Friday, June 11, 2010

Day 8 (FINAL Blog Post): Yellowstone / Grand Teton National Park GroupShoot

Today was our final day in Yellowstone. Jared and I put 1,854 miles on the rental car driving in both parks for 8 days. We (the remaining MPEGers - 5 of the 9) started out at 6:00 am. Our plan was to make rounds throughout the entire (YNP) park on our final day. Mission accomplished!

and we went out with a bang!

Starting from West Yellowstone, we drove through Madison to West Thumb area , stopping at the Firehole River Canyon along the way to snap the falls. It was a beautiful morning in Yellowstone...mist rising from the Madison and Firehole Rivers as elk and bison grazed nearby. We stopped at Keppler Cascades to photograph the cascades. We made a pitstop at the Fishing Bridge then drove out towards the east entrance and back... then up through Hayden Valley stopping at the S-curve pullout, doing a few landscape images... then on to Tower Fall, we found an really cool Osprey's nest by the Yellowstone River on a rock structure allowing you to see IN THE NEST from above. The mom and her 3 very young chicks were in the nest. We photographed the mom leaving the nest and returning with a stick which she meticulously placed in a certain spot in the nest. The father arrived shortly with a piece of fish for the babies. We photographed his arrival, and the mother feeding the chicks. This was a very nature experience.

Moving on towards Lamar Valley, we turn the corner in Tower and a very nice Bighorn Sheep Ram was sitting in the grass posing for several photographers and other by-standers. Seeing a bighorn sheep ram was the furthest thing from our minds this morning, especially in Tower. We called this a "ram jam"..

We made rounds at Slough Creek where we were educated on the movements of the Slough Creek wolf pack, their den location and the four pups by the "wolfies". We didn't see any of the wolves during our brief stay.  We continued on through Lamar Valley and found the usual stuff (bison, etc.) but no "jams".

From Lamar Valley, we headed to Mammoth. We quickly came upon TWO young black bears (2 miles apart) grazing about 50 yards away from the road.

It started to thunderstorm and rain by now so we stopped in Mammoth for lunch.

After lunch, we drove from Mammoth to Norris, with plans to continue on back to Hayden Valley then finish up at the Midway Geyser basin before a final farewell dinner.......

Well,  those plans got derailed. As we drove from Mammoth to Norris, we ran into "grizzly jam" involving the well known Grizzly sow and her 4 cubs. It was raining hard, dark overcast and it looked like the rain would stay awhile. In about 20 minutes, the skies started to clear... and then Momma and her 4 cubs were on the go.... traveling south along the base on the valley and they were moving fast. The elk and the elk calves on the hill got " the heck out of dodge" as they smelled the Grizz coming. The elks were scattering in all directions....

The Grizzly sow at times would run and the 4 cubs would frolic ahead of her, wrestle with each other, start to climb a tree and then didn't, stand up on their hind legs and look around... they were adorable to watch through the viewfinder... a very special moment and of course, one is a runt, always lacking behind. (see pic).

The Park Rangers arrived and they expected her to cross the road so they started clearing traffic, asking us to stay back, etc.... while the rangers were concentrating their efforts south of us, someone near us, spotted the Grizz Mom about 50 yards from us in the woods!!  We asked a driver of a southbound car to alert the ranger... the ranger comes running down to our area and starts to clear traffic there. After a 2 hour ordeal, the Grizz sow and her cubs never crossed the road but headed back north. The ranger speculated that with all the people noise and cars, she become nervous and decided not to cross the road with her babies.

After that exhilarating experience, we headed south to Norris to Madison and found a very nice bull elk grazing and snapped a few images of this handsome guy.

On the way back to the hotel, we stopped one last time at the Madison eagle's nest. Both adults were perched nearby in trees but no "fly ins to the nest" which is what I was hoping for.

Jared and I headed back the hotel around 8 pm, unloaded the car and had dinner with the other MPEGers, exchanging stories and memories of the last 8 days.

Jared and I are driving to Salt Lake in the early am, then flying home Friday afternoon.

This has been an unbelievable MPEG Groupshoot! I personally have 140 Gb of images to sort. 

We saw everything.. big horn sheep/lambs, grizzlies /cubs, black bears/cubs, wolves, bald eagles, golden eagles, osprey/chicks, marmots, elk /calves, bison/calves, proghorn/babies, beavers, badgers, ground squirrels galore, coyotes, sandhill cranes/chicks, mountain blue birds, violet green swallows and  I am sure I am missing something... AMAZING wildlife ops!.. and beautiful landscapes!

I would like to thank all of the attendees for being a great Group to work with the last week.  Thanks to all of you for reading the blog and  emails regarding the blog. A special Thanks to my wife, Kim  for "holding down the fort" the last week.

I will be posting images from this trip here over the next few weeks:

Be sure and check them out!

Goodbye to Yellowstone!


PS. Click on the pics to enlarge!

Grizz Sow and her 4 cubs in tow
Close-up of Grizz Sow
Runt of the 4 cubs catching up!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Day 7: Yellowstone / Grand Teton National Park GroupShoot

I think all the wildlife took a day off today!

Jared and I started out at 7:00 am after getting an hour's extra sleep last night. The primary goal today was Grizzlies.

