Dear Moose Cruise folks; I’ve not forgotten you, it’s only been a couple of days and I’m just now getting back in the office. Like I offered, the finishing videos will be posted here in the next couple of days. Honest
I made it home long enough to see our Aspens that ring our meadow turn yellow. I’ve not seen that the past few years. I have lots to catch you all up with, hope to get it going this week. I wanted to start by posting a photo of home that I can see while I’m on the road the next week. This is a real simple click with Sharon’s Nikon V2 w/10-30. It’s really a great little camera that she pounds shooting stills and video. Nikon just introduced the Nikon 1 AW-1 “underwater” camera (a sample I’m told is on its way to me). Nikon states,
From outdoor adventures to family events, don’t miss a moment with the world’s first waterproof, shockproof, interchangeable lens camera*. The Nikon 1 AW1 is built for life with astonishingly fast autofocus, rugged construction and an intuitive interface. From the epic to the everyday, it delivers high-quality images.
I have to admit, a mini “Nikonos” really has me intrigued if it produces the same quality as Sharon’s V2, I’m in!
I’m right the with you, I’m dying to get them all out! But as life would have it (kinda my fault since it’s how we planned it), we no sooner got home from AK and we’re back on a plane heading to NYC (and blog late because United wifi not turned on).
Traveling in AK in the fall by bush plane is truly one of the simple joys of life. But you’ve gotta take a deep breath when flying by bush plane, not because of the plane but because of delays. In our case, we were delayed getting into the lodge by two days by 50knt winds out of the west. Then there was a window and with two aircraft, Cessna 207 & 205, we safely landed at Hallo Bay. Seeing griz from the air as we came into land on the beach was great, I’ve missed that site. After getting planes unpacked and gear stowed, we took care of some housekeeping and than headed out to shoot. We were in Homer on our way to dinner when we got the call to fly, it was that late in the day. So we left the Hallo Bay Camp for a short walk to see our griz neighbors. We had barely left the camp when we came upon this bruin. With just the D4 / 80-400VR3 on a Vulture strap with the fading light, I raised the ISO to 1600 to make a couple of clicks. Photos like this I use to just keep track of individuals as I get to know a population. Being that I plan on haunting Hallo Bay, I want to know the neighbors.
They are calling the flight and I’ve got to run. And I really need to get the story out … tired of all the “bear eat me” myths out there. The truth while boring is still the truth. mtc …
The Rim Fire is a beast (4th largest fire in CA History) that has taken on a life of its own. Our prayers are with all the ground and air fire fighters fighting it along with all that have been affected by its anger. Many have reached out to us asking if we’re OK. We are grateful for your concern but we are about 40 miles away from the fire. It’s about 37 miles west of the ridge you see in this photo which is behind our home. The Sierra is dry, dry, dry an fire is a major concern and while we had one just a 1/2 mile away this past week from a lightning strike, it was dealt with quickly. Keep all those involved in all the firefighting in your prayers, they perform a thankless task on our behalf!
So, back in my room overlooking Bandon after a great dinner at The Loft, I’m typing away when the gray light is replaced by a golden glow. I look out to see a whole in the fog lets the setting sun stream through. I grab the D4 / 80-400VR3 and makes some clicks.
Now here’s the deal with these types of photos, not everyone likes them. They have no definitive subject and really depend on the mood and experiences of the viewer to work. They also lack a real defined black and that is a very important color. Now I like these images, don’t love them but I do like them. They are so full of atmosphere that can’ help by leave me with a warm feeling. But then again, they are my photos.
On my flight back from Oshkosh, our flight was deverted to the north of this huge storm over Missouri. It was quite a show! I pulled out my Coolpix S9100 and shot a couple of stills (a challenge with a Coolpix) and then shot the video. The storm was really talkin!
The great prairies of North America had to have been one of the greatest wildlife theaters on the planet in the early 1800s! You read the Lewis & Clark Journals, Edward Warren or Jedediah Smith and you can’t help but drop everything and head to our midwest to see what’s left for yourself. The one critter they talk about a lot in great reverence and romantically is the Pronghorn. I think it was that and knowing it’s our fastest mammal in North America first took me out to the Black Hills and Custer State Park to spend time with this majestic animal.
