…morning light is magic…

Mammal

Close Encounters of the Bear Kind

This photo sequence was a major adrenalin rush to say the least.  One of my favorite bear encounters of my most awesome Alaskan adventure in Lake Clark Alaska with coastal brown bears.

Started out with mom and her cub playing near the shoreline. 

Following his typical behavior, the cub took off running and he ran right past us.  Tracked him while lying in the mud with my ground pod and got off a few shots while he gave me the side-eye.

Thought that was very cool experience but it got really interesting when mom decided to chase him.  Glanced back to my right and saw mom coming my way.  Didn’t have time to get worried or think but just react.

My years of experience with shooting from a ground pod came in very handy and quickly pivoted around on my stomach and focused on her as she “beared“ down on us.  Mom was doing her “happy run” with swinging her head from side to side, which is a behavior that we witnessed several times that week.

Just follow your nose….

Very little time to react as this entire sequence with mom lasted only 4 seconds.  Was challenging to try to keep her in the frame.  Major rush…

She kept getting closer…

and closer…

and closer!

Then, direct eye contact with a full size grizzly bear as she runs past me. Doesn’t get much better than that. Didn’t know that I got this shot until getting home and downloading my photos to the computer. Couldn’t take my laptop with me due to the bush plane weight restrictions.

She kept going and I kept shooting…

She kept running past us with this being the last frame that I captured in this series. Just wow!

Another one of those once in a lifetime encounters on this trip that I kept having and must repeat.


Up Close & Personal with Grizzly Bears

By day 4 of my trip to Lake Clark Alaska, we were all getting worn out so when we came upon mom and her cub feeding on grass in an open meadow, we decided to lay up against a log on the outside edge of the field and just watch them. Was very relaxing and we loved the opportunity to not shoot but just to chill out and take it all in. We were sitting in a field watching grizzly bears with snowcapped mountains in the background. We weren’t in Kansas (or Houston) anymore Dorthey. Couldn’t get much better than that…until it did!

A male boar entered the field behind mom and she quickly spotted him. She then turned to look at us, foreshadowing her next steps. Mom and her cub quickly got up to check him out. Here is where it got really interesting. As a complete surprise to me, mom started running with her cub directly towards us. That definitely got me to sit up a little straighter against that log and get into the zone while hand holding my 500mm lens.

So, what do you do when a full-size grizzly bear and her cub come running straight at you? Well, #1 you listen to your guide, #2 you don’t run (which could be very detrimental to your health), #3 you keep your cool and photograph the incoming bears or #4 be prepared to change your shorts. Luckily, I followed steps #1 -3.

When they started getting close, couldn’t keep both of them in the frame with my 500mm lens so I automatically switched to focus on the cub.

It happened so quickly that there was no time to think or check/change any camera settings. Was all muscle memory at that point with trying to get part of them in the frame. Would have been nice to have F16 being that close but was happy that I had at least F11 for some depth of field.

Mom got so close at one point that I couldn’t get her whole head in the frame.

The cub walked past us to our left and then looked back towards the boar, giving me a great opportunity for a full frame head shot.

They kept moving off to our left and out into the field. Eventually they made their way towards the mudflats while the male made a slow walk to their previous location to check out her scent. Our guide said that they got about 12 ft from us and were using us for protection as the male would not typically come close to us. One of my favorite unforgettable bear encounters in Alaska.

Taken with Canon 1DX III, Canon 500mm F4 IS II, handheld, uncropped


That Look….

This Alaskan coastal brown bear cub was full of energy and personality. He kept trying to get mom to play and she sometimes would indulge him and sometimes not.

In this instance, they were walking along the shoreline of the mudflats while we were further up on the beach. Caught him with “that look” where it looks like he is asking mom, wanna play?

Didn’t like the background on my original photo so cropped it vertical to emphasize the interaction and mom’s claws. Converted it to B&W using NIK silver effects pro to give it some drama and bring out the detail in their fur.

Taken with Canon 1DX Mark III, 500mm F4 IS II lens, handheld

1/2000 sec @ F13, ISO 2500, evaluative metering, +2/3 exposure compensation, 500mm


Ground Pod Bear Photography

The best piece of camera equipment that I took on my bear photography trip to Alaska was my ground pod. If you follow my blog or on Facebook, you know that I love to use my ground pod for getting low to take shorebird photos. Never dreamed that I’d get the opportunity to take grizzly bear photos from a ground pod.

