Finding gesture, finding the story

Fish in the bill  

I remember when I made my first photo of a Bald Eagle sitting in a tree somewhere along the Mississippi River. The picture was taken from far away and I had to crop the heck out of the image to make it work and spent a lot of time in post process. Now, a few thousand shots later, I still have room for improvement, a process that will probably never end. But it isn’t anymore so much about getting all the technical aspects right, that has moved to a different level of consciousness, but it is about to find a good gesture or to catch the right moment that tells the story about the eagles better than the last photo.

The first image makes us believing that an eagle catches the fish with its bill, but they don’t, they still use their talons to get the fish out of the water. I caught the brief moment right after the catch when the Bald Eagle picked up the fish from the talons and started eating it. They don’t do that with the bigger fish but a little one is gobbled down immediately like a snack.

Coming down

 

The gesture of the bird in the second photo tells the photographer, you better be ready and lock the focus on, if you want to make the click during the moment the eagle makes a catch. It also shows where the difficulty lies at a location like lock and dam #14 in LeClaire. There are many structures in the background that can ruin an otherwise perfect shot but sometimes they also can help to tell the story.

Big surprise, a pelican in January

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As mentioned yesterday we had ideal shooting conditions at lock and dam #14 in LeClaire, Iowa at the Mississippi River. It is always depending what direction you point the lens but in some instances the sky appeared in an almost unreal blue. I don’t tinker with colors in my wildlife photography and in that regard it’s true WYSIWYG what you see here in the blog or elsewhere.

I enjoyed the company of our friends Jeanne and Dave at dam #14. It is nice to shoot together with someone who has the same or similar interests and Dave likes to make photographs about nature, farm buildings and equipment, as well as portraits. He writes about different aspects of life and posts his photos in a blog almost every day, check it out if you like.   http://updedesignsblog.com

It was the first time that I saw an American White Pelican in January here in Iowa. Burt Gearhart, the photographer who made a presentation about the wildlife around LeClaire yesterday, had some pictures of pelicans in his slideshow and it was new to me that they come up that far north during the winter. What a pleasure to see that majestic bird flying in!!! I know most of my American friends have a biased view if it comes to the Bald Eagle, the National bird of the United States, but hey, the pelican isn’t bad either… ;-) I can watch them soaring for hours with their incredible wing span of up to 110 inches (bis zu 2,79 m) and never get tired of it. The pelican’s fishing frenzy has been documented a few times here in the blog ( http://exnerimages.com/?s=pelicans ) but making this photo of a single pelican in flight in January here in Iowa is priceless… :-)

 

 

Hole in the ice

Hole in the ice  

Reevaluating the results of previous shootings is part of my endeavors to improve as a photographer. This shooting took place last Christmas in a park in Cherokee, Iowa. I liked the mood of this warm winter day and I thought that the photo shown in my blog post from December 26, 2014 carried the story the best. Looking over the remaining pictures again made me change my mind. How could I miss the colors of the surrounding sky, reflected in the water of the hole in the ice? I don’t know, but if I make a print, it will be today’s photo that will be pinned to the wall…

 

Gesture of a fence

White fence  

Hi gang! As usual, it is not just laziness that prevents me from posting here but a heavy travel and work schedule. Haven’t shot much during last week, but what the heck, thoughts go through my mind and the beginning of a new year is always a good time to reflect on the previous work and the things that occupy my little brain.

Today’s photo “Division fence” was shot during a walk at last Christmas in Cherokee, Iowa. I saw this industrial made fence near the trail in a public park that we like to visit. The fence itself lacks charm in my books but it was the light that hit the hillside and that drew my attention. Suddenly all the lines made sense and the low sun above the horizon on this almost snowless winter day lifted the ugly fence out of the ordinary…

 

Cardinals conclave

Northern Cardinal  

It is bitterly cold here in Iowa at the moment but on the positive side the cold weather brings lots of Northern Cardinals to the yard and its feeders. I don’t think we have ever seen so many at the same time. I counted 20 birds on one side of the house today but there were probably some more on the other side and up in the trees. Cardinals are monogamous and solitary nesters during the summer but in the winter time they flock obviously together to larger “conclaves”.

The cardinals show up at the feeders before sunrise and they are the last ones that leave the feeders in the evening. Catching them with the camera at these times requires the use of a flash light. I try to keep my shutter speed slow so that there is a little light in the background left and it is not just all black. The bluish snow cover in the background of this photo helps to tell the story about what season and time this picture was made. It doesn’t say ‘summertime’, doesn’t it? Under these circumstances not every shot is a keeper but the contrast between the black face mask and the bill helps to maintain focus.

 

Sangre de Cristo Mountains

Sangre de Cristo Mountains  

One of my goals for last year was to work a little harder on my landscape photography, especially during our trip to Colorado. Looking through my photos makes me even more aware how important it is to use the early morning hours or, like with this picture, shoot during the time around sunset and even after sunset.

The shot was made during our stay at Great Sand Dunes National Park, just at the southern park boundaries along a county road. The sun was still up but hidden behind a cloud and it just kissed the 14,000 feet tall peaks of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The Rabbitbrush got enough light to make it stand out from the desert and provided a nice foreground for this scene that lasted only a couple minutes.

 

Bluebirds, still here!

  Female Eastern Bluebird

About two weeks ago I reported about the frequent visit of several Eastern Bluebirds at our bird bath and that we have never seen them here in December before. I thought the relativ mild weather played a role at that time, but now, after we had some snow and the temperatures dropped below freezing, we still see them coming to the bird bath.

 

Male Eastern Bluebird

 

I shot a lot of pictures today and my goal was to keep as much as possible of the ugly water bowl out of the frame. I wanted to show both, the female and male bluebird, and for this blog post I chose photos that show them in an almost identical pose, with the head turned to the side.

As I write this the temperature is still dropping and we expect for tomorrow -4ºF (for my friends in Germany, this is -20˚C) and this does not consider the wind chill… I will watch very close how the bluebirds can handle this…

 

Nature clicks #252 - Cedar Waxwing

Cedar Waxwing  

I’m still in process to clean the photo library. Remember, last December (long time ago, isn’t it? ;-)  ) I reported about some unusual bird traffic in our “backyard studio”. The Cedar Waxwings were also part of the gang that took advantage of the heated bird bath. We have never seen them here before during the winter. Thank you for stopping here and enjoy your weekend!

 

Good start into 2015

Common Mergansers  

I wish all visitors, friends, and followers of my blog a happy, safe, and creative year 2015!! Thank you for stopping here during the last year. Your comments, critique, and encouragement mean a lot to me and keep me writing this little journal about nature and photography.

We had a nice start into the new year with our friends Jeanne and Dave. Good conversation and playing some games made for a fun New Year’s Eve. Unfortunately Joan had to work today so I dragged myself out of the house on my own this morning. ;-) I went south along the Mississippi and just tried to spot some wildlife. The temperatures were way below freezing during the last few days and there was a lot more ice on lakes and rivers.

Mergansers

 

I found what I was looking for in Sabula, Iowa, a small town on an island in the Mississippi River. There were lots of Common Mergansers in the water. I positioned the “mobile blind” (my car) near the narrow entrance to the city’s marina. The marina was frozen over while the main channel of the river was still free of ice. The mergansers were hunting for fish by diving underneath the ice. It was fun to watch how they approach the edge of the ice in groups, dive under, and return, with or without fish, after a few seconds.

For me there is no better start into a new photography year than coming back already from the first trip with a memory card full of bird images. I wouldn’t mind if this continues throughout the year… ;-)