Or, Where Have the Eggs Gone? “Sophie” was the first of four snapping turtles in early June to lay her eggs in the same hole just outside my window (see my two previous posts). She started the ball rolling about 11:30 am on the first day of June. I took this photo discreetly from my window, so as not to interfere with the proceedings.

Later on, about 4:30, I went out and took a picture of the laying hole. First, though, I gently probed around with a small stick. I can say for sure there were no eggs. They are big enough that I couldn’t have missed them. And below the top inch or two of loose soil, the earth was hard-packed, quite undisturbed.

Incidentally, I know the times because my digital camera automatically keeps a record.

So “somebody” came around and took the eggs. We don’t usually see skunks in broad daylight, and racoons are rare here. By a process of elimination, I’m forced to point the finger at our resident family of groundhogs. These cute rodents are formidable diggers, as you know.

Another possible suspect could be a muskrat. Occasionally, one comes up from the pond to eat the grass. But I think it’s an unlikely scenario.

Interestingly, several days later, I looked out and saw that the hole had been dug much deeper. “Whoever” did it came away empty-handed -pawed, I’m sure.

There’s another, remote possibility, that despite her heroic efforts, Sophie didn’t lay any eggs at all. But four turtles failing to lay? Again, unlikely.

In all the years I’ve lived here, I’ve seen not a single turtle egg. Next year, I’m determined to go out quickly, as soon as each turtle leaves, and take some photos.

Comments are welcome.

 

No fewer than four snapping turtle laid their eggs in the same hole just outside my window during the first week of June. That hole presently is in a raised flower bed, but it was there, in roughly the same spot, before the bed was built a few years ago.

The top photo shows Maisie still in the hole (she’s the star of my previous post), while Josie having taken her turn looks on.

The bottom photo is of Josie peering up at me from the driveway as I looked down at her, camera ready, from my open window just a few feet above. I know I run the risk anthropomorphizing here, but she looked to me more

relaxed and curious than fearful. As if reading my thoughts, she slowly meandered about the yard, taking in the sights, before heading back to the pond.

Incidentally, I’ve always found the snappers in my yard to be docile, but needless to say, you don’t want to get too close, or handle them, unless you know what you’re doing.

Here’s an instructive video on handling a snapper: Helping a Snapping Turtle Cross the Road. And here’s delightful page of snapper lore.

 

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It never ceases to amaze me that these ancient creatures come up from the pond every year to lay their eggs, and find the same spot to do so — like birds remembering a migration route.

In the very place where they’ve traditionally laid their eggs, a raised flower bed was built a few years ago. Does that stop them? Not on your life! They simply climb the 18″ high stone retaining wall.

There’s more. Take the case of “Maisie.” From her small size, she’s obviously a young snapping turtle, and by her trial-and-error antics in the laying hole, new to the game. How does she know where to go? My guess is that she just follows the older females to this well-worn spot.

There’s more yet. Popular this hole may be, but over the years, I’ve seen many snappers go right on past it, and find a place of their own to dig fifty yards or more further inland, even climbing several terrace walls behind the house to get there!

Alas, few of the eggs ever survive. At night, the skunks come by and dig them up. It’s a blessing in disguise, probably, as there are already a great many snapping turtles in the pond.

The series was taken on June 7, 2011.

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These delicate images of the Thalia Jonquil were recorded at 4:50 pm on April 30, 2011. They reveal the soft, luminous quality of late afternoon light at this time of year. A long, nuanced tonal range is achieved in the image, all the way from pure white at the tip of the corona (or “horn” of the flower) to pure black inside the corona. Light of this quality — what I call glancing light — gives the artist great expressive opportunities. (See my recent post on Glancing Light.)

This gives me a segue to the larger issue of photography as art. It’s surprising how often people resist this notion. Photography is not interpretive: it merely records. I hear that muddled assumption all too often.

“Records what?” I ask. After all, reality is infinitely complex, and to record we must select. Therein lies the art. What we select reveals a great deal about ourselves and how we see the world. This is true for the photojournalist as well as for the photographer aspiring to art.

Friends often express shock or disapproval when I tell them that, using software, I routinely remove spots and blemishes from flowers and other subjects. “But that’s cheating,” they exclaim; “it’s not reality.”

“What is ‘reality’?” I retort. Is it the flower’s petal before the fly deposits the spot, or afterwards? And what, indeed, is my obligation to “reality?” Am I limited simply to recording (which I essay often enough), or can I also aspire to interpret, to reveal the essence of a subject as I see it?

Of course, these questions aren’t new with me. They’ve been discussed through the ages by writers and philosophers. They bear repeating, however, because most people are new to this thinking, at least when it comes to photography.

A friend, whose judgment I respect, was cool to the top photo when I showed it to her. “It’s not how we’re used to seeing jonquils,” she complained. Of course, her comment was one more variant on the “reality” argument I’ve been trying to debunk.

What is the role of the artist if not to show us new ways of looking at the world around us? The bottom two photos may be more conventional, and so more to her liking. But the top one would be my first choice to show in a gallery.

Not all the photos in this blog rise to the level of “art” Many are merely illustrative of a story being told, or may tell a story themselves. Occasionally, the line between art and illustration may disappear entirely.

See related post: Glancing Light.* Click an image to enlarge it, and browser’s back arrow to close. Comments are welcome.

 

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Working at my desk on a recent evening, I slowly became aware that something unusual was going on outside. The second thunderstorm of the day had arrived, after dark, and later than predicted.

Silently, it had morphed into a giant fireworks display, sending rapid-fire flashes back and forth across the night sky, brightening the southeast quadrant for over an hour (I later learned). The thunder was muted, no doubt by the distance and the heavy cloud cover.

As I watched, the display seemed to be slowing, so I skipped the tripod, and braced the camera on the edge of the open window. (The slideshow is a bit blurry as a result.) Luckily, the rain had stopped.

Photos can’t fully convey the awesome nature of this spectacle. During just the few minutes that I watched, I counted some fifty flashes. There were few lightning bolts, mostly flashes, the bolts no doubt diffused into flashes by the thick cloud cover.

The date was June 1, 2011, about 9:30 in the evening.

See related post: Pocket Lightning*.

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“Glancing light” is my preferred term for the low, slanting light that the sun affords in early morning and late afternoon, when it is low in the sky. It is at these times that some of the most interesting and memorable photos can be made of the natural world. Bright highlights in the morning, long tonal transitions in the late afternoon — either can transform our view of a flower, such as these newly emergent snowdrops. I had been watching them for several days, and noticed one evening how they close up with the approaching gloom of night.

Early the next morning, looking out, I saw a dramatically altered scene. The snowdrops had just re-opened from their night’s sleep, and were aglow with the brilliant light streaming low across the pond. I grabbed my camera and rushed out. The top photo is the result.

The bottom photo I took late the next day, hoping for another dramatic outcome, but I was a bit disappointed. The sky was overcast and the light flat, yielding a photo that I judged interesting, but hardly distinctive. Nevertheless, the contrast with the earlier photo is instructive.

In another post, I’ll discuss the magical, luminous possibilities of late afternoon light.

Click an image to enlarge it, and browser’s back arrow to close. See related post: Photography as Art.* Comments are welcome.