That time of year

It looks like it is finally that time of year.  The time of year of which I speak is the time of year when raptors that migrate south for the winter begin to return to the north east United States.  This is one of my favorite times of year.  One of my favorite and most sought after subjects for my photography are birds of prey.

Over the past few weeks the broad winged hawks that are normally active in our woods have returned.  I can year their calls on a fairly regular basis.  Their familiar screech is quite noticeable out in the country when there are few other sounds.  I have seen them circling the woods, streaking over my house, and soaring high overhead.  I have been fortunate enough to see multiple broad wings flying through the same patch of sky.  Hopefully one pair will choose our woods to nest in.

There are generally bald eagles to be seen in this area as well.  Last week I saw my first bald eagle of the spring season as I was driving down the highway on my way home.  They are often seen over the highway because it intersects so many waterways in the area.

Today I saw my first osprey of the year.  I was so excited to see one that I took a detour from my original drive home route so that I could watch it longer and maybe observe some hunting behavior.  I drove over the bridge to cross the river watching the osprey all the while.  I saw it raise up and hover in one spot while it rapidly flapped its wings.  This is sometimes a sign it has spotted some prey and is about to dive down into the water to catch it.  I was not able to keep the osprey in sight long enough to see if it dove for prey.

In Pursuit of Dreams

About 6 months ago I began a new job. I was really looking forward to it. It was a big improvement from my previous jobs. The pay was excellent compared to my previous jobs.  So that was a big upside especially in this economic climate.

Over the years I have been pursuing furthering my education in the field of psychology. My bachelor’s degree allowed me to get this new job. I recently earned my masters is sport psychology. It has been a goal of mine to become a psychology professor at a university. To have a legitimate opportunity to obtain such a position I need to earn my PhD. So I began this process shortly before starting this new job.

Also over the past ten years I have been becoming increasingly involved in photography.  I finally reached the level of competence where I thought I could begin to pursue photography professionally, at least part time.  As I build myself up as a professional photographer it requires an increasing amount of time to present the type of work a professional would present.  I need to work on expanding my subject list, continually perfecting my technique, writing articles to accompany my photographs, and submitting them to editors.

So as I began this new job a lot of thoughts began to flow through my mind.  This job pays well with increases yearly.  There are great health insurance benefits.  There are good retirement benefits.  There is stability.  All of these things maybe close to or better than I would have with careers as a professor or photographer.

I began to wonder, why am I killing myself to work full time, and pursue my PhD, and become a professional photographer?  Should I be content with what I already have?  Is it worth my time and effort to pursue these other career options if they are not going to get me to any better a position than I am already in?

I have found out recently that it is worth my effort to pursue these goals.  After working for nearly six months I know that this is not the job I want for the rest of my life.  I still dread going to bed each night because I will have to wake up and go to work.  My job may be comfortable but it does not captivate me.  I desire a job that I look forward to every day of my life.  I think that is what I will have with a career as a professor or photographer.  I am willing to get up early in the morning and stand in the freezing cold to get that shot.  I am willing to write a twenty page paper to earn that next degree.  The job I have now is something I fell into.  I did not strive for it.  I will embrace the job as a stepping stone on the way to achieving my dreams.

Dogs and dog shows

I love to photograph my dogs but I cannot possibly live with one of every breed of dog that I like.  So to fulfill my desire to photograph more breeds of dogs than just the ones that I am lucky enough to live my life with I keep my eyes open for opportunities to photograph other dogs.  I may not be out looking specifically to photograph dogs but if I see one while I am out I may stop and photograph it quickly if the opportunity presents itself.  I have photographed dogs at local parks that I have happened to come across.  I have photographed dogs while on vacation in Bar Harbor, Maine.  Some of which were on vacation themselves.  I have even stopped my car while driving down the road and rolled down my window to photograph a dog that was walking down a local street alone as it passed by me.

Other times go out looking specifically for opportunities to photograph lots of dogs.  I have attended a few dog shows and photographed the dogs there.  I intend to attend more of them in the future.  It is an amazing experience for me.  I love to see all the dogs and I can combine my love of photography with my love of dogs.  It’s great fun!  It’s amazing to see so many dogs in one place at one time.  It is also great to see so many different breeds of dogs in person.  I enjoy watching the show dogs competing for best in show, but I think my favorite part is watching the dogs compete in agility competition.  For me that truly exhibits what dogs are really about.  The dogs look so remarkable.  The show dogs all done up to the max with perfect grooming and the agility dogs are perfect examples of maneuverability and grace.  I can’t imagine the work it must take to compete in either the agility or show portions.  There are other types of dog competitions I would like to watch as well. 
I tend to gravitate to the medium and larger breed dogs as that is what I prefer for myself as companions.  I have seen amazing representatives of Bernese Mountain Dogs, which my wife introduced me to, and we are fortunate to share our home with two Berners.
It is great to see entire show rings full of enormous dogs.  It is also interesting to see the variation within the breeds themselves in what the dogs look like.  You can see representation of all the variety of coat colors as well as differentiation in how the coat patterns are displayed in each dog. 

