Sandhill Cranes at Sunset
Our amazing time at Bosque Del Apache wildlife refuge in New Mexico included many great sunrises and sunsets. Staying true to our photographic pursuits, we wanted to capture the golden hours of the day. The best light occurs at dawn and at sunset. So in chasing the light, we want to be there during those times when the light was the best. The above image, Sandhill Cranes at Sunset, was captured during one of our late afternoon into the evening hours journey to photograph these Cranes. The light was perfect and as the sun descended behind the mountains the golden light provided a nice silhouette.
Photographers are often called “Chasers of Light.” you can have a great subject matter and bad lighting and it becomes difficult to produce images that juts POP with color and contrast. There have been many a morning when we would rise up at Zero dark thirty to capture a great sunrise only to be met with rain and wind. In addition, finding the right place to be to get the best shot can be a challenge. Research, mapping, and compass apps. come in handy while we venture to pursue photographic excellence.
Rule of Thirds
Using the rule of thirds applies concepts to our photographs that enhance the composition of our images. People like to see things in thirds and the Rule of Thirds in photography helps with the dynamics of our images to attract the eyes of the viewer into the photograph and directly to the subject of the picture. In the above photograph, I isolated three Crane standing in the water feature at the base of the mountains. There was great separation among the cranes and using the concept of thirds, I captured an image that I find to be quite dynamic and pleasing to the eye.
Finding the right light with a great subject is on the top of the list when making great photographs. Its not as easy as it may seem, but the rewards can be very satisfying. Enjoy!
Blandings Turtle. As a nature and wildlife photographer I find it important that you must always be aware of your surroundings. First, for safety reasons. While walking around in the outdoors there might be several hazards that you must contend with. Uneven ground, animal burrows, bugs, snakes, and other nasty things just looking to take a bite out of you. Second, you should always expect the unexpected. The other day I was walking along the boardwalk at Magee Marsh Wildlife Refuge in Northwest Ohio. I had my long lens on my camera and was birding. Looking to photograph the many birds that will soon be populating the area. In a recent post I mentioned the bird migration and the International Migratory Bird Day coming soon. Although I found very few species of birds yet to arrive, I stumbled on this treasure.
I wasn’t looking to photograph turtles, frogs, or other water bound species, but on my way out of the refuge I saw two people looking out over the vegetation in one of the water features. I joined them along the railing and saw that they were looking at this little guy sticking his nose out of the pond. The couple were birders and had binoculars. They said they thought it was a frog. I put the long lens to work and saw that it was a turtle coming up to take a breath or two. My research told me this was a Blandings Turtle. You can tell by the orange coloring on his chin. I was able to captured several images from different angles and he did not seem bothered by us at all.
This wan’t the only time I have found a gem while photographing something else. One morning I was capturing the sunrise out at the Lighthouse in Marblehead, Ohio. Seriously focused on the sun as it rose over the horizon. As I gathered my things to leave I turned and found the sun had cast a beautiful golden light on the lighthouse. Had I been in too much of hurry, I might have missed it all together. Keeping your eyes open and your camera ready for unexpected treasures can enhance a previously uneventful trek in the woods. Enjoy!
Albatross, Galapagos Islands. Keeping with my bird photography as we approach the International Migratory Bird Festival held right here in Northwest Ohio. My last major excursion was with a group of friends touring the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador. We hiked out one day on one of the islands and found a large colony of Albatross. These are truly wonderful birds to see and to photograph. They are rather large birds in comparison to others on the Islands. Because of their size, these birds need to launch themselves from the side of a cliff. They just cannot get up enough speed to take off from a standing position. In addition, they are so large they just hop around and not necessarily walk. So they take short hops to the edge of the cliff and jump off into the wind.
Airborne, these birds are magnificent. They ride the winds around the shoreline and seem to float at times. This gave us many great photo opportunities as the birds seem to just hang in the sky a few feet from where we were standing on the side of the cliff. Taking pictures of birds in flight is often a challenge. However, due to the size of these birds and their flight habits, capturing some great images was quite easy. Aside from the fact that we had to take a Zodiac to the island from our little cruise ship, walk quite aways over lava rocks, and climb a small hill. Add to that the weight of your pack and an extremely high humidity made for a challenging walk to the cliffs.
