An AMAZING Week for Me!

I have had an absolutely amazing week since my last post.  First, I won both categories of the Eagles & Agriculture Photo Contest this year!

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This Eagle eating a rabbit won ‘Best Birding’ photo. I made this image in December, when my lovely bride and I drove up on this scene just a few blocks from our home.

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Last May, I was invited to join other photographers to record this group of cowgirls moving a herd along Genoa Lane.  This image won the ‘Best Agriculture/Wildlife’ category.

I am both honored and humbled to win.  I stopped by the Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce offices to see the other images.  Holy Cow!!!  What a great group of submissions this year.

My exploration into long exposures of water expanded a little, with the addition of some new software called Photomatix Pro.  This software uses bracketed exposures to produce High Dynamic Range (HDR) images.  In my last blog, I discussed exposure (controlling the light striking the sensor in the camera body).  ‘Bracketing exposure’ means finding the right exposure for a given image and making additional images of the same scene by overexposing and underexposing.  HDR software then combines the different exposures by selecting the best parts of each to create an exciting photograph.  For example, in a landscape, the underexposed images give the best skies but renders the shadow areas black and without detail.  Conversely, the overexposed images give great detail in the shadows but loses detail in the highlights.  HDR allows the pixelist (see how I got my title in here!!!) to use the best light to make a great image.  Some cameras will make the HDR image for you, or you can combine them using HDR software on the computer.

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Here’s a landscape that I shot a couple years ago near Kernville CA. I used three images at different exposures to make this one. Set exposure to capture the sky and you don’t see the rich color in the rocks. Set exposure for the rocks and you see a bright white sky with no detail in the clouds.

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Another HDR near Kernville. Yes, it was chilly and we got wet a couple times that day!

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A waterfall on the Kern River in HDR.

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This image of the Church at Bodie CA was made from two exposures, merged in Photomatix.  I need to go back to Bodie so I can get  shot that doesn’t cut off the steeple, and to make other images, too.

Learning this new software has been a lot of fun.  As you might imagine, I can get a little crazy in the processing.

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I made this image of a wagon on one of the local ranches in January. I’ve been trying to process the image to fit my vision for a couple months. This is nice, but it doesn’t convey the feeling I wanted to share.

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When I processed the image in Photomatix, I found what I was looking for. One of my photo mentors thinks it’s over done, and I respect that. My lovely bride thinks I should crop it differently. Bottom line – there’s no right or wrong. What’s that old saying? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

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Please recall this image from last Fall. I photographed this bird condo in Walker CA.

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I revisited the image to explore the boundaries and capabilities of Photomatix. The result is over done, but kind of fun. Again – the eye of the beholder.

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West Fork of the Carson River in Hope Valley. This HDR image was made from 5 exposures, and is a traditional processing.

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The same HDR image, with a little fun. I went here because I was struggling with ‘ghosting,’ a problem when the images don’t align exactly (like the wind blowing the tree branches). The processing I chose here masks the ghosting a little. It’s a fun interpretation of the scene.

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Simple HDR from 3 exposures. With this image, I was more about the flowing water. I gotta say, however, that I hope there’s still water flowing when the vegetation leafs out to add a little color.

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I processed this image in HDR, then decided to play with monochrome. Absent color from the vegetation, I like the effect.

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The HDR in this image is right on the edge of going too far, but I like it.

And I haven’t been on the edge all week.  We had a nice sunny day, and the birds and bees were visiting the yard.

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This Lesser Goldfinch Hen challenged my very limited identification skills.

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I was in the backyard enjoying the warm when I spied this butterfly on our Flowering Plum tree. I got the camera and made a few shots, but couldn’t help noticing the buzzing sounds…

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…and several of these guys were working their magic. They’re harder to take pictures of than I thought.

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My favorite image from the day. A large aperture opening gave a very shallow depth of field (the flowers in the foreground are blurry as are those in the background). The black and yellow against the vivid pink just hit the spot for me!

Well, that’s it for this week.  As you can see, it really was an amazing week!  Until next time – Enjoy!  PHOTOROGR

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February is a very busy time!

