Tag Archives: Estuary

Fox Kits: A Little Luck and a Bit of Field Craft

When I visit my favorite photography areas I usually do a bit of scouting after I’ve made the shots I planned for. Last winter I came across a fox den while scouting. I made some mental notes of the location with plans to revisit it in the spring. A few evenings ago I was photographing wild horses. The horses were being less than animated and, honestly, I already have thousands of images of wild horses with their heads down feeding. The clouds in the sky weren’t overly interesting and I didn’t see the prospect for good sunset shots being very high either. With those considerations in mind I decided to call it an evening and head back to my kayak. However, I thought I’d go a bit out of my way and see if there was any sign of activity around the fox den. Activity there was!

As I slowly and quietly moved into a position where I could get a peak at the fox den I noticed the outline of a hear with pointy little ears through the tall glass. Not only was it an active den the kits were outside! The problem was from my location I didn’t have a clear view of the den. The den was hidden behind tall grass. To make matters work the sun was directly behind the den. The only chance I’d have to get a shot would require repositioning myself for a view of the den. Now foxes have a reputation for being shy, evasive animals. In my experience it’s an accurate reputation. In order to get a shot I’d have to move into a position where there was no cover and do so without spooking the little foxes. I figured my odds were low but I just had to give it a try.

First I noted the wind direction and plotted a course that would keep me down wind of the den. I looked at the route and could see that I would be out of view of the foxes… unless they moved up on top of the dune above their den. I set a goal of the to of a small dune about 150 or 200 feet from the den that would give me a clear view of the foxes. Upon reaching the spot I was a bit surprised to see the foxes were still outside the den. One stared intently at me as I sat very, very still. After what seemed like a long, cold stare the little mammal went back to business. For the next forty-five minutes to an hour I’d take a few shots, push my tripod and camera a foot or so in front of me, scoot up behind it and take a few more shots. Slowly I inched closer and closer to the kits. I managed to work within about one-hundred feet of the little guys before that light became too dim to shoot.

I’m a little surprised that I was able to get that close to these wild animals. I wasn’t inside a blind nor was I wearing camo. My clothes were earth tones but foxes, like other canidae, are color blind. The two things I had working in my favor was wind direction and the fact that the sun was directly behind me. Try looking directly into a low, setting sun and you’ll understand how difficult that can make things. I’ll check these images up to a small dose of apply field skills and a big helping of luck.

Wild fox kit in front of its den.

Fox kit on the Outer Bands

Foxe kits on the North Carolina coast.

A pair of young foxes in front of their den along the NC coast.

Fox kts.

Wild foxes at the Rachel Carson Estuarine Reserve

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They Grow-up So Fast

I still remember the excitement of that day. I had heard there was a new foal living in the Rachel Carson Estuarine Reserve and was on my second trip to try to get some photos of her. There she was, standing next to her mother. Seemingly so small and fragile, yet elegant and beautiful at the same time. That was in August of last year. I also remember how thrilled the participants of my wild horse workshop were to get to see and photographer last April & May. She was still small, impish and cute. Last week I was photographing a lovely little filly. It took a few minutes before I realized it was this same little youngster. She’s not exactly all grown-up yet, but she’s certainly anything but small, fragile and delicate. What they say is so true. They grow up so fast. Here are a few photos of the youngest wild horse living in the Rachel Carson Estuarine Reserve. I hope you enjoy them.

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Wild Horse of the Carolina coast.

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Wild Horses Clash: Drama on the Tidal Flats

When most people think of a wild horse fight they visualize the horses standing on there rear legs, hooves flailing and teeth gnashing… (kind of like in the post below this one). But in reality it doesn’t always work that way. They can clash with all four feet planted firmly, well semi-planted, on the ground. The photos below show a clash between two dominate stallions on the tidal flats. During this scrimmage neither horse ever reared up. Still the action was intense with mud and water flying in the air.

During the editing process I quickly recognized that I wanted to use a contrasty black and white treatment for the first image. I desaturated the image in “Adobe Camera Raw,” then opened it with Photo Shop. Next I applied some “smart sharpening” then used the NIK “define” plugin to tame down the noise a bit. Next I used the “detail extractor” in the NIK Color Efex Pro 4. I then zoomed in to do some dodging and burning by hand to create the look I wanted. The final step was to create a duplicate layer in “soft light” mode to add some “pop,” then adjust the opacity of that layer to taste. I then decided I wanted to do a series, selected the next two images and used the same workflow to maintain a consistent look between the three photos.

