Jan 012013

What a find for me!

Capturing “that one” photograph is a great adventure.  With 33+ plus years carry around a camera I still feel like a little kid every-time I go out to shoot.  Like christmas everyday.  At times it’s less about the subject.  Maybe perfect lighting that is rare or unique to enhance the subject.  A new subject, scene or unique person is always a bonus.  I dream of shooting the wild in Africa and Alaska.  Always trying to get a shot of a very unique individual.  Looking for extremes I guess.  I have mentioned many times the allusive owl is my nemesis.    As of late I have been very blessed to follow for a couple of days a small short eared owl.  He was hunting with the sun still up.  Most owls are nocturnal.  Very difficult to find and photograph.  Especially for a full time working amateur like me.


As I was traveling the dikes in farmington waiting and photographing the short eared owl something caught my eye in the deep deep rush. I saw some motion.  My new eyes hard at work……

The colors were off for a Harrier Hawk.  Too small for a coyote or small mammal.  I watched for some time and had a few guesses.  Very slowly I moved until I could get a better view.

HOLY COW!!! A Barn Owl!


I honestly had a rush of adrenaline similar to when I was charged by a grizzly in Yellowstone.  My heart was racing, palms sweating and ……well I’ll keep the rest to myself.  I have never seen a barn owl outside of a cage in a zoo or sanctuary.  I don’t think they are endangered.  Just really private.  Immediately I knew my chances of getting this beautiful critter in flight was waning.  It was very late in the day.  He looked to be in REM sleep.  Waiting for darkness to hunt.  All I could do was wait and pray.

Then off he went!  What I did next proves my almost un-conscience excitement about finding this bird.  I jump from my car, 600mm lens in hand and starting shooting. YEP handheld, after sunset, low light and a flying bird.  All I can say is I went a little crazy.  Cranked up the ISO to 3200.  Opened all the way to f4.

He started to hunt.  flying back and forth in front of me.



While hunting he would make sudden turns if he saw movement or a potential snack.

Then he would hover for a second or two ready to dive.


Did I care that I had just recently posted about how I ALWAYS shoot from a tripod?  NOPE.  Had I forgotten about my diatribes of people getting out of their cars and scaring of wildlife?   YES.  Was I lucky to even get a photograph close to sharp?  Absolutely!


If this beauty was letting me capture his talents I was breaking all the rules!!!  Sure it was flat light.  The sun had been down for a bit.  Are the photographs at a quality to produce huge prints?  Not shot at 3200 ISO.  They are special to me though.  Memories captured as I stood in crocks and a tee shirt in 20 degree temps, a foot of snow and  hand holding a monster lens.  With a crap eating grin on my face.


Eventually he realized my feet were freezing and my skin was getting a layer of frost on it.  I didn’t care.  He landed and gave me a rest.  He looked down at the sign as if he was saying that it was rest time.  Put the camera away go home and let me hunt.


Driving home I realized my incredulous actions. I thought there would be no way the shots would be good enough to keep.  To my surprise and delight they turned out OK.  I love them.  As much for the experience as the memory.   Will I ever run across a barn owl again?  I don’t know.  I do have the pixels to prove my experience and remind me of the great time I had!!!!!!!

Now I am looking for my next lucky capture!

 Posted by at 2:58 PM
Dec 222012

Technology is great isn’t it?

30+ years ago we used our photo experience and intelligence to capture on film.  Unless we had a darkroom that was it.  It forced us to “think” about each and every shot.  Literally considering all aspects of the shot.  Scenics, slow moving objects and optimum lighting made it a little easier.  When panning or trying to follow focus a subject great discipline and experience was required.  As well as good planning.  In the end 1 in 100 shots may turn out exceptional.  More likely acceptable.

Last night while waiting for a Harrier Hawk to make it’s move I received a call from a stranger.  A fellow photography enthusiast refereed to me for advise.  I was honored.  The first question she asked was do I use a tripod.  It seemed a little odd as the most important question.  Then she mentioned that she was considering buying the Nikon D800.  She was told that it required more strict compliance to the use of a tripod because of it’s high resolution. My immediate response was any camera will have a sharper image if shot from a tripod.  It reminded me and I mentioned to her there are famous professional photographers out there that “brag” about their handholding prowess.   Even lenses like the Nikon 200-400mm zoom lens.


The likes of Moose Peterson can in fact do it.  Writes about it often.  HE IS THE EXCEPTION!   What and how he shoots almost demands his expertise at handholding. Don’t be fooled we are not Moose Peterson!  The vast majority of us need the tripod.  I ALWAYS travel with at least two tripods.  One tripod is set up just for my Nikon 600mm lens.  Definitely not a hand holder!


DPS – Digital Photography School has a pretty good article about reducing camera shake.  Find it here.

When shoooting from my car I am even extreme I use a bean bag designed to hold a gimbal head.  I use this with my 200-400 and my 600.


Eventually last night with the sun in good form the Harrier Hawk took off.  I was ready.  Two photographs later I was done.  In this age of technology I still need to remember to use ALL the tools I have.  I have been shooting manually for a while.  I would focus by hand and look through the viewfinder and using the “Focus Indicator” to know if I was in focus.  That was then with bad eyes.  If you look at last nights post I had the great opportunity to photograph a beautiful pheasant not far from where I was shooting the hawk.  I remembered to set my camera to autofocus with the pheasant.  I think it’s obvious!

 Posted by at 9:41 PM
Dec 212012

The cataracts are GONE!

