World Bear Day
For “World Bear Day”, here is a coastal brown bear from Alaska, last June. It’s all about the claws.
1/1000 @ F11, ISO 4000, +1 exposure compensation, 700mm (R3 + 500F4 + 1.4X) mounted on Skimmer ground pod. Almost full frame.
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.
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
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
It’s always a thrill to see a wolf in Yellowstone. Got lucky on 2 of my 4 trips to see them up close.
We saw a male black wolf and a female walking down the road on one of our trips in the snow coach. They left the road and went into the woods. We drove past the crowd of people trying to see them and stopped at a field next to the woods. They came out of the woods and walked parallel to the road at a distance and then came closer. Looked like they were going to give us a show by mating, but it didn’t happen.
1/1000 sec @ F7.1, ISO 400, manual mode, 700mm, handheld
Here is the beautiful female.
Got home yesterday from a trip to Yellowstone with 7 days of shooting in the park. Spend 3 days in a snow coach from West Yellowstone and 4 days driving on the northern range from Gardiner. It’s always a great time to be in Yellowstone in the winter. The animal activity was slower than normal this year likely due to the lower snow pack in the park but still had some great photo ops with wolves, moose, bison, coyotes, bald eagles and a large herd of big horned sheep.
Used manual mode while shooting in the snow. Only used my tripod once since it is much easier to use a Black Rapid strap for my 500mm lens when bailing out of the vehicle for some fast-moving action shots.
Found this frosty bison close to the road as he was using his head to push away the snow to get to the grass in -16 deg F temperatures. Was hoping for colder weather for more frost.
1/640 sec @ F7.1, ISO 2500, manual mode, 700mm, handheld
The beginning of the eagle saga starts when the cub takes off running and flies by us and out towards the water. Mom then takes off after him and shows us her happy run when she would swing her head around.
The cub had found a bald eagle on a kill and was making a b-line for it. More to come…
The cub catches some air with all four feet off of the ground as he picks up speed. Had no clue on where he was going at this point.
Spun around on my stomach with my ground pod to capture him in partial silhouette as he hit max Q.
Mom followed him and was giving us her happy dance run when she would swing her head back and forth. A very happy bear once she figured out where junior was going to.
The cub was running to take away a fish that the bald eagle had caught.
Bald Eagle from Anahuac NWR
Found this bald eagle at Anahuac NWR in Texas on 12/5/20. Was driving around a corner and spotted a very large bird sitting on a fence post. Initial thought that is was a turkey vulture as they are in abundance out there. Second thought was that it was too big for a vulture and then saw the white head. Bingo – bald eagle. Turned my car to the right to get an angle on him where I could take a photo out of my car window. The sun was right behind him getting higher in the sky resulting in a challenging exposure. Kept checking my histogram and was blowing out the sky at times which is not a major concern as the bird was my subject. Just wanted to make sure that I wasn’t blowing out the whites on his head.
Took several shots and was moving my car to get a better position what I heard another vehicle approaching on the dirt road. Pulled off of the road and then a pick-up truck came flying by. He had no clue that there was an eagle there and almost hit him when he spooked from his perch.
Ended up finding him a couple more times before I left but this was my best photo. Always very cool to see an eagle out at Anahuac. First time that I had one posing for me.
Found that he as a bad eye when reviewing my photos on the computer. His left eye is gray in color.
1/3200 @ F9, ISO 2500, evaluative metering, + 1 2/3 exposure compensation, 700mm, handheld out my car window
My Photo in Audubon Annual Report
One of my pelican photos made the inside cover of the 2019 Audubon Annual Report recently. The Photography Director from Audubon contacted me in Feb about using this photo that they found on my website. Was very pleased that they reached out to me but also someone concerned that I did not recognize this photo. Had to dig through my website to find it. Next problem was to find the RAW file to reprocess a high resolution photo as it was taken back in 2011. Started digging through my current attached hard drives with no luck. Had to search the house for all of my external hard drives and finally found it on nearly the last hard drive.
