Thursday, December 31, 2015

Light and Shadow

Nikon D750, Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 + TC14II @ 700mm, 1/320, f/8, ISO 320

Three days ago I wrote about looking for light here in Ohio and I'm still looking.  The thick cloud cover has continued but it has not deterred me from getting out.  Lake Erie holds its own allure so I headed over to Sheldon Marsh to see what I might find there.  Though the mallards are a very common sight I love the way the iridescent colors show up on this male.  Too many times we don't get to see these colors as their heads simply look dark green or even black, but the muted light and my angle to the duck worked in unison to bring out the beauty of this bird.  It even makes me wonder what other colors might be hidden and in need of exposure. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Rehabbed Red-Tail Hawk

Nikon D750, Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 + TC-14EII @700mm, 1/500, f/8, ISO 250 

I found out this Red-tail hawk was hit by a car, rehabbed by Tim Jasinski and released at Sandy Ridge Reservation where he is hanging around and learning the ropes of being a raptor.  Hope to catch him in action sometime soon.  Beautiful creature.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Christmas Cactus Flower

Nikon D750, Nikon 105mm f/2.8 Macro, 1/125, f/11, ISO 100, Flash
It's been a while since I've posted a picture of a flower so when my wife brought home a Christmas cactus given to her by her boss it was prime time to do so.  

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Frozen - Behind the Shot

Nikon D750, Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 + TC-14EII @ 700mm, 1/800, f/8, ISO 640

I was walking around the Ottawa Nat'l Wildlife refuge on Dec. 5 in the cold and fog and having a nice time when I came upon this scene.  It was 1:49 in the afternoon and still quite foggy and cold.  In fact, when I started the day it was 28 deg. F and only rose to 34 for the high.  Earlier in the day this place was covered in fog so thick I couldn't see very far at all.  There were hundreds of Tundra swan both in the water and in the air and I'd hear them long before I could see them.  Anyway, I saw this view and felt compelled to shoot it.  The tall grass was somewhat golden and backdropped by the clear, whiteness of frozen limbs.  It hadn't snowed.  This was the frozen dew of the fog clinging to its host.  It reminded me (and still does) of infrared pictures I've seen taken by camera's modified with special filters but this time no special filter was needed.  The two birds in sky complete it, I think, for their position in the frame and the touch of interest they provide.  

Nikon D750, Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 @ 500mm, 1/250, f/5.6, ISO 100

Nikon 200-500mm First Impressions, Part 2

This will pick up where Part 1 left off.  I've only had opportunity to get out a few times since then due to work and weather but I'll say right up front that I'm enjoying this lens quite a lot for its focal range, image rendering, sharpness, and focus accuracy.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Shooting the Moon Over Cleveland

Recently, I joined a group of photographers at Upper Edgewater Park in Cleveland for a "Full Moon Over Cleveland" event.  I had never done anything like it before and thought it would be fun and I'd get to meet other photographers in the area.  Well, both turned out to be true.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Fly Me to the Moon

At 17:52 on 11/24/15 I took this photo.  What are the odds?  I'd been at the computer going over images and reading blogs I follow when all of a sudden I had an urge to step outside and shoot the moon.  It's something I like to do from time to time and hadn't done it for awhile so I stopped what I was doing, mounted the camera to the tripod and stepped outside.  The moon was above the horizon but had not yet cleared the trees that surround our backyard so I waited.  Just as soon as it was clear I pressed the remote once for Mirror Up, waited a couple seconds and pressed it again to trip the shutter.  When looking at the image on the camera screen to check for exposure it appeared as though a tree branch was over a small part of the moon so I took a couple more photos without the interference of the "tree branch".  Imagine my great surprise when viewing the images on the computer and learning the "tree branch" was really a jet plane racing to the moon.  This is by far the best moon shot I've ever done.     

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Nikon 200-500mm and First Impressions

My lens arrived earlier this week and I've not had a chance to really get out with it because by the time I get off work it's dark outside this time of year.  I've taken some photos in the house and was impressed with image quality but today was the first day I took a few photos outside during lunch and am really impressed so far. 

Monday, November 23, 2015

Splish Splash

I heard the commotion and went to investigate.  Lo and behold I caught her taking a bath in plain view of anyone who cared to watch.  Fortunately, I was the only one around and low to the ground so as to not disturb.

