A Weekend of Clouds

The assignment for my Photography 101 class for the weekend was to explore light and suggested that you compare the light conditions at different times of the day. Given that I post mostly nature photos, my typical outdoor photography was complicated greatly by the cloudy conditions all weekend. Clouds, clouds, and more clouds:


That meant that the light simply got a little lighter and dimmer rather than changing the direction of shadows so I could really look at how the light changed throughout the day. However, clouds create this lovely, soft, diffused light, so I chose to use that to my advantage and explore signs of spring in my area instead.

The field station for the museum where I work has this amazing open sky and vast horizon compared to many other sites in this area:

Prairie after the burn

Because it’s up on a hill and it’s mostly grassland rather than forest, there’s often a harsh glare when you shoot photos of this field. This weekend, it had this lovely vibrant green color thanks to the low clouds and diffuse light. I took this photo as a sign of spring because the annual controlled burn takes place in the spring and you can see the results – no tall prairie grasses – in this shot. The burn took place just 10 days before I took this photo and the whole field was a blackened, ashy expanse after the burn.  Everything smelled like campfire. It’s amazing how fast things start to grow back after the burn!

I walked down to the pond at one point on Saturday. I’m leading a training for a dragonfly educational program for kids this week, so I have been looking for darners everyday in hopes we’ll be able to find some during the training. The pond looked lovely with the clouds!

Prairie Ridge pond
There was little wind for once too, so the reflections on the water were unusually distinct. However, off to the right of this image is a sort of “input,” a narrow channel where the runoff from the prairie flows into the pond. It’s been absolutely full of tadpoles for a few months now, and they were all coming up to the surface when I walked by:

tadpoles gulping air

Perhaps the cloudy conditions were slowing photosynthesis down sufficiently to drive the oxygen levels of the pond down? I’ve been told tadpoles come to the surface like this to gulp air. Apparently a lot of them needed a little extra oxygen as there were hundreds bobbing up and down in the water. There are 5 tadpoles breaking the surface in this shot, but all those bubbles were the result of other tadpoles surfacing!

There were lots of flowers starting to bloom, and they generally looked great in the diffuse light. The dogwood flowers haven’t opened yet, but the big white bracts had pulled back enough to see the little green flower buds inside:

dogwood flower buds
The bradford pears, a non-native species in North Carolina, have been putting on quite the show recently as well:

bradford pear blossoms
They smell awful, but the flowers are gorgeous! And there are small flowers growing in the ground all over the place, like these little violas:

viola blooms

There weren’t very many insects out, likely because it was relatively dark and cool, but I did come across an area with heavy tent caterpillar activity:

tent caterpillars
We get tent caterpillars in the crotch of trees in the spring and fall webworms at the branch tips in the fall, but neither in big enough numbers to cause problems for the trees. These are another insect I see early in the spring each year:

boxelder bug

The light made this boxelder bug look pretty good, but the overall darkness made getting a clear shot hard. The shutter speed had to be pretty low to get enough light for the photo, which meant that every tiny movement resulted in blurriness in the photo. Motion blur is alway a problem when you take macro photos of moving subjects like insects, but it’s doubly difficult to overcome when heavy clouds are making it dark and you don’t have a flash with you.

It’s been dark, cool, and a little rainy all weekend, so we’ll see what the insect situation next week ends up looking like.  Here’s hoping all those dragonflies and damselflies I saw last week make it through the chilly evenings this weekend.  There’s warm weather coming again just a few days from now!


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