Photographs by Frank

28 June 2022

Monhegan Island – Flora and Fauna

Filed under: Birds,Mammals,wildflowers,Wildlife — Tags: , , — Frank @ 11:00 AM

Although our trip to Monhegan Island was mostly about the landscape, I did manage to make a few photographs of the non-human inhabitants of the island even though I did not have a long lens* with me.

There were plenty of birds on the island including, according to Merlin, many nesting warblers along with nesting gulls and cormorants. Common Eiders were also plentiful out past the surf.

The mallards on Ice Pond are clearly habituated to humans. As soon as I showed up on the small beach, every mallard on the pond made a beeline for me expecting a hand out.

There was also a well habituated Herring Gull present atop White Head both times we visited there. I assume that it was used to folks feeding it scraps of their snacks/lunch.

The photos of the seals and the cormorant colony were made when we took an afternoon boat ride around the island… it takes all of thirty minutes to circumnavigate Monhegan Island!

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Late June is also a good time for wildflowers on Monhegan. The beach roses were in full bloom as were many other flowers both large and small.

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* I had my 70-200 mm zoom and a 1.7x teleconverter.

17 June 2022

Chick Vigil (Thursday Edition)

Filed under: Birds,Monadnock Region,Summer,Wildlife — Tags: , — Frank @ 9:13 PM

I know that today is Friday… but sometimes things get busy!!

Late Wednesday evening we had multiple reports of a long, loud territorial spat between two loons. Thus, we were a little apprehensive about what we would find when we headed out for a look early Thursday morning.

However, our fears were quickly put to rest as we observed all four loons (two adults and two chicks) on the main part of the lake to the east of the town beach. The birds were behaving normally… adults diving, chicks bobbing and fresh fish served up.

The loon family was too far away for decent photographs, so this post it text only. Sorry about that!

15 June 2022

Chick Vigil (Wednesday Edition)

Filed under: Birds,Monadnock Region,Summer,Wildlife — Tags: , , — Frank @ 6:00 PM

We have two chicks!!!

I arrived at the lake this morning at a few minutes after nine and watched the nest for three hours. It was immediately obvious that there was a chick on the nest. Every so often the adult would lift its right wing and I could see movement under the wing (see the video below, for an example).

At one point the chick moved around in front of the adult and headed into the water. It spent a few minutes in the water (hidden from my view by the emergent vegetation) before climbing back up on the nest and the protection of the adults wing. The adult never left the nest during the three hour I watched.

Two pairs of walkers happened by while I was loon sitting and both mentioned that there was a loon with a chick on the main part of the lake over by the road. The loon, I could believe*, but I was skeptical about the chick. After all, I was watching a chick and an adult sitting on the nest which surely still had the second (unhatched) egg… right?


Shortly after noon, I decided that I had enough excitement for the day and headed for the truck. However, before packing things away, I decided to go see what was up with the second loon. (I had heard it call twice while watching the nest.) Much to my surprise there it was, over by the road, accompanied by a chick!

My guess is that one adult headed out with the firstborn chick while the second adult waits for the newly hatched chick to strengthen a bit at the nest.

I ran back to the truck for the camera to document the pair in the harsh, directly overhead, noontime sun.

I am anxious to see what tomorrow brings.

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Video of loon on nest with chick under wing

* Although one has to be careful, a few years ago (during the summer we had our first loon nest on Gregg Lake in living memory) I had a fellow tell me that there had been nesting loons on the lake for a number of years and he had seen them out on the lake with five or six babies! I am pretty sure he had mistaken Canada geese for Loons.

14 June 2022

Chick Vigil (Tuesday Edition)

Filed under: Birds,Monadnock Region,Summer,Wildlife — Tags: , — Frank @ 12:34 PM

We have a chick!!!!

This morning (Tuesday, 14 June 2022) Joan and I arrived at the lake shortly after nine. An adult loon was sitting on the nest, but we immediately knew that something was up. The adult was very fidgety with their right wing moving about. Sure enough, as soon as we got our optics (Joan’s spotting scope and my camera) set up we could see a small brown lump under the partial upraised wing of the adult (see the first photo below, look very carefully)… a chick!

