Two rounds of images for the day.
Back by popular demand; here’s another moon image. I awoke at 4:00 a.m. to take a leak, and I looked out the window and saw a cool First Quarter moon. Oh, what the heck, let’s get an image of it. Nancy next door lets their dog out every day at that time, and I didn’t want to startle her, as I’m NEVER up at 4:00 a.m. So I purposely wear my bright white Mark Martin NASCAR jacket so at least she’ll know it’s me. As I’m in my garage fetching my tripod, I’m worried she’ll see the light on and call the Police, but I get set-up with no issues. As I’m firing away, I hear Scott and Nancy’s garage door opening. Uh, oh. Their dog sees me and is looking my direction, but Nancy isn’t. So I start dragging my slippers on my driveway in order to get her attention…she still doesn’t see/hear me…finally, I quietly say “Nancy” and she just about had a heart attack! Oh yeah, that worked out just dandy. Anyway, here’s the shot (that Nancy got a first hand look at, after she got her breath back):
At least I got a decent image; I just love those small craters/shadows on the upper left-hand side. Plus, “911” was never dialed; I wasn’t hauled away in a squad car, and Nancy wasn’t hauled away in an ambulance!
Round two of images took place at the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge near Princeton, MN. I was disappointed with this visit, as I was hoping to see more wildlife than I did, but managed some images nevertheless.
A typical scene along the 7.3 mile “Wildlife Drive” trail (driven, not walked), which is where all these images were taken. I used a polarizer filter to reduce the reflections in the water.
A collection of flying creatures gathered at this tree so I took a photo. Most of the wildlife was seen from a distance, which was a source of great frustration for me. I saw a Great Blue Heron, at about 50 yards out, but it was spooked just by me pulling up in my car, and it took off. I said out-loud “I photographed one from 20 feet away in my backyard!”
I liked the angle of these two trees juxtaposed the contrails. John Shaw absolutely HATES contrails but I think they work in this image. The blues and greens were accentuated by changing the white balance during post-processing (another advantage of shooting in RAW/NEF). The original image looked a little too yellow to me (I have my cameras set to AUTO for the white balance). I’m happy with how this turned out.
Nikon D7000 with a Tamron SP 70-300mm F/4-5.6 Di VC USD lens shot at F/5.6 and a 1/400 of a second shutter speed. ISO 100. Focal length: 300mm. IMAGE CROPPED.
I caught this Sandhill Crane before it snuck back into the tall grass. Views of the wildlife were fleeting, and like I said before, often were done from a distance. I saw two fantastic brilliant-white Swans that would have made for a great image, but they were a zillion miles away, with no way to get to them.
Two images of a flower; this one, with a butterfly…..
…and one without. I couldn’t decide which one I liked better, so I put both of them here for you to decide. A helpful hint for flower shots is to use a narrow depth of field (a lower F-stop number) to blur what is often a distracting background. However, make sure your depth of field is wide enough to have all of your primary subject in focus. I used my Tamron tele-zoom for these 2 shots, to help blow out the background some more.
I like the vertical lines of the trees here, and the hypnotic effect of the grass. It looks blurry and in motion, but it’s not. I also adjusted the white balance (to “direct sunlight”) on this image in post-processing.
Shooting in RAW/NEF allowed me to rescue this image. In my haste to take it, I didn’t check my settings, so it was over-exposed, and quite washed out. Post-processing allowed me to present a properly exposed image. It’s a bit soft; taken at 1/40 of a second at 300mm. Still, the Tamron’s VC came through. The bird took off before I could take another image. Uncooperative little snot.
Another angled tree image. I also did the aforementioned white balance adjustment here (and yes, I used a polarizer). I like the colors in this shot, as they remind me of the artwork from Geddy Lee’s “My Favorite Headache” CD. The two negatives here are the contrails on the lower left, and the tree in the lower right. I was doing everything I could to avoid the latter, but when I started to sink into the wet marsh, I needed to get out of there. Plus, I was getting buzzed by a pesky biting fly. Jerk.
Nikon D7000 with a Tamron SP 70-300mm F/4-5.6 Di VC USD lens/Tamron SP AF 2X tele-converter shot at F/11 and a 1/800 of a second shutter speed. ISO 500. Focal length: 600mm. IMAGE CROPPED.
There is an American Bald Eagle nest along the trail, and my expectations were high to get some quality images. This was further enhanced by the local staff and signage that hammers visitors to “PLEASE OBSERVE EAGLES FROM INSIDE YOUR CAR”, which implied (to me) that they were close to the trail. Hardly. Even with my 600mm focal range lens set-up I felt like I was in the nosebleed seats. Disturbing the eagles? What? I was so far away I could have fired off a cannon and not fazed them. Give credit to the eagles; they ain’t stupid (they are my favorite wild creature, easily). The staff (who were quite friendly and helpful) was concerned about the new offspring, which can be seen in the nest. That’s kinda cool, but I remain unhappy about this shot. I really wish I could have been closer.
Nikon D7000 with a Tamron SP 70-300mm F/4-5.6 Di VC USD lens/Tamron SP AF 2X tele-converter shot at F/11 and a 1/50 of a second shutter speed. ISO 100. Focal length: 460mm.
I saved the best for last. This is my favorite of the day. I love the dichotomy of the dead tree trunk to the vibrant lily pads. The colors are excellent here, as well. My mistake on this was not using a wider depth of field to get all the lily pads sharp, but oh well.
So that ends my day. Although I am able to present a few shots here, I was rather miserable during this shoot; especially when I realized how far away the eagle nest was. I spent almost 4 hours there, so you cannot say I didn’t try. The positives are I am offering some decent shots for you to review, and it was a beautiful day outside. Plus, I learned a few things:
• Wildlife photography is tough. It requires a lot of patience and some speed with your equipment. I was caught woefully unprepared when the few opportunities I had arose. I also stick religiously to low ISO’s, and wildlife photography requires fast shutter speeds, so a higher ISO than I usually shoot. The bottom line is I’ll never be that great of a wildlife photographer (or a wedding photographer, for that matter).
• Time. I suspect most of the dynamite wildlife images you see had a TON of time invested in them; likely many hours seeing nothing until their subject came along.
• Smarts. My guess is most photographers have an education of the animals they are seeking, whereas I am pretty much clueless in that department. That didn’t help.
• Packin’. When I used it, my Tamrac Aerospeed 85 photo backpack worked brilliantly.
• Stability. When I used it, the Tamron 2X tele-converter worked horribly. The issue was stability; my smaller Manfrotto tripod just cannot hold the 600mm set-up steady enough to get crisp shots. I could see it shake like crazy when the wind blew. As I have said before, when using very long focal length lenses, you have to use a big, heavy tripod (like my Bogen Honker). Without the tele-converter, the Tamron tele-zoom worked very, very well. Most of these shots were taken with it.
• Tick-tock. Watch out for wood-ticks. I found one crawling around my jeans while driving on the way home. I’m lucky there was only one, but I planned a full inspection upon my return home (all my clothing included; inside and out).
• Super Ron warned me. Beware of old, crappy computer mouses. After spending about 3 hours building this page, my old mouse started acting flaky. That in turn, did a “CONTROL-A” function and selected a large chunk of my work, and deleted it without me noticing (when editing, you can’t see the full web page), and then it got saved that way. In other words, it wiped out most of the page you are seeing, and I required another 3 hours to re-build it. Especially infuriating after continually saving my work every few minutes during the build. The old mouse was violently destroyed (see “Office Space”), and I went and got a new one. Super Ron told me stuff like this happens in web building, but I was still out-of-my-mind angry.
all images © Scott Woelm – June 2012