Sunday, January 21, 2018

Favorite Photographs of 2017

2017 was an exciting year for me, though not as much for photography. We welcomed our first child to the family, and it has been so much fun being a new father. This, of course, has left my free time pretty limited -- though I did make a few pre-baby trips to Plum Island to look for piping plovers, and I had a chance to spend time with a small flock of sandpipers on our first trip with the baby to Southern Maine.

I enjoy reflecting on the images I've taken each year, and even with only a handful of photographic opportunities this year, I was still able to come home with a few noteworthy photos. I'm far too late to submit to Jim Goldstein's Annual Blog Project -- but it remains an inspiration for this yearly endeavor. Here are my five favorite photographs from 2017.

Plover parent and chick, Sandy Point State Reservation
This is perhaps my favorite of the year based on the context of my own 2017. While waiting for the arrival of my son this summer, I was able to get away for a short outing to look for baby piping plovers at Sandy Point State Reservation on Plum Island. Two years ago, I had a handful of very productive trips there and there seemed to be plover chicks all over the beach with some parents watching over as many as four at a time. Unfortunately, this was one of only three chicks I saw on the beach this year, and it was the single chick in the clutch for this parent. While it was disappointing to see so few nesting plovers, it was special to observe this parent watching over it's chick -- especially when I knew that my own son would be arriving soon. While humans have our own set of challenges as new parents, at least our babies aren't born mobile and running around on the beach evading predators from day one!
Photo of piping plover parent and chick in Massachusetts


Running piping plover, Sandy Point State Reservation
On a spring trip to catch the sunset on Plum Island, there was a dearth of sandpipers around, but I did have a nice encounter with a handful of piping plovers cruising the tidal flats. It's always special to be able to observe a threatened species, and this particular adult gave me a lot of nice looks as it probed the sand looking for a late meal. They have such an interesting rhythm as they run in short bursts of speed before stopping on a dime, then running again. Here, this friendly plover was sprinting straight toward my lens (eventually getting within my minimum focusing distance before scurrying off in a different direction.)
Photo of a running piping plover on the beach in Massachusetts


Snowy egret in a salt marsh, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge
On my drive out of the refuge as the last of the sun's rays were slipping past the horizon, I saw this lone egret working the salt pannes of the Great Marsh. Wetlands are by far my favorite ecosystem, and yet I've struggled to create many meaningful images of them. This one came together nicely for me -- with the low golden light, a beautiful white bird causing waves of ripples, and the lush greens of springtime salt grass. Taking in a scene like this with a deep cleansing breath is food for my soul.
Wildlife Photography by Pat Ulrich: Herons & Egrets &emdash; Snowy egret in salt marsh at sunset


Harsh realities of being small, Sandy Point State Reservation
The wind was really whipping on this trip. My face was scoured by sand while walking along the beach, but when going down to ground-level, I could get an even stronger feel for how tough it must be to live in this harsh coastal environment. I was able to create a series of interesting images with the sand blurring out the scene, and the plovers finding any small shelter they could on the beach. But in this one, the steadfast strength of the small bird pushing forward into the driving sand speaks to me.
Photo of a piping plover walking through blowing sand in Massachusetts


Backlit sanderlings, Ogunquit Beach, Maine
We took a weekend trip to Southern Maine in the fall to introduce my son to the coast. He had a blast on our afternoon visit to the beach, and I sincerely hope we're able to pass to him our love of the coastal environment. The next day, my wife graciously made me get up before the sunrise to seek out some shorebirds. I took a long walk along Ogunquit Beach with the rising sun and found none. Then, as seems to happen far too often, as I was nearly back to my car the birds were hanging out in sight of the parking lot! The contours of the beach and rising tide limited my ability to get a good position with the sun over my shoulder without getting soaked. But the birds were extremely friendly, so I tried to make the most of the situation. I attempted some more stark backlit silhouettes with reflections in the wet sand, but this composition worked best in a fleeting moment when a cloud passed over the sun.
Wildlife Photography by Pat Ulrich: Sanderlings &emdash; Backlit sanderlings in Maine

Thanks for taking a look through my favorites from the past year, and all the best to you for 2018!

5 comments:

  1. Gorgeous photos, Pat! Good to see you posting again and congratulations on the baby!

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    1. Thanks for the kind words, Brian. Hope you are doing well, and your new year is off to a great start!

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  2. There is little more endearing than a Piping Plover and hopefully we can continue to protect these birds and allow them a little habitat to breed. Near Saubke Beach, ON they have successfully raised young for at least four years (maybe longer) and we can only hope that they will return again this year. The last time we visited the site we all held our breath as a Merlin cruised overhead.

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  3. Great pictures - and welcome to the world of parenting! Hope all is well and that you can still steal the odd moment for the birds.

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

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  4. What a splendid set of photos! I could almost feel the sand hitting my face as I watches the plover bravely face the wind!

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