Photographs by Frank

25 May 2022

Loon Watching — Little Action & Optical Experiments

Filed under: Birds,Monadnock Region,Wildlife — Tags: — Frank @ 10:30 PM

This afternoon, I headed down to see what was up with the loons. I arrived at my loon watching post right about 4 PM. The weather was pleasant with the temperature around 70 deg. F. It was mostly cloudy but with broken clouds moving at a moderate pace. Thus the light kept changing.

My goal, beside seeing what was up with the loons, was to test out a 2x teleconverter. This device doubles the magnification of a lens but the increase magnification comes at a price. As they say… “There is not such thing as a free lunch.” In this case the price is a decrease in optical quality and, with this particular device, the loss of auto-focus and auto-exposure. One ends up with a camera that operates like cameras did prior to about 1980.

The first photo shown below (made about 4 PM) is a full frame* using the 600 mm lens. The second photo (also a full frame and made a few minutes later) shows the effect of the 2x teleconverter.

Shortly after I added the teleconverter the only loon action I observed this afternoon occurred. The loon stood up briefly and examined the eggs. (They may have turned the eggs, but I am not sure of that.) I made two exposures while the bird was standing. One of these photos (the third photo below) clearly shows the two eggs in the nest. After the loon settled back down, I made a few more exposures with the teleconverter installed before removing it for the rest of the afternoon. I was not willing to compromise photos of any further action until I got the files on my computer and examined them closely**.

As for “further action” this afternoon. There was none! The loon sat on the nest for the next two hours. It looked around regularly and panted*** when the sun came out from behind the clouds but that was it! Such is the life of a nature watcher.

I tried to stay focused on the loons, but at one point I got distracted by light on the wind turbines that are on the ridge above the loon nest. Thus, I briefly pointed my camera just a bit higher than usual.

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first pic of the day (600 mm, no crop) (about 4 PM)
first pic of the day (600 mm, no crop) (about 4 PM)
second pic of the day (600 mm + 2x TC, no crop)
second pic of the day (600 mm + 2x TC, no crop)
Turning Two Eggs (600 mm + 2x TC, no crop)
Turning Two Eggs (600 mm + 2x TC, no crop)
Settled Down Again (600 mm + 2x TC, no crop)
Settled Down Again (600 mm + 2x TC, no crop)
Panting (600 mm, typical crop)
Panting (600 mm, typical crop)
Last pic of the day (about 5:55 PM)
Last pic of the day (about 5:55 PM)
Turbine #2
Turbine #2
Turbine #1 (northern most)
Turbine #1 (northern most)

* This image is very modestly cropped from a 2:3 ratio native to the camera to my preferred ratio of 4:5. I crop almost every photo I make to the 4:5 ratio; it just fits my view of the world better. However, most of my photos of the loons on the nest are cropped more severely in order to make a better photograph with the subject more prominent in the frame. The last two loon photos in this series are cropped this way.

** The verdict of my experiment is that I will not be using the teleconverter routinely. The complication of completely manual operation and the moderate loss of image quality are not worth it.

*** Birds, including loons, do not sweat. Rather, in order to cool off in hot weather, they open their mouths and ‘pant’. This allows them to evaporate water from the mucous membranes and thus cools them much as sweat evaporating from a mammal’s skin does.

23 May 2022

Sparse Odes

Filed under: Monadnock Region,Odontates,Wildlife — Tags: — Frank @ 11:00 PM

Late this afternoon, I headed out for a little ode-ing. The temperature was in the upper 60s F, there was a soft breeze and it was mostly cloudy (a high, thin, overcast). Not ideal weather for odes but I went anyway.

I visited three sites. The field adjacent to the Stone Church in Antrim is of interest because there is a small fish-less pond that might support some odes not seen in more common ecological niches. I also stopped at the Contoocook River near the paper mill in Bennington. The river here (below the dam) is fast moving and also represents an interesting (and fairly rare) ecological niche. Lastly, I visited the field near Powder Mill Pond at the Cilley Family Forest in Greenfield (a fairly common environment around here).

