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Bird near Cayuga Lake

My photography tends to vacillate greatly between very planned photography where I have a subject and location that I will be photographing to basically what I would call adventure photography. Adventure photography is more like I get out in nature and enjoy myself and photograph whatever strikes me creatively or inspires me. Maybe I am exploring a new place and I want to be open to all possibilities.

One thing I try to do is to be open to opportunities that may arise unexpectedly. My photography occurs outside so even when I have a plan for my photography there is a lot that is beyond my control and I try to be open to it and ready to take advantage of it.

Recently I was working to create images for an athlete. We were working at a local park. When we were done I wanted to look around and see if anything else interesting was going on. Would there be any other subjects I could capture.

Pileated Woodpecker along the shore at Cas Park in Ithaca.

The park was by the water so I wanted to see if there were any birds around to photograph. There were a few cormorants around but not in a place I could create nice images.

Then I saw a flash of movement in a small tree along the shore. There was a Pileated Woodpecker moving along the shore from tree to tree. I decided to slowly follow it and see if it would sit still long enough for me to take some photographs.

I was very fortunate that the woodpecker did stop just long enough for me to create a few images of it perched on a tree.

If I had simply left immediately after completing the project I had gone there to work on I would never have had this opportunity. Keeping an open mind and exploring a little allowed me to extend my creativity in different ways on one trip and enjoy a nice opportunity I wouldn’t have otherwise had.

See more of my bird photography at my birds collection.

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Finger Lakes Trail panoramic

The Challenge

In the past I have never been a big fan of virtual races. I don’t think I had ever done one before this year. However, with the unusual circumstances we all find ourselves in it is a good time to embrace something new. As everyone is away most events are cancelled and this has included races for runners. I haven’t run a regular race this year and all the ones that I had signed up for or planed to sign up for have been cancelled up until now.

I don’t typically run a lot of races. But it is always nice to have a race that you are looking forward to somewhere on the calendar. This helps provide a little added incentive to get out for runs. I’ve gone through periods this year where I haven’t really felt much like running for various reasons. Maybe it is because of lack of races or the ambiguousness we all find our lives in.

So for the first time I signed up for a virtual race and ran the Aravaipa Strong and I ran it as a 50K across the Finger Lakes Trail on my own. I enjoyed the challenge that provided for me. I have been a fan of Aravaipa Running from afar through Jamil Coury and his YouTube Channels like Mountain Outpost. I was interested to see they were going to offer more virtual races.

The next virtual race offering would be a joint venture form two of their brands Aravaipa Running and Run Steep Get High. This virtual race was different than most virtual races or other running events. The event was called the Limitless Vertical Challenge and the goal of the race would be to climb as many feet of elevation as you possibly can. The race would run for a week and you could use all week to accumulate as many feet of elevation gain as possible.

While I am a huge fan of Run Steep and Aravaipa I was not sure this challenge was for me. As a trail runner I mostly suffer through the hills and complain about them more than anyone else. I love to run downhills most. One of my best friends and frequent running partner on the other hand rather likes climbing. Her biggest complaint about a race that we ran together was that it was too flat.

Limitless was on her radar too. I told her to let me know if she decided to do it. If she was in for the challenge I would probably do it too. She registered for the event and then I eventually did too.

My plan was to try to run every day, exclusively on hills. I wanted to run twice a day on week days and then bookend it with big days at the beginning and end of the challenge. The limitless challenge had 6 levels participants could try to reach. I really wanted to reach level four and climb over 14,505 feet for the week. I needed to climb 2,000 ft a day. The plan was to try and get 1,000 feet in the morning and 1,000 feet at night on days I ran twice. And make up for any shortfalls with big days at the beginning and the end of the week long challenge.

Day 1: The Mt. Tom Experience

At Mt. Tom you start at the Pine Creek Trail and then ascend a trail not too unlike this one.

We decided the best plan was to try and go big on the first day of the challenge and get as many feet of vert we could on day one. We planned to go down to one of the steepest climbs we could find in our area. We planned to go down to the Pine Creek Rail Trail near Wellsboro, PA and climb the trail up to Mt. Tom. We left early Sunday morning to start this adventure. Only one problem. The race didn’t actually start until Monday. Luckily we realized this before we had done the hard work. We decided to stop and go for a short run at one of our local trails at Erwin Wildlife Management Area. So, we got an extra day of running in before the hard part even started.