We started out driving to the Dunraven Pass area and no sign of the Grizz Mom and her 2 cubs. I asked some bear watchers who were there "parked and watching" and they reported nothing so far. We made rounds up and down Dunraven to Mt Washburn and nothing. Some photogs were photographing a few Grouse.  We decided to visit the Tower carcass and there were several "long lenses" there but the carcass was bare (ie. no takers).... the photogs were sitting in lawn chairs, drinking coffee and socializing.

We decided to head over the Tower Bridge area, and Slough Creek and nothing going on. We continued on to Lamar Valley to stake out the Osprey's nest by the Lamar River. The chick was in the nest and one adult was sitting in a nearby tree. My goal was some nest landing images.  In about 75 mins, there were two flights to/fro the nest by the adult. My fav is the pic below.  Time well spent. hope to stop by there Thursday as well.

We decided to move on towards the Fishing Bridge to have lunch. Hayden Valley was "dead". I snapped a few landscapes of the Yellowstone Mountains and River scenics.  Had a nice lunch at the Fishing Bridge with the three Columbus MPEGers who happened to be there as well. They also reported "seeing nothing" all morning...

After lunch, Jared and I decided to drive to the East Entrance via the Sylvan Pass.  Lo and behold, about 3 miles up the road, we come across a "grizzly jam" along with three YNP Park Rangers for crowd control.

A large Grizzly bear captured an elk calf for dinner and was "snoozing" since his belly was full. He was about 50 yards from the road. At one point, he got up, walked a few steps, then fell over, scratched his belly and fell asleep again.... I snapped a few before he feel asleep.  This was the highlight of the day!

We continued to drive over to East Entrance and took in the view. There was plenty of snow on the ground there.

We went back to Hayden Valley and set up camp (at our fav Hayden Valley turnout)  for the approaching dusk in hopes of seeing some wildlife activity. A few eagles flew by, I captured my first Mountain Blue Bird, saw a red tailed hawk get harassed by a raven, a few white pelicans flew by and several elk around but no wolves and no bears.

We left at 6:30 pm so we could meet everyone for dinner at 8:00pm.  We just left our fav spot and down the road about an mile, Jared spotted two wolves heading south by Creek Otter. No photo ops as their appearance was very brief as they disappeared in the trees. They looked like they were on a mission.

On the way back to the hotel, yet another "bison jam" (see pic of the Leader below). This pic was taken handheld out the window as the bison came within a foot of my car as they passed by.

We had a nice dinner and now looking forward to our last day here (Thursday) in Yellowstone and hopefully the day will be filled with great stuff!

Stay tuned for the FINAL blog post, June 10!


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Day 6: Yellowstone / Grand Teton National Park GroupShoot

No rain was expected today.. but our early start down to the Tetons was a foggy one for the most part. As we arrived in the Grand Teton National Park (GTNP), the skies were robin blue/partly cloudy with the peaks of the Tetons obscured with clouds... but a beautiful day in this beautiful National Park!

As we entered the GTNP (driving from YNP) around 9:00 am , we were greeted with a "grizzly jam". A young Grizz was looking for grubs under rocks in a meadow beside the road, about 100 yds or so away. Of course, there was a big crowd. We stopped and snapped a few of this young grizzly bear.

The Tetons were absolutely gorgeous! Well lit, snow covered but a bank of low clouds played havoc with the peaks, however. We proceeded to Oxbow Bend and found the tip top of Mt. Moran clear of clouds but the rest obscured with clouds. We had a decent reflection in water so we worked this area for a few minutes. On to the Snake River Overlook and found the same...clouds obscuring the peaks. We spent some time there and then went to Schwabacher's Landing. We found the water in the beaver pond "for the reflection" to be non-existent because of the high water flow. We didn't shoot much here.

We then proceeded to the Mormon Row area and again, found the Teton peaks obscured with clouds. We didn't shoot any landscapes at that time. The coolest thing about this location was a badger's den! A badger mom and her 4 young badgers.... I was turning the car around and Jared spotted the cute, furry guys in a field by the road. We shot the heck out of these guys! None of us had seen a badger before and we are proud of our first badger images.

I made a decision to break for lunch thus hoping the clouds (covering the peaks) will be gone after lunch... We arrived back at Mormon Row and was greeted by clear peaks! We spent a great deal of time here shooting all perspectives. Great landscape ops!

We re-visited the Snake River Overlook and Oxbow Bend and re-shot some scenes with the clear mountains/peaks.

We then drove back to YNP and visited Old Faithful. I then spent about an hour at the Madison eagle's nest looking for more nest landing ops. The Juvi was in the nest,  one adult was in one of the trees by the nest. While I was watching (hoping for) for the adult to fly from the tree to the nest (he never did), the other adult (flew in over my head from behind me) arrived and landed in another nearby tree. I waited until I was at 3200 ISO, +3 EC and a SS of less than 1/1000, then I hung it up for the night.

Driving back to the hotel, I found a beautiful sunset over the mountains NW of West Yellowstone and a snapped a few frames.

Well folks, another 14 hours in the Parks.

