Yesterday's favorite image

As I am enjoying my retirement, I try to get outside shooting everyday, of course that depends greatly on the weather here in Iowa. Yesterday was a blustery day, then some precipitation, followed by some fog in the late afternoon and evening. I was out taking some fog images, but had to be back to pick-up Renee for a meeting around 5pm. As I pulled into the subdivision, I glanced to my left and saw a young buck (see image below) stepping out of the fog. He stopped, and so did I. There were several other deer in the open field to the left, but none of them had the fog behind them. As I lowered my window and raised my camera, the young buck looked directly at me, posing perfectly. I got off a few images with my Canon 80D, Av mode, ISO 800, f/5.6, 100-400mm II lens at 349mm, using spot metering. The image was only slightly cropped in Photoshop.

p.s. We still made it to the meeting on time.

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An example of the kindness of fellow Iowans

Today, I witnessed what it means to be a true Iowan. I was down at the Macbride Nature Center, photographing the creatures at the bird blind during this morning's snow storm. After about two hours and hundreds of images, I hiked back to the car and started to return home. There are two fairly large hills near the entrance to the center and my Camry decided to pause about 1/3 of the way up the first hill. No matter what I did, I was not going anywhere. A couple of gentlemen stopped and took me up to the maintenance shed to see if anyone was working. No such luck. I called a tow truck, but they were busy and it would be at least an hour or more. The gentlemen offered to wait around with me. After about twenty minutes, another pair of drivers started into the center, we stopped them, warning them about my car and the slick road. It turns out they were part of the volunteers that work at the nature center. One of them offered me a seat in their car and said I could wait with them until the plow driver or tow truck arrived. I thanked the original rescuers and moved into another vehicle so that they could get on their way. After about another thirty minutes, another volunteer arrived and he started plowing the road. We followed them to my car, where I was dropped off. Again, I thanked them for their time. I backed down about 25 feet, sliding into the plowed lane and was able to get up the hill and out of the area to the highway. This is exactly what it means to be an Iowan. 

These two images (below) were from this morning. the squirrel was really entertaining, with lots of praying for the snow to stop. The comb on the cardinal looked like it was frozen.

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Screaming Eagle

I had to run into Cedar Rapids today and when I was done, I swung by the roller dam. There were a few eagles flying, a lot sitting on the north bank. However, there was a couple of mature Bald Eagles not 75' from my location. I took several images as the sun peaked out from some low clouds about an hour before sunset. An immature eagle landed on the same branch as this eagle creating a little action. The mature eagle (see image below) started screeching, turned to face the immature one, and flapped its wings until the immature eagle flew off. This eagle continued screeching and displaying for a good 4 to 5 minutes, i.e. 40-50 images. I really like the way the sun was sets off his angry looking eye.

Canon 80D, 100-400mm II lens at 400mm (560mm equivalent), ISO 400, 1/5000 sec at f/5.6, hand held using the car as a blind. I did crop the image and reduced it to 4x6.

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Winter means snow

By living in Iowa, we are able to enjoy all of the seasons. I have always liked Winter, from snowshoeing, cross country skiing, hiking and of course, photography. However, I don't like the extreme temperatures and windchills well below zero that we had earlier this winter.

But I do like snow. Lots of snow. After the latest six inch snowfall, I headed outside for the fresh air, with extra batteries and warm hiking boots. What I found was the Cedar River at Sutliff Bridge open with plenty of small icebergs floating down (see image below). As I headed towards Palisades-Kepler State Park, I saw this curving path going up the hill in the snow. Where was it going? With the heavy clouds to the south, it looks like someone drove right off the top of the hill into the clouds (see 2nd image below). Not finding anything I wanted to photograph at Palisades, I headed to Lake Macbride State Park. There, I walked most of the dam to beach trail, after all, it was balmy 12 degrees outside. The last image is the trail at the boat dock, before I headed out towards the dam. A crystal clean snow, with sunny clear skies, cold temperatures; what more could someone who likes winter ask! I did not see anyone else out enjoying the latest winter snow, that was unfortunate.