Now, Monday we really did go to run Mt. Tom. I was pretty sure that the climb up Mt. Tom would give us around 1,000 feet of elevation gain per climb. I really wanted to get at least 3,000 ft of gain.

Mt. Tom is pretty steep. When most people run it they go up the steepest section. Then it levels off and loops around and a more gradual grade for the descent before meeting back up with the main trail. We decided we wanted to maximize the amount of climbing we would get per mile we ran. So instead of looping around we went straight down the steep climb we had just gone up. That was an interesting experience.

We ran from the road to the top of Mt. Tom twice. We noticed that the lower part of the trail was not as steep as the upper part of the trail. We decided to focus on the upper part of the trail to maximize the amount of climbing per mile. We ran two more repeats of climbing the steep section of the trail.

This might have been one of the hardest days of work I have ever put in. My legs have never felt so shot from running. Especially considering I ran a little over 6 miles. It wasn’t a particularly long run. All the climbing and descending took its toll though.

I really thought we would have 4,000 feet of gain after all that hard work. Turns out I was wrong. I ended up with 3,560 ft of elevation gain. If there is one feature on a watch I would pay to have now it would be to track my elevation in real time. I never cared much before this challenge. If we had known how close were were to 4,000 ft I think we would have went up for one more climb.

You can check out my run here on Strava: Limitless Vertical Challenge: Mt Tom Repeats.

Starting 2 A Days

I’ve never really planned to run multiple times in a day before but here goes nothing.

The plan was to start off the day running on a small hill near my house in the morning. It would not be as easy as I had hoped. My legs were quite sore from the previous days work. Luckily I live on a hill with lots of hilly roads to run. I walked out my door and ran up the small hill near our house. I did two full repeats of that hill and added a little extra up the steepest section in the beginning for good measure. That was all I could muster. I added 2.58 miles and 563 feet of Elevation gain.

A little vert for breakfast

Tuesdays we usually run the same trail every week with a small group at Steege Hill Nature Preserve . The trail starts with a steep climb. We mixed things up a little bit and instead of running our whole loop we ran repeats up and down the steep section that starts off the trails.

So happy to have been joined by some friends for this part of the challenge especially. My legs were sore and cranky during this run. The climbing wasn’t too bad but the descents was frying my legs. I have never complained so much about running downhill. That is usually the part I enjoyed most of trail running. This day I would have begged for it to stop. Could someone just carry me to the bottom so I could climb back up again.

I would rather climb than descend. What was happening to me. Climbing the hill at Steege. I added another 4.49 miles and 1,538 of gain. That was perfect because it balanced out my morning run so I stayed on pace for 2,000 ft a day on days I did not go for one big long run.

Pond at Steege Hill in New York
Run all the way up the climb and keep going and you eventually arrive at this beautiful pond.

Survived My First 2 A Day

After surviving my first day of two runs a day I felt better than expected. I took on the next challenge of this project. I ran the steepest hill near my house in the morning. There is a steep hill that climbs essentially from the river valley up the hill right to my door. I decided to bite off the steepest section of that climb and run two repeats of the steepest part. That was pretty challenging. The Limitless Vertical Challenge was living up to its name for me.

Once again I did not have the ammount of elevation I had hoped for. I really thought I would have at least 1,000 feet. I eneded up with 2.78 miles and 829 feet of gain. Vert for breakfast.

For my evening run I met up with my friend who was doing the Limitless Challenge as well and we set our sights on even more climbing of the same steep hill I had climbed that morning. This time our spouses joined us for the “fun”.

This climb has to be one of the steepest road climbs in our area. If it is not I do not want to ever run up the one that is steeper. I previously set up a Strava segment to measure it and it is a .65 mile section of road that climbs 413 feet at a 12% grade.

It was interesting how by the third day the legs had started to loosen up a little bit. Legs were still tired and sore especially descending but they were not quite as bad as before. I surrendered to Combs Hill after three repeasts. My partner in crime went on for a fourth.

