This morning I spent some time in the forest with little to show for the effort. The whitetail deer just were not cooperating. It happens. Seeing that my original plan wasn’t working out I made a shift in plans and headed to a spot on the river that almost always holds a few Mallard ducks. While this was almost like “shooting fish in a barrel,” it did provide a little tune-up for the approaching season. When shooting waterfowl it’s always a good idea to use a circular polarizing filter to cut down on reflections from the water. Of course, since I wasn’t planning on photographing ducks, I didn’t have the filter with me. Sometimes you just make do with what you have, apply your knowledge and skills and simply get to work. Plus there is a fairly decent polarization plug-in in the NIK suite. While I always prefer to get things right in the camera, the digital age gives us a lot of artistic options. So without further delay or explanation, I give you Mallard ducks.
Category Archives: Wildlife Photography
I made it out again this morning to see if I could get a few more photographs of whitetail deer. While the conditions were less than wonderful I was blessed with the opportunity to make images of three separate bucks. Two of them with really nice racks of antlers. The downside of the morning is that it started out as a very overcast morning, at times including drizzle and a smidgen or rain. Those conditions force the use of a higher ISO setting than one would really prefer, coupled with slower than optimal shutter speeds. Never the less we make the best of the conditions we have, or go home and veg-out on the couch. That second option just isn’t acceptable to me. So without further delay here are some whitetail images from this morning.
Car Blind? A Hot Topic
There’s a fairly busy discussion going on at one of the popular nature photography forums concerning “the best color for a car blind.” This seemingly innocent question actually opens the door to a few interesting insights into nature photography today. For example, what the heck is a car blind?
Many “nature photographers” spend a good deal of time taking photos out of their car or truck windows. Many, if not most National Wildlife Refuges have a road called “Wild Life Drive.” There are many drives in National Parks that are known for providing a lot of looks at wildlife (the Cades Cove Loop road in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park quickly comes to mind). Additionally, forest roads, state parks and even country roads may provide looks at wildlife and birds. So the vehicle you use to drive along these routes becomes your “car blind.”
Now you may be thinking, “it sounds like Bob has a little problem with this idea.” Well, yes and no. I’m as guilty as the next photographer of taking advantage of an opportunity if it presents its self. But usually when this happens it’s when I’m traveling from point A to point B and cross paths with a photo op. I really can’t fault anyone for taking the “car blind” approach, especially those with physical disabilities that make hiking, setting up a blind, etc. difficult or impossible. But there are draw-backs to this practice.
It should be obvious that the you’re going to see a lot of repetition of locations and point of view from the “car blind” crowd. After all, the use of the vehicle as your shooting platform limits the areas you can access and also dictates the shooting height of your photos. You’ll never get that nice, low perspective shooting out of a car or truck window.
The other disadvantage to this kind of approach to nature photography is the photographer isn’t really getting the true nature experience. There’s something special about spending time hiking along a trail or sitting for an hour or two in a hide that cannot be matched by restricting your outdoors adventure to the inside of your car. Plus the car-bound photographer isn’t getting the exercise that hiking through nature provides. A little walking is good for the heart, the mind and the entire body.
Perhaps I’ll tackle the question of what makes a good car blind in another post. Like I said, there’s nothing wrong with doing it. I just wanted to get people thinking a little about some of the advantages and draw-backs to using that as your primary nature photography method.
I rolled out of bed early yesterday morning and headed for the woods with the hope of getting a few photos of Whitetail Deer. Eastern North Carolina isn’t one of those places where one can easily find wildlife willing to pose for photos. We don’t have a national park close by where the wildlife has been habituated to humans. Instead we have acres and acres of dense forest where every fall hunters armed with bow & arrow, muzzle loading rifles and modern firearms go hunting. When your impression of humans is that of a creature that hurls arrows and lead in your direction, standing pretty for a photo isn’t something you’re likely to do.
