Sunday, January 23, 2011


A few wisps of blue sky showed themselves occasionally this weekend, and I spent some time scouting locations for raptors. Aside from getting to watch a great blue heron spearing voles with amazing accuracy one evening after the light had faded, nothing noteworthy really took place.

Utah's Wasatch Front experiences a widespread temperature inversion during the winter. This phenomenon causes an enormous pollution cloud, even larger than the one emitted by Al Gore's personal residence, to hover over the valley.

Spending any time outdoors under these conditions is akin to huffing oxides of nitrogen directly from the exhaust pipe of a 1970 AMC Gremlin.

Occasionally a storm of sufficient strength blows through and sweeps the toxic atmosphere up into the jet stream, where it is often mistaken for Icelandic volcano ash and grounds all flights in France.

We experienced one such storm system late last week and had glorious, clean air for the weekend. It was nice just to be outside. I didn't get any images that I'd consider "keepers" but a few birds were in the air and I dusted off the shutter to get in the groove.

I'm hoping the next month or so brings some additional opportunities.

Bald Eagle Sight Fishing

Great Blue Heron in Flight

Bald Eagle with Carp Dinner

Immature Bald Eagle

Eagle Blue Sky

Saturday, January 22, 2011


WWW.MIDCURRENT.COM is one of the best sites around in terms of keeping things fresh. Each week there are various additions to the content - whether it's news, tutorials, gear reviews, conservation information, or useful articles.

They also have one of the most comprehensive collections of fishing art and imagery anywhere on the web. It's an honor to have been selected again as a featured photographer, especially among the kind of talent in Midcurrent's gallery.

Click on the image to view the full-page spotlight, and make sure you've got Midcurrent bookmarked - there's always new content coming down the pike.

MidCurrent Spotlight #4 - December 2010

Blue River Fly Company

If you haven't had your ear to the ground lately, you might have missed the launch of a new online source for first rate flies, and boxes by both Wheatley and UPG.

BLUE RIVER FLY COMPANY is now up and running, and in addition to providing some great deals they are looking for suggestions about what additional flies and products to carry. Expect videos by Burl Productions, and products from Loon Outdoors and Scientific Anglers to appear shortly.

Blue River is great to work with, and I appreciate them using some of my photography commercially on the site.

Fly to Water readers can get a 20% discount through the end of February using the code F2W.

There's good mojo to be had buying from Blue River too, since they are part of 1% for the Planet. Drop in and check things out!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

First Click - 2011

By way of follow up to my last blog post, I've received a lot of e-mail asking for specific tips about photographing game birds, such as the chukar partridge.

I wish I could say it was as easy as picking up a 600mm f/4 lens with a nice window mount, whereupon it becomes immediately possible to capture 5-star images from your climate-controlled SUV.

If it's been a while since you've...
  • Gone out in temperatures cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey
  • Done a "1-legger" down a 3-foot-deep rock fissure drifted over by snow, nearly breaking an ankle in the process
  • Torn your trapezius
  • Sat motionless until cramps were galloping up your legs like Charlton Heston's chariot in the movie Ben-Hur
...then I recommend taking up wild game bird photography for a real treat. Each of the items on that list happened to me yesterday. Luckily, I did manage to obtain exactly 1 photograph for my troubles - which is above average for a typical day.

Checking His Six

The basic recipe for success:

Scouting: The process begins with a scouting trip (or trips) into likely habitat. It's important to locate game birds without disturbing them initially, at least if photography is on the agenda. A decent pair of binoculars and a spotting scope are great tools that help cover a lot of country.

Patterning: Once you have located a population of birds, you want to watch them for a while. It's quite common for these animals to have a routine. You may find a watering hole, food source, spot where the sun hits first thing in the morning, or travel route that game birds use regularly. During this period of observation, you want to take note of lighting conditions and possible hiding spots. Typically you will want to be in a position where your subject is being lit from the front or side, which needs to be taken into account.

Concealment: While non-avian predators and most big game animals see primarily in black and white, birds see in color. Camouflage becomes an important accessory, and it's a good idea to have a few options available to match various types of terrain. My favorite for chukar habitat is the Open Country lineup from Sitka Gear. This pattern has been specifically designed and researched based on how animals see, as opposed to most products that are based on human vision.

I also use a LensCoat to hide the hardware. These are made of neoprene and also provide some protection from dings and scratches in addition to breaking up the outline of the equipment. LensCoat products are available for a wide variety of common camera lenses.

Caught on Film

Waiting: Get into position prior to the time you have observed birds using the location in your scouting. In my experience, wind is less of a factor with birds than it is with mammals. Make sure to dress warmly in cold temperatures, because sitting around doesn't create a lot of body heat. Stay alert and be opportunistic - things will usually not unfold exactly as planned. Knee pads are a good accessory in rocky terrain in case you have to move around while keeping a low profile.


That's the basic formula. Lather, rinse, and repeat.

Thanks to JayMorr, who took the portraits of me used in this post. His blog has additional images and comments about getting TO the shot, which is the main ingredient in getting the shot when it comes to critters.

In Plain Sight