It’s interesting to witness the evolution of my own wildlife photographs.
I recall oh so many years ago taking photographs of animals so very far away. Today, I look at those photographs and wonder what it’s of. Oh, there it is, that little dot in the distance is some almost unrecognizable animal. Hmmm, I guess I have improved!
When I bought better equipment, bigger lenses, and learned more, I began filling the frame with the animal. But it’s more than that, it’s clearing the clutter of a messy background.
It’s including some background that shows the animal in it’s environment.
It’s including action, if you’re so lucky.
It’s catching that glint of it’s eye, making sure it’s sharp and looking in your direction.
It takes anticipation of the animals behavior and patience to wait for the animal to come to you, look your direction and capture what it does in it’s environment.
It’s a ‘sport’ that is humbling, gratifying, and frustrating at the same time. It takes practice and time, lots of it. Something I try to apply as I continue to learn and improve.
I have to laugh at myself sometimes, we all should (read that how you like). When I first got into photography, oh so many years ago, I would complain when there were clouds. ‘Where’s the blue sky ?’, I would lament.
We went to Watson Lake Granite Dells in Prescott, AZ for a photo scouting trip. The sky was ablaze with blue. It really was a beautiful day, rock hopping, and taking in this magnificent place.
Because of the ‘boring’ blue sky, I had decided not to post the photos, and just go back for sunset / sunrise when there were picturesque clouds for better photographs.
In conversation with a friend however, who cocked their head when I mentioned Watson Lake, I decided I should give these photos some air time so that people could view it’s majestic beauty, even if it’s through blue sky blues.
Photography is like golf, or any sport or hobby for that matter. You know, when you get that really great drive, perfect putt, or if you’re so lucky the coveted hole-in-one. It’s euphoric, and keeps you coming back for more.
That’s how I feel when I get that great shot. We go out every time it snows, looking for animals, hoping for that great encounter to capture.
With over 2′ of snow, we were hopeful that the ‘day after’ would bring the animals out foraging for food. We even saw a fleeting bobcat, but alas, didn’t get a photo. Darn!
But we did manage to see elk and deer. It makes me want to go out again! Bring on more snow.
There are lots of genre’s of photography: sports, wildlife, landscape, portrait, etc., just to name a few.
But Birds-in-Flight is it’s own animal, forgive the pun. Before embarking on the long trek to Whitewater Draw I watched dozens of online video’s to help assure that I might come home with some decent images.
I have always shot single point focus as I take a lot of close up animals and landscape photos. But for BIF it was recommended that I use zone area to focus on a larger area (and improve my chances of getting a sharp image). While I was there, a kind photographer, JT, suggested I use the eye-focus that my camera offered. I must say, I found it very awkward and somewhat difficult. However, once I got more used to it, I found myself enjoying the fast focus ability of these new fancy cameras. Thanks, JT, for the great tip.
The eye focus had a particularly hard time picking out the eye in darker conditions, so I had to switch back to single point (or nine-point) focus for those situations. During the daylight hours I had better success, yet still struggled for the camera to focus on what I wanted to while recomposing the shot.
A fast shutter speed is essential to obtain a sharp photo, and not a streaky blur. However, in the early morning hours it was difficult to maintain a fast shutter speed, large enough aperture to get decent depth of field, and as low as possible ISO to reduce noise, even on a tripod. Admittedly, the daytime photos were easier to capture tack sharp pix.
I did learn that the closer the bird, and less distractions, the better the focus worked – and made for a cleaner more interesting photo. I also quickly realized that ‘bird butts’ make for a less than interesting photos, and it was best to pan across to get a profile or head shot.
Of course, wildlife photography is best with action shots and ‘gesture’. If I can capture something that has the animal doing something, or looking cute, that photo stands above the rest.
I had a hard time picking out the interaction among the birds from the flocks that surround them. With these high mega-pixel cameras, I was able to crop in to focus the attention and cut the clutter.