I added another 4.36 miles and 1,236 feet of gain during this run: #limitlesschallenge repeats at Combs Hill

3rd Consecutive 2 A Day

On my third day of two runs a day I did not return to Combs Hill. I think that would have been too hard. I Ran the hill by my house again. I was able to add on some extra compared to my first attempt here. My legs were starting to recover form the Mt. Tom experience so instead of running just a little more than two repeats I was able to run three full repeats of the hill.

This hill is much more runable both on the way up and the way down. It was a good way to mix things up with the more steep climbs on other workouts. I added another 3.29 miles and 701 feet of gain to my totals. #LimitlessChallenge Vert for Breakfast.

As evening approached my friend contacted me and said she was running at Tanglewood Nature Center if I wanted to join in the fun. I love Tanglewood for running and just simply enjoying nature. It also features on of the best sports for getting a lot of climbing work. There is a climb of 482 ft over .68 of a mile and a 13% grade. We even decided to add a little extra to the top and bottom of the climb.

The climb is a good challenge. The descent however can be even more difficult. The trail is rocky and muddy. I managed to nearly wipe out twice in the same spot on two consecutive descents on the trail. On the final one I had to grab a tree as I slid by in the mud trying to avoid some large rocks I didn’t want to trip over.

I added another 5.82 miles and 1,841 feet of gain to my totals. #LimitlessChallenge Tanglewood Edition. Again I misjudged how much elevation gain I would have. I thought for sure I would have covered 2,000 feet of climbing. The effort sure felt like I did.

Tanglewood Fields and Trees
Tanglewood Starting Line

Long day at Crystal Hills

The plan had been to put in two runs a day each weekday after the first big day. That way I could break up the mileage and rest more and balance out my climbing. Having it spread out over more time seemed like a wise idea.

I Decided instead of doing a two a day I could just go out and do one long effort at one of our nearby trails. One of my goals during this challenge was to run at several different trail locations over the course of the week. For this run I went to run on part of the Crystal Hills Branch of the Finger Lakes Trail.

Time Lapse footage of my first descent back to my car.

The part of the trail I wanted to run has a good climb but it is not overly steep. I could climb up one side of the hill. Then I would run back the other side of the hill where a stream cuts a gorge into the hillside. I would run back and forth up and over that hill. The goal was to do that at least three times.

Short clip of me crossing the field at the top of the hill. Great views from here.

The first repeat went pretty well. I felt good. My legs were not too tired. I even ran down the hill to where I started at a good pace that was actually a PR for me on that Strava segment. The second repeat got a bit tougher. I felt good going over the front side of the hill which is more gradual and has switch backs. But after descending the back of the hill and climbing up that side which is a steeper climb I was getting tired.

Time lapse footage of me climbing the steep backside of the hill.

After arriving back at my car I was pretty tired. I grabbed some cold water from the car and an apple to eat. It already had been a long day. This was taking longer than I had expected and I was putting more miles on my legs than I had expected.

Time Lapse footage of the woods you run through to get back to where I started.

I almost stopped at 2 repeats. But my goal was to do it three times. I wanted to stick to that no matter how long it was going to take. So I slowly climbed back up the hill for a third time. This repeat really felt like it took a long time and it probably did. Luckily I had decided to take my GoPro camera with me so I could shoot some time lapse video while I was out. That helped me think about something other than the relentless climbing. It didn’tr hlep that I had gotten up late and started a lot later than I wanted. That caused it to be hotter than I would have liked.

I finished with 12.63 miles and 3,012 feet of gain added to my totals but it took me 3 hours and 27 minutes to do it. #LimitlessChallenge Crystal Hills Edition.

Finger Lakes Trail panoramic
The climb up through the woods reveals this gorgeous scene

Limitless at Worlds End

This weekend was supposed to be a big race weekend for my group of friends. Worlds End Ultra was originally scheduled for this day. My friend was still going to go and camp with her family and she invited me down to do some running.

My friend is running the Worlds End 100K at its rescheduled date and I will be there to crew for her later this year. We ran some new trails for both of us at Worlds End State Park. The plan was to run from what would be the Dry Run Aid Station to the Brunnerdale Aid Station during the race.

Along our run we planned to meet up with her family along the way at Angel Falls and then all leave together.

