Whitetail Deer in the Morning

Whitetail deer can be a challenge for photographers. They’re shy, spook easy and often live in areas where deep shadows and heavy brush are common. When lucky enough to get close enough to make a photo I find I usually have the ISO cranked up, the aperture opened up and the shutter speed somewhat low. That’s a recipe for digital noise and/or motion blur. There are locations in the east where getting deer photos is somewhat easy, but coastal Carolina isn’t one of them.

I set out this morning with the hope of finding a deer and getting a shot or two. I headed to one of my favorite spots for Whitetail and was about to call it a morning when I found this little guy. Here are a couple of shots from this morning. I was able to work my way to within 20 yards or so of this young buck. Creep a few inches forward… wait while he stares me down… sneak up a few more inches… wait again… a game that played out over and over.

Whitetail Deer , Coastal Carolina

Small Whitetail Buck

Whitetail Deer in Eastern Carolina

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Upper Cascades: Hanging Rock State Park

Within the boundaries of Hanging Rock State Park are 5 “advertised” waterfalls. (Rumor has it that there are other falls not found along the marked trails.) Upper Cascades is the shortest hike from the main parking lot and is certainly a pretty natural feature. For the video I used a combination of footage from my Canon 7D DSLR and my SJCam SJ 4000 action camera. All still photos were taken with the 7D.

First view of Upper Cascades in Hanging Rock State Park

Detail shot of Upper Cascades at Hanging Rock State Park

Upper Cascades at Hanging Rock State Park

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Hanging Rock State Park: Hidden Falls

Hanging Rock State Park is located near Danbury in the northwestern part of North Carolina. Nestled in the Sauratown Mountains, the park is home to several waterfalls. While not the tallest falls in the state, they are certainly pretty. Unlike so many waterfalls that require miles of hiking to reach, the well known falls of Hanging Rock State Park are all short hikes from convenient parking lots. In addition to the five publicized waterfalls, my understanding is that there are a few other falls hidden away and requiring a bit of effort and adventure to find. The following are a few photos and a video of Hidden Falls. All photos were taken with a Canon 7D. The video is a combination of footage from the 7D and from my SJCam SJ 4000 action camera.

Hidden Falls -Hanging Rock State Park

HIdden Falls - Hanging Rock State Park, Danbury NC

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Sometimes Exotic Places are Right In Your Backyard!

Mention the term “wild orchid” and many peoples minds will think of tropical rainforests in some secluded, distant location. But sometimes exotic locations exist in our own backyard. Such is the case with the Croatan National Forest. Located on the Coastal Plain of North Carolina, this forest is home to a variety of exotic plants. Living in this national treasure are several variety of carnivorous plants such as the Venus Fly Trap, Yellow Pitcher Plant, Purple Pitcher Plant and a variety of Sun Dew and Bladderwort plants. In addition to this fascinating class of plants, the Croatan is also home to several wild orchids, including the Yellow Fringed Orchids pictured below.

According to the US Forest Service:

Yellow fringed orchid is a perennial herb that blooms from late June to September. The flowers are showy, with bright yellow to orange flowers that have distinctive fringed lips and are clustered in racemes. This plant is typically found in sunny, wet areas with acidic soils. Its habitats include swamps, seeps, wet meadows and prairies, boggy areas in pine savannas, flatwoods, and roadsides.

Yellow fringed orchid is native to the most of eastern and south central United States. It is still common in the southeastern states, but is becoming rare at the northern edges of its range. Threats to this species include shading of habitat due to succession, plant collection, roadside mowing, and changes in hydrology.

(Source: http://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/plant-of-the-week/platanthera_ciliaris.shtml)

Below are a few photos from a recent trip to the Croatan National Forest.

Yellow Fringed Orchid, Croatan National Forest

Yellow Fringed Orchid, Croatan National Forest

Yellow Fringed Orchid, Croatan National Forest

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Spring in the Swamps and Along the Blackwater Creeks

Every spring North Carolina is blessed with a brilliantly beautiful song bird living near blackwater streams, creeks and swamps. With bright yellow feathers resembling those of a canary, accented by gray-black wings, the Prothonotary Warbler is easily overlooked in the dense areas where it lives. Unquestionably, this is one of my favorite little song birds and one I find difficult to get in front of my lens for quality photos. The images below are from today’s efforts. I hope you enjoy them.

Prothonotary Warbler, Croatan National Forest

Prothootary Warbler on bridge in Croatan National Forest

Prothonotary Warbler in the Croatan National Forest

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Clouds Reflected on Lake Mattamuskeet

I took a drive up the coast a while back and while up that way I paid a visit to Lake Matamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge. While I was basically just doing a quick scouting trip on my way back home, I stopped along the causeway to take a couple shots. If you’ve looked a many North Carolina landscape photos you’ve likely seen this view several times. Even though I knew it was one of those locations that has been photographed to the point of saturation, the mirror like water combined with the lovely sky was just too picturesque to pass by. Below are my interpretation of this classic North Carolina scene.

Clouds on Lake Mattamuskeet.

Clouds on Lake Mattamuskeet.

Lake Mattamuskeet in Black and White.

Lake Mattamuskeet in Black and White.

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Fox Kits: A Little Luck and a Bit of Field Craft

When I visit my favorite photography areas I usually do a bit of scouting after I’ve made the shots I planned for. Last winter I came across a fox den while scouting. I made some mental notes of the location with plans to revisit it in the spring. A few evenings ago I was photographing wild horses. The horses were being less than animated and, honestly, I already have thousands of images of wild horses with their heads down feeding. The clouds in the sky weren’t overly interesting and I didn’t see the prospect for good sunset shots being very high either. With those considerations in mind I decided to call it an evening and head back to my kayak. However, I thought I’d go a bit out of my way and see if there was any sign of activity around the fox den. Activity there was!