Looking for Life

Walking through the woods scanning the trees for any signs of life. Suddenly, this hawk came in from behind me flying low overhead.  He landed in a tree just several yards from where I was so getting the shot was pretty easy this time.  Too bad I didn't hear him coming so I could have gotten an in-flight shot but these birds are silent fliers.  That said, here's one from a short time ago.

Young Buck

Walking through the woods at Sandy Ridge Reservation and happened upon this young buck.  He didn't seem too concerned and allowed a few photos to be taken but he didn't come out into the open either.  Still, it was nice to see him and grab a couple pics.  It's not often I see a buck in the wild compared to all the doe I come across.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Blowing in the Wind

When I was at Maumee Bay State Park the other day I came upon a large field of this tall, wild grass blowing in the wind and backlit by the early morning sun.  As usual, I was looking for wildlife but do try to stay open to other possibilities.  This is one of those.  Tall, wind-blown, graceful, golden.  Had to shoot it.  

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Eagles and Aerial Acrobatics

It seems the eagles were out it in force recently as I stopped in at Ottawa Nat'l Wildlife Refuge and the Toussaint State Wildlife Area.  The eagle above was sitting on a tree in front of the nest there and I was able to see its white head from far off so started walking in that direction.  There is more than one way to approach the nest and, of course, I had no way of knowing which way he was facing as he sat in the tree but knew my approach would be with the sun at my back.  If I was presented with a shot I didn't want a silhouette by shooting into the sun, nor did I want to crank up the exposure compensation to overcome that if it could be avoided.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Quick Thoughts for Better Photos

One of the things I strive for is to get a better shot of anything and everything than what I've done before.  Of course, this can encompass a whole litany of things to watch for and tweak and take into account from exposure to lighting to backgrounds to physical position to composition to post-processing get the idea.  

In this regard, one of the things I'm doing more and more of lately is to get physically lower to the ground when the subjects of my lens are low to the ground.  I brought this up in an earlier post here where I show the difference physical position makes in relation to the subject.  I'm liking the difference this lower perspective is making.  For one thing, both foreground and background have a more pronounced blur allowing the subject to "pop" better.  For another, it makes the photo just a little different from all the other photos that are shot standing up which necessarily entails shooting down on the subject.

For the two photos here I was squatting as low as I could get and it worked fine for the top image because the mallard was roughly at my eye level when I tripped the shutter which is what I was after.  I assumed the same position for the Green-winged Teal but, now as I'm looking at it on the screen, I wasn't low enough.  A better position would have been to go prone, I believe.  A quick measurement just now shows my eyes are about 31" from the ground when squatting as low as I can.  Next time, I'll go lower.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Happy Mistake - Behind the Shot

This was a young deer on the walking path at Sheldon Marsh State Nature Preserve.  She glanced my way as I approached but kept foraging nonetheless.  My hope was to be able to pass without spooking her and then turn to get a back lit shot. That part worked out just fine as you can see.  Of course, I didn't check the photo at the time and only noticed after getting home what I had inadvertently done.  The camera was set to DX crop mode from the day before and I obviously didn't notice the outlined frame in the veiwfinder that should have been a clue it was not in FF mode.  So, when the picture was taken I thought I included the whole head to shoulders and was surprised to see this instead.  Not being what I had expected I was ready to trash the photo when it hit me that I really liked it.  This shot is more artsy than what I had originally planned. Definitely a less is more moment.  A happy mistake.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Bald Eagles - Behind the Shot

This morning started out with a lot of fog in the area and my wife cautioned me about it as I started downstairs to head out for some shutter therapy.  I was okay with fog and was not going to let it sidetrack my plans, which was to go to Sandy Ridge Reservation about 40 minutes away.  Sure enough, when I looked outside the fog was thick but I also noticed a clear sky which meant the sun would work its magic and clear the fog by the time I was ready to shoot when the park opened at 8am.  Besides, if the fog was still around maybe I could work it into a shot since it provides a lot of potential if utilized properly.

