An Excellent Day at Featherstone NWR

Yellow Morel

On April 23rd we had our second tour of Featherstone NWR of the year. The turnout was smaller than recent tours; however in addition to some of us “regulars”, we had a few visitors who had not been to the refuge. The weather was cloudy with occasional brief showers and a bit cool.

One of the group commented upon seeing me load up with two cameras, tripod, lens bag, and assortment of other photo gadgets, that it was too bad the weather was so bad for photography. Actually the weather was perfect for photography! Most experienced nature photographers will tell you that other than the first and last couple of hours of daylight, cloudy misty days offer the best natural light for photography.

Why? Well the most important reason is that you get a natural diffusion of the light which softens the light and eliminates harsh highlights and deep shadows. You also get much greater saturation of color in damp weather. Dappled sun light is always a problem when shooting in a wooded area on a bright day. You get spots that are overexposed next to shadows with no detail. Cloudy weather eliminates that problem.

Of course, like anything, you get better results with a little planning and a couple of simple tools. A tripod helps you get sharp photos, because with less light your shutter speed may be lower. And if your lens will accept a polarizing filter, it will reduce glare and give you more color saturation. Carry two plastic bags. One small one to keep your camera dry if there is a shower and another large one to kneel on when taking close-ups of flowers and creatures on the ground.

We had a great day at the refuge. Among the highlights:

  • We saw many birds including great blue herons, an osprey, a wood duck, and a prothonotary warbler (my first!)
  • There were many plants in bloom. Highlights included flowering dogwood, pawpaw flowers, jack-in-the-pulpit, viburnum,  mayapple,  henbit, and a yellow morel.

    River Otter

  • The biggest surprise came from a four legged inhabitant of the refuge. While a couple of us were standing on the dyke, we heard a huge splash. We looked at each other thinking that the other had thrown something big into Farm Creek – we hadn’t. Looking out to the spot where we had heard the splash, we saw a small fury head pop up out of the water and start moving toward the opposite shore. It was a river otter who had made a burrow in the remnants of the dike. We captured some photos and a little video and left him/her to do river otter stuff.

You can see some additional photos taken during the day on Flickr.com at http://www.flickr.com/groups/featherstonerefuge/   The next tour of the Featherstone NWR is  June 4th. Do yourself a favor and join us – rain or shine!

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