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Natural Framing

What is natural framing - photograph something where there is framing within the photo. ... Examples: Photograph through a tunnel, an archway, under some tree branches, through a hole in a wall, through a hole in a seashell, looking out a door as long as the doorway is the frame or find something else that naturally frames your subject. This image of the eagle (see below) is an example of natural framing. I was driving down the river road when I spotted this eagle, as I slowly approached on foot, I saw that the tree branches make a natural frame. One that was impossible not to photograph. It would have made an even better photograph if the eagle was facing me and not the Cedar River. However, I waited until it turned towards the setting sun so that the eye was easy to focus on.

From Composition 101 by Liz Masoner

When composing a photograph, there are a variety of techniques employ. Basics like the rule of thirds and leading lines can make an impact and improve your pictures, as well a technique called "natural framing."

Composing a photo with a natural frame is a great way to direct the viewer's eye to your subject and add depth and dimension to the photo. It's a very easy technique to learn; you just have to know what to look for.

Understanding Natural Framing in Photography

A natural frame is created when you place a secondary object such as a tree or a door in the scene of a photograph so that it frames your main subject. It's really that easy and you have probably done it naturally yourself at some point.

Photographers use natural framing all the time to add drama to an image. For example:

  • A photo of a statue in a courtyard is more appealing if there is an ornately carved doorway leading you into the picture.
  • An outdoor portrait of a bride and groom on the veranda is more romantic with a few autumn leaves hanging softly in the upper corner.
  • A still life of a flower arrangement is more inviting when it's framed by the afternoon window light falling on the table.

A frame can be any object, shape or light that contrasts the rest of the image in some way that draws the viewer in, grabs their attention, and makes them see what you want them to see.

How to Frame Your Photographs

Learning how to frame your images requires practice in pre-visualization. You need to be able to look around your scene and figure out what can make the photo better. Just as you seek out the subject of your photo, you need to seek out the secondary elements that can back it up.

There are a few good rules to follow when adding a natural frame:

  • Frames are typically in the foreground and lead the viewer's eye to the main subject that is behind it. However, a frame may also be a shadow or shape on the wall behind your subject.
  • Decide if you want your frame to cover all sides of the photo or come in from just one or two sides. The doorway and leaf examples mentioned above are both great for their intended purposes.
  • Determine if you want your frame to be in sharp focus or soft and blurry. Both can be effective in different circumstances. Use f/stops to control the depth of field and achieve the desired effect.
  • Give your frame a distinct shape and make sure it looks like you intentionally placed it there. It should be easy to visually separate the frame from the rest of the photograph.
  • Avoid cluttering the photo. The intention is to make the frame stand out without becoming a distraction from the main subject.

Study professional photographs and pay attention to the natural frames those photographers used. What effect do they have? Did they direct your attention to the right place?

What Can Be Used as a Frame

Natural frames are found everywhere in the world. As you begin to practice this composition technique, you will see them all around you.

  • Natural Frames - Trees, branches, tall grass, flowers, rocks, and other elements in the natural world.
  • Architectural Frames - Windows, doorways, fence posts, benches, sidewalks, and other man-made elements.
  • Shadow and Light Frames - Light coming through a window, the glow of a flashlight or streetlamp, and other contrasts between shadow and light.
  • Shape Frames - This one's really fun because you have to look close to find them. For instance, look through a tire swing to take a portrait or use a portion of a public sculpture to frame the building behind it.
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Red-bellied woodpecker

I watched this red-bellied woodpecker (see image below) the other day, when the temperature was below zero, and I wondered how many trips it made to find enough food for it to survive one day. So I went online.

"On average, birds eat approximately 1/2 to 1/4 of their body weight every day. For example, a 2 lb. cardinal, a seed-eating bird, would consume approximately 1/2 to 1 lb. of seeds per day. While precisely how much seed is eaten varies by species, birds eat more in the winter than in the summer due to metabolic needs. For example, a sparrow can only survive 15 hours without food in 5 degree Fahrenheit conditions, but three days in warm summer conditions."

When I got home I immediately refilled my bird feeders.

