Thanksgiving Fun!

I fired up the PhotoRanger on a chilly Thanksgiving morning and took a drive to the west side of the Carson Valley.

I found this guy on Foothill Road just south of Centerville Lane. He was in the middle of the road when I first saw him. I waited for him to get out of the road and I pulled off the road for this shot. The 3 cars behind me didn’t see him at first, but they seemed more understanding when they realized why I slowed suddenly.

This Kestrel was on the trail sign on the Carson River Trail, just off Muller Lane. I grabbed this shot and moved for a different angle, but he wasn’t very patient.

There were 2 Great Horned Owls in this pole barn, but only one was accommodating.

I’m not sure what this Hawk was thinking, but it was probably something about an annoying photographer lurking about.

I’m getting back into wildlife mode, as you can see. More to follow!

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

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Sharpening continued…and other fun stuff!

In my last post, I introduced the sharpening process and described my first footsteps into its intricacies (yes, I had to look this one up to make sure).  The study is going well, but there’s an amazing amount of information to digest.  I am surprised by the number of tools available.  Unsharp Mask, for example, has its roots in film photography, where wet-darkroom magicians would use a duplicate negative to create a mask to increase the apparent sharpness of a photographic print by increasing contrast along edges.  From the descriptions I read, it was quite a process.  Other digital sharpening tools in Photoshop include Smart Sharpen and Shake Reduction.  Of course, the flip side of digital sharpening is the introduction of digital noise.  (Noise is the grainy appearance of a photograph, and is beyond the scope of this blog, so we’ll save it for another day.)  Lightroom and Camera Raw’s sharpening and noise reduction tools work the same way – very easy to use, and the Nik filters have Define (for noise reduction) and Sharpener (for sharpening).  My head is swimming.

In a feeble attempt to keep myself somewhat sane (those who know me will attest that it’s as good as we can expect) while I’m learning sharpening, I’m still out there looking for great subjects and trying new techniques.  Here’s a few pictures from the last couple weeks.

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Okay, this isn’t really a new technique for me, but it’s fun and worthy of continued exploration. For this image, I overlaid a picture of the Ward Charcoal Ovens onto a picture of a wood floor (beautiful texture). I’m looking for a little constructive critique (CC), please!

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This is a Merlin, and it’s the latest capture in my quest for new raptor species. (Recall that I also got a Northern Harrier and a Rough Legged Hawk this year.) Merlins are in the Falcon family, and only get to about 12″ tall with a 25″ wingspan – just a little bigger than a Kestrel. This little one was in a tree in my neighbor’s yard and, uncharacteristically, sat for me for several minutes.

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My lovely bride was with me the other day and she is an excellent spotter. She saw this Great Horned Owl in a tree as we drove by. Some of my friends thought it was a Long Eared Owl, but my resident expert on bird identification confirmed Great Horned (thanks Larry!).

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Because I like to explore with different filters during processing, I used a vintage colors filter in Nik Silver Efex for this interpretation. This filter is one of my favorites

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Okay, this is a new technique called focus stacking. I mounted the camera on a tripod and locked it down. I took 5 images of these crabapples on a tree in our backyard, each image using a different focal plane (focusing at different levels) and blended them in Photoshop to create this image with all the crabapples in focus. I’ll refine my focus stacking workflow and use it on flowers this summer!

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While I was making images for focus stacking, I made this image of an ‘about to drip’ from another crabapple tree in the backyard. When I downloaded these images to the computer, I noticed the inverted tree in pretty good focus. I tried to get closer, but I would have bumped the tree and dislodged the drip. I’ll take it for now, but will look for other drips to shoot.  Aren’t optics fun?

Well, that’s it for this blog.  Stay tuned for more info on sharpening, focus stacking, and macro.  Until next time – enjoy!

