Monday, April 28, 2008

Where there's shad there's herons

Of course I can never resist pointing my camera at these photogenic birds when I'm at the river. I don't know if it's the prehistoric vibe they give off during flight, the unique curve of their throats or their large eyes that always know who is around. Probably a bit of all three. For those that can't get enough of nature, enjoy.

Fisherman's heaven

Several fisherman were trying their luck on the Chattahoochee River just below the Eagle & Phenix Mill Falls Sunday morning. Along with several boats near the falls, both shores were dotted with fisherman taking advantage of the plentiful shad run to catch whatever would bite. A fishing event itself could be had watching all ages scooping up these silvery bait fish with nets, cups and even their hands to take home and freeze for tomorrow what they didn't fish with that day.

Lonzell Carter had decided to take his nephew, Kieren Whittlesey, 12, with him to catch a little catfish for dinner. I shot this photo after he caught his second of four he hoped to catch Sunday. Neither Carter nor his nephew were shy about wading into the water and getting their shoes or jeans wet to get to where the fish were biting. The third of the four catfish Carter had hoped to catch before he planned to call it a day. He caught his fourth a few short minutes later. "This is the funnest thing in the world," he told me.
Kieren Whittlesey was kind enough to take a moment from casting to allow me to make this portrait. He wasn't having as much luck as his uncle, but he never complained about it and kept hard at it the whole morning.
Whittlesey's natural work table that he used to cut up the shad and bait his hook with. I am always looking for still lifes that say something about a person without them in the frame obviously. There's just something about a boy not hesitating when it comes to cutting off the head of a fish that says something about what he can do in life.

Calvin Peters had decided to grab a net and take his son, Kevin, and his grandson, Casey, out to the middle of the river to scoop up as many shad as possible to take home and freeze for future fishing trips. In the second photo you can see the three Peters generation's hard work with this 5 gallon bucket almost full to the top, yet Casey, 12, and his grandfather, Calvin, continue to net more shad. I could hardly get them to stop long enough to get their name, but who could blame them.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Keeping Columbus beautiful

I caught a crew of city workers early this afternoon making fast work of clearing out the old pine straw and replacing it with fresh. I climbed into the truck to capture the first image of city workers Tommy Wilson, left with pitchfork, and Graham Davis loading the old pine straw in a truck to be hauled away. The second image is public services crew leader Carl Johnson overseeing Tommy Wilson as he lines the RiverWalk ramp with bundles of fresh pine straw. The last is simply a detail of a worker spreading the new pine straw. I wish I was able to spend more time with you guys because I loved the pace you were working at and how visual your task was, but an assignment called. Thanks to you all, especially your crew leaders, for allowing me to get close to your work.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A good day to try and be a bit artsy

I had a bit of time this morning due to a time change in an early assignment, so I strolled over to Phenix City. The weather was less then great today as far as clouds and the sun coming and going when it wanted to, which gave me the idea to focus on shapes in regards to the falls and the Eagle & Phenix Mill. I stood literally on the water and lowered my angle of view to the point where I thought it was a nice balance between just enough Mill in the frame to make it interesting. I over exposed to whiten the sky and I shot at f11 to make sure everything, most importantly the water, would be in focus. I converted to black and white and bumped the contrast some more in Photoshop.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Spring cleaning has arrived

I was out and about looking for a feature that said spring today when I stumbled upon Steve Barber and his wife Algeria of A & S Cleaning Services washing windows outside the Columbus Convention & Trade Center Tuesday afternoon. I managed to get this mirror image of Steve close-up in the window. Steve and Algeria have been enjoying the views and time together cleaning widows in Columbus for three years now. Thanks you both for sharing a bit of your afternoon with me. I had fun dodging the windex, Steve. Good luck to you both in your business. 04/08/08 Photo by Shannon Szwarc

Email from reader

Thanks so much for the pics of the herons. I see them once in awhile on West Point Lake, but used to live on lake in no. MN and used to have one almost daily sitting on end of my dock. Miss him. They are so majestic. Thanks again. BKF-LaGrange

You're quite welcome, Bev. I'm glad you appreciate these creatures as much as I do. I'm originally from Ohio and it's not too common to see these guys around or to get so close. I feel blessed that all I have to do is take a short walk out of my office to be face to face with them now. They are certainly a challenging and fun subject that I will continue to work on.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Hopefully keeping my promise to the Great Blue Herons

I was right back at it on Thursday, folks. This time I crawled to the center of the river while the level was low and slowly, over an hour, earned trust to get close to these majestic birds. I was in awe when I saw this heron just darting his head underwater time and time again and bringing up a fish in his beak almost everytime. I shot several dozen images of this, but this was one that you could really make out the fish in his mouth.

This was a bit of practice and a ton of luck. This is the same Great Blue Heron I managed to get the close-up portrait of below. The bird lifted off and I lost him behind some trees, but when he came out I was still following his flight path and managed to get one frame where he happened to be right in front of the falls.

Here I was literally so close that I could only get a portrait of the bird's face as it studied every gesture I made carefully. I am still a bit shocked about being able to get this close even with a zoom lens. Persistence with a heavy dose of patience. I love Columbus. If anyone else knows of a great place to get an alligator, or any other animal along the RiverWalk for that matter, please email me at

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Working with and against the sun

This is honestly the closest I've been to a Great Blue Heron without them flying away from what they think is a man with a hand cannon. I was working just below the Eagle & Phenix Mill Falls with the last bit of sunset hitting the heron's face. I hope for this to be the worst of my best images of herons and in the future to really be able to capture the grace of these birds.
Shortly after this image, I drove back over the 13th street bridge because the sun was setting directly on it. I worked the scene for awhile trying to get a single car isolated at the apex of the bridge. I'd be happier with a bit more range in the light, but this is something to build on. Next time I'll use a higher F-stop to make the sun even more defined and I'll experiment with bracketing the exposure a bit more.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

First fishing trip with dad

Jesus Hernandez and his son Jesus Hernandez Jr., 3, go fishing for the first time together along the Chattahoochee River just below the Phenix City Amphitheater Tuesday afternoon.
This was a bit more candid photo of Jesus Hernandez and his son. I liked how small the boy was here in comparison to his father and just the fact that it was a "first time in life moment" they were having together.