This was only my second time to Sandy Ridge (the first time was last week) but I was interested the potential of the place to house raptors for viewing and shooting.  After walking through a wooded area it opens up to a marsh where I saw these two eagles right away.  Ah, yes!  This is a good day.  The first order of business was to get the record shot and then move into a better position hoping they would stick around until I had the sun behind me.  After getting this and similar shots I simply hung out in my spot waiting and hoping for some kind of action when one of the eagles suddenly took off for a deeper spot in the marsh.  Anticipating the second one would soon follow suit I readied the lens on it and just as I was making sure I was focused on it he took off.  I snapped away but did not have a perfect focus on it.  Oh, well.  That's part of the fun and excitement - there's always a next time.

Eastern Bluebird - Behind the Shot

I photographed this little bird earlier today at Sandy Ridge Reservation.  I was actually shooting a couple bald eagles sitting in a tree when this bird perched in front of me as if to say, "I'm worth shooting too.  Take my picture".  I think it turned out really nice.  

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

In Sync - Behind the Shot

This is the adult non-mating Bonaparte's gull.  I had been a Lake Erie and it was teaming with birds so after several dozen shots I started looking for something unique when these two obliged.  I wish I had been in sync as much as they were but I just could not get focused fast enough for the shot.  Normally, I wouldn't have posted it because it is not perfectly focused, sharp and clear but the near perfect synchronization between the birds overruled my judgement this time.  Besides, much as I wish otherwise not all of my shots are perfectly focused, sharp and clear and I like some of them anyway. This is one of those.  

Clothed in Red

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Hummingbirds - Behind the Shot

Hummingbirds are fascinating little creatures that are big on curiosity and entertainment.  We keep three feeders around the house and are rewarded each season with their playful antics.  They often come and go in a flash but will also sit to feed or just hover for a moment before disappearing.  

Friday, October 30, 2015

Lowering One's Self to "Their" Level - Behind the Shot

Have you ever heard something along the lines of, "don't lower yourself to his/her level"?  Yes.  We all have.  Of course, this admonition had to do with guarding one's character in the face of a particular trial rather than having anything to do with photography. With photography it often helps to do exactly this because it causes the subject to be more appealing, interesting, intimate, revealing, etc.  

Take the photo above.  I was out on a cool, windy day and not seeing much at all concerning wildlife when I happened upon this grasshopper.  It didn't move at all when approached so I considered this a prime target for using the tilt screen of Nikon D750.  In the past I've tried taking photos of things from ground level with other cameras but was rarely successful because I couldn't get low enough to see thru the viewfinder and to use Live View was a neck breaker down there.  This time I was able to set the camera on the ground, tilt the viewfinder up, turn on Live View and capture this creature without breaking a sweat (or my neck) with the added bonus of a very thin depth-of-field leaving nothing to distract from the subject of the photo.

Compare to this first photo attempt.  I was squatting as low as possible for this shot but was not satisfied because the foreground and background were too busy and distracting.  What a difference putting the camera on the ground made here. The camera settings were the same with an aperture of f/4 but the results are dramatically different.  Another bonus of being able to shoot with the camera on the ground is the color incorporated in the background of the top photo.  That color is basically grass and dandelion but is blurred to a cream as are all the pebbles fore and aft making for a very pleasing viewing experience - at least in my estimation.  

So, go ahead and get down to "their" level.  It won't harm your character at all.  I promise.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Rewarding Patience - Behind the Shot

It is often said patience is a virtue - as in a good or useful quality.  Great Blue Heron's exhibit an abundance of patience when fishing for food.  They often stay motionless in one spot until they see something tasty swim by and then will slowly lower their head to just above the water before striking with lightening speed.


This was taken a Wellington Reservoir as the sun was getting lower in the sky.  As much as I frequent this place the area this shot was taken from has been largely ignored by me because I haven't found much there in the past.  However, on this outing I thought I'd give this section another try and am glad I did as conditions were just right for this image.  

Winged Sanitary Engineer

In the past I've often tried to capture an image of these birds that was satisfactory but almost always ended up disappointed either because they were too small in the frame or, worse, just not sharp and clear if they did fill the frame.   