When I started this Journey in Creative Photography, I knew I would be spending lots of time learning how to make images (in camera and on the computer) and that some of my learning curve would be about the business side of photography.  In my post ‘Order and Chaos’ (last December), I discussed the challenges of storing and retrieving images on the computer.  I described how I installed additional memory in my computer and further refined my storage/retrieval system in my last post.  I have been reaping the benefits of those changes in the last couple weeks, as I tackle another big challenge – what do I share, print, and show?

February in the Carson Valley is prime time for nature photographers.  The calves are dropping and the Eagles migrate through to feed on the nutrient rich afterbirth and the occasional carcass.  Long lens mounted, I go hunting for these regal subjects.  Then, after downloading the RAW images on the computer, I review the images and decide which are worthy of processing and possibly sharing or printing.  Believe me, you only see a small fraction of the images I make in camera.  Why is this on my mind?  Read on!

Many years ago, the local Chamber of Commerce (http://www.carsonvalleynv.org) teamed up with area ranchers and conservationists to create a wonderful event called Eagles and Agriculture.  The opening reception and photography exhibit is tomorrow at the Senior Center, and the tours start Friday!  The Eagles & Agriculture Banquet is Friday night, and I will have a table to sell my pictures and note cards.  I’ll also be there Saturday morning – if you’re nearby, stop in, say hi, and buy a picture or note card!  I’ve been printing, matting, and framing new images for a week or so (I love Amazon’s 2 day delivery on ink for my printer!).  The image retrieval system was critical to my printing activities, and the modifications to my process made it soooo much easier.  This will also help as I prepare for my presentation at Shooting the West (http://shootingthewest.org).

I’ve also been making time to get out and make new images.  The Eagles have been a little difficult to capture, so other subjects have endured my intrusion – most notably, the wild horses in the Pine Nut Mountains.  The foals have been coming a little early this year – we now have 3.  I shared pictures of Skye in my post ‘Inspiration – the Key Ingredient’ although we didn’t know that she was a she, and she hadn’t been named when I posted.

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Skye with her Mom, Suzie Q (in back), and Dad, Shorty (facing).

Here are the other foals!

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This is Sassy with her Mom, Bossy Betty. Sassy got her name by exhibiting an ‘independent’ behavior.

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The family portrait (l to r): Sassy, Bossy Betty, Skye, Suzie Q, Shorty (looking right). Shorty is the proud Papa, but he plays it cool.

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This is Hardy with Mom, Lady. Dad is Blue – the undisputed King of the Pine Nut bands. Hardy is named after my father-in-law, who celebrated his 90th birthday last week!

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Hardy running with other members of the band. The horse on the left is Copper and we’re waiting to see her foal. Lady is keeping Hardy in line.

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While shooting Blue’s band the other day, Blue decided we had been there long enough and came over to tell us. When we didn’t leave immediately, he took a couple steps as if to say, ‘Didn’t you get the message?’

I found Mystery again – we started with a game of hide and seek, and then it got interesting!

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Mystery hiding in the trees.

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Mystery posing for me.

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Mystery deciding he wanted to check me out! He walked to within about 25′ of me before I convinced him it wasn’t a good idea.

I saw several horses who were having lots of fun!

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This is Hope. She’s a yearling and Blue’s daughter. Apparently, mud bath was the day’s fun activity.

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Another of Blue’s yearlings played in the mud.

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This little fella’ is The Rogue’s son. I found him in a different area, but he had been playing in the mud, too.

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This is Little Jo, one of Blue’s yearlings. She’s quite a camera tease, and apparently doesn’t play in the mud.

I can’t post without a bird picture…

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This Sharp-Shinned Hawk was in my neighbor’s tree. I got some good pictures…

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…but obviously overstayed my welcome.  It’s a problem I have on occasion (just ask Blue).

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One more shot of Hardy – a guy just has to scratch sometimes, even when he’s only a couple days old.

Thanks for reading all the way to the bottom.  I know I shared a lot of pictures, but you see my dilemma!  Like the convenience store, I just have ‘too much good stuff!’

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

Process improvement – another important ingredient!

Many years ago, I retired from military service.  My last assignment was on the Plans and Programs staff at State Headquarters.  While my efforts focused on emergency preparedness and response planning, I assisted others on our small staff with strategic planning and process improvement.  I’m comfortable with goal setting and brainstorming new ideas (imagine rooms full of important people with a facilitator guiding the participants through a long and sometimes interesting discussion on making the organization better).  These days, my process improvement thoughts and actions are a lot more personal – mostly making higher quality images and developing my creative side.

Well, not all my improvement processes are about making images.  For the last couple months, I’ve noticed that available space on my computer’s internal hard drive is continually decreasing, and some software seems to be running more and more slowly.  I didn’t break out the marker boards and markers to evaluate the problem and formulate plans to mitigate the problem, though I was tempted.  Instead, I decided to install more memory in my computer and move all the pictures to a dedicated internal drive.

I ordered the drive and had one of my smart neighbors do the install and setup (it’s not true that all engineers can remove the covers from their computers and not do harm).  Then I sat down to move the pictures and the light bulb came on – I could fix all the frustrating and wasteful file organization issues I had been thinking about since I started this Journey in Creative Photography!  I spent much of a day re-organizing my folders and moving the images around on my computer.  I’m pretty sure that my image storage system is more efficient now, and will probably feel that way until I do my monthly backup to external hard drives in a few weeks.  If you’re having a hard time with your image storage system, make time to make it better.  You’ll be much happier.

And remember, the bad part of process improvement is that it’s continuous, but that’s also a good thing.  We’ll revisit my reorganization at the end of the month.

It’s been a great shooting week.  I found Eagles, Quail, a Cooper’s Hawk and, just today, I finally got that elusive Bobcat shot.  Eagles & Agriculture is only a couple weeks away, and I’ll be spending a lot of time prepping for the show.  I have several new images to print, mat, and frame.  Of course, the weather is supposed to be really good, which means that I’ll be out shooting, too.  It could be a problem, but it could be a fun challenge, too.  Here’s the fun stuff from this week!

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This Cooper’s Hawk was out in the snow, hunting from this gnarly tree stump just outside Genoa, Nevada’s oldest town (but don’t ask Dayton).

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This Red-Shouldered Hawk was also south of Genoa, a little closer to David Walley’s Hot Springs. He posed, but wouldn’t make eye contact.

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I was on a local ranch looking for Owls and a covey of Quail came by. This one posed on an old ranch wagon.

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These Quail were marching in a parade, except for the guy on the lower fence rail. We’re not sure what he’s up to.

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We are blessed with a nesting pair of Bald Eagles in the Carson Valley, and I made this very long range image earlier this week.

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I was watching a Bald Eagle in a field a couple days ago, and this Bald Eagle flew in to crash the party. He was only 100′ or so away, and looking very regal!  This image will be on sale at Eagles & Agriculture, with other images from my collection.

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This is my prize capture this week. I’ve been looking for this cat for a couple months. He was in this tree laying down, and would have stayed hidden if he hadn’t sat up and revealed himself.

That’s it for this week!  Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

Inspiration – the Key Ingredient!

In my last post, I talked about luck (right place, right time, right settings) and the importance of being prepared.  In the last month, I’ve discovered another ingredient that I feel is key to the creative photography process – inspiration!

Inspiration comes in many forms and governs everything.  For example, I have to be inspired to go out with a camera, inspired to stop and make an image, inspired to spend time processing an image, and then be inspired to share the image.  In the last month, my inspiration (and sometimes lack of inspiration) has been all over the map.  I’ve been excited to fire up the PHOTORANGER and go looking for subjects.  I’ve just stayed home because I just wasn’t ‘feeling it’ that day.  I’ve pulled over for something I liked, and often driven on and sometimes missed a shot.  When I’m back home and downloading images from the day, I’ve said ‘yuck’ to everything (you don’t see those!) and resolved to correct technical errors or find better subjects, and resolved to get out there again.  And then a whole month passes between posts (I really need to work on that).  You know how the inspiration roller coaster works.

