Archive for the ‘landscapes’ Category

Bridges

January 20, 2017

As an avid odonate hunter, I photowalk/streamwalk many scenic locations. I’m fond of bridges, especially railroad bridges.

The first photo shows a view of the underside of the new suspension bridge across Accotink Creek at Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge (ABWR), Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

A scenic view of the underside of the suspension bridge that crosses Accotink Creek at Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

07 AUG 2016 | ABWR | new suspension bridge across Accotink Creek

The next photo shows the view looking upstream toward the ruins of a Civil War era railroad bridge that used to cross Pope’s Head Creek at Chapel Road Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Looking upstream toward the ruins of a Civil War era railroad bridge that used to cross Pope's Head Creek, Chapel Road Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

22 AUG2016 | Chapel Road Park | bridge ruins at Pope’s Head Creek

The last photo shows the view looking downstream toward a modern era railroad bridge across Pope’s Head Creek near Chapel Road Park.

Looking downstream toward modern era railroad bridge that crosses Pope's Head Creek, Chapel Road Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

29 AUG 2016 | Chapel Road Park | railroad bridge at Pope’s Head Creek

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

New HMP Weather Station

December 10, 2016

Did you notice the new automated weather station located in the central wetland area at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA?

The new automated weather station located in the central wetland area at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

13 NOV 2016 | Huntley Meadows Park | new automated weather station

The old weather station, installed and maintained by Virginia Tech University, went offline after 23 September 2016.

The [old] Huntley Meadows weather station was installed to help park personnel manage water levels within the wetland. Source Credit: Huntley Meadows Wetlands Research.

The new station is up-and-running; real-time data is supposed to be available online soon.

The new automated weather station located in the central wetland area at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

13 NOV 2016 | Huntley Meadows Park | new automated weather station

Editor’s Note: The author contacted both the park manager and the natural resource manager; neither person was willing to estimate when the new weather station will go online. Look for a post update when more information is available.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Google Nik Collection: HDR Efex Pro 2

April 11, 2016

Google announced recently that Google Nik Collection is available for free. Pundits speculate this almost certainly means there will be no further development of these popular popular photo editing plug-ins for Apple Aperture, Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop, etc. Who knows? I downloaded and installed the software anyway.

The following semi-photorealistic composite image is the output of a quick-and-dirty test of “HDR Efex Pro 2,” one of eight plug-ins in the collection. I opened a set of three bracketed exposures (+/- two stops of exposure) in Adobe Lightroom CC 2015. Then I used the Nik plug-in to stack and tone map the image; I saved the output and cropped it slightly using Lightroom.

P1330734_HDR

23 MAR 2016 | Meadowood Recreation Area | Hidden Pond

The result is fairly good for my first foray into using one the plug-ins featured in the Google Nik Collection. There’s a little strangeness in the rendering of some of the clouds that are visible among the trees, near the upper-center of the image. I’m guessing there’s a way to fix that problem using “control points,” where the real magical power of Nik happens. There’s always more to learn, time permitting.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Country Beaver, City Beaver

April 5, 2016

Remember “Country Mouse, City Mouse,” one of Aesop’s Fables? In this case, the familiar short story has been repurposed for the North American Beavers (Castor canadensis) that inhabit the wetlands of Huntley Meadows Park.

City Beaver

City beaver lives in two “buildings” located along the thoroughfare through the heart of the park: the boardwalk in the central wetland area. The following photo shows one of two active beaver lodges located along the boardwalk; this lodge can be seen from the observation tower overlooking the central wetland area. The other lodge overlaps the beginning of the boardwalk — believe me, you can’t miss it!

The next photo shows a zoomed-in view of the same beaver lodge, viewed from the observation tower.

The last photo in this subset shows the same beaver lodge as seen from ground level in the central wetland area.

Country Beaver

Country beaver lives far from the madding crowd, in one (maybe two) lodge(s) located along Barnyard Run, far downstream from the central wetland area. The “primary structure,” shown below, is the original lodge built alongside a long dam across the stream.

A “secondary structure,” located closer to the beaver dam, might be a newer lodge. Looking at these two photos, it appears as though the original lodge isn’t being actively maintained. Perhaps the new structure is either a mother-in-law house or summer cottage!

Look closely at the full-size version of the last photo in this subset — a landscape shot showing the environment in which “Country Beaver” lives. Can you see both the primary- and secondary structures on the far side of the beaver pond?

