Porcupines: Moving Slow and Steady 

Posted on by Kathie Fife

Yesterday I came across some tracks that had me a little baffled. The deep, light, and fluffy snow made it challenging trying to find a clear outline of a foot. My first guess was opossum. And that guess was based on years of observing wildlife moving about in the same tract of land for more than 25 years. And my guess was based on habitat, a birch forest with young white pine saplings.

And, upon asking friends what they thought it might be, my curiosity and determination to know exactly what it was pulled me to go back and investigate.  I followed the trail until I found a clear clue. Turns out my friends were correct!

A porcupine trudging through the deep snow. The outline of the foot, and quill drag confirmed it is definitely a porcupine.

I’m deeply curious why it was moving about up a steep hill, out in the open, when the trail they use is well traversed and packed down just 1/4 mile away. Predator perhaps got it off course? An interesting mystery, and a fun way to test my skills, and a reminder that nature never follows our human egocentric rules.

As always, please be mindful and respectful to wildlife and property. 

All content is copyright Kathie Fife Photography. Please ask permission before copying and downloading. Thank you. 

Cruising the Wild Informational Highways

Posted on by Kathie Fife

The woods are an informational highway. Tune in! There are fascinating stories to be shared.

Mid January, and this is my first adventure out into the woods. The conditions have been very cold and with just a few inches of snow, and the top layer of thick ice making it crunchy and very cumbersome for walking. For smaller wildlife like squirrels, snowshoe hare, and mice that is no problem and actually makes it much easier for them to get around.

For the larger animals, like deer, they struggle with slipping on the ice (I can relate!), especially with a thin layer of fresh powdery snow on top. The sharp edges from the ice cut into their legs causing a loss of valuable energy, which makes them likely targets for predators such as the bobcat and coyote. I didn’t find any deer tracks on my walk today. I imagine they are hunkered down in a deer yard and conserving energy for warmer days and waiting for easier conditions to move around.

But, today was a great day to be out again. With so many fresh tracks of fox, coyote, bobcat, red and grey squirrels, snowshoe hare, fischer cat, and mice crisscrossing paths through the woods, it is fascinating to observe the stories.

Snowshoe Hare Tracks

Snowshoe Hare Tracks

Busy intersection where the snowshoe hare has moved about.

Snowshoe Hare stops to nibble on the buds of a birch twig.

Snowshoe Hare stops to nibble on the buds of a birch twig.

Hard to see here, but the depressions in the snow are from the snowshoe hare.

Close up of snowshoe hare browse on birch twig.

Close up of snowshoe hare browse on birch twig.

A close up view of the same twig above showing where the snowshoe hare nibbled on the birch twig.

For a mouse, it is easy to get around on the hard crust.

For a mouse, it is easy to get around on the hard crust.

The pine needle provides perspective on track size.

Brisk walk of a coyote.

Brisk walk of a coyote.

A coyote moved briskly through the woods on a cold morning.

Bobcat tracks.

Bobcat tracks.

Bobcat tracks.

It was fun to be back in the woods and observing the areas I spent a considerable amount of time walking through last winter. The snowshoe hare have survived, and I found new areas with tracks I didn’t see last year. This is surprising given all the bobcat, fox, and coyote activity. Hares are amazing critters and have a strong survival instinct. Not that I really want to see a loss of any life, but this year I hope to track and find a fresh bobcat or coyote kill.

As always, please be mindful and respectful to property and wildlife.

All content including images are copyright Kathie Fife Photography.  Please contact us for permission for use before downloading and or copying.  Thank you.

The Best of 2014

Posted on by Kathie Fife

The other day I was going through my catalog of photographs and all the projects I have completed through 2014.  It was a very good year and it was a lot of fun reminiscing about the days I was out shooting for specific projects.  I created a video highlighting a broad mix of my work in fine art, commercial, and documentary work.  I’m excited about collaborating with the amazing talent of Jordan Tirrell-Wysocki to create this video with his music.