New lenses in place and can almost see perfectly.  The doctor told me at about arms length the vision may be a little blurry.  I’ll take it.  No more glasses.  It’s great.  The only hick up is my computer screen is almost exactly arms length away.  I am Ok with that.  I download files, watch Les Miserable, and the like on the big screen at arms length.  Up close and personal is my big Wacom.  It sits right at the edge of the desk and provides me with great sharpness even still without glasses.

Tonight I had to get out and photograph something!  ANYTHING!  I went to my dependable spot in Farmington.  Holy cow I was not disappointed.  Found this incredibly colorful and beautiful pheasant. Did I mention that everything is a little brighter and more colorful without the cataracts?   I sat for quite a while hoping it would come to me.  I knew that if I approached it he would be gone in seconds.  Again I lucked out.  As you can see there was very little precious light left.  Right as he hit the ray of light the capturing started.  Got a couple of fun shots.  Man it was so fun to be out, see again and capture God’s beauty!!!!!!

 Posted by at 10:06 PM
Nov 232012


I got out for a couple of hours today.

Yep and yet another Hawk photograph.

Had a little time to sit and play and learn tonight.  Loaded some software I have had since photoshop World.  Couldn’t resist spreading the wings (pardon the pun).

 Posted by at 7:42 PM
Nov 032012

One of the few bodies of water at Farmington that are away from hunters will at times be a resting and feeding place for birds.  Though I literally have thousands of photographs of the Blue Heron I still enjoy a new capture!  Tonight this Heron was fishing.  I watched with anticipation of capturing another fish-in-mouth photograph.  There was no other birds on this piece of water.  He was alone.  Then I realized that I don’t really have a photograph with graphic color reflections and a Heron in his beautiful environment.  Most all my pics of Herons are of them hunting or eating.  Usually a close crop of the bird.   Through the finder the subject became the Heron and his environment not just the bird.

Time to capture.


Two sides of this body of water are adjacent to an access road.  The sun was low in the sky in the photograph above and below.  Both shots were taken within 5 minutes of each other.  The difference is the angle of the sun in the photograph and where I was photographing in relation to the sun and the bird..  Quite a stark difference from the photograph above.  The light plays games with the exposure, white balance and the reflections are compounded by the direction of the sun.  What would make the photograph below exceptional would be if I could have been at water level.  Though the water really defines the “place” of the bird.  It is somewhat distracting.  Especially since the wind was blowing a little.

Another view of the same subject is always in order.

 Posted by at 10:01 PM
Oct 282012

The duck hunting season is in full swing.

The DUCKS are on the run.

D4, 200-400mm f/4 lens, 1/125 second @ f/8, ISO 800

 Posted by at 10:41 PM
Oct 272012

Tonight I got out kinda late to Farmington.

Gray skies, little light, tons of hunters and few birds.

So….It was about the eyes with these two captured tonight!


 Posted by at 10:11 PM
Oct 272012

Learning the biology of critters around the country is half the fun of photographing them.

I found this Double Crested Cormorant and wondered why it’s typical black body and neck was out of sorts.  Did a little homework.  This is a junior Double Crested Cormorant.  The younger bunch have a lighter throat.  Learned something new again.  It’s a somewhat goofing looking bird.

 Posted by at 4:26 PM
Oct 272012

There is always a first when it comes to photography.

I see this bird every year.  Finally this Loggerhead Shrike posed long enough to let me capture a couple of photographs.

From Wikipedia:

The Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus) is a passerine bird. It is the only member of the shrike family endemic to North America; the related Northern Shrike (L. excubitor) occurs north of its range but also in the Palearctic.The bird has a large hooked bill; the head and back are grey and the underparts white. The wings and tail are black, with white patches on the wings and white on the outer tail feather. The black face mask extends over the bill, unlike that of the similar but slightly larger Northern Shrike.  The bird breeds in semi-open areas in southern OntarioQuebec and the Canadian prairie provinces, south to Mexico. It nests in dense trees and shrubs. The female lays 4 to 8 eggs in a bulky cup made of twigs and grass. There is an increase in average clutch size as latitude increases. The shrike is a permanent resident in the southern part of the range; northern birds migrate further south. The bird waits on a perch with open lines of sight and swoops down to capture prey. Its food is large insects and lizards . Known in many parts as the “Butcher Bird,” it impales its prey on thorns or barbed wire before eating it, because it does not have the talons of the larger birds of prey.  The population of this species has declined in the northeastern parts of its range, possibly due to loss of suitable habitat and pesticide use.”Loggerhead” refers to the relatively large head as compared to the rest of the body.

Conservation status

The Eastern Loggerhead Shrike (L.l. migrans) is critically endangered in Canada. (Although only one island subspecies is legally listed as endangered in the United States, the species is declining continentwide and no longer occurs in most of the northeastern U.S.)A captive population was established at the Toronto Zoo and McGill University in 1997. In 2001 an experimental field breeding and release program managed by Wildlife Preservation Canada was established. “Field breeding” refers to moving captive pairs from their wintering cages at the Toronto Zoo and McGill to large enclosures within shrike habitat in Ontario where the pairs nest and raise their young and then the young are released to the wild when they’d naturally disperse from their parents. Since 2004 over 90 young have been released annually and between 2% and 6.5% of young released have successfully migrated and returned to breed in the subsequent year.

I captured this cute little bugger with my D4, 600mm lens at f/4,  1/8000 second @ ISO800.  I believe what gave me this opportunity was that I shot this from my car.  On two feet I could not have approached as close as I was.  In post I cropped about 10% to a panoramic feel.

 Posted by at 3:52 PM