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Reflections on 2022

My golden doodle contributed to the inspiration of this post with her reflection in my entryway, which was taken with my new RF 50mm 1.2 lens. You may wonder why someone focused on wildlife photography needs a 50mm lens.  Well, I’ve read that it makes a good portrait lens, more on that later.

2022 ended up being a great year from a personal, professional and photography perspective. 

On of the highlights from this year included taking the dive into mirrorless photography in March with getting a Canon R3.  I’m loving the features in mirrorless cameras and haven’t touched my 1DX III since picking up my R3. I’m really glad that I didn’t wait for the R1 to come out.

Took a couple of amazing trips to Yellowstone in January and Alaska in June.  This was my 4th trip to Yellowstone in winter and it likely won’t be my last as it’s such an amazing place.  Got my dream shot on this trip of a black wolf staring at me with his yellow eyes.

Made my second trip to Alaska for coastal brown bear photography, which is my latest obsession.  The bears were amazing, although we didn’t see the cubs like last year.  However, made up for that with my first attempts at taking video with my new camera.  Got some amazing slow-motion video of bears opening clams with their claws.  Video adds another dimension to the storytelling of my wildlife photography, and it has been very exciting to add it to my portfolio.

After returning from Alaska in June, spent some quality time taking photos and videos at Bolivar Flats, on the Texas gulf coast.  Quickly found that it was a little more challenging to take video of fast-moving birds than the slower moving bears.  However, I’m very pleased with the results.  Have been collecting some of my favorite bird videos to enter into the 2023 Audubon photo contest, so be on the lookout for them.

In total, made 50 trips to local areas around Houston for wildlife photography. Can’t wait to see what photo ops 2023 will bring.

The major highlight for 2022, and the reason to get a 50mm lens, is that my daughter is pregnant!!  We are thrilled for Heather and Jack with their baby due in May.  Next year will involve lots of baby photo shoots with some outfits already being purchased for Christmas gifts this year.

Happy New Year everyone!! 2023 is going to be amazing! Hopefully will have time for some wildlife photography. Already have two major trips planned with hopefully a third one as well. More on those later.

Bald Eagle at Anahuac NWR

Couldn’t resist heading out to take photos this morning with sun finally coming out while I’m on vacation.  It was a little chilly in Texas at Anahuac NWR with 18 deg temperature and windchill at 0 deg F.  Geared up with some of my winter Yellowstone clothing and got there about 1 hour before sunrise.

Some of the birds around Shoveler’s Pond were hunkered down but the raptors were out in full force as they still have to eat.  Saw a juvi bald eagle flying at a distance, took a few photos and followed him towards the woodlot.  Rounded a corner and spooked 2 other juvi bald eagles that were sitting on the fence line.  Didn’t see them until they took off.

Captured this one as he was looking up while playing with the other eagle.  They were too close to get a decent shot of both of them in the frame together.

1/8000 sec @ F5.6, ISO 3200, evaluative metering, 700mm (R3 + 500F4 + 1.4X), handheld out my car window

Gray Ghost

Broke one of my golden rules yesterday at Bolivar Flats on the Texas gulf coast:  have your camera ready at all times when driving off the beach.  Saw this male northern harrier sitting on a fence post along the road and my camera was in the trunk.  There was a good reason for that as I couldn’t get the lens off of my fluid head.  Went past the harrier, stopped, took my camera off my 500F4 and put it on my 100-500, and headed back to the gray ghost.

He was very cooperative and let me get several photos before he flew away.  Luckily for me, he landed on the other side of the road, which allowed for more photos and some video in better light.  He was finally spooked when another car came down the road. 

The not so fun part of this encounter was that I was getting eaten alive by mosquitos.  Didn’t have bug spray on as there were no mosquitos on the beach, but they were very intense along the grassy area leaving the beach.  Had taken my jacket off so plenty of exposed skin for the feeding frenzy that took place in my car.  As they say, everything is bigger in Texas, including the mosquitos.  One of those times that you just grin and bear it as it’s always worth a little blood letting for a good photo op.

1/1600 sec @ F7.1, ISO 1000, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, 500mm (R3 + 100-500), minor cropping off left side.