This experience led me to revamp my storage and back-up method for all of my photos. Now have all of my photos on a centralized device and backed up in multiple ways/locations. More on that later.
Long-Tailed Weasel from Yellowstone
We were lucky enough to find a long-tailed weasel. He was across the river on a hill and was very difficult to spot. I couldn’t find him after he was spotted. Had to try to find his black tail bounding across the snow. Cute little critter but a very vicious carnivore with sharp teeth and claws.
Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II lens, handheld
1/800 sec @ F6.3, ISO 1600, spot metering off the snow +2 tops, manual mode
Yellowstone Coyote – Head Shots
To cap off my coyote encounter at Yellowstone, the coyote almost face-planted while nearing the top of the hill. The snow must have gotten deeper or the hill was steeper causing him to almost fall into the snow. He was able to maintain his laser focus on what he was looking at and didn’t miss a beat.
Minor cropping off of the left side of the frame on these head shots.
Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm lens, handheld while sitting in a snowbank.
Manual mode, 1/1600 sec @ F8, ISO 400
Yellowstone Coyote Full Frame
Here is a full frame shot of the Yellowstone coyote as he went around me after jumping up the hill. Was a very good day.
Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II, handheld while sitting in a snowbank.
1/1600 sec @ F8, ISO 400, manual mode
Yellowstone Coyote Among the Cattails
Yellowstone coyote on his way to the small creek before he ran up the hill. Full framed shot without any cropping. Saw this composition coming as he got near the cattails. Used back-focus button to get him in focus and then recomposed to put him in the lower left corner with the cattails in the top of the frame.
Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II, handheld
1/3200 sec @ F8, ISO 800, manual mode
Once-in-a-Lifetime at Yellowstone
Our second coyote encounter on Day 1 at Yellowstone was incredible. One of our workshop leaders spotted a coyote crossing the river at a distance. We got out of the snow coach and walked down the road to try to get a better view of him. He got up on the bank and made his way to our right in the snow, catching some food along the way.
Three of us went with Jared further upstream and waited for him to come to us. While sitting in a snowbank, got some cool shots of the coyote working his way along a small winding creek at the bottom of our hill. Was very happy to get those shots and expected him to continue along his way at the base of this hill.
All of a sudden, he took off and ran/jumped up the hill directly towards us. Luckily didn’t have my tripod or would have missed some of the shots as I had to lean back and to my left to shoot as a small tree got in the way.
He bounded up the hill while glancing from left to right with making direct eye contact with me several times. He would blast up out of the snow, which created a cool ring of snow around him. As he got closer, began to wonder if he was going to run right into me so I briefly lifted my head up to see how close that he was getting and he veered off to my left, leaving me with some full frame shots as he went by.
He kept going up the hill while almost face-planting into the snow allowing for a couple of cool head shots. At the top of the hill, he looked back at us and then went down the road like nothing happened. He left us with the thought “What just happened and did we capture it?” Downloading my photos revealed that I got 37 out of 40 photos in the sequence in focus when he ran up the hill in about 75 seconds. Have a 12 frames/sec camera really paid off.
I keep having these once-in-a-lifetime photography experiences in Yellowstone, which will ensure that I keep going back. Thanks again Jared and Doug. One of my favorite Yellowstone encounters ever.
All photos were taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II lens, handheld
Manual mode, 1/1600 sec @ F8, ISO 400, 500mm
Yellowstone Coyote Mousing
Just got back from another trip to Yellowstone with Jared Lloyd and Doug Gardner. This was my third year in a row but had to grab a cancellation spot to make it. Was another awesome trip with meeting some great people and critters.
Although the park was somewhat slow for animal activity based on the last couple of years, we had some outstanding photo opportunities. The area finally got some snow right before we arrived. Coldest temperature was –22 deg F but much warmer than that for most days.
My first trip with Jared was the year of the fox, last year was the year of the wolves and this trip was the year of the coyote with some great bighorns thrown in.
This day 1 encounter featured a coyote that went mousing fairly close to us. He was successful and moved on. Thought that we were lucky to see this until the next coyote sighting, which was off the charts spectacular. More on that later.
Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II
Manual exposure, 1/2000 sec @ F4, ISO 1000, spot metering off of the snow + 2 stops
Coyote at Anahuac NWR
Had a most excellent adventure with a coyote yesterday at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge in Texas. I arrived at Anahuac around 6:30 a.m. and headed to Frozen Point to try to find the short-eared owl. With the cloudy conditions, it was very dark before sunrise and couldn’t spot any activity.
Drove back towards Shoveler’s Pond and saw a couple of trucks tracking something along the canal. Found my buddy Doug in full camo pointing out where a coyote was working the opposite bank of the canal. Luckily, he started coming back towards us and we started shooting away. He eventually got back to the main road and I backed my car up and followed him for a short distance until he started hunting in the grass along site the road. It was very cool to see him jump up and down like a mousing fox.
Got a couple of decent head shots and he then came up with his prey, a field rat. He brought it out on the road and ended up playing with it like a puppy would play with a toy right in front of my car. Tried to take photos of him out my car window but my car wasn’t in the best position with my side mirror kept getting in my way and it was challenging to shoot over it. Didn’t want to spook him by opening my car door initially. Stopped taking still photos a couple of times and took video with my iPhone. I’ll post one of those later. Eventually opened my door to get an unobstructed view of him.
Parents always tell their kids not to play with their food, but this coyote was a master at it. He would pick up the rat and throw it around and then try to intimidate it by baring its teeth as he stood above it. He eventually ate the rat and then started staring at something to my right, which ended up being Doug laying down near the right side of my car. He slowly started to stalk Doug and then Doug showed up next to me.
Here is one of my favorite shots. Don’t worry Doug, I would have repositioned myself to get the shot if he wanted to play with you.
With the low light, had to use full open aperture and sacrificed depth of field to get the shot. Initially was using ISO 6400 but backed off to 3200 for this photo.
1/125 sec @ F 5.6, ISO 3200, evaluative metering, + 2/3 exposure compensation, aperture priority, 700mm
B&W Sea Otters
Here are some more sea otter photos from Morro Bay, CA. There were two pups in the group and it was difficult to get a decent shot of them.
Converted these to B&W using NIK Silver EFfx Pro 2.
1/640 sec @ F4.5, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +2 exposure compensation, 500mm mounted on tripod
1/400 sec @ F8, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +2 exposure compensation, 560mm with 100-400 II lens and 1.4X III teleconverter, handheld
1/500 sec @ F8, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +2 exposure compensation, 560mm with 100-400 II lens and 1.4X III teleconverter, handheld
Another first for me was to see Bighorn Sheep in the wild on my Yellowstone trip. We searched for a few days in the Lamar Valley looking for them with no luck. On our next to last day, we found two of them just outside of town. We parking along the highway and got several good looks from them.
One of my favorites was this face to face interaction. Not the right time of year for head butting but it was cool to see.
Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II mounted on tripod with Wimberley II gimbal head.
Manual exposure, 1/1600 sec @ F8, ISO 400
Manual exposure, 1/1600 sec @ F8, ISO 400
Moose Encounter at Yellowstone
Here are some photos of my first Moose encounter in Yellowstone. We found this one as we were headed to Cooke City on the north side of Yellowstone. Jared spotted a female moose and made a quick turn around with his vehicle to try to find it again. We ended up having to drive to the next turn-around as the snow was quite high along the road. By the time that we got back, Doug had spotted this male bull moose walking through the trees.
We set up near the road as he walked out of the tree line right in front of us. It was very exciting as he got into open ground in the virgin show.
Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II with 1.4X III teleconverter, mounted on a tripod with Wimberley II gimbal head.
Manual mode, 1/2000 sec @ F7.1, ISO 800, spot metering off of the snow
Here are some photos of a Long-Tailed Weasel from Yellowstone. He was originally identified as an Ermine but later was corrected to the Long-Tailed Weasel due to the length of his tail. The black tip on their tails help them survive as raptors will go for the black tip and allow them to escape.