The Backstory (for the preceding photo): I was field testing a technique for focusing at the hyperfocal distance using my Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera and Fujinon XF18-55mm (27mm-82.5mm, 35mm equivalent) zoom lens. The camera was set for manual exposure and manual focus. I couldn’t read the distance scale on the LCD in bright sunlight so I wasn’t sure the lens was adjusted to a distance of ~5 feet, the hyperfocal distance for 18mm at f/11. Turns out I was focused at ~7 feet rather than 5 feet, but it’s OK to focus a little farther than the hyperfocal distance — it’s like cheap insurance most of the photo will be acceptably in focus. Just to be sure, I switched to f/16 before taking the shot! The scene was in focus from 2′ 3.2” to infinity. I lost about a foot of depth-of-field (toward the foreground) but ended up cropping a little of the foreground anyway. The technique seems to work well and I’m satisfied with the results of my quick-and-dirty field test.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Answer key, The “Bridge to Nowhere”

April 1, 2016

In The “Bridge to Nowhere” — the last post in my photoblog — readers were challenged to guess the location in Huntley Meadows Park where the following photograph was taken.

The "Bridge to Nowhere," located along an informal trail at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

The following interactive map shows the exact location of the bridge as well as several associated waypoints. Click on the icon that looks like a stylized picture frame (located in the upper-right corner of the map) in order to “View larger map.” Zoom in on the map; click-and-drag to reposition the map. Click on the colored balloons for more information. The bridge is marked by a red balloon.

The following sign is posted near the bridge. The sign is brown and white although the colors look weird in the light of my camera flash, probably due to reflective paint used to make the sign.

A sign posted near the "Bridge to Nowhere," located along an informal trail at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Believe me when I tell you every word on the sign is true. The trail, such as it is, leads to the northern boundary of the park. In  my opinion, there’s relatively little if anything to see that’s worth the effort required to walk this trail — you know, there’s a reason I nicknamed this bridge the “Bridge to Nowhere!” The following quote from my journal of field notes, dated 09 March 2016, further illustrates the point.

I was determined to thoroughly explore the part of HMP referred to as the “northern wetland” (NW) or “upper wetland.” I checked it out on 23 September 2015, albeit quickly rather than thoroughly. I decided to explore the “informal trail” beyond the “Bridge to Nowhere”/NW. I walked and walked until I had only the sketchiest idea of where I was. Eventually, I came to one of the park boundaries: there were houses along the property line; one house has chickens in the backyard! Anyway, I had no clear idea how to get back to the NW without retracing my steps so I decided to wing it. A long slog later — featuring lots of mud bogs and thorny vines — I made it to the side of the NW I didn’t explore last year. I renamed the location: Instead of Northern Marsh, I now refer to it as the “Northern Mush” because of the sucking mud that seems to be everywhere. I thought the location might be a good habitat for dragonflies and damselflies. Let’s just say I’m over it. Don’t waste your time — not much to see there! Source Credit: Walter Sanford, Photowalking Field Notes.

Associated Waypoints

The following photorealistic 32-bit HDR image of the “Northern Wetland” is a composite of three bracketed exposures, +/- two stops of exposure.

P1330495-Edit

09 MAR 2016 | Huntley Meadows Park | Northern Wetland

The last photo shows the view looking upstream (toward the “Northern Wetland”) along an unnamed creek that crosses the Hike-Bike Trail at Huntley Meadows Park. For more information about the stream, click on the waypoint marker in the interactive Google Map (shown above). See also Snowy scenes along the Hike-Bike Trail, posted in the aftermath of the “Blizzard of 2016.”

Looking upstream along an unnamed creek that crosses the Hike-Bike Trail at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

01 FEB 2016 | Huntley Meadows Park | Unnamed creek

Tech Tips: I used Google Maps to create the custom map that is embedded in this post. The following resources were helpful in figuring out how to customize- and share the map.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

The “Bridge to Nowhere”

March 30, 2016

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages — it’s time for another exciting episode of “Where’s Waldo?” Please comment if you think you know my location.

The Backstory

While photowalking unexplored areas at Huntley Meadows Park on 16 March 2016, I passed a familiar place I’ve visited many times in the past.

The "Bridge to Nowhere," located along an informal trail at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, er, shadows!

