The Suitors

The SuitorsThe Suitors is the final image included in the upcoming art exhibit at Magale Library, Centenary College, Shreveport, Louisiana.  The exhibit opens Friday, June 1st and continues throughout the summer months during regular hours (M-F 8-4:30).  A reception will be held on Saturday 23Jun from 2-5 PM.
The exhibit features images taken on the Red River National Wildlife Refuge, the only NWR in northwest Louisiana.  Sponsored by the Friends of Red River National Wildlife Refuge, the exhibit goal is to promote public awareness that the Refuge Headquarters Unit is part of the local community and has a brand new multi-million dollar Visitor Center, miles of maintained trails, a beautiful oxbow lake and is a wonderful place to visit and learn more about our natural surroundings.
The images chosen for the exhibit were all taken on the Refuge, primarily at Headquarters Unit, but also Bayou Pierre Unit and one image from Lower Cane Unit.  When first asked about preparing some images for an exhibit to promote the Refuge, saying yes was the easy part.  Deciding what to include took a little head scratching.  I wanted to include images that would appeal to a wide audience, from kids to older adults and stress the Refuge has something to offer for anyone who chooses to spend a little time at the Refuge.  The Visitor Center is the perfect place to start.  A boardwalk leads from the Visitor Center to a wonderful scenic overlook of Lake Caroline.  For many folks, that experience is a perfect way to spend a few hours.  Benches are scattered around the Visitor Center and there’s even rocking chairs on the back porch for some serious contemplation.  For the more adventurous, over 5 miles of trails, a levee and a rock service road is available for walking or biking.  And this is just Headquarters Unit.  Bayou Pierre Unit has plenty of open space for birding or hiking and is just 30 minutes south of Shreveport.
But how do you decide what images will work?  As a starting point, I considered the images in my most recent book “Discovering the Red River National Wildlife Refuge   A Yearlong Photo Journey”.  This book features images taken on the Refuge during the calendar year 2011 (and is available online through Blurb and also available at the Visitor Center bookstore).  In addition, I went back from the past several years and included some of my favorites that helped fill in the gaps of what I enjoyed photographing.  As evident in the images, my favorite subjects are birds, especially birds in flight.  I also like mammals, including big buck White-tailed Deer during the late fall.  Insects can be challenging.  Butterflies and dragonflies are of particular interest.  Even scenic images can be appealing.
The Suitors has to rank high on my list of all time favorites.  The image was taken in late December 2009 at the “Duck Banding Site” at Headquarters Unit.  I see Wood Ducks all the time, but they are usually spooked easily and I hear their distinct whistling sound as they take off and leave me just waving goodbye.  On this morning, the mosquitos must not have been an issue or I was half asleep and being extremely still, or the ducks weren’t paying attention.  In any case, these two drakes quietly swam past me about 25 yards away.  A little farther away would have been better, as they filled the whole image without much room to spare.  The early morning light had a sweet pinkish glow.  The drakes were in their beautiful breeding plumage.  Nice!!
If you get a chance to visit the exhibit this summer, by all means please take an hour from you busy summer, head over to the Magale library at Centenary and enjoy the images.  I hope you will be inspired to visit the Refuge and learn about what the National Wildlife Refuge System is all about.  And by all means take back some memories through your own  nature photography.
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