The Spirit of the River

We are officially ending the series on bird flight. I hope you enjoyed it, and I hope you learned something. If you got something out of it, I’d love to hear from you. I learned a lot myself while doing the research.

Please recall that our 6-blog flight series began with “Designed to Fly” and ended with “See a Plane, Thank a Bird.” You might be interested to know that the series was born completely by chance. It all began with this less-than-stellar Osprey photo–and the comment that followed–from my earlier blog, “More Shoutouts.” Here’s the comment: “Notice that the fish is being carried head first. Ospreys carry fish this way to minimize drag.” That’s what got the whole ball rolling. Much has been made of serendipity and writing. Well, serendipity definitely happened there.

Osprey in flight and carrying a sizable fish
Osprey carrying a mammoth fish

A Quick Recap

Here again is what we covered in the bird flight series, up until “Back into Flying.”

  • What enables a bird to fly
    air (no kidding)
    the airfoil or (modified) teardrop shape of a bird’s body and wings
    the smooth body surfaces created by feathers
    the turning of oncoming air, especially around a bird’s wings
    the flapping of wings–those upstrokes and downstrokes
  • Important flight vocabulary
    drag: the force opposing a bird’s motion through the air
    lift: the force that keeps a bird aloft
    gravity: the downward force that birds overcome
    thrust: the force that propels a bird forward
    airfoil: think: a sail, a wind turbine blade, an airplane wing, a bird’s wing!

And here are the main things we covered in the final 2 blogs in the series: “Back into Flying” and “See a Plane, Thank a Bird”:

  • The difference between a bird’s primary and secondary flight feathers
  • The importance of the angle of attack of a bird’s wings
  • Birds have inspired, and continue to inspire, aircraft design

Before we conclude, let’s look again at the photo that seems to sum everything up. This is one of those photos (a collage, really) that falls into the “a picture is worth a thousand words” category.

Flying Mallard duck and flying airplane composite
Mallard duck and Piper Cub

So … see a plane, a helicopter, a spacecraft, an aerial robot, a delivery drone, or even a flying car still in development, and thank a bird! To learn more about all that, please read “See a Plane, Thank a Bird.”

The Spirit of the River

Let’s pivot then (something birds and aircraft do routinely). The title for this blog, blog #30, “The Spirit of the River,” is in thanks to Kent (RustyBug), a fellow member of FM Forum, a premier photography website. I submitted some photos for review there recently, and he responded, after viewing them, this way: “I appreciate your effort to capture the ‘spirit of the river.'”

Landscape Photography

This is a photo of the Elizabeth River Western Branch tributary, Baines Creek, in Portsmouth, VA. I took it on 11/25/18. It perfectly captures the spirit of the river. I shot this with my trusty Canon EF f/4L IS USM 24-70mm lens with a polarizing filter attached. Notice the effects of that filter here: the saturated colors and the absence of reflections, including the reflections off the water’s surface. If you look closely you can see the river bottom in the foreground.

Baines Creek Portsmouth, VA
Baines Creek, Portsmouth, VA

I like taking shots like this, though I’ll admit I’m not proficient at it–and there’s room for improvement. (There’s always room for improvement, isn’t there?) But just like I enjoy learning about birds–and sharing what I’ve learned–I enjoy learning about landscape photography. It’s good to learn, especially about things that you can pursue on your own, like photography and birds and bird watching! Actually, it’s good to learn, period. I’m reminded of Merlyn’s advice to young Wart in T.H. White’s The Once and Future King:

There’s only one thing for [the mind] then–to learn. That’s the only thing that never fails. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. [Learning] is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.

Here’s another photo that captures the spirit of the river. This is a view of the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River from Great Bridge Lock Park in Chesapeake, VA. I didn’t take it with a polarizing lens, thus the lack of saturation. I mounted my camera on a tripod, though, which helped me slow down and thoughtfully plan the shot. I also used a tripod here to eliminate camera shake and maximize image sharpness. I point these things out for you shutterbugs out there.

The Elizabeth River from Great Bridge Lock Park
The Elizabeth River from Great Bridge Lock Park

The Restored Elizabeth River

It’s hard to believe, especially as we consider the above 2 photographs, that the Elizabeth River, notably the Southern Branch, used to be a toxic mess unsafe for boating and fishing, let alone swimming. The river could become suitable for swimming in the very near future. A swimmable river is one of the stated goals in the Elizabeth River Project 2016 Watershed Action Plan. Now, here are some folks who were very nearly swimming in it this past summer–and in the area where I took the above photo.

Tubing on the Elizabeth River
Tubing on the Elizabeth River

If this photo doesn’t capture the “spirit of the river,” and the spirit of those who are enjoying its restoration to health, I honestly don’t know what will.

And This Just In

Thank you for reading. A very Happy New Year to you and yours!

Quip, Question, Quote

“Rivers have been treated with total disrespect and ignorance. There’s no sense pointing fingers, a lot of abuse occurred in different times, less enlightened times; it’s just great that finally rivers are no longer going to be treated like open sewers.” A comment in the Boston Globe following an article entitled: “The Malden River, Coming to Life.” The Malden River, just north of Boston, was probably more polluted than the Elizabeth.

 

 

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