“It is spring again. The Earth is like a child that knows poems.”
Rainer Maria Rilke
As Jen has so aptly pointed out, for many of us here in the US, spring has finally sprung. This week I was fortunate to participate in a 2-day session with Ralph Lee Hopkins, an incredible photographer as well as the Director of Photography Expeditions for Lindblad/National Geographic. All of this week’s images, focused on some local spring rituals, were made during a post-lecture shoot with Ralph on one of Kiawah’s beautiful golf courses.
“The ghostly winter silence has given way to the great spring murmur of awakening life.”
Interestingly, some glorious egrets and cormorants have created a very active rookery beside one of the course’s lagoons. Although the weather was not Kiawah’s best, the overcast made it a bit more feasible to capture the snowy white birds as they soared through the trees and tended to their nests. They were clever in the placement of the rookery, making it impossible to get close, but we did our best with zoom lenses, cropping and creativity.
“You can cut all the flowers, but you cannot keep spring from coming.”
Beyond the nesting birds there is evidence of spring’s arrival all around us. The ponds are blooming with new plants, baby alligators are everywhere, and the beautiful trees are filled with that wonderful shade of green that is only fleetingly seen as spring arrives.
“The deep roots never doubt spring will come.”
Jen mentions that during her years in South Carolina her favorite season was autumn – which does indeed provide welcome relief from summer’s heat as well as the incredible purples and pinks of sweetgrass. For me though, spring’s arrival plays an even more important role. I love the smells and sights of the season – the budding flowers and trees, the courtship rituals of the birds, the birth of the fawns and bobcat kittens…it doesn’t get much better than spring on Kiawah for a nature lover.
“Can words describe the fragrance of the very breath of spring?”
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite images from the day – the sight of soaring white birds in motion against a pale sky is for me a near-spiritual moment. The elegance of these graceful creatures as they return to the nest, where their life-long mates are tending their soon-to-be-born offspring is a special gift not to be taken lightly.
“Spring came, and with it the outpourings of nature.”
Dalai Lama XIV
Wishing everyone the beauty of spring’s awakening whatever your current season.
“My smile is the most potent weapon I possess.”
Here on Kiawah we are quite accustomed to the “smiles” of our resident alligators, which I’ve chosen as my subject for this week’s SMILE challenge. This fellow has been around a while and I think gives new meaning to the term “toothy grin” 😉
“The devil doesn’t smile, it grins.”
The Town of Kiawah is currently working with biologists and animal specialists from the Medical University of SC and Clemson University on a large research project to study these amazing animals. There are approximately 700 gators throughout the island, typically found sunning or swimming in and around our many ponds and lagoons. In the capture above you can see a GPS device that’s been attached to Gator #12, monitoring his habits and the size of his territory.
“When life gives you 100 reasons to cry, show life that you have a 1,000 reasons to smile.”
Our gators come in all shapes and sizes, the smallest having just emerged from eggs the mama gators have protected for just over a month, to adults measuring 12 or 15 feet long. It’s been said that the youngsters are the most dangerous, as they’ve not yet learned to stay away from humans. For the most part however, gators and humans peacefully co-exist – happily sharing the bounty of our beautiful environment.
“When a new day begins, dare to smile gratefully.”
Like many humans, gators love to bask in the sun. Above we see three juveniles, probably 2 or 3-year-old siblings, sharing a sunny spot on the banks of a lagoon. Soon they will learn they must compete for territory and will more likely fight one another than share. Survival of the fittest is definitely their modus operandi, which has been honed over centuries of successful evolution. Interestingly, alligators have been around in their current form for some 85 million years. Even more interestingly, they are members of the species crocodylomorpha, which has been in existence for over 200 million years. Perhaps that’s why they’re always smiling 😊.
To catch a few more of this week’s smiles, click here.
“Sunrise, how lovely it seems to see from my window a sky full of dreams.”
Those who know me might think I would focus on sunsets in response to Erica’s Rise/Set challenge, since my reputation for disliking early morning is well known. Never let it be said, however, that I cannot “rise” to the occasion now and then. The photography gods know better than to offer me a mediocre sunset on those times when I’m up before dawn to shoot morning’s glory. As seen above at Botany Bay and below among the oaks of Ace Basin, the South Carolina sun has put on some spectacular shows to reward my pre-dawn efforts.
“Sunrise and the new day’s breakin’ through.”