PHOTOROGR

…I’m at a creative crossroads…

When people embark on a journey, they plan their itinerary in great detail.  Hotels, fuel stops, meals, sightseeing and other tourist stops are set with a timetable and destination in  mind.  If one is on a journey of discovery, however, there is minimal planning – because it’s all about the journey.  A couple years (and lots of posts, don’t forget!!) ago, I started a journey in creative photography.  My only plan was to learn how to make better images.  This blog has been my vehicle to document and share my journey.

In the last few weeks, I realized that I was approaching a creative crossroads.  There are two roads for me; the first continues on the path to making purely photographic images, while the other heads toward more artistic images.  I never thought about the differences until I visited one of my photo mentors to learn about his workflow to process landscape images.  He opened my eyes to editing techniques that I never imagined, so I’ve been experimenting with new and old images.  When an artist takes a new direction or pushes the creative envelope, there is always a period when the work may be considered ‘overdone’ as the artist tries to find a balance – it’s just part of the journey.

I won’t get into detail about the editing for the following images.  I think I’ll let them speak for themselves.  Let’s start with a few landscapes.

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I made this image at the Eden Vale Inn near Placerville CA (a wonderful ‘b n b’ – we highly recommend it!).  I’m not satisfied with the sky, but I love the rest of the image.

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These fall colors can be found along SR 207, Kingsbury Grade, between the Carson Valley and the Lake Tahoe Basin.

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After I made the above image, I turned and saw this view into the Carson Valley. It was a beautiful stormy day, as you can see.

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I made this image yesterday morning. The Carson River as it approaches SR 88, just south of Minden. The sun was just coming up behind the clouds.

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This is the south shore of Lake Tahoe. I visited the lake last week, on a stormy day. I’ve never seen the weather cover the mountains so completely. I stitched together 10 images to make this panorama.

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The recent storms gave us wonderful skies and light. This a Jobs Peak (the snow covered peak partially hidden by clouds on the left) on a wonderfully stormy day!

Here’s some new Raptor images.

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I just love this Great Horned Owl!

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I used the same filter on this Hawk image.

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It was raining when I made this image. This Hawk was focused on a potential meal.  This image was selected as the ‘image of the week’ by one of the photography froups on Facebook.

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I got a little aggressive with this image. The dark streak in the background is actually a branch.

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Same picture, but with an added twist in editing. A little more detail in the chest feathers.  I love this, but it doesn’t look like a photograph to me.

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This Hawk was hunting along an irrigation ditch.

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A little extra during processing, and the image has a completely different feel.

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I made this image last February. I struggled with the background.

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New editing knowledge – new look for the image.

I hope you understand better my dilemma at the creative crossroads.  I think my best direction is to assess each image independently and make the edits that bring out the best in every one.  The journey continues – as does the fun for me!  Using the digital medium, sometimes I will be a photographer and sometimes I will be a ‘cutting edge’ artist.

There’s much more on the way for this exploration.  Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

I’ve slowed down a little – could you tell?

There’s nothing like a three week break between posts to demonstrate how much I’ve slowed down in my shooting.  Just to be clear, though, it’s only my shooting that has slowed down!  I’m spending more time studying new techniques and continuing work with those I’ve already added to my ‘toolkit.’  Also, it is Spring so I have to spend a little more time at home working on the yard and taking care of business in general.

I’ve continued my exploration of in-camera High Dynamic Range (HDR), as you will see below.  As explained in a previous post, HDR is the process of combining multiple exposures to utilize the best parts of each image for best detail from shadows and highlights.  After figuring out the settings, it works much better than I originally thought.  I noted an interesting part of the in-camera process the other day.  While reviewing several sets of exposures, I saw that the camera floated the ISO setting to obtain the underexposed image.  When I manually create multiple exposures, I usually float my shutter speed to create the over- and under-exposures.  I never adjust the aperture because of the impact to depth of field.  In addition, I’ve been exploring the Nik Efex filters and the variety of options available in Photomatix Pro.  I made these pictures at the Dangberg Home Ranch Historic Park, with the Sierras as the background.  They will demonstrate better than words.

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In-camera HDR with minor adjustments in Adobe Camera Raw (ACR). Another problem with in-camera HDR is that the file is in JPEG format, which limits post-processing options.

