Elklings

 

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First it was the deer, now the elk.  We love the return of the animals.  It has been so dry.  No rain in the past or foreseeable future.  The weather is unpredictably warm.  Our plants and animals are confused beyond measure.  Bees are swarming late… baby animals are appearing late… and wild birds, normally migrated, are looking for food.

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Winter must be near… but the weather gods aren’t cooperating.  Maybe next week.  In the meantime, the animals are trying to fill up on whatever food and water they can get their mouths on…. including having elk and deer in the same space.

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We’ll enjoy what we get… when we get it.

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Picture in Picture

I learned this cool technique.  I learned it as ‘Picture in Picture’ which reminds me of that feature I never use on my tv.  Apparently it’s all the rage with Snapchat and such.  Being behind the times (where I pretty much live), I had never heard of or seen it.

The idea is you take a photograph of your hands holding your phone, and put them on a blank layer (transparency) in Photoshop.  Then you take a photograph and fit it to the background.  Cut and paste the same photography INTO (Paste Special) your picture of your phone. (Use the polygonal lasso tool to make the selection of your phone screen.) Don’t forget to blur background layer for best effect.

And wa-la…

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Cool, hunh?!

 

 

 

Best of 2016: Animals

I have read a lot of Photography books in the last few years.  When I started reading that a photographer has to choose what type of photographer he/she wants to be, I resisted.  Photography is photography…right?  It’s the technical aspect of choosing the right aperture / shutter speed combination, and lighting… and the artful aspect of style and composition.  What one shoots could be anything.

Yet, in the last few years as I have attempted to perfect my images, I have to finally agree that one does migrate toward certain styles and formats.  For some it may be wedding photos or portraits.  For me, it is clear… it’s landscapes and wildlife.

So as I build a Best of 2016 for landscapes, I have to also look to my wildlife photographs for a ‘Best of’ collection.

This past year we have traveled far and wide through the U.S., so my photography has been on the go, and not in blinds or frequenting the same wildlife habitats.  Instead it has been more happenstance of what wildlife we might have seen in our travels.   So this ‘Best of’ is more a collection of different types of animals with it’s wide variety, than a collection of best composed animal stories.

So here are my Best Animal Photos of 2016 with a focus on different animals we have gotten to see this year.

ramwall_IR.jpg 1.  Big horn sheep on wall in Zion National Park

ramprofPSPS_IR.jpg2.  Big horn sheep close-up in Zion National Park    We saw these sheep watching the world go by in November (2016).  There wasn’t a lot of traffic or cars in the park this late in the year, so these ram were just hanging out watching cars go by.

bearwalkPSi.JPG3.  Black bear in our front yard!    I can’t believe we saw a black bear out our window while having dinner!  I had to wait for it to get off the front deck eating out of our bird feeder before I could pursue it to get this photo.  It was about 5:30pm and the sun was just waining.  Easily the most thrilling animal sighting of the year for me.

lilelkcallPSi.JPG4. Elk in Happy Jack, AZ    It’s not uncommon for us to see elk where we live.  But this bugling baby was a treat as he bugled to his mom in the snow.

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5. Elk call  Speaking of bugling elk… I caught this mom hollering about something out in the woods.

lilsmomPSi.JPG6.  Elk mom & babe  It’s always a treat to see the new born elk with their spots.  It doesn’t happen often, but when we do, it is a thrill.  The new moms are always so watchful of their playful and energetic new borns.

elkinthemiddlePSi.JPG7. Elk in the Middle.    It’s fun when we get a group of elk, as you can see the different ages and sizes and interaction with the elk siblings, cousins, moms, and gatherings.

lilvert2PS_IR.jpg8.  Newborn Elk    I could do a Top 10 on Elk alone.. but I have to move on to different animals.  I had to include this one though, as this little babe still had wobbly legs and was just too precious to not include.

owlfar hortPSPS.jpg9.  Canyon Owl    I love owls, but rarely see them.  I’m lucky if I see one a year.  We saw this guy carefully watching us from his little perch along the canyon walls outside of Canyon X in Page, AZ

puffinwavPS_IR.jpg10.  Puffin Wave    While I’m on birds, I have to include this awesome puffin we saw in Englishtown, Nova Scotia.

eagleflexPS_IR.jpg11. Eagle Flight    I would have been happier if this eagle had a fish in his mouth… but nonetheless, it’s a close up eagle in flight, so it goes to the diversity of animals (in this case birds) we saw in 2016.

turkeywaddlePSPS_IR.jpg12.  Gobble gobble.    I don’t know about you, but it’s not everyday you see wild turkey.  I have never seen one in gobbler mode strutting his stuff…. but I’m happy with any opportunity to photograph a turkey in the wild.

chips songPSi.JPG.    13.  Chippies.    Moving on to little animals, I caught these two little chipmunk ‘talking’ to each other.  If this photo had sound you would hear the chirping the one on the right was making.  She saw me and stood there with her foot up and just chirped incessantly until this other little chipmunk came up to see what all the ruckus was about.