A few weeks prior to our trip to Alaska, we had a zoom call with our workshop leader and he described the mudflats at Lake Clark. When I asked him if I should take my ground pod, he said yes. Best advice in the world on this trip. Only used my tripod once but used my ground pod on a daily basis. The mudflats looked just like Bolivar only much larger, better backgrounds and with bears on it.

This first photo is a cell phone shot by our outstanding guide and very good photographer from Silver Salmon Creek Lodge, Dave Rasmus. Mom and her cub were working their way toward us while 3 of our group, along with Dave, were standing up taking photos and I’m the one laying down with my ground pod just shooting away. In this photo, I had already turned my camera vertical so they were getting close @ 500mm, see the 3rd photo below.

This next photo is almost full frame when they were walking towards me. Mom was off to my left but I maintained focus on the cub as he was adorable, although those claws could do some serious damage.

1/1600 @ F11, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +2/3 exposure compensation, 500mm from ground pod

As he got closer, here is where I rotated my camera on my gimbal head to the vertical position to help try to keep him in the frame. He ended up getting very close before the guide turned him around by talking to him. Mom was a ways away and couldn’t have cared less about us.

1/1600 sec @ F11, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, 500mm, uncropped from ground pod

Mom later walked by and showed off her claws in this full frame/uncropped photo. Off the charts fantastic experience for sure. Wouldn’t try this anywhere but this location where we had a very experienced guide with bear spray that knows their behavior, the bears are used to people, we aren’t in their food chain, people don’t hunt/harass them.

1/800 sec @ F11, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, 500mm, uncropped from ground pod


Young Bear

This young coastal brown bear stole my heart when in Alaska a couple of weeks ago. He was very animated and had quite the personality. The look he gave me in this photo was “do you want to go play in the mud”? Of course I said yes, many times. More to follow.

1/2000 sec @ F11, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +1/3 exposure compensation

Taken with Canon 1DX III with Canon 500mm F4 IS II lens, handheld


Alaskan Coastal Brown Bears

Made my first trip to Alaska last week and spent some quality time with the bears at Lake Clark National Park, which was an incredible experience.  Took my waders & ground pod with me as they have a mudflats so got down low and up personal with the bears, especially the cub.

In this photo, mom was standing to look over the tall grass to check for male bears, which will kill the cubs.  She lost 2 cubs last year.  This cub is about 1 ½ yrs old.

1/1600 sec @ F13, ISO 2500, evaluative metering, -1/3 exposure compensation, 560mm, handheld, Canon 100-400 with 1.4X, full frame with no cropping


Intimidation – NANPA Top 250

This was my first year to enter NANPA (North America Nature Photography Association) photo contest and was honored to get all 10 of my entries in the semi-finals and two photos making the top 250.

Here is my first one with a coyote intimidating a field rat at Anahuac NWR in Texas, which was taken in Dec 2018.  After pulling up behind a group of vehicles taking his photo, he reversed course and came my way.  Saw him “mousing” and he came up with a field rat and brought him out in the road right in front of my car.  He initially played with him like a dog plays with a toy.

I tried to take photos out my car window but gave up as he was right in front of my car and didn’t want to get out and spook him.  After watching him for a while, slowly opened up my door and stood between my car and my door taking photos. 

Right before devouring breakfast, he stood over the rat and bared his teeth which was very intimidating. 

Almost full frame shot with only cropping a little off of the bottom to remove the yellow stripe in the road. 1/640 sec @ F5.6, ISO 6400, evaluative metering, 700mm

Taken with Canon 1DX, Canon 500mm F4 IS II with 1.4X III teleconverter, handheld


Jackrabbits

While on a recent business trip to Lubbock TX, took my camera along to check out the local wildlife.  It has been a few years since I’ve taken any photos in Lubbock so it was good to get back out there.  Got some great tips on where to shoot and hit the ground running after work on my first day there and found several jackrabbits about 4 miles from my hotel.

This one took off accross the field away from me so I drove over to the other side and got him as he was running towards me in some decent light.

