Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Well, I couldn't believe it. The Easton Waterfowl Festival is hailed as one of the premier nature oriented art shows in the US. This was the 40th anniversary of the show and it was amazingly well attended.
The photography exhibit is nestled in the Historical Society building, a re-purposed church. This year there were 12 photographers displaying their work. On the first day of the show the photographers chose three of their images for the other photographers to vote on for "Best in Show."
Saturday morning the votes were tallied and the results were revealed. An image that I had just taken 5 weeks prior to the show was awarded Best in Show.

We were just in the Grand Tetons National Park in September. After three mornings arriving at this location for the sunrise and alpine glow we were rewarded with the most spectacular sunrise I have seen in some time. The forecast was for partly cloudy skies so we headed out to be at this specific spot early. From this one location I could place the top of Mount Moran in the notch in the vegetation in the foreground.
As the sun came up the colors were unbelievable. Everyone was in awe of the amazing spectacle unfolding in front of use. Looking east, there wasn't a cloud in the sky except for one large cloud that was directly over where the sun would be coming up. This cloud was turning orange-gold just like the fall colored aspen leaves we were seeing all over the park.
I printed the image with the light as it was that morning and it looked contrived. I had to add a little blue back into the image to offset the orange-gold from the cloud to make the scene believable. The arrangement of the clouds almost made Mt. Moran look like a volcano.
I was so pleased that this image was chosen by my peers to receive the honor of Best in Show for the 2010 Easton Waterfowl Festival.
Thank you very much.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Exciting News!

Lang Elliott, myself and a small group of talented field recordists, photographers or videographers have launched a new website/blog filled with prose and multimedia content.
Please visit The Music of Nature

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Another Wonderful Nature Photography Workshop

This past weekend we had another successful Nature Photography Workshop. Held at Cacapon State Park in Morgan County, WV the fall colors were in full intensity.

Despite the rain on Friday and Saturday morning the group explored the marvels of manual exposure mode and the realization that the photographer is smarter than the camera.
A combination of classroom work and field work help to strengthen the students understanding of shooting in manual mode, setting f-stops for the situation at hand, setting a shutter speed to freeze the action or to allow time to accumulate on the film/sensor to render the preconceived image. With digital photography the students were made aware that they can change the ISO between ever shot if they want to (I can't imagine wanting to but you can). This allows the photographer to capture the desired image using the f-stop and shutter speed that they want. To render the image the way that they want by changing the ISO to achieve the correct balance between these three key elements to a proper exposure.
It is so rewarding to see the light bulbs click on over their heads when they finally get it. When all of the elements of this manual mode come together and gel - they can do it! Manual Exposure - it's not as hard and you think.

Donna and I are so pleased to have had to opportunity to share our passion for nature and nature photography with passionate people that are willing to learn and experiment. The rewards are priceless.
We are already working on next years workshop schedule. Stay tuned for a link to the 2010 Nature Photography Workshop Schedule.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Cicada Feeding

I found a female dog-day cicada (Tibicen canicularis) on the wall of the local Dairy Queen the other night. I must have been a sight going after this thing with a net in town on a busy road. It only took a second and the cicada was in the bag. I instantly knew that it was a female as it didn't squeak when I was handling it. Males will make sounds while being handled supposedly to scare off predators.
Once I got her home I provided a nice fresh twig from a red oak that was placed in water to keep it hydrated. Within minutes she was on the twig and feeding. Cicadas are homopterans and eat by inserting the stylet of their beak into the phloem layer of the bark of tree branches and sucking the nutrient ladened sap through the straw-like mouth parts.

The stylet is between her "elbows" and inserted into the branch. After drinking for 45 minutes she was very active. I released her in the morning when she could see to fly and off she went.
To make this image I took 7 images at f/16 focusing from near to far through the cicada and then used Helicon Focus filter to make the depth of focus composite. The resulting image is probably equivalent to f/128 or more.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Odd Color Form of Round-tipped Conehead

During a recent trip to Shawnee State Forest in southern Ohio, I found a small colony of round-tipped conehead katydids there were "army drab green." I have never seen this color form in any katydid. They look like and sound like the round-tipped but the color is like nothing I have seen or seen reported.

With all of the blogging about the pink katydids that have been found in Ohio recently I thought it fitting to include this less flamboyant color form in the mix.

So, there you have it, an army drab green katydid able to blend in with its environment like no other. Their only down fall was that they were singing incessantly during the middle to the day. Not the best technique if one wants to remain hidden from view.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Long-tailed Salamander

While looking for meadow katydids after dark I found this long-tailed salamander hunting alone the surface of wood ferns. It was fascinating to be able to see him up close and to get some video of this handsome fellow.