Kathie Fife Photography on Vimeo music by Jordan Tirrell-Wysocki.

Highlight of 2014

Feature Story in New Hampshire Magazine – “The Allure of Black Ice”
NH State Visitor’s Guide 2014/2015
Constant Contact All Star Award for Marketing
Limited Edition 1,000 Piece Puzzle – Shaker Village
NH Audubon Exhibit and my new book “Nature Journal: Exploring the NH Audubon Wildlife Sanctuaries”

Working with clients and customers to create art that you enjoy!
Thank  you for your amazing support!!

What’s ahead for 2015?

View from Bald Mt Antrim NH

View from the summit of Bald Mountain, Willard Pond Wildlife Santuary, Antrim, NH.

My goals are to focus on specific projects and let go of the excessive creative clutter. Although I love creating a mix of media, because it often helps to let go of some of the stress of daily things, I feel like this is the year to really delve into big projects and let go of the smaller ones for awhile.  I’m excited about the possibilities and sharing that process with you.

Thank you for following along and supporting me on this creative journey.

All content including images are copyright Kathie Fife Photography.  Please contact us for permission for use before downloading and or copying.  Thank you.

Conjuring up a Shaker Witch

Posted on by Kathie Fife

Halloween is my favorite holiday.  It’s an opportunity to just dress up, have some fun, and go to the Ghost Encounters event at Canterbury Shaker Village. The photo opps during the event are really cool, too. The light at this time of year allows you to capture some interesting effects. Below is an example of working with all natural light to create stunning images.  “Shaker Witch” was created with 100% natural light. It was not staged and the poses are completely natural. I added layers and textures to make it look like a witch’s castle.

The final image of Shaker Witch.

The final image of Shaker Witch.

1. This is the original image (below), unprocessed, and straight out of the camera. Note the natural light from the sun. It accentuates her face and eyes perfectly, and also the shaker basket and shaker broom have nice highlights as well. The background is dark adding to the mystery of ‘what’s inside that dark castle’ feeling. I also love the mischievous look in her eyes, like she’s up to something wickedly fun!

Original file of Shaker Witch

Original photo. Unprocessed and straight out of the camera.

2. Using a combination of Lightroom and Photoshop, I adjusted the shadows, highlights, and tweaked the color correction (white balance).

First adjustments to fix highlights, shadows, and color correction.

First adjustments to fix highlights, shadows, and color correction.

3. I added several layers and textures to the image to make it look like a Witch’s Castle.

I added a series of layers to make it look like a Witch's Castle.

I added a series of layers to make it look like a Witch’s Castle.

4. The final image, I adjusted the color one more time, brought out the color of her hair and opened up the shadows on her black wardrobe. I also Photoshopped out the hand railing (Witches fly, I doubt they need railings?) and tweaked the doorway slightly so it didn’t look like a modern door, but more like a dark, cold castle.

The final image of Shaker Witch.

The final image of Shaker Witch.

This is the final image, although I think I will continue to conjure up more ideas.  Perhaps add a gargoyle, a bat, or something bewitching!

Here is another image I adjusted with layers and made it black and white. The Shaker Witch, aka volunteer Pat Peck, looks much too nice to be a mean witch. Which! is good because the Ghost Encounters event at Canterbury Shaker Village is a family friendly event and although the volunteers and actors play their parts so well, it really wasn’t as scary as it appears 🙂

Shaker Witch

Shaker Witch

To see more ghastly images of the ghosts and ghouls from Ghost Encounters check out the Halloween gallery on my website.

 

As always, please be mindful and respectful to property and people.

All content including images are copyright Kathie Fife Photography.  Please contact us for permission for use before downloading and or copying.  Thank you.

Searching for Herps

Posted on by Kathie Fife

Falling in Love again with Childhood Friends

Fall typically isn’t the time we think about herps (a collective term for frogs and salamanders). This is the time of year when they (herps) borough down into the earth to protect themselves from death caused by freezing cold temperatures. Earlier this week the weather was unusually warm and tropical-like for a mid-September day. On a woods walk, I picked up a branch that had fallen across the trail and discovered I had uncovered the home of a red back salamander.

