Frost and Light, Wild Geranium: Nikon D4, 70-200mm with 1.4 TC @ 250mm; 1/800 sec, ISO 2000, f/8.0.
On September 18, we noticed the season’s first snow powdering the mountaintops surrounding Chignik Lake. Three days later, the first heavy frost fell, prompting me to go out and attempt to capture images of seasonal change. I chose the 70-200mm lens over the much heavier 200-400mm lens because I wanted to leave the tripod behind and do handheld shots. As a compromise in the event that I might encounter wildlife, I added a 1.4 teleconverter (TC), effectively extending the maximum focal length from 200mm to 280mm.
Thawing Frost on Grass: Nikon D4, 70-200mm with 1.4 TC @ 280mm; 1/30 sec, ISO 2000, f/9.0. This was the morning’s first shot. With the rest of the landscape covered in frost, I was drawn to this grass dripping with dew growing in a slightly warmer microclimate beneath alders and salmonberry bushes.
Ice Feathers: Nikon D4, 70-200mm with 1.4 TC @ 100mm; 1/125 sec, ISO 2000, f/11. Up in the bog meadow where we pick cranberries and blueberries, I encountered the first iced-over water of the fall. The mirrored directional pattern of some of the sedges to the left and the orientation of the ice had appeared obvious when I framed the shot but seemed to get lost in a colored image, so I processed the photo in black and white.
Fireweed Spiral, First Frost: Nikon D4, 70-200mm with 1.4 TC @ 280mm; 1/50 sec, ISO 2000, f/11. Naturally occurring patterns fascinate Barbra and me. When I saw this fireweed plant with its autumn colors and pinwheel spiral, I found my mind leaping back in time to the Ferris Wheels, Merry-Go-Rounds and sugary cotton candy of Autumn Leaf Festivals in my hometown of Clarion, Pennsylvania.
Bear Claw on Clay Bank: Nikon D4, 70-200mm with 1.4 TC @ 170mm; 1/250 sec, ISO 2000, f/5.6. At one point in the hike I had to cross a small stream and scramble up a steep bank. Sizing up the situation, I noticed that a brown bear had also clawed its way up the bank.
Orbs: Nikon D4, 70-200mm with 1.4 TC @ 250mm; 1/2500 sec, ISO 2000, f/6.3. Many invertebrates had survived the frost. Clouds of midges and other flying insects in sunlit patches of air and there were still a few biting flies seeking their pound of flesh. Here and there, small spiders were busy about their work. A shrew I found wasn’t as lucky. Caught in the elements, it was hard as an ice brick, not a mark upon it.
Nothing surprised me more than encountering a flock of Turdus migratorius. Though nearly ubiquitous throughout the contiguous U. S., Canada and even large parts of Alaska, American robins are absent from a carefully documented bird list put together by David Narver, a biologist who spent summers in Chignik Lake during the early 1960s. This was the third time I’d encountered robins in the weeks I’ve been here, leading me to think that this highly adaptive species is expanding its range into this area. These particularly robins were as wary as any I’ve ever encountered, and I had to crawl on my hands and knees to obtain even this somewhat distant capture. (And glad after all that I’d attached the teleconverter.)
Black-Capped Chickadees, by contrast, often seem unable to resist coming in for a closer look at what humans are up to. There were also a few savannah sparrows, northern shrikes and a thrush or two.
I found a new place to pick cranberries (lingonberries) and on the way home filled a gallon-sized bag I’d brought along just for that purpose. Kissed with frost, they were especially tasty – good candidates for sorbet. Finished picking I gathered up my gear and a little further down the trail noticed the wolf scat in the above photo.