If you receive our BT Journal, you know who much I love to spend time with these critters since I have a whole issue on them. They are so connected to the prairie that everyday they live a slightly differently than the day before or they will tomorrow. This flow is what makes them great to just watch. It’s what makes photographing them not on a challenge, but incredibly rewarding. Now you can find Prong in many places throughout the US but I prefer Custer because the restrictions are not restricting. If a Prong walks right up to you, you don’t have to run, you can enjoy the moment and photograph them. And it’s very common when you stay in your vehicle and simply give them a moment, they will do just that! And they have great eyes!
Photographing Pronghorn I turn to my favorite combo: D4 , 200-400VR2 mounted on a Wimberley / Gitzo for the video. For the stills, I was inside the truck so handheld the rig. Still wanting to do a romantic video with zooming while shooting was in my mind but as you will see, I didn’t achieve that goal. But getting more serious about my video, I continued to use the DP-6 which makes a HUGE difference in following action and smoothly. This is an edited down video from the hour of video shot to just 5min. I did the editing on the iMac with all the vid residing on the ioSafe N2 and doing the editing right in Premiere Pro CS7. My only regret is that my video panning skills are not even up to the running of the Prong. I was stubborn and kept trying to do it with the long lens which is difficult, especially compared to shooting with a shooter lens. I’ve not given up though and with more practice, I’ll get that video I want to express the grace of these prairie critters. Mother Nature is just amazing!
Next to Moose & Griz, Bison fill my files more than any other mammal. Them “Shaggy dogs” just suck me in every time! The challenge is always to get something new, though what “new” might be until you’re in front of them is often a question mark in the process. This was my first opportunity to photograph Bison with the D4, that was what I was going to start with as my “new” this time out. May in the Black Hills of South Dakota is a great time. Especially at Custer State Park where the Bison are dropping their calves.
The herd is always on the move, even during calving season. It’s pretty simple biology, a whole bunch of mouths to feed and only so much grass. The system is pretty cool though because the Bison never mow down one spot to nothing. In a very generalized looking at a week of grazing, the Bison tend to be back at the same spot within 8 days. You could easily think of them as walking lawn mowers and the prairie responding to them like your lawn. It’s pretty simplistic compared to the color of them calves. I mean really, orange? They can walk almost seconds after birth and run within an hour, all to avoid predators. So you’d think with that evolution, they would have come up with a better color than orange. Photographically of course, the color is very cool. And watching calves, you can’t help but get hooked on Bison! On this morning, we were fortunate to be in the right spot as the herd, on the move came up a valley and rolled over the ridge and down in our direction at sunrise. It’s just one of natures’ great spectacles!
Shooting with a D4 , 200-400VR2 with TC-20E III mounted on a Wimberley / Gitzo, I wanted to see if I could do some fancy zooming while shooting. Getting more serious about my video, this is the first time I used the DP-6 which makes a HUGE difference in following action and smoothly. Shooting my first time with this rig, I was happy with the results but know a year later, they can get way better! This is an edited down from the 2hrs of video shot to just 4min. I did the editing on the iMac with all the vid residing on the ioSafe N2 and doing the editing right in Premiere Pro CS7. I wanted to convey the sweep of the herd coming over the ridge and down in front of us, kind of a “How the West was Won” kind of feel. I didn’t get it. I needed to be shooting with more than one camera. When I do it again, one thing I’ll seek is permission from the Rangers to drop some GoPros out on the ground. Mother Nature is just amazing!
Jake and I had been up on the Arctic Plain for a four days chasing the never before photographed Alaskan Marmot. As part of that project were getting photos by us of Hoary Marmots, a population not habituated. For example, you can basically pet the Hoary Marmots in Denali at Savage Rock as well as many other locations. The Hoary Marmot range is south of the Yukon River, the Alaska Marmot is north of the Yukon River but really now is just north side of the Brooks Range. Well, the biologists knew about this one Hoary Marmot colony not too far north of Fairbanks but way in the hell up a mountain and away from anybody. So Jake and I made the trek to spend time with them. The plan was to spend a couple of days at the colony.