Lock and Dam #14

I had an appointment in the Iowa City area on Wednesday that got done a lot quicker than I thought. I took advantage of my free time to drive about 70 minutes on I80 to Lock and Dam #14. When visiting with the nearly 40 photographers there on Tuesday, I was told that some people travel for 8 or 9 hours from all directions to photograph American Bald Eagles during January and February at this amazing site.

When the Great Lake Region becomes snow covered and the streams/rivers frozen, the eagles begin to migrate south in search of food. This migration generally begins mid December through the third week or so of February.

For photographers, Lock and Dam #14 offers a large public parking lot, restrooms, handicapped facilities, a long board walk to set up tripods. You will see the eagles fishing under the dam, which at times, seem almost in hands reach. With some patience, some super images can be taken with as little as a 200mm lens. Generally, a 300 to 800mm lens is used. The image (see below) was taken with the Canon 100-400mm II lens and a Canon 80D. I was able to find a spot on the boardwalk between a Nikon photographer with a 600mm lens and a person taking photos with their cell phone.

For the Bald Eagles, the river offers great Gizzard Shad fishing. This adult eagle was carrying lunch up and into one of the many trees that are located around the area. Just next to the parking lot, there is a Bald Eagle Sanctuary where the eagles can rest without people disturbing them. If you go, be sure to dress warm as the air off the Mississippi River can chill you quickly.

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Winter is the time to photograph eagles

I have always enjoyed watching and photographing the Bald eagle. Yesterday, I spent several hours driving along the Cedar River basin south of Cedar Rapids. My goal was to find an eagle sitting on the ice, enjoying a fresh "frozen fish" lunch. 

After about an hour, I saw an eagle in an opening thru the trees and quickly parked my car on the side of the gravel road trying not get stuck in the rapidly melting snow. Moving as slowly as possible so as not to attract any additional attention, the window was lowered. Sitting still for several more minutes I very slowly raised my camera, placing it on the bean bag. There was no one else around. No other noise, not even the wind. Focusing on an eye, I fire off one shot. The eagle turned and glared at me. From over one hundred yards away, it had to have heard the sound of the shutter. I quickly fired off several additional shots while it was staring at me (see image below).

Did I get an image of an eagle eating yesterday? No, not this time. But I did get to enjoy several minutes one on one with an American Bald eagle. About 15 minutes after I lowered the camera, the eagle looked around as if scouting the area, and flew off, heading up stream. Perhaps back to the convocation around the roller dam.


2018 First Blog posting

As my family and most of my friends know, the holidays are a difficult time for me.  My father died on Christmas Eve when I was a freshman in college, a few years ago. As I have aged, I seem to miss him more and more. It occurred to me recently, that I  have not had my father in my life for nearly 50 years.

With the recent cold spell we have "enjoyed" here in Iowa, I was getting antsy and needed to get outside with my camera. A couple of days ago, I charged the batteries on my 5D, bundled up and headed to Lake Macbride with the goal of catching a sunset. There were lots of animal trails in the snow from rabbits, squirrels, deer and even a pheasant. However, there was not a lot of human activity to be seen. I walked towards a popular fishing spot that poked out into the lake with a wide view towards the setting sun. The wind was blowing powdered snow in my face, the temperature was -8 degrees with a wind chill approaching -17 degrees. I had on three layers over most of my body in an attempt to keep warm as I walked the 3/4 miles to the lookout.

There were several blue sky openings along with several layers of clouds, so I was hopeful for some color in the sunset. As I waited, I noticed over twenty contrails in the sky, I guess Iowa really is "one of the fly-over states". The sun was sinking quickly. The sky was turning. As the sky became more colorful, I suddenly realized that the sadness in my heart was fading. It was than that I remembered how my father loved to be outside as the sun was sitting.

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Fall Colors 2017

Overall, the fall colors were not what I had hoped for. Fall is my favorite time for a NE Iowa road trip. This season's dull foliage can be blamed on the above-average September temperatures and dry weather in the Midwest. Both of Iowa's DNR and Foresters officers I spoke with forecasted a delay in peak leaf colors of up to two weeks, mostly muted foliage, and, in worst case, lots and lots of brown leaves that may or may not fall quickly.