It helps to be in the right place at the right time. The best way to do that is scope out the area, find the best spot to take that great photo, and the best time. We were at Whitewater Draw for 4 days, allowing us ample opportunity for photographic greatness. Being prepared also means having the right equipment for the shoot. A fixed telephoto has very narrow flexibility, while a medium zoom provides options and a variety of story telling photos.
I took a lot of photos at varying focal lens with different lens to tell the complete story of the event, from the massive morning lift off to the late afternoon fly-ins, from the sandhill cranes interacting together, their mingling in the pools, to fly by’s. This diverse collection conveys a better sense of Whitewater Draw.
Above all else, I found practice was the best tool to improve my BIF shots. What do they say… practice makes you lucky. So true!
The dictionary defines passion as: intense, driving, or overmastering feeling or conviction; strong and barely controllable emotion. I consider myself a passionate person, which actually can be a mixed blessing. Sometimes it gets me into trouble. My emotions can run strong and people tend to take my intensity the wrong way.
On the flip side, however, it’s that passion that drives my ambition and love for excelling at the things I take on.
In terms of photography, it’s that passion, which has driven me to get published. So it is with pride and joy that I share my recent contest win from the National Park and Public Lands. I won 3rd place out of over 15,000 entries. Check it out here…
We picked her up on Feb 2, 2010, following an extremely difficult time and my dad’s death on Christmas the year before.
She was my everything. I poured my love and soul into her, and she gave back in spades.
We got her just before we retired while still living in the Valley.
She grew up at the home we were building at the time in the mountains, where she has lived ever since.
She was our helper, our companion, and friend.
Journey died on Jan 31, 2021. Almost 11 years from the day she came home with us. She was 11 years old.
She left our lives just as she came into it, following a parent’s death, and a difficult time. John’s mom died just two weeks before. John’s mom’s quality of life had diminished significantly in this covid time of ‘protectionism’. We had only been allowed to see her once in the past year. It took its toll. After months of isolation and loneliness, she died alone, with no family at her side.
I had a friend once who said she’d never want another dog again, as the death of a pet can be so hard. While I can attest to the excruciating pain and sadness Journey’s death brings, I wouldn’t give up the last amazing 11 years with Journey for anything. She had so much love to give, and gave it unconditionally.
She was such a happy girl, and physically showed it in so many ways. She loved her toys and her pillows. (And she loved me to fluff her pillow under her head. She had me wrapped around her paw.). She loved for you to ‘hold my paw’. She’d wave when she saw you and want you to hold her paw as a form of affection. If she really liked you, and you were lucky enough, you’d get a ‘puppy hug’. She’d put both paws and her head on your shoulders, as if to say, “I love you, thank you for being here”. When you’d come home, she’d be so happy to see you that she’d go into a ‘puppy rampage’, and run around in circles. She had so many beautiful gestures, facial expressions, and love.
Journey was so full of life and happiness that she brought it with her and shared it with everyone she met. She loved people and would greet them with a butt wiggle, tail wag and those big beautiful bright eyes, as if to say, “Hi, hi, hi, I’m Journey.” Strangers were just friends she hadn’t met yet, and she introduced us to many.
Journey was with us 24 / 7. She went with us everywhere. She loved her Jeep and truck rides, it didn’t matter where we went. She adored camping and was all full of jumpy-jumpy-jumpy just at the mere mention of it. She had an enormous vocabulary. She knew when it was supper time (her favorite time of the day). I would ask John, “can you take her out?” while I was preparing dinner. She knew what that meant, and without any hesitation ran to the door. She would RUN back in with such excitement expecting dinner to be waiting for her, sometimes skidding into the kitchen.
She was so full of life and brought such joy and happiness to our lives. Our lives and home are empty without her. We are absolutely devastated and heart broken for her loss. The pain and knots in my throat and gut are unbearable. But we remember her many quirks, mannerisms, and every day behaviors that make us smile.
Both John’s mom and Journey leave a huge void. They wanted more than anything, for us to be happy. We intend to never forget and honor their memories, and live a full life and be happy. I miss you so much it hurts.
