt water. 

Worldwide there are over 2500 mosquito species, 169 species in North America north of Mexico and approximately 60 species in Mississippi. Only the females feed on blood.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Light Show

I’ve been waiting for an interesting sky for weeks.

Watching the weather patterns and cloud movement yesterday afternoon, I saw the potential for something special. As the “magic hour” before sunset approached, all of the conditions were coming together. I had monitored a flock of Canada geese working a nearby cornfield for several days and knew exactly where to set up. I pictured them coming in with wings set against a flaming red sky. I could already see the shot clearly in my mind’s eye.

The mixture of sun and clouds created a sky that went wild. I heard the rhythmic honking of the geese in the distance. My heart raced. A sense of urgency swept over me. It was going to happen.

To the east – rainbows.

To the west – a burning sky.

The geese – MIA.

With no geese in flight, I passed on trying a shot for On A Roll. There’s no memory of that sunset on my film, but there’s a warm memory of it in my heart.

(photos shot with Nikon P7000)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Search And You Will Find

I was out roaming the woods Thursday afternoon, searching for something that might be interesting for On A Roll. No luck there, but I did find a new feather for another, yet-to-be-named project I’ll  refer to for now as “Wild Feathers.” This is a project I’ve been working on for years and probably will be working on for many more to come. Found feathers that can be identified as belonging to a particular species are not something you come across very often. The feather I found Thursday appears to be that of a great horned owl.

Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) Feather

The pride and joy of my  collection so far is a golden eagle feather I found years ago while working in Denali National Park in Alaska. I actually saw it drift to the ground as the eagle took off. 
Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos)
August, 1998
On Friday morning, I saw a beautiful sunrise, a waning moon, colorful fallen leaves and a couple of other contenders for On A Roll, but it wasn’t until I was about to head home that something roll-worthy caught my eye. As I was walking through the woods near a swampy area, something bright red jumped out at me. At first I thought it might be something man-made, but on closer inspection it was a strawberry bush seed pod that had fallen beside an acorn. 

I don’t see strawberry bush that often. The plants themselves are inconspicuous, but they have some of the showiest seeds you’ll ever see. Strawberry bush is also called “bursting heart” or by the nickname I prefer, “hearts-a-bursting-love.” It’s a native plant to the eastern U.S. that grows in deciduous woods, sandy thickets, swamps, shady edges, ravines, and along streams. Its yellowish green or greenish purple flowers bloom in Mississippi around May, and its bright red seeds – the flags that caught my eye – appear in September.  

Strawberry Bush (Euonymus americanus) Seed Pods

I took the shot. That was #31 - only five more to go.

31)    Strawberry Bush Seeds & Acorn- (V)
Madison County
September 16, 2011,  7:54 am
Clear,  56 degrees
60mm, 8 sec@f22, Tripod
(all photos, except golden eagle, shot with Nikon P7000)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Song In My Head

Monday September 12, 2011
Moonrise, 7:06 p.m. Sunset, 7:11 p.m.
Clear sky, calm water.
Perfect conditions. Now for the hard part.

I spent yesterday afternoon scouting at the Ross Barnett Reservoir. The water is currently low, so a lot of exposed roots and snags were certainly possibilities for an abstract shot. They come in every shape imaginable; finding the right one to shoot silhouetted in the moonlight was my task.

As I was walking in the sandy shallows, I spotted an alligator about 50 yards off the shore. I had a good idea about where the moon would rise so I set up and waited. For 30 minutes the gator never moved, floating in the water watching me. At 7:11, I finally saw the full Moon. I only had to move about 10 feet to line up the gator and the moon overhead. I dropped the tripod all the way down so the lens was only inches above the water. I looked through the gator. He was gone.  

In a state of panic unique to wildlife photographers, I searched for him, realizing I had the perfect set up but no Plan B. Just as I was about to pull up stakes, he appeared. My gator was about 40 yards further to the left, but  he was slowly swimming back toward the moonlight. As I laid in the water and sand, the moment came at 7:20 p.m. "Click."

I won't know for a while if I got a good shot On A Roll or not, at 1/13 of a second it's certainly not a sure thing.

Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) and Moonrise

But I did leave the Rez with a new song in my head. With my apologies to the Zack Brown Band...

                                                   "I got my boots in the water
                                                    Face in the sand
                                                    Gator and rising
                                                    My heart's in command
                                                    Life is good today, life is goood today..."

30)  Alligator and Moonrise - (V)
Madison County
September 12, 2011, 7:20 pm
Clear,  78 degrees
500mm, 1/13@f4, Tripod
(photo shot with Nikon P7000)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Day The World Stopped Turning

On September 11, 2001, I was on board a Delta flight from Atlanta to Toronto, headed to a press check for my sixth book, Wilder Mississippi (2001). Just before the plane took off, we were ordered to proceed back to the gate and deplane immediately. Standing in front of a TV monitor in the Atlanta airport, I watched with grief and horror as the Twin Towers fell.  
To all who lost loved ones on that day, my sincere and heartfelt prayers are sent your way on this painful anniversary.                                                                                                                               
During the darkest hours of my own life, I have found solace and peace in nature. Today, I hope to share a little of that tranquility in these photos from Wilder Mississippi. Every time I flip through its pages, I’m reminded that the world can change in an instant, but creation remains a constant comfort.  

Friday, September 9, 2011

Love At First Light

When this is the first thing you see in the morning, you know it's going to be a good day.

 White-tailed Deer Fawns (Odocoileus virginianus

27)  Mud Snake (Farancia abacura) - (V)
Madison County
September 7, 2011, 5:05 pm
Clear, 76 degrees
17-35mm, 1.3 sec@f9, Tripod
28)  Pearl River Sunrise - (H)
Madison County
September 8, 2011, 6:26 am
Clear, 54 degrees
17-35mm,  2.5 sec@f16, Tripod
29)  Green Darner (Anax junius- (V)
Madison County
September 8, 2011, 7:55 am
Clear,  58 degrees
60mm, 1/3@f16, Tripod

(shot with Nikon P7000)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Calm After The Storm

What a glorious morning. Temps in the 50s, not a breath of wind, and a heavenly blue sky. Loved it!

Gulf Fritillaries (Agraulis vanillae) & Dew

26)  Gulf Fritillaries and Dew - (V)
Madison County
September 7, 2011, 6:40 am
Clear, 54 degrees
60mm, 1/6@f25, Tripod
(shot with Nikon P7000)

Monday, September 5, 2011

Dance With The One Who Brung Ya'

This project has stimulated a lot of thought and contemplation, some  good, some bad. I've tried to rely on my "mind's eye" to provide the vision for the perfect, On A Roll images I hope to capture, but I've found that vision to be a little blurry. 

In an attempt to bring it into focus, I examined some of my past work. I was drawn to “Black Swans,” an image shot about six weeks after I got my first camera, which I included in my first book, First Impressions (1983).  In the introduction to that book, I wrote, "More important to me now is not the sharpness of a photo but its message, composition, and the emotions it transmits and evokes." I went on to describe "Black Swans" as “the first image that ever felt right.” 

Instead of worrying about the minute imperfections of the shot, perhaps I need to keep my mind’s eye focused on those ideals. That seems the best way to truly guarantee a result that will not only please me, but will also speak to those who see it.

Black Swans (Cygnus atratus)   
July 1981
from the book  

25)  Foxtail at Sunrise - (H)
Madison County
August 30, 2011, 6:58 am
Clear, 68 degrees
60mm, 1/125@f8, Tripod

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