Posts tagged ‘Jim Clark’

NATURE’S VIEW: Of Tundra Buggies & Polar Bears

Part IIIPhotographing Polar Bears in the Canadian Arctic

Story and photography by Jim Clark

Polar bear, Churchill Wildlife Management Area, Manitoba. © Jim Clark

Polar bear, Churchill Wildlife Management Area, Manitoba. © Jim Clark

In my previous two columns I shared how I prepared for my excursion into the Canadian Arctic to photograph polar bears. So let’s now experience the Arctic tundra and photographing bears.

Our daily mode of transportation into the Arctic tundra was a tundra buggy, which is a buslike contraption converted into an all-terrain vehicle with extremely large tires, each measuring more than five feet in height. It’s the only mode of transportation capable of negotiating the rugged, snow-covered terrain. The ride is bumpy along the designated trails, and the top speed is probably around three to five miles per hour.

The tundra belongs to the bears and other Arctic wildlife. During my four days there with my wife and son, our feet never touched the ground. Even when we returned to the tundra-buggy lodge—an arrangement of buggies, which includes sleeping quarters, a dining area, a lounge and separate quarters for staff—we remained several feet above the tundra. Read the rest of this entry »

NATURE’S VIEW: Of Tundra Buggies & Polar Bears

Story and photography by Jim Clark ©

Part II-Techniques for photographing the ice bears of Churchill

 

Photographing polar bears, I discovered, is not much different from photographing any other wildlife species. You still have to prepare. You still have to understand exposure and how to use different lighting angles. You still must consider the guidelines of composition. You still have to remain patient. And, you still have to know when to act fast to capture that defining moment.

You might have to pinch yourself to realize you are really seeing these majestic creatures in real time. You are photographing the largest land predator in the world located in an isolated arctic environment in the early throes of winter, which can at times be overwhelmingly windy and bitterly cold with lots of snow. So, okay, there are a few differences.

Polar Bear @ Hudson Bay (c) Jim Clark_013Polar bear at Churchill Wildlife Management Area in Manitoba. © Jim Clark

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NATURES VIEW: Of Tundra Buggies & Polar Bears, Story and photography by Jim Clark ©

My first experience with the apex predator of the far north: Part I—Planning the Trip

Polar bear in the Canadian Arctic, near Churchill, Manitoba. (c) Jim Clark

Polar bear in the Canadian Arctic, near Churchill, Manitoba. (c) Jim Clark

 

Somewhere I read that once you gaze into the eyes of a polar bear, it will change your life. Just a couple weeks ago, I did indeed gaze into the eyes of the foremost apex predator of the far north. In fact, for a week I looked into the eyes of several polar bears during my first-ever trip to Churchill, Manitoba. The experience is something that neither I nor my wife Jamie and son Carson will ever forget. Read the rest of this entry »

NATURE’S VIEW: My Seven-year-old Encounters a Bruin Story and photographs by Jim Clark ©

On the eve of my first trip to Churchill, Manitoba, to photograph polar bears and other arctic wildlife, I’m reminded of my son’s first encounter with a bruin. Carson was only seven, and his reaction to the experience serves as a lesson for all nature photographers. After all, it’s not the age from whence wisdom comes, but instead, it’s the true value of the wisdom that matters. But I digress.

Carson exploring at Canaann Valley0016_01For several summers, Carson and I would take a week-long trip to explore our favorite places in West Virginia. This became a time for father and son to have fun, discover new things, eat pizza nonstop (Don’t tell his mother!), and spend time as best buddies. Oh yeah, we photographed a bit, too.

One June, we visited the usual locations: Canaan Valley and Blackwater Falls state parks, Beartown Natural Area, Falls of Hills Creek, and Cranberry Glades Botanical Area. Carson’s love for nature photography (especially wildlife) had just begun, so he was hoping to find something special to photograph at one of the locations.

While walking on the boardwalk at Cranberry Glades, I showed Carson recent signs of a black bear—scat on the boardwalk, broken alder branches and partially eaten skunk cabbage. Well, that got him excited. So, with camera in hand, he decided we should walk the boardwalk several times that morning to see if we would actually see the bear.

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NATURE’S VIEW: The Chattering Songbird of the Salt Marsh Story and photographs by Jim Clark ©

In an earlier column I gave praise to the seaside sparrow, a species common to the salt marshes of the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, but rarely sought after by nature photographers. This column is on one of my all-time favorite songsters: Cistothorus plaustris, the marsh wren, a denizen of freshwater and tidal brackish marshes with robust stands of bulrush, cattail and cordgrass.

The marsh wren is every bit as inconspicuous as the seaside sparrow, but two qualities make it stand out. It is curious as all get-out, and it loves to sing.

Marsh wrens have to figure you out, and they will approach as near as arm’s length to do so. Even when you can’t see them, they are likely watching you; sometimes closer than you think.