Shortly after we arrived both the adult and the chick left the nest and spent most of the next hour in the water. They never strayed more than a few feet from the nest. Joan, with a better angle and more magnification was able to see the second egg still in the nest unhatched. (It is not unusual for two nest mates to hatch a day or two apart).

The chick spent the majority of its time in the water during the hour we observed them. However, the chick climbed up under the adults wing and onto its back twice. The adult (with chick aboard) did mount the nest and settle in for a brief interval before entering the water again.

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13 June 2022

Chick Vigil

Filed under: Birds,Monadnock Region,Summer — Tags: — Frank @ 1:00 PM

By our calculus, there should be loon chicks arriving this week. In order not to miss this crucial event, we are planning to head down to the lake each morning to see what is happening.

This morning we arrived at the lake’s edge just after ten and spent an hour observing. When we got out of the truck we were excited to see a loon in the water near the nest, suggesting that maybe eggs had hatched. False alarm… by the time we walked the couple of hundred feet to our usual observation spot, the loon was back sitting on the nest.

Twice in the next hour, the loon stood up, examined (rolled?) the eggs and sat back down. Other than that the only action was the usual wary loon-on-a-nest carefully watching its surroundings.

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8 June 2022

Loon Sitting

Filed under: Birds,Monadnock Region,Wildlife — Tags: — Frank @ 8:01 PM

Late yesterday afternoon, I headed down to the lake to observe the loon nest. There was not a lot of action.

I watched for an hour and three-quarters. In that time the individual on the nest shifted position quickly twice. I am not sure they even turned the eggs.

At about ninety minutes, I got up to stretched my legs and saw a second loon off the end of the point on the main part of the lake. This gave me hope that they might do a switch so I sat back down and waited another fifteen minutes before I decided that dinner was in order.

All told, I made about sixty exposures, mostly to keep myself entertained, not because there was great action!*

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I also experimented with video, something I rarely do. Here is a three minute clip that really gives you a feel for the ‘excitement’ of loon watching!

Try to stay awake… I did for more than an hour and a half!!!!

* WARNING – photographer talk ahead! The first few exposures yesterday afternoon were made using with a 2x teleconverter (a different one from the one I used several days ago). There is certainly some degradation in the images made with the converter, although I am not sure that it is evident in the small files I post here. I am pretty convinced that I will get better results with deeper crops (to get similar fields of view) of the files made without the converter than I will using the converter. As you would expect, since it is a 2x converter, the file sizes differ by a factor of two as well.

I’ll need to make a few prints before making a final decision.

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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* 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.

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

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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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* 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!

15 August 2021

New Salted-paper Prints

I have spent the past week making a new batch of salted-paper prints. In doing so, I mined my archives for photographs that I think will work well as salted-paper prints. The initial exposure for all of these photos were made between five and ten years ago.

Making salted-paper prints is an iterative process.

I process the image in Photoshop making educated guesses as to how the negative should look to give me a good print. Then, I make a negative and use that negative to make a small test salted-paper print on 5×7 inch paper.

I probably get things exactly right the first time about two-thirds of the time. If the print is not to my liking, I go back to the computer and make further adjustments in Photoshop. Most often these adjustments involve dodging and burning… adjusting the brightness of very localized areas of an image. It is very rare that I need to make more than a second negative.

The photograph of the dragonfly in this series is one of those rare images. After the second iteration, I was still not satisfied with the print. In this case I went back to the original file and began anew. Of course, I had the ‘education’ gleaned from the first two unsatisfactory versions and thus the third version “hit the nail on the head” as they say.

The first five images below are all 4×5 inch prints (on 5×7 inch paper). Many times, after making a successful print at that size, I will make a larger negative (6×7 1/2 inches) and print that on 8×10 inch paper. The last two prints in this series are of the larger size.

This process illustrates why I much prefer working with digital negatives for alternative processes compared to analog (film) negatives. Both ideas (making detailed adjustments to the negative and printing an image at different sizes) are possible but extremely difficult in the analog realm.

I often have thought of making even larger prints, maybe up to 11×14 inches. My light source is large enough for a 16×20 inch contact printing frame. However, when I begin to work out the logistics of the larger trays and the space they would require as well as the cost of the materials for such large prints, I run smack into the wall of reality!!!

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