2022 Wings Over Houston Airshow

Late October is always one of my favorite times with the Wings Over Houston airshow. I’ve been going since 2005 and just love it. Was lined up to go to the drive-in show with some friends but it got rained out. Had already bought tickets for the weekend so went on Saturday. It ended up being a cloudy day with limited ceiling so the planes couldn’t fly their normal routines. Didn’t feel like going again on Sunday, which was a mistake as it had some sunshine. There is always next year.

I’ll post some of the Blue Angels photos later. All of these shots were taken with my Canon R3 and 100-500 lens, handheld.

F-16 demo team put on a great show. The female pilot rocked it.

F-15 from Louisiana lit up the sky with a short routine

Aero L-39 Albatros

Close-up Bear

You never know what you may encounter in Alaska, like this coastal brown bear walking through the grass.  Immediately got down on one knee to get eye level with the bear for these two uncropped photos.  This is a 3rd year cub taken on the second day of another amazing adventure in Alaska

1/1600 @ F11, ISO 3200, evaluative metering, -2/3 exposure compensation, 451mm (R3 + 100-500), full frame

Breaking the Rules

It pays to break the rules sometimes, and in this case, a butt shot paid off.  This bear was walking away but I kept shooting as my autofocus stayed on her head.  You never know what you may get, and in this case, it’s a very unique perspective showing off the bottom of her foot and claws.

Lying in the wet mud while photographing bears at ground level in Lake Clark Alaska is an incredible experience that continues to fill my soul with pure joy.

1/640 @ F8, ISO 2000, evaluative metering, +1 1/3 exposure compensation, 500mm (R3 + 500F4) mounted on Skimmer ground pod with Wimberley gimbal, cropped

Audubon Top 100 X 2

Honored again this year to make the Top 100 in Audubon’s photo contest with these two photos.  Must have been slacking off since I had 4 in the top 100 last year. Congratulations to everyone that won and made the top 100.

First photo is a black skimmer coming in for a landing at Bolivar Flats. I love the unique wing position on this photo as it was one that I’ve never seen before.

This photo is an American avocet riding the surf at Bolivar Flats. Love the water swirling around her neck, which looks like she is getting ready to turn into a Disney princess.

Steaming Bear

The large boar is showing how hot and bothered that he is while chasing his potential mate.  That isn’t dust around him. It is steam coming off his hot body in the cool Alaska morning air.  Used negative exposure compensation to darken the scene to emphasize the highlights.

It was towards the end of mating season for the coastal brown bears from Lake Clark National Park. Love was in the air with lots of mating action going on.

1/2000 @ F7.1, ISO 6400, evaluative metering, -2/3 exposure compensation, 500mm, R3 + 100-500, uncropped

Brown Bear in Lupines

We caught this coastal brown bear walking through the lupines along a bear trail at Silver Salmon Creek Lodge in Alaska. Our guide and trip leader lead us to the end of that trail when they saw her enter that area. Was great timing as she slowly walked towards us, and we got out of her way.

The RF 100-500 worked very well on this trip with using it everywhere except the mudflats, where my 500F4 was the workhorse.  It was much easier to lug around.

1/2000 @ F8, ISO 5000, evaluative metering, 451mm, R3 + 100-500

Back to Alaska

Made it back to Lake Clark in Alaska for some more bear photography this year with Marc and bear guide extraordinaire, David Rasmus. Had a great time to say the least.

Last year was spent following Crimp and her cub around. This year, we saw Crimp on our first day and she was mating as she had kicked her cub out a few weeks ago. We did see her 3rd year cub and he pretty much looks the same, just larger. He was hanging out with Old Sow’s 3 year old cub on one of the days.

On this trip, we spent more quality time with the bears digging up clams on the mudflats, which I loved. Being able to get full framed shots like this still blows my mind. This bear is displaying an interesting behavior using the top of her paw for a table to eat the clam, which I don’t recall seeing last year. They have amazing dexterity with their claws and use them like fingers to pry apart the clams.

1/1600 @ F11, ISO 6400, evaluative metering, R3+500F4 on Skimmer ground pod, uncropped