Category Archives: wildlife

Osprey Series

I was sitting at the lake doing some writing and I heard osprey calling off in the distance. I looked around but didn’t see anything. Eventually I saw this osprey perched in a tree across the park. I was able to walk over and capture a series of photos of the osprey perched and then as the osprey took took off and flew away over the trees. The photographs are nice and sharp unfortunately the background is drab. It was overcast and cloudy most of the time. I do really like how the light shines through the tail feathers.

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Drone Photography

In march of last year I began writing this article after reading another interesting article in National Geographic. The article was related to the use of drones. There had been a lot of coverage about the United States use of drones at that time and it all sparked an idea in me. Unfortunately the article got shelved while I started working on other projects. The article I was writing was from a theoretical point of view, but now it appears it is reality. So read this short article and then check out the real deal.

As I was reading an article in the March 2013 National Geographic magazine I had to stop as inspiration for this article struck. The article was about drones, which are a controversial topic. Drones hold a lot of potential, potential for good and ill. I prefer to see the potential for good.
As a wildlife and nature photographer I began to imagine the possibilities which were hinted at in the article. 
The possibilities for documenting wildlife, habitats, and behaviors that are currently difficult to observe in the wild are unimaginable. As this technology improves there is so much that could be done. 
I first thought of wildlife specials like big cat diary in Animal planet. Forget trying to navigate the savanna in jeeps with break downs and slow moving over rugged terrain. Simply send out a drone and follow the wildlife and zoom in or fly down to get images of the behaviors you are trying to study. 
Trying to fund a radio collared animal to continue a study? Send out a drone to home in on the signal and send the coordinates back to you. Perhaps even anesthetize the animal via drone. We can launch attacks via drone a tranquilizer should be comparatively simple. 
The article alludes to a spy drone designed to look like a hummingbird. Imagine the possibilities of being able to infiltrate animal habitats completely camouflaged as an element naturally occurring in the environment. Currently this is often done by getting up extremely early and staying in a hide for extremely long hours for days on end waiting to observe behaviors often in inhospitable environments. Imagine being able to accomplish this from the comfort of a lodge. This technology could even reduce any impact caused by our attempts to document animals.
The downside to this technology is it would remove us from the amazing experience of seeing the wildlife in person. I don’t think there is anything in the world that can replace the feeling of experiencing wildlife first hand and I believe that feeling and the associated emotions are critical for protecting and conserving our wildlife and their habitats but I think there are clearly situations where the use of technology would be preferential as a way to get better data as well as protecting wildlife and habitats from increased stresses. 
To see my speculations come to life check out Will Burrard-Lucas (http://www.burrard-lucas.com/), a professional wildlife photographer from the UK who uses innovative tools such as BeetleCam and now BeetleCopter to gain unusual perspectives. This seems to be drone photography as I imagined it come to life. I am excited to see where this will go.
You can also check out my photography at krnaturalphoto.photoshelter.com and follow me on social media at KRNaturalPhoto.

Appreciation

I was going through some of my old photos and came across this shot. This isn’t one pf the best photos I have taken but I like it because it reminds me of the interactions of nature and an experience I had being able to watch the interaction take place.I think it is important to be able to appreciate our artwork for reasons other than technical quality or sale-ability and this image does that for me.

Redpolls and Flash Photography

I passively monitor biding issues and sightings locally by receiving email from a list serve set up by our local chapter of the Audubon Society. I read or at skim the emails as they come in to see if there is anything interesting going on in the area. Sometimes information that peaks my interest comes through. Recently there had been several emails sent out of people in the area reporting Redpolls in the area. I found this interesting because I had been fortunate in the past to see Redpolls for a short period of time where we currently live shortly after moving here. I had not seen them since, so I am always interested when hearing of an opportunity to see them again.
 

As I began to see an increasing number of reports on Redpoll sightings coming in I started to get hopeful that they would return to my feeders as well. I began to be more diligent about making sure there was seed in my feeders so that if they did show up they would find food and hopefully stick around instead of moving on.
 
One day I looked out the window at the feeders and quite unexpectedly saw that there was a Redpoll mingling with the other birds that are commonly seen at the feeders. A few days later I happen to look out at the feeders and saw there were now two Redpolls in the mix with the other birds at the feeders. This pair appeared a few more times over a few days.
 

I did not initially go out to photograph the individual that showed up or the pair I saw. I did not want to scare them off. I was hoping that the presence of the ones already here would draw in more individuals. I had read reports of large flocks of Redpolls and I was hoping for a large flock sighting of my own at my feeders.
 

One day I was on the phone with my dad and I noticed movement outside in the treetop where my feeder is. I walked towards the window to investigate, while talking, not really thinking much about it. When I got to the window I exclaimed to my dad that I had a huge flock of Redpolls in the tree. Now the flock probably wasn’t really huge by comparison to other sightings but it was certainly more than I had ever seen at one time and I was excited and I am sure I exaggerated due to my excitement.
 