Two more days left. We plan to seek out more Grizzlies tomorrow, a few waterfalls, and maybe stake out an Osprey's nest in Lamar Valley... plus whatever else "pops up" unexpectedly which is normal for Yellowstone.

Stay tuned for Day 7,


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Day 5: Yellowstone / Grand Teton National Park GroupShoot

Rain, rain go away.. and it finally did after lunch... but another interesting day in Yellowstone!

We got started around 7:30 am, and decided to go North to get out of the worse rain. We used the new road under construction from Madison to Norris which is one lane from 8am-10pm each day. Just our luck, a large herd of bison decided to take the road as well and traveled up the road amongst all the cars to Gibbon Meadows. The herd "took it's good ol' time". This caused us to lose an hour of time. We were not happy campers ... but happy to see the next available rest stop after that ordeal!

We decided to go from Norris to Canyon to Tower... and of course, we missed the Grizzly and her two cubs by like 2 minutes! They just crossed the road when we arrived and went down in the ravine. Major bummer.

We visited the recent carcass in Tower and there was a young black bear feeding on it. He started to come towards us (Yes, we have bear spray with us) but it was a young black bear and the Park Ranger shooed him away into the woods across the street. Got some nice images of him. (see pic).

We moved on to Slough Creek to show the others the golden eagle's nest. No golden eagle there at that moment..then on to Lamar Valley where some mule deer and Pronghorn posed for us. We photographed the Lamar River Rapids (see pic). We discovered an Osprey's nest (with a baby osprey) in Lamar which I GPSed. We plan to check that out later this week. We headed to Mammoth for lunch and on the way, we spotted a coyote pestering a bison. No contest here. The bison will win this one.

After lunch, we looked again for some bighorn sheep rams but found only moms and babies.

The rain had finally stopped as we headed back towards Tower. We photographed Undine Falls. A wily coyote showed up and trotted along side my car and then got in the middle of the road in front of my car. They have the right of way...(see pic)

Near Dunraven Pass, we came across a foggy Dunraven area with the Grizz and her two cubs in the fog. Two rangers were there directing the Grizz jam. The bears eventually when back up the hill. I will get these bears before I leave Friday! They have been elusive for Jared, Jack and I.

We stopped by Artist Point of the Lower Falls and shot some landscapes there. The clouds were dramatic! Good stuff.

On the way back to hotel to have dinner with everyone, I stopped by the Madison eagles nest. One adult was in a nearby tree. I stopped, set up and snapped a few of him. I was lucky as he decided to fly to the nest and I was able to get a decent landing pic of him. (see pic: note the shadow of the eagle's head on his right wing!). The juvenile popped up and the adult begin to feed him for long period of time. (see pic).  All priceless!

Tomorrow, we will be in the Tetons all day. The weather looks A+ for Tuesday in Jackson, WY!

Stay Tuned for Day 6!


Monday, June 7, 2010

Day 4: Yellowstone / Grand Teton National Park GroupShoot

Today was "on your own" day for all the MPEGers.

The rain was back today for most of the day. We headed to the northern part of Yellowstone today to try to avoid as much as the rain as possible as the rain was tracking south of Canyon-Norris Road. We had some periods of no rain and just overcast skies but no blue sky at all today. The moderate/heavy rain limited the landscape ops but boy, the cool wildlife was plentiful but mostly in the Northern part of the park.

We (Jared, Jack and I) started by driving from West Yellowstone to Madison (one adult bald eagle was at the Madison nest in a nearby tree) then to Norris to Swan Lake Flats to check on the Grizz mom and her 4 cubs. The bear watchers there told us the Grizz Mom and the cubs crossed the road at 6:30 am but were not in sight at that time we were there at 8:45 am.

We went to big horn sheep country looking for some Rams but not one sheep found. We drove on to Tower and came upon a huge crowd at the Tower Bridge. Upon arriving, we learned that a black bear (about an hour prior to our arrival) had killed a elk calf for breakfast. The bear was sitting under a tree by the Yellowstone River next to his kill taking a nap but looking up occasionally at the crowd on the bridge.

The fun part of this event was watching a common raven trying to be very wily to get his share of the kill without the bear seeing stuff! We left there after taking many bear pics and proceeded towards Lamar Valley.

We stopped at Slough Creek and Jared spotted a bald eagle in a tree by the creek. We walked towards the creek and and snapped a few pics of my fav subject. While there, we were made aware of a golden eagle's nest on a nearby cliff. We spent about 30 mins there photographing the golden eagle at the nest . He flew to a nearby tree and then back to the nest, thus capturing a few in-flight shots. That was the first golden eagle I have photographed to date. IMHO, this was the highlight of the day. See pic.

We proceeded on to Lamar Valley and saw nothing exciting (bison, pronghorn). We back tracked and headed to Canyon via Dunraven Pass. It was very foggy in the Pass and still plenty of snow on the ground there. See pic. BTW, the Columbus MPEGers had a good day with some very nice Grizz sow and her two cubs!

We arrived in Canyon and came upon another large "jam" and this time it was the well known Black bear sow and her 2 cubs feeding along the road. A few photogs were photographing a coyote on a carcass (MPEGer Marty Belan got soaked but he was there to get those images) We got several nice images of the three bears in Canyon.

