I packed up my gear and headed out to Great Falls National Park, Maryland. A dense layer of clouds hung overhead with just a sliver of open sky at the horizon. While it was a slim chance, the makings of an amazing light show were a definite possibility. Upon arrival, I scrambled down the rock faces to get closer to the water. With an hour to kill before any possibility of color in the sky, I passed the time scouting compositions and watching white-water kayakers plunge down 30 ft waterfalls. With the sliver of open sky still near the horizon, I counted down the minutes until sunset in slow motion. Finally, the time arrived. The sun dipped below the layer of clouds and the entire sky was set on fire. As the sun continued to lower, the shades turned from banana yellow, to orange, fire truck red, hot magenta, and cotton candy pink. It was truly the most impressive display of light I've had the opportunity to photograph. This particular image was taken near the end of the color where cooler magentas, purples, and blues dominated. I really liked this little pool of "ooze" and used it as a foreground. The photograph reminds me of the beginning of life on earth ... primordial organisms emerge from a pool of sludge to be greeted by a prehistoric sky. "The Dawn of Time"
I am fortunate to live 2 hours east of Shenandoah National Park. This park, located in western Virginia, is a long and skinny park stretching some 100 miles along Skyline Drive, later becoming the Blue Ridge Parkway. Within Shenandoah National Park there are countless opportunities for nature photography ranging from mountain and forest scenics to birds to mammals to flowers. On this late summer day, I was visiting the Big Meadows region near milepost 50 in search of White-tailed Deer Bucks. The deer found in Shenandoah National Park and particularly Big Meadows are quite tame. I believe that they may have been fed by humans in the past but certainly being protected from hunting and being exposed to many tourists a day has led to their lack of fear. Regardless of the reason, Shenandoah National Park is one of the prime locations on the east coast to photograph White-tailed Deer. I spotted this magnificent 11 point buck late in the evening about a half an hour before sunset. I followed him around the meadows and got many portraits and full body shots of him in nice warm evening light. However, as the sun was getting close to setting, I decided to try something different and went around behind him to place him between myself and the sun. Being so tame I had a lot of problems trying to photograph him with his head up since he was comfortable having his head down eating grass instead of being alert to any humans nearby. Luckily, with just minutes to spare, he lifted his head for several seconds and I was able to fire off 3 shots, this being one of them. As soon as I saw the image on the back LCD of my camera I knew that I had something special. Some of important qualities of this shot are the warm colors of the background combined with the blues of the haze in the distant blue ridge mountains, the position of the deer, and the fact that the sun is in the frame and it appears that he is enjoying the view one last time before nightfall. My favorite quality of the shot however is the rim lighting around his antlers. Without his velvet still on, the antlers would simply be silhouettes. To this day, this photograph remains one of my favorite White-tailed deer photographs and without a doubt one of my favorite photographs of mine period.