Year in Review

Year in Review: 2011

It’s fun to look back on your photography and see how you have grown as an artist and as a person.  New Year’s is a great time to reflect.   I had many excellent photography opportunities this year, and I think I made several really neat images.  (Was it Ansel Adams that said that a dozen good photographs in a year was doing really well?)

Sanderling (Fractalius Image)! Fort De Soto. October 2011.

Sanderling (Fractalius Image)! Fort De Soto. October 2011.

The year started with the greatest Christmas present ever: The Beast!  Circle B was at its best and became an excellent place for me to learn to use my new toy.  I quickly learned that choosing focus points correctly is essentially when using big glass.  Then I got used to my new-found focal length! :)

American Bittern – Unexpectedly out in the Open!  Circle B Bar Reserve.  January 2011.

American Bittern – Unexpectedly out in the Open!  Circle B Bar Reserve.  January 2011.

In early spring, my friend Herman treated my dad and me to a series of visits to a wild bird rookery.  I watched herons, egrets, ibises, spoonies, and pelicans grow up.  The Brown Pelicans are nesting farther inland than ever, and there were a record number of nests this year.  I was very pleased with the detail and clarity of this pelican bringing in nesting material. 

Nesting Brown Pelican.  Polk Rookery.  March 2011.

Nesting Brown Pelican.  Polk Rookery.  March 2011.

Speaking of rookeries, I spent several happy Saturdays at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm photographing in the Wading Bird Rookery.  There my favorite birds are the Roseate Spoonbills, who delighted visitors by nesting in the rookery for the second year.  (That’s fairly far north for spoonies!)  I made a terrific flight image of a spoonbill in full breeding colors, but the image that I worked hardest to get was this head shot of a juvenile spoonie.  I tried for several visits to find a cooperating bird who would pose against just the right background with just the right head angle.  I finally got it – and the judges of the rookery’s annual photo contest liked it too! :)

Roseate Spoonbill Fledgling.  St. Augustine Alligator Farm.  June 2011.

Roseate Spoonbill Fledgling.  St. Augustine Alligator Farm.  June 2011.

The rookery wasn’t the only attraction in St. Augustine this spring.  I also found a colony of nesting Least Terns on the beach.  I was thrilled to spend a morning on my stomach, lying behind the Beast, watching a family of terns with two chicks not more than a day or two old.  Adventurous Chick was off exploring the nearby seaweed when Papa brought in a fish.  Mama had Sleepy Chick under her wing, so she told Papa to take the fish over to Adventurous Chick.  But Adventurous Chick was too busy exploring, so Papa ate the fish himself!  This little family portrait was my favorite from that morning, and I had fun developing my Photoshop skills in cleaning up the surrounding beach so as to draw attention to the birds.  Most people who look at this image don’t see the chick under Mama’s wing!

Nesting Least Terns.  Fort Matanzas.  June 2011.

Nesting Least Terns.  Fort Matanzas.  June 2011.

I made quite a few new photography friends this year, and some of them told me about the nesting skimmer colony in Indian Rocks Beach.  Rich and I spent a long weekend at the beach, and I discovered the delights of afternoon light on newly-hatched skimmer chicks.  The light was at the perfect angle when this baby picked up one of the recently-vacated eggs and held it up proudly.  I call this image “Mobile Home” and it is one of my all-time favorite images. 

Mobile Home (Black Skimmer Chick).  Indian Rocks Beach.  July 2011.

Mobile Home (Black Skimmer Chick).  Indian Rocks Beach.  July 2011.

2011 was a year of new adventures, and I travelled across Central Florida to find interesting birds.  (Thanks to the Birdbrains list server, where birders across the state post interesting findings.)  I was so excited to see my first American Oystercatchers at Fort De Soto park this April, my first really good Eastern Meadowlark opportunities at Joe Overstreet Landing in June, my first Red-Headed Woodpecker with Dyeyo for Father’s Day, and the nesting Black-Necked Stilts at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in June.  Even common birds like oystercatchers are fun when you first see them.  Friends who live on the coast wonder at my fascination with shorebirds… :)

Oystercatchers in Conversation. Fort De Soto. April 2011.

Oystercatchers in Conversation. Fort De Soto. April 2011.

On the home front, Rich and I found ourselves hosts to a family of Painted Buntings in the spring.  We put out a caged feeder with millet for them, and had frequent “Painted Bunting Alerts” (consisting of me yelling through the house as I dashed for the camera).  We reported our findings to PBOT, and we were very happy when our buntings returned in the fall.  To play host to these beautiful birds is such a privilege.

Female Painted Bunting in my own Backyard! April 2011.

Female Painted Bunting in my own Backyard! April 2011.

Visits to Circle B continued almost every week, through the hot summer months, the fall migration (where were all the birds?), and into the winter months (where are all the birds?)  Sunrises out on Wading Bird Way, surprise baby Limpkins in late August, and flight shots of skittish Blue-Winged Teals made for wonderful opportunities.  I discovered HDR processing and Nik Color Efex Pro, both of which have improved the quality of my post-processing.

Magical Circle B Sunrise.  Circle B Bar Reserve.  November 2011.

Magical Circle B Sunrise.  Circle B Bar Reserve.  November 2011.

I blogged daily, at least until December, when my day job eclipsed all other adventures.  My photo website and store made its debut in June, and I’ve enjoyed the steady stream of Internet visitors.  Who would have thought that I’d get e-mails and comments from people all across the US?  Thanks to the person who corrected my typo on the bird identification page, and the mockingbird rescue person who offered assistance upon reading my post about the abandoned baby mockingbird.  The Internet is such a great way to share and learn.  I’m glad to find others who share a love and respect for nature.

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird. North Georgia. August 2011.

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird. North Georgia. August 2011.

So what’s next?  In 2012, I’m looking forward to more early sunrise shoots.  Thankfully I have a very patient husband who tolerates my early morning hours!  I want to find a Sandhill Crane nest and get pictures of the newly-hatched chicks while still in the nest with Mom.  I want to go find Snail Kites in the spring.  Burrowing Owls sound like fun, too.  I can’t wait to get back out on the beaches for shorebird nesting season.  I want to continue developing my photography skills, like getting the perfect exposure without help from Photoshop, and using flash to my best advantage.  Best of all, I look forward to spending time with photography friends and my dad, my favorite shooting buddy.  Happy New Year!!

Not Quite Seeing Eye-to-Eye. Circle B Bar Reserve. March 2011.

Not Quite Seeing Eye-to-Eye. Circle B Bar Reserve. March 2011.