The bookends of 2019

In past years I’ve done various exercises like (what I considered) my best photos of the month, or a featured unused image, and jazz like that, so this year I decided to do something a little different for the year-end stuff (or should it be the year-beginning stuff? This is far too confusing for me.) To that end, or beginning, we shall be featuring the first and last images taken within this arbitrary time period, within each of my sorting folders. I know you’re as excited as I am, but no skipping ahead now. Will it be revealing? Will it be poignant? Will it foster introspection and personal growth? Shit, no – don’t be daft. But it’s winter content, so be still. And admittedly, some of these you’ve seen before, but never realized they were this special milestone. Kilometersign. Whatever.

Enough stalling. Let’s dive in.


unidentified catfish in botanical garden
Above, the first aquatic image was taken on April 26th of last year, though that shouldn’t be too surprising since I don’t go ice fishing or anything, but if it’s not blindingly obvious, this is a pair of catfish coming up to the surface in a botanical garden since people near me were feeding the waterfowl, and there’s often a race between the ducks, the catfish, and the turtles to see who actually gets the food. While below, the last image was taken December 13th while doing the shell-and-dead-turtle pics, intended to illustrate the nature of fine quartz sand. I should probably note here that some of my images are intended for stock and illustrative purposes and do not hew too close to fartistic standards, even less so than what you normally see here.

quartz sand with a bit of shell

Arthropods 6

smaller water strider genus Microvelia cleaning proboscis
Yes, Arthropods 6 – I limit the number of images in my folders to around 4,000, to make sorting and finding easier, and that means that I (presently) have six Arthropod folders and I’m 1,800 deep in that one. The above image of a smaller water strider of the genus Microvelia was taken on February 24th, so actually pretty good for a bug photo since our season generally starts later than that, though if I tried I could probably dig out a spider much earlier because they’re pretty cold hardy – new project for January I guess. The watermark comes from the fact that I uploaded it to to get an identification.

While below, one you’ve seen recently (or should’ve, at least.) Taken on December 26th, an unidentified midge poses against sunset. And I should add that, while this is not the absolute last arthropod image taken for the year, it is the last arthropod – I have a few frames of the same insect that had a less-pleasing exposure, plus I’ve already sized this for the blog and see no reason to upload one that’s almost identical.

unidentified 'midge' against sunset sky


pre-dawn beach off Pawley's Island, South Carolina
It should come as no surprise that we had to wait until May 7th for the first beach photo; I’ve done winter trips to the beach before, because we’ll get fairly warm spells even in February, but with The Girlfriend and I, we’re going when the water’s warm enough to enjoy. The above was predawn out at Pawley’s Island, South Carolina, and the exposure is for the foreground to prevent the grasses from going to pure silhouette. This is the kind of image that too many photographers decide to treat with a technique called ‘high dynamic range,’ which is a fancy way of saying ‘Photoshop’ because photos, by nature, have a low dynamic range, so you have to paste two or more of them together to get good exposure on both the sky and the foreground in such light conditions. To me, that’s a fake image, and I might do it on rare occasions to create a fartistic composite or to illustrate something, but it remains fake. Later on in the morning the conditions got much more attractive and manageable in a single frame.

Below, the last beach photo came on September 29th, this time during the second beach trip of the year, to Oak Island, North Carolina. I have countless other frames taken from the same spot, but concentrating on the pelicans and not showing beachy stuff. My standards for classification may be somewhat arbitrary, but for the most part, to be in the Beach folder it should seem to say, “beach.”

sunrise from Yaupon Beach Fishing Pier, Oak Island NC

Birds 2

herring gull Larus argentatus wheeling overhead
Above, this herring gull (Larus argentatus) wheeled overhead during one of the first productive outings of the year on February 5th, while the Indurate Mr Bugg and I were attempting (vainly) to spot bald eagles. There were certainly better bird photos to be had that day, but they were not the first.

Below, right at the tail end of the most recent outing (which makes it December 26th,) I tracked a great blue heron (Ardea herodias) as it cruised past in deepening twilight after sunset. I like how the ripples of the lake are visible behind the wingtips, since it was flapping at the time and the shutter speed was just slow enough to capture a hint of movement, also visible in the linear blur of the shoreline.

And as a side note, there are 1550 images in the folder between these two photos. That’s all this past year.

great blue heron Ardea herodias at twilight


unidentified aquatic eggs from underside of leaf
Again, not exactly the first invertebrate photo, but within the sequence of the same subject, seconds apart, and already uploaded for previous use, so there. Unidentified, but very likely snail eggs on the underside of a leaf from the backyard pond, and dating from February 24th.

Below, the last invertebrate photo is of a couple of snails cutting trails through the silt on some rocks in the Eno River, taken November 5th from above the surface, so a little distorted. An earlier, related shot was one of the end-of-month abstracts for November.

unidentified snails cutting trails in silt on rocks in Eno River


rough ice patterns on pond
Above, ice patterns on the nearby pond from January 31st, the end-of-month abstract then. While below, yet another from the same December 26th outing (and you’re going to see still more,) a post-sunset shot capturing the barest of pinks from the sky out on Jordan Lake – the heron shot further up would occur a mere 31 seconds later in the opposite direction.

post-sunset over Jordan Lake

Leaves/Plants/Trees 3

blue and yellow pansies - I think
Above, from a January 27th student outing, a tended flower patch at a park during a painfully slow month, posted back then as proof (to me as well) that my camera still worked. While below, some stark backlighting causes the fall foliage of a tiny pondside sapling to glow brilliantly on November 28th, while it still seems to be throwing out some new leaves at the top.

unidentified tree in fall yellow at side of pond


beaver evidence well above ground level
February 5th provided us with the image above, evidence of mammals (in this case beavers) rather than a direct photo of any; disturbingly, this accounts for too many images in the folder, although most of the mammals in the area are primarily nocturnal and much harder to snag. But it still tells me that I should be working harder on this end.

