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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Between The Ocean & The Bay


The narrow strip of land known to locals as the Delmarva Peninsula is an unpolished gem for nature shooters

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This Article Features Photo Zoom
ocean and bay
Autumn Sunrise At Black Duck Pool, Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, Virginia. Early-morning colors reflecting on quiet pools of water provide a perfect background for capturing silhouettes of Chincoteague’s egrets and herons.

ALL IMAGES: Nikon D2X and D300, Nikkor lenses, Gitzo tripods and ballheads
If only one word could be used to describe the Eastern Shore, “magic” would be the one I would choose. Flanked by the Chesapeake Bay on the west and the Atlantic Ocean on the east, the Eastern Shore formed through the forces of wind, water and sand. This land between ocean and bay possesses a magical quality that’s much more than its scenery; rather, it’s a sum of all its parts—imposing coastal wetlands and seashores, diverse assemblages of wildlife, and seasons that bring personality to a land of golden salt marshes and shallow bays, fragrant piney woodlands and sandy beaches. Elevation isn’t measured in the thousands or hundreds, but merely in inches and feet. But within its narrow spectrum of rise, a marvelous assortment of life resides within the landscape’s relative simplistic appearance and flatness.

Since 1976, I’ve had an ongoing love affair with the Eastern Shore, which includes the coastal regions of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. Nearly six years ago I embarked on a personal journey to document through camera and pen the diversity of life found here. This effort culminated in my latest book, Between Ocean and Bay: A Celebration of the Eastern Shore (Mountain Trail Press, 2008). While the Eastern Shore has many state, federal and private nature parks and reserves, my exploration of the Eastern Shore centered primarily on the shore’s national wildlife refuges as well as the Assateague Island National Seashore. Having spent nearly 28 years working for the National Wildlife Refuge System, I obviously was drawn to these very special enclaves of public land that we as a nation are so fortunate to have—a system so unique that nothing else like it is found anywhere in the world. So, here’s a sampling of those special Eastern Shore places I love to explore.

Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Delaware
Located along the Delaware Bay in the northeastern portion of the state, Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge is renowned for its spectacular concentrations of migrating waterfowl. More than 100,000 snow geese and 50,000 ducks of various species converge each fall on the refuge’s wetlands and fields. Established in 1937, the refuge protects more than 15,000 acres, including 12,000 acres of salt marsh that stretch to the horizon—one of the largest untouched tracts of coastal marsh along the entire East Coast.

The refuge has a wonderful 12-mile auto-tour route that offers many opportunities for photographing the morning flight of the snow geese as they depart the refuge to feed in the surrounding agricultural fields. The weapons of choice for photographing wildlife here are the big guns—focal lengths of 400mm to 600mm. But exceptional images of the birds taking off from wetlands can be captured with medium-telephoto zooms as well as wide-angle zooms. The best time to photograph the waterfowl concentrations are from October to November.

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