Thursday, December 6, 2007

Fragments of Fall

Reports from Margaret Bamberger of trees displaying their fall colors brought me back to the Bamberger Ranch on Tuesday, November 4th. Walking the Rachel Carson trail did, indeed, lead me to the colors. They were impressive, though confined to the young, scattered maples. However, what they lacked in quantity they made up for in intensity, as the high-dynamic range images below attest.

Due to the fact that most of the other trees in the area had already shed their leaves, I didn't find any scene along that trail that I thought would make a pleasing panorama. However, the grasses continued to be impressive, and as sunset approached, I setup in a tall stand of grass whose seed heads were catching the light beautifully, operating the pano rig while crouching beneath the tripod, in the hope that I could stay out of the shot, without moving around the camera and trampling the near-field grasses that were to be the focus of the pano. That worked-out alright, but the wind never did cooperate. With the last rays of sunlight rapidly disappearing up the stalks of grass, I shot the pano out of desperation, knowing it couldn't work. But, below, a few frames of that failed pano provide good samples of what I was trying to capture.

By the way, the one place where wind didn't interfere with my panoramic efforts, was my first target of the day: the chiroptorium, the artificial bat cave constructed by the Bambergers to try to bring a substantial bat population to the ranch. Like many others, I've photographed it from outside, but all that really shows is the big, artificial cave mouth. I haven't seen any photos of the interior since it was under construction (it was a work of art before its surface was covered with concrete and the whole structure buried). So, I've thought for a while that a spherical panorama ought to be shot inside in order to clearly show people the end-result of that construction. However, the chiroptorium's success, in the form of the 120,000 Mexican free-tail bats that occupied it this year, kept me from entering to shoot a panorama before now, because we didn't want to risk disturbing the bats. With the arrival of winter, however, the free-tails have returned to Mexico, so the chiroptorium's only residents are many hundreds of cave myotis tucked-away in the warmth of a pair of internal bat boxes, and untold legions of flesh-eating dermestid beetles occupying the foot or more of accumulated bat guano that covers the cave floors wall-to-wall. The consensus was that I could enter without disturbing the myotis, provided that I wasn't disturbed by the flesh-eating beetles. A pair of rubber boots proved to be adequate for keeping the beetles at bay, and the shoot went smoothly, to the continuous accompaniment of the chattering myotis. The result should be a good high dynamic-range spherical panorama as soon as I have time to assemble it. Stay tuned.

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