Red Backed Salamander

Red Back Salamander

Have you seen a red backed salamander before?  They are evasive and secretive; preferring to hide under small stones, dead logs, and in small holes in the earth under leaf litter. It may be surprising that they are more common than the red efts seen crawling across the forest floor on a wet day.

red eft salamander

A Red Eft, the terrestrial phase of the red spotted newt.

Another very common, but almost never seen herp, is the spotted salamander. It also seeks cover on under moist decaying logs, stones, and underground tunnels.

Spotted Salamander

Spotted Salamander – also found on my fall walk!

The spotted salamander breeds in vernal pools in the spring. The first rainy nights when the grip of winter has finally let go, the spotted salamanders march across the snow to find the vernal pools and begin the next life cycle. The mating ritual occurs without any physical contact between the sexes. The males deposit spermataphores (as it sounds, little pockets of sperm protected in a jelly like mass) on materials under the water, such as small sticks and on the upper surface of leaves. The females then find them and position themselves to fertilize their eggs, which are then deposited in large masses, usually in the same pools.

spotted salamander spermataphore

Spotted Salamander Spermataphore in a vernal pool in early spring. It looks like and is about the same size as a bird dropping.

So curiosity got to me (again!) and I abandoned my original mission for the day to search for more species of herps still awake in the forest. I headed to the brook to pick up stones by the flowing water.  Oh, fun!  A very large Northern Two-Lined salamander quickly scurried for the nearest cover to escape my awful intrusion.

Two Lined Salamander. Easily confused with the red backed salamander.  The difference is habitat and the "two lines" along the side of the body that start from the eyes all the way to the tail.

Northern Two-Lined Salamander. Easily confused with the red backed salamander. The difference is habitat (near running water) and the “two lines” along the side of the body begin from the eyes all the way to the tail.  It is more yellow under the belly and lacks the red color on the back like the red back salamander.

twolinedsalamander

Northern Two Lined Salamander. Note the dark line from the eyes to the tail.

This was a relaxing and fun way to spend a fall day.  The days are much shorter in September, so the light was fading fast in the forest.  As I headed home I heard something move in the leaves near my feet.  I had to look closely.

What do you see?

What do you see?

I looked again, and hmmm… nothing.  I moved my feet and then it moved again, and I saw it!

Wood Frog

Wood Frog

Camouflage is amazing, isn’t it?

Red Back Salamander found under decaying wood.

Red Back Salamander found under decaying wood. The dark area across the middle of the photo is where the stick was covering the ground. In warmer temps, red back salamanders move so fast it is almost hard to see them.  This one, looking like a root, was sluggish in the cooler temperatures, and so it allowed me time to get the shot before it ran for cover down a hole in the earth.

It was a lovely afternoon and I felt like a kid again spending time with my favorite childhood friends, “Frog and Toad.”

American Toad

American Toad –  found on my fall walk

In all, I found six species (all the photos posted here were created during my walk) – in just one hour of searching.

 

As always, please be mindful and respectful to property and wildlife.

All content including images are copyright Kathie Fife Photography.  Please contact us for permission for use before downloading and or copying.  Thank you.

 

Photographing Historical Reenactment Events

Posted on by Kathie Fife

History is alive in the hills and mountains of New Hampshire during the annual living history events.

Below is a sample of images from photographing historical reenactments of wars and colonial living performed by reenactors. It is a much safer way to experience a part of history we only read about in books and see only through the eyes of brave photographers working in real battle zones. The reenactors are passionate about history and I discovered some role-play extremely well. (Click on the images below to view larger and see details).

Firing a canon during the demonstrations at the Hillsborough Living History Event.

Firing a canon during the demonstrations at the Hillsborough Living History Event.