I began to try counting the number of Redpolls in the flock but it was difficult. The flock was in constant motion. Every time I would get into it, they would move.  I could only confirm a count of 20 but there were clearly more than that present. I enjoy birding but I am by no means an expert. I have never really tried to count a large number of birds all at once.
Despite my challenges with counting the birds this is the opportunity I had been waiting for. I wanted to get out there and take some photos. However, my gear was all packed up as I had not used it recently and this being upstate NY in the middle of Winter with several inches of snow on the ground, it required me to scramble around to dress quickly in boots, coat, gloves, and hat. Once I was geared up I quietly went out the side door as opposed to the door leading directly to the location of the flock because I didn’t want to scare them off. As I cautiously moved around the house to where I had seen the flock, they were nowhere to be found. This was clearly a disappointment.

I went back in the house, but this time I kept all the needed gear in easy reach in hopes that the flock would return. As luck would have it my hopefulness and preparedness this time was rewarded. After a few hours, I looked out the window and saw that there were once again Redpolls at the feeders. It was not as big a flock as before but it was still a significant number. I decided against wasting time trying to count them and immediately got dressed and snatched up my camera and went out seeking photos of these elusive birds.
 

In this region of upstate NY in the winter it hasn’t been sunny very often. The sky is often overcast and gloomy. There has not been much nice light for photography. For my photography, I prefer to use natural light whenever possible, as probably most photographers do. While the light was sufficient to get at least decent photographs, I decided to go against my instinct stick with all-natural lighting photography because I thought I could get better photos if I used a flash. My preference is to stick to the KISS philosophy, which was drilled into me at a young age. Keep It Simple Stupid. To me adding one more variable such as flash just complicates matters and increases the likelihood something will not work out quite right.
So there I stood watching the feeders as the Redpolls flitted about snatching up seed. These little buggers were not an easy subject. A few of the Redpolls were content to sit on the plat form feeder and eat for several seconds at a time so I snapped a few photos of that behavior as documentation type photos. However, that was not the photo I was after. I wanted photos of Redpolls perched on branches with the darker background of the woods in the background out of focus. I stood still and visually tracked individuals as they approached the feeder. They would flit from branch to branch getting progressively closer. I watched to see what path the Redpolls often took. I wanted to be able to anticipate where the Redpolls would land and be ready when they landed there. Sometimes I was spot on and got the shot and sometimes I was not ready or simply not fast enough and missed the shot. It was a fun experience to photograph this group of birds that I do not get to see often. I am hoping they will be back to provide me with another opportunity to learn their behavior and improve my ability to photograph them.

Best laid plans

As a wildlife and nature photographer sometimes what you plan to do and what you actually end up doing are two very different things.  As a wildlife and nature photographer I am very dependant on two things the weather and the wildlife itself.  These two factors can be researched, studied, and planned for but I will never be fully in control of them.

When I go out to take photos I generally go with a plan in mind about what I want to photograph and how and where I want to do it.  What I planned on doing today was photographing sunrise at the river.  I checked to see what the weather was predicted to be around sunrise today.  Partly cloudy with very little chance of rain.  I liked that forecast.  I like to have clouds in my sunrise and sunset photos.

So I planned what I would need to get the photos I wanted.  Tripod, check.  18-200mm zoom lens, check.  Three different levels of graduated ND filters, check.  Filter holder, check. 

I checked the location where I wanted to shoot and where the sun should rise in relation to where I’d be.  It looked like it would work out good. 

When I arrived at my location in the morning I was a little troubled.  There were thick clouds and thick fog in the sky.  Not even a glint of the sun was getting through.  The tripod, 18-200mm lens, and filters never even got unpacked.

 I had a backup plan.  I brought my 300mm, 1.4 teleconverter, and my 60mm macro lens.  I knew there were lots of great blue heron in this area so I would try to photograph them.  Unfortunately for me there was very little light.  I saw several great blue herons and green herons but they would not move to where I was.  When I tried to approach them I was unable to get within range of my lens without them moving off farther away.
Still I persisted.  Plan C: macro photography.  There were lots of wild flowers growing along the river.  So I turned my focus to photographing the flowers and the insects pollinating them.  I think I was still able to come away with some keepers despite my plans not working out quite the way I had planned.

Humans and Nature

For all the advancements and achievements our species has accomplished perhaps our biggest limitation is our inability to live in cooexistance with nature.  I am in some ways as guilty as any.  We are able to shape our world to meet our needs but we are unable or unwilling to preserve nature.  In our drive for advancement and “progress” we have driven multiple species to extinction and others to the very brink of that same fate.  Upon realizing our transgressions we have in some cases tried to preserve these species we almost eradicated by reintroducing them to areas they used to inhabbit before humans encroached on their land.  Perhaps the most famous example of this is the reintroduction of gray wolves to Yellowston National Park.  After all the hard work that has been done to resore this majestic species their fate has been left in the hands of the very groups that were responsible for their exterpation in the first place.  I do not understand why this path has beechosen for the wolf.  I also don’t understand how their fate can be left in the hands of those that have the most to gain from their destruction.

Environmental Concern

I have come to the sad realization that as a person that cares deeply about our environment and the animals that inhabbit it I have relatively little control over or say in what happens to it.  It is even worse to think that the companies that go about recklessly destroying our planet will be the only people that can afford to live here when needs such as clean air and water become scarce.  What will happen to the everyday person who cares about the environment and has taken steps to protect it?