Readers’ wildlife photos

March 31, 2023 • 8:30 am

Addendum:  Doug said I should add this about his heart attack, which actually was a while back:

The heart attack was almost six years ago, and the photo was taken about a year afterwards. Taking walks was part of the recovery process and photographing birds started while I was stuck at home and a neighbor asked for photo tips and lessons. She is an avid birder and despite growing up in rural Virginia, I knew almost nothing about birds! Then Covid struck and I set up the backyard bird feeders and started photographing the Breakfast Crew as something to ease the boredom of everything being locked down. I have had two heart scans since the heart attack, and everything looks fine. My energy is back to normal, and life is good! Especially since I am now retired and have time for my various hobbies.


Today’s photos are from reader Doug Hayes of Richmond, VA, who usually contributes “The breakfast crew” series of bird photos. But he also takes great photos of dancers. Today we have mostly dancers but also one bird—and a story. Doug’s captions and narrative are indented, and you can enlarge his photos by clicking on them.

And now for something completely different. Photos from my most recent photoshoot with Starr Foster Dance and my friend Starrene Foster, artistic director and choreographer. Starr is currently working on the costumes, choreography and musical arrangements for Spitting Image II, her second show of choreography inspired by photos submitted by Richmond, VA photographers (including yours truly). Depending on the emotion evoked by each photo, the individual dances are sometimes comical, sometimes sad or a show of physical prowess and dance technique. The show will be performed at Richmond’s Firehouse Theater April 27th through April 29th (two shows). For more information about the show and the company, visit here.

Fran Beaumont (top), Shannon Comerford (middle) and Taylor-Leigh Adams (bottom).  We used this image on the postcards advertising the show. This was the first take of this particular jump. Sometimes these shots are spontaneous, or they involve phrases from a particular dance. This photo was improvised, with Taylor told to go horizontal, while the other two the dancers were instructed to leap towards the light, all on a count of three. We did one more shot, but felt we nailed it on the first try.

Molly Huey and three dancers in a large spandex bag. The bag has evolved over the years from holding one person, to being able to hold six dancers, sometimes with video projections on the surface while the dancers contort and form various shapes and configurations of bodies:

Fran Beaumont making it look effortless:

Shannon Comerford (L) and Taylor-Leigh Adams (R):

Fran Beaumont takes to the air:

Mosca Mavrophilipos-Flint, one of the guest dancers who will be performing in the Spitting Image show:

Anna Branch, one of the original members of the company:

Elana Dimitri, another guest dancer who will be performing in the Spitting Image show:

Shannon Comerford and Taylor-Leigh Adams. Three dancers are off-camera tossing the leaves. It took several tries to get this image as leaves fell in clumps or obscured the dancers’ faces. This photo was also used on the postcards advertising the show.

Mosca Mavrophilipos-Flint:

My photo which is the basis for the dance entitled “Persistence”. It is one of my favorites, taken while I was recovering from a heart attack and just getting started in bird photography:

All the photos were shot in the studios of the Richmond Ballet. Camera was the Sony A7RV set to human eye autofocus tracking, external flash mode, ISO 250 – 400, shutter speed 1/400 (mechanical shutter). Lenses: Sony 16-35 GM and Sigma Art 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM (Sony E-mount). Lighting: Multiple White Lightning 800WS monolights triggered by a Cybersync radio controller.

I asked Doug about the bird photo, and why it was called “Persistence.” His answer is below. We all wish him a speedy recovery!

After the heart attack I was pretty weak and started walking every day to build my strength back up. I had just started photographing birds and decided to take my camera and telephoto lens with me – a pretty heavy load at the time. My regular route was to walk down to the lake in Forest Hill Park and back, roughly a two mile hike. On the day I took the picture, it had started to snow heavily. I was debating whether to go on my walk leaving the camera at home. Then I started to talk myself out of going walking at all as it was cold and the snow had not let up. I didn’t want this to happen again, so I went online and started to search for weatherproof covers for cameras and lenses. After a few minutes of research, I saw how simple the construction of the covers was. A few minutes later I was making a cover for my camera and lens out of sheet plastic and electrical tape. So, now I had no excuse to put off my walk. When I reached the lake, there were no birds around except for this solitary Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias), covered with snow, wading in the shallows looking for fish. I watched and photographed him (or her) for a while and the bird’s persistence paid off as it snagged several small fish.

11 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. Thank Doug- as always. The abundance of creativity around the Fan area of Richmond always amazes me…a beautiful connection of dance dynamics and still photographic images. We have lots of Blue Heron fans here, just down the James River from you, at Lake Maury at the Mariners’ Museum and enjoy them year round during our daily trail walks around the lake. This guy or gal looks nicely puffed up against the cold, wet snow. I will pass “Persistence” on to my fellow walkers.

    1. That heron lives by itself at the lake in Forest Hill Park and has been there for several years. From time to time, it will fly to the James River, but always returns. If you feel like a little hike, there is a heron rookery across from the Pipeline Trail (the James River Park Pipeline Walkway) – a catwalk built on top of a wastewater pipeline that cuts across the James. It can be a little spooky, as the walkway is only a few feet above the water and sometimes below when the river is high! Worth the walk!

      1. Thanks doug. Daughter’s family lives in Short Pump. Will look for the trail on a visit at low water. Spooky sounds good

  2. Beautiful photography, the lighting and subject matter are superb, kudos!
    I also love the blue heron photo and the symbolism behind the title.

  3. Absolutely gorgeous photos. Been taking pictures for at least 70 of my 85 years and pretty well stick to flora and landscapes. Walking is great. Usually walk at least a mile with an 80 foot hill on our route. Had heart surgery as well. Today is rumbling and there are warnings of worse on radar. Maybe no walk – just cellar stairs.

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