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…🐿


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…


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


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 😉


At Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone NP, Wyoming

This photo was taken at the Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park. My subject wasn’t the spring itself, like in my earlier post OUT WEST #17, but the surrounding area with its beautiful patterns and subtle tones. When I made the shot I had actually a black and white version in mind for the final image but now, back home in front of the screen, the color version appeals to me as well. I may post the B&W version at a later time. I still think about the final outcome…


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.


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.


Oxbow Bend, Grand Tetons, 2007, Nikon D200, Sigma 18-50, f/2.8, @35mm (equiv. to 52mm FX)

Ok, I’m cheating a little bit today and show you first a photo that I made already in October 2007. The fall colors were at their peak and the Grand Tetons had the first layer of fresh snow. Not so much the second picture from September 2018. Some leaves just started turning their colors and only the summits of the Tetons had some snow and that was probably from the last winter season. There was also a certain haziness in the air because wildfires were burning east of the mountains. With all that in mind, and again no clouds within reach, I was looking for a foreground that would add some scale and interest to the photo. When we saw these horses along the road I knew I had my picture.

It was interesting to pull out one of my old RAW files from Oxbow Bend, which I never had processed previously, and apply the tools of my current post processing workflow. Comparing results I still believe the NIKON D200 was a great camera but I can also tell that the lens, a Sigma 18-50 / f2.8, was not as sharp as the lenses I own today. However, for me it’s another proof that there is more than just the gear to make a good photo.

Grand Tetons, 2018, Nikon D750, Nikkor 70-200, f/4. @110mm


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.


Upper terraces, Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone NP, Wyoming

You certainly have not seen a lot of “dead sticks” in my landscape photos but there is always an exception from the rule. I will always include them at Mammoth Hot Springs and some other locations in Yellowstone National Park. How the travertine terraces have taken over the landscape during the years is part of the storytelling. It is a very fragile environment with an unsurpassed beauty, where even a dead tree has its function in the picture.

Lower terraces area, Mammoth Hot Springs


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


Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River, Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

One of the most photographed spots in Yellowstone is the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River. Sometimes I ask myself at some of these popular places in the National Parks, do I really want to add another photo to the millions that have been already created by other visitors? But I can’t help, the magnificence of these locations makes me press the shutter button as anybody else. Now back home, I googled for pictures of Lower Falls, where the Yellowstone River enters the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, and I see very many different ways how photographers have shot the scene. So, here is my favorite picture from this visit. If it makes you want to go there, the photo has its right to exist…😉

Nikon D750, Nikkor 70-200mm / f4, Induro GIT 404XL tripod, KIRK BH-3 ball head,  @135 mm, 1/200 s, f/8, ISO400


Osprey, Lamar Valley, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

It is always exciting to see a nest with a raptor on it, like this Osprey, especially if we can be on eye level with the bird. The nest site was across a narrow part of the valley, not far from the road and a pull out parking lot. Other people stopped and took pictures but the bird seemed not be bothered by it. The Osprey was eating but liftet its head from time to time. The problem here in the Lamar Valley was the distance. I had the camera in DX mode, which narrows the angle of view for the 600 mm lens to the equivalent of a 900 mm lens but at the end still cropped the photo to make it work. The details and sharpness suffer but I still like the environmental, story telling aspect of the picture.


Bucking Mule Canyon and Waterfall, Bighorn Mountains, Wyoming

It doesn’t happen very often that you can look from the sky at a waterfall that drops down 550 feet (167m). The hike to Bucking Mule Falls in the Bighorn Mountains was worth the effort. Arriving at the overlook at the end of the trail it became clear that the waterfall wouldn’t be the best or only subject for a photo. We were there in the early afternoon and a moody color shot wasn’t within reach either. My brain switched into “black & white mode” and this photo with Bucking Mule Canyon as the subject was what I came up with.


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: https://www.photoephemeris.com .