It also comes with a challenge photographing it so it doesn’t look completely staged. Trying to be as authentic as possible, the reenactors are serious about what they do. They invest their own money in and wear period uniforms and carry equipment that is void of any modern day accoutrements, like plastic water bottles, sunglasses, and modern shoes. Certainly no one wants to be pointed out as coming across as farby, for that ruins the whole concept, and wearing a bruised ego during the weekend is just not fun.

The Encampment at the Hillsborough Living History Event.

The Encampment at the Hillsborough Living History Event.

The photos below have several elements that resonated with me; the cloud of gun smoke, the soldier wearing a key around his neck, and grasping a diary in this hand. The sojourn soldier with look on his face and the way he carried his tired body.

Soldier walks through gun smoke

A soldier holds his diary as he walks through a cloud of gun smoke after a fierce battle.

The scruffy, furrowed skin, and the look in the eyes of this soldier.

A soldier prepares for battle during the Hillsborough Living History Event reenactment of the French and Indian, Revolutionary, and Civil Wars.

There are a few annual events in New Hampshire, like the Hillsborough Living History Event, and Muster in the Mountains at the base of the Mt Washington Auto Road in Pinkham Notch, and the Civil War Encampment at Strawbery Banke Museum that give visitors an opportunity to walk through an encampment and see how people lived during the time periods.

Fire! At the Civil War Emcampment demonstration at Strawbery Banke Museum.

Fire! At the Civil War Encampment demonstration at Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth, NH.

It’s a great opportunity to experience our heritage and discover first hand how primitive resources were used to cook a meal over hot coals, and the skills needed to craft tools, and watch how metals are melted and molded to make firearms, knives, and lead bullets.

"Good Trade"

Two Mountain Men, dressed in authentic period clothing, discuss a “Good Trade”. The event includes real trades such as the knives on the blanket and other tools that are made exclusively without the use of modern technology. (My NHPPA award winning image,”Good Trade”)

The living historians are a wealth of knowledge and are always kind, willing, and open to answering questions from visitors.

Making a leather pouch using primitive tools at Muster in the Mountains.

Making a leather pouch using primitive tools at Muster in the Mountains.

Natural fibers like tanned leathers and spun wool are used to make clothing and tarps.

Fire Starter - Muster in the Mountains - 1 Kathie Fife Photography-2

Blowing on the fiber to get the fire started from when sparks generated by the two pieces of flint were hit together.

The reenactors demonstrate their crafts and share a part of history we can experience today, and appreciate what life was like during the colonial period.

Fire Starter - Muster in the Mountains - 1 Kathie Fife Photography-3

Sparks fly when the two pieces of stone are hit against each other.

Photos from the Muster in the Mountains event demonstrating how to start a fire using flint and natural materials.

Flint as a primitive tool used to start a fire.

Flint as a primitive tool used to start a fire.

It’s a great time of year to get out and enjoy events like these. Personally, I am most impressed with the folks who dedicate themselves to being as authentic as possible. Muster in the Mountains is one of the best festivals in the state, and it’s also located in one of the most beautiful places right in the heart of the White Mountains during foliage season.  What’s not to love about that?!

To find more information check out the New Hampshire State Visitor’s Guide, (you can also find my photograph of visitors enjoying a horse carriage ride around Hillsborough Center during the event).

To view more of the images from the Hillsborough Living History Event, and Muster in the Mountains visit my website.

A mountain woman living in the encampment during the Muster in the Mountains event relaxes by candlelight after chores.

A mountain woman living in the encampment during the Muster in the Mountains event relaxes by candlelight after a full day of chores.

Final Note: As I finished writing this blog post, I struggled with how this may come across as trivializing war. Although this was a fun way to experience and remember history, it’s not to be taken with a light heart. The historic events were very real. War is terrible. I will never be a war photographer. It takes a special kind of person, like photojournalist James Nachtwey, to go into an actual war zone and photograph real terror, pain, and horrible death.

As always, please be mindful and respectful to property and people.

All content including images are copyright Kathie Fife Photography.  Please contact us for permission for use before downloading and or copying.  Thank you.