I saw very small number of odes at all three sites. At the Antrim site, I saw three or four Eastern forktails (two or three male and a single female), a single female bluet and a single whiteface. The whiteface flew directly at my head which is how I know it had a whiteface but it did not allow an opportunity for further identification before veering off! At the Bennington site, I saw only a single male Eastern forktail in the grass near the canoe launch. I saw no odes on the rocks in the river just below the dam. In Greenfield, I saw (but did not photograph) only a single male dot-tailed whiteface.

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Eastern Forktail (male)
Eastern Forktail (male)
Eastern Forktail (female)
Eastern Forktail (female)
Bluet sp? (female)
Bluet sp? (female)
Fiddlehead
Fiddlehead
Wildflower
Wildflower

Keeping Cool

Filed under: Alternative Processes,Salted-paper Prints — Frank @ 2:00 PM

I spent the last two days keeping cool* in my basement dim room making salted-paper prints and experimenting with gold toning.

In addition to the five new images (shown below), I made larger finished versions (6×7.5 inch image on 8×10 paper) of another five images that I worked on in the recent past.

All of the images shown here are scans from 4×5 inch images on small sheets of Hahnemühle Platinum Rag paper. For the last two images, I show the entire sheet of paper thus revealing the ‘raw’ edges of each image. All of the others are similar but I have cropped them down to show only the image area.

Each image is shown in an un-toned version and a version toned with gold in sodium bicarbonate. It the past I had experimented with a gold-borax toner but I have trouble keeping the borax in solution in my cool work space. Thus, I decided to test out gold-bicarbonate this time.

The difference between the toned and un-toned prints is subtle but significant. Toning cools down the warm tone of the native salted-paper print and increases the contrast slightly.

All of the original exposures were made in either December 2021 or January 2022.

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Window with Vines (gold-toned)
Window with Vines (gold-toned)
Window with Vines
Window with Vines
Window with Steel (gold-toned)
Window with Steel (gold-toned)
Window with Steel
Window with Steel
Naval Prison, Portsmouth, NH (gold-toned)
Naval Prison, Portsmouth, NH (gold-toned)
Naval Prison, Portsmouth, NH
Naval Prison, Portsmouth, NH
Battery Farnsworth, New Castle, NH (gold-toned)
Battery Farnsworth, New Castle, NH (gold-toned)
Battery Farnsworth, New Castle, NH
Battery Farnsworth, New Castle, NH
Battery Farnsworth, New Castle, NH (detail) (gold-toned)
Battery Farnsworth, New Castle, NH (detail) (gold-toned)
Battery Farnsworth, New Castle, NH (detail)
Battery Farnsworth, New Castle, NH (detail)

* The high both days was near ninety deg. F

20 May 2022

Two Eggs! (Gregg Lake Loons – 2022)

Filed under: Birds,Monadnock Region,Wildlife — Tags: , — Frank @ 1:29 PM

Mid-morning, Joan and I decided to head down to the lake to see if we could confirm that the loon nest contained eggs. While we were getting ready, a single loon flew overhead going towards the lake. The temperature was in the mid-60s F and the skies were changing quickly… mostly cloudy as we headed out and mostly sunny by the time we returned home roughly forty minutes later.

In order to increase Joan’s chances of spotting eggs in the nest, I parked the truck at the side of the narrow road so that she could set up the spotting scope in the bed of the truck… it’s all about angles. I figured (correctly) that there would be little traffic.

Just as we finished setting up (within five minutes of our arrival) we heard the loon on the nest call. We were afraid that maybe the presence of a vehicle parked in an odd spot might have alarmed the bird even though the nest is four or five hundred feet from the road.

Rarely does the wildlife makes the watcher’s life easy, but today was one of those days. Within a few minutes of the first call from the loon on the nest, its mate arrived and loon 1 slipped into the water to greet loon 2. The pair swam around near the nest for a few minutes giving Joan ample time to see that there are indeed two eggs in the nest.

Eventually, one of the birds (presumably the incoming loon) mounted the nest. I was able to make a sequence of exposures that illustrate how ungainly this process is (see the second gallery below). Unusually, the loon stayed on the nest for only a short time before entering the water again.

