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Photo Shoot Report: Spring Valley Wildlife Area

September 10, 2011
Clouded Sulfur

© jmillerphoto.com - Clouded Sulfur

The Internet has helped photographers in numerous ways.  One of those ways is to help us amateurs/semi-pros find productive places to make images.  The Ohio Valley Camera Club first pointed me to the Spring Valley Wildlife Area as a place to make dragonfly images.  It was a regular haunt for me over the summer months last year as one of those places that would yield a reliable source of subject matter.  Towards the end of my time, as there were restrictions on the place due to hunting, I stopped going as much and as I shut things down last winter it became a bit of an afterthought.

On my return trip this summer, it was still an afterthought.  So much so that I only made one trip out there, and that was on my last full day in the region.  It was not nearly as close or easy to get to as some of my more favorite places (i.e. Siebenthaler Fen), and the species spread for dragonflies and damselflies were both pretty narrow.  Plus, unless I had my A game when it came to bug protection, I was pretty much guaranteed to get a gift that kept on giving–chiggers.  But I felt a need to go back out there and I did make the obligatory trip.  What I found was pretty much what I expected.

For those who have not read my previous posts on Spring Valley Wildlife Area, there are 2 primary places where I have looked for birds, damsels, and dragons in the past.  Place one is the bird blind parking.  This is an established parking area that serves as a trail head for a path that takes you down to a boardwalk which crosses the northern end of the lake.  On this end it is closer to being a marsh than a lake, but regardless the boardwalk makes it much easier to access the wetlands.

Place two is at the south end of the lake.  There, too, is an established parking area which serves as a trail head to a wide trail that follows the west side of the lake.  In theory, the path that goes down to the boardwalk has a branch that you can follow that will take you from that path down to the southern parking.  I never took the time to walk this trail, but for bird watching I hear it is pretty good.

On the one trip I made out there it was in the late afternoon, and my expectations were not very high.  I had only really had decent photographic luck first thing in the morning here–a couple of trips later in the day did not yield a huge bounty of photographic gold.  I stopped at the bird blind parking lot with the intent of going down to the boardwalk.  This was a hit & miss type of thing as in the past the boardwalk would be closed as we got into this time of year due to hunting going on and the desire not make somebody the victim or a horrible accident.  While the signs were up for dove hunting, there was no restriction on the trail going down to the boardwalk.

What I found was that the trail was getting very overgrown.  The heavy spring rains had encourage a lot of growth and it didn’t appear that much effort had been put into trying to clear the path.  But I trudged through and made it to the boardwalk.  And what I found was basically an enormous quantity of nothing.  Very few dragonflies were present, no damselflies, and just a little bit of birdlife.  I made about 40 images, 24 of which were HDR sequences which may or may not turn out into something in the future.

© jmillerphoto.com - Phlox glaberrima

After I trudged back up to the parking area, which was no easy feat given the recent rains and a body that is due for surgery in a couple of months, I decided I might as well go down to the other area, too.  No sense making the trip out there and then failing to approach both sites.

The southern parking lot was a little bit better.  Part of my problem was that in the afternoon the sun just is not in a cooperative spot in a lot of places on the trail.  The primary dragonfly species was the Common (Eastern) Pondhawk, which I pretty much expected.  The only damselfly species I saw was the Fragile Forktail, and I didn’t see many of them at all.  I made a lot of flower images, a few butterfly images (with the Clouded Sulfur above being my favorite), and just a couple of other things.

This was one of those trips where I felt like I needed to make the trip, I made the trip, and I was happy that I did.  But my expectations were low and I just about met them.  But two truths sprout from this trip.  First, a bad afternoon making images is better than a good afternoon doing just about anything else.  And I always learn as much or more from the photographers I shoot with as I do from actually hitting the shutter release.

About the images:

The lead image is a Clouded Sulfur (Colias philodice) feeding on some wildflowers.  I have had luck in the past with this species over at Germantown Metropark (as an example) and this one was nice enough to get parallel with my focal plane to allow me to do some good work.  Also shown here are some pink wildflowers (Phlox glaberrima I believe, but…).  Again, there just wasn’t a lot to shoot at but these flowers were pretty.

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