Summer Thunder

Blackhills Thunder captured by Z 6II / Z14-24f2.8 & Miops

We went into dinner and the sky was filling with them big battleships of the sky forming up overhead. We had a great storm two night’s previous (below) and with prior history with storms in the Blackhills of SD, new what we saw walking in meant great fun. We walked out 90 minutes later to clear skies! I went to my wx apps and saw a storm forming on the dry line south of us so off we dashed. We drove an hour south only to see the storm going were we couldn’t across the vast landscape of South Dakota. Looking at the wx app again and dang if the storm over the Blackhills hadn’t reformed and even bigger and badder. Off we raced. We arrived to photograph what you see above. A few minutes after this exposure all hell broke loose and we were dashing for cover. Huge hail and two inches of rain pounded us for the next hour. The lighting lasted for over four hours and at times was so bright and so constant, the automatic headlights on the car turned off! It was the most magnificent storm I’d seen in a mighty long time. And our week isn’t over!!!

Photographing it was pretty much a darn slam dunk. Above was simple rig as noted in the caption with the Miops doing all the work. It was a simple as the Miops triggered the shutter, 1sec, f8 ISO 200 14mm shot. The bottom image was the old fashion, open up the shutter and let the lightning take its own photo. It’s exposure is 5sec, f8, ISO 100 at 70mm. I just love clouds and when they are shaking the earth, it’s just heaven with summer thunder!

Blackhills Thunder captured by Z 6II / Z70-200f2.8

Spring Kids are Great!

Bison Cow & Calf captured by Z 6II / Z70-200f2.8 / Z1.4x

One critter that knows how to celebrate spring are Bison. Heck … the kids are bright burnt red when they are born! Or, are they orange? Whatever color, they are a ball of energy bouncing across the grasslands amongst their big parents with springs in their legs. They run through the herd, bounce off other adults, bounce off each other and then as fast as they run, they stop, lay down and catch their breath, just to bounce back up and start it all over again. They start this celebration of life not too long after birth and keep it up for a month or so and then they settle down into rhythm of the herd that slowly moves across the landscape.

I’ve returned to one of my all time favorite places, South Dakota Blackhills to spend time amongst its brilliant spring green hills with all its critters. The Bison have just dropped their calves and being amongst them during the spring is simply brilliant! Photographing them actually is as simple and relaxing of any critter photography. I’ve rented a small SUV so I am as low to the ground I can be. I find Bison that are on a slope so the combination makes it appear in the photograph I’m laying on the ground with them though I’m in the safety of my vehicle. I’m up with the sun catching the herd as they wake and start feeding. I prefer them with backlit and use the reflection of the vehicle acting as a big fill. That’s what I’ve got going here. Shooting with the Z 6II / Z70-200f2.8 / Z1.4x, the Animal Eye-detection I don’t even get out of the truck, I just look for the cuteness close by and go click. I’ve shot this pose a few times in the past and love it cause of the size comparison of kid and mom. All I can say is, spring kids are great!

Bear With Me

Kodiak Brown Bear captured by D6 / 180-400VR

I’m a history nut and when it came to California critter history, I’m possessed! It started in the early ’80s, a burning desire to understand how the Grizzly Bear fit into the wildlife landscape of days gone by. Since they were extinct I had to search elsewhere starting in Yellowstone and then Alaska. Twenty years later, I had nearly 80,000 images of Alaska Griz in the files spending hundreds of hours with them in the field mostly watching, often photographing. It was in early 2000 I made my first journey to visit the giants, the Kodiak Brown Bears. Flying in a Wigeon, we flew into Frazier Lake for an intimate day with bruins. It was just the four of us, Sharon, Brent, Jake & I and the bears, it was magical leaving an impression that is hard to express in words. I’ve not been back with them since and it left a void that one can only understand if they spent time amongst the bears. I’m not under some grand illusion that they accepted my presence, more tolerated but none the less, they go about their lives as I watch, love and photograph them. That void was filled in the most grand and brilliant way last week that I want to share with you over many posts.

I’ll start with this six year old female that was most definitely the most endearing of them all. The photo will bring the most obvious of questions to light. “How close was she?” Just 30 yards max when this photo was taken but she got closer. “Weren’t you scared, I would be?” Hell no! She approached on her terms at her speed and within her comfort range. And she wasn’t the only one to do so during our time at the river mouth but she was the one that kept tuggin at my heart strings. This gorgeous 700lbs bear (Kodiak are the biggest of them all) over and over again would endear herself by her actions so that you wanted to curl up with her and take a nap. If you have a dog, a puppy to be exact, many of her actions would remind you of that puppy as it would slide on its belly scooting up to get another bite of grass. Or as it starred at the Bald Eagles flying overhead in total bliss. The fact that a critter capable of running you over in a matter of seconds and never look back never enters your mind. All you feel is an amazement for this gentle giant, what I consider the world’s most perfect couch potato just feet in front of you, eating grass. Spending hours upon hours last week amongst the twenty-two individual bears rarely seen by any other human in a region rarely visited by man in this day and age brings with it an inner satisfaction I would love to share with you all. My void of the past years has been refilled, a passion reignited. There is so much more of the story to share, bear with me.

The Water Exposure is Better?

Mush Bay, AK captured by Z 6II / Z14-24f2.8

Water reflections are such a romantic way to tell the story of a landscape. The double image of a great sky like in this photo grabs the imagination and makes the landscape seem even more vast. But water sucks up one stop of light so the reflection exposure often looks better than reality. You have many options in your photography to handle this. One, is do nothing. Two, use a split neutral density filter at the point of capture to hold back the sky or three, deal with it in post with a split grad. That’s the option I use all the time now and what I did here. The key is simply thinking through the story you want to tell. You can make the exposure of sky and reflection match which, with the right symmetry in the scene is killer! I didn’t have it in this photo so I kept it looking normal with the reflection being just one stop less than the reality. It’s your photograph, your story so tell it your way. Just realize that if you don’t do something, the water exposure will be better.

Sense of Humor Time!

Green Jay captured by Z 6II / 800f5.6

This time of year when critters are in the process of making new babies is a golden opportunity to show your sense of humor through them! For example, birds when they mate have their own rituals to keep the pair bond like these Green Jays. The female “talks” to the male a lot, giving him encouragement to get food to telling him to drive off the competition. Some of this is done with calls from a distance and some, like above, is done up close and personal. Keying in on the biology is how you and your lens is in the right place at the right time. After that, it’s just your sense of humor that brings the color, light and gesture to the story.

Some species like Cardinals, the male will present the female a bite of food. The presenting of the food looks like a kiss for those not in the know. Small mammals double check the adult they are greeting is their mom or dad by coming up real close to sniff which also looks like a kiss. The examples are almost endless and the only key to getting the shot is thinking biologically, reacting photographically and then laughing at the story your inside voice makes up!

Avoid My Mistake

Poppy captured by D6 / 70-200f4

It’s spring, the international celebration of new life. You can see it everywhere in the simple, elegant and beautiful form of a flower. These natural gems appear each year bringing color to a vast array of landscapes and at times just one and two blossoms and others, carpets that stretch to the horizon. I’ve been very fortunate to see some amazing displays over the years but normally like most, I would enjoy but not immortalize them with my camera. Posezies are just not my thing which is something I’ve never tried to get past. There are many reasons for this, none of them valid yet, there are a mere handful of those photos in my files. I’m trying to do better this spring but anything is better than none, right? Spring is a gorgeous time to get out and shoot so do so. Avoid my mistake!

error: Content is protected !!