   When I used to think about agility compatitions I generally thought of border collies and austrailian shepherds and similar dogs participating in these competitions.  To my surprise I saw all types of dogs competing and enjoying it.  There were Dalmatians, Collies, Doberman Pinschers, Rottweiler, as well as Australian Sheppard’s among others competing.  It was quite a variety.  I could go on and on about dogs and dog shows but I won’t for now.  Perhaps in another post.

Different, but good.

Today has been a different kind of day for me.  Different but in a good way.  I live in upstate NY where for the first time all winter we are getting a significant snow storm.  I personally love the snow and do not have much problem dealing with it.  However, I have a one hour commute each way to and from work.  So I decided that it was not worth the risk to make that drive in the bad weather.  At first I felt guilty.  But I decided to make the best of it.

I got my gear together and I went outside and photographed the birds in my backyard in the snow.  I was quite fortunate.  There were many birds around today.  I wasn’t sure if there would be a lot out or if they would be taking shelter from the storm.  I was able to photograph black capped chickadees, tufted titmice, dark eyed juncos, white breasted nuthatches, and what are quickly becoming one of my favorite little buffers red breasted nuthatches.  I have become fond of the red breasted nuthatch because I had already been fond of the white breasted nuthatches and the red breasted variety seldom showed up in my yard.  This winter however I have been seeing them on a fairly regular basis and got my first photograph of one this year.  I was able to get quite a few shots that I think are quite nice today.

Today as I was watching the birds and waiting for a good shot I thought to myself I don’t think I have ever seen more than one red breasted nuthatch in my yard at a time.  I didn’t really believe that there was only one that came to my feeders, but it lingered in my mind as a remote possibility.  Shortly after that train of thought had run its course through my mind lo and behold there were two red breasted nut hatches in the very tree I was standing in front of.  I certainly don’t know why there were two on this day and not on others.  Perhaps it was due to the snow storm and one that was farther away was attracted to my feeder instead of foraging.  I will never know, but I was very excited and fortunate.  I love to see the birds interact with each other especially same species birds.  This was my first opportunity to see interactions between two red breasted nuthatches.  I hope to continue to be so lucky.

For the Love of Dogs

While most of my photography centers around wildlife and nature I also love to photograph dogs.  I love dogs.  They are one of the passions in my life.  I have five wonderful furry companions that my wife and I share our lives with.  They are amazing creatures.  They each have their own personality.  They each have their own quirks.  There is no normal with my dogs.  They each have some oddity about them.  I greatly enjoy photographing them and I have been able to create some amazing images of them.  They each respond differently to my attempts to photograph them.  I simply watch them as they roam our yard and wait until I see something that I find interesting or that I think will make a nice image.  I try to get the dogs to ignore me.  I just move around the yard to get the light right and the right composition. 

Sometimes trying to get lost in the background and be invisible to my dogs does not always work.  Some times while I am photographing one dog another dog takes an interest in what I am doing and come over to start jumping on me or leaning on me and trying to get my attention. As you can probably imagine this can make creating a nice photograph a little more challenging.  So I usually have to take a break from the photographing and show some affection to the dog now seeking my attention or I may never get peace to create another image.  Sometimes it looks as if crouching down to get closer to eye level with the dog will create a nicer image.  However, I usually try to avoid this with my dogs since I do not try to pose or otherwise control them and for a very specific reason.  When one of my dogs particularly the one I am photographing sees me crouch down they instantly take more interest in me.  They usually will come running to me even if they are laid out and completely relaxed.  While this may ruin the image I was trying to create it may, if I am lucky enough, allow me to capture a nice motion/action shot of the dog coming at me.

Fellow photographers don’t make the mistake I made.  There a lot of mistakes one can make as a photographer.  Some mistakes are made in the taking of the photo.  Other mistakes are made after the image is already created.  There are always was to avoid making mistake, but they invariably happen at some point.  It is critical to make sure mistakes do not become compounding.
When I started out in photography I concentrated on wildlife with some scenic landscape shots mixed in.  As I became more experienced I began to mix in other types of photography.  I began to photograph trees and flowers and insects.  As I did this I simply categorized them into broadly categorized folders of trees, flowers, and insects without regard to what species each individual was.  I did this because when I started out taking these types of photos I didn’t anticipate taking very many.  And I certainly didn’t envision a time or place where I would actually need to know what each species is.
Now I am in the process of beginning a career as a stock photographer.  My specialty is in wildlife and nature.  If I want to offer my services to editors I need a complete list of all the various subjects I have photographed.  Now because I had originally grouped all my photos of trees, flowers, and insects into broad categories I have to take on the daunting task of sorting through all of those photos.  I need to identify all the species I have photographed in those categories and create separate folders for all of them and move them to those folders.
My advice is whenever you take a photograph be meticulous in your categorization from the beginning.  Even if you don’t think you will ever have any need for it.  This will inevitably save you a headache in the long run.  Even if you never become a professional photographer it will still come in handy.  You will take great photos that you will want to share with friends and family.  If you have them meticulously categorized it will be fast and simple to find that photo and show it off.

Talking photography, dogs, and life.

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