Thursday, July 9, 2009

In coming tide at Matheson Hammock

With the moon at 97% and low tide at 6:12 am, the incoming tide came in like a river flow all morning. I was on the water just before sunrise and anchored near the mouth of the creek and watched for any type of bird activity in the direction of the horizon. I brought both the a100 and a700 cameras; the 70-400mm on the a100 and the 180mm macro on the a700. I started the day with the telephoto lens with the intention of spending time with the wading birds. Later, I would pull out the macro lens and head into the creek.

The bay was like glass with no wind to speak of. It was already 80 degrees upon arrival and would reach 90 degrees before 10 am. I was alone on the bay and paddled gentled in the shallow grassy waters. I heard the loud squacks from a couple tricolor herons flying among the mangroves and took that as a sign that the birds would soon be feeding in this area. Sure enough, shortly after sunrise the birds came in to the shallows. The usual players were there; yellowcrown nightheron, little blue heron, ibis and tricolor heron. I spotted the black necked stilt pair that I had seen on other days this year. Unlike some of the herons and egrets, these two are extremely skittish and will freeze if there is any indication of a predator nearby. They quickly lose their patience and will move further on, making it difficult to capture these little guys.
In the meantime, I honed in on some ibises, typically less fearful of my presence. A little blue heron was farther out that I could come toward him with the sun in the background. This was a very nice photo set up as the water was calm and smooth. I captured some silhouettes of the bird while it busily caught and ate the water worms that live in the mud.

After awhile I stayed with some ibises; but the tide was rising so quickly that the birds really didn't have much feeding time. One by one, they flew to a farther point. I decided to paddle around the mangroves and see what I could find with the macro lens. I focused on some mangroves that stood alone in the water with the sun to my left. I set the aperture at f16 and bumped up the ISO to 400. I liked what I saw through the viewfinder. The high key look really distinguishes the mangroves and with the smooth water, it was surreal. I played around with these shots for awhile. I paddled on to smaller mangroves that I could isolate. I purposely put ripples in the water that headed toward the tree. The reflection would be broken up by the movement which made an interesting look.

Eventually, I headed into the creek and after paddling 10 minutes or so, the mosquitoes were in high gear and out for blood. I really wanted to use the macro and was hoping to find a female golden silk spider above. They generally weave a hardy web above the creek, well above eye level. This is good because you can find them easily if you look up. My guess is that from toe to toe length-wise, the spider is a good 4 inches long. Quite beautiful too. Today, I paddled in and did not see one with the sun behind me. But as I paddled out with a barrage of mosquitoes following, I finally found one. The spider was facing the sun and the best lighting was on her underside. This could be interesting. I didn't plan to stay long with the bugs so I rifled off a couple shots and left it at that. While shooting, it occurred to me that a really interesting shot would be to get underneath the spider and shoot straight up. Today, I could barely get into a good position, the sun and bugs were not cooperating.

I left the creek and headed back to launch with the sun blazing and a slight wind. I was off the water before 10 am.

Notes on the new lens: love them. the Sigma 180mm macro lens is a joy to shoot with. And the Sony 70-400mm is tack sharp, even with the a100. Two perfect lenses for the bay.

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