Only Need One #26009

Greater Sandhill Crane captured by Z 9 / Z400f4.5 with Z1.4x

Bosque del Apache NWR is a sacred part of our wild heritage preserving a spectacle a millennium in the making! I feel very fortunate to have been wondering its landscape for the past thirty-nine years with my camera. I have to admit I spent the vast majority of my time just watching more than shooting, both seem to place my warmth deep in my soul. Don’t get me wrong, I do take a few photos, this one is #26009 of Greater Sandhill Cranes to be filed in the digital library with another 16k in the slide file. A case could be made I’ve been there, done that yet #26009 proves that wrong. “It only takes one” the proverbial answer to how many photos does it take. My problem is, I want the one so I keep going out. For myself, #26009 comes really close in telling the story of the Sandhill Crane at Bosque del Apache, NM. At least, for today.

Lookin Their Very Best

Coyotes captured by Z 9 / 800f5.6AFS

They are often confused as being wolves in winter. It’s those rich, think winter coats that make the Coyote look so spectacular. There is a size difference between Coyotes and the Gray Wolf but if they are not side by side, that knowledge doesn’t help. Just look at the tip of the tail. See that black, yep, that’s a Coyote. This pair are two of four that were trying their very best to take advantage of a four day old elk kill. Well, elk drowning would be more accurate. It seems the bull was trying to cross the Lamar River, fell through the thin ice and couldn’t get back out and drowned. The Coyotes and other scavengers thought they had the perfect frozen dinner until the body got trapped under the ice, only its massive rack was above. That didn’t stop them from trying and providing us with a great show and some fun photo opps.

The River Clowns

River Otters captured by Z 9 / 800f5.6 AFS

Those two hours flew! That’s what the clock said when the River Otters finally went on their very merry way, but it seemed like it was just a few minutes. What appeared to me a female with two pups from the spring (I honestly don’t know if that’s the case) appeared just to be having the grandest of times. Perched over the Lamar River, what I could see in the 800mm was sheer enjoyment at being free in the ice cold waters to do whatever their mood struck them. It was the first time in my shooting career that stills were totally inadequate to tell the story. I shot nearly thirty minutes of their antics and in watching that video, smiling and laughing all over again. I now see this as a personal challenge, taking those feelings from the action and translating it into a single still image. I love those kinds of challenges and this one starts with, finding again these river clowns!

She Went … Thata Way!

Mule Deer buck captured by Z9 / !80-400VR

I was mind sinked into packaging up a print order when Maggie alerted me to the activity in the Back 9. I looked up to see a Mule Deer doe moving at a quick pace left to right and since we rarely have mulies, I paid attention to it. It’s then I saw the Mule Deer buck coming up out of the creek bed moving as quickly as the doe and in the same direction. Any other time of the year I would be looking for a predator but right now, that doe was trying to get away from only one thing, the buck. I ran into the office, grabbed the Z 9 / 180-400VR, slipped on my shoes and slipped out the door. When I caught up to the buck it is where you see it in the photo at the top of The Ranch. The doe for the moment had given him the slip. He stood in one place long enough to rip of a quick dozen frames and then off to the races he went. I cut through the woodshop to hopefully give me a few extra steps on him but it wasn’t enough. I got out in time to see the doe heading in the opposite direction with the buck right behind her. Then she cut back to her right and ran up the ravine. He was right behind her. Then she did a 180 and ran back down, he followed. But she had a plan because when he made the 180 she made another cut, putting a line of pine trees between them and then darted off to the left and over the rise. The buck was all worked up by this point and wasn’t about to give up the chase. He never broke stride, jumping the creek and heading up the long way to where the doe was heading. I didn’t see them again but totally enjoyed watching the fall rut antics. I put the lens down, pointed to the east and said to the buck, “she went thata way!”

Warm or Cold, Cold or Warm?

Rocky Mtn Elk captured by Z 9 / Z400f4.5

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.

It’s Suet Time!

Pileated Woodpecker captured by Z 9 / 800f5.6 AFS

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

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