While both of my opening captures were made within an hour or so of my home here on Kiawah, I’ve also been known to make my way down to our own beautiful beach in the early morning hours. Admittedly it doesn’t happen often but when it does I can usually count on a lovely light show here as well.
“The world is waiting for the sunrise.”
Yet another beautiful nearby spot can be found on Deveaux Bank, where there is a densely-populated bird sanctuary replete with winged creatures of many species.
” Then came sunrise, fading the moon and stars from sight.”
I’ve often been known to wake before the sun while traveling. Since I follow a “one and done” philosophy, I’m always anxious to take advantage of as many hours, and to see as many places, as I can squeeze in. I have a fond and distinct memory of shooting sunrise with a good friend at Angkor Wat, especially since the shoot took place from a hot air balloon (no worries, we were tethered to the ground 😀). The sky that day was quite hazy, which only added to the beauty of this ancient place.
“Good morning sunrise, you brighten up my day.”
Speaking of hot air balloons, I captured the sunrise moment below during a visit to beautiful Bend, Oregon.
“Sunrise, a symphony of golden sunlight.”
Who could forget sunrise in Patagonia in beautiful Torres Del Paine National Park? Happily we shot sunrise on our first morning, as it was the last time the early morning sun broke through the clouds.
“Sunrise, Sunset….Swiftly fly the years”
Jerrold and Harnick
I could go on and on (and I suppose perhaps I already have!). I’ve enjoyed my sunrise meander down memory lane and hopefully you have too. Here’s to a lifetime of beautiful sunrises for us all.
“A garden must combine the poetic and the mysterious with a feeling of serenity and joy.”
I was happy to see this week’s Photo Challenge “Favorite Places” as I’d spent a beautiful afternoon last week at one of MY favorite places, the truly magnificent Magnolia Plantation and Gardens. As spring blossoms across the low country, the gardens – located just outside of downtown Charleston, are an absolute “must see”.
“In the tranquillity of a garden, we detest war and love peace much more than any other place.”
Mehmet Murat Ildan
The gardens are known for their amazing flowers, enchanting walkways, cypress and oak trees dripping with Spanish moss, and water-reflected bridges. All of those things are incredibly beautiful but for me the pull of the gardens is located in the Swamp Garden – which sounds awful but trust me, it is magical.
“May the rain water the garden, and the love in your heart.”
Anthony T Hincks
The Swamp Garden is home to a spring ritual that is irresistible to nature lovers and photographers alike. Within its rookery, there are a plethora of nesting egrets, herons, anhingas and other birds. Photographers gather to capture these graceful creatures as they mate, gather nesting materials, and defend their homes from interlopers.
“Ideas are like flowers that bloom in our mind’s garden.”
Beyond the graceful and sometimes comic antics of the naturally-local birds, the Gardens have a small open-air zoo highlighting some of the animals that would have been resident in years gone by. There were two male peacocks and several pea hens in residence, and I couldn’t resist making a few captures of these colorful birds.
A few additional favorites for your viewing pleasure 😀
“Charity is the entrance to the garden.”
Seth Adam Smith
“A garden is made of hope.”
“Working in garden is like digging knowledge from the earth.”
All of today’s captures were made with my Fuji X-T2. I was very pleased with its performance, particularly in it’s ability to render vivid colors. And on the subject of cameras, for those of you who played along with a guess on the cameras used in last week’s post, here is the correct information:
Be The Ball – Nikon D/50 with Nikon 70-200 mm f/2.8
Rice Fields, Longsheng and Game of Games – Nikon D/300s with Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5 – 5.6
Kiawah Tide Pools – Fuji X-T2 with Fujifilm XF 16-55mm f/2.8
Home Sweet Home – iPhone 8 Plus
“Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.”
Our challenge this week is to share the thing(s) we’d “rather be doing”. It’s an interesting thought isn’t it? Somehow it pushes us to examine what we love, and to make sure we’re spending our time – life’s most precious element – appropriately.
“We need much less than we think we need.”
I’ve featured two of my favorite things, travel and golf, in my opening captures. I also love reading, writing, playing my piano, spending time with friends and family and of course, photography.
Just tell yourself, Duckie, you’re really quite lucky.”
Those who know me well know that I love games that challenge the brain – cards, sudoku, crosswords, trivia and most especially Mah Jongg. The capture above is from a game we happened upon when we were in China – where they take their MJ much more seriously 😀. Happily our weekly game is more about socializing than competition – although we do work hard for our quarters!
“Contentment is the greatest treasure.”