After eating a late lunch in Canyon, another bear was seen at the Fishing Bridge area but the rains picked up (heavy at times) again and we decided to head back to the hotel so we can meet up with everyone for dinner at 7:30 pm.

On the way to the hotel, we came across yet another "jam" at the Madison River just west of the road junction to Norris. The crowd was watching a Elk cow and her calf starting to cross the Madison River. The calf was following his mom into the river when we arrived. (All the creeks and rivers here are swollen with heavy current because of the snow melt and rain). As the calf was following his mom, the rapid water current was sweeping him downstream! The crowd was silent and I stood there thinking I was about to watch a elk calf drown before my very eyes...... I never thought about taking a picture...I was frozen .. watching this play out in front of me.... the calf was calling to his Mom for help as the cow elk looked helplessly at her calf....being swept downstream.

The calf eventually managed to swim towards the shore to climb out of the river (the crowd started clapping!).  The calf ran to his mom (obviously scared) and immediately got a drink of milk!

This was the most dramatic part of the day..... Amazing.

Trust me, in Yellowstone, you never know what you will witness at any moment..... Yellowstone is Wild by Nature!

Tomorrow, Monday, June 7, we are headed up north again to avoid the predicted rain for Monday. The weather for rest of the week looks pretty good. Tuesday will be "Tetons Tuesday" as all of us will spend the entire day in the Grand Teton National Park. Three members depart Wednesday morning and the rest of us depart Friday.

Four more days of sheer photography bliss!

Stay Tuned!


Sunday, June 6, 2010

DAY 3: Yellowstone / Grand Teton National Park GroupShoot

Today, the weather was surprisingly terrific! It was raining when we left the hotel at 5:00 am but by the time we arrived at Dunraven Pass it was snowing then it progressed to clear, blue skies.

On the way to Lamar Valley (via Dunraven Pass), we saw a "jam" in Hayden Valley and was greeted with the Otter Creek Wolf Pack working on a bull elk carcass. They were several hundred yards away but I might have a decent pic at share later that was taken at 700mm.

From the wolves/elk carcass, on to Lamar Valley, where we shot some landscapes, no wolves, and a very friendly colony of ground squirrels.  We saw some mountain goats at the cliffs in Lamar and a pronghorn mom and her baby posed for us. We moved on to Mammoth Hot Springs, as we watched a coyote start to chase an adult elk cow but thought better of it and moved on. We snapped the Sandhill Cranes and their two chicks at Floating Island Lake. A coyote (yesterday, it was reported) attempted to nab the chicks but the adult Sandhills repelled the attack.

Had Lunch at Mammoth, proceeded to Swan Lake Flats based on report from a park tourist that the Grizzy sow and her 4 cubs were there. We rushed over and sure enough, we got some decent pics of the mother and her 4 cubs.... we stayed around for 20 mins, the mother appeared to lay down, so we left and headed to Gardiner looking for big horn sheep. Honest.... within 10 mins after the leaving the Grizz at Swan Lake Flats, we heard on our radios, that the Mother Grizz has chased down an elf calf for her (and the 4 cubs) supper!  BUMMER! We heard it was spectacular...... I was depressed for some time.....

However, we got some GREAT Big Horn sheep images with their lambs..... the lambs put a smile on our face. We visited a Convenience Store in Gardiner and discovered that a bear cub had become separated from his mother, fell in the river, swam downstream, ascended the river bank and climbed the nearest tree it could find which was on the convenience store property!!.. it was clearly frightened as people gathered around. A YNP Park Ranger was arriving as we departed....Geezz.. there is wildlife everywhere!

On the way back into the park, we photographed the Roosevelt Archway.

We proceeded to Hayden Valley for some landscape pics... not much wildlife at that time but there were a ton of bison in the morning. We took a short drive towards the east YNP entrance and took in the breathtaking vistas that area of the Park has to offer!

Back to the hotel at 9:00 pm, after putting in 16 hours in the Park today.

Sunday, everyone is on their own for the day and we will have dinner at 7:30pm to learn from everyone about their experiences they had for Sunday. The weather is expected to be good for most of the day.

The Park (for a Saturday) had light traffic which is a good thing us photographers are trying to get to place to place quickly...

It starts all over again in about 6 hours!

Stay Tuned!


Saturday, June 5, 2010

Day 2: Yellowstone / Grand Teton National Park GroupShoot

The theme today was RAIN!  It rained most of the day with some very short periods of no precip. The next several days say 20-30% rain so we will take it day by day and work with it.

The five of us who arrived yesterday started out this morning from Jackson, WY around 6:45am.  We traveled some of the  local roads known for wildlife. We found the usual bison, elk and pronghorn. We turned down Mormon Row Road and I spotted a young Swainson's hawk sitting calmly in a tree. We spent some time with him until he flew.... He was cooperative though.

We shot some of the Mormon barns with the Tetons in the background shrouded in fog. The shoot there was a muddy mess. I hope the Rental Car folks don't mind a little mud.  Proceeded to Oxbow Bend but Mt. Moran was obscured by fog. The eagles were still hanging out there though.