Fall Colors

Here are a few shots of this years' Fall colors.   The top photo is the view out our backyard.  Unfortunately, I've been so busy at work I've missed the opportunity to get out and explore during the height of the color changes and yesterday was literally raining leaves so the trees are half bare now.  This shot was taken mid-afternoon and by the evening most leaves were on the ground.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Red-winged Blackbird (female) - Behind the Shot

I was on the boardwalk at Kensington Metropark in Michigan when this bird settled on the railing just a few feet in front of me. What was I to do?  Exactly!  Click, click.  She's young and all fluffed up and photogenic.  What's not to like?  This was taken with the Nikon D750 and Nikon 300mm f/4E PF VRII + TC-14EII giving a fov of 420mm.  Again, what's not to like?

Sunday, August 23, 2015


I was fortunate to witness these extraordinary birds of prey in action at Kensington Metropark in Michigan a few weeks ago. They were fun to watch and photograph.  The process reminded me of fishing.  You sit with rod (camera) in hand and wait for something to happen and when it does you set the hook (acquire focus) and reel it in (let the shutter rip). When that round of action is over you wait some more for the next thing to happen.  

I was joined by my friend Joe from Cincinnati and we met up with Ben who lives in the vicinity of the Metropark.  When Joe and I arrived at the scene of the action there were about 5 guys already there with their super-telephoto lenses of 600mm + teleconverters  mounted on tripods and Joe made a comment of feeling a bit "inadequate" with his 70-300mm.  I had the new Nikon 300mm f/4E PF attached to the 1.4II teleconverter giving me an effective view of 420mm on the Nikon D750.  Do I wish I had had more reach?  Oh yeah!  But we work with what we have and the following are some of the shots I was able to come away with. Can't wait to do it again.  What a blast.  Remember to click to view the larger version.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Sandhill Crane - Behind the Shot

This was shot at Kensington Metropark in Michigan.  I learned of this place thru my new friend Ben, who lives in close proximity to the park and encouraged me to make a trip and that it would be worthwhile.  Of course, he showed me some photos of what he'd shot there and I liked them very much so made plans to visit soon after our meeting each other at Magee Marsh Wildlife Area.

It was about a 3.5 hr drive and I'd left early in the morning to try to  be there to catch the early morning light.  This shot was taken about 9:30 am and I couldn't have asked for better light as this bird casually walked by.  I had a great time and there will be more posts coming.  Thank you, Ben!  I hope to do it again.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Radioactive - Behind the Shot

This was taken at Magee Marsh.  A lot of the boardwalk is heavily shaded now but there are patches of bright light when the sun is shining and this combination can make for some challenging photography.  In fact, this place has caused me to set my camera's U1 to 1/200, f/5.6 (with the TC-14EII attached to the 300mm), ISO 400, and SB-700 flash mounted for the shaded areas and U2 is set for 1/800, ISO 100, etc for the brighter areas.  I've done this to help keep the ISO as low as possible since I'm hand-holding and not using a tripod.  Before employing this method I was floating the ISO in Manual mode resulting in up to ISO 12,000 at times .  So, with a quick turn of the dial I'm set for dark or bright situations.

For this shot I'd been in the shade using the U1 setting and at one point turned to see this rabbit sitting there and fired off a quick round.  Now, there's certainly nothing remarkable about this photo - except for that eye.  We've all seen red-eye before but this is the first time I've seen this color combination and found it to be a real attention-getter.  This is, of course, the affect the flash had because the pupil was not able to react (constrict) fast enough for the incoming light of the flash.  What's reflected from the back of the eye and what we see of the color produced made an unremarkable photo a little more exciting I think.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Early Bird Gets the Worm - Behind the Shot

Okay, so it's not a worm but he got it nonetheless.  I'd heard of this bird being at Magee Marsh but had not seen it until this last weekend.  It's about 2 hrs from home and I arrived at 9:30am hoping to catch some bird activity before it got hot later in the day.  As soon as I arrived I ran into Bob who I'd met a couple weeks earlier and he was on his way out, saying he didn't see much that morning.  He mentioned a yellow bird he caught a glimpse of but that was it.

Gray Catbird
Undeterred, I went ahead with my plan to spend quite a bit of time there that morning.  As I hung out in one area and moved little the birds were becoming more and more obvious.  The red-winged blackbirds and gray catbirds are plentiful and easy to spot but most of the other birds can be tough because they are small and hang out in the trees which are thick with leaves right now.  The first of the small songbirds I saw were goldfinches and wrens and wondered if the goldfinches are what Bob glimpsed.  After hanging out watching the goldfinches I moved maybe 20' and saw several of the yellow birds above.  Eventually I was able to get several good shots of them as they seemed to ignore me for the most part.  I didn't know what it was but looking it up have determined it's a Prothonotary Warbler which, as you can see, is quite a stunning bird.