I love walking our beautiful beach here on Kiawah where there is always something new to see and to shoot. This week the tide pools were amazing as my husband and I strolled to the very end of our pristine island. Birds were pecking away at water’s edge and the sun shone beautifully as we enjoyed the return of spring’s warm breezes.
“Contentment is the only real wealth”
Most of all, I love spending time relaxing at home with my husband of 20+ years. Sharing life with my best friend, whom I still love more every day, means there’s really nothing at all I’d rather be doing. And that is really saying something, isn’t it?
By the way, it’s often noted that the best camera is the one you have with you. This week’s captures were made with a mix of my Nikon DSLRs, my Fuji X-T2 and my iPhone 8+. Can you guess which is which?
“What makes photography a strange invention is that its primary raw materials are light and time.”
Jen has asked us to tell a story with our captures this week and for me it’s an opportunity to share a recent nature photography experience. In the shot above I’ve captured a friend standing in a disappearing sandbar during a shoot earlier this week.
“Light is precious in a world so dark.”
For the better part of 90 minutes, we shot landscapes in a grey, flat sky covered in clouds that showed no sign of clearing. I crossed a deep stream, wet to the tops of my calves and covered in sand, to capture a flock of birds on the other side.
“Ô, Sunlight! The most precious gold to be found on Earth.”
We found ourselves shooting textures in the sand, scenes that lent themselves to B&W post-processing, monochromatic birds and any other subjects that might translate into something interesting without being lit by the stubbornly non-existent sun. Suddenly and with absolutely no warning, there came an unexpected break in the clouds and an incredible light burst through for a very brief moment.
“What we choose to do with the light while it’s here is up to us.”
When the light appeared the landscape became glorious in every direction. The grasses were greener, the water bluer, and the sand grew positively luminous. The moral of the story is – never give up. Work the scenes you’re given and be ready (and appreciative) if the gift of a few perfect moments should come along.
Many photographers can create nice images in good light. For me, it’s what we do with bad light that offers a more interesting challenge 🙂. Here then, a few of my “creations” from the earlier part of the day.
“You can make it dark, but I can’t make it light.”
“Every day you play with the light of the universe.”
“If darkness surrounds you, look for the light.”
Ann Marie Aguilar
Last but not least, a capture of the sun’s final moment before the clouds closed back in.
“We must bring our own light to the darkness.”
Here’s to the gift of light in moments of darkness – may we all appreciate both for the lessons they bring.
NOTE: For the photographers among us, I took advantage of the outing as an opportunity to compare Fuji vs Nikon, shooting duplicate photos with the two cameras. I’m happy to report the Fuji held its own despite the use of an 18-55mm kit lens vs Nikon’s legendary 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, an unfair comparison indeed.
“The sky has a huge heart open for all clouds even on the gloomiest of days.”
This week my husband and I joined some good friends for 18 holes on Kiawah Island’s beautiful Ocean Course. The day started out bright and beautiful but as morning turned to afternoon the skies became a bit more foreboding.
“There is peace even in the storm”
Vincent Van Gogh
As we waited for the group in front of us to clear, it became apparent that a storm was imminent. Since we were walking the course and were quite a distance from shelter, we made the decision to call in for a ride back to the clubhouse. It didn’t hurt that none of us was doing a very good job of competing with the ever-increasing winds that came along with the clouds 😊
“Thunderstorms are as much our friends as the sunshine.”
Since Ben’s challenge this week asks us to show a familiar scene in an otherworldly way, I thought these images of our normally-beautiful Ocean Course fit the bill perfectly. By comparison, I made the capture below in my backyard a few days earlier during a much more typical Kiawah day – quite the difference, wouldn’t you say?!
“In a dark and tumultuous place, know the storm will soon pass.”
Lorna Jackie Wilson
“Nobody sees the person holding the camera.”
This week Erica asks us to explore anonymity – what do we see when our subjects’ faces are hidden. Like Erica, I enjoy working to show meaning even when facial expressions are unseen. In my opening capture, for example, the family members’ hand holding expressed their genuine affection for each other. I shot them in silhouette because it was more about the togetherness of the family unit than the individual members.
“We don’t need a cloak to become invisible.”
I created the capture above from a moving car as we were driving by firefighters running to fight a wildfire raging nearby. I loved the motion apparent in their hat flaps, and the unity of purpose shown by the single rope each of them held as they hurried by in a single file. To me the capture speaks to a sense of urgency and purpose as well as incredible teamwork.
“Artists see the invisible before anyone else.”
