Best of 2016

Hello everyone!  Hope you all enjoyed whatever holidays you celebrate – if any – over the last few months and are looking forward to 2017!  As I’ve done every year for several years now, I recently went through all of the photos I took in 2016 and chose 50 nature photos that are either my best or my favorites for one reason or another and posted them on Flickr.  I’m going to share some of my favorites here, but you can check out the whole collection at the link below.

There are some photos I chose because I just liked the subjects.  These snapping turtles are a great example:

These two snappers were ENORMOUS – and there was a third out of the frame!  Almost makes me want to avoid getting into this pond…  I’d like to draw your attention to the entomological component of this photo, the small common whitetail dragonfly sitting near the right shoulder of the turtle on the right.  The turtles look like total bruisers, but then there’s this relatively delicate little insect using one of them as a perch.  I snapped this photo one day at work when I took my laptop down to the pond and sat on the little wooden platforms there to work on a writing project.  The turtles were out sunning themselves for the whole two or three hours I was there, but they disappeared by the time I closed up for the day.

This zebra swallowtail is another shot I chose just because I like the subject and the memory attached to it rather than for its technical perfection:

There’s a nature facility in my area called the Piedmont Wildlife Center (great place!!) that has an annual bioblitz event that brings in scientists and naturalists to lead little mini-expeditions with the public to document the species on their land and the adjacent areas.  I have been looking for zebra swallowtails the entire time I’ve lived in North Carolina, but the 2016 PWC bioblitz was the first time I actually saw one.  We were catching things to photograph them for the PWC’s records, so I even got to hold this one in my hands.  It was a really excellent moment, and the photo helps bring that warm, fuzzy, happy feeling back in an instant.

This photo tells an interesting story, I think:

See those two little reddish, round things on the underside of the leaf?  Those are pipevine swallowtail eggs.  The mother spent a good 15 minutes flitting around the primary pipevine plant nearby looking for a place to lay her eggs.  The plant was absolutely crawling with caterpillars already, however, so she couldn’t find a good place to lay where her caterpillars would have any food left by the time they hatched. She kept moving further and further away from the main plant and eventually settled on this location, a tiny (less than 1/2 inch tall) offshoot of the main plant that had grown under the mulch across a big expanse of the garden to this spot about 15 feet away.  She quickly deposited just the two eggs and then flew off.  I haven’t gone back to check on them and I seriously doubt they survived, but I loved that she found this tiny plant and laid her eggs there in the hope that maybe, just maybe, they would find a way to survive.

Some of the photos in this year’s favorites collection are ones I chose because I really like the composition or because they are technically good.  This spreadwing damselfly ovipositing (= laying eggs) inside a plant alongside a pond is, I think, a pretty good composition:

Plus, you can see her ovipositor (the black spike) to the right of the tip of her abdomen stuck into the plant, which is fun.  That was a good serendipitous moment, so I love that I have photos to help me remember it!  And this marmorated stink bug, even though they’re hated by many, is really beautiful in its subtle colors:

I’ve shared this photo on the blog already, but I’ve spent AGES trying to get an even halfway decent shot of a crawling water beetle and finally got a good one this year:

I will likely take many more photos of these in the future because I suspect I can still do better, but I’m happy to finally have at least a few shots I’m pleased with!  These are so incredibly difficult to photograph because they’re either constantly on the move or they’re sitting still, but buried in the substrate out of sight.  It was pure luck that I walked by my tank and the beetle just happened to be both sitting still and out in the open, but I’ll take it!

This year I included a lot more non-insect species in my collection of favorites.  I got to see blooming trilliums in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park this year:

Those are painted trilliums I think.  Trilliums are one of the plants that people come to the Smokies in droves to see, and I was thrilled to have a chance to see them myself. This is the biggest, ugliest bullfrog I’ve ever seen:

This is one of my favorite bird shots of the year, a tricolored heron:

I take a lot of bird photos now, so I  feel I have to include them in my best-of collections!  And this is my favorite landscape shot:

I actually don’t enjoy being near the ocean, but this particular location had a ton of herons (including the one above), egrets, an ibises and I spent quite a long time watching them.  It was a good experience and a good view.

If you’d like to see the complete collection, you can check all 50 out on Flickr.  Here’s to 2017 and all the new photographic adventures it might bring!

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth.