Friday, February 20, 2009

Blog about a Blog

Yes, it is highly possible that blogging about a blog could somehow form a vortex between dimensions or even create a black hole like the Large Hadron Collider.

Nevertheless UtahBeeKeeper risked it all and was very complimentary in his post about Fly to Water. I also discovered his operation Millcreek Valley Farm, which produces a variety of high quality soaps, lotions, bath salts, and other hand-made products. Check out his web page at Millcreek Valley Farm.

Who knows where it will all end, now that I have blogged about a blog about a blog. Thanks UtahBeeKeeper!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Pay the Dues

Why do the deranged wade through swamps in temperatures that are often referred to as being “colder than a well-digger’s butt”? No one really knows, although individuals collectively known as the wives of outdoorsmen have offered less than credible commentary on the subject for eons of time.

Henry David Thoreau once wrote that he went to Walden Pond to live deliberately. It is more likely that the original draft said something like, “I went to the woods deliberately so that I would no longer hear about how much mud I had just tracked onto the living room carpet.”

Writers and outdoorsmen must endure hardship, because we hope that at some point it will pay off. Such was the case today. Temperatures were below freezing well into the late afternoon hours with the added bonus of blizzard conditions. The tweed-jacket-wearing sensible types that have been festooned from every cattail lately were nowhere to be found on the Bay.

I was there, contemplating which of my appendages might experience the heartbreak of frostbite first and silently hoping it wouldn't be the "vitals" as my grandfather referred to them.

With an hour of daylight to spare, a giant cloud mass swept aside revealing blue sky.

A group of swans flew past trumpeting their song, as if heralding what was close on their tails.

Eagles! Lots of them. One after another mature baldies started hitting the river outlet and hammering the carp to be found in the shallows. The light was spot on, and having paid my dues and been persistent, it was time to fill up a memory card.

A bird dropped in a huge carp and started tearing flesh off the bones.

Eagles were everywhere. Circling, landing, flying over just to take a look at what was on the menu.

8 gigabytes of photographs flowed like water. Then there was a pause in the activity. Suddenly a couple of bufflehead ducks dropped down onto the water right in front of me with some spectacular reflections coming off the surface in the evening light.

A female harrier dropped in and perched nearby, almost perfectly camoflauged in the reeds.

It didn't take long for the light to fade, but I got more quality images in the final hour of the last day than the rest of the 5 days combined. Tomorrow it's back to work, although there is satisfaction in sticking with the task even when the outlook is grim.

After all, as Thoreau found out, no one wants to die only to discover that they had not lived.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

I'm Blue

Another day, another blizzard. The storm cleared out about 2 PM today, and once again the eagles had largely decided to take shelter elsewhere. There were harriers about but with all the photos I took of them yesterday it was time for a different challenge.

The Bay was deserted, and I thought it could be a good time to seek out a blue heron. They have been very shy, avoiding all the crowds that have shown up to eagle watch. In full camo, I went out and hid myself near some open water where seagulls were actively fishing.

I didn't wait long at all until I saw the enormous wings of an inbound heron.

The big blue didn't notice me, and in an event that has never happened to me before, it flew up and landed within 30 yards of my hide.

I also got one of the best shots of a kestrel that I've ever taken, sitting on a weathered branch after a meal.

If you're out there when no one else wants to deal with the discomfort, sometimes you are rewarded.

Be Very...Very...Quiet

Everyone needs to check out JayMorr's shots from yesterday at FlyFishermanForum because they turned out wicked. He sniped a shot of me on the boomstick too.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Harrier Hayday

Neither rain, nor sleet, nor ISO creep shall keep the lens from making its rounds. Despite a jilting this morning by the snow storm my hopes were high for a window of opportunity later in the day. Sure enough, a break in the clouds brought out some excellent lighting. Jay and I wasted no time, and upon arrival found the soggy marsh devoid of people. The quiet was very inviting, but unfortunately the eagles had also decided to seek refuge in far away places.

In outdoor photography, many times you have to take what the defense gives you. It was time to hunt some harrier.

Right here I clicked the shutter, when, just like bread and butter,
In there stepped a JayMorr of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with digi Canon his lady, perched above my Cummins door,
Perched and burst the buffer sore just above my Cummins door;
Tagged the JayMorr, Nevermore!

Poe notwithstanding, when the veil of clouds thinned out the sky was a sight to behold.

Then they came, harrier after harrier bombing in during some of the cleanest lighting condititions I've seen all week.

It all came to a quick and chilly close soon enough, but during the 30-minute frenzy I grabbed some of the best shots of female harriers I have ever snagged. Sometimes it really is about going with the flow and looking for the silver lining.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Old Man & the Bay

He was an old man who took photos at the bay with Morrison, and he had gone 84 days now without taking a fish.
-Ernest Colvinway, The Old Man & The Bay

Day two of the Ironman Eagathalon dawned cold and overcast. When I arrived, only one other photographer was on station and with the naked eye I could see 107 bald eagles. The biggest challenge of the morning was lighting, and from minute to minute I needed to adjust my settings as I poked the big prime through the gloom.

Eagles are large and can be seen from a great distance. That is why it's perplexing how they can often sneak up on you and appear out of nowhere. This old veteran bombed in on me at such close range I couldn't capture a full wingspan in the lens.

Morning seems to be the time that eagles enjoy quibbling over carp. Today was no exception and I managed a few snaps of the antics.

Some observers mistake the numerous immature bald eagles for goldens. Young baldies have a brown, mottled appearance which progresses over the first 2 years to full plumage.

This bird was expressing some displeasure at being pestered by an "immature" that was trying to horn in on the carp action. Shortly after this I was also forced to express displeasure at several clothed primates that ventured out onto the ice of the off-limits rest area, which began spooking the eagles farther out onto the flow.

As the day progressed good lighting remained scarce but we did get a few good opportunites like this carp-clutching fly by.

After hours of waiting there was a short flurry of activity when a thermal formed nearby and eagles started rushing into the air to take advantage of it, soaring thousands of feet into the air in minutes.

Homo Sapiens began building up into voluminous masses of humanity in the early afternoon. The harriers have been very skittish lately due to the hustle and bustle, but I did manage a photo of a male, which is an extremely rare happening for me. I see them frequently, but they perpetually avoid the business end of my camera.

I thought this shot of a female was fun, as she sat perched on top of the No OHV sign:

We called it a day early when the rain moved in and the cloud cover made motion photography an impossibility. Thanks again to Jay for good company and lots of insights. Be sure to check out his captures at JayMorr Photography.

Thanks for stopping in!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Hear no Eagle, See no Eagle

I've long admired the photography of Jason Morrison, and today I got to meet him while observing a billowing throng of adolescent humanity break upon us like surf. Thanks for the company and good times Jay! Don't miss Jay's stuff at jaymorrphotography or his blog:

The humanoid density of the eagle-bearing wetlands swelled today and probably exceeded the population of Turkmenistan by 2PM.

Morrison is apparently a powerful weasel attractant, because no sooner did we arrive on scene than this one charged the Cummins:

The location of the birds didn't make for ideal lighting conditions in the morning, but patience paid off and we had a few close encounters.

It is crazy to see birds this size jump off the ice and snatch carp out of the open water after just a few flaps of their powerful wings.

Often disagreements involving the ownership of the sushi break out and we got treated to several intense fish fights.

The control that eagles exhibit in the air is remarkable. This bird banked hard as it approached open water, and eventually began dragging its wingtip and tracing a contact line across the water's surface.

We had a great time out in the marsh. It was a gorgeous day with blue sky and very pleasant temperatures. We missed some nice opportunities but came away with some nice captures too. I'm excited to get back out and do it again.

Friday, February 6, 2009

They're Heeeere

Despite the rain I made a quick stop tonight after work. The ice had really shifted with the wind, and open water areas were quite a bit different from yesterday. Once the eagles are on station they tend to increase in number rapidly, stick around for a few weeks, and then diminish as fast as they arrived.

Again poor lighting conditions were limiting, but I did get rewarded with a very brief crack in the clouds that lasted 7 or 8 minutes. During that time I snapped a few shots, which only increase my anticipation of the next 5 days.