Marsh Scene 4 HDR Nik NX2 05292015 Blackwater NWR MD

The domain of the marsh wren, Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, Maryland. © Jim Clark

 

The other giveaway is its song. Once you hear the marsh wren’s bubbling repertoire of chattering melodies, you will have little trouble recognizing it on future ventures into its wetland domain. A marsh is not a marsh without the wren’s enthusiastic and rapid chatter resonating throughout the tidal landscape. And this little feathered ball of dynamism not only sings during the day, but also at all hours of the night. Read the rest of this entry »

NATURE’S VIEW: Slowing Down, Story and photographs by Jim Clark

JClark-Autumn Morning along the Blackwater River 4 - CVI - Tucker County WV

Autumn morning along Blackwater River, Tucker County, West Virginia. © Jim Clark

 

We are all overbooked these days. Our lives are commandeered by everything we deem uncompromisingly critical. Add those electronic devices that have become as indispensable as an appendage, and we are saturated with an excess of things to keep us too preoccupied to even take a breath.

Remember a time when you hiked into a meadow, laid down and watched the clouds float across the blue sky? Did hawks and vultures glide into your view, and did you wonder what it would be like to fly? Watching, admiring, thinking and developing—that is slowing down at its essence. Read the rest of this entry »

NATURE’S VIEW – Embracing Out-of-focus Photography, Story and photographs by Jim Clark

I tend to get stuck in my ways for photographing landscapes: sharp and focused. But I’ve started experimenting with another technique that I refer to as ambient light painting.

Ambient light painting may not be what you think. It is not using artificial light sources at night to paint light on a tree, old barn or other subject. Instead, ambient light painting uses both natural light and slow camera movements to create abstract compositions. The results can be something resembling a Monet painting.

When I discovered how much my students embraced this technique, I decided to include it in my workshop resources to help them develop their own vision of nature. Turns out, ambient light painting is fun for them, and that fits right in with my goal to get folks to love nature through their photography.

Autumn Forest, Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge, West Virginia. © Jim Clark

Autumn Forest, Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge, West Virginia. © Jim Clark

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NATURE’S VIEW: Caught Between Lunch and a Flock of Snow Geese, Story and photographs by Jim Clark

Expect the unexpected. All nature photographers, regardless of skill level, have had moments when the unexpected happens. Nature provides no script beforehand or studio that we can set up the way we want. What happens is not announced ahead of time. We know from experience that unforeseen and special moments will occur, so we improvise and use what we have to make the best of the situation.

Through our knowledge of the natural world and our willingness to endure whatever challenge is placed before us, nature photographers make it work. We know that going directly from point A to point B rarely happens in nature, and we are blessed for it.

I had planned to photograph a northern harrier frequenting the marshes of Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge and Assateague Island National Seashore in Virginia this past winter. For days, I watched this raptor as it swooped and glided over the salt marsh. Yet, I was never able to get set up in time to photograph it.

One picture-perfect morning I hiked along the bay side of the seashore determined that some feathered creature would not defeat me! My only challenge was that I had to be at a friend’s house for lunch at noon, and he would not appreciate my being late. The day held the promise of fun exploring this side of the coastal barrier island. Then, something unexpected happened.

Geese landing on beach at Assateague Island National Seashore, Virginia.

Geese landing on beach at Assateague Island National Seashore, Virginia.

 

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NATURE’S VIEW: Photographing the Virginia Rail of Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, Story and photographs by Jim Clark

The notes of the rail came loudly to my ear, and on moving toward the spot whence they proceeded, I observed the bird exhibiting the full ardor of his passion. Each time it passed before her, it would pause for a moment…and bow to her with all the grace of a well-bred suitor of our own species.—John James Audubon, 1840

What Audubon witnessed is something most folks will never see as this secretive marsh bird is heard more than it is seen. In 1926, ornithologist Arthur Cleveland Bent wrote this about how to see a Virginia rail: “Take up one’s station near a pond or marsh frequented by them and watch patiently, silently, and immobile….” Wow, patience. What a concept.

Virginia rail at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, Maryland.

Virginia rail at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, Maryland.

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NATURE’S VIEW – A visit with the eloquent denizen of the cypress swamp, Story and photographs by Jim Clark

Prothonotary Warbler

Prothonotary Warbler

The charm of its haunts and the beauty of its plumage combine to render the prothonotary warbler among the most attractive members of the family.—Frank Chapman, ornithologist, 1907

Many nature photographers have locations or subjects that have been a desire or challenge to photograph. It may take years—sometimes, a lifetime—for a photographer to achieve a certain photographic goal. Indeed, it may never happen. The charm is that the photographer never gives up.

For years I wanted to photograph the prothonotary warbler, a beautiful yellow and orange warbler of the bottomland wetlands and cypress swamps. In the spring of 2013, that goal became a reality. It was a matter of being a naturalist first and photographer second. Knowing about the subject and using my skills at anticipating a moment and chasing one all played a part. Steadfast determination and persistence had something to do with it as well. Read the rest of this entry »

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