Meteor Dawn | February 7, 2013, 6:53 am

Dawn skies are infinitely varied and variable. The most spectacular draw me into whimsical flights of fancy, for which I beg the reader’s indulgence. Here I imagined these streaks in the sky were meteor smoke trails like those widely seen over Russia last week, and posted extensively online.

They were no such thing, of course, just the familiar vapor trails of high-flying aircraft. If you look closely, you’ll see the remains of three such, suggesting they may have been left by military planes from Hanscom Air Force Base, located a few miles northwest of the pond.

A great sense of depth is conveyed by the photo. The bright gold vapor trails and overlapping wispy clouds pop forward out of the gloom. The soft gold sky behind them recedes slowly to muted navy, giving the effect of a vast, convex surface, the inside of a cosmic sphere. To experience this three-dimensional effect more vividly, view the photo full-screen and in low light.

The photo was taken from my window on February 7, 2013 at 6:53 am.

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Related: Vapor Trails at Dawn*.


This is not a spectacular dawn, as our winter dawns go, but it is richly textured and elegant.

The smaller photo, below, was the camera’s default interpretation, an average reading of the light.

In the featured photo, I reduced the light entering the camera to accommodate the brighter areas, while letting the darker area grow darker. In effect, I sacrificed detail in the shoreline opposite in order to preserve detail in the areas of interest, the brightly lit clouds and the sun. In so doing, I added drama, also.

As I have mentioned before, not the camera, not the computer screen, and certainly not a print, can be relied on always to reproduce the full brightness range of the real world, so some part of that range may have to be sacrificed. In such a case, the photographer will make an artistic decision.

As I’ve argued in the past, no photograph is a literal rendering of the subject. How the light entering the camera is interpreted to form an image depends on the goal or style of the photographer, which he or she achieves through the technical means available, that is, by the settings on the camera, and by post-camera processing, if needed, in photo-editing software.

The two photos were taken a minute apart, at 7:19 and 7:20 am respectively, on February 3, 2013. Click an image to view it full screen, and click the back arrow to return. Cursor over for a description.
Related: Spare Dawn, Tubular Dawn, Photography as Art*.


Two days of unseasonably warm temperatures had melted the pond ice in the shallow areas near our shore. A Mallard pair were taking the opportunity to dabble in the open water now available in our little cove.

The ducks’ activity drew a few gulls near to shore, looking opportunistically for the odd snack. The gulls had been flying about prettily, among them a flock of small, white gulls, forming elegant, white-on-white patterns as they dipped low over the snow-covered ice.

We tend to overlook the gulls, so common are they, and scavengers. I did miss them sorely, however, when they disappeared after the massive fish kill in March of 2012. Their numbers on the pond have recovered, I’m glad to report. They are remarkable birds in many ways. Watching then soar gracefully on ocean thermals, and hearing their plaintiff cries, to me, are among the great experiences in the natural world.

This photo has a vividness, almost a three-dimensional quality, that I find appealing. As in some recent dawn photos, I exposed for the area of interest, in this case the bird, and let the background go where it may — here the ice went gray — knowing that the camera and computer screen could neither capture nor display the entire range of brightness in the scene.

The shot at left shows the camera’ default, average exposure. The brightness range is the same, but it now favors the ice while depriving the gull’s breast of detail. In photographer’s parlance, the bird’s breast is a “blown highlight.” What’s more, the light background competes with the subject, drawing attention away from the bird, while creating an effect of clutter.

Incidentally, the weeds in the foreground represent my belated attempt to let the shoreline naturalize, and form at least a minimal buffer zone. Now, the only plants I pull up along the water’s edge are invasive species such as purple loosestrife and non-native tiger lilies. The diversity of plant life along a natural shoreline is what makes it such a valuable part of the larger pond ecosystem, and home for a correspondingly diverse array of animal life.

The two photos were taken on January 31, 2013, at 12:12 pm.

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Related: Gulls’ Lament*, Snatching Gulls*.


I saw a blur of motion out of the corner of my eye, a first intimation that something was there. That something had dashed behind my neighbor’s car parked in our shared drive.

I raced to the camera, perched at-the-ready near the pond-side windows. Turning, I saw the visitor — instantly recognizable — a Red Fox. Quickly, I raised the camera and shot across twelve feet of living room, and through the double-paned thermal window. I’ve learned the hard way: “He who hesitates is lost,” has special resonance for wildlife photographers. I was able to get off only two shots, one of which is at right.

A few minutes later, I saw the fox again, this time out on the ice, but a bit too far for decent photos. I resigned myself to a missed opportunity.

Then, almost two hours later, I spotted it once more on the ice, a little closer this time, but still pretty far. The photo at right gives an idea of just how far. My modest telephoto lens couldn’t bring it any closer. I enlarged the tiny image of the fox digitally, to produce the somewhat blurry featured photo, above.

The fox was clearly enjoying itself, cavorting on the ice. It was doing something that its birthright ordinarily denies it: walking on water.

Both photos were taken on January 19, 2013. The times were 8:49 am and 11:36 am, respectively.

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Related: Coywolf!*


I raised the shades at seven. Minutes later, I happened to glance out the French door at the rear of the house, and saw it right there on the terrace, only a few feet from me. As I watched, it scurried behind the northern, gable end of the house.

Although I had never seen one before, I knew immediately what it was — whether by a process of elimination, or from a dimly remembered photo, I can’t say.

I ran for the camera. By the time I got back, my visitor was gone. Did I miss the photo-op? I checked the front of the house, and the back, but no luck. Then I slowly cracked the French door, stuck my head out, and saw it up on the hill behind the gable end, hard by a neighbor’s storage shed.

I later learned that it goes by the name of Virginia Opossum. A marsupial, it sports a prehensile tail, and adapts readily to a wide range of conditions. A remarkable creature!

I had time for only three shots; luckily one came out, although it’s blurry. I always leave the camera on “Auto” for just such situations as this, when I don’t have time to consider my options. In the dim light, the camera chose a slow shutter speed. Then, I must have jerked the camera while trying to hold the storm door open with my foot. I’m sorry for the blurry image.

The date was January 13, 2013; the time, 7:15 am.

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Related: Raccoon, Groundhog Pup*.


Wispy and surreal, they reminded me of northern lights, or aurora borealis. In reality, they were nothing more than fuzzy, distant clouds set ablaze by the still-hidden sun — a familiar predawn occurrence. Sadly, before the sun rose a half hour later, a dense layer of fog stealthily intervened.

Yes, I acknowledge that aurora boreales are usually green, but red and blue ones do occur, albeit rarely.

Remarkably, this was the fifth exquisite dawn in only eleven days of the new year, each singing its own, distinctive hymn to the divinities of color and fire (see “Related” links, below).

The image was captured on January 11, 2013 at 7:04 am.

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Related: Painted Dawn*, Spare Dawn, Wildfire Dawn*, Auspicious Dawn*.