INGREDIENTS


Black-necked Stilt, Bolsa Chica Ecological Preserve, California, 2017

Light, gesture, and color are still the main ingredients for a photo that may not even get more than just one second of attention span these days on social media. Ok, nothing new here, but if a picture doesn’t even have at least one of the above mentioned, it goes down the digital drain without any notice. A good photo hardly ever needs all three ingredients, one just can make the difference.

THE EXCITEMENT GROWS


Sandhill Cranes, Green Island Wetlands, March 2017

Tonight was the first meeting of the year for the Dubuque Camera Club (http://www.dubuquecameraclub.com). I’m in my second year now with the club and really enjoy the networking with other photographers. After the official program we nature photographers quite often exchange our thoughts, discuss wildlife sightings, or share locations that might be of interest for other fellow photogs. Today the question came up, when will we see the first signs of bird migration with this unusual warm weather pattern? We don’t really know yet, but I could sense that we were all excited about the upcoming season and look already forward to a hopefully busy time. The Sandhill Cranes will be part of it.

DELAYED START


Female Eastern Bluebird

I hope all friends and readers of my blog had a good start into the new year! I look forward to continue the exchange of thoughts and ideas about photography, nature, and nature conservation together with you in 2019 again. Your emails and messages inspire me and sharing knowledge, photo locations, and helping each other is always fun!

We had a full house during the last few days and serious photography was not on the agenda. I finally made the first few clicks at lunch time today in the “front yard studio”. We have a thin layer of snow on the ground and having some Eastern Bluebirds posing for a photo is not the worst start into a new year…😉

Male Eastern Bluebird

BALD EAGLES IN TOWN?


A couple days ago the word was spread on the internet that a large number of Bald Eagles was at Ice Harbor in Dubuque, right behind the Mississippi River Museum. I didn’t have time to go but tried to check it out yesterday instead. Bummer, there was not a single eagle at this place or any other location where we usually may have a chance to watch Bald Eagles along the big River. Because of the warm weather there is still no ice on the river and the absence of eagles isn’t really a surprise to me. Not a big deal, in January I was at lock & dam #14 in LeClaire, Iowa and had my good share of opportunities to photograph this majestic bird again. During the last days of the year I usually clean out my library, apply missing keywords, and put the last files away into the archive. And that’s where I found this image last night.

OUT WEST #30 (LAST PART)


Horseman, Badlands NP, South Dakota

Nikon D750, Sigma 150-600mm / f5-6.3 DG OS HSM S, @480mm, 1/640s, f/6.3, ISO100

This will be the last part of my photo story about our trip through the mountains and grasslands of the west in September. I have quite a few more images but for this last post I wanted to use a couple photos that leave no doubt about where they were taken, OUT WEST. Both photos were made the morning of our last full day in Badlands National Park. A horseman, who camped in the same campground as us, went on a ride and gave his horses some exercise and a big American Bison, the iconic animal of the west, gave us a nice gesture with his tongue while interrupting grazing just briefly.

I hope you enjoyed this journey and had as much fun as I had while stitching the 30 stories together. Your echo and opinions helped me to grow as a photographer and I’m thankful for everybody who stops here in the blog on occasion or every day.

American Bison, Badlands NP, South Dakota

Nikon D750, Sigma 150-600mm / f5-6.3 DG OS HSM S, @500mm, 1/640s, f/6.3, ISO200

TWO WAYS TO TELL TONIGHT’S STORY


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.

NATURE CLICKS #418 - EASTERN BLUEBIRD


Sure, this is only a picture taken at a bird bath but this is a favorite place of the four Eastern Bluebirds that visit our backyard frequently. They come in to drink and quite often sit at the edge of the pool and warm up a little. I have photographed them many times but this is the first time that I was able to make a photo of a female and male side by side and both birds in focus.

OUT WEST #29


Little Rock Creek, Wind River Range, Wyoming

Our last destination in the mountains of western Wyoming was the Wind River Range, an approximately 100 miles long part of the Rocky Mountains. We pitched the tent for three nights in Sink Canyon State Park, west of Lander, WY. These mountains are not so well known by the public as for example the Tetons or Yellowstone, but there is no lack of interesting geology and beautiful nature. We went on hikes and traveled off the beaten path by car, but time was too short to explore more than a small area of the range.

Wildfire smoke, Louis Lake Road, Wind River Range, Wyoming

One reason why I didn’t shoot a lot of wide landscape views was the fact that the impact of wildfires created a certain haziness, even if the fires were far away. The photo gives you an idea…

Mule Deer, Red Canyon, Wyoming

Finding wildlife is not very difficult in the Wind River Range, there was always a Pronghorn or Mule Deer somewhere, but when we saw this doe with her two fawns on a rock ledge in the Red Canyon near Lander, WY we had to stop and make the click. Mountains Lions are not uncommon and are a great danger for the young Mule Deer and this spot was obviously a good place to have control over the terrain for the mother.

Least Chipmunk, Popo Agie Falls, Wyoming

The Least Chipmunk is smaller than the Eastern Chipmunk that lives in our woods here in eastern Iowa. In areas that are more frequented by people, like along the hiking trail that leads to the Popo Agie Falls, the chipmunks have not much fear and can be easily photographed within the range of a 200 mm lens.

TAKING ADVANTAGE


The last snow melted finally away today but there is more in the forecast for Sunday. I always like to take advantage of the “big reflector” and use the extra light for some shots around the house. About half a dozen Eastern Gray Squirrels (at least!) invite themselves and take advantage of the sunflower seeds at our bird feeders. They are a good subject to practice and study how the direction of light can effect the outcome. And yeah, there is always the cuteness factor that comes with these critters…🐿

GREEN ISLAND WETLANDS IN THE WINTER?