At this point we decided that we had the ‘data’ we needed the truck for and I moved the truck to the more usual parking area down by the junction of Craig Rd. By the time I walked back to the truck, a loon was back on the nest. The second loon hung around the general area of the nest fishing for several minutes before it headed out under the bridge to the main part of the lake.

Joan took a stroll at this point to see if she could see where the two herons that few by earlier had landed. She did not see the herons but she did observe two loons hanging out together on the main part of the lake… presumably one of the mated pair we were watching and the single bird we heard flying over the house about a half hour earlier?

About forty minutes after we first arrived, we headed back to the house, the garden and the things we are ‘supposed to do”!

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Loon 1 On Nest
Loon 1 On Nest
Loon 2 Approaching Nest
Loon 2 Approaching Nest
Both Loons Near Nest
Both Loons Near Nest
Loon 2 Stretching
Loon 2 Stretching
Loon 2 On Nest
Loon 2 On Nest
Loon 1 Hangin Around #1
Loon 1 Hangin Around #1
Loon 1 Hangin Around #2
Loon 1 Hangin Around #2

Loon Mounting Nest Sequence (about 30 seconds from start to finish)

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Loon Mounting Nest (1 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (1 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (2 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (2 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (3 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (3 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (4 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (4 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (5 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (5 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (6 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (6 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (7 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (7 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (8 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (8 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (9 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (9 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (10 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (10 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (11 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (11 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (12 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (12 of 12)

19 May 2022

Gregg Lake Loons – 2022

Filed under: Birds,Monadnock Region,Spring,Wildlife — Tags: — Frank @ 4:04 PM

“Our” loons arrived on Gregg Lake at the end of March (the 28th according to Joan), before ice out.

I suspect, but have no proof, that they arrive in the area earlier and spend time on some other ice-free body of water while make periodic reconnaissance flights to their “home water” looking for a large enough opening in the ice.

For the past several weeks we have seen the pair of birds ‘out and about’ mostly on the main part of the lake but occasionally on the north side of the road where they have nested in the past. We had not observed any nest building behavior. However, we were not looking frequently and systematically.

Yesterday morning, as I headed out to the grocery store, I was excited to see a loon sitting on a nest in the same area they have nested for the past two (successful) years. I am positive that they were not sitting on the nest the day before yesterday.

The skies were cloudless, bluebird blue for most of the morning and early afternoon. I was not even tempted to head down to make the first loon photos of the season. It is difficult to make a good photo of a black and white bird in bright, strong sun light. One can either expose properly for the black or the white but not for both at the same time in bright light.

However, by mid afternoon a few clouds began to appear. By five or so, there was a high, overcast which makes for perfect conditions to photograph black and white birds. As a bonus, it was breezy so the black flies were small in number. I headed out to photograph the loon(s).

As one expects when watching a loon nest, not much happened in the hour and a half I watched. I saw only one bird in that time. It shifted position twice while I was there but I could not confirm that there is an egg or eggs present yet.*

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Loon on Nest (Gregg Lake, 18 May 2022) #1
Loon on Nest (Gregg Lake, 18 May 2022) #1
Loon on Nest (Gregg Lake, 18 May 2022) #2
Loon on Nest (Gregg Lake, 18 May 2022) #2
Loon on Nest (Gregg Lake, 18 May 2022) #3
Loon on Nest (Gregg Lake, 18 May 2022) #3

* Joan made a brief stop to observe the nest early this afternoon on her way back from town. She thought that the bird on the nest may have turned an egg while she watched but was only looking with her binoculars. We’ll have to spend some more time loon watching with the spotting scope soon!

Ode Opener – 2022

Filed under: Monadnock Region,Odontates,Spring,Wildlife — Tags: , — Frank @ 3:00 PM

I noticed the first dragonflies around the yard four or five days ago. However, yesterday afternoon after lunch was the first opportunity I had to “go hunting” (with my camera). The numbers of odes had increased dramatically during that interval.

The weather was breezy and the temperature in the high 60s F. The skies were fair when I went out but it got progressively cloudier as the afternoon progressed.

The most common dragonflies were the whitefaces (there were dozens), mostly Hudsonian but possible a few Frosted in the mix. I even observed three whiteface mating wheels. Chalk-fronted corporals were also common.

