Outdoors: Snap judgments

In between talk of apertures and shutter speeds, biodiversity photographer Kevin FitzPatrick drops an astounding fact: The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, celebrating its 75th birthday this year, harbors an estimated 100,000 undiscovered plant and animal species.

Through his work with the Discover Life in America program, FitzPatrick has helped document some of the 6,339 life forms (many of them microscopic) that have been found new to the park, plus another 890 new to science.

But on Saturday, Sept. 12, he was helping participants document some charming, long-established species at the Western North Carolina Nature Center. The Fall Photography Opportunity was a great privilege for shutterbugs who wanted to learn the tricks of wildlife photography in both captive and open environments.

I thought I was pretty good when I shot a postcard-perfect lily pad one recent Sunday at Beaver Lake. But trying to capture the shimmying antics of Olive the Otter or the thundering gallop of Ursa the Bear made me eat crow. (News flash: Bears can haul ass.) I have so very much to learn. And what on earth could be more fun than to keep trying?
Catch more photos online at www.mountainx.com/garden. For more information, see Discover Life in America, www.dlia.org, and the WNC Nature Center, www.wildwnc.org.

[Melanie McGee Bianchi is a stay-at-home mom and freelance journalist.
Trying to capture the shimmying antics of Olive the Otter or the thundering gallop of Ursa the Bear made me eat crow.]

Ready for her close-up: A blooming lily pad at Beaver Lake makes a beautiful, but rather unchallenging, subject. Photos by Melanie McGee Bianchi

Well met: A participant in the after-hours photography program greets one of the Nature Center's friendly whitetail deer

Turtles on the mount: Ceremonious slow-movers at Beaver Lake are an easy target, but the photo was taken at shadowless high noon. According to FitzPatrick, the best natural light occurs early and late in the day.

Dinner time in the wolf den: Photographing behind glass requires a device called a polarizer (not used here, unfortunately).

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