Be There!

My lovely bride and I visited Yosemite National Park in August 2017. The schedule was driven by a night photography workshop in which I participated. We decided to spend a week there and had a wonderful time. In one of the gift shops, we found a poster with ‘Orland’s Penultimate Compendium of Photographic Truths’. It hangs in a frame in my Study, just to the left of the Digital Darkroom (aka my computer desk). The Compendium is a list of mostly humorous statements:

“The best scenic turnouts are clearly designated by highway signs reading NO STOPPING ANYTIME.”

“Falling cameras are attracted to rocks.”

“At critical moments your camera will alert you to amazing photographic scenes by flashing the words WARNING: LOW BATTERY”

In the tiniest of fonts near the bottom of the poster is this statement: “The First Rule of Photography: BE THERE!”

Those two words have so much meaning. They describe a concept so simple, yet so true. BE THERE! One cannot make an image of the Grand Canyon, or Old Faithful, or a steam locomotive, or an Eagle flying along a river without being there. For the travel photographer and tourist, landscape scenes are done by simply being there (even though one must be there when the light is best for truly great pictures, but that’s a whole different post).

For the wildlife photographer, life is a bit different. Sadly, critters have their own schedule and their own view of the world. I’ve said it many times, critters don’t take direction! They won’t tip their head or turn their bodies when one asks them to. They arrive and depart on their schedule, with little to no regard for the person standing there with a camera. How rude! And ask them to sign a model release. Forget it!

A couple days ago, I was out looking for Eagles in an area that I know they hunt. The roads go up mountain passes and have closures during the winter for obvious reasons. I had just driven along a stretch of river and reached the closed gates. Preparing to turn around, I saw this Eagle fly up from the direction I had just driven. He landed in a tree and gave me a look that seemed to say, “Well, you didn’t stop for pictures before so here I am now!” I obliged and got some fantastic images, and I gave thanks to that Eagle and the Photo Gods for sending him to me.

I’m not always fortunate to find exactly what I’m looking for, so I take pictures of the wildlife I find and frequently of the gorgeous scenery I’m passing through. This post is about the wildlife I’ve been finding while out looking for Eagles this season.

A couple weeks ago, my scheduled spotter canceled at the last minute so my lovely bride came with me. We were driving to the Eagle area when she suddenly says, “There’s a Bear!” Sure enough, this handsome critter was about 20 yards off the road and allowed me to grab a few shots.

Sometimes, the predator is a bit smaller. Like this character.

I was hiking the road behind the closed gates when I saw this Coyote near the river. I tracked him through the brush, across the road, and up the hill.

Sometimes the subject is small, like this little Junco who was hopping the snowy road while I was hiking. He was not concerned about me until I knelt down to get a better angle, then he took flight. Darn it!

Occasionally, I get a real treat. I had seen their tracks in many places along the road, but I came over a small rise and these three ladies were in the road. They quickly went up the hill, but stopped to let me get several images. This one is my favorite.

If I hadn’t been there – even though I was there for a different purpose – I wouldn’t have gotten these images! These two words have become my new photographic mantra – BE THERE! But watch for rocks under your feet and keep your batteries charged! I love what I do, and hope that you do, too.

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

The ’22-’23 Eagle Season is Underway!

Well, the Eagles and the Photography Gods have been very good to me in this young Eagle Season! I started heading to my regular area in early November and was not disappointed. I have not come up empty for Eagles this year (knock on wood!). I don’t always get pictures, but I see them. This Season has also provided some bonus pictures. Read on!

I have been most fortunate with my action shots this Season. I’ve had my camera up and ready when they take off!

I amazed myself with this one! I haven’t had luck in the past ‘getting glass on’ a flying subject, much less getting a usable image.

One of the greatest challenges with Eagles is getting proper exposure, especially in full sun. Their bodies are dark brown and their heads are white (I know, that’s obvious!), so how does one get an exposure that works? Well, I generally underexpose the keep the head from being ‘blown out’ (meaning totally white with no detail and no recoverable data) because software is much better at recovering detail in the shadows (darker areas of an image). The key is to watch the histogram while shooting to ensure that there will be usable data.

This guy was out on a blustery day. Note the feathers being moved around by the wind. He doesn’t look happy, but Eagles always look like that. They’re just serious.

