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March 2013: Sunrise at Lake Thompson, Virginia

From the Photographer...

Jennifer Molnar

Lake Thompson is a short drive from the hustle of Washington, DC, a lake in the Virginia countryside surrounded by rolling, wooded hills. I had escaped the office for a morning to join a spring bird-watching walk there with members of the Conservancy’s local chapter.

I’m not a serious birder, like my colleague who led the walk, but I do enjoy it in a relaxed way, as a chance to get outside and watch birds and other wildlife. And being a nature photographer, the slow pace of birders hiking works well for me. 

We arrived before dawn to meet the group at the lake. As we were waiting, I noticed some warm light coming through the trees at one side of the dirt parking area. I walked over on my own and saw this breath-taking scene: the rising sun shining through the trees and turning dew drops to gold on the leaves of the grass and bushes.    

I stood mesmerized, and then before it was gone I snapped a few pictures — no time to get my tripod. By the time others joined me a few moments later, the warm color had faded and the sun was bright in the sky.  

We spent the rest of the morning hiking through the forest, searching out birds flitting in the trees. The group saw or heard 53 bird species, including many warblers and others on their spring migration. Songbirds are tough to photograph at a distance — and in motion — but I got some nice shots of a colorful centipede and an Eastern box turtle crossing the trail.    

But it was the unforgettable beauty of that first moment in the morning that stuck with me. Nature photography can sometimes take a lot of planning and patience, whether timing a shot for the right angle of light or hiking to a vantage point. But there are also times where you just happen to be in the right place at the right time.  

This photograph reminds me of those magical, fleeting moments in nature.  

Jennifer Molnar leads Sustainability Science within The Nature Conservancy's Central Science Program


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