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on Apr 25, 2017 in Wildlife Photography

The Drive for Love

The Greater Prairie Chicken is a fascinating bird with the most unique biology in attracting a mate. When our forefathers crossed the country in the 1800s heading west, they would be waken by the strange booming and dull thud of rapid footbeats as the Chicken displayed on their lek. For decades covering the vast landscape, they were shot by the million to feed eastern markets. Today, extinct in much of their historic range, the Gtr Prairie Chicken can still be found in spring on their leks displaying and fighting in their drive for survival. Once again in my drive to witness our vanishing wild heritage, I headed to the Calamus Outfitters Ranch to be amongst this celebration of spring. You get in the blind long before daylight, before the male Gtr Prairie Chickens reach the lek and take up their position on their very temporary territory. Their territory which is no bigger than a dinner table is very flexible, changing size and location depending on the females. The males...

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on Mar 31, 2017 in Wildlife Photography

Know When to Bail!

Many, many, many years ago I got a photo of the magnificent blue eye of the breeding Double-crested Cormorant. It was back in the days of film and I needed an extension tube on my 800mm to get physically close enough to make the shot. I’ve always liked that photo because with that magnificent blue eye they get during spring, the Double-crested Cormorant is really cool. The rest of the year, not so much. So whenever I’m around them in spring now, I’m always going after that blue eye trying to make a better photo then I already have in my files. Above you can see that blue eye that is just crazy cool. Both of these photos are of the same cormorant taken just a week ago, D5 / 800mm w/TC-1.25x. I had a very preconceived idea what I wanted to see in the viewfinder in my “better” eye photo. First, I needed to see the eye and I wanted to see just the eye. Next, I wanted...

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on Mar 28, 2017 in Wildlife Photography

The Cut Off … Argh!

One of the hardest things for photographers to grasp is where can they crop a critter in the viewfinder. There is no guide or book on where you can crop a neck or leg or body. The best I can ever do to help is describe it as the awkward crop. There is one area though that I have a little more substantial aid and that comes to birds feet. Above is an example of not only an awkward crop but and general rule of thumb. When it comes to feet, if you crop them, you need to leave enough room that mentally the viewer can put the feet with the critter. The photo above, there is great action going on but the feet are gone. In the bottom photo, the one foot is cut off by the water but there is enough room in the photo to mentally see them. It’s such a small thing but it can make or break a great photo. We need to have...

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on Mar 24, 2017 in Wildlife Photography

No Shot … Simply None

It’s real simple, there was no “shot” when we found the Barred Owl branchlings. They were high up against a horrible bright background when they themselves were in shade with all sort of distracting branches between them and the lens. It was a no win situation from the get go. Worst of all, stuck on a narrow boardwalk with everyone stopping to ask what we’re looking at. That’s because the branchlings were so far away in such horrible light, folks couldn’t see them. The D5 / 800mm wasn’t a secret weapon making the magic happen. No shot … simply none! Yet we stood there for nearly three hours. Why?! For starters, how often do you have Barred Owl branchlings to photograph? If you live on the west coast like I do where there are no Barred Owls, the answer is rarely. And if you’ve spent anytime with branchlings, you know that they will move. The question is will they move while you’re still watching and more importantly, will they...

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on Mar 23, 2017 in Wildlife Photography

The Stolen Moment

I have an amazing partner who is also my wife. Too often though, we are separated as I go off on this project and that event. We’ve been together a long time so I know the majority of her favorites and one of them is the Pileated Woodpecker. Goes way back in time when we watched them in Yosemite Valley in the ’80s. Well on my last adventure in FL last week, I was in a couple of locales where there were Pileateds. I wanted a photo to sent to Sharon just so you knew I was thinking of her. I saw one fly by here and another there, but never saw any opportunity to make a click. Then the last day in the last hour I received a text from Jake. He had two Pileateds in his viewfinder. So I grabbed the D5 / 800mm and booked it back down the boardwalk. Jake is really good at learning and applying all the lessons over the years shooting wildlife....

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on Mar 7, 2017 in Wildlife Photography

Love Their Tenaciousness!

We had a real fast moving, nasty storm come through on Sunday. I was stressing under a deadline to get a project completed by 17:00. It was a perfect day to shoot with the weather but I simply couldn’t afford the time to get the gear out since I was hitting the road the next day at 08:00 and everything was already packed. Finally, Sharon had enough and told me to go get in some shooting time. I quickly grabbed the D500 / 300PF and attached the TC-14eIII and got in ten minutes of shooting. The birds were going nuts in the nasty weather taking advantage of the free food. None so much as the Mountain Chickadees. We have a bumper crop this winter at the house, at least thirty are constantly darting about. Now I love Chickadees, especially one that comes to my hand for seed. With the clock ticking, I focused on the one perch with the most character hoping I would get the one click I...

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