The 3 Columbus MPEGers proceeded to Yellowstone while Jared and I waited for 2 members to arrive at Jackson Hole Airport. We had a quick lunch with them and then we escorted them to West Yellowstone.  As we drove through the YNP higher elevations, there was a significant amount of snow still on the ground.. and of course, the falls and rivers are flowing well!  Gorgeous (rainy) scenery.

We ran across a HUGE bull elk in the Lower Geyser Basin grazing by the roadside... he then proceeded to cross the road in between cars minding his own business..... and that's no bull.........then we saw many baby bison (a ton of them...) grazing by the Madison River with the parents, several of the babies together. This was quite a sight to see. On the way to West Yellowstone, the Madison eagle's nest was occupied by one adult... Yes, of course, we stopped and took a few snaps.

Meanwhile, the highlight of the day for the 3 Columbus members was they came across a young grizzly in the Lake Butte Overlook along with "a million other people" (aka bear jam) and got some nice images of  him.

We all had dinner together tonight and planned tomorrow by consensus which is a 5:00 am start and we are headed to the Northwestern part of Yellowstone looking for bighorn sheep, grizzlies, and wolves ... and whatever else shows up....we plan to eat lunch out of our cars to avoid losing valuable shooting ops so the local supermarket was happy to see us!

Doesn't this sound like fun?

Friday, June 4, 2010

Day 1: Yellowstone / Grand Teton National Park GroupShoot

Hello Everyone,

First, I have been awake for 22 hrs and if this post seems incoherent, you will understand why!

What a day! Flight to Salt Lake City was fine. The 5.5 hr drive to Jackson, WY was on schedule for Jared and me, but the 3 other members who were with us had a defective rental car and had to go back to the airport, replace the car and start over again. They arrived 3 hours late.

Jared and I (since the others were delayed) decided to venture out and see what we could find...Within minutes of driving into the Grand Teton National Park, we come upon a big bull moose grazing off the road about 75-100 yds. This was my FIRST bull moose experience. He does look like bullwinkle! There were several cars pulled over admiring this guy..... then we proceeded to Oxbow Bend...saw some elk and bison (the usual) on the way.. At Oxbow Bend, the sky was cloudy thus no sunset color but I snapped some images of the classic Oxbow Bend/ Mt. Moran scene with dramatic clouds. We will see how they turn out....

Within 45 minutes at Oxbow Bend, we snapped several American White pelicans in the Oxbow Bend water. Some took off in flight and flew right in front of the Tetons (see pic). We saw a nice big beaver by the water's edge and snapped him.

I was talking with a couple from Florida and I remarked, "all we need is an eagle to fly by" and (honest to God..) just as I said those words, a juvenile bald eagle flew out from the trees and circled over the water at Oxbow Bend... Amazing... You gotta love this place!

It is truly WILD! Unpredictable! It really is exhilarating to be here not to mention BEAUTIFUL... snow capped mountains....JUST BEAUTIFUL!

The rest of the MPEGers arrive tomorrow!

I am going to sleep... Goodnight!


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

"We are off to see the Wizard... of Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons!"

In just under 48 hrs, 9 MPEGers will converge in Yellowstone for a MPEG GroupShoot they will remember for a long time!

I will be blogging daily here beginning June 3 to June 10, 2010!


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Pelican Phun!

 I spent some time last week photographing pelicans along the Mississippi River. This was my first season with the Pelicans.

Here is a sample of some Pelican Phun!

Monday, April 26, 2010

HDR Software Shoot-out soon!

I have ordered my CS5 upgrade. I will receive it next week. I am eager to try the NEW HDR Pro feature in CS5. I have HDR Photostudio but have yet to use it. I am a 3 yr. Photomatix Pro user.

Once I receive my CS5 upgrade, I plan to find some time and work some images, compare and come to a conclusion as to which one works best for me. I try to achieve the Painterly Look.

I will post the summary and results for you to decide as well.

Stay tuned!

Friday, April 23, 2010

It's Spring time at the CVNP Heron Rookery!

I stopped by the CVNP (Cuyahoga Valley National Park) Heron Rookery last evening (4/22/2010) briefly to check out the latest activity.

There are over 70 nests, lots of Great Blue Herons, nest building activity and some nests had babies but the baby boom is still a few weeks away.

Here are some images from my visit:

Friday, April 9, 2010

A Great Horned Owl Owlet at 4-5 weeks old

They are growing fast!  This image was taken 4/9/2010:

Monday, March 29, 2010

Spring Project: Great Horned Owlets

One of my new photography projects this Spring is a Great Horned Owl's nest that I have visited a few times. There are 3 owlets that are growing fast and furious week by week.

This image is from March 23, 2010.

More to follow!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Added music to my bald eagle photography slideshow!

I added the Native American song, the  "eagle song" by Phillip John Charette  

Click here to check it out :

It fits the story... Enjoy!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Sometimes, you have to put your camera down...

I returned Sunday, February 28 from my 4th and final trip this winter to the Mississippi River in Iowa to photograph bald eagles. This was my first winter photographing these amazing birds at L&D 14.

In the 4 trips, I shot over 12,000 images total.... all in RAW!  I met many new photography friends, exchanged several business cards, and learned some new things about photography and eagle behavior.