That’s not to say you can never get lucky and find a deer or two standing out in the open that you can get a photo of, but it’s a bit rare. There are also a few locations… “safe zones” if you will where you’re odds of getting in camera range is a bit better than it is in the National forest or National Wildlife Refuge. It pays to develop a bit of knowledge about the area you live in and the animals you wish to photograph.
Lately I’ve really been enjoying doing intimate crops of the wild horses. I especially find myself trying to make the eye the primary focus of the photo. Of course, in this case,” close-up” may be a good term for the image but it certainly isn’t accurate about how the photo was made. By using a “super-telephoto” lens it’s possible to make intimate portraits of these beautiful animals without getting too close to the horse.
I’ve also found my love for black & white imagery reinvigorated recently. Years before the digital photography age I had a love affair with black & white film. Grain, the noise of the film days, was considered a nice artistic addition to a good mono-tone photo. One of the nice things about digital photography is that every image can be both a black & white photo and a color shot. It’s all done in post processing. If you look at a number of different photographer’s work in black & white of similar subjects you’ll notice there will be differences. Some subtle. Some extreme. It’s simply a matter of the photographers expressing their artistic tastes. Here are my most recent takes on black & white equine fine art photography.
Anyone that’s picked-up a camera equipped with a long telephoto lens to pursue making images of shore birds probably has a few stories to tell about their encounters with Belted Kingfishers. These handsome little birds are small, fast and ever so camera shy. For many avian photographers they are considered a “nemesis species,” a bird that’s really tough to get in front of the lens. I’ll readily confess that my success with these little guys is less than great. Count me among those that have been heard saying, “any photo of a Belted Kingfisher is a good photo of a Belted Kingfisher.” I got lucky this morning and managed to get within camera range in my kayak and squeeze off a few snaps of the shutter before my subject took to wing. Are these the best photos of a Kingfisher I’ve seen? Not by a long shot. But hey, they’re Kingfisher photos… so they’re good, right?
There are few things as beautiful and graceful as a horse in motion. Expressing that motion in a photograph can be a little tricky. You can choose to pan along with the motion, blurring the background behind the animal. Sometimes the motion will be apparent, especially with an animal like a horse that has a flowing mane. Another though less used option is to allow some motion blur in the subject. Many modern viewers will not appreciate an image in which the subject is blurred. But I think it can add a feeling of great energy and motion. Take a look through this series of images and decide for yourself.
I made a trip over to the reserve this morning to visit and photograph the wild horses. There was just the slightest hint of autumn coolness in the air. Certainly not cold nor crisp, but there was a hint of what autumn will soon be bringing to the coast. Here are a few quick work-ups from the morning. I had noticed a patch or two of fog on the drive into Beaufort but I was out of luck for any hopes of having some moody fog for my photos.
When I first arrived the majority of the horses were grouped together around the main watering hole, as if often the case in the early morning. But I didn’t have to wait too long until a few of the animals started to meander out onto the flats for some breakfast. I positioned myself to get the sun angle I wanted and to insure an uncluttered background. My concern about the sun position soon disappeared as some clouds moved in a provided in soft, even lighting.
I rolled out of bed and headed over to the Reserve for some wild horse photography Monday morning. It was a nice morning but sure got hot and humid quick. Here are a few shots from the morning.
Would you like to take wild horse photos like these? Find out how here.
A while back one of my camera bodies failed. Since it was getting a bit out-dated I decided to replace it with a newer Canon 7D. Of course I’m all too familiar with the internet chatter about this model being bad for noise and other pixel peeping short-comings but decided to buy one anyway. I haven’t used the camera enough to come to a concrete decision about how I like it but I do know it’s pretty dandy for shooting birds in flight. The auto-focus is quick and accurate, doing a good job of tracking birds, even those coming almost straight at the camera. With an 8 fps rapid fire mode it’s great for catching action. Here are a few shots of some terns in flight I took while on a recent paddle.