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
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.
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.
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.
I was taking a walk along a fire control road in the Croatan National Forest yesterday. Primarily I was doing a little scouting for signs of Whitetail deer or Black bear with thoughts of doing some big game photography in the near future. However, since I was noticing quite a few birds I set my camera up appropriately but adding a flash. I figured if a bird presented its self in the shadows I could flip the flash on for a bit of added light. A little bit into my hike this Northern Flicker perched fairly close to me and not extremely high up. I turned on the flash and fired a couple of frames before this lovely bird decided to move on. I hope you enjoy the photos.
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 couple of weeks ago I shot a beach portrait session for a lovely family. I came home that evening and downloaded the images from the session. The next day I went to use that camera for another project only to find it was dead! It simply would not power-up. I tried exchanging batteries, cleaning lens contacts and all the other little simple things that can sometimes resolve these kinds of issues. But nothing worked. That left me with a decision to make: Repair or replace. And older model in my mind replace was the best option. So I decided to pick-up a lightly used Canon 7D from Adorama.com. The images below are the first of the horses I’ve made with this camera.
The weather broke a bit late this afternoon so I decided to venture out and see if I could find something interesting to photograph. The skies were still threatening a bit so I decided to stick to the car and explore some forest roads. That type of outing is always a bit hit or miss… with miss being the most common. I got lucky and notice a Rough Green Snake in the middle of the forest road. While they’re probably common enough their bright green color makes them very difficult to find when in vegetation. They are generally fairly tolerant of close contact with humans, seldom if ever bite so I decided to take advantage of those tendencies and used a macro lens combined with a 1.4x teleconverter and, eventually, an extension tube. For some of these shots the front of my lens was probably within 3 inches or so of the snake’s face.
I got up early yesterday morning, planning on looking for some macro shots in the Croatan National Forest. Before I could set-up my first shot the skies started darkening and then opened up with a down pour. Considering the weather, I decided to spend some time scouting for new spots by driving a few forest roads I hadn’t explored before. On one road I came upon a fawn standing in the middle of the forest road. I’m not a fan of shooting out of a vehicle window. I prefer to get out in the field when making images. However I knew if I opened the door and stepped out the fawn would be gone. Being too good of an opportunity not to take advantage of, I took a few shots, eased the car forward and took a few more. After my second move forward that fawn was joined by it’s mother, providing a wonderful “Bambi & Mother” photo op. I kept working closer and closer to the pair and eventually, of course, they headed off into the woods.
Continuing my exploration I headed on down the road to it’s termination. I swung the car around and headed back out the way I came. Much to my surprise and delight I spotted another deer standing in the road. I swallowed my “shooting out the window of a vehicle isn’t real nature photography” attitude once again and hung the camera out the window. As I shot and crept in closer two more whitetails joined their friend on the road. The watched me, fed a bit, watched me some more and eventually moved casually into the forest. Come fall I have a good idea of where to do some “real nature photography” and set-up a portable stand for some whitetail deer photography.
Usually when I want to take close-up photos of plants and flowers I reach from my trusty 100mm macro lens. But recently I decided to play around with doing some close-up work with a wide angle zoom. Instead of mounting my macro lens I reached in my bag and pulled out my Tokina 12-24mm wild angle lens for the job. This lens has a very short minimal focus length allowing me to get a reasonably sized image of the subject. In the case of the images shown below the front of element of the lens was probably only 3 or 4 inches away from the subject…AT MOST! The disadvantage of this lens choice is that you have to work much closer to the subject than if using a longer lens. Honestly, I frequently use a 1.4x teleconverter with my macro lens to either allow even greater magnification or to allow me to work from further away. There is an advantage to using the wild angle lens for close-up work though. The perspective is quite different using this lens when compared to that of a longer lens. Below are the results of this endeavor. I hope you enjoy them.