In the many hours, I spent photographing eagles there, I was focused and intent on getting the best images I could get. I keep checking my shutter speed as the light changed in order to keep my shutter speed up, I chatted with fellow photographers but keeping one eye open so I wouldn't miss that perfect shot. At times, there were many eagles flying around (at the same time) and it was intense and difficult to know which bird to track and follow through the viewfinder. In some cases, the eagle would fly around and around and around.. for 2-3 minutes then go back to the tree.... It was "exhausting" at times.

Sunday, February 28 was my last day at L&D 14 for this season. I wanted to go by one more time (on my way home) and "say goodbye" to the place.  As I was driving to L&D 14, I decided to leave my Canon 7D/500 f4 L in my car and just walk around and enjoy the eagles!  I watched them fly in and out, fish, and soar above me on a crisp, clear Sunday morning.

It was obvious that (in the last week) many of the eagles have left the area and headed back north for the Spring/Summer/Fall to return again (like many, many years in the past) in December to winter along the Mississippi River.

There were a few eagles left to "enjoy" this Sunday morning and I did...

As nature photographers, We often don't see the forest for the trees.

Sometimes, you have to put your camera down and appreciate the nature we love so much.

I can't wait for winter 2011 to enjoy (and photograph) these truly astonishing birds of prey.... again.


Me at L&D 14, February 28, 2010

Saturday, February 20, 2010

MPEG Iowa Eagles GroupShoot: Day 2 (Final Day)

Today, despite the overnight snow and the fog that lingered throughout this cloudy day, we had really good eagle activity!  We had some very unique ops like 3 eagles fighting over a fish on the ground, eagles on the ice, a mating ritual in the sky plus many eagle fishing events!  There are some really beautiful juvenile eagles here.

A few members left today because of the impending snow storm but 16 in total will be celebrating a great GroupShoot with a MPEG Party tonight at Happy Joe's (Pizza) in downtown Le Claire. We have a private dinner room waiting for us.

There were a lot of smiling faces throughout the GroupShoot as members were getting amazing eagle photography ops for the first time!

The rest of us are headed home tomorrow to beat the snow storm, and of course, we are looking forward to sorting and post-processing THOUSANDS of bald eagle images.

Everyone is looking forward to Winter 2011 for the next MPEG Iowa Eagles GroupShoot!


Here are two images from today. Essentially unprocessed, RAW converted to JPEGs.
Click on the pics to enlarge!

(1) Eagles on the ice
(2) A juvenile shows off his beautiful body!

Friday, February 19, 2010

MPEG Iowa Eagles GroupShoot: Day 1

We made it to Iowa! We have 15 MPEG members for a total of 21 in attendance.

We had decent light (bright overcast) for today with many eagles and good activity... many fishing events, aerial battles for fish, etc. and some great portrait ops.

Tonight, 1-2 inches of snow forecasted, snowing ending in the morning and we expect mainly clouds tomorrow after 1:00 pm tomorrow.  A snow storm is headed here Sunday evening but all of us will be on our way home Sunday morning with the storm following us to Cleveland!

Overall, it was a good day and many members are realizing how difficult it can be to photograph eagles as they move 50-100 mph in their flight activities.

Here are two images from today. Click on each image to enlarge it.
(1) An eagle retrieves a fish in the snow.
(2) An eagle calls for his mate in a tree overlooking the Mississippi River.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

10 Random Facts You may not know about the Apple iPad!

1. It will pair with any Bluetooth keyboard
2. It’s smaller, lighter and cheaper than some Sony Vaio netbooks
3. People say the iPad won’t allow multi-tasking but it appears that it will – at least when you are using some Apple apps
4. A base model iPad will hold approximately 22,000 1024 pixel photos
5. You can indeed output the iPad video to an HDTV
6. You will be able to connect USB devices to the iPad through an adapter cable
7. You will be able to read SD/CF cards onto an iPad through an adapter cable
8. The iPad is similarly priced to the less powerful, mono-screened Kindle DX
9. Most (if not all) external batteries for iPods and iPhones will also power the iPad
10. The iPad is not supposed to replace a laptop or a net book – it’s a new class of device

Source: PadPundit

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Back to Iowa Again... The third and final time for this bald eagle winter season!

I am returning to Iowa again this weekend along with 16 MPEG members in tow (with some spouses and SOs) for total of 23 eagle fanatics!

It should be interesting... stay tuned.. I will probably blog daily!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Apple's Aperture 3.0 vs Lightroom 3.0 ?

As you know, I am a current Lightroom (LR) user . I use LR to catalog my images, sort, and make basic exposure adjustments.  Up until the release of Aperture 3.0 a few days ago, Lightroom (IMHO) was the better product.... but I  believe Aperture 3.0 has caught up to and maybe surpassed Lightroom.

Now, we all know that the final version of Lightroom 3.0 has not been released yet (April 2010, I believe) and maybe the final LR 3.0 version will surpass Aperture 3.0?

I have both software programs. I did upgrade to Aperture 3.0 for $99.00 yesterday. I am eager to try Aperture 3.0 out while awaiting the release of Lightroom 3.0.