In the last week, the inspiration peaks and valleys have become less extreme – returning to almost normal, in fact.  Subjects have been plentiful and my settings have been good, improving my images and increasing my inspiration.  Here’s some images from the last few weeks.  I hope you enjoy and are inspired by them!

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

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Every winter, the eagles visit the Carson Valley for calving season. I found this Bald Eagle along US 395 a couple days ago.  Eagles & Agriculture is only 3 weeks away!

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This Bald Eagle was hunting along Foothill Road, on the west side of the Carson Valley. Not sure he knew about his ‘shadow.’

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This juvenile Bald Eagle was in the southwest part of the Carson Valley.

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I’m not sure what these two were discussing, but they sat for pictures for quite a while.

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I found the Carson River Road turkeys in the trees a few weeks ago.

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Remember that ‘right place right time’ discussion.

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These two are part of another turkey flock, generally found just over the California line.

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I’ve seen this nest many times, but didn’t see an occupant until the last couple days. I’ll watch and see what develops.

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This little fella’ flew from fence post to sign to sign while I followed and took pictures. I’m not sure if he’s sending a message here…

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Remember that ‘right place right time’ discussion? I forgot the ‘right settings’ piece, as I was zoomed in too close when this Hawk took flight…

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…but I got this Red-Tailed Hawk just fine.

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This Blue Heron was focused on his next meal and didn’t worry about me as I got closer and closer…

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While he looks unconcerned, he never took his eyes off me.

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I don’t normally take pictures of geese, but I was inspired when their flight path brought them close to me.   Jake’s Wetlands, Minden NV.

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This is KC. His mares are known as the Sunshine Band.

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One of the Sunshine Band. I like this composition.

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Peeking through the trees…

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Next to an eagle shot, new foals are great inspiration. This little one is about a week old, but has not been named as the Pine Nut Wild Horse Advocates are waiting for confirmation of the sex. That’s Mom on the left.

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New foal staying close to Mom, Suzie Q!

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And Suzie Q making sure I wasn’t too close.

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This family portrait shows Shorty, the sire, keeping a close eye on me while the foal nuzzles Mom. This picture has gone viral on Facebook! Thanks everyone!

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It’s hard to top the ‘family portrait,’ but I wanted to share this panorama of Jobs Peak (second peak in from right). It’s a little different view of the Sierras.

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

 

A little R and R…

It’s a nice Friday morning here in the Carson Valley, but the weatherman says a change is coming.  We may get some much needed moisture and will definitely get some cooler temperatures in the next couple days.  I’m listening to one of my favorite soundtracks, The Last of the Dogmen.  If you haven’t seen the movie, you should (you should also listen to the soundtrack).  The story is excellent, the scenery is phenomenal, and I like Tom Berenger and Barbara Hershey, who play the main characters.  With a successful Eagles & Agriculture in the rear view mirror, I’ve slowed my picture taking this week and continued preparations for next week’s Shooting the West photography experience in Winnemucca, NV.  I also caught up my checkbook (aggghhh) and made sure the bills were paid, renewed my driver’s license, and made time for a few pictures.

In military parlance, the term ‘R & R’ refers to rest and recovery, or rest and rehabilitation, or rest and…well, pick your favorite ‘R’ word.  The key to R & R is ‘rest.’  As you will see, I tried to rest, but there’s just no rest for the wicked, or when you’re wicked, or if you’re wicked.  Let’s face it, I’m no singer (I won’t try to type her name, but Travolta butchered it – she sang in Wicked on Broadway, get it?) and I’m having a little too much fun (just ask my lovely bride), and I’ve been called worse than wicked – but I digress.  You’re interested in my pictures, not my meandering thoughts!

Here’s what I did this week.  And don’t forget to watch The Last of the Dogmen!  You’ll love it.

Enjoy – Photorogr

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My photo challenge last week was ‘black and white.’ With my busy schedule, I used some images I made in Bodie State Park, http://www.parks.ca.gov/bodie/, last summer. This image was my submittal. After desaturating (removing all color), I adjusted the image to maintain the reflection of the mountains and clouds in the window while trying to enhance the details of the products that have been on these shelves for more than 70 years.