Well, they were right. The hot temperatures in September caused leaves to continue to produce chlorophyll, the pigment that gives them their green color. Some of the leaves still changed colors, but they were not as bright and colorful as they've been in previous years, and many of them did drop sooner than usual.

I walk the trails around Lake Macbride as often as possible, and on one of my hikes, I carried my Canon 5D Mark IV camera and the 24-105mm lens, hoping to see some color. It was a beautiful day with mostly clear skies and a few high level clouds. In one of the coves with the sun off to the side, with the lake calm, a light wind, this image was one of the best of this year fall colors.

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My newest toy

I saw a car show video earlier this year where the president of Toyota introduced the new 2018 Camry. He talked for several minutes about the updated features and styling changes the new Camry would have and then they showed a marketing video of the different models available. When the video got to the XSE models, I knew I was hooked. My latest toy is the exact same model (including color) of the Camry that was in the video. The power of marketing.

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Fall leaves close-ups

Before retirement, Fall was a very busy time with many clients wanting to upgrade their computer hardware/software within the current tax year. That is not to say that retirement isn't also a busy time. I was fortunate to get out and walk some of forested areas of Allamakee, Johnson and Linn counties, on my annual "Hunt for Red October". As of today, there is not much red color. A few localized red maples had started to turn, but most leaves were already brown. I picked up a few colored leaves to bring home with the hope of shooting some 1:1 macro images (see images below). The delicate cell structures of these leaves make for some great abstract images. A few paragraphs on why we can and sometimes can not have successful "Hunt for Red October" follows.

As the weather turns cooler, the trees will once again put on their show of brightly colored leaves. Many weather factors play into how intense the colors will be and how long the vivid leaves will be around.

After the leaves are fully developed on trees, they begin making and storing the carbohydrates that will be needed for the new tree growth in the following year. As the season progresses, in late summer or early fall, the trees enter a growth process that produces the colorful fall leaves.

As the tree grows throughout the spring and summer months, chlorophyll is constantly replaced in the leaves. The chlorophyll gives the leaves their green color. As the nights get longer in the early fall, the cells near the juncture of the leaf and stem divide rapidly but do not expand. This action of the cells form a layer called the abscission layer. The abscission layer then blocks the the transportation of materials from the leaf to the branch and from the roots to the leaves. As the chlorophyll is blocked from the leaves, it disappears completely from them. The lack of chlorophyll allows the yellow (xanthophylls) and orange (carotenoids) pigments to be visible. The red and purple pigments (anthocyanins) are manufactured from the sugars that are trapped in the leaf. These pigments in leaves are responsible for the vivid color changes in the fall.

Temperature, sunlight and soil moisture all play a role in how the leaves will look in the fall.

  • Abundant sunlight and low temperatures after the abscission layer forms cause the chlorophyll to be destroyed more rapidly.
  • Cool air (especially at night) with a lot of daytime sunshine promote the formation of more red and purple pigments.
  • Freezing conditions destroy the leaf's ability to manufacture the red and purple pigments. Early frost will end the colorful foliage.
  • Drought during the growing season can cause the abscission layer to form early and cause the leaves to drop before they change color.
  • The best weather for brilliant fall foliage is a growing season with ample moisture followed by a dry, cool and sunny autumn with warm days and cool but frostless nights.
  • Heavy wind or rain can cause the leaves to fall before they fully develop color.
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It became more than just a old fence.

As we were visiting the bridges of Madison County, I spotted this old fence (see image below) off to the side guarding an old cottage from the "tourist" area. The entire fence was weathered, falling apart and covered with lichens. I setup my tripod holding a Canon 5D Mark IV, with a Tamron 90mm macro/closeup lens and slowly moved around and around. Taking dozens of images, some very closeup, some more laid back with larger sections of the fence in focus. It had been a long time since I concentrated on macro photography. What I discovered was not a beautiful image, not a masterpiece to blow up to put above my fireplace, but a simple reminder of why I like nature photography. It became more than just an old fence.