Meggi spotted him while will we were headed down one of the snow covered roads. The snowcoach driver stopped suddenly, I grabbed my 500mm lens and headed to the door. Of course, the driver was trying to grab some of his gear and hadn’t opened the door. I started raising my voice and ended up yelling for him to “please open the door!”. That got his attention and I started shooting from the open door. However, the people behind me weren’t too pleased so I bailed out of the vehicle and the pursuit was on for this little critter.
In my haste to get at least a few shots before he disappeared under the snow, I forgot my hat and gloves. Also forgot that my 1.4X was still on, so trying to quickly focus on this fast moving little critter was a major challenge. He ran back and forth along near the road for about 20 min. At one point he ran across the road and back and went straight for our workshop leader, Jared. Thought that we was going to try to run up his leg.
Several other vehicles stopped while we were there to get photos. It was lots of chaos but also lots of fun. Had to sneak back to the bus at one point to grab my hat/gloves and take off the teleconverter.
Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II with 1.4X III telconverter, handheld
1/2500 sec @ F7.1, ISO 800, spot metering, +1 exposure compensation, 700mm
1/2000 sec @ F7.1, ISO 800, spot metering, +1 exposure compensation, 700mm, with minimal cropping
This bison was found in a snowbank and plowed his way to the road. Very sturdy beasts for sure. At this stop, I started out using my 500mm lens on a tripod and then switched to the 100-400, which was a good move. Ended up with a good variety of shots.
Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 100-400 II lens, handheld
Manual mode, 1/1000 sec @ F6.3, ISO 400, spot metering off the snow
Since the colors were muted in the snow, converted it to B&W using NIK Silver Efex Pro II
One of the highlights of my recent trip to Yellowstone was the red fox. Our workshop leader, Jared Lloyd, knew where to find him as we headed to Larmar Valley on the north side of Yellowstone. He was sitting on top of a snow covered boulder that helped keep track of potential predators.
We spent about 2 hrs photographing him in the morning and came back in the afternoon. He had moved off of the rock and was sitting near his den along side the rock. Got a couple of shots of him and then, in my infinite wisdom, I stepped away from my camera to see where the rest of my group was. Of course, a snowball came rolling down the hill and spooked the fox and he quickly got up. Missed that shot but got him as he stopped and turned towards us before entering his den under the rock.
He ended up coming out the other side of then rock via the back door and climbed on top of the hill adjacent to the rock. We got several shots of him in that position. Some of us were thinking that we were going to leave at that point but Doug came walking up the road from parking one of the vehicles and said that we were going to stay put. That was a great decision as the action picked up. The fox finally got up, yawned several times and headed back to his rock.
He then got into position and jumped back onto the snow covered rock. I was able to catch him in midair during the jump.
Sorry that I’ve been away for a while but a recent trip has kept me somewhat preoccupied. Finally checked going to Yellowstone off of my bucket list. Decided last spring to take the plunge and register for a 10 day trip to Yellowstone in the winter. Goal was to avoid the crowds and to see the raw beauty of Yellowstone in the winter.
Ended up spending the rest of 2016 buying up warm clothes for the trip. More on that later.
I’m still working on my photos and it will take some time to go through all of them. Here are a couple of teaser shots.
More to come…
Frosty Bison: it was – 20 deg F on the first day that we entered the park from the town of West Yellowstone. We headed towards Old Faithful looking for “frosty” bison. We found a herd along the way and were rewarded with some great photo op’s.
Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II with 1.4X teleconverter mounted on tripod with Wimberley II gimbal head.
Manual mode, 1/1600 sec @ F9, ISO 3200, spot metering off the snow with adjustments from there, 700mm
Red Fox yawning: We found this red fox sitting on top of a snow covered boulder, which he used as protection from coyotes. He was one of my favorite targets on this trip. We spent about 4 hours photographing him that day.
1/800 sec @ F7.1, ISO 800, evaluative metering, + 2 1/3 exposure compensation, 700mm