Competition is good and Apple just rattled Adobe's LR cage with Aperture 3.0, IMHO.

I bet there were some "intense LR team meetings" going on at Adobe last week.

Time will tell......

Saturday, February 13, 2010

"Out on a Limb"....

A juvenile bald eagle overlooks the Mississippi River at sunrise...

Friday, February 12, 2010

Day 3: Return to Iowa! (FINAL)

Lo and Behold.. Two sunny days in a row so plenty of light... and PLENTY of eagles! I would GUESS 50-60 eagles in the area! They seemed to be everywhere at times.

We started out early this morning. It was 1 degree F. The Mississippi River had sheets of ice floating by the hotel. We arrived and saw maybe 6 eagles in the immediate area.  Everyone was cold... us and the eagles and they (the eagles) didn't move for most of the morning. When it is really cold, they prefer not to fly to conserve energy. We went over to the ice area but saw no eagles on the ice at the time we were there. One landed on the ice briefly then flew off.

We then made back to the boardwalk area.. again no movement. I spend time getting some nice front-lit portraits of the eagles in the trees.  From what I am told by the local photographers, the mornings are typically "dead" (little activity). We went to lunch and returned around 12:30pm. More photogs started showing up. We had a crowd of 40 or so photogs by 1:30 pm. One of the local guys brought some fish to throw out into the river to get the eagles off their duffs!  Within 5 secs, 4 eagles were circling and checking the bait fish out...

THEN around 3:00 pm... someone rang the dinner bell as numerous eagles started coming from all directions, fishing, circling, flying overhead, tree to tree, etc.... and then a period of maybe 30-45 mins, NOTHING again... then all of sudden eagles appeared out of thin again... this went on until sunset... everyone left by 5:15 pm (sunset was 5:30pm) Myself and 2 other people were just leaving and BAMMMM... eagles everywhere again... fishing... they must have realized they better get their supper as it will be dark soon! It was non-stop for 15 minutes...

It was damn near dark and I am shooting @ f4, ISO 1600, +1 EV just to attempt to capture the action.... I was lucky to capture an attempted "fish-jacking" as an adult and another juvi tried to steal a juvenile's fish from him! The one adult is flying upside down with talons up in an attempt to grab the fish but he was not successful! The juvenile got away and flew to a nearby tree to eat his supper. See image below.

It was a "shoot out" at the OK Corral as I netted a total of 100GB of RAW images!

I am looking forward to leading the bald eagles MPEG GroupShoot there soon as I want the GS attendees to experience the Midwest's ultimate location for bald eagle photography too!

I am posting 3 images today:

(1) A tree (or more) full of eagles! I counted 16 in this image.
(2) The fishjacking!  An adult and another juvi ganging up on a juvenile eagle but they were not successful this time.
(3) A juvenile eagle flies right at me and over my camera lens.

I apologize as the images are RAW converted to JPEGs with no routine post processing. Click on each pic for a larger view!

Thanks to all of you following my blog!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Day 2: Return to Iowa!

On my way to customer appointments today, I saw at least 10 bald eagles either in the trees along the road or soaring overhead. At one point today, 6 eagles flew out together (out of the nearby hills) so the "hills are alive" with these guys.

The BIG news of the day!... the sun does shine in Iowa! In fact, there was a cloudless, sunny sky all day.... which of course, is not "ideal" for nature photography either....but I'll take it. I had about 15-20 eagles all around me this late afternoon with some pretty good activity.  I was happy to finally take some eagle images with some decent light and the light sure makes them pop!  Something about light and photography that go together, huh?

I spoke with some local photographers and they showed me a good spot to see eagles on the ice eating their fish in the mornings.

Hopefully we will have good weather for the upcoming MPEG GroupShoot here!

I am posting two images that illustrate the nice late afternoon light today. The top image is a juvenile bald eagle and the second image is an adult bald eagle. Click on the image for a LARGER view.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Day 1: Return to Iowa!

We made it!  It snowed overnight in Joliet (about 3 inches), short of the predicted 6 inches. We left Joliet ... headed to Le Claire, IA via I-80W. I-80W was clear and dry for the most part. No travel issues at all. Smooth sailing!

We arrived in Le Claire around 1:00pm CST. We went straight to the eagle location.  It was snowing pretty good the whole time we were there (about 2 hours). There were 5-6 eagles in the area. They were hunkered down because of the weather but on 3 occasions we were treated to some eagle fishing, some eagle aerial play with other eagles, an eagle chasing a gull....but the snow made photography a challenge.. keeping the snow off the lens, off the view finder, autofocusing on the BIF through the snow... I used manual focus for some portrait shots in the trees.

Tomorrow's weather calls for AM Clouds/PM Sun. I am excited about seeing the sun in Iowa tomorrow for the first time!!

Stay tuned!

The pic below is a snowy pic of an adult bald eagle landing through the snow in a tree. Click on the pic for a larger view.

February 9-11, 2010: Return to Iowa!

As you know from my last trip to Iowa, I had an ice storm the one day which wiped out my customer appointments and eagle shooting for that day. I rescheduled by customer appointments for Feb 10-11.

My son, Jared (and MPEG member) is traveling with me this time.