"I like to take pictures of lots of things: people-such as my nephews, my dogs, and just interesting objects that I see. For instance, I might take a picture of flowers by the side of the road, an old sign or a fence." Lacy Chabert

"People take photos to capture life moments. Moments of happiness, fun, friendship, etc. We would like those moments to last, to remember them and to share them with others. People take photos wherever they go and share them with their friends and families." Mahdi Lafram

"I think that what makes a photograph successful is subjective, but for me, the most important element is that it makes you feel something. What is it about a moment that moves you enough to capture it? A wave will never crash against the shore in the same way, my kids will only have one birthday celebration a year, and the light might never touch a person’s face like that again, and the camera is there to document and preserve that moment so that it can live and move you forever. Beauty and art are everywhere.

There are days you wish you could hold on to and with your camera, you can. I’m as interested in capturing our mundane routines as I am in capturing holidays and special events. Since I had my kids I feel acutely aware of how quickly time goes and in our increasingly busy lives it’s difficult to always be in the moment. Taking pictures helps you to hang on to those memories a little longer. Hardly anyone (except me, it seems) makes photo albums anymore but remember how you felt and how your smile spread across your face when you would hold those prints in your hand? We’re looking at pictures on our screens more than ever but the feeling of wanting to hold on to memories is still the same.

Our eyes can only see so much and teaching yourself how to use them (and to actually look) is a skill you can practice. Take your camera with you and use it. Some moments happen quickly but if you’ve trained your eye to see and capture, then you can keep up. I’m trying to look at everything and I’m getting better at seeing in the process.

There are images that can transport you to a different time and place. I love being able to express myself through my camera and use it as an extension of myself to tell stories that people want to hear and that I want to remember. Take your camera and take photos of everything from your lunch to the changing leaves of the season to your vacation to your family and friends. These are the images that tell your story." Monica Shulman

"To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the with the way you see them.” Elliott Erwitt

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Uncommonly unconcerned...

Summer and fall continue to be busy for us. So much so that I had several days of photography that I had not even downloaded and reviewed until yesterday. I've always liked fog images, and several weeks ago the forecast called for a heavy morning fog. I went out early to check out some potential sites, always looking for that unique/different image. As I was meandering along, I spotted this "rafter" of wild turkeys crossing the road. They seemed uncommonly unconcerned about my car (parked in the middle of the road) or about me, as I got out of the car. I was able to take several images of the parade that included about 25 birds. Several of them, paused in the middle of the road, looked at me, and then continued on to the other side of the road. About twenty minutes later the fog lifted. I did get several other interesting fog images, so overall, it was a great day.

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Egret preening at sunset.

Birds have up to 25,000 feathers, and regular preening (see image below) keeps each one of those feathers in top condition. Second only to feeding, preening is a common bird behavior easily observed in a backyard, out in the field or even among captive birds or pets. Understanding why and how birds preen can help birders better appreciate their beautiful avian friends.

What Is Preening?

Preening is a bird's way of grooming its feathers to keep them in the best condition.

While preening, birds will remove dust, dirt and parasites from their feathers and align each feather in the optimum position relative to adjacent feathers and body shape. Most birds will preen several times a day to keep themselves healthy.

The uropygial gland, or preen gland, is an essential part of preening. This gland is found near the base of the tail and produces an oily substance that contains diester waxes that help waterproof feathers and keep them flexible. While preening, birds spread this oil to each feather so they are evenly coated and protected. Some types of birds, including owls, pigeons, parrots and hawks, lack a uropygial gland. Instead, these birds have specialized feathers that disintegrate into powder down, which serves the same purpose as preen oil. Birds that produce powder down are less likely to bathe or immerse themselves in water and do not require the stronger waterproofing that preen oil provides.

Why Preening Is Essential?

Preening serves several essential purposes for birds, including:

  • Moisturizing feathers with preen oil so they are flexible and strong, instead of brittle and easily breakable. This helps feathers better withstand the stress of flight.
  • Aligning feathers for optimum waterproofing and insulation to protect against adverse conditions, such as soaking or extreme hot or cold temperatures.
  • Aligning feathers into the most aerodynamic shape for easier, more efficient flight. This helps birds use less energy in flight and make more acrobatic moves.
  • Removing feather parasites and body lice that can destroy feathers or carry disease. This keeps birds healthier and protects the entire flock or nest from an outbreak.
  • Removing tough sheaths from newly molted feathers. Removing these sheaths helps gets feathers into the proper position more quickly so they can be useful right away.
  • Creating a healthier appearance to attract a mate. A healthier, more attractive bird will attract a stronger mate and have a better chance of raising many strong, healthy chicks.
  • Bonding between mates as a courtship ritual that involves mutual preening, called allopreening. This is a form of communication between mates and helps keep their connection strong.