The trails quickly turned to streams. There was water often coming towards you down the trail. So much for dry feet. When there wasn’t running water on the trails it was thick mud or standing water. There were also some serious stream crossings. It had rained the night before so the streams were pretty high. The water was rushing fast enough and with enough current that it considered a little consideration when choosing a rout to cross by. The streams were easily up to mid calf at times.

Time lapse footage from the run through the water at Worlds End State Park

This area is so beautiful. It was great to run there and just energized me for the rest of my day. We stopped to take photos along the way and soak in the nature around us. The wet and extra muddy trails for most of the first four miles really slowed us down.

We eventually arrived at the car. This meant we had done something wrong. WE never met up with the rest of her family. WE missed the turn to get to Angle Falls. We consulted the map at the trail head. We needed to go back 1.5 miles to get to the falls. Up a trail that we had just descended and that the map referred to as difficult. It was not lying. The trail is difficult. Even more so when you’ve already been running for a long time and you made a mistake that is now cause you to have to backtrack.

Eventually we reached Angel Falls and met up with everyone. The falls are quite beautiful. I am not sure I was in a mindset to fully appreciate them after all the work it took tot get to them. I will have to return when I am a little fresher.

I ended up adding 11.31 miles and 2,347 feet of vertical gain to my totals on this adventure. Bonus Miles at Worlds End: #Limitless.

This was supposed to be a great race weekend but we still had a great time running the Limitless Challenge here.

Worlds End Waterfall
We began our days adventure right near this waterfall at Worlds End State Park.

Limitless Finale

I was pretty sure I already had enough elevation to reach my goal but my plan was to run every day of the challenge so I still wanted to still do that.

I planned to run one lap of the red trail at Tanglewood Nature Center. It is one of my favorite routes to run and I return to it regularly.

One of my friends contacted me the night before and I told her what my plan was and she agreed to join me for my run. We immediately had to deviate from the plan because when you are running things rarely actually go as planned. So we added some bonus miles before even starting on the red trail.

We ran the red trail and it was nice to be out on my familiar trails just running a regular route for me. The climb at the end was still hard but not as bad as doing repeats on this or any other climb. I was nice to be feeling like I was coming the the conclusion of this adventure. Then as we were nearing the end my friend said I think I would like to run a little more and asked if I wanted to go farther. I asked how far asked how far she had in mind and she replied saying, “I don’t know 6 or maybe 10 miles”. I said “I can tell you one thing I am not going ten miles”.

My friend ran with me and convinced me to run even more miles than I had planned. I am a pretty easy sell on any running adventure though especially on trails. We wound our way through some more of the trails at Tanglewood. We mostly avoided any additional climbing. We reached 6 miles and I called it and took us back to the cars.

I added another 6.48 Miles and 1,107 feet of vertical gain for the day to my overall totals. #LimitlessChallenge Finale.

The forests at Tanglewood Nature Center
Trails through the woods at Tanglewood.

In retrospect I almost can’t believe I actually did this. It is in so many ways not something I would do. The whole event was based around climbing and I do not like to climb. To get to the goal I set for myself I would have to run every day of the week and I very rarely do any type of run streaks. The most I run is five days a week when I am in peak training for an ultra marathon. The only times I think I have run multiple times in a day has been when doing some type of relay event. And during those events you generally run your event and you’re done. For this I had to run two times a day plus all the other running I needed to do during the week. In addition we started a day early so I would be running at least eight days in a row not just seven.

I finished off the Limitless Vertical Challenge having run 60 miles for the week. I ran for more than 17 combined hours. My goal for the elevation gain I wanted to achieve was 14,505 and I finished with 16,716. These numbers are hard for me to recon with. I have probably never run more than 50 miles in a week let alone 60. I average over 47 miles a week in my peak training month in 2018 and That is the most miles I have run in a month.

In my highest volume running year of 2018 where I was healthy and trained for two ultra marathons I climbed a combined 121,211 feet on the year. So that averages out to around 10,000 feet of vertical gain per month. I just ran that in one week. Like how is it possible that I just did this. Not only did I do this, but after a year of battling injuries I actually feel better than I have in along time. Two days after the challenge finished I still haven’t taken a rest day because I feel that good.

I am always in awe of the things that my body is able to do when I test it. It is truly something to just sit back and reflect on. Determination. Perseverance. Grind. Push. Endure. You can do things you never imagined.