Sometimes the challenge of nature photography is not the capturing of the images but the trek to get where you need to go. Perseverance is the key and patience drives the bus. Enjoy!
Sandhill Cranes in Flight. During my recent trip to Bosque Del Apache in New Mexico, we had so many opportunities to capture Sandhill Cranes in Flight. After monitoring their activities for a few hours we quickly became acclimated to their environment as well as their habits. When traveling long distances to photograph wildlife it is important to know what to expect when you arrive at your destination. Since weather plays an important factor to any outdoor activities, knowing what to expect from Mother Nature helps you pack the right clothes for the trip. Showing up at a new location and not being prepared for bad weather can ruin a great outing. In addition, you should study and know the habits and behaviors of your subject. In landscape photography you plan on where you need to be based on the sun to capture the best images. Morning and evening shoots can be magical times if you know when and where you need to be.
The same is true for wildlife. Shooting during the morning and evening “golden hour” helps to light your subject in a way that delivers the best results. With birds, its essential to have the sun at your back and in a position where the birds can fly into the wind when landing and with the wind when preparing for take off. If the wind changes while you are shooting, be prepared to move to a better location. A quick review of their habits helps to identify where they might be located in the morning and then the evening for the best photo opportunities. Planning and perseverance can pay off with a successful trip regardless of weather and other factors that would impact your travels. Enjoy!
Turf Wars between Sandhill Cranes landing in Bosque Del Apache Wildlife Refuge
Turf Wars! During a recent trip to Bosque Del Apache Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico, I was photographing the activities of the many Sandhill Cranes located in and around the refuge. The later part of the year is the best time to go and we were even able to time our visit during the full moon. Bosque is located near Socorro, New Mexico just about an hour south of Albuquerque. We found many opportunities during the early morning hours as well as later on in the afternoon and evening hours to capture some great images of these large birds. Often times when birds are coming into the refuge to spend the night there is a large amount of them trying to share the same space. Every now and then a Crane is trying to land near another one and a bit of a scuffle occurs between the two birds. This image is a perfect example of the conflicts one can see as the sun is setting and the Cranes are settling in for the night. These Sandhill Cranes like to sleep in water features found throughout the refuge as they provide protection from some of the predators in the area. Coyotes are known to prey on these birds but will not walk through the water to get to them. My travels to this refuge have long been on my list of repeats. I was glad to have made the trip with two of my friends and captured many dynamic images which can be found right here on my web site. Click on the above portfolio link and look for Bosque Del Apache or check out my many galleries to find the right image for your home or office. Enjoy!
I had seen on an internet post recently that there were three young Great Horned Owls and their mother located along the trails at the Ottawa National Wild Life refuge located nearby in Ottawa County. I went for a stroll along the lake yesterday and found the nest about 30 yards off the path near the Ranger Station. Although there were three young owls in the nest, only two were able to show their faces. The third one seemed to be below them in the hollow portion of the tree where the birds were nesting. Since I haven’t been an avid bird photographer over the years I wanted to test my skills and photograph birds nearby my home in Northwest Ohio. The refuge is located near Lake Erie about an hours drive from my home. It also boasts one of the greatest birding areas in the country, Magee Marsh. Next month thousands of bird enthusiasts will descend on Northwest Ohio for the International Migratory Bird Festival. Even though I am anxious to see how many birds I can photograph, I am not sure I want to interface with all these people as I try to better my skills with Bird Photography. Since I have the freedom to go to the Refuge during the week, I think I will avoid the congestion usually found on the weekends.
For you bird photographers reviewing this post, I used my Olympus EM-1 Mark II, Olympus 300 f/4.0, and 1.4x teleconverter. I shot hand held at 1000/sec, f/6.3 at ISO 800. You can click on the image for a larger view. Follow me on face book, Instagram, Twitter, and Google+. Just click on the icon on the home page and follow me along the social media highway! Enjoy!