Damselflies are a bit harder to see casually, so I don’t know when they first appeared on the yard. However, yesterday I observed at least two species of damselflies and possible a third (for which I don’t have a photo. There were small numbers of both bluets (exact species unknown) and Aurora damsels. I saw only females and maybe a dozen of each species.

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Whiteface (sp?) #1
Whiteface (sp?) #1
Chalk-fronted Corporal (imm. male)
Chalk-fronted Corporal (imm. male)
Whiteface (sp?) #2
Whiteface (sp?) #2
Aurora Damsel (female)
Aurora Damsel (female)
Hudsonian Whiteface (imm. male)
Hudsonian Whiteface (imm. male)
Chalk-fronted Corporal (imm. male or female)
Chalk-fronted Corporal (imm. male or female)
Bluet sp?
Bluet sp?
Hudsonian Whiteface (imm. male or female)
Hudsonian Whiteface (imm. male or female)
Hudsonian Whiteface (mating wheel)
Hudsonian Whiteface (mating wheel)

15 May 2022

New Salted-paper Prints / Old Photos

Filed under: Alternative Processes,Salted-paper Prints — Frank @ 6:45 PM

A few days ago, I decided that I wanted to get back to salted-paper printing. My specific aim was to make myself a print of the photo titled “Harvest Still Life”. I printed this image back at the end of March during a lecture/demo I did for the Tuttle library. However, I did not end up with a final print for myself.

While I was at it, I looked through my archives for a few other photos that might look good as salted-paper prints and prepared some additional negatives for test printing.

Then, I spent most of yesterday afternoon, when the outside temperature was a very unseasonable 85 degrees F, in the pleasant cool of my basement dim room.

Harvest Still Life is about 6 by 7 1/2 inches on an 8 by10 inch sheet*. The other two prints are about 4 by 5 inches on 6 1/2 by 7 inch sheets**. The paper is Hahnemuhle Platinum Rag paper for all.

The first and last prints were gold/bicarbonate toned***. This treatment cools down the warm brown of an un-toned print resulting in an almost neutral tone. I left the middle print is un-toned, as I thought the natural warmth of a salted paper print suited the image well.

I printed three other negatives as well, but none of these are ‘ready for prime time’. They will all need a bit of tweaking before I print them again… stay tuned!

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Harvest Still Life (exposure from Oct 2011)
Harvest Still Life (exposure from Oct 2011)
Train Depot (exposure Jan 2012)
Train Depot (exposure Jan 2012)
Tip Top House, Mt. Washington (exposure Sep 2013)
Tip Top House, Mt. Washington (exposure Sep 2013)

* This has evolved to be my standard-size for alternative process prints.

** This is my usual work print size; used when I am working out the details (mostly dodging and burning) of the negative.

*** This was an experiment. Previously, I have used gold/borax toner exclusively if I toned prints. However, I have trouble keeping the necessary amount of borax in solution in my cool (OK… downright cold at times) basement dim room.

9 May 2022

(Re)Birth

Filed under: Monadnock Region,Spring,wildflowers — Tags: — Frank @ 9:45 PM

Spring is coming on rapidly… just like it does every year at this time!

The daffodils around the yard are in full bloom. We ate a few leaves of lettuce from the garden this evening. And… the trees are leafing out.

This afternoon I mounted the macro lens on my camera and went for a walk in the woods. The purple trillium have been out for some time as have the violets. Today was the first time this season I saw painted trillium in bloom.

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Hobblebush Seedling
Hobblebush Seedling
Hobblebush Leaf (detail)
Hobblebush Leaf (detail)
Painted Trillium
Painted Trillium
Basswood Seedling
Basswood Seedling
Budding Out
Budding Out
Bud
Bud
Purple Trillium
Purple Trillium
Violets
Violets

5 May 2022

Weathersfield Center (again) and Baltimore, Vermont

Filed under: Landscapes,Misc.,Spring — Frank @ 11:17 PM

Back at the end of March, I visited Weathersfield Center, VT for the first time and discovered the wonderful meeting house there. After this excursion, I looked at a map of the general area and noticed the nearby town of Baltimore. Joan was born in Baltimore, Maryland and our daughter, Katrina, has lived there for the last fifteen or so years. Thus, I decided that when I next visited this part of Vermont I would go see Baltimore. Today was the day!