I can’t help but think about vampires when I look at this picture. But I know he doesn’t want to drink my blood!

Another thing that amazes me about Eagles is the position of their wings in flight. A fully mature Eagle’s wingspan extends over 6 feet – wider than most people are tall! And yet, they are so graceful in flight.

While this Eagle appears to be out of control, he was just taking flight.

Here’s the bonus content!

Kingfishers are small and fast, and very camera shy! I saw this guy across the river and was able to capture him in pixels before he took flight!

When I’m in the ‘hot zone’ in the area I look for Eagles, I usually drive at about 10-20 mph (but I keep an eye on my mirrors to ensure I’m not blocking traffic). I call this ‘slow rolling.’ While slow rolling one day, this shy guy was on the road and quickly jumped into the brush. I was able to get this image before he disappeared.

And the ultimate bonus prize this year was this youngster. I was slow rolling around a corner and there he was in the middle of the road. He looked up and saw me, and bounded up the hill! I quickly parked and got out of the F-150 to see if he would be visible, and there he was up the hill. My RF 800 lens used every millimeter of focal length to get this image.

And so, I’m off to a good start this year. I have a bunch of pictures of Eagles sitting in the trees, but I wanted to share the action shots. Stay tuned – there will be more in the coming weeks!

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

2021-2022 Eagle Season – The Finale!

This winter’s Eagle season did not disappoint (for me anyway)! I had a wonderful couple months looking for and finding Eagles in our area. I can tell that things are winding down when I bring home more image files of other critters than Eagles. So, I’m done actively looking for Eagles this season, but I’ll still be watching for them.

This is my favorite image from the valley floor this year. I rolled up on three juvenile Bald Eagles eating something in a field. The Raptor on the left is approaching full maturity (almost 5 years old) and the one on the right is maybe 3-4 years old.
This handsome specimen posed nicely for me for some time…
…as one can tell by the different position of the branches…
…and colors in the background.
I ama big fan of Eagles in Pine trees. This image has great light, so the Photo Gods were smiling on me.
The trees in this area had burned several years ago so the background is a bit different.
Sometimes, I get lucky and the subject does something a little unusual. No, he’s not giving thanks! He’s actually doing a little preening.
My lovely bride and I went out looking for Eagles, but all we found was this Blue Heron at the Dangberg Ranch.
Another day, the Eagles hid successfully, but we found a herd of Deer on Old Foothill Road just south of the state line. This image is the best of all that I shot, as trying to focus on antlers sticking up from the sage brush didn’t work for me that day.

Well, nothing against other wildlife, but Eagle Season is about the Eagles and the other stuff is just not the same. And so, it’s shifting to targets of opportunity while filling the days until I head to Ely NV and the Nevada Northern Railway’s Winter Photo Workshop in a few weeks. Enjoy – and stay tuned – PHOTOROGR

New Stuff and a Little Fun!

My journey into photography has always been about trying new techniques and processes – all with an eye towards having fun. This week I had the opportunity to try something new…to me anyway. I accompanied the tour group from The Chateau at Gardnerville, where my Dad lives, at the Nevada State Railroad Museum. While they took their tour and listened to the tour guide, I made a few images around the Museum.

On a side note, I encourage everyone to make time to visit the Railroad Museum on May 10, the anniversary of the Golden Spike at Promontory UT. They are doing very fun stuff and have several new exhibits in the Museum.

Back to the blog…so, I tried something new. I took a group picture in front of one of the locomotives. In order to describe how I feel about the results, I will use a phrase from my car show days – it’s a 10 footer! (In car show parlance, a 10 footer is a car that looks great from 10 feet away but not so great if you get closer.) Here’s one of the group shots – just don’t look too close!

Check out the map on the floor…the route of the railroad when it was completed 150 years ago!

In good news, however, I always learn from my experiences and will do better in the future.

For the fun stuff…my lovely bride accompanied me on a brief excursion into the Pinenut Mountains this afternoon. Our objective was desert flowers (since I came up empty on my last run) and we found some beauties. The highlight of the day, though, was a Horned Lark who sat on the side of the road as we drove by…then waited as I backed up to get his picture…then, as I raised my camera, flew to the bush you see in the images below…where it posed for me! How fun is that?

Nice profile…

…and then a quick look to make sure I was getting the pictures…

New stuff and a little fun! Enjoy – PHOTOROGR