Wild horses clash in a vicious battle on the tidal flats along the North Carolina coast

Fighitng wild stallions, North Carolina Outer Banks

Wild horses of the Outer Banks

Posted in Banker Horses, Education, General Photography, Natural History in the Carolinas, Nature Photography, Photo Tip, Wild Horses, Wildlife Photography Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Wild Horses in Black & White

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.

An intimate portrait of a wild horse.

Wild horse of the Carolina coast.

North Carolina wild horse in black & white

Detail shot of a wild mustang in black & white.

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One More Shorebird – a Willet

It’s a rainy morning along the coast of North Carolina. I supposed I could suck it up and head out to try and make some images anyway, but I’m going to wimp out and stay inside instead! While raining days can make for some great photographic opportunities… and the dampness can help quiet your movements in the forest… I’m simply not in the mood to deal with rain today Instead I think I’ll share a few photos from an outing a few days ago, then work on a bit of marketing. Nice “high and dry” activities.

Today’s image offerings are of a Willet taken within the Rachel Carson Estuarine Reserve. As is often the case with my shorebird photographs, I took these images from my kayak. I like using the kayak for making these kinds of photographs because the birds are sometimes more tolerant of an approach from the water.

Willet at the mouth of Deep Creek and Taylors Creek, Beaufort, North Carolina

A classic Willet pose, one of the more common shorebirds found along the North Carolina coast.
Willet, Crystal Coast North Carolina.

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Greater Yellowlegs

I enjoy finding these birds when I’m out doing shorebird photography from kayak. One of the larger shorebirds, these are migrants. They travel to Canada for breeding in the Spring then winter in warmer climates… including the North Carolina coast. A somewhat similar looking and named bird, the Lesser Yellowlegs, is difficult to tell apart unless you find them together. The Greater is larger, has a slightly upturned bill that tends to be blue-gray near its base.

For shorebird photography I like to work from my kayak. Even though I’m approaching from the water, these birds can be a little skittish… ok, most shore birds can be a bit skittish… so a slow, careful approach is called for. The best bet is if you can let the wind and/or current drift you into camera range. If you need to paddle you need to keep the paddle movement to a minimum. Don’t make a direct approach of the bird is bound to take to wing.

Making photographs of small shorebirds from a kayak requires a long lens and hand holding rather than using a nice, sturdy tripod. The combination of a telephoto lens and hand holding the camera sets up a bit of risk of camera shake and motion blur. The trick is to keep the shutter speed fast to minimize the effects of this problem.

Greater Yellowlegs at Rachel Carson Estuarine Reserve.

Posted in Avian Photography, General Photography, Natural History in the Carolinas, Nature Photography, Photo Tip, Uncategorized Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , |

Terns in Flight

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.

Tern in flight over the Rachel Carson Estuarine Reserve

Tern in flight shot with a Canon 7D

Tern in flignt near Beaufort, NC

Tern in flight

wildlife prints

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Wild Horses on a Carolina Summer Evening

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.

Wild Horse on the Carolina Coast

Wild Horses of the Crystal Coast

Wild stallion on the North Carolina coast

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Summer Time and the Horses are Easy

Well, not really easy but I was having a hard time coming up with a title for this post. I figured what the heck, why not a play on lyrics. During the “dog days of summer” the horses get a bit less rowdy… conserving energy and hydration I imagine. There are fewer opportunities for shots of them with their heads up or of them fighting. Still, there are plenty of photo opportunities with these beautiful animals. Just a friendly reminder if you decide to visit the horses, regulations require you stay at least 50 feet away from the horses. I wouldn’t want to see you get in trouble or, worse yet, and injury occur to you or one of the horses.

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Posted in Banker Horses, General Photography, Natural History in the Carolinas, Nature Photography, Wild Horses, Wildlife Photography Also tagged , , , , , , , , , |

Something Fun!

I don’t normally do composite images. There’s a place for that kind of art but it’s really not my thing. However, on a rainy Sunday morning it was something fun to play around with. Here’s a look at the results.

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