Bosque Del Apache. The Woods of the Apache is located south of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Near the town of Socorro, Bosque is a National Wildlife Refuge that is home to many migrating birds during the winter months. Native Americans often camped at this river side forest. The Refuge is 57,331 acres located along the Rio Grande at the northern edge of the Chihuahuan desert. The reason I bring this up is that my next adventure is scheduled for December to photograph the thousands of birds that flock to Bosque. The above image was taken during my last trip which was about 10 years ago. My friends Bill and Mike will be joining me for this quick trip to the south west. We targeted the middle of the month because of a schedule which includes a Full Moon. This should provide some really interesting backdrops for birds in flight. Specifically, Sand Hill Cranes. These birds have a large wingspan and their population during December can be as large as 14,000. birds. Increasing the photo opportunities. All of this and almost 30,000 Snow Geese illustrated in the image here on my blog.
Bird photography can be quite challenging. Some of the birds are small while others can fill the frame. Long lenses and fast shutters are important to capture some of these birds in flight. The morning blast off from “the flight deck,” an area along the waters edge where many of the birds spend the night, is something to see. Tens of thousands of sleeping birds begin to wake as the sun begins to rise in the East. We get there early to find the right spot as many photographers gather at Bosque during this time. As the birds wake they prepare to leave the rest area in search of food and then in a flurry, they take to the skies. In my next posting I will give you a glimpse of the morning shoot at this magnificent place. Enjoy!
In the past I have made a few posts about hidden gems. These are images that I have captured over the years and, for one reason or another, never finished or posted them. Here is an image capture from a trip to Mammoth Lakes, California many years ago. I captured five images and then planned on merging them in the computer with a program designed for multiple images know as HDR or High Dynamic Range photographs. Using this method we can extend the limits of our cameras to capture more detail in the highlight or white end of the color spectrum and also see more detail in shadow areas. I have been working with a new program called Aurora HDR by Macphun Software. The web site for this product can be found right here. The previous program that I was using did not do justice to the image I was trying to capture, so it layed untouched in my files for years. So on quiet rainy days here in Northwest Ohio, I spend some time searching and experimenting with older files to see how many new images are hidden among my many thousands of images. While I continue the search, let me know what you think about this image or any other image on my website. I’m on Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram. I look forward to your comments, Enjoy!
Vertical or Horizontal. Back in my days of teaching photography at the University, many of my students asked questions about format. Should it be a vertical image or a horizontal image? Clearly, the answer rests with the image itself. Which format best suits the image and the story that you are trying to tell with your photography. Some images are quite clear while others can be a bit confusing. So when do you use a vertical format? Right after you shoot a horizontal one. In today’s world of digital photography, the cost of repeated shutter clicks is practically nothing if not zero. So shoot away and then take a look at the image on your computer screen. Compare the vertical image to the horizontal image and then select the one that makes more sense. Or, in some cases, post both to your portfolio. Here is an example. The above image was captured while on my recent trip to the Palouse region on the Eastern border between Washington state and Idaho. The blue skies with clouds in the background along with the rolling hills of the Palouse make this a very nice photograph.
This next image is the same barn only using a vertical format. A bit different, but a quality image just the same.This image allows me to bring the flowers into the lower portion of the image creating a more interesting foreground to the photograph. I can still see the sky and rolling hills in the background. In this case, I like both vertical and horizontal images. Every picture making opportunity is not as clear cut as this one. So practice and experience in the field will help you create better and better images as you develop your own vision for your photographic endeavors. Enjoy!
Palouse! I have recently returned from a trip to Washington State where a small group of photographers travelled throughout the Palouse region along the Palouse Scenic Byway. Our focus was capturing images of landscapes and other features surrounding the farm country here in the North West. Although we had to deal with a few weather related issues, the overall trip was great and many images were captured. The above image shows a nice looking barn nestled among the rolling hills of the Palouse. As you can see, we were dealing with some rain this day and although it kept us from shooting in the morning, the overcast skies allowed for some early afternoon photography which enhanced the landscape. This image was captured with my Nikon D810 and Nikon’s 24-70 wide angle zoom lens. I always use a tripod for stability in these cases and my trusty Gitzo tripod and my Ball Head from Really Right Stuff provided me with the support I needed to capture this photograph. Many of the photographers I meet along the way are gear heads and try to one up everyone with the equipment they use. I like to think that the equipment we use are only the tools of our craft and it is our vision and expertise in the fields that creates a long lasting memory of a special moment in time. So I bristle a little when someone sees an image of mine and says to me, “Boy, you must have a really nice camera.” Watch for more of these images in the next few weeks and share them on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Enjoy!