As I slowly and quietly moved into a position where I could get a peak at the fox den I noticed the outline of a hear with pointy little ears through the tall glass. Not only was it an active den the kits were outside! The problem was from my location I didn’t have a clear view of the den. The den was hidden behind tall grass. To make matters work the sun was directly behind the den. The only chance I’d have to get a shot would require repositioning myself for a view of the den. Now foxes have a reputation for being shy, evasive animals. In my experience it’s an accurate reputation. In order to get a shot I’d have to move into a position where there was no cover and do so without spooking the little foxes. I figured my odds were low but I just had to give it a try.

First I noted the wind direction and plotted a course that would keep me down wind of the den. I looked at the route and could see that I would be out of view of the foxes… unless they moved up on top of the dune above their den. I set a goal of the to of a small dune about 150 or 200 feet from the den that would give me a clear view of the foxes. Upon reaching the spot I was a bit surprised to see the foxes were still outside the den. One stared intently at me as I sat very, very still. After what seemed like a long, cold stare the little mammal went back to business. For the next forty-five minutes to an hour I’d take a few shots, push my tripod and camera a foot or so in front of me, scoot up behind it and take a few more shots. Slowly I inched closer and closer to the kits. I managed to work within about one-hundred feet of the little guys before that light became too dim to shoot.

I’m a little surprised that I was able to get that close to these wild animals. I wasn’t inside a blind nor was I wearing camo. My clothes were earth tones but foxes, like other canidae, are color blind. The two things I had working in my favor was wind direction and the fact that the sun was directly behind me. Try looking directly into a low, setting sun and you’ll understand how difficult that can make things. I’ll check these images up to a small dose of apply field skills and a big helping of luck.

Wild fox kit in front of its den.

Fox kit on the Outer Bands

Foxe kits on the North Carolina coast.

A pair of young foxes in front of their den along the NC coast.

Fox kts.

Wild foxes at the Rachel Carson Estuarine Reserve

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Overcast Skies, Dark Forest and Small Birds

Mother nature has been fairly cruel to me this year. If I have a personal day to make photo the weather is likely to either be wet, threatening or severely overcast. Today was no exception. I got up with plans to either visit the wild horses or to kayak up Cahooque Creek for some Prothonotary Warbler photographer. Neither seemed a good idea. Rather than being totally stymied I decided to take the jeep and drive to a location I know has some potential for warbler photography. With the sky overcast and the forest dark and thick I knew I wouldn’t be thrilled with the settings I’d have to use, but any image was better than no image. I was treated to observing a Black & White warbler, but he stayed too deep in the woods for a shot. I also got several looks at some Prothonotary Warblers and was lucky enough to get a couple of okay shots. Handheld, high ISO certainly didn’t combine for an image outstanding, but at least I got a couple shots.

Prothonotary Warbler in the Croatan Nationa Forest

Prothonotary Warbler, eastern NC

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The Rachel Carson Estuarine Reserve’s Newest Resident

Because of the need to manage the herd size new additions are always a very special event. The births of new foals are few and far between. Born a few months ago, this little horse took his first few breaths as Mother Nature shared cold, snow and ice with Coastal Carolina. What a shock it must’ve been to trade the warmth of his mother’s womb for that icy cold winter world. During my first few trips to the reserve with the hope of finding and photographing him I had no luck. His mother was doing a good job of keeping him secluded from my camera and lens. As spring began to reach the reserve the horses started falling back into their warm weather routines and that included moving this young foal into more obvious locations. While guiding a group of equine artists from Virginia we were treated with an afternoon and evening of foal watching. With no further introduction I give you “Skipper,” the reserve’s newest resident.

Young wild foal of the Carolina Coast.

A wild mare and her young colt feed along the Carolina Coast.

A young wild colt explores the Rachel Carson Estuarine Reserve near Beaufort, North Carolina

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Wild Horse at Sunset: Rachel Carson Estuarine Reserve

I had the pleasure of introducing a few members of the Virginia Equine Artists Association (VEAA) to the wild horses of the Rachel Carson Estuarine Reserve yesterday. As sunset neared most of the herd had moved out onto Bird Shoal. While many of the horses had moved a hundred or so yards out onto a sand flats area, a few stayed back near some low dunes. I decided to stay back with the smaller group of animals while most of the group photographed the larger group of horses. I hang back in part to stay out of the way of the people I was guiding, but also because there was an image I’ve had in my mind for quite some time that I hoped might develop. As it were, this was the evening that opportunity was going to happen. I watched as the sun sank lower in the sky, resting just above the top of a small sand dune. In my mind I was urging the horse nearest that dune to walk on top of it. “Please go up there” I thought. “Ease up on top of that dune, please!” Then, just as if this beautiful animal could read my mind, up the dune it went. Stopping between my lens and the setting sun. A few clicks of the camera and then the horse moved over the crest of the dune and out of sight of my camera. It is the moments like these that make time spent in the field worth the effort. I hope the folks from VEAA enjoyed their visit. If you like to learn more about their organization visit the Virgina Equine Artists Association website. Also I’d like to give a quick thank you to Captain Monty of Seavisions Charters and Ecotours for another perfect experience on the water.

A wild horse feeds atop a sand dune at sunset along the North Carolina coast.

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