Friday, December 30, 2016

Winter Harbor II Colors

Sometimes Karen comes home with photos having the strangest backgrounds — reflections of whatever lays beyond her subject — especially when she’s aiming her camera towards water.  Normally, this isn’t a problem in wildlife photography — unless you’re photographing a raven sitting on a green dumpster or you find some inconsiderate person’s beer can in the image’s background when you download it onto your computer.  

                              Petersburg's South Harbor offers a wealth of background colors.

The difference is — Petersburg’s harbors in no way resemble nature.  Here you find boats, mostly commercial fishing vessels, painted in a wide array of colors — from a somewhat menacing black to first-responder red to electric blue, even rust.  Should I include a pea soup-green fish-processing cannery?  Here, they turn reflections across the harbor’s water into a myriad of colors — definitely not something natural.

Now float a bird or even seal amidst those colors and viola, you have the most surreal wildlife photo.  In other instances our low-angle winter sun, maybe blazing onto a snow-covered mountain, or even our rare blue skies expand that varied palette reflecting off the water.  Add the ripple of waves and you have your subject resting in an abstract painting.

                                 A male Barrow's Goldeneye in the most unreal setting.

Of course Karen did not set out to capture unreal images.  The birds decided where she would photograph them, but you can be sure few of these images would make the cut in a photo book of Alaskan birds.  

Is this long-tailed duck (formerly known as oldsquaw until the group of poobahs who name birds decided to change it) backed by a boat or sky reflections?

And since I’m not good at resisting temptation, why not include a couple of  Karen’s photos of birds that, in themselves, provide an unreal level of color.  While the females of most waterfowl species are well camouflaged, this is certainly not the case with the males.  Since their role in propagating the species is limited to looking pretty for the “girls” — a couple of moments to pass on their genes, and poof, think I’ll pass on the parenting responsibilities — perhaps they’re more expendable.  It certainly seems a brightly colored mallard drake would be an easier target for a hungry predator than his camo-clad mate.

So here some of Karen’s latest colorful winter harbor creations.

                          Guess there's no question where Karen found this male long-tailed duck

   Low-angle sun shinning through morning fog created an atmospheric background for this bufflehead.

                           It looks like a bit of a mix of background colors for this pair of greater scaup.

                                         A another pair -- this time Barrow's goldeneyes.

         Two males, a surf scoter and a Barrow's goldeneye, emerge out of a sunlit foggy background

                       These barnacle-clad piling don't even need a bird to be appealing.

                                                         Then again, this great-blue heron helps

                It looks like blue sky for this surf scoter, but how can it hide with a bill like that.

                                       What lady duck could resist this American wigeon?

This mallard drake shows the trade off -- attract the "ladies" or predators.  Judging at how successful mallards are, it looks like the "ladies" win.

                       Then again put them in this harbor reflection and does it even matter?

Oh, bet you thought I forgot the raven.  Karen just zeroed in on a head shot.  Viola, no dumpster.  Now we're not sure about the white flecks on it.  We hope it hadn't been roosting below a pigeon. 


Monday, December 26, 2016

Winter Harbor Part I

Here in this corner of Alaska mid-December blessed us with an abnormal stretch of clear cold weather.   Combine that with Petersburg’s setting — one bounded by harbors that boats share with overwintering waterfowl and you have the recipe for a smile on Karen’s face despite cold hands and toes.  Multiple species of waterfowl that could be far to the south basking along sunny beaches dodging sunscreen slathered tourists, short circuit their migrations to remain here where they add color and life to our little burg.

At first glance, Petersburg's boat harbors look like they could have been taken anywhere in America -- er, make that Alaska.

Of course Karen has been making daily forays to commune with the harbor denizens with her camera.   And each day she brings back photographic treasures that are impossible to top -- until the next day.  While further south in wildlife refuges, and other areas popular with bird enthusiasts, she’d be shoulder to shoulder with camo-clad photographers vying for the best position, here Karen has the critters virtually all to herself — unless someone’s black Labrador retriever comes over to nuzzle her derrière while she’s zeroing in on a rare species she’s been stalking for half an hour.  Of course!  She might toss a stick.

OK, there are a set of different challenges for Karen, but she certainly rises to meet them.  Now she’s suggesting she would like to carry dog biscuits for her four-footed friends.  I’m not sure carrying such contraband would enhance her photographic efforts regarding the wild side of PetersburgBut, then Karen is not your everyday wildlife photographer.  She seems just as happy to bring home images of the domestic citizens too.

Actually both four-footed and two-footed friends can render an impressive stalk into an everyday scene around Petersburg.

Naturally Karen has been so productive that it is hard to include as many images as we would like in a single post. Thus, we'll break this one up into several installments. 

                      Barrow's goldeneye are a common resident in Petersburg's harbors.

Mallard drakes, so wary in areas frequented by waterfowl hunters find Karen about as threatening as a snowflake.

                        Three male surf scoters also consider Karen to be just part of the scenery.

For Karen common loons were one of the favorite parts of the north woods where she spent her childhood summers.  Now those north woods are down south in Wisconsin and the loon in winter plumage fails to match her childhood image.

 A female common merganser appears to have visited a local beauty salon.  Then again, with a natural coiffure like this, she didn't need to.  

                               A comparatively tiny female bufflehead paddles past Karen...

                                           And through a flock of snoozing mallards.

Karen was very excited to hear a hooded merganser was frequenting our harbor.  The sight of it didn't disappoint her.

 A great-blue heron looks like a grumpy old bird as it rests on one of the harbor floats.  This is the same species Karen has photographed in other pacific northwest states and, if she ventured all the way to Florida, she would likely still be aiming her camera at one.

                         Frost-covered grass kept distracting Karen, so she added it to her collection. 

This is but a sample of images Karen captured this month.  We plan to publish more very soon.  Oh, and about the cold toes.  It seems that when some footwear gets too cold it....EXPLODES.

                     Maybe that Salvation Army thrift store pair of boots was not such a bargain after all.