Saturday, May 17, 2014

Pileated Woodpecker Leaving the Nest

I have wanted this picture for a long time. Pileated Woodpeckers aren't so easy to photograph in most places, they keep their distance. Out back of our home they are very timid. I found this nest in a dead pine and have been sitting on it on and off for a couple of weeks.

One of the first principles of wildlife photography is to "first observe". You have to spend the time patterning your subject. I have 12 hours or so on this bird collecting clues about how to get the picture.

It is clear now this nesting female is feeding her brood. Today I watched her for an hour and a half. At about the 1 hour point I finally timed her correctly leaving the nest. Images like this take a lot of time to get a chance. Because everything happens so fast, I missed this a couple of times.

It is always lucky to get this kind of picture. Time and determination are rewarded. Early in the shoot I caught her half way out of the nest. Never give up, results come to grinders.

Pileated Woodpecker, Ponca Wilderness
Pileated Woodpecker, Ponca Wilderness

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Nesting Pileated Woodpecker

This picture could be better, but it is one I have spent quite a bit of time getting. This pileated woodpecker built a nest out back in a dead pine tree. I spent at least 5 sessions sitting waiting for any decent picture. It seems like any time I would look away this bird would fly off. 

Things have changed now. I think there are babies and she comes back rather than flying away and staying away. This morning I finally got the picture. I will be working this nest for a while now. 

Pileated Woodpecker at Nest

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

5/7/14 Elk Viewing Report -- Heat Causing Mid Summer Pattern Now

This morning there were a lot of elk in Boxley Valley when I drove through at 6AM. There was a herd bedded down close to the Ponca Access, a second bull herd at the 43/21 intersection, a 3rd in the Smith Creek Field, and a 4th by the Upper Wilderness trail head.

Here's the bad news. By 7AM, most of the elk were gone, headed for cooler ground under cover. This is the classic summer pattern that leads people to think there are no elk in Boxley Valley in the summer.  If you want to see them, they will be there very early in the morning most reliably. Today they were heading for cover at 6:30 AM.

Interesting note that the bull elk now have velvet antlers about 6 inches long.

The next big thing on the annual elk calendar is the birth of calf elk starting in June. That will be my next report on the elk, otherwise, you can see them most every day now very early in the morning, and possibly late evening. Cooler weather will extend viewing. Rainy weather also brings them out.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Dogwood Bough at Sunset

The dogwood season is now just past peak. There are plenty of great trees left, but the early bloomers are now declining by the day.

I shot this on my trek out back to a pileated woodpecker nest. Like so may other photos, I go out for one thing, and get another. Think about chasing the angular light at the ends of the day.  I am real happy with this dogwood image, but like most every image, it is something given more than something taken.

Dogwood at Sunset
Dogwood at Sunset in Cross Light

Saturday, May 3, 2014

The Chase

This was taken the moment the male hummingbird jumped off the limb as he was chased off by the female. This happens all day long. Very hard to single out and capture.

The Chase

The Moment of Attack

An impossible shot. All it took was observation, a couple of hours and over 1,000 frames. Very happy with this image. This happens so fast it is impossible to observe with the naked eye. What you are shooting at is the percentage, knowing that the conditions and the signals of the perched bird point to it.

A lot is made of fancy rigs to get these pictures. Usually complex flash setups and the like. I shoot these hand held at ISO 1,250 and F8 or F13 if there is enough light at 400mm. I like to have the exposure around 1/2,000 of a second. I take test shots for exposure, often settling at 1 stop over exposure. I don't like flash because it washes out nuance. To me the animation of this photo by shadow is part of its appeal. If flashed, it would be relatively flat.

The Moment of Attack

Locked and Loaded Hummingbird

Something different. When hummers are getting ready to fight, tail flares are the standard move.  I shot this one intentionally as a silhouette in direct backlighting without exposure compensation, roughly +2 stops.  Anyway, I like the effect, and I like to take it to black and white with the contrast kicked up, and a blue filter to improve the sky.

Ruby Throated Hummingbird
Try Black and White Hummer Photos

Friday, May 2, 2014

Columbines are Blossoming

Columbines are one of the stars of the annual wildflower bloom in Buffalo River county. They are going strong in Lost Valley and elsewhere along creeks feeding into the Buffalo.  In Lost Valley the big bloom is by the Natural Bridge. They also border Eden Falls, but they are much easier to photograph at the Natural Bridge.

Columbine Wildflowers
Columbines at Lost Valley

Dogwood Photography Tips

There are lots of ways to interpret dogwood trees and their blooms. Your imagination is the limit really. Here are some random thoughts on what you might do to step out from the ordinary dogwood photo.  Remember these white blooms are prone to over-exposure and the loss of all texture. I like to underexpose, then bring back the brightness in post-processing. 

dogwood tree
Ordinary but Photographed in Cutting Evening Light
Isolate Single Blooms for Impact

Why Not Bottom Shots? 

Explore Backlight, Bokeh, & Natural Frames

Dogwood Trees are at Peak -- Time to Visit

We are fortunate. Our land that borders the Ponca Wilderness is covered with dogwood trees. I would estimate we have at least 50-70, but there could be more. They are at peak bloom now.

My hike today in Lost Valley, and here around our land showed the very early signs of a petal drop. Not sure how much longer they will last, but if you want to visit to see the dogwoods, now is the time. The first big thunderstorm could really knock them down as they enter the end of their blooming period.

white dogwood bloom
Dogwoods at Peak, Get Here Now

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Fun With Hummingbird Photography

These photos are challenging with a lot of misses, but the cool thing is that you get photos that are impossible to time. That is what I am going for. Note that in the second photo, the perched male hummingbird's tail is fanned out. He knows the attack is coming. He vanished in an instant, gone in the very next frame, replaced by the female. 

As you learn a new subject, you find the compositions that please you. For me multiple hummingbirds in one photo are that preferred compo, ideally with one or both birds flying. I much prefer the first and second photos below, and especially the second because the two subjects are connected by the attack.

Ruby Throated Hummingbirds

Ruby Throated Hummingbirds

Ruby Throated Hummingbirds