Canada Geese, Mississippi River, Mud Lake, Iowa,

Nikon D750, Nikkor 70-200mm / f4, @70 mm, 1/1250s, f/6.3, ISO800

During my recent presentation at the Dubuque Camera Club about storytelling in wildlife photography I stated to take the camera with us, wherever we may go. I’m sure glad I did tonight when I took Cooper, the dog, down to the Mississippi River for a walk. The sun had disappeared already behind the bluffs, light was fading away fast, and I thought there wouldn’t be much to photograph. And boy, was I wrong! Hundreds of Canada Geese crossed the river in groups, flying towards the setting sun.

There were at least two ways to make a click and tell the story, and I tried to accomplish both. In the western sky was the glow of the setting sun with some hazy clouds, and to the east, over the river, was the moon. The shot aiming the lens at the sunset was indeed predictable. The geese fly in V-formation and I wanted to bring that somehow in connection with the clouds and the sun light.

Nikon D750, Nikkor 70-200mm / f4, @70 mm, 1/500s, f/5, ISO800

The other photo, with the geese flying “through” the moon, required a little bit of luck. Many flocks crossed the Mississippi this evening and I just waited for the right moment. You can’t really pan with the camera, follow the flock, and shoot with a slower shutter speed in order to keep the ISO low and the digital noise out of the picture. This would result in an even more blurred moon. I had to set ISO to 800 for maintaining a shutter speed of 1/500s. Not that this one is perfect, but it was pretty much how I saw it with the thin layer of haze in front of it.


I had a little break here in the blog and come back with some street photography. Dubuque had its ‘Merry Millwork Market’ during the last couple evenings. Joan and I went yesterday night to this mini- Christmas market in the Historic Millwork District. Let me go straight to the highlight 😉. It was the first time since I live in the US that I saw someone selling Glühwein. The mullen-spiced red wine is served on every Christmas market in Germany, something I have missed during the last fourteen years.

I thought the market was well done, taking place outdoors and indoors. There were a lot of local artists selling their artwork and it seems the character of the market fits the ambience of the repurposed warehouse buildings in the Historic Millwork District of Dubuque, Iowa very well.

I don’t know when I shot the last time with ISO 1250 and still hand held the camera at a shutter speed between 1/15s and 1/40s. Detail was not so important as it is in wildlife photography and I wanted to keep the mood intact by using only the ambient light.


Moonrise, Mississippi River, Mud Lake, Iowa

Yesterday we had a full moon and finally I found the time and weather conditions that allowed to photograph the moonrise over the bluffs on the Wisconsin side of the Mississippi River. Sunset was about half an hour before moonrise, not enough to have a red glow on the bluffs but still good to have a little bit of ambient light. When I planned the shooting I actually had a composite in mind. First a shot that was exposed for the ambient light and second a shot that would be exposed just for the moon with some details on the surface. Both would be merged in Photoshop to make a picture that shows close to what the eye really sees. The contrast is too high to have it both with just one click. I did all this and then, last night at the computer, I didn’t like the outcome. Instead of, I present you a photo that was shot right when the moon showed up on top of the bluffs, still during the civil twilight period that can produce some amazing blues. No, it doesn’t show the details of the moon for said reason, but they were not really visible anyway because of that hazy cloud around the moon. Love the role of the clouds in this image, it makes all the difference to some of my other trials.

I set up the tripod at Mud Lake, right at the entrance to the little marina. When the daylight faded away the buoys that mark the access to the marina started blinking, a fact I totally forgot and first wasn’t too happy about. But looking at the results on the camera screen I saw that it had some potential to be part of the story telling.

So how did I know exactly where the moon would appear over the bluffs on the other side of the river? I’m using THE PHOTOGRAPHER'S EPHEMERIS®, an app on my phone that shows exactly, for example, where the sun goes down or the moon comes up, with times and a lot of other helpful data for landscape photographers. Highly recommended! There is also a free web version that can be used in your computer browser, which I think is good for planning a photo shoot at home. Here is the link to the website: .


The most interesting time in Las Vegas is at night, with all the lights, shows, glitter, and glamor. The strain of sensual perception is hard to deny. Joan and I had a great time the night before the wedding, just walking around, having a drink here and there, and shooting some pictures... I didn’t bring a tripod for proper camera support and wasn’t able to experiment with real long exposures, but I had fun chasing the light at night. It helps to use a lens with vibration reduction, and except for the picture with the light and water show in front of Caesars Palace, all photos were made handheld. Exposure times were between 1/4 s and 1/60 s and in most cases I took multiple shots, sometimes leaning against a wall to stabilize the camera. You can click on each image for best viewing.


This is the tent of a campsite neighbor at Sage Creek Campground in Badlands National Park. We had of course no control over the brightness of the light in their tent but I gave it a try anyway and included the sky with all its stars. The campground is in a remote location but there is unfortunately still some light pollution from the town of Wall, known for the “World famous Wall Drug store”.

If I remember this right, we had only two or three nights without seeing the stars during our trip through the Dakotas, but in the Badlands we probably enjoyed it the most.

A black background may help to view this image, and if you click on the photo you can see all the stars that were recorded by the sensor in the camera.


Last night it was the first time that we managed to be at the Great Galena Balloon Race over in Galena, Illinois. We arrived in time for the famous night glow of the balloons. Photographing balloons at night was a first for me and it was an enjoyable learning experience and some “candy for the eyes”. Having a tripod is a must for a halfway decent photo, unless you like to use blur as an artistic mean of expression, which IMHO is a valid way to go. As with many events where people gather by the hundreds, if not thousands, keeping the picture free of clutter (other people, golf carts, picknick coolers, etc.) is difficult, but something you need to have an eye on.

I went out with the Nikkor 24-120 mm, f/4 attached to the D750 and this was not a bad choice. The glowing of all balloons at the same time is announced over loud speakers but you only have a few seconds to make your shots. The zoom lens allows for quick changes.

Back home and in front of my computer I try to analyze where the mistakes were made and what really worked to tell the story about this event. I enjoyed this challenge very much and hope to have another chance to try it again soon.

On our way back to the car we saw this constellation of “heavenly” bodies above the road and trees. The moon was behind a thin layer of clouds while Jupiter and Venus were clearly visible despite the light pollution from nearby cities.