Friday, May 6, 2011

Ossabaw Weekend Photo Adventure, April 28th-May1

A  20-minute boat ride from Savannah, this 26,000-acre island wilderness is a designated natural heritage reserve set aside for cultural, natural and scientific study, research, and education.  Visiting Ossabaw is going back in time to undeveloped beachfront with overhanging Live Oaks and ancient dead fall. I lead a few (2) hr boating trips for shorebirds but mostly Marvin Bouknight and I lead 14 photographers by pickup truck and on dirt roads, unmarred by road signs or stop lights.  The abundant wildlife is mostly undisturbed by the hand of man on this 24 thousand acre all natural island, about the size of Hilton Head Island. Bone yard beaches and miles of prime shorebird habitat provides a perfect home for nesting Wilson's Plover and other shorebirds. Deer, wild hog, and a plethora of bird species populate the dense maritime forest.  We saw and photographed endangered Wood storks, Roseate Spoonbill, and birds too numerous to name here, visited huge Live Oaks draped in Spanish moss, historic slave quarters and  a school house, even a 1800’s era club house -  which was our temporary home. While anytime of year is worth a trek to this remote island, spring and fall  are ideal for moderate temperatures, increased daylight. Spring is great for flowers and new life of all kinds; Fall for foliage colors, shrimp boat and dolphin activities, both spring & fall are great for the migrating birds.  

Ossabaw Island provides a perfect arena for teaching and learning about the lowcountry's natural history. Marvin and I not only share our knowledge but also learn from the group which is always a multifaceted collection of outdoor enthusiasts.  Daily field trip options on foot, by vehicle and boat.  Fees include everything from leaving your car on the mainland Thursday morning to your return Sunday noon -  water taxis, ground transport, boat tours, field guides, workshops & instruction, meals and overnight bunk accommodations.  Sound like a deal? We think so and hope you will be convinced after viewing the best images by the 16 of us who were just their a short time ago.

For the next couple of weeks I will be posting several of each photographers best images on this blog starting with my co-leader Marvin Bouknight, staff naturalist @ Old field Club.
Crowded Buffet - Many egrets and herons communally roost in trees, but when there  is feeding going on, most of the time these birds are solitary hunters.  When food is very concentrated, then these birds don’t mind being close and you can see egrets, herons, wood storks, etc. all feeding in the same small area. 
Curious Duo - I noticed these two snowy egrets walk away from the crowd and focus on something in the water.  I followed them with my camera and saw that they were looking at a disturbance in the water and it piqued their interest, as well as mine, but they became very still, allowing for an interesting composition with a mirror-like reflection.
Deer on Ossabaw Avenue - I kept watching this little doe cross back and forth, hoping she would eventually feed along the road, so I could include her in my shot.  Patience paid off and she wandered right over to the edge and nibbled on the grass. 
 Evening Photographer - I thought the light was perfect that afternoon and snapped this photo of Eric concentrating on flying night herons, egrets, and other birds circling a roost. 
 Feeding Dunlin - I just love watching these little shorebirds feed and it is extra special when they start to get their breeding plumage.  This little dunlin is starting to get his black belly patch and was just feeding up a storm when I shot this pic.  I love the dimpling in the sand...
"Wilson's Plovers are larger, uncommon plovers related to killdeer, black-bellied plovers, and smaller plovers like the semi-palmated and piping plovers.  They scrape out a depression and lay 2-4 eggs that blend in perfectly with the sand and debris on the beach.  On beaches, sand flats, and oyster banks, it is important to remember that birds like plovers, oystercatchers, etc.  nest in these areas above the high tide line, so it is best to stay below the high tide line to avoid inadvertantly stepping on nests and crushing eggs."
 Male Red-winged Blackbird - This time of year, if you are patient, the red wings sing and fluff up their feathers, especially their epaulets.  If you watch them a little, they will pick a perch, spread their tail, fluff up, and sing.  I just think there is no other bird that exemplifies the marsh like these blackbirds.
 Mud on your face - This little sanderling was feeding and constantly probing the sand.  I wanted to get him with food, but instead, I just got him with a beak full of sand.  I like the way the sand shows how deep the little bird probes..

 Ossabaw Island Images, Tabby Ruins, Ossabaw Oak, Spanish Moss Curtain - These are truly unique images to Ossabaw.  The oak was expansive and hard to get it all in the frame.  The houses and tabby ruins reflect a time gone by.  I think the structures as well as the oaks and Spanish moss really makes Ossabaw stand out in my mind from other places I’ve visited.  The moss is thinner, more vertical, and just...different
Rain Collecting on Tallow Leaf - Plants in a maritime forest deal with excessive moisture as well as the stinging salt water in different ways.  I wanted to show how the tallow leaf utilizes both a “drip tip” to funnel water off the leaves as well as the waxy cuticle protects the leaf surface from both corrosive salt and excessive moisture.

 Roseate Spoonbill Trio and Spoonbill escape - Seeing spoonbills is special, seeing three is great, seeing three adults in full plumage, is wonderful, and seeing them in the light of sunset is just awesome!  I was lucky to get these two photos, with a 500mm, chasing them around in the viewfinder and hoping that I would get at least one good shot!

 Sunrise shots - I like the effect of the sun through trees, especially with a small aperture to create the sunburst.  It’s kinda hard not to shoot a pretty sunrise at Ossabaw!
Truck Bed in Graveyard - As a naturalist, I like to see how nature adapts and overcomes.  This little resurrection fern growing on the decaying and rusting truckbed epitomizes the power of nature to take back her property!


  1. Marvin, these images are wonderful! Amazing to me how 16 people can go pretty much the same places in the same lighting conditions and come up with completely unique imagery. This really proves to me it's an art like any other form. The digital sensor is our canvas :-)) Eric

  2. Marvin, Outstanding work and commentary! I really enjoy working with you in the field because you are so educated about whatever environment we happen to be in it make my overall experience more meaning full, the resulting images better and the atmosphere is enhanced with your lighter side banter and "can do" attitude!~ Thanks man : )) Eric