The original plan was to leave Cleveland, Tuesday, Feb 9 around 6:00 am for Iowa. We would arrive around 1:00 pm, shoot some eagles, go to dinner and then Jared is treating me to a Gov't Mule concert Tuesday night in Davenport, IA. Ever heard of Gov't Mule? Could this concert be more exciting than shooting eagles?

Anyway, the NEW midwest snow storm changed our plans. I debated whether to even make the trip....but after some analysis of weather along the way, I decided that we should leave Cleveland today no later than 4:30pm EST and get to Joliet, IL by 9pm CST before the snow hits here.  From Joliet, we are only two hours away from Le Claire, IA.....

We left Cleveland at 4:13pm EST and arrived in Joliet, IL at 8:57pm CST and not a snowflake to be seen... We then headed to a late dinner and while at dinner, it started to snow around 9:15 pm CST.... and still snowing!...........

We are expected to have at least 6 inches of snow by morning here in Joliet. Jared and I are placing our faith in the (Illinois) IDOT and (Iowa) IDOT in keeping I-80 very drivable so we can head out for Le Claire no later than noon and arrive between 2-3pm CST Tuesday. I should get a few hours of eagle shooting in provided it is not snowing when we arrive. The weather for Wednesday and Thursday looks good (partly cloudy)!

If we had waited to leave Cleveland Tuesday am, it would have been a very long and messy/snowy drive from Cleveland to Le Claire!

Stay tuned!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Topaz Remask 2: Replacing a boring sky

I enjoy using Topaz Lab's plug-ins, I have Topaz Adjust, Topaz Detail, etc. I recently purchased Topaz Remask 2 knowing it would come in handy sooner or later...and the sooner is here.

During my recent Iowa eagles trip, the skies were overcast everyday. I didn't see the sun for 6 days (I am looking forward to seeing the sun this week in Iowa during my return trip.)

I have a ton of nice eagle images but the skies in the images are boring....gggg...ggg!

Topaz Remask 2 to the rescue!  Topaz Remask is very to use by masking out the eagle in seconds, (cutting out the sky) and then simply dragging in a new sky background via Photoshop.

The new images below are BEFORE and AFTER.

Never fear an overcast day again when shooting eagles! I also "re-positioned" the eagle for a better composition in the AFTER image.

Pretty cool, huh?



Tuesday, February 2, 2010

HDR PhotoStudio Announced Today for the Mac!

Dang... I just gave a HDR presentation tonight at the Canton Camera Club and when I checked my email after the presentation, I have an email from Unified Color Technology that says HDR PhotoStudio is now available for the Mac!

UCT claims HDR PhotosStudio is better than Photomatix with color!  We shall see... I am eager to try this one!

Click here for HDR PhotoStudio for the Mac!

I will be back soon with my experience!

Monday, February 1, 2010

The January Iowa Eagle Trip: 150 GB, 4000 images and....

the 4,000 was narrowed to 1,500 and in those 1,500 images, I have post about 50 keepers thus far but  I have a few more to go.... therefore I had about 1-2% keepers, which I thought was pretty good! I posted one of my favs below.  You can see the entire eagle slideshow by clicking here!

I am headed back for "more"  Feb 9-11 and then again Feb 19-21 leading a MPEG GroupShoot!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Apple's iPad and Photography!

I see the iPad as a great photographer's tool, especially showing your portfolio to potential clients!

I am an Apple Addict.. I am "in"!   I will post a review in the future.

Check out Apple's iPad here!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Here is one whale of a fish (eagle) story "caught on tape"!

On the last day of my Iowa trip, I stopped by to see what was going on with the eagles.  It was me and 4 other people. The other folks were a couple hundred feet down the boardwalk from me.

I was looking for "multiple eagle" shots, something different.. when suddenly, two eagles took off from the tree they were perched in. I followed them visually first as they flew up and away from me by several hundred yards...I noticed the two eagles getting closer (for a cool image) so I just started shooting this event...the eagles were so far away, I didnt realize what I was photographing until I heard one of the other photogs exclaim" Ohhhhh he got it!"..... and I thought, what is he talking about?

This event happened in a matter of a few seconds. The one photog was watching the event (not photographing) and told me that the one eagle clipped the other (which had a fish), the eagle lost his fish in mid-air then snagged it again on the fly.... I got every frame BUT the last frame showing him with the fish in his talons as he recovered it....had I had known what I was actually photographing at the time, I would have shot a few more frames...  Nonetheless, here are 5 images that show you how the event unfolded. I cropped the images by 50% or so. I apologize for the poor image quality but enjoy!

Note: Eagles are lazy and they often try to steal another's fish. I saw this happen more than a few times...In this case, the eagle with the fish initially retrieved his own fish!

Top to Bottom: (click on each image to enlarge)
Photo 1 - The two eagles are flying together..the eagle with the fish is on the bottom.
Photo 2 - The eagle (top) without the fish overtakes the eagle with the fish
Photo 3 - The top eagle "clips" the eagle with the fish and causes him to drop the fish in mid-air
Photo 4 - The eagle (who had the fish) immediately pursues the free falling fish
Photo 5 - The eagle with talons open is about to reclaim/snag his fish in mid-air... and he does! (trust me).