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This image was made from the same set of exposures as the one above. I combined the exposures in Photomatix Pro with additional processing in Nik. I received feedback from another photographer, telling me I needed to change my camera settings to minimize noise and also be careful of chromatic aberration. I’ll discuss these topics in future posts.

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This in-camera HDR was processed in ACR.

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Also in-camera and processed in ACR.

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I should have shifted a touch to the left to keep Jobs Peak from hiding behind the wheel spoke.

My lovely bride and I are members of the Friends of Dangberg Home Ranch, and I’ve been working with the Curator on some note cards for them to sell.  Here’s a couple of the options we are discussing.

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I took this image several years ago when I didn’t know what I was doing photographically. There are those who will argue that I still don’t know what I’m doing, but I’ll leave that alone for now. This image was shot in low resolution JPEG format at the wrong time of day, but I was able to work it enough to make this image – formatted for a large note card.

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Just for grins, I made it monochrome and applied a sepia filter. This will probably not make the cut for the final note cards.

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Better light and better angle. Jobs Peak is visible in the left side of the picture.  This one will be on the note cards.

The Dangberg Home Ranch Historic Park teamed up with the Carson Valley Arts Council for an event called Something in the Wind.  A kite group from Oregon came down and put on a wonderful event.  The wind cooperated, sometimes just a little too much.  Here’s a little of the color from the two day event.

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These spinners were on poles – very fun and beautiful.

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Can you tell we had good wind? The spinners came down soon after I made this image.

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Lots of colorful flags, too!

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And then there were the kite fliers – all shapes and sizes! This little guy worked his kite pretty hard.

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The bubbles were quite the hit on Sunday!

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Kites are very beautiful these days!  A far cry from newspaper and sticks that we used.

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The kite folks put these in the air and tethered them, and they flew all day!

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This young man walked by my booth and proudly announced that he just turned 7 and he got this box kite for his birthday! I enjoyed seeing a father and son spending time together.

I stopped by my favorite Owl venue and captured this Barn Owl!

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Looks like a young one by the puffy feathers. I shot this handheld, so it’s not the best focus (camera shake from me and my hands – the low light and long shutter speed also contributed).  A cutie nonetheless.

The nice wet winter brought lots of flowers to the desert.

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This is the introduction for my next shooting technique – Macro Photography! Stay tuned!

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The mountains west of the Carson Valley.

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Shot from the road, looking up hill. But the flowers are gorgeous!

I’m really looking forward to my exploration into the world of Close-up and Macro Photography.  Thanks for looking at this blog.

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

Just don’t forget the basics…

In the last several blogs, I’ve talked about new shooting and editing techniques and all the fun I’ve been having.  These past few weeks have been truly amazing for me, up until a couple nights ago.  I was reading one of my books on High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography – the chapter on tripods – and a I came on a little ‘Tip’ sidebar that said, “Rather counterintuitively, using a tripod in conjunction with image stabilization can result in unsharp images, so it is advisable to turn stabilization off whenever your camera is tripod-mounted.”

For a little quick background, many lens manufacturers build their lenses to correct for small movements and shakes, resulting in sharper pictures.  Each manufacturer calls it something different (Canon says image stabilization and Tamron uses vibration control, for example), but they all accomplish the same thing.  The problem is that when a camera is mounted on a tripod (versus handheld), these small movements and shakes don’t occur, so the lens panics (figuratively, not literally) and introduces some shake so the image stabilization system has something to do.  It’s kind of like those overprotective parents in movies and TV shows that obsess over their children’s first date or outing with friends – inventing problems that aren’t occurring.  It makes for a humorous story line, but it doesn’t make good pictures.  The lesson: turn off the image stabilization (if the lens has it) when using a tripod!

