Monday, December 19, 2016

The Best of 2016

Here is a summary of what I consider my best of 2016.  One regular theme in my nature photographer's group is the importance of picking one's best image of a subject.  It's a great discipline.  I will admit it is difficult to eliminate a photo when some special attachment is there, but, here goes.

 This is at Circle B Bar Reserve near Lakeland, FL.  The adult Barred Owl on the right was preening its fledgling owlet. The behavior was so tender. Unforgettable.

 The white morph of the Reddish Egret reminds one of a ballet dancer when it prances across the shallows scaring up small fish.  The wings are raised high to reduce glare on the water.  Photographed at Fort DeSoto Park near Tampa, FL.

 The Roseate Spoonbill acquires its pink color from the shrimp it eats.  They are a large, graceful flyer.  Photographed on Tampa Bay.

From a distance, I saw two large male Wild Turkeys  escorting a flock of hens at Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains. Judging their direction of travel, I hurried to the middle of a large meadow and waited. They came very close to me.  As the boys trailed the hens,  they were displaying their vigor to each other.  Eventually, the other tom could not flare his tail feathers completely. He had lost the contest and retreated, leaving this male to control the flock.

I staked out a favorite perch for this Belted Kingfisher at a nearby marsh.  When the bird arrived, I locked the tripod on my composition and fired a burst of exposures at the first hint of movement.  With two good images separated by only 0.1 second, I layered them to show the dynamics of how the bird launches towards its prey.

The Eastern Towhee is a prolific songster in the spring.  I was attracted by the way his orange sides are echoed in the newly spreading leaves beneath his breast.

I have a love affair with wild orchids, and it began with Pink Lady's Slippers. They are so sensuous and completely wild, not allowing man to cultivate them from seed.  I treat them as an anthropomorphic portrait.

Capturing a Bald Eagle in flight to  me is something on the level of hitting major league baseball pitch. Well, maybe a little easier, but its close.  No time to hesitate and a lot to consider - flight path, head angle, frontal lighting, perfect focus on the eye, accurate tracking and a really fast shutter speed.  Add a little luck and when it works, it is rewarding.

Wild Columbine present a very simple color set - red, yellow and green.  Not exotic like the orchids, but a delightful wildflower to erase the memory of winter.

I spent much of the summer stalking Green Herons on the nearby river. They are shy and unpredictable.  I was finally able to stalk this bird due to his strong focus on a school of small fish. This was my only image with its crest raised.  He appears to have caught a small walleye.

Went to see Pennsylvania's elk herd this fall during the rut.  On a foggy morning I located this huge bull.  I called him Big Nasty.  When he came out of the woods, the force of his bugling formed a cloud of steam.

Autumn is a challenge to me. The expansive landscapes just don't capture the season.  Here, the colorful leaves, the rushing water and the massive boulders  present three contrasting elements of fall in the Great Smoky Mountains.

As autumn turns into winter, the Bald Eagles congregate in large numbers on the lower Susquehanna River. Tracking the acrobatics as the birds bank to locate the fish is great practice and sometimes rewarding.  They certainly are a powerful animal.

The Finger Lakes region is rich with waterfalls.  In the fall, they are decorated with autumn's leaves.  A fortunate placement of a dead tree adds more interest as the upper falls seems to pour onto the arch of the tree.  Just like real estate, it's location, location, location.

So, these are my favorite images of 2016 minus one that I saved for last. 

This is ....  the end.


Saturday, December 17, 2016

Bald Eagles on the Rocks

I take my whiskey on the rocks, an inch of the pure with a little water and some cubes of ice.  This week I took my Bald Eagles in a pretty similar way at Conowingo Dam. The first day, the wind chill was around 15°F, and it got worse on day two with winds gusting over 30 mph.

The day began benignly with a stop at Port Deposit to photograph the setting super moon.  As the sun reddened the sky, the view down the Susquehanna River towards the Chesapeake Bay was nice. There are four bridges spanning the river that carry road and rail traffic north-south.

Recall the saying "Red sky in the morning, sailor take warning"?

Oblivious to that warning, I worked on the moon set across the river.

Arriving at the dam, it was quiet except for the ever active gulls.  Well, they make for good practice before the eagles get busy.  (It is not certain that eagles will be active, because one cannot predict if fish will be coming through the turbines, or, for that matter, how active the turbines will be.)

So, I practiced on a Ring-billed Gull.  They really aren't easy since their flight can be very erratic.  Anyway, this one had good light and nice head angle.

From time to time, a Bald Eagle will launch to check out a possible fish, and that makes for good practice.  I liked this one where the eagle banked strongly to follow an object.

The bird's intensity comes through when there is good light on a sharply focused eye.

The wind  began to build and occasional fishing occurred.  This adult eagle made a catch and headed downriver trying to avoid being robbed by another eagle.  It looks like it caught a walleye pike.  Look at that beak!

At times the Bald Eagles appear so close it is difficult to keep them in the camera viewfinder.  It is at times like this when I refer to "batting practice".  There are a lot of misses and just a few which absolutely fill the image frame.  This is one of those moments.  I only cropped the sides.

Much of the bird's fishing occurs close to the dam, and the background includes the dam.  This bird spotted a stunned fish close to the turbine discharges and flew up parallel to the spillways.

My favorite of the day was this bird that came directly towards me.  The intent look on the bird's face is intimidating.

That was day one - cold with a little fishing and some flight activity. Not uncomfortable.  The next morning was an escalation.  Winds were soon in the 20 mph and plus range, giving wind chill in the 5°F area, and by 9:30 a.m. gusts were over 30 mph.  Nearly all the birds were grounded other than gulls close in to the face of the dam.  Ice was coating the rocks along the river's edge. The waves in the river above the dam were breaking over the spillways when the big gusts rolled down from the north.  Toughing it out is one thing for good photos, but this was fruitless. My finger could not feel the shutter button.   Packed up at 10:00 a.m.  As I drove over US 1 highway that crosses the river on the dam, I saw the wind shredding the tops off the wave crests. 

There will be better days to compensate for this one.