The key phrase with this entire project is, “that was the plan.” Mother Nature has a mind of her own and when you combine that with politics and money, well nough said. Eating blueberries we picked as we climbed, we reached the rock out crop that is the home for the colony. We were guided by the two biologists who, once we were in place went back down the hill and left us to our photography. Now marmots have really only a couple of predators, the most common being Golden Eagles (since we don’t fly, we don’t look like them) and bears (which we could be mistaken for). So like normal, for the first few hours, the good light time, we saw only the occasional eye staring at us from a rock crevice. By late afternoon, a good 6-7 hours into our shoot, they started to go about their daily routine within site of our lenses. What you’ll see in the video is the fun unfold. Many have heard me joke about flying dust spots. That reference normally pertains to gulls flying about. In this video though, flying dust spots take on a whole new meaning! Those aren’t dust spots…them are flies!
All the still shooting was done with the D3x. For video I swapped out the D3x for the D3s with both stills and video being shot with 600VR2 with TC-14e mounted on a Wimberley / Gitzo, carrying the entire rig over my shoulder through the forest and up and down that mountain. That’s because if we came across something like a Wolverine (which were in the area), I didn’t want to miss a shot taking time to set up. That’s my general MO. I did the editing on the iMac with all the vid residing on the ioSafe N2 and doing the editing right in Premiere Pro CS7. With the way the day turned out, we didn’t make the trek back up the next day. While it was a really, really, slow start, the end of the day was great! One of the Hoary Marmots ended up coming right up to me so with that, Jake & I knocked out the rest of the photos we needed for the project. And those flies you see in the video, lucky for us they only plagued the marmots, they left us alone.
As the sun kept creeping lower, the drama in the color increased. The separation of clouds and smoke at times was very dramatic. Looking for that drama kept me spinning because the wind was constantly upending everything. These images were taken at Minaret Vista, a location behind our home with dramatic views. Shooting with D4 / 80-400 / 18-35 was all that was needed. The WB was set to Cloudy to capture the deep red and a little Photoshop was used to remove the tops of trees that were at the bottom of the frame. Otherwise, what you see is what we saw last night.
We’ve had some very weird weather for the Sierra. While they keep predicting rain, we’ve had enough to spot our windshields and that’s all. And with that was to be some lightning, but we’re only heard distant rumblings. Well a couple of days ago, they had some south of us and it started a fire. The cloud cover trapped the smoke until just a little bit before sunset and then it was just a swirling collage of pastel colors. It was gorgeous so I grabbed the D4 / 80-400 and went clicking.
Now those who have talked in person with me about photography know one of my first questions is often, “What’s the subject?” These photos instantly could lead one to ask that question. That’s because there is no subject. There is texture, color, pattern and emotion, but there is no subject. When you remove that subject, you risk failure because without the subject, there is no story. No story and it’s up to the viewer’s imagination to make sense of the photograph. That’s real risky. In this series, there are stronger images than others when you see them small like here. None the less, I wanted to share the soft moments of sunset with you,
We’ve had really cruddy weather that last three days, deep cloud cover, a little lightning and even less rain (which we so need). With the cold, the hummers have been pounding our feeders. Well, Monday around noon a Allen’s Hummer came in and really challenged Caesars dominance to the one feeder. The rest of the day Monday and then all day Tuesday they flew the most incredibly aerial battles around the feeder. Felt sorry for Caesar, it couldn’t drink enough to keep up with the constant challenge. Well this morning we woke to find the Allen’s on Caesar’s perch and no Caesar! Been watching for hours now but no sign of him. The Allen’s that took his place is a male that appears to be going through a molt. That along with the fact that he lets me walk right up to him, within a foot, makes me wonder if Alvin is back. Only time will tell.
Ungulates; deer, elk, pronghorn, moose, bighorn sheep, simply don’t like heat. About this time, they have shed their thick winter coat and are starting to store fat for the fall rut and winter. In this process, they seek the cool. At the same time, the light this time of year gives us about, oh, two minutes in the morning and four minutes in the afternoon when it’s not nasty. This combination makes for tough big game photography which leaves you with a couple of options. The most obvious is, wait until Sept before heading out to photography big game (my personal favorite). In Sept, they are back out as the hot days are fewer and they are starting to grow their winter coats so look much more like magnificent wild critters.