I don’t know if I could have done this and stuck it out all the way through without all the people who shared some miles with me during this adventure. Thanks for being there.

If you enjoy nature or running and you want to see more of what Upstate, New York and the surrounding area has to offer join the KRNaturalPhoto community by signing up below.

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As and artists and creative person it is very easy to fall into the trap of thinking of photography as something that has to be very intentional and planned out. I am a photographer. I must have a designated subject, location, event, etc. that I want to photograph. That is great and sometimes it works out perfectly. But what is even better than that is to always be prepared.

Great opportunities for photographs will happen whether you have your camera or not

Being present and having a camera is the number one influence on your ability to create photography. A photograph worthy situation can occur at any time and any place in any circumstance. Keep your camera nearby.

Even as a photographer with a penchant for creating wildlife images you can never be too ready. I have seen hawks dive into the bushes along the side of an office building to catch prey. Be ready. You never know when your opportunity will arise.

Photographing nature and flowers is something I also enjoy. There are many opportunities to photograph plants and flowers that have been planted at parks or other green ways while you are out and about. Keep your camera close.

Running errands can include photography

When I have errands to run I try to think about where else I will pass by. Will I be near any other places where there might be opportunities for photography? I try to always bring my camera just in case.

Errands also become a little bit more enjoyable when I think about the opportunities for photography they might create for me. No one really enjoys errands, but maybe you can get a little bit more excited about running to the grocery store if you think about stopping at the nearby park to take some photos.

Take a random side trip while you’re out

If you need to go out for something and have a few minutes think about what else may be going on in your area.

Is it the season where ducklings have hatched recently and will be swimming around the lake at the park?

Is it the time of year that those flowers you really like are in bloom?

Don’t miss out because you are busy doing other things. Take your camera. Make a stop along the way to create images.

I added more photographs of the Ducklings to my Waterfowl Gallery. Go check them out there.

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Female Mallard Photograph

Most of the photography gear that I have and use the most are tools that I have had for a long time. I have chosen these particular tools for a reason. I really like the photographs I am able to create with these tools. It doesn’t mean that there are never times I wish I had other tools available to me.

For my wildlife photography I mostly use a 300mm lens with a 1.4 tele converter. It is the perfect tool for almost anything I want to do. It is especially good for me because it is relatively small and allows me to move around easily which is what I really like to do.

But, there are times I wish I had a bigger lens that allowed me to get a closer look at my subjects from farther away. But would I really ever use that big heavy lens that I would have to lug around? Do I even really need that lens for the type of photography I want to create?

Mostly the answer to that is no.

You Can Get Closer

A lot of the time you can get closer to your subject without needing a big powerful lens, unless it is unsafe for you or the subject. However, to do so often requires time and patience.

Take Your Time

One reason that it is hard to get close to wildlife is because we scare them away. How do I get close to wildlife without scaring them away? I take my time. When I see a subject I want to photograph I don’t just run up to it and try to get a photo really quick before it can run or fly away. When you see wildlife you want to photograph approach slowly and cautiously.

Observe The Wildlife

Wildlife is wary of humans. I watch how my subject is behaving to get clues as to how my behavior is affecting it. Is the subject paying attention to what I’m are doing or ignoring me? Does the subject appear agitated or uncomfortable? Have I ruffled their feathers? You can take this very literally with birds sometimes. If the subject I want to photograph is ignoring me and going about its normal behavior such as grooming or looking for food then it is probably safe to move a little closer.

Move A Little At A Time

When trying to get close to an animal it is best to move only a little closer at a time to make sure you do not scare the animal. The amount you can move depends a lot on what type of animal it is. Some animals are more wary of humans and therefore are more easily scared off if you try to approach too quickly. Also as I get closer, the closer I am the smaller and smaller the distance I can continue to move at one time without disturbing the subject gets.

Allow The Animal Time To Adjust To Your Presence

Often as I move closer to wildlife they will turn their attention to me to make sure I am not a threat to them. They may freeze and stop what they were doing. The animal will often give clear signs that it has turned its eye to you, much like The Eye of Sauron. You must wait for the eye’s gaze to pass so that you do not draw attention to yourself. It is best not to move when the eye is upon you. Allow the animal time to adjust to the presence of a human and then they will get comfortable. The animal will stop feeling threatened and their attention will leave you and go back to whatever behavior they would be naturally engaged in. Once the animal has had time to adjust to my presence and return to its business at hand I will give it a little extra time and then begin to move closer again, ever so slowly. Whenever I move I am paying attention to the animal so I am aware as soon as they start paying attention to me so I can freeze whenever they do and allow them to adjust to my presence.

