Monday, September 17, 2018

Shawnee Photo Workshop!

A gorgeous pastel sunrise colors the foggy waters of Turkey Lake in Shawnee State Park, Scioto County, Ohio. Debbie DiCarlo and I conducted our 6th Focus on Photography workshop on the weekend of September 1 & 2, based at the beautiful lodge within this park, which is imbedded within the 65,000 acre Shawnee State Forest, with easy access to various photographic hotspots in nearby Adams County. For more on our workshops, and next year's schedule, GO HERE.

We had a great group of eight people: Dan, Molly, Suzee, Dan (another one!), Charlie, Patty, Michele, and Eric. Lots of interesting subjects presented themselves, and we got lots of practice in shooting a wide range of plants, animals, sunrise, sunset, and even conducted nocturnal work.

Day Glo orange fungi, the fan-shaped jelly fungus, Dacryopinax spathularia, adorns an old red cedar log. Just one of myriad wee things we found. Macro photography was a major part of this photographic foray.

A big timber rattlesnake, Crotalus horridus, poses for Debbie's camera. We were fortunate to catch the dynamic park naturalist, Jenny Richards, at her center and she had this and several other snakes on hand. They are educational animals, and have been used to enthrall thousands of visitors over the years. More importantly, Jenny uses them to teach about the importance of snakes in the environment, and hopefully win them new fans.

A portraiture shot of the other, darker, timber rattlesnake. Everyone got ample opportunity to admire the beasts and learn how to make a snake look good in pixels.

Shawnee and vicinity teems with flora - perhaps 1,000 native species! - and we saw many of them. This one is blue waxweed, Cuphea viscosissima. It's an elfin plant, but beautiful upon close inspection. The stems, leaves, and flower calyxes are beset with sticky hairs, probably to dissuade insects from reaching the flowers from the ground. Winged pollinators only, please!

A gorgeous red-spotted purple, Limenitis arthemis, poses nicely. This was just after a rain shower, which worked to our advantage. This butterfly and others were holed up and drying off, allowing for lengthy photo sessions.

Saturday evening, while the rest of us were stalking caterpillars and other nocturnal quarry, Debbie pulled out her astrophotography lens and gave a lesson on shooting stars. She made this gorgeous image of the Milky Way right before our eyes. There are not many places where stars can be seen with this clarity in Ohio. Both her and I love to shoot astrophotography and whenever night skies cooperate on one of our workshops, we're more than willing to take everyone out to try their hand at it.

Before and after Debbie's star-shooting lesson, this is what we were stalking - caterpillars. Most caterpillars are nocturnal, emerging under cover of darkness to avoid diurnal bird and insect predators. This one is a black-spotted prominent, Dasylophia anguina, one of the showiest of our myriad species. Caterpillars make for absolutely wonderful photo subjects, and not too many people shoot them, especially the harder to find species such as this. We found scores of species, and everyone went home with lots of interesting caterpillar material.

Looking surreal indeed is this tiny badwing moth, Dyspteris abortivaria. Another perk of nocturnal activities was "mothing". Molly and Dan Kenney, keen mothers/caterpillar'ers as well as photographers, brought mothing lights and other gear and we set up a mothing operation that yielded many interesting subjects.

In all, it was a fantastic weekend with dozens of subjects covering enormous diversity. I think everyone upped their game photographically, as well as their knowledge of natural history. One of our goals with these workshops is to impart a deeper understanding of the natural world. Not only does this help one better find interesting subjects, but also better see how they fit into the bigger picture. In a way, we're teaching "conservation photography", as we want to help people obtain images of Nature that they too can use to pique interest in the natural world.

On that last note, we were thrilled when a gentleman (who wishes to remain anonymous) funded a scholarship for a young person to attend this workshop. Thus, we could offer a full ride to Dan Hodges, who is three years into his career as a naturalist with a western Ohio park district. He is full of intellectual curiosity, already has a commanding grasp of natural sciences (more commanding now!), and is quickly upping his photographic game. We are very grateful for the donation that made this possible, as it totally supports exactly what we are trying to accomplish.

If you like nature in all its facets, and photography, I'm sure you would enjoy one of our workshops and we would love to have you attend one. CLICK HERE for details.

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