The other option is to be in the field before sunrise heading to locations where you’ve done your homework the night before to find where they are bedding down. Once you know the location where they are bedding down, find the closest water because they’ve got to drink and typically they’ll do that early in the day. You’ll have to wait to see if mother nature will be nice to you and give you the photo. While you’re doing your homework, look also for shade that’s being used. You will be able to tell, the ground cover will be beaten down and much of the shrubs will be browsed. Because if you want to photograph big game now, this is what you’ve got to do. Oh, looking for racks like the one this Mule Deer is wearing, you’re too early. You’ve got about 45 days before they are this big and longer before they are this clean. When it comes to lenses, I prefer those in the 200 – 400mm range, my preferred is the 200-400VR2 but will be trying out the new 80-400 this fall.
Well, spent basically all day with Caesar and it’s clear, he’s no Alvin! Nope, Caesar is like most hummers, just not really sure whether he can trust me or not. Unlike Alvin who would greet me, land on my lens, Caesar really wants nothing to do with me. He did finally by late afternoon permit me to be on the deck with him, but I’d best not move or he moves to another perch further away. Shooting with the D4 / 800mm, I started the day by setting it up and leaving it in place while I went on about my business. I did connect the Pocket Wizards and shot some video but remote photography just doesn’t work for me. During the day when Caesar was out chasing other hummers, I would move the rig closer until by late afternoon, the rig was at the 800mm MFD. With him coming and going with it there, I than sat at the lens. When he first came in, I didn’t do a thing. Then slowly I started to shoot. By the time the sun was leaving the perch (flash is not a pain in the ass to do with a hummers), he sat and slept which is a great sign. It means he’s OK with me being there. Today is another day, fingers crossed.
This was the scene just a month ago. The majority of our street signs have at least one active woodpecker nest. This spring the one by our home had a Hairy Woodpecker nest. Setting up the D4 / 80-400 as a remote, I fired the rig with a Pocket Wizard. With the street sign being right on a corner, standing there behind the camera just wasn’t a wise thing to do. So from across the block I watched with bins and clicked as the parents came in to feed. They fledged two kids, a male and female.
So while having breakfast on the deck, one of the kids that just fledged dropped by our feeder. Still shooting with the D4 / 800, it was fun to see the youngster. Now I’m not really thrilled with the lighting on the lower half of the branch, but I do like having one more click in the kid’s life. One of the cool things is, this kid is like generation 13 or 14 to come to our feeders. Their parents bring them so they are very use to our just doing our thing. Unlike the Band-tails, we can walk up to the window just a foot away from them and they don’t even bother to look at us. So once this kid has all its feathers all popped, it will be a great subject!
Being it was a gorgeous morning, we decided to have our breakfast on the deck. It is most definitely one of the great summer perks of living in the Sierras. And of course wherever I go, the camera comes along so set up next to me was the D4 / 800. One of the bird species that nests on our property are Brewer’s Blackbirds. A very, very, very common species but why they are nesting up on the slope where our home is rather than by a creek like they should be is a mystery to us. We had eleven nests in our manzinettas this year fledge young. Other than watch their antics when they dive bomb our dogs right when their eggs hatch, I really don’t take note of them. But this morning, this one male was noteworthy. First, the angle of the light was just right to bring out the sheen in its black feathers. Next, it saw a female and well, you get the idea. So while I only have a minute or two with it, the final image makes me smile. I love the expression the stare and cocked head brings.
No, that’s not a translation of their Latin name, but it might as well be as far as we’re concerned. This is a Band-tailed Pigeon and in most regions of the country, it’s a hunted species (and I’m told tasty). Ever since our first fall in the Sierra, we’ve had this very wary species at our feeders. That is for about ten minutes which is about how much time it takes for them to suck them all dry. Now you know what we call them vacuum cleaners.
Prior to moving to the Sierra, we had seen the pigeons in other regions of the state, but never got close enough to get glass on them. I suspect that comes from the fact they are hunted. And even though they are coming to us (my preferred way of getting close to critters) and are here what seems like the hundreds (probably only 50), the slightest movement inside the office and it sounds like a Huey lifting off from the driveway. Though they’ve been sucking down our seed for nearly twenty years, I still have to stand way back in the depth of the office and shoot with the D4 / 800. Why go to all of this for a “pigeon?” Simply business actually, hunting magazines need photos of them and with them being so difficult to photograph nearly everywhere, they are money in the bank. Now I have a deal with them, they pose, they get to eat. No posing and we walk through our office and they fly off. And when you take a moment and look at them, they are a pretty cool bird.