Photographing a Turtle

I saw this turtle and new that in my experience turtles are easily scared into retreating back into the water for safety. I got as close as I thought was prudent at first and I watched and I waited. Then I moved a little closer and waited again. And then I moved and I waited. Slowly, cautiously moving closer and closer. I managed to not scare the turtle away and I was able to get probably the most interesting photographs of a turtle I have ever captured.

One key in this process for me is that each time I move I take a series of photographs in each position and distance I arrive at. I have two reasons for this. First you never know when some really interesting actions that creates an amazing photograph will happen. It could happen before you are as close as you want to get, but still allow you to capture a great image. And the second reason I constantly shoot while I approach is that it is very possible that I may make a mistake and scare the subject away before I get as close as I would like. But, if I take photos along the way I still will be able to create a bunch of nice images.

One this occasion I think I played my hand pretty well. I moved cautiously and created images along the way. I did not scare the subject away. I was even able to get up and leave and the turtle stayed right where it was enjoying the sunlight.

I added three photos of this painted turtle to my Animals Gallery.

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Often but not always when I venture out to create photographs I have a subject in mind that I would like to try to capture during my time. In some types of photography the subject will always remain the intended subject. If I plan to photograph a waterfall I show up at the location of the waterfall and I photograph it. The way I photograph it might need to change, that is a discussion for another time, but the subject will still be the intended subject of a waterfall.

In wildlife photography there is always a chance that you will not have the opportunity to photograph your intended subject. And the more specific you are about your intended photography subject the greater the odds that something will transpire to prevent you from capturing your goal image.

Accept the Opportunities You Are Given

wildlife in Upstate New York
The turtle is hiding from my camera

I went to a local park with the intent of photographing osprey. A very specific subject. I arrived at the park and started walking around the small lake where osprey like to fish. As I walked I did not see any osprey and I didn’t see any indication they would arrive at my location soon.

I walked along the lake hoping the osprey would arrive. Instead of seeing osprey I saw two turtles sitting on the shore of the lake. A sight I don’t see very often and I specifically have never seen at this location. As soon as I turned my attention to them one member of the pair slid back into the water. One turtle remained.

This turtle seemed completely relaxed in my presence and allowed me to sit there and photograph it for a good while. I am pretty sure I took more photographs of that turtle in that one session than I ever had previously of any turtle I have photographed. Usually, because the turtles don’t sit around very long and let you watch from close by.

I set out with the goal of photographing osprey. Instead I captured over 500 images of one turtle. Not at all what I expected on this trip and nothing I could have predicted at all.

Take Pleasure in the Variety

Not only did I not have the opportunity to photograph an osprey on this trip I didn’t even see one at all. However, sometimes photographing the same subject over and over, even if it is a subject you love, can bring a certain monotony and stagnation to your photography and creativity. I love photographing osprey. But I have a lot of images of them already and even if I have a lot that are really nice how different are they really?

Instead of investing my energy all on one subject and being happy with that one capture I was able to add some variety to my photography. I photographed the above mentioned turtle and then I continued to walk around the lake. It was then that it became clear that it was duckling and gosling season here at the lake.

I was able to spend a considerable amount of time photographing ducklings and female mallards. I was able to watch and photograph goslings and adult Canada geese.

Not only did I end up photographing a variety of subjects rather than just the one subject I had targeted, but I was able to try to photograph in different ways. Watching an osprey I am generally standing and pointing my camera up and tracking the bird as it soars across the sky. Photographing all these other subjects put me in many different and unusual positions and kept me a bit more on my toes.

Photographing the ducklings was particularly interesting. Most wildlife you can see patterns and get a sense of their movements and behaviors and try to anticipate them.  The ducklings are just all over the place. Watching a raft of ducklings moving through the water is like watching organized chaos. They zig and zag and speed up and randomly dive under the water.