First snow in the Green Island Wetlands

I had a nice audience last night for my presentation about storytelling in wildlife photography, with some great questions afterwards and the emails and messages I received today tell me that people received some inspiration for their own photography. This made my day!

I introduced some of my favorite shooting locations, and the avid reader of my blog knows already, the Green Island Wetlands along the Mississippi River play certainly an important role in my endeavors. Actually Joan, our dog Cooper, and I went there for a little hike last Sunday. We had some fresh snow on the ground and most water bodies were covered with a thin layer of ice. I’m sure the duck hunters were not so happy about that because we didn’t see any.

Bald Eagle

So what can we find at this time of the year under winter conditions in Green Island? We saw several hawks, a few Song Sparrows, and for the first time ever a coyote on top of a levee. Unfortunately he had seen us earlier and during the two or three seconds we watched him I was not able to make a sharp image. Ten minutes earlier this Bald Eagle posed nicely against the blue sky and later we saw the bird with its mate sitting in another tree further away.

Beside all that, the lakes and backwaters had some nice blue color and the cracks in the ice and the snow painted some surreal patterns. As mentioned in my presentation, it’s difficult to come back from the wetlands with an empty memory card…

COME AND SEE MY PRESENTATION


Black-tailed Prairie Dogs, Badlands National Park, South Dakota

A year ago I joined the Dubuque Camera Club. The exchange of thoughts, ideas, and photography knowledge between members is priceless, and beside the educational aspect, it is a great group of people to socialize with and share the fun photography has to offer. We meet twice a month (first and third Monday each month between September and June) and for the 2018 /19 season we offer some member presentations about different aspects of photography. The meetings of the camera club are open to the public anyway, but these special events are advertised in local and social media.

Mobile phones made almost everybody a photographer these days and photography is as popular as never before, so we like to share our presentations with a broader audience. Maybe you guessed it, I volunteered to be the first presenter…

It’s a wrong assumption that good wildlife photos can only be made with expensive equipment. Sharing the story of your wildlife encounter, even through a technically not so perfect image, is more important for the future of our natural heritage than seeing the last detail in a critter’s eye. I will give you my thoughts on this and other aspects of wildlife photography.

If you live in or around the Tri-state area of Dubuque, Iowa, please join us for our first presentation this season next Monday. Here are the facts about this event:

Monday, November 19, 2018, at 6:30 PM

STORYTELLING IN WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY

E.B. Lyons Interpretive Center, 

Mines of Spain Recreation Area

8991 Bellevue Heights 

Dubuque, IA

My presentation will touch the questions below, and hey, we can discuss your ideas and thoughts as well after what I try to cramp into 60 minutes.

  • How to start with wildlife photography, even with a small camera and lens?

  • What are good locations for wildlife shooting in and around the Mississippi Valley?

  • How to become better storytellers with our photos?

  • How about safety and ethics?

The program is free and I would be happy to see you next Monday at 6:30 PM in the E.B. Lyons Interpretive Center at the Mines of Spain 😉

FALL IS OVER


White-breasted Nuthatch, Little Maquoketa River Valley, Iowa

Oh, you see some white aside from the bird’s body and between the trees in the background of this photo? You got it! We had our first snow a couple days ago and it took until today to melt it. With the snow came a bunch of Dark-eyed Juncos from the north, who will spend the winter here, and their arrival is always the best indicator that autumn is almost over. It was a gray weekend again and the best I can come up with is this photo of a White-breasted Nuthatch in its typical position on a tree trunk.

OUT WEST #25


Moose, Gros Ventre, Grand Tetons National Park, Wyoming

We are not big fans of large campgrounds but there were a couple reasons we chose Gros Ventre at the Gros Ventre River for our stay in Grand Tetons National Park. First its location, with easy access to many good viewpoints, and second, it is known for the presence of moose nearby.

And yes, we watched four moose every morning. They were easy to find, we just looked for other people with big tripods, cameras, and long lenses…😉

There was a lot communication between the big animals going on, vocal and as well by body language, in particular the ears. At 8:30AM the show is almost over, they disappear and lay down in the grass between the sage brush and willow thicket and rest.

NATURE CLICKS #416 - CAROLINA WREN


To say it mildly, the weather has been lousy, with a lot of rain lately. Consequently having a little bit of hazy sunlight yesterday morning felt very pleasant. Early morning has been the best time to see migrating birds recently, or at least birds that are not around our house all the time. There are still two Red-breasted Nuthatches present and during last weekend I saw a White-crowned Sparrow. Two Carolina Wrens were picking up spiders on our porch yesterday morning and when one of them posed nicely in the mild sun, I got this photo right from the bedroom window.

OUT WEST #22


Trumpeter Swan, Firehole River, Yellowstone NP

It was in Yellowstone where we photographed Trumpeter Swans for the first time, long before I documented the recovery of these swans in Iowa here in the blog. I had two blurry birds in the frame but was nevertheless very proud of my picture. During this year’s visit in the National Park, more than ten years later, we saw them again in the Hayden Valley, almost at the same spot. The last morning, while on the way out of the park to our next destination, we stopped along the Firehole River and found this beautiful Trumpeter Swan foraging in the shallow water. It took me a while, but in this shot it came all together, killer light quality, gesture, sharpness, and background.

Nikon D750, Sigma 150-600mm / f5-6.3 DG OS HSM S, @ 600 mm, 1/1000 s, f/6.3, ISO100