Saturday, March 29, 2008

photography

Twelve photographs that matter in a year is a good crop for any photographer.
-- Ansel Adams

Friday, March 28, 2008

Audubon

Thanks to Mike's Birding & Digiscoping Blog, I was introduced to The Perch, a blog run by Audubon Magazine; I don't know how I could have missed it for so long. What led me to it was Mike's comment on the blog's entry about binoculars -- short, current, and to the point. Check it out.

photography

That's the only satisfaction I get out of a picture:
seeing it published.
And I try to do everything I can do to make it amusing or interesting
enough to get published.
-- Loomis Dean

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Springbrook -- part 2

There were a few other birds than geese at Springbrook yesterday morning. A colorful Robin . . .

. . . a flock of Rock Pigeons . . .

. . . and of course the male Red-winged Blackbirds claiming their territory and waiting of the females.


I did not know that they eat cat tail seeds.


There is very little open water at Springbrook.

A few Mallards have claimed what little bit they could find.

Note the ice to the right of the male.

free Photoshop

Well, sort of -- Photoshop Express for the web was released today. Although I've signed up, I haven't tried it on my own pictures yet -- just looked at albums already posted. In addition to editing, you can get your own URL and space to show your favorite pictures in a slide show format. It's part of the new trend of making more programs available directly on the Internet rather than purchasing and installing them on your own computer. I think it's worth a look -- here.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Springbrook

In view of the pending snow storm tonight, I decided to make my first trip of the year to Springbrook Nature Center in Fridley this morning. It's one of my favorite places to visit on short notice since it is only about 7 mi. from home and I rarely return without some photos I like. I'm amazed that the city of Fridley can maintain such a wonderful resource. From time to time there has been talk of selling it for housing, etc. -- I hope that never comes to pass. If you haven't been there, I urge you to stop by for a visit.

The City will have to due some repair work. Sometime last fall, or over the winter, they have managed to install one new bridge; I see that some trees & brush are marked for removal.

I arrived just after sunrise. There is very little open water. Most of the ponds are frozen over as you can see from the above and below pictures.

In the distance you can see some geese which I was getting ready to photograph with the Canon 400mm f/5.6 plus 1.4x extender.

As the sun rose higher, the geese became more active -- flying out and in. What are they eating?


A rather dignified fellow, don't you think?

I'm guessing that many of the geese are planning to stay at Springbrook since they were paired off and appeared ready to defend their territory.


"You talkin' to me?!"

"I told you we should stay in Texas!"
more tomorrow

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Swans at Monticello -- part 2

I took this shot because I liked the colors and textures.

About 9 a.m. the Swans started to fly about more.


I think these geese were upset because Les & I were paying too much attention to the Swans.

So I took this shot of a goose.

Les asked, "What are all those ducks with the white on them that won't come near us?" They were flying in small flocks way on the other side of the river. I replied, "I don't know, but we'll find out when we get home." When some landed, I took this shot. It turned out they were Common Mergansers. Although I had my binoculars with me, I don't usually use them when taking photos since I figure if I can't see the bird clearly without binoculars, I won't get a good shot.
It was getting near 10, and we were both cold from the breeze from the river -- so, we headed to a MacDonald's near the freeway for breakfast & hot chocolate. (Thank you, Les!) It took us nearly an hour to warm up.

When we got back, I noticed all of the American Coots. I've never got a satisfactory picture of one; the feathers around the head must be fuzzy since they do not reflect any light -- the heads look darker than the rest of the body. And, unless the light hits their eyes at the right angle, the eyes just disappear and can't be seen in a photo. These are a couple of my best shots to date.


Crash landing!

Since it was getting near noon, we decided to call a halt to our visit. As we were putting away our gear, we noticed two raptors flying very high in the sky. This is a (poor) shot of one of them. I've poured over Sibley, Natl. Geographic, and Kaufman's -- I still can't identify the bird -- juvenile Bald Eagle, maybe? -- Swainson's Hawk? Someone have an idea?
Most of today's shots were taken with my 400mm lens + Canon's 1.4x converter. I realize now that what I really need (want?) is Canon's 500mm f4.0 lens with image stabilization. But the cost of about $5,000 is slowing me down -- plus the concern about the weight (8.4 lbs + camera + tripod). On our Nebraska trip, I held Stan's 500mm lens and it didn't seem too heavy -- but that was just holding it for a little while -- I would be using it trekking through Springbrook or Wargo for 3 to 4 hours at a time. Anyone have any leads on a used one?
Maybe I'll wait for reports on Sigma's new 150-500mm lens. It has image stabilization and weighs only 4 lbs., but at 500mm the f/stop is 6.3. Decisions -- decisions!
All in all, it was a good morning -- especially as I look out the window and realize I have to plow out my driveway.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Swans at Monticello -- part 1

Yesterday morning Les' & my schedules meshed so we decided to meet at Monticello to see what was left of the winter Trumpeter Swan population. If you are not familiar with the wintering swans there, you can read about them here and here.

We agreed to meet at sunrise, about 7:15, with the hope of getting some misty, artsy shots of the fog rising from the river. Well -- there was no fog -- but there was a beautiful, orange sunrise.

It was fun to see how the birds had paired off.

After a quiet night's sleep, it's time for a long stretch to loosen up.

At 8 a.m. other swans decided to fly in. By the way, if you have not noticed, your digital images most likely contain the date & time when they were taken (assuming you have set the camera's clock & display the photos in an editing program). This is useful in keeping track of your pictures and recalling events.

Some of the swans seemed to be content in just showing off. It also seems that the stretching is part of their feather preening regimen.

