Fall was holding on tight but winter wants in causing the steam from the nearby hot springs to freeze on the back of the elk. Hoar frost covered the meadow, the trees, everything in a layer of ice that once the sun kissed it would disappear. After a few minutes with this loan bull I pulled my gloves out of my pocket and donned them. It was one of those mornings and this brought up in my mind what story do I want to convey about it as that directly determines the white balance I would select. I wanted the warm tones of the elk’s pelt but the blue of the cold ice. I was cold and wanted to say winter was coming while saying the warm blooded critter was readying for winter. Then there is the gentle warm tones of the grass that are the perfect backdrop of the hoar frost. Nothing, nothing in photography is clear cut. You can see how I went, more perception than reality which translates to Cloudy (6000k) + A1 = 6600k. I wanted the warmth of the pelt and saw the fog in the background enough of a cold gray to tell the rest of the story. I took this photo 2 weeks ago and I keep looking at it thinking warm or cold, cold or warm.
Most tell it’s fall by the change in the color of the leaves. My first hint of fall is the rising suet bill as consumption quadruples! Woodpeckers, from the giant Pileated to the tiny Pygmy Nuthatch line up literally at our three suet feeders from dawn to dusk. Filling the suet feeders a couple of times a day keeps Mr UPS busy delivering the needed cakes. You can make your own suet, pick it up sometimes for free from you local butcher but we go with the commercially produced cakes. They make the smallest mess especially in the heat of summer and don’t turn to a rock during the cold of winter. With seven species of woodpeckers at The Ranch, that’s a lot of mouths to feed and a lot of possible photographs to take and that’s the end goal.
I do take some photos of them actually eating the suet, that’s not why the suet goes out. It attacks the woodpeckers within range of the lens, I’ve gotta do the rest. Woodpeckers tend to land on the opposite side of the tree where they are going to feed. It’s that side of the tree / perch that I set up and focus on. That’s where the photographs are made. And most woodpeckers land on an adjoining tree / perch prior to coming into the suet feeder. The feeders are placed with this in mind as well. The interesting thing that has happened this fall Sharon & I didn’t see happening. There are times when each suet feeder will have six or more woodpeckers waiting their turn to feed. Then the Black-billed Magpies arrive. I call then “The Gang” as there might be upwards to twenty of them. They like the suet as well. Not that there are any fights but the interplay amongst them all is some great photo opps. It keeps me out shooting in the nippy air, it’s fall and its suet time!
Pileated Woodpecker captured by Z 9 / 800f5.6 AFS
We were in Yellowstone when Sharon received the text from our neighbor. “Have you guys seen the all male herd that has been moving through the property the last couple of days?” Ever since moving to The Ranch, we’ve had lots of does and three fawns born but big bucks have been far and few between. I knew that at some point with all the girls, the big boys would show up one fall. Well, we’ve had a few this week and it’s been fun! They are not really sure what to think of me. The does and fawns come right up to me which the bucks wouldn’t do normally. But then, I’ve been giving the does / fawns apples since day one so they think of me as simply as a source of food. But what are the bucks to do? If they want to get close to the does, they gotta get close to me. And it just so happens that besides having apples I have the Z 9 / 180-400VR. It’s a very fluid situation as the does are not really receptive yet to the bucks advances. The bucks, well they are guys and their hormones have their necks swollen and not thinking straight. The six pointer was the biggest buck to visit us so far with a number of five pointers. They are making it hard to get anything done as Sharon and I are on constant vigil walking around the house looking out the windows to see what they are up to. I know I was wanting all of this to happen but I never thought I’d be in a rut at The Ranch!
Wednesday was warm and delightful. Thursday morning the nip was in the air and today, the white stuff is gathering above to be on the ground tonight. By tomorrow night, up to two feet of the white stuff will be in place. Yep, fall out – winter in!