Walk This Way - Behind the Shot

Normal convention says to always get the eyes sharp in your photos.  If all else is blurred make sure the eyes are sharp. Well, this photo shows no eyes at all and I still like it a lot.  In fact, the animals are facing away from the camera which is another big no no.  Looks like I've broken a couple of hard, fast rules.  Good thing I don't live by those rules.  I think of them more as guidelines instead of rules and because I do I get shots like this from time to time.  

There were a bunch of geese lounging on the walkway as I approached and most moved into the water nearby.  These three decided to walk and squawk just ahead of me so I stopped and fired off a round and didn't think much more about it.  When viewing on the computer later I was immediately taken in by the focus/blur of the geese coupled with the symmetrical positioning of the three.  And then there's the "eyes" of the trailing goose that pull me in and make me linger awhile.  I think it is this combination here that really makes this photo work.  So, sometimes breaking the "rules" just might be the right thing to do.  

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Great Blue Heron - Behind the Shot

I had gotten out early the morning after purchasing a new camera and lens and was exited to get some time afield with them.  Since it was a work day I remained close to home but had a little more than an hour to have some fun.  It was very overcast with what appeared to be no hope for any sunshine while I'd be out but of course, that didn't dampen my spirits.  When I got to the site I was very pleased to see a great blue heron fishing for breakfast.  It was some distance off so I just took some shots before trying to get closer.  After a short while I decided to see how close I could get before it would take flight.  Surprisingly, I got fairly close and it didn't seem to bother the bird as it thrashed about, jumped up and down and played with what appeared to be some type of weed.  It was quite comical to watch and I got a lot of shots to peruse later at home.  Eventually, the bird flew away and I moved on.  As I got to the far side of the area I was in I spotted another great blue heron and it, too, let me get as close as I could without actually wading in the water.  After taking some shots from different angles it was time to head home and get ready for work.  After about twenty steps the sun suddenly shone from behind me.  Surprised, I looked up and saw a small opening in the cloud cover that it was peeking through.  Instinctively, I looked back at the heron and saw a beautiful glance of light on it and hurried back to photograph it.  The photo above is one of a few I was able to get before I forced myself to head home for the workday.

Marsh Mallow - Behind the Shot

As I was walking through a marsh/wetland area these flowers caught my eye.  They are quite large and scattered about and were in full bloom so I took time to capture it.  I've learned (and am still learning) if something captures my visual attention I need to be alert to that fact and photograph it.  I decided on this flower because of the direction of light and the shadow it created.

Beautiful Female Cardinal - Behind the Shot

I'd been at Magee Marsh for several hours this last weekend listening to the birds and trying to find these skittish creatures amongst the thick growth of trees, grasses and weeds.  The more I stay put in one place and don't move around too much the more the birds come in and the more I see happening around me.  Such was the case when this cardinal landed on the boardwalk not far from where I stood and allowed several pictures before taking to the trees.  Though I had some good shots of her on the ground I really wanted her in the trees which proved a little more difficult because now I was moving and so was she.  But I kept pursuing until, finally, she settled on this branch long enough for a shot.     

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Surprised Doe in the Field - Behind the Shot

Earlier this month I was on vacation and it allowed me to get out of the house relatively early without having to get back home in time for work.  Rains had just passed through that morning and it was still overcast and rather gloomy but I was having a good time just being out.  I'd been in the field for awhile shooting birds, flowers, butterflies, and rain drops when I turned to start walking and this doe was right there.  She had her head down in the tall grass eating and I hurriedly tripped the shutter as her head and, more importantly, eye were still visible.  As soon as the mirror slapped she rose with a start and I quickly triggered the shutter again and got this image before she ran off.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Shooting Waterfalls sans Filter

I went out recently specifically to hike and shoot a couple waterfalls in the area.  I had been to one of them once before and would be seeing the other for the first time.  Heavy rains had just passed thru the day before so I knew that should make for some nice 'falls.  Most of these pictures are from Blue Hen Falls and the only time I was there before was a couple years ago and it was dry.