With so many reasons to preen, it is no surprise that many birds engage in this behavior for several hours a day.

How Birds Preen?

Birds use their bills and feet to preen each feather on their body, methodically nibbling or stroking every feather from its base to its tip to get it aligned just so. Birders are familiar with different contortions birds will use in order to reach every feather, and it is not unusual to see a bird in an unusual and odd position while preening.

There are other behaviors, however, that are also a part of preening.

  • Dust Bathing: Many birds, particularly game birds and sparrows, that will take dust baths as part of their regular preening. The dust helps dislodge parasites and absorbs excess preen oil so feathers are not too heavily coated. Birds that do not bathe in water are more likely to use dust baths frequently, but many birds will use both types of bathing.
  • Sunning: Sunning helps birds control body parasites and feather mites by moving these pests around to different areas of the body where they can be nibbled away. Sunning can also make the oil from the preen glad more liquid and easier to spread to different feathers in a thin, even layer.
  • Bathing: Many songbirds will bathe in water before engaging in extensive preening, splashing around to moisten all their feathers. Bathing removes dust, dirt and parasites from feathers before birds work to put each feather into its proper position.
  • Stretching: Extensive stretching helps provide space between each feather so the entire feather can be stroked and groomed effectively. Stretching or fluffing also helps birds align all their feathers after a section has been preened.
  • Anting: Some birds will lay on an anthill or rub ants over their bodies while preening. This process, called anting, distributes formic acid from the ants' bodies onto the birds' feathers. This is believed to help inhibit parasites that can damage feathers.

Preening Problems

While preening is essential for birds' health, it can also be dangerous if birds are affected by other hazards. Oiled birds, for example, will preen excessively in a desperate attempt to rid themselves of the sticky residue, and in doing so they ingest the toxic oil. This can quickly lead to poisoning or other contamination if the birds are not properly treated.

Similarly, fishing line is hazardous to preening birds. If a length of monofilament line is caught in a bird's plumage, it may become wrapped around the bird's bill while preening. This can inhibit the bird's ability to eat and may cause starvation, or the bird could inadvertently tighten the line while preening and cause injuries.

Some birds have difficulty preening each part of their body, and may develop bald patches if they cannot preen effectively. In the case of many crested songbirds, such as cardinals and blue jays, this can lead to temporary baldness that can be startling, but the birds will regrow their head feathers very soon. While the exact causes of bald birds are complicated, preening difficulties are one possible factor.

Birds must preen regularly to stay in the best health, and preening is a common behavior for birders to observe. By understanding how and why birds preen, every birder can better appreciate what it means to be a bird.

Fall colors are reflected in the water with the reflection of a White Egret, preening as the sun sets.


Turkey Vulture

There was a death along the side of the road near my home a while back. It was hidden from view, but obvious to everyone who spotted the "wake". Turkey vultures feeding together is called a wake, and it is a common site in Iowa nearly year round. On this day several vultures were sitting on the fence posts with the sun on their backs (see image below). Vultures often sit and spread their wings in one spot for hours to sunbathe. The sun helpsvultures keep their feathers healthy by causing parasites to converge in areas where birds can more easily get rid of them. On especially chilly days, sunbathing can also help with warming up. Vultures aren’t “cute and cuddly”, nor do they attract crowds like Bald Eagles. But, vultures are a vital part of nature’s clean-up crew and they play a crucial role in the balance of nature.