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Stauffer’s Marsh

June 15, 2009 by Wil Hershberger

As dawn proceeds across the valley of Back Creek, West Virginia, the residents of Stauffer’s Marsh begin to stir. As the easter sky brightens the birds begin the ancient ritual of the dawn chorus. Green frogs, bull frogs and northern cricket frogs ad a basso accompaniment to the ever changing performance.

Once the dawn chorus has settled down and birds return to defending territories and attracting mates they sing more slowly. This virtuoso Song Sparrow was recorded in stereo. Listen for the Yellow warbler and Common yellowthroat in the background. This particular male Song Sparrow has a beautiful, clear voice. He will sing 10 or so songs of one type and then change to another song in his repertoire of 10 or more songs.

The dawn chorus was recorded in binaural using a SASS and MKH 20 mics to a Sound Devices 702.

The Song Sparrow was recorded with a Telinga Pro 7 Stereo DAT mic to the SD 702.

Ovenbird Flight Song

May 27, 2009 by Wil Hershberger
Ovenbird singing. © Wil Hershberger All Rights Reserved

Ovenbird singing. © Wil Hershberger All Rights Reserved

Most birders know the song of the ovenbird as “teacher-TEacher-TEACher-TEACHER!” This very loud and emphatic song rings out through the woods from dawn till dusk. Click here to listen to the diurnal song of the ovenbird.

Enterprising birders that are out in the woods at first light and last light might be treated to the wonderful and complex flight song of the ovenbird. Flying in a straight line above the trees or through an opening in the forest understory, the male ovenbirds delivers a splendid song that has to be heard to be believed.
Click here to listen to the ovenbirds flight song. This song could actually be classified as warbling. This rich and elusive song is, as you can imagine, very hard to record. Trying to follow an ovenbird with a parabola in hopes of being on the bird when he does this flight song is an exercise in futility. The best method is to setup a stereo microphone system in an area where you have heard flight song, start the recorder and wait. With solid state digital recorders there is no tape cost to worry about so you can record for very long periods and try to catch this crepuscular warbling.

This specialized song seems to be extremely territorial in nature. Playing back flight song to an ovenbird causes that male to nearly go into convulsions. He becomes extremely agitated and searches endlessly for the intruder. It is highly recommended that flight song never be played back to this species.

Next time you are heading for the woods to listen for and look for birds, get there early or go and stay late and listen for this magical flight song of the ovenbird.

Downy Woodpecker Nest

May 15, 2009 by Wil Hershberger

I have found a downy woodpecker nest on our property. It appears that the male was in the last stages of excavating the hole when I found it a few days ago. I carefully walked in with my camera and took some photos.

Downy woodpecker nest_WH_WIL6437

It took a few minutes for the male to return. When he did he appeared to be checking out the entrance then the interior. The female showed up shortly after he entered the nest. She too appeared to be checking it out. It now appears that we have a pair of downys that are ready to start raising a family.

Regarding the photography – The nest is well under the canopy of expanding leaves. There is very little natural light on the nest entrance. Using flash as the main light and setting the ambient exposure to -1 made for pleasing images. Since I was using a 500mm lens I was also using the Better Beamer flash attachment to concentrate the light from the flash onto the area covered by the long focal length lens. Using flash allowed for faster shutter speeds that helped to freeze the motion and the flash filled in any shadows that would have been there with natural light at this time of day.

For more photos (be sure to read the captions) see Downy Woodpecker Nest.


Scarlet Tanager

May 11, 2009 by Wil Hershberger

We have a pair of scarlet tanagers nesting on our property. I am not certain where the nest is yet but, the male is singing everyday from the same area. It is great to hear their song again this year. A Cornell study of woodland birds indicated that Scarlet tanagers are particularly sensitive to forest fragmentation. Perhaps as the wooded areas in eastern NA mature this species will make a come back. It is important that existing forests remain intact with a minimum of road construction and linked as much as possible with other nearby wooded areas. If large woodland corridors can be developed and maintain we might just see a resurgence of these woodland species.

Male Scarlet Tanager ©Wil Hershberger All Rights Reserved

Male Scarlet Tanager ©Wil Hershberger All Rights Reserved

Flycatchers Returning

May 11, 2009 by Wil Hershberger

Saturday morning I was treated to the song of a Least flycatcher at a wildlife preserve in Frederick County, MD. This little guy was singing his heart out while looking for food. He was certainly a migrant no doubt headed for upstate NY. Least flycatchers are perhaps the easiest of the flycatchers to hear during migration as they sing constantly and the harsh “Che’bek!” is easily learned.

Male Least flycatcher ©Wil Hershberger All Rights Reserved

Male Least flycatcher ©Wil Hershberger All Rights Reserved

Also present was a male Wilson’s warbler. This species is very elusive in central MD and it was great to hear him singing from the brushy pond edge.