The "Bridge to Nowhere," located along an informal trail at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Editor’s Note: The location of the “Bridge to Nowhere” will be revealed in a follow-up post.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

New suspension bridge over Accotink Creek

March 28, 2016

Accotink Creek flows through Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge, a 1,200 acre preserve located at Army Garrison Fort Belvoir, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. The following gallery features a few photos of the new suspension bridge over the stream, taken during a photowalk on 23 March 2016.

The new suspension bridge over Accotink Creek, Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

The new bridge, designed and engineered by Western Wood Structures, retains much of the character of the old bridge. The attention to detail is extraordinary!

The new suspension bridge over Accotink Creek, Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Looking ahead (above) and behind (below) along the deck of the new suspension bridge. The deck of the new bridge is rock solid, with none of the discomforting up-down/side-to-side motion of the old bridge!

The new suspension bridge over Accotink Creek, Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Those who know me well know the next photo frustrates me because part of the bridge is clipped on the left edge of the photo. I did everything I could to get the entire bridge span in the frame, including standing in the creek and moving downstream as far as I could without water spilling into my knee-high rubber boots. Although the zoom lens of my Panasonic DMC-FZ150 was set for its maximum wide angle of 4.5mm (25mm, 35mm equivalent), the field of view isn’t wide enough for this shot. Same problem with the Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera and Fujinon XF18-55mm (27mm-82.5mm, 35mm equivalent) zoom lens in my backpack — my Panasonic digital camera is capable of shooting slightly wider angle photos than the Fujifilm camera/lens combo. I’ll bring my Canon EOS 5D Mark II digital camera and 16-35mm wide-angle zoom lens next time I visit the bridge.

The new suspension bridge over Accotink Creek, Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

The last photo was taken on 08 May 2014, when the new bridge was under construction. Now you can see the reason I took a one-year (or so) hiatus from visiting Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge.

The new suspension bridge over Accotink Creek, Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA (under construction).

Related Resources:

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Raiders of the Lost Park

March 14, 2016

It’s time for another exciting episode of “Where’s Waldo?” In this case, “Where’s Walldo?” Please comment if you think you know my location.

The Backstory

While photowalking unexplored areas at Huntley Meadows Park on 11 March 2016, I visited an interesting place that a friend discovered recently. The directions to this location that I was given were a little sketchy, but hey, I found it because I am nothing if not persistent!

Building ruins as viewed from an unknown location at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

The first two photos show building ruins as seen from an unknown location at Huntley Meadows Park, viewed from “outside” and “inside” the walls. The reinforced concrete walls are more than a foot thick!

Building ruins as viewed from an unknown location at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

The last photo shows signage located near the building ruins. “FCPA” stands for Fairfax County Park Authority.

Signage near building ruins in an unknown location at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

By the way, I’m fairly certain the sign should say “Metal detecting and relic hunting are illegal in the park.” Bad grammar should be illegal too!

Editor’s Notes: The location of “The Wall” will be revealed in a follow-up post. My friend (who prefers to remain nameless) is not eligible to enter the contest since he told me about the place where these photos were taken.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Ground truth

March 2, 2016

Scouting odonate habitat using Google Earth is quicker and simpler than a site visit, but when you think a new location has potential you still need to “ground truth” what is shown in the remotely-sensed imagery.

For example, the following Google Earth image suggests it should be relatively easy to reach the banks of two tributaries that flow into Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve.

DM_RTC

Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve | interactive image on Google Earth

In contrast, look at the following photorealistic 32-bit HDR composite image of Dyke Marsh as viewed facing southeast from River Towers Condominiums. The banks of one of the streams are choked with dead vegetation, flattened by a recent flooding rain event. In mid-summer, the same location is likely to be a tough slog due to waist-high vegetation!

A 32-bit HDR composite image created from three photos of Dyke Marsh as viewed from River Towers Condominiums, Fairfax County, Virginia USA, +/- two stops of exposure.

29 FEB 2016 | River Towers Condominiums | Dyke Marsh

Look closely at the preceding composite image. Did you notice the beaver lodge? The George Washington Memorial Parkway appears along the base of the tree line shown in the background. You can see a white vehicle that seems to be driving through the marshland, near the center of the image.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Pole Road Park

February 29, 2016

Pole Road Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Pole Road Park is located along Dogue Creek, downstream from Mulligan Pond at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge.

Pole Road Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

The Backstory: On Saturday, 20 February 2016, I spent a few hours searching for easier access to Dogue Creek than is afforded by Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge. Along the way, I discovered Pole Road Park. This location looks like it provides ideal habitat for some species of odonates. More later after further exploration.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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