Les discovered the woodpecker we had been hearing for a while -- a Red-bellied.

Meanwhile, back on the river, what looked like a barbershop quartet practicing . . .

. . . was actually a dispute about territory or a mate.
By now we were getting cold -- it was like being in Nebraska two weeks ago. I was glad that I had worn my winter parka and insulated boots. I again made the mistake of wearing light gloves so that I could handle the camera better.
For those who care about such things, all of the above shots were taken with a Canon 20D, Canon's 400mm f5.6 lens, on a tripod.
more tomorrow

Sax-Zim bog & festival

Thank you to Jim Williams about his recent article in the Star Tribune about the Sax-Zim Bog and the recent festival. Mike Hendrickson was recognized for all of the work he did in organizing the festival. If you missed the article, you can read it here or on Mike's blog.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Through my lens, birds for you!

I've been tagged -- yesterday, by Ecobirder.
This blogging chain letter works like this: First, I have to write a 6-word meme describing my inner birder (+photographer) and then pass it off to 5 more bloggers.
My 6-word meme is:
Through my lens, birds for you.
After checking to see if they've already been tagged (I hope I didn't miss a tag), the 5 bloggers I'm tagging are: Sam Pedley of Pedley Birders Blog, Benet of Pish, Helena Kensington of Adventures of Bird Girl, John Mikes of Weekend Shooter, and Alan Larson of Alan's BirdCam Blog.
The rules:
1. Write your own six word memoir
2. Post it on your blog and include a visual illustration if you’d like
3. Link to the person that tagged you in your post and to this original post if possible so we can track it as it travels across the blogosphere
4 .Tag five more blogs with links
5. And don’t forget to leave a comment on the tagged blogs with an invitation to play!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Don't even THINK about going there!

It was a beautiful afternoon today! I decided to check out Carlos Avery. I know that most springs the roads are closed for a while; however, I didn't bother calling since I knew I would enjoy the drive anyway. Well -- the roads were open -- although I don't know why. I made the mistake of driving in off the Zodiac entry only to find there was no way to turn around -- so I had to keep going. My rwd sedan has traction control, but is low to the ground -- how I made it to Pool 10 I don't know! I certainly wasn't going to go back the same way -- so I tried driving around to the west and Pool 3. That was not good. I managed to turn around -- the plan was to go north and head east to Wyoming. This was the worst stretch yet! I met two 4wd pickups who were struggling! But after a number of prayers and earnest bargaining -- I did make it to Wyoming & I-35.
My advice: don't go there yet! And when you do, if you find mud, rest assured it will be worse further on.



And my reward for all this effort?

One lonely goose on the far side of Pool 9.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

on photography

I regard . . . my own photography as a form of collecting.
-- Martin Parr

Sunday, March 16, 2008

You know you're a bird photographer when . . .

You set your alarm for 3:30 am and wake up 5 minutes before it goes off!

Your car is full of filling station sandwich bags and Coke/Dr Pepper cans.

When you think $6,000.00 is a reasonable price for a lens.

When you go to the beach and come home with an untanned camera outline on your face.

You will happily sit by a river all day, freezing your *$# off, in order to photograph Kingfishers, but think anglers are mad!

The only polished area on the car is where the beanbag rests on the window ledge.

You have the worst sick leave record in the office.

short Snow Geese video

The quality of this video is pitiful, since it was taken with my Treo phone, but I wanted to share it to give you a little bit better idea of the Snow Geese at Harlan County Lake, Nebraska.

video

Saturday, March 15, 2008

our final afternoon in Kearney, Nebraska

Last Saturday's afternoon was going to be our last opportunity to explore the Platter River area before heading back to Minnesota early Sunday morning. From Republican City we headed around Harlan County Lake to its south shore.

At a small marina we came upon this unusual variant of a Red-tailed Hawk, a juvenile dark morph Harlan's Hawk. It patiently allowed us to get close and shoot plenty of photos.

When we were finished, it took off.

From the south shore of Harlan's Lake (is that why the hawk was there?) we could see, just below the horizon, what looked like patches of ice. But from the noise we knew it wasn't.

As we got closer, we could distinguish what we counted to be a gazillion Snow Geese.

This seemed to be an appropriate time & place for a group photo of our motley crew. Missing are Birdchick, who was busy digiscoping the geese, and Stan, who took this picture. At the front is Edie, a wonderful 91-year old who was ahead of the rest of us wherever we went.

Shortly after we got going on some minimum, or was it no, maintenance roads we came upon this curious opossum.

At more chancey portions of the road, Birdchick got out to determine passability.

By venturing on these unmapped trails we unknowingly ended up in Kansas; here we are heading back into Nebraska.

Another prize find was this female Short-eared Owl.

With the end of the day upon us, we returned to the blinds at Rowe Sanctuary. For a discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of the blinds, read Birdchick's March 14, post, Not Another Nebraska Entry, on her blog.

As the sun was setting, . . .

. . . more and more cranes came in to roost.


One of the reasons why it was so great to have Stan leading us was that he often pointed out things I would have otherwise missed -- like this crescent new moon.

This smiley face expresses my overwhelming satisfaction with our trip. I strongly urge you to consider it next spring. If you have any questions about it, let me know. I hope to go again.
A major factor in the success of the trip was its leader, Stan Tekiela. You can read about him here. While you are on his site, take a look at samples of his work. It was great to get instruction from such an accomplished photographer in a small group setting. For other tours led by Stan, consult the Eden Prairie Parks brochure, in particular the Outdoor Center listings.