White Egret Landing

There is a backwater area on Lake Macbride where I can almost always find waterfowl, from various ducks, geese, herons and egrets.  The herons and egrets are the most sensitive to the activity of humans. There are times, I can not step off the trail into the grass without the herons and egrets flying away. I wish they could understand, that I don't want to disturb them, just take their picture. There appears to be a margin of safety that each species lives by, with the herons being the most skittish, followed closely by egrets. Most of the time the geese and most ducks couldn't care if I am in their line of sight or for that matter, anywhere near them.

I try to approach the herons and egrets very slowly and if possible from the side with my camera and 100-400 lens, handheld, ready for any action. Occasionally, the sun backlights the birds as they feed, take-off, fly or as seen below, land. These birds look gangly and awkward when on the ground or in the water hunting for food, but when they are flying, it’s like watching an aerial ballet. I think the translucent feathers of their spread out wings while landing is a beautiful site.

On a side note, one evening, mid summer, I was fortunate to watch a doe and her two fawns approach the backwater edge, drink and disappear in a matter of less than a few minutes. I stood absolutely still, not even swatting at the mosquitoes. I didn't have the proper lens to get a photograph, so I just watched. Sometimes that is even a better memory than a image.

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Playing peek-a-boo

When entering or leaving Estes Park via HW 34-Big Thompson Canyon, you should always be on the outlook for Bighorn Sheep. On my last trip down HW 34 heading back to Iowa, we saw a large herd; a few rams, several ewes and their lambs. I was watching this ewe (see image below) move around off to the side of the extended family. With every step, she was looking downhill, watching the traffic and the people milling around watching them. She paused, ate a little grass, ate some leaves from the bush and poked her head out staring directly towards me. I smiled and thought, she is playing "peek-a-boo".

Canon 80D, 100-400mm lens at 400mm, Manfroto tripod, cable release, f/5.6, 1/640 sec.   

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When I returned from Brainard Lake Recreation Area, I stopped a the entrance of RMNP, to ask if there had been any sightings of moose around Spraque Lake, as Renee and I had seen them there earlier this year. The ranger checked with a few other rangers and said yes, that early in the mornings, a family of moose had been seen almost daily, in the area.The next day, I ventured into RMNP, heading in early, to Spraque Lake. When I arrived there were only a few cars in the lot, so I grabbed my camera bag and tripod in anticipation of finding the moose family. It did not take me long to find the other visitors. They were gathered just off the loop trail near a small pond, lots of cell phones were out and a few point and shoot cameras. I setup my canon 80D with the 100-400 lens on the tripod and walked up a small rise so I would be able to get a clear shot at the moose family. There was a female in the pond feeding, a pair of yearlings frolicking in and out of the pond and a large bull standing very still on the edge of the pond. I soon had a few of the other visitors join me, asking if they could look thru my camera at the moose. I locked down the equipment, and let them view the action from about 100 feet away.

The image below, was one of the last ones taken that morning. The bull had not moved in over two hours when one of the yearlings walked over by him, drank some water, and turned and rubbed noses with the bull. It was a very loving moment. I spoke to the ranger as I was leaving, and he commented that this bull is a little crazy, he stands around for long periods of time, not moving, than suddenly charges at some human visitors that are in his line of sight. He then returns to stand still again for a while. He has never hit a visitor, but seems to enjoy scaring them.

FYI - I didn't get directly in front of the bull that morning, mostly, because there was not a clean line of site for my photography. Renee and I returned later that week and did not see the moose family.

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Brainard Lake CO

The week of September 24th, I was able to go to CO and visit with several photography friends while photographing the "rut". On Tuesday, they had to work, so I planned on hiking an area I had briefly visited last winter, about an hour south of Estes Park. The Brainard Lake Recreation Area is noted for its hiking trails and for several moose families. I arrived at sunrise at Long Lake to find a parking lot nearly full. The weather was absolutely perfect, clear, cool and no wind.

I gather my backpack and walked over to a group of hikers, asking which trail they were going on and if I could join them explaining that this was my first time hiking the area above Long Lake. The trails here range from about 2 miles to over 10 miles round trip. I join them for a hike up to Blue Lake.

Below are a few of my images from that adventure. I carried my Canon 5D Mark IV and24-105 lens, as well as my 100-400 lens, hoping to see some moose. Unfortunately, we did not see any moose.

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