Right Place! Right Time!! Right Settings!!!

I have long recognized that much of my success as a nature photographer is due to being ‘at the right place at the right time,’ better known as luck!  In a recent article in Outdoor Photographer magazine, Andy Long tells us that luck “… is when preparedness meets opportunity.”

I have tremendous opportunity, by virtue of where I live.  The Carson Valley is teeming with beautiful scenery, a wide variety and abundance of wildlife, and, most importantly, great friends who share their knowledge of photography and where the wildlife are hanging out at any given time.  In fact, one of my photo buddies, Jackie Gorton, recently added a third leg to my thoughts on luck – right settings! How wise she is, for one can be at the right place and time but if one misses the correct camera settings, one misses the shot!  Of course, this is where the preparedness piece comes into play.

I started this blog to share my photographic journey – learning photography and developing my skill set, experiments in photo processes, successes, failures, and as a showcase for my work.  Apparently I’m doing something right, because many of you have shared that my pictures are getting better (thank you for the feedback!).  Of course, the more I learn – the more I realize how little I know, so there is lots of room for improvement!

I’m closing out 2015 with a tribute to luck!  Please find below a series of pictures that are the result of ‘being in the right place at the right time with the right settings!’

I’m also expanding my outreach!  I share my blog on Facebook, and will try to include my friends on LinkedIn.  If this reaches you, then I was successful – and Welcome!  If you wish to get an email notice when I make a post, then consider following my blog.

I’m not one for new year’s resolutions, so I won’t make one here.  I will continue this marvelous journey and share with you, hopefully making better images for your enjoyment.

Enjoy and Happy New Year!  PHOTOROGR

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Ultimate luck! My lovely bride and I were running errands and saw this Bald Eagle on a utility pole beside the road heading into town. He had just caught a rabbit and was enjoying his meal.  In some of my pictures, you can see fur in the air and meat in his mouth.

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A little less gruesome shot of our friend.

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I saw this Red-Tailed Hawk in a snowy field, but didn’t realize I had interrupted his meal until he took off.

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Sometimes I find one Great Horned Owl in this pole barn, but this day I got lucky and found two!

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I was at Jake’s Wetlands in Minden looking for the Wood Ducks that some of my very lucky friends had seen there. Of course, the Wood Ducks were hiding from me, but these Mallard Ducks put on a parade in the snow!

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Contrary to what you might think, this female Mallard Duck is not conducting an orchestra – she was preparing to dive. This image made a very nice note card!

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As stated, no Wood Ducks for me. This Bufflehead posed nicely for me, though.

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I was cruising Foothill Road just south of Genoa last week, and this Hawk tried to hide from me.

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Yes, it was as cold as he looks. He watched me, but didn’t move away.

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This Hawk was just stretching his wings.

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I don’t know why, but I really like the shots where the bird is looking straight at me.

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I have no idea what these two were up to, but they had a great time for several minutes while I clicked away, safe in my warm truck.

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Not a very timely update, but this is Mystery just before Christmas. He was closer to where the Pine Nut bands wander. I haven’t been out to check on him in a while.

 

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Honored and humbled and excited and intimidated…all at the same time!

A year ago, my good friend and photography mentor, Craig Moore, introduced me to Shooting the West, a photography symposium in Winnemucca, Nevada.  I ventured to Winnemucca last March and had a great time, made new friends and improved my photo skills.  Any of you who attend events such as this know that the promoters solicit feedback from the attendees.  In my evaluation, I noted that the program did not include a nature photographer and I suggested they include nature photography in future programs.  One should always be careful for what one wishes because last August I got a call asking if I would be interested in making a presentation on nature photography at the 2016 Shooting the West symposium (honored and humbled).  I thought about it for about 3 seconds and quickly assembled a brief outline with a few examples of pictures (excited), and submitted my proposal for a nature photography tour of the Carson Valley.  A couple weeks later, I got an email advising that they accepted my proposal and I would be on the program (more excited).

As the initial excitement subsided, reality set in – I would be showing my pictures to a room full of photographers from around the country (intimidated).  Thinking back to last year’s program, I realized that, in addition to the amateur and hobby photographers in attendance, there would be people who have been shooting for decades, travel the world and get published in National Geographic, Sports Illustrated, and other international publications, and write books and teach classes about photography and photo editing.  Oh my God!!!  (More intimidated!!!!!)  And I just said yes to showcasing my work on a really big screen for all to see (even more intimidated).  I’m not afraid of public speaking – as many of you know all too well – but I’ve only been shooting seriously for a short time.  Then I said to myself, “Self – get it together, put your best foot forward, and see what happens.”  Finally, the voice of reason (but I’m still intimidated).

Shooting the West XXVIII will be held April 26 – May 1, 2016.  Registration opens January 18.  For more information, go to shootingthewest.org, call 877-623-3501, or email info@shootingthewest.org.  I’m back to being excited, by the way (and still honored and humbled)!

It’s winter – prime raptor season – I’m out almost every day trying to get new and good images for my STW presentation and to market at Eagles and Agriculture (February 18-20, 2016, go to http://www.carsonvalleynv.org/pages/EAGLESAG1/ for information).  Don’t worry, I’m not limiting my presentation to raptors only.  I hope to include a good representation of game animals, non-raptor birds, and the Valley’s predators – at least the ones of which I have pictures.

Here’s a few images from the last couple weeks.  I think you’ll like them.

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I was out checking an area for a Golden Eagle aerie, and I found this stud wandering in the Pine Nuts all alone. He let me make lots of images. I’m trying to decide which one to submit to the Pine Nut Wild Horse Association for their 2017 calendar featuring studs.

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He and I watched each other closely while I shot. He’s not from the area, that we know of anyway. We’ll see if he makes it all the way down to the other bands. We named him Mystery.  Oh yeah, I haven’t found that aerie yet.

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I’ve seen lots of Kestrels in the last few weeks. I’m not sure if they are more plentiful, or if I am better at seeing them.

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This one looks like he’s giving me ‘the bird’ as he flies away.

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My lovely bride commented that I get a lot of ‘butt pictures’ when I’m shooting birds, but I love seeing the frozen motion of their wings and feet as they take flight.

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I saw this Blue Heron on a very windy day…must have stopped blowing for a second or two while I made the image.

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I found this immature White-crowned Sparrow near the Nevada-California state line. This is my favorite composition for birds – tack sharp with a blurry background…

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It was a snowy day outside this pole barn, but this Great Horned Owl didn’t seem to mind.

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I saw this Golden Eagle probably 600 feet away.

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This was the scene outside the pole barn…this guy was trying hard to stay warm and paid me no attention.

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Same bird – different angle and background…maybe next year’s Christmas card???

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Did you see that? Yeah, but I don’t believe what I saw…

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Coming in for a landing…er, going up for a landing…

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I drove by this Red-tailed Hawk, and went back for the picture. At first, he tried to sell me a watch…

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…and then he took a spin around me…

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I think this is my favorite. I was checking a location for Owls and saw this guy. Again – my favorite composition – tack sharp subject with a blurred background.

That’s all for this post.  Between the raptors returning to the Valley and the wonderful weather, I’ve had a great couple weeks of shooting.  I look forward to more fun, finding that aerie, and a visit from Santa!  Have a very Merry Christmas!  PHOTOROGR

 

Order and Chaos!

As an old crusty engineer and military officer, I enjoy order in my life.  I like having ‘a place for everything and everything in its place.’  Those of you who know me well also know that I also have a somewhat chaotic side, and my ‘everything in its place’ side isn’t always dominant.  When it comes to certain aspects of photography, I am very ‘orderly.’  For example, I have developed a filing system for my images that works well for me.  I have file folders for certain subjects and geographic areas with subfolders for subjects, all arranged by date (year – month – day).  I maintain shooting logs that show when and where I’ve been, and sometimes contain notes for future shoots.

My workflow for downloading images to the computer (within the proper subject/geographical area folder and date subfolder) is well established.  Recently, I watched a great tutorial about Adobe Bridge, a photo management software linked to Photoshop and Lightroom, and learned how to use Bridge more effectively to download my images and identify those worthy of additional processing.  Let’s face it, that little bitty screen on the back of your camera body can only tell you so much (good exposure and maybe if you’re in focus).  You have to get the image on the big screen to see if it’s really good.  After the tutorial, I made changes to my workflow that I hope will make my filing system better for subsequent retrieval.  Time will tell.

Another of my very orderly processes is backing up my images.  I used to use a triple redundancy system using the SD card from the camera, the computer’s internal hard drive, and an external hard drive.  When I changed my shooting routine to RAW format (see my post ‘All RAW – All the Time’ on June 8, 2015), I began to fill up SD cards like mad, with the resulting problem of devising a means of labeling and storing them.  Have you ever tried to put a label on an SD card?  They are less than an inch wide, just over an inch long, and usually have a dark label!  More importantly, even though they are coming down in price, they are still expensive!  I changed my storage system to the computer’s internal hard drive and two separate external hard drives.  I still have triple redundancy, and a more effective means of storing my larger images, such as panoramas stitched together from multiple images – they are downright huge!  I will admit that eventually the long term storage goes to double redundancy as I haven’t installed additional hard drive capacity on my computer and I’ve almost filled the hard drive with this year’s images.  I am removing older images from my computer to conserve space.  I back up everything on a monthly basis.

So, we move on to the chaotic side.  My computer desk is a mess, with magazines and notes and – well – accumulated crap.  I will clean my desk on a cold day this winter – or not!  Probably not (ha ha).  But there’s also the chaos that results from exploring my creative side.  As you’ve seen in previous posts, I’ve been exploring panoramas and monochrome images.  I think I’m getting better – the phone calls to my wonderful Photoshop mentors are fewer and I’m not repeating my questions to them as often.  I think they’re thankful for that.  And I’m becoming more daring in my editing.  I try new things more and more frequently, and am becoming more comfortable with the ‘undo’ button when I do something badly or that I don’t like.

Maybe chaos isn’t the right word after all, but to a regimented and very process-oriented engineer type, this new creative side is very chaotic.  I just hope the results are worth it!  Let’s look at this week’s images.

I have been very lucky to find Kestrels, and the ones I’ve found are very cooperative.

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I was in the Pine Nuts looking for the wild horses and caught this little fella’ sitting on this tree. I like it!

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I was cruising Foothill Road last week and saw this Kestrel having a bite of lunch.

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When he noticed me, he took off to eat in peace somewhere else.

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I took this image last January, but used my newly developed Photoshop skills to make this image.

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Another from January. Must have been a cold day!

A few weeks ago, I got my first Bald Eagle of the season.  Just yesterday, I got my first Golden Eagle.  Actually, I drove by a pair of them sitting on a utility pole, but one flew off as I parked and got out of the car.

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Goldens are majestic, too.

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This one gave me a couple images and then took off. I’m still working on getting focus on birds in flight.

I was checking out Carson River Road last week, and this doe casually walked by.

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Check her belly – still wet from crossing the adjacent river.

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This image is not cropped. She was so close I couldn’t make my lens short enough and get more background.

The Hawks are returning to the Carson Valley.  I was getting out of the car to shoot a fence with several Hawks in line.  As I got ready to shoot, a Hawk flew in and forced the one sitting to take off.  I was lucky to get this shot!

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What a scene. No fighting over roosting spots kids!

This week, you get several panoramas.

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The Sierras across the Carson Valley. That’s Jobs Peak on the left and Genoa Peak about a quarter in from the right edge. I shot this in monochrome and then made my adjustments.

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The Sierras on a different day. I love the cloud formation in the upper left corner of the image.

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The Pine Nut Range. The wild horses roam an area to the left of these mountains. This is part of my monochrome exploration.

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The Pine Nuts in color. Yes, it’s hard to live here with all this natural beauty. (I can’t believe I typed that with a straight face!)

Well, that’s all for this post.  As always, enjoy!  And stay warm!!

PHOTOROGR