This morning, I taught an introduction to photography tutorial for the Vermont Center for Photography in Brattleboro. After I was done teaching, I pointed my truck north. The weather was pleasantly warm and the skies were partly cloudy.

I stopped first in Weathersfield Center. My first visit there was on a cold, damp day and I used my camera obscura exclusively that day. Today, the light was much more conducive to photography. I made photographs with both the camera obscura and my ‘regular’ camera. I left the images from the latter as color since I like the contrast between the warm orange bricks, the cool azure sky and the green spring grass. I also noticed (and photographed) the nearby town pound* with an interesting iron gate. I had completely missed the pound on my first visit.

After photographing the meetinghouse, I attempted to head towards Baltimore. Notice I said “attempted”… I had either one of those “you can’t get there from here” (use a thick New England accent when you read that!) moments or my map was broken.

Eventually, I got out my phone, fired up its GPS application and, without further drama, found the westernmost end of Baltimore Rd (on VT10 just to the west of the junction with VT106 in North Springfield). Baltimore Road, which is not paved, makes a six mile loop through town. The other end intersects VT106 just north of the junction with VT10. The two ends of Baltimore Road are less than a mile apart!

Roughly half way along this loop one comes to the Baltimore Town Hall (see the last photo below). The (rather nondescript) town hall is the only public building in Baltimore. There is nary church, etc.

Upon arriving home, I learned a bit more about Baltimore by Googling, of course, as any modern guy would do! It turns out that the current population of the town is roughly 230 people, about what it was two hundred years ago (i.e. in the early 1800s) and quite a bit higher than the low of about fifty in the early 1900s**.

The town has a total of 7.2 miles of roads, all of which are unpaved. Just out of the frame on the right of my photo of town hall sits a road grader; my guess is this is only significant asset the town owns other than the town hall.

The town hall was built in 1894 as a one room school house and was used as such until 1988!

In summary, Baltimore is a bit out of the way and on the quiet side, but I am glad that I made the trip. Maybe, I will go back some day and drive the other twenty percent of the the town roads that I missed this time thorough!

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Meeting House (Weathersfield Center, VT)
Meeting House (Weathersfield Center, VT)
Meeting House and Memorial (Weathersfield Center, VT)
Meeting House and Memorial (Weathersfield Center, VT)
Meeting House (Weathersfield Center, VT) (with the camera obscura)
Meeting House (Weathersfield Center, VT) (with the camera obscura)
Town Pound Gate (Weathersfield Center, VT)
Town Pound Gate (Weathersfield Center, VT)
Town Hall (Baltimore, VT)
Town Hall (Baltimore, VT)

* Town pounds are small, generally stone wall enclosed areas where wayward livestock were penned up until their owners could ransom them. Loose livestock were a serious matter when most folks depended on their gardens and fields for the bulk of their sustenance and the ‘fuel’ for their horses and oxen. Stray livestock could quickly decimate a garden and thus were rapidly escorted to the town pound before (hopefully) they could do much damage. The owner of the strays would then have to pay a fine in order to retrieve their animals from the pound.

** This pattern is typical for many small towns in New Hampshire and Vermont. Populations peaked in the first half of the nineteenth century when sheep farming was at its peak and declined thereafter as farmers moved to more fertile territory as the mid-west (then “the west”) was ‘settled’. Populations generally reached their lows in the first quarter of the twentieth century and slowly rebounded thereafter. The current population of many small northern New England towns is roughly the same as it was two centuries ago.

30 April 2022

Nasami Farm

Filed under: Landscapes,Spring — Frank @ 11:32 PM

Joan was in need of some plants for the yard. So, today we made a trip to Nasami Farm, the Native Plant Trust’s nursery in the Connecticut River valley village of Whately, Massachusetts.

While Joan selected plants, I wandered the grounds looking for photographs.

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River Valley Skies
River Valley Skies
Paper Birch
Paper Birch
Untitled
Untitled
Catkin Pair
Catkin Pair
New Birch Leaves
New Birch Leaves
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