The “boy with a hat” photograph above is one of my personal favorites. To me it captures a sense of the burden he carries, both literally and figuratively. Is his head down because of the weight of the sack on his back, or perhaps because there is so little for him to look forward to? In either case, as a photographer it was to me a moment that demanded preservation.
“To be invisible, you need to be visible.”
Anthony T. Hincks
OK, I’ll admit it. I included my final capture above because these babies are just too adorable NOT to be included! They are the grandson and granddaughter of two good friends who honored me with a request to do a photo shoot of their family. I was reminded of the old commercial line “When EF Hutton talks, people listen.” Do you suppose it was a stock tip being shared, or more likely a suggestion on how to sneak down to the ocean when no one was looking?! 😀
I particularly enjoyed this week’s “Face in A Crowd” challenge and hope you did too.
Note: For today’s post I’ve chosen to further increase the anonymity of the subjects through the use of impressionism in post-processing. For those who are interested, here are the original captures.
“To a hungry person, every bitter food is sweet. When the preferable is not available, the available becomes preferable.”
This week’s “sweet” challenge was indeed a challenge for me. I don’t do food photography, and I don’t have pets. While I happen to think my husband is truly sweet, I’m not sure that would translate for most people 😊.
“That it will never come again is what makes life so sweet.”
Then it hit me – our island is home to the sweetest little creatures – our white-tailed deer. When I lived in the northeast the deer were much larger and there was a constant conversation about how to control their numbers. Here on our island the perfect solution exists with no human intervention whatsoever. Our deer population is very well-managed by our beautiful bobcats. They are quite proficient in hunting the fawns throughout the island. Nature can be cruel but somehow both the deer and the bobcat populations continue to be perfectly balanced.
“Life is like that…sometimes you have to peel off the bitterness in order to get to the part that is sweet.”
One of my favorite things about our deer is how accustomed they’ve become to having humans nearby. The capture above was made with an 18-35mm lens and is only very slightly cropped. As for the size of the population, all of today’s choices were made this week during a brief deer-hunting walk with my Fuji X-T2. Seems to me the deer are as happy with the arrival of our spring-like temps as I am. As Jackie Gleason would say…How sweet it is!
“Home isn’t where you’re from, it’s where you find light when all grows dark.”
This week Krista has asked us to give a virtual tour of our world. It’s been a very busy few weeks here but I couldn’t miss a chance to highlight some of the incredible beauty with which I’m fortunate to be surrounded every single day.
“Nature is not a place to visit. It is home.”
As noted in my opening quote, South Carolina is not where I’m “from” – that would be the northeastern US where the winters are cold and the roads are busy. Don’t get me wrong, there are some magnificent vistas in the north, but here in the lowcountry it’s hard to drive a mile without seeing something breathtaking. We are surrounded by the peaceful views of our beautiful marshes which are further enhanced by the majesty of live oak trees clothed in lovely Spanish mosses.
“If light is in you, you will find your way home.”
Of course we are best known for our beautiful 10-mile-long beach, which is NEVER crowded and always wonderfully photogenic. The waters are warm and the sands often present treasures like starfish, sand dollars and ghost crabs for those on the hunt. Birds love our beaches and along with gulls and terns they also provide welcome respite for endangered species like red knots and piping plovers.
“The best part of going away for a vacation is coming home again.”
Beyond the beautiful scenery, our area is filled with incredible wildlife who seem to enjoy our scenery as much as we do. I’ve posted this alligator capture before as it’s one of my favorites. We see these prehistoric creatures everywhere and know they won’t bother us if we don’t bother them. For the most part we find them drowsily basking in the southern sun or lurking in our ponds and lagoons. It’s not often we catch them with mouths wide open seemingly enjoying playtime with the local plant life!
“Where we love is home, home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.”
Oliver Wendell Holmes
Speaking of our beaches, our area is well-known for its dolphins – recently featured on National Geographic’s Predator series. It seems the coasts of South Carolina and Georgia are the only places in the world where dolphins work as a team to corral bait fish and push them onto the beach. They then follow them onto the beach to feast before sliding back into the water. I’ve been fortunate to have seen this behavior several time and it truly is an amazing sight.
“If there is such a thing as complete happiness, it is knowing that you are in the right place.”
Finally, if one tires of being surrounded by peaceful beauty and nature, we are a mere 30-minute drive from the delightful city of Charleston – home to wonderful restaurants, music, theatre and a great deal of interesting history.
Our little island may not be right for everyone, but it’s certainly the right place for me 😊
WPC: Tour Guide