Is this new information to me?  No!  It’s a basic action in photography, the same as turning on the charging the battery, turning on the camera, taking the lens cap off, or putting a memory card in the camera.  Have I been doing it?  Well, no.  I have been concentrating so hard on the neutral density filters and camera settings, getting a good composition, and remembering the cable release to reduce camera shake on the tripod.  I haven’t been turning off the image stabilization on my lenses! Silly me!  The biggest problem has been blending the different exposures in HDR software, where I was seeing lots of ‘ghosting’ or blurred portions in the final image.  I attributed it to wind blowing the tree branches or the differences in water flow, never thinking about that dadburned image stabilization.  So, lesson learned and reminder to take care of the basics!  Will I forget again?  Yes!  After all, I’m still learning.

For this week’s images, I’ll start with my recent trip to Glen Alpine Falls, on Taylor Creek upstream from Fallen Leaf Lake which feeds into Lake Tahoe.  With all the snow the Sierras received this year, the Falls are running strong and are very beautiful.  If you want to go see them, take CA 89 along the west shore of Lake Tahoe, a few miles south of Emerald Bay, and turn west on the road to Fallen Leaf Lake.  The Falls are on the far west end of the Lake.  I had to park at the fire station and hike about a quarter mile up a hill – an easy hike and well worth it!  I had rented a Canon 10-22 Wide Angle Lens from Gordon’s Photo Service (gordonsphotoservice.com), to try something different from my lenses.  It was fun to use that lens – with the short focal length and the natural distortion on the edges of the images, I had to adjust my shooting style – especially to create the panoramas.

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Glen Alpine Falls – 5 exposures, HDR processed in Photomatix and Photoshop.

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For this image of the Falls, I stitched together 4 images to create a panorama. I used the wide angle lens turned 90 degrees (long axis vertical), with a 4 stop neutral density filter to slow the water for the picture, merging in Photoshop.

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This is Taylor Creek, downstream of the Falls. I made 5 exposures and blended them in Photomatix to bring out the beautiful colors in the rocks.

With Spring, our trees are flowering!

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A macro of the flowers on a Perfect Purple tree in our backyard!

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These flowers are on our Pear tree – hopefully, the bees will come and we will have Pears this year!

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With all the moisture we’ve had this Winter, the desert is full of color. I’ve never noticed these desert plants before, but they are blooming all over the Carson Valley! This one is just up the road from our house!

I haven’t forgotten the wildlife in our area, although the Raptors are mostly gone.  Here’s a few:

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My education in bird identification continues. I was very excited to see this, thinking I had something exotic like a female Canvasback Duck. Turns out, it’s just a Mutt Duck. Apparently, Mallards aren’t very selective when they mate, giving us birds like this. It is, however, very pretty – for a Mutt!

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I drove past a Western Meadowlark a couple months ago, so when I saw this one I was determined to get the picture. I posted this to the ‘Yep I’m from Wyoming’ page on Facebook and, at last count, I was well over 130 likes! For those of you unfamiliar with my home state – the Western Meadowlark is the Wyoming State Bird!

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These Owlets live in the Carson Valley, and share the nest with Mom, Dad, and two siblings.

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This Great Horned Owl was on a branch over the nest, with 2-3 Owlets in the nest. Not sure if it was just the wind, or if the kids were acting up that day, but I love the look on its face.

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This Quail was running around my backyard, but stopped long enough for me to get this picture!

I’ll close with a few scenery shots.

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This is an abandoned ranch house in Hope Valley, just across the border in California.

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This waterfall is on CA 89, on the west end of Emerald Bay.

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The Carson Valley is one of the ‘go to’ places for soaring. These two gliders were in the sky over my house. They weren’t as close as it appears in this image.

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My lovely bride asked for a short drive last Sunday, and we happened on this scene along Waterloo Lane in the Carson Valley.

Shooting the West (shootingthewest.org) is only a couple weeks away!  I’m putting the finishing touches on my presentation and am very excited to be a part of this great event this year.  If you’re near Winnemucca in a couple weeks – stop by the Convention Center and see the pictures!  This Sunday is April 17, the day the Ford Mustang was introduced at the New York World’s Fair in 1964.  It’s National Mustang Day, so I’ll be driving the Bullitt to celebrate.

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.

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.