Monday, February 18, 2013

Whiteheaded Largebird

Have you ever been so cold that your reproductive regions could be preserved for cryogenic science with no additional cooling required?  One of the great things about wildlife photography is the way in which you can experience abject misery for extended periods of time.

Take this weekend, for example: I stood within 40 yards of a whole convocation of bald eagles for an interval so extensive that whole life cycles of insects were taking place around me. Eggs were laid. Larvae hatched. Eventually these were able to successfully pupate and emerge as sexually mature adults. Temperatures were well below freezing. During this veritable epoch, a vast expanse of fog settled upon the wetlands obliterating all hope of anything resembling a successful photograph.

The day ended.  Total clicks of the shutter: Zero.  This is the part of wildlife photography that isn't always apparent - the time that is allocated to pitiable failure and adult language.

Dawn the following day brought identical conditions.  After a few hours, however, a rapid change took place  and suddenly the air was clear.  Light rained down.  Eagles flew.  Birder's Remorse faded.  Shutters clicked.

Gear Down

Image Details
Nikon D4
Nikon TC17EII
Nikon 400mm f/2.8 VR @ f/4.8, 1/1600, ISO 100

Saturday, February 16, 2013

So Juvenile

Juvenile bald eagles, a lot like their human counterparts, tend to be a pain in the butt.  Immature birds invariably have chips on their shoulders, and are always ready for a brawl.  Physically a young eagle will appear larger and more imposing than their older counterparts as they have longer flight feathers to help them learn the ropes of aviation.

Since their plumage (especially at the head) lacks the contrast of adults, juveniles are a significant challenge photographically.  Directional, soft light is needed to bring out sufficient detail in the eye to engage the viewer.

Baldies will generally attain their adult plumage sometime in their 5th year, and they are often mistaken for golden eagles during this color phase.

In the wake of numerous, unsuccessful attempts this year to get close enough to the eagles at the right time of day and in favorable light - it was very rewarding to click the shutter on this juvenile today:


Image Details
Nikon D4
Nikon TC17EII
Nikon 400mm f/2.8 @ f/4.8, 1/1600, ISO 100
Distance to Subject: Approx. 25 yards

Monday, February 11, 2013

Love Cuts Like a Knife

As a public service to the spouses of sportsmen everywhere, I am offering up a gift idea just in time for Valentine's Day:  Knives.

Let us first examine in an objective format the current gifting expectations that represent heartfelt love in a relationship:

Gifts for Men: Nothing or a .99¢ greeting card.  An attempt is made here to reflect the perceived lifetime emotional contributions to the partnership in a monetary way.

Gifts for Women:  A weighty combination of scarce ores and pressure-formed minerals from deep within the Earth, which are then extracted and sold at retail for roughly the GNP of Honduras.

Together we can make this they year when guys of the male gender receive a modicum of equity for Valentine's Day.

The great thing about my suggestion is that your average male aspires to own his body weight in knives. In other words there is no need to be concerned about gift duplication.  15 or 20 fine pieces of outdoor cutlery are collectively known as "a good start" in terms of the lifetime need.

Also, Valentine's gifts should generate enthusiasm on the part of the recipient.  There is significant historical precedent to suggest that Gangnam Style is a  less energetic version of a guy's universal reaction to receiving a bladed gift - hence the strong value proposition of edged weapons for key emotional moments.

My own personal collection (still in its infancy) contains a favorite folding knife: The Zero Tolerance ZT0301ST.  The blade is S30V stainless steel, tiger striped using a Tungsten DLC coating which is very durable.  I really like the assisted opening mechanism (a Ken Onion/Strider design) on the 301 as well.  Handle material is 3-D machined G-10 and titanium, which is extremely strong and provides a solid grip wet or dry.

Zero Tolerance ZT0301ST Ranger Green

Happy Valentine's Week!  Guys: ALERT! 3 DAYS LEFT TO GET HER SOMETHING.  

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Not Easy Being a Vole

There is something in a man that doesn't love a vole.  Kestrels, on the other hand, eat them like jalepeƱo poppers.

I have seen quite a few successful predations involving these little members of the falcon family, but never one that was initiated from level ground.  The vole emerged from some vegetation about 6 feet away from the seemingly resting bird.  It was a little astonishing to see the kestrel take a few quick strides, leap into the air, and use one quick flap of its wings to extend the jump and land directly on target.

99 problems and vole ain't one of 'em.

Kestrel Predation on Vole

Image Details:
Nikon D4
Nikon TC17EII
Nikon 400mm f/2.8 @ f/4.8, 1/1000, ISO 220

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Stay Frosty

Pheasants believe strongly in a few basic maxims of life.

     1) RUN AWAY!!!

Overall that is the main rule, and they do it well.  Only slightly less emphasized in phez elementary is this:


If the unthinkable happens and rule #1 fails, a pheasant will hold still with a bravado bordering on recklessness under the belief that doing so makes them totally invisible.  I always find it pretty comical to see the expression of surprise frozen on a bird's face at this moment.  Probably it's a combination of shock that running did not work as planned coupled with an impending loss of bowel control.  Either way, it's a high alert situation.

Frosty Hen Pheasant - Vert

I think this is probably the closest I've ever been to a wild pheasant with a camera.  The distance here is about 8 yards.  Light will make or break an image like this, and the morning sun was in the perfect position to cast a golden glow on this pretty little hen. 

The year's first birding trip was a lot of fun even though opportunities were scarce despite covering a lot of ground.

Image Details:

Nikon D4
Nikon TC17EII
Nikon 400mm f/2.8 @ f/5, 1/1000, ISO 100