I have to say, with all that is going on in the world, and our lives right now we have felt very alone. I know we are not the only ones. Having not seen or talked to so many friends we have (or had) during all this isolation seems so sad. Will it be different when the world opens back up? Or will they be gone forever? That I can not answer, but suspect it is a combination of the two.
So, without getting too sappy or melancholy, today I feel thankful for the my many friends and supporters of my photography. It’s times like these that we should immerse ourselves in those things that make us feel joy and happiness when all the rest is falling by the wayside. I have had many folks who have asked to see pix of the snow. So it is with that encouragement, that we braved the storm and trudged out every day to get what pix we could.
Snow photos can be difficult to get. First off, the snow itself is white and blindingly bright. Having no ‘color’ it is hard to take photos of and exposures can be tricky. The snow storms bring bleh clouds and gray skies, drab and not very photogenic. Here on the mountain, most of our roads are closed. Snow plows have created berms along the main roads making pulling off the road impossible.
Animals are scarce, as foraging through the snow can be difficult for them. See my post here… https://kritterspaw.com/2021/01/27/snow-foraging/ . But with the encouragement of friends, we were persistent and somewhat successful in our quest to find some decent photos.
We went North toward Winslow looking for snow and animals. We went out into the forest behind our home to see if we could find some snow views. We headed toward Flagstaff to see if we could catch some animals. We ventured toward Pine to see what that might yield. See post here … https://kritterspix.com/2021/01/27/we-got-snow/
We ran into road closures, icy slick roads, dead animals, stupid drivers, impassable areas, ugly skies and bright harsh light. But we also found bull elk standing in a meadow blanketed with snow staring back at us wondering what we were doing there. We saw trees caked with snow on the windward side majestic and satisfied with new found water. Ponds and waterholes previously dry were filled with fresh fallen snow, thirsty grass poking through the hill surrounding her.
There is beauty when we look for it, both in the environment around us and those in it. Be thankful for what you have and who you have to share it with, as we are today and everyday.
Call ’em what you will – sun star, sunburst, starburst, sunray, or just plain fun.
I love doing sunstars. A sunburst adds a dimension to any photograph and point of interest.
I am often complemented at my use of adding sunrays with a a star filter, program, or app. The truth is, sun bursts are very easy to do in camera. No apps required.
All one needs is a wide angle focal point and small aperture. I love my Canon 16mm, set at f/11 for these great results. Sometimes you have to take a number of photos to get the sun poking through the trees just right.
You may have to split a tree to showcase the sunburst, rather than just looking directly at it with full intensity.
But, it’s an easy thing to do, at sunrise, sunset, or even mid day.
As with any photograph – look ahead, look behind, look all around, and look up. Sometimes the best things are just ahead of us.
When I started getting serious about photography I kept reading that one should pick a ‘genre’. I was like, ‘what the heck is that’? Why can’t I take any kind of photo I want?
As I read more and photographed more, it made sense. A wedding photographer needs certain skills and tools to take beautiful wedding portraits, just as a sport photographer, and they are each different.
So, I thought – I want to be a landscape photographer.
So, I was surprised when the first photograph I got published was wildlife.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. We just got back from a trip to the beach from AZ, and these are the pix I brought back – all wildlife.
Do what you’re good at… and what you enjoy, and you’ll be good at it.
So continuing my current pursuit of Fall Colors, we planned a trip to Fossil Creek. When I think of water pix, I think smooth silky water cascading over rocks, which means to me, a long exposure.
So considering the outcome I wanted, I had to think about how to achieve my desired result. Do I go first thing in the morning, dawn… or dusk? With little light to be had, that could work… OR I could go in full daylight and sun and use a tool I carry in my bag – a Neutral Density (ND) Filter.
I actually use a variable ND filter so I can control how much light I cut anywhere between 3 stops to 10 stops. The ND filter allows me to stop down my exposure so I can take a 2 second exposure to get that super silky water. Tripod required!
Hmmm… it works! Thinking through our actions does make a difference. Who’da thunk it? Ha!