When Nature Provides Your Vision

Posted on by Kathie Fife

This summer I’ve had an amazing opportunity to explore some of the NH Audubon sanctuaries.

loon on willard pond

A loon swims around pickerel weed on Willard Pond, a NH Audubon Sanctuary.

This image is from an early morning paddle around Willard Pond.

My original vision for the day’s photo shoot was to create a soft image of the loon in a recognizable setting, with the rocks and mountain in the background. I was hoping for some warm soft morning light, but it turned out to be slightly overcast and contrasty. A short burst of strong wind had picked up and it was very choppy on the water. It made it challenging trying to focus on the loon while my kayak was bouncing against the whitecaps.

But, I was lucky to have all the elements come together in a perfect spot, with many thanks to the very curious loon that positioned itself perfectly within the frame.

It’s not every day that nature provides what you envision. 

Willard Pond panoramic

A panoramic view of Willard Pond and Bald Mountain. The area is a NH Audubon Sanctuary located in Antrim, NH.

These images, as well as other panoramic photographs of NH Audubon Sanctuaries I photographed this summer, will be on display at the NH Audubon McLane Center for the months of September and October 2014. 

The Opening Reception is Thursday, September 4th,  430-630.
84 Silk Farm Rd, McLane Center, NH Audubon – Concord, NH
Click here for directions

The reception is free, with light refreshments and visitors whom attend will receive a complimentary bookmark with an image of Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge.  All are welcome, and the art exhibit is open to the public during regular business hours.

Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge

Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge. Click image to view larger size.

All of the images in the art exhibit are available for purchase during the show.
30% of sales support the NH Audubon mission of “Protecting New Hampshire’s Natural Environment for Wildlife and for People.”

Click here to read the Press Release about the Art Exhibit (link coming soon).


As always, please be mindful and respectful to property and wildlife.

All content including images are copyright Kathie Fife Photography.  Please contact us for permission for use before downloading and or copying.  Thank you.

Attraction: Like Butterflies on Scat

Posted on by Kathie Fife

When we think of butterflies, we envision them on beautiful flowers in our gardens, or on wildflowers in meadows bursting with a rainbow of color.

Black Swallowtail Butterfly on geranium flower.

Black Swallowtail Butterfly in my garden on a geranium flower.

We think of butterflies as pure, clean, delicate, feminine-like critters.

Baltimore Checkerspot butterfly on scat

Baltimore Checkerspot butterfly on coyote scat.

But, butterflies are also attracted to minerals in scat, much as they are attracted to the nectar in flowers.

The male butterflies, especially, are attracted to the salts in the moisture. They accumulate them and when they mate with females they deposit a spermatophore encased with salt packets. The female can use the packets for nourishment without having to risk her life, and her eggs, visiting salt puddles, or scat,where predators are likely to prey.

An Eastern Swallowtail butterfly attracted to coyote scat.

An Eastern Swallowtail butterfly attracted to coyote scat.

When I’m out on my adventures looking for interesting flora and fauna, sometimes I will see a large congregation of butterflies on shallow pools of water, called puddling. Sometimes the group is all the same species, sometimes it is a mix. This tells me there is something very interesting going on!

Viceroy Butterfly

Viceroy Butterfly

The type of scat lets me know what species of wildlife are in the area. The photos here show butterflies on coyote scat.  The scat is most likely from the past winter, because it is dry, and all that is left is deer hair and bones. We see young shoots of grass around the scat, so we can estimate the scat was deposited around six months ago in the snow. The species of butterflies let me know which species of plants are in the area.

Butterfly larvae on Spirea

Butterfly larvae on Spirea sp. Possibly fritillary sp.

How? Because the butterflies are attracted to, and rely on, specific host plants to lay their eggs for the larvae to feed on.

As always, please be mindful and respectful to property and wildlife.

All content including images are copyright Kathie Fife Photography.  Please contact us for permission for use before downloading and or copying.  Thank you.