And the last doesn’t counteract this at all, being a mere eastern grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) that provided a semi-interesting silhouette on December 16th. Sheesh.

eastern grey squirrel Sciurus carolinensis silhouetted on tree stump


tree and mountain overlook in Virginia
So, here’s the deal: I did no mountain trips at all this past year, and not even any decent hills, but coming back down from the New York trip, my brother and I ran along a significant section of the Blue Ridge Mountains, mostly through horrendous rainstorms, and coming out the other side of the front we had reasonably clear weather so he wanted to stop at a scenic overlook. Thus, both the first and the last mountain photos of the year came on August 15th, a whole three-and-a-half minutes apart, taken while I warily eyed the storm clouds still visible behind the peaks very close behind us; had they even started to boil over the top, we were going to be in the car and moving within seconds.

I have to admit, the top photo has a very surreal look to the background peaks, due to both the high humidity (though the rain hadn’t yet reached this area) and the exposure set for the foreground, and if it weren’t for the layers of increasing haze leading up to the peaks, you might have thought it looked more fake than real – perhaps you still do.

overview of Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia from roadside

Reptiles/Amphibians 2

unidentified egg case, probably amphibian
We’re back to the February 5th outing again, this time looking at a small egg case in a tidal pond, earlier than I thought any would appear. I’m almost certain this is from some amphibian, but couldn’t tell you for sure, so it remains possible that I screwed up the entire post.

While on December 16th, later than I would have imagined, a (probable) musk turtle forms a focal point on a faintly abstract composition – it didn’t let us get much closer than this (and this frame was shot at 200mm.)

probably musk turtle in crowded drainage channel

Scenic/Abstract 2

dewdrops underneath feather
Both of these images have appeared before on the ol’ bloggaloo, both from familiar and notorious days. Above, from February 5th, a lone feather is patterned not by its former owner but by dewdrops (or potentially even former frost) suspended from its underside, a tiny curiosity that could have easily been missed completely.

While below, a shot on December 26th that became one of the two end-of-month abstract entries, or was this one the end-of-year entry? Your call.

sunset colors in water reflections

Science/Miscellaneous 2

ice patterns from frozen flood zone
The Science/Miscellaneous folder is of course a catch-all, holding most of the things that aren’t specifically delineated elsewhere, and collects everything from weather compositions like snow and lightning to stuff I’m interested in that isn’t part of the normal nature photography genre, like airshows and people excavating a seaturtle nest. To that end, it holds 849 images from this year. Above, we have an abstract pattern of ice suspended from dried grasses, evidence of a freeze after flooding rains at the nearby pond, from January 31st.

But alas, below we have something far too similar to what we’ve already seen, solely because the cloud patterns also fit into the category. One of the nicer things about digital is how any image can easily be put into multiple folders, able to be found depending on what particular genre it might fit. In the slide folders sitting within the file cabinet behind me, I would usually have to decide on one in particular because the slide couldn’t be split into multiple copies, unless I had the presence of mind to shoot multiple frames of the same composition (which did indeed happen, insurance against one being damaged or unreturned by an editor.) Again, December 26th.

unidentified midge against sunset clouds


Lunar eclipse in progression
I was fairly certain that we were going to have a couple of frames that were too close together in nature, because there’s not a lot of subjects within the topic of “space” that I can actually shoot, and this is indeed the case, but at least the first is pretty distinct: it’s a frame of the total lunar eclipse in progress, posted with minimal delay on January 20th, though for some reason the timestamp says the 21st – apparently the camera clock was off. I can say that confidently because the lunar hijinks are a pretty universal clock all by themselves.

Below, during the sequence of capturing sunrise on Tycho’s peak, I fired off a last frame just as the moon was starting to go behind the trees, producing new lunar mares from the wildly out-of-focus leaves – this was December 5th. A couple weeks earlier I had captured the thinnest crescent yet for me, and tried to do it again before the end of the year, but the humidity didn’t cooperate and the one morning that I could accomplish this dawned a bit too hazy to see something that subtle.

gibbous moon with intervening leaves


sunset over pond behind new buds on tree
For the final category within my folders, we have the image above from March 30th, as the new buds had started to sprout from the trees alongside the nearby pond. I have to admit it’s been a lot handier to have something to work with nearby when sunset rolls around, but the bare truth is, I’m often unavailable when it does, so I’ve still missed what might have been some captivating photos – just, not due to a lack of foreground interest.

Remember what I said about the increase in this folder, though? There are 730 images between the one above and the (unfortunately too familiar) one below, so this year alone wasn’t too shabby, despite the lackluster ending frame from December 26th.

post-sunset over Jordan Lake
Annnndddd there you have it: the beginnings and ends of the year’s efforts, unless you go into the Personal and Projects folders which are not part of the ‘sellable stock’ images – you’re not missing anything there. Tallying up all of the folders, in 2019 I added 6,962 images to the stock, not nearly as many as I shot of course, but a respectable number nonetheless for someone who isn’t doing this as a full-time job. The largest contribution came to the Birds 2 folder with 1550 images added, while the smallest was within the Mountains folder with, ahem, 13. Which still beats the previous year since I added none then. And it’s disturbing to me that the earliest stock image came in at January 27th – I will do better this year.

Don’t fret – there’s more retrospective stuff coming along, including that post you’ve been anticipating all year long! Just give me a little more time (this one took long enough.)

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