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This beautiful old stove is in one of the few buildings that the public is allowed to enter. I also experimented with a sepia tone on this image. For those of you unfamiliar with Bodie, it was a mining ‘boom town’ in the late 1800’s. When the mining stopped, the town was finished. People literally locked the doors and walked away. There are similar stories all over the western United States – thanks to those who work to preserve these historic places!

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Some of the old mining equipment. I tried to bring out the shadows in this equipment, but I overexposed the original image which made those adjustments impossible. I guess I’ll have to go back and shoot Bodie all over again – darn it!

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I was on my way home from the store with a car full of fresh fruits and ice cream bars, when I spy a Golden Eagle floating on the wind currents. He disappeared behind a house, so I went looking for him. I found him in a pine tree. He made the obligatory adjustment before taking off…

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…so I followed him skyward. There I see several more Golden Eagles enjoying the wind currents – like a convention up there. And then they were gone and the sky was empty. That allowed me to get home in time to save the ice cream bars. It was the best of both worlds – great pictures AND ice cream bars!

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I went out yesterday with some friends. The birds were skittish and wouldn’t let us get close. I did the best I could. Love this Bald Eagle in the air…

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…and this Marsh Hawk taking off – away from us, of course. Fun day with good friends!

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I took a quick trip down Mottsville Lane this morning while Edsel was at the groomer. I went to the groomer, too, but Edsel came home much cuter than I. I was on the hunt for pictures for this week’s photo challenge – Abandoned. I found this Hawk on a fence post along the road, and I’m a sucker for a chance to get a Hawk up close. I found some good shots for the challenge, but I’m still working on them. Stay tuned!

 

IT’S FINALLY HERE!!!!!

I’m starting to feel a little relief because it’s finally here – Eagles and Agriculture kicks off tomorrow!  Yesterday, we set up the opening reception/art show display at the Holiday Inn Express in Minden (of course, some of us had to go back today to finish – no names, but you know who I am).  Here’s a quick shot of my display.  I hope to see many of you at the reception tomorrow evening.

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The Record-Courier said there are still a few tickets available, so if you’re in the area and want to play, go to http://www.carsonvalleynv.org, see what’s available and come on down!

I split my available time this week between last minute preparation for E&A and a little bit of shooting.  I was able to locate a juvenile Bald Eagle this week – exciting for me as I’ve been having an eagle drought lately.  This raptor is about 4 years old, just on the cusp of full adult colors.  You might have seen similar images on Facebook.  We have a little group that shares locations of Eagles and other subjects.  I let my friends know, and a couple of them came by.  When the bird doesn’t leave the fence post, the images all start to look the same.

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My favorite of the images I made. Classic Eagle pose, interesting color, but his chest feathers are a little rumpled. He reminds me of a pre-teen child who wants to be seen as an adult, but is still enjoying the fun of his youth.

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I couldn’t resist playing with the editing a bit here. I ‘desaturated,’ or removed the color from, this image. I have a lot more that I want to play with on this image, but black and white works here. B&W also happens to be this week’s assignment in my weekly photo challenge – how lucky for me!

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I like this image, too. I was trying to bring in the agriculture aspect by including the cow in the background, but it’s not as strong an image as I’d like it to be.

I also found a few Hawks and an American Kestrel.

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I like this image for a couple reasons – he just finished eating and still has a little something on his beak, and he looks like he just got out of the shower. The colors came out well and I got good detail in his eye.

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And with a nod to last week’s theme of launching birds, I had to include this Red-Tailed Hawk in flight!

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Every now and then I find something really interesting and unusual. This Hawk was preening and his tail feathers rotated as his head reached to the left. In my years of watching the Hawks in the area, I’ve never seen this.

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Who doesn’t love an American Kestrel. Some day I’m going to find a male in a tree or a bush, anywhere but a wire. Some day!

I’ve been looking forward to this year’s Eagles & Agriculture show for quite some time.   The next few days are going to be busy, without much opportunity to go shoot.  I hope to see many of you there.  Behave as best you can!  And I hope you enjoyed this week’s images!

PHOTOROGR