Coyote Mercury

words, birds and whatever else by James Brush

Tag: photography

Detail in the Shadows

I shot this walking back from my day in Central Park when we were in New York back in October. I was looking through the pictures with my wife the other night, skimming through them, and this one caught her eye. I’d glanced at it quickly before, but the more I looked, the more I liked it, probably because of the detail hiding in the shadows. Hidden details. We don’t always see them in our own work, do we? There’s a good reminder, I thought, of how valuable it is to have others checking out your work, seeing it differently and sometimes more clearly than we might ourselves.

Click the picture for a higher-res image.

New York Hipstamatic Scenes

Last summer while walking around San Francisco, I took a few random snaps with my iphone using the Hipstamatic ap. I liked the way they came out and so while we were in New York earlier this week, I made it a point to get some Hipstamatic shots from my walks around Manhattan. My favorite though is one R. shot of the Thelonious Monk car we rode up to Beacon near Poughkeepsie to visit some friends.

I think I should take a walk around downtown Austin one of these days and try to do some Hipstamatic Austin scenes.

I like this Flickr slideshow embed thingy. I’ve had a Flickr account for several years now, but I’ve never done anything with it. I think I may try hosting photos there instead of here, though I haven’t quite thought out the pros and cons of doing so.

San Francisco Scenes

I took these pictures with my phone when we were in San Francisco back in July. They’re just random scenes done while walking around the city. I had my real camera with me, but was (and still am) intrigued by the idea of using the phone for snapshots, especially with the odd moody renderings you can get with the Hipstamatic app. Click on them to see them full size on the image page.

You don’t have much control over anything other than composition when you shoot with a phone so there’s a certain amount of surrender involved when you’re used to having the kind of control and instant results you typically get with a DSLR. Using a phone you give that up and you even have to wait a few seconds for the image to “develop.”

It reminds me of the wonder photography held when I was just starting out, the way I went about seeing the world in whole new ways, noticing light and shadow and shape. I suppose any new tool can make something new again, but when applied to photography, it allows us to experience the whole world in unexpected ways.

Shangri La

When my wife was growing up in Orange, Texas, Shangri La was a mystery. In the 1950’s, it was Lutcher Stark’s private garden, which he opened to the public. After it was destroyed by a snowstorm in 1958, Stark let it go wild and it became a dark and wild place walled off from the outside world. R has told me of the legends that grew up around the place and the stories people invented for what went on inside.

It seems that what was happening is that birds were nesting, alligators and snakes were thriving and nature was doing its thing. A few years ago, the Stark Foundation reopened it as Shangri La Botanical Gardens & Nature Center. It’s no longer much of a mystery, but it’s still wild.

American alligator (juvenile)

We visited last summer when the egrets and roseate spoonbills were nesting, and I even got some decent shots of the spoonbills and their nestlings from the bird blind. This time, since it wasn’t so hot, we were able to see more of the area. One of the first things we saw was the above young alligator sunning on a pond near the nature center. I’ve seen the adults in the wild but never a baby and didn’t realize the young sported such a brightly contrasting tail.

Osprey

The boat tour through Adams Bayou gave us a look at an osprey that kept circling over the water. I’ve only seen these guys a few times and never when I had a camera on me, so I tried. I was hoping he would dive, but he seemed content to circle.

Eventually we came to the outpost where there is a massive beaver pond that’s unconnected to the bayou. The beavers moved away a few years ago, but their pond remains, the water thick and covered in a layer of very small fern that from a distance looks like a perfectly planed layer of mud.

Beaver pond

While the guide was describing the ecology of the region, the boat driver was busily collecting snakes. It was a little disconcerting how quickly and easily he found a water moccasin and a Texas rat snake. He released the moccasin so we could get a look at it. Its bold pattern surprised me, but he explained that this was a juvenile and they grow darker and lose the contrast as they age.

Water moccasin

After the trip up the Bayou, we walked through the grounds toward the heronry. The fish crows were conversing in the trees and as we walked closer we could hear the sqronks of the egrets and cormorants.

Fish crow

Nesting season really gets going in April and May when you can see anhingas, cattle and great egrets, roseate spoonbills and double-crested and neotropic cormorants by the thousands. Things were still getting underway for this year and the first spoonbill had only arrived a few days earlier (we didn’t see him), but it was a thrill to sit in the blind and watch these beautiful birds. I didn’t get any decent shots this time, and in all honesty, I didn’t try too hard since I think it’s good to sometimes just watch and be.

There was a volunteer birder working in the blind to talk about the birds and their lives. He told us that in the summer many of the egrets and spoonbill nestlings fall from their nests and since they can’t swim, they’re quickly snapped up by the alligators that lurk below the nests. I thought back to that baby alligator and couldn’t help but be reminded of the old saying “the bigger they are the cuter the ain’t,” which certainly applies to alligators even if they are just doing the job assigned to them by nature.

Old house by the heronry

This is the only shot of the heronry that I liked. The wrecked house in front is from the early days before that snowstorm in ’58. Those white things in the trees behind it are great egrets sitting on their nests.

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