red tree turn_IR.jpg14.  Tufted Ear Squirrel.    I love these cool squirrels with their tufted pointy ears.  I really like the texture of this tree bark against the furry critter and blurred wooded background.

redleapPS_IR.jpg15.  Tufts in Flight.  Then there is this guy caught in flight mid air jaunting across the rocks looking for just the right pine cone to nibble on.

porci lookPSi.JPG16. Porcupine Scowl.    I’m not sure how many porcupine’s I have ever seen… but I caught this fella scowling at me on an overlook in Northern California.  He was not too happy that I was in his face with a camera.  I took his portrait and backed off and left him in peace as he wasn’t nearly as happy to see me as I was him.

chipmodelPS.jpg17.  Ground squirrel pose.    We stopped at an overlook in Utah outside of Lake Powell for lunch.  This little guy wanted hand outs in the worst way.  He was a riot to watch because he didn’t want to get too close, but he really wanted a nibble.  What a curious fellow he was.  We tipped him for his entertainment, took his photo for posterity and went on our way.  We left him an apple core that was about as big as he was.  He dragged it off like the coveted prize, but not before he posed for us and flitted about trying to get our attention.

smbird5PSi.JPG18. Hiding among the Daisies.  This little bird was digging up bugs amongst a field of daisies.  He squatted down as if I couldn’t see me.  Can’t hide from my camera, little guy.

elkfacePSi.JPG19. Young ‘un.     I had this young elk’s attention, until it realized I was no threat and went about it’s business.  She looked right at me, as if to say, ‘what ya doing?’.

ramalerti.JPG   20.  Ram Alert.    We saw this young ram munching on these trees on the White Rim road within Canyonlands National Park.  The road was thrilling all by itself, but made more fun seeing this guy along the way.

 

I could go on and on, as I have a ton of animal photos, many of which are contained within this blog as I take them…. but these are some of my favorites for the year.  We got to see a wide variety of interesting and fun animals throughout the year in our far and wide travels.  I count myself lucky for each and every animal portrait, capturing their moods and feelings at that point in time, and the ability to be able to share.

Thanks for stopping by…. again, as before, feel free to pick your favorites.

Blurring the Background

If you are a student of Photoshop you will love this technique as I did.

Bryan Peterson is doing some Photo Critique videos, and some are interesting, and some, like this one – down right enlightening.  George Crudo gives a critique that is FULL of awesome tips and techniques to enhance your photos.  Check it out…  George Crudo critique

Not only does he talk about multiple techniques we can learn from, like color range – ability to enhance the color of specific areas like sky, subject, foreground – he also shares a cool technique for blurring the background.

Now I get that the best way to blur the background is to do it in camera.  But sometimes that is just not possible.  Not all my lenses can give me a wide aperture (and shallow depth of field) like f2.8.  Moreover, sometimes in the daylight with bright sun, I may not be able to have a large aperture, instead I have to use a small aperture like f/11 or f/16, which doesn’t help me blur the background.  Unless I want to use an ND filter to cut the light, I am forced to compose and take a photo that pretty much is what it is.

With George’s technique though, I can blur the background in post process.

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Take this photo for instance.  I love the gesture / expression on the baby elk, but the background, while a little blurred is just too busy and takes away from my subject.

Using George’s technique, I can create a new layer in Photoshop (Command J), and quick select my subject (the elk), select the inverse (Command I) to select the background (all but the elk).  I then blur the background (Filter-Blur-Gaussian Blur).  Then using a brush paint back in the foreground.

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Fantastic!  Now my elk stands out more.

I must admit, I’m not one to Photoshop my photos much… a little tweak here, exposure adjustment there… but having useful tools in my toolbox is always appreciated.  Awesome tip.  Thanks, George.

Elk babies

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I’m thrilled to report… the elk babies are back!  It’s that time of year.  Here on the mountain June / July brings babies.  Baby chipmunks, bunnies, wood ducks, heron’s,  fawns, and elk.  If we’re lucky we get a glimpse of them.

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On days that I get to see these beautiful animals and witness nature at its finest, it’s a GREAT day!  I feel so very fortunate to live in amongst these many animals… and be able to have such great photography fodor.  I just hope I can do them justice.

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The Study of Elk

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As with anything we are passionate about, and aspire to do better, we must practice and study.  Learning from masters in the trade that have come before us is a good way of learning.  As such, I have been studying from my photography masters and reading their advice and wisdom.  Joe McNally, as a photo journalist, cites the key is to capture ‘gestures’.  Whether it’s in the expressions, the actions of the individuals, or the drama as it unfolds.  No doubt,  Joe didn’t have elk in mind when he offers this advice.  But the same is true.

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Just as ‘a picture tells a story’, so do the movements and expressions of my subject… and in this case, our elk.  Their territorial nudges, tender nose kisses, or ‘banter’ between themselves all convey emotion and interest.

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I’ve been fortunate enough to get a lot of elk photos… but with the astute advice of a photography master… my photos can become better, more poignant, and tell a better story.

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