The Chill is In the Air

Alaskan Bull Moose captured by D5 / 180-400VR

The deer and elk around the ranch have all shed their velvet and the bucks and bulls are busy cruising for females. With the chill in the air and plants tucked in for winter, big game feels the pressure to procreate and get back to putting on fat while they can. This offers up great photographic opportunities for those getting out where the big game roam.
There are some considerations you must contemplate before you even make a photograph. Most importantly is the welfare of our subjects, they come before the photograph. Calories are precious and we cannot do anything that might cause big game to expel more calories because of our actions. This can is easily accomplished by using a long lens and not pushing the critters with our approach. Ideally, you never approach the critter but rather, let them approach on their own terms. You’ll not only protect their well being doing this, but you’ll also come back with better images.
When it comes to the rut, doing a little research on your target mammal is important. Moose gather up harems and spend time protecting them. Pronghorn do the same thing where Mule & White-tailed Deer don’t. You don’t want to get in the way of these activities yet take advantage of them. Watch the behavior before you make a move, understand the rhythm to protect the process while getting better photographs. You can do it, have a great time and come back with memorable photographs when the chill is in the air.

The Ageless Cycle Continues

Snow Geese capture by D3x / 600f4AFS

With fall comes change signaled by many things and celebrated by critters. Their preparation for winter takes many shapes, forms, and actions, and none like migration. Snow Geese nest in the far north and come south in wave after wave spending the winter in our warmer south. They take many paths heading south laying over in many regions through North America. They are more than likely in your own backyard!

There are many ways you can celebrate this, with every lens and time of day the perfect option for your visual storytelling. For this morning one December, I choose predawn color reflected off the pool to celebrate the well-earned rest of the flock. Is there a “trick” here, yes! Get out and experience, that’s it, that’s the trick to be part of as the agless cycle continues.

“Can’t See Me!”

Bison captured by Z6II / 180-400VR

On the Philmont Scout Ranch, they have preserved an iconic part of our wild heritage, the New Mexico Bison. On 5000 acres a 140 head herd roam as they did for hundreds of years. What is unique, they don’t have to deal with us! That’s to say, you will never experience a “Buffalo Jam” as you might at other parks because this herd cannot be accessed by the public. In fact, they so rarely see people that we weren’t sure how they would react to our being on the plains with them. That fact made the morning so special!
This lone spectacular bull watched as we pulled up in the trucks. As I looked over the hood through the 180-00VR, it appeared to me as if he was trying to hide behind that one thistle blossom. It was a very special morning to spend with Bison, letting them go about their day and approaching us as close as THEY felt and our being able to let that unfold. Our wild heritage, it’s bloody amazing!

Does a Dozen Mean Success?

Least Sandpiper captured by Z 6II / 800f5.6 w/1.25

We went total hardcore, spending the morning at the city water treatment plant which always garnishes shorebirds just not the best backgrounds. Not this time, not a single shorebird, literally none. So I went to my fallback plan, breakie! Afterward we went back to a location we had checked days before, not for birds but to see if the light was working for this one tree photograph. While we were there, Sharon found our first band of shorebirds, a dozen sandpipers. It was great to see them! We had about an hour with them before the rising tide made their little beach disappear. We’ll be back at it today, hoping to find a bunch more cause a dozen doesn’t mean success.

Gotta Have that 2nd Lens!

Devil’s Punch Bowl Beach captured by Z 6II / Z14-24f2.8

The Oregon Coast is gorgeous, I have spent a lot of time here walking its beaches and staring out from its bluffs. Though I have a wide-angle in my hands, I am looking and watching all the birds. With all I’ve seen and what I learned from others, I came to the OR Coast this week to just photograph birds. This is our second morning and as you can see, the scenery is gorgeous and there is not a single bird. I was all set to get down in the sand and spend quality time with the LBJs as they head south, but they’re not here. That poses the larger question, what’s happening to the birds or the world they depend on that they are not here. This is the time with the OR Shorebird Festival would normally be held for goodness sake.

This is why you gotta have that second lens with ya. In the perfect world, I’d have photos of birds and a gorgeous planet but the big lens wasn’t even pulled out today. I’ve been skunked way too many times to take it personal even though I do. And while I didn’t photograph any critters, I still got the beach!

They’re Coming!

Willet captured by D5 / 800mm

Those LBJs (Little Brown Jobs) have started to hit our beaches and now’s a great time to get out there with them. Why now? There are a number of reasons, top of the list is that they are still wearing their breeding plumage quite often. Like this Willet photographed on a San Diego beach. This is not their winter plumage but the much more spectacular feathers they have to catch the attention of the opposite sex. Right now the rarer shorebirds come through more often or not. Another reason to get out now is they are busy refueling and a whole lot more likely to be approachable. Don’t approach them, let them come to you as I did here. Simply lie on the sands at a spot where they might want to feed (I like when the tide is going out) and simply wait. They’ll come up and then the shot is easy peasy! I know of nothin better than spending the morning on the beach (in the west) or the evening (in the east) lying on the sands with the LBJs. Now’s the time, they’re coming!

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