Trying to single out a particular duckling to be the subject of an image is challenging due to the unpredictability. Trying to isolate one duckling in the frame can be an exercise in futility. Even just trying to frame up a group and focus on one as the central subject is a challenge because you never know which way the duck or ducks are going to go. It was a really fun and interesting time.

wildlife photography in Upstate, New York
Mallard ducklings feeding along the lake shore

I tried siting on the shore of the lake and watching them as they swam by, which became a challenge as they hopped out of the water and were suddenly behind me. The ducklings just zoomed and scooted her and there across the grass.

Having a variety of different subjects and positioning my body differently and having to think differently made this an enjoyable experience even without a single sighting of what I had originally went there for. 

I have added a couple of images of the ducklings and the goslings from the park to my Water Fowl Gallery.

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New York. Birding. Nature.

Every creative endeavor has its own unique set of challenges. Photography is no different. Nature Photography as a subset and Bird Photography as a niche within that specialty has a variety of challenges.

I have written about challenges and successes I have had photographing different birds over the years. Overcoming challenges in ones work can be exhilarating. But sometimes having a particular challenging aspect cease to exist for us as artists can simply be refreshing.

One particular challenge faced by bird photographers is finding a subject. This is especially true if the photographer is trying to create images of a specific species of birds. It can be a great thrill to successfully capture high quality photographs of an elusive subject. I even wrote about that very thing in a 2011 post: Elusive Red-Bellied Woodpecker.

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Baltimore Oriole perched on oak tree in Upstate, New York

One of my favorite song birds has always been the Baltimore Oriole. I don’t know if I like them because I grew up watching and playing baseball and the Baltimore Orioles were a team and one of the most popular players in baseball, Cal Ripken Jr., played on that team but that is certainly possible.

Baltimore Orioles are probably one of the more well known species of birds again probably owing to the popularity of professional baseball. I think that leads them to be underappreciated. Baltimore Orioles are one of the most brilliantly colored birds in the region. Their bright orange contrasting with their stark black.

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Grosbeak perch

I love nature. I enjoy nature in a wide variety of ways. One activity I really enjoy is watching birds. As someone whose always loved animals and been a science nerd simply observing bird behavior is endlessly fascinating and entertaining.

As a photographer, creating photography of birds is enjoyable and challenging. More so than any other animal birds have the ability to appear one second and be gone the next. That lends itself to the enjoyment, the challenge, and the satisfaction of photographing birds.

As a photographer that creates nature photography but does not specialize primarily in bird photography it can be quite difficult and frustrating to capture images of all the different types of birds I see let alone all of the different birds I would like to photograph but have not even seen in person.

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A big part of creating great photographs is simply being in the right place at the right time. As a photographer you can play a big role in this by just choosing to be present. But everything is not always in your control. This is especially true when photographing wildlife.

For several days now I have been watching as Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks have been visiting our bird feeders. I don’t often see Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks and I was anxious to have an opportunity to photograph them. I was struggling to find a chance to photograph the birds. When the weather was nice I did’t have time and when I had time the weather didn’t cooperate.

Looking up at a black capped chickadee perched on a branch of an oak tree in the finger lakes region of upstate, New York.
Black-Capped Chickadee | Birding | Upstate, NY
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I do fun, for me, strange, crazy, weird things. I do things that other people might not want to do or see the value in doing. I do them for many reasons. One reason I do them is because it allows me to enjoy nature in a way you just cannot enjoy nature in any other way.

When you spend over ten hours out in nature moving across this landscape on your feet you appreciate nature in a way you can’t when engaging it in different ways. You appreciate all the stones, the roots, and the thorns. You appreciate the mud and muck and stream crossings. OK. Maybe appreciate isn’t the right word for those things.

Finger Lakes Trail Stream Crossing
Stream crossing along the Finger Lakes Trail.

But what happens is you experience nature. You don’t just see nature. Seeing nature is great, but experiencing nature is just another level. When you spend that much time out in nature you see things a little differently. I like how my mind shifts when I am out there.

This different way of experiencing nature helps me to appreciate nature better. It helps me to think about nature more. It helps me to be a better artist. It helps me to be more creative.

Taking the time to get out in the woods on a virtual 50k like the Aravaipa Strong race gives me time to reflect and work on my craft in ways I can’t at other times.

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