Every spring North Carolina is blessed with a brilliantly beautiful song bird living near blackwater streams, creeks and swamps. With bright yellow feathers resembling those of a canary, accented by gray-black wings, the Prothonotary Warbler is easily overlooked in the dense areas where it lives. Unquestionably, this is one of my favorite little song birds and one I find difficult to get in front of my lens for quality photos. The images below are from today’s efforts. I hope you enjoy them.
Tag Archives: Croatan National Forest
Mother nature has been fairly cruel to me this year. If I have a personal day to make photo the weather is likely to either be wet, threatening or severely overcast. Today was no exception. I got up with plans to either visit the wild horses or to kayak up Cahooque Creek for some Prothonotary Warbler photographer. Neither seemed a good idea. Rather than being totally stymied I decided to take the jeep and drive to a location I know has some potential for warbler photography. With the sky overcast and the forest dark and thick I knew I wouldn’t be thrilled with the settings I’d have to use, but any image was better than no image. I was treated to observing a Black & White warbler, but he stayed too deep in the woods for a shot. I also got several looks at some Prothonotary Warblers and was lucky enough to get a couple of okay shots. Handheld, high ISO certainly didn’t combine for an image outstanding, but at least I got a couple shots.
When it comes to squirrels people either love them or hate them. Folks with bird feeders may see these quaint little rodents and thieving pests that are constantly stealing their bird food. Others find these creatures to be cute furry little animals. It’s all a matter of perspective. Personally, I kind of enjoy watching them. If you’re sitting in the forest, waiting on a deer, bear or whatever your target subject might be, squirrels can provide a great deal of entertainment. If you’ve ever sat in a blind for a few hours, waiting for your subject to present its self to your lens, you’ll understand the value of being entertained by small critters like squirrels.
A few mornings ago I had a spot staked out, waiting for a whitetail deer to present its self. Now mind you, I didn’t just walk out into the middle of the woods with no rhyme or reason, but I’m staking out a location I’ve scouted for signs of frequent deer travel. While waiting on a deer a couple of squirrels were kind enough to pose for me. Below are a couple of the resulting photos.
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.
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.
While it’s not the primary focus of my photography, I definitely have a love for shooting macro. When one sees a close-up photo of a flower or insect they usually assume it was shot using a macro lens. While that may be true in many instances, it’s not always the case. The shots below, for example, were taken with my “super-zoom,” the Sigma 50-500mm lens. This lens certainly has no close-focus capabilities and would not fit the criteria to be considered a “macro lens.” It is possible, however, to make some nice close-up shots of small critters and flora using a telephoto lens. The fact is these were opportunistic shots. I wasn’t actively pursuing butterfly shots but when the opportunity presented its self I wasn’t hesitant to take advantage of it. When out in nature you need to be observant and willing to make adjustments when photographic opportunities knock.
The title of the post pretty much says it all. I was working a forest road for interesting flora when I spotted this little guy perched on the head of a cattail. I just couldn’t resist making a few images of it. The lizard cooperated nicely and allowed me to approach closer than I expected. Of course I started making shots from a bit of distance then slowly worked closer and closer until my subject finally got tired of me and scurried on down the stalk and into cover. The temptation, of course, is always to move in nice and close from the beginning. That’s a really good way to end-up without an image to show for the effort. Slow, diligent movement while observing the animals reaction and alert level is the key to success regardless of the size of animal you’re attempting to photograph.
A few days ago I received a new camera. One of my primary bodies had died unexpectedly so I decided this might be a good time to try out a different body so I ordered a Canon 7D. Depending on who you ask this model is either a great camera or a noisy piece of junk. I’m not a “pixel peeper” and am well versed in how to show to reduce noise. I also have the knowledge and software to deal with a bit of noise if necessary. My first impression is that I’m going to be very happy with this camera. Only time will tell.