By Zackrey Hoverson
Nikhil Bahl, a nature photographer, presented what Assateague as a barrier island can offer photographers. He encouraged those with cameras to look for simple photographs, and not include too much in their pictures. Nikhil spoke to an audience in the auditorium on Assateague Wildlife Refuge during Waterfowl Week, November 23.
Nikhil is a professional nature photographer, educator, author, lecturer and workshop instructor. He currently resides in Montgomery Village, Maryland. His work has led him to volunteer his time and photography skills with the National Park Service and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
Many people don’t realize Assateague is a barrier island and what comes with that is taking the brunt of storms and changes as the years go by, protecting the mainland from storm surges, erosion, and other weather impacts. Those who have visited Assateague Island over the years have seen the elimination of the dunes that used to be on the beach and the shifting of the beach southward to Toms Cove Hook.
Nikhil Bahl, like many others, is fond of taking photographs along the Assateague Beach at either sunrise or sunset. A favorite subject are the dune grasses which are not as common as they once were. The water on Assateague can be photographed many different ways, but Nikhil prefers to take the abstract approach and leave more to interpretation instead of just the obvious straightforward approach. "Photographers," he said, “tend to include too much in a picture and that simple photographs can be just as intriguing, for example just a seashell on the beach can be an interesting photograph.”
As Nikhil pointed out, Hurricane Sandy has offered photographers a unique opportunity to capture the damage on the beach and how it heals itself over time. The sight of stumps of what used to be shrubs now seen in the water is just one example of the changes that a photographer can capture on Assateague Beach.
Nikhil describes Assateague Island as a barrier island "that is an island on the move as it is ever changing." The walkway to the Tom’s Cove Visitors Center from the beach, for example, has been partially covered by sand from Hurricane Sandy. Another opportunity of barrier islands is capturing fresh seashells in photographs right after a storm has washed them up.
Assateague Island is along the Atlantic Bird Migration Flyway, which offers photographers a diverse selection of birds to photograph. Nikhil advises that when photographing birds patience is required. Sometimes, he said, he has spent over an hour photographing a flock of birds. Also, Nikhil encourages photographers to explore different angles and perspectives from which to photograph various subjects.
The changing coast can offer different numbers of birds from year to year. In recent years there have been fewer snow geese seen at Assateague. Nikhil recalls one time there being so many willets on the beach that when one pulled up a mole crab other willets would fight to steal it. "This was fun to photograph," he said. Nikhil also explains that using backlighting on the beach is great to capture silhouettes.
Capturing downed trees that once housed Bald Eagle’s nests and watching as animals adapt and overcome the changes are one of the most unique and amazing things to capture on Assateague Island, said Nikhil.
For more of Nikhil's work and information go to: http://www.nikhilbahl.com