1/2000 sec @ F8, ISO 800, evaluative metering, + 2/3 exposure compensation, 700mm

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My favorite way to photograph jackrabbits is with back lighting.  It’s all about the ears. Caught three of the jackrabbits hanging out right in front of me with the sun starting to set behind them.  A perfect opportunity to get the sun coming through their ears.

1/1000 sec @ F8, ISO 800, evaluative metering, + 2/3 exposure compensation, 700mm

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Yellowstone in Winter 2018 – Day 2

Day 2 in Yellowstone confirmed our suspicion that the wounded bison didn’t make it as a new carcass was discovered about 25 yds from the tree where we left her the day before.  As we approached the area, several wolves were crossing the road in front of us about 50 yds away.  It was too dark to take photos so we got out our cell phones for some video.  They went up the hill to our left to bed down with their full stomachs.

We kept pushing forward in search of frosty bison as the temperature had dipped to – 18 deg F in the park just after sunrise.  We headed towards Old Faithful and found a lone bison with some decent frost on him and got some full frame shots.  Kept going and found several bison a little further off of the road so we stopped to take some photos.  Some hiking out into the now put us in position to get some cool shots of the group.  We later found a group of bison heading towards us walking down the road that were back-lit so we bailed out of the snowcoach again.  We worked along the Madison River on our way back to the wolves.

1/800 sec @ F6.3, ISO 2500, manual mode with spot metering off of the snow + 2 stops

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1/500 sec @ F6.3, ISO 800, manual mode

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We spotted a lone wolf at the top of the hill lying down resting with his head raised and paws out in front of him.  He looked like a big puppy dot and was sleepy from having a full belly.  We photographed him for quite a while until he got up and moved.

1/1600 sec @ F7.1, ISO 200, manual mode

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We headed back towards our vehicle and started eating lunch near our tripods.  Food wasn’t supposed to be an element in our shooting until Jared spotted a black wolf coming out of the woods right behind us.  We quickly spun around and started shooting as he moved towards the road.  Got the shots while operating my camera in one hand and holding onto the sandwich and lens with the other.

It was an amazing experience to see a black wolf in the white snow at that distance.  The first shot below is full frame with no cropping.  He could have cared less if we were there or not as he never lost focus on his awaiting feast.  Got 67 shots of him as he came down the hill and casually walked away from us down the road.

1/1600 sec @ F7.1, ISO 200, manual mode

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1/1600 sec @ F7.1, ISO 200, manual mode

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1/1600 sec @ F7.1, ISO 200, manual mode

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Thought that those were shots of a lifetime until he returned about 14 minutes later.  He ran up the hill only turning his head slightly to look at us near the top as he barely acknowledged our presence.  With his yellow eyes and black sculpted body, he looked like the wolves that nightmares are made of.  A literal once in a lifetime experience and I’m still fired up about it.

1/1600 sec @ F7.1, ISO 200, manual mode

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Yellowstone in Winter 2018 – Day 1

Just got home last week from my second journey to Yellowstone National Park in winter, traveling on Jared Lloyd’s Winter in Yellowstone Workshop.  My first trip last year was one of those so called life changing experiences with it being an easy decision to go back again this year before the airplane wheels touched down in Houston.  Last year was very special with fishing coyotes, bull elk, jumping fox, frosty bison and a long-tailed weasel.  Also got to see wolves in the Lamar Valley about 1 mile away through a spotting scope.  This year changed that perspective, just slightly, forever.

Day 1 in the park started out with a slight delay with the snow coach but it all worked out with us entering the park at the West Yellowstone entrance around 7:30 a.m.  We had heard about a carcass near the road with wolf activity, so we were very excited to see what the morning would bring.  As we approached the location, we could see what was left of the carcass but no wolves, so we kept going in search of other wildlife along the Madison River.  We worked the river to the warming hut and headed back west.

Just past the seven mile bridge, we spotted two wolves on a hillside that were watching a young bison that was standing in the river.  The bison had apparently been attacked earlier by the wolves on her rear legs and was seeking shelter in the river.

Manual mode, 1/2000 sec @ F10, ISO 500, spot metering off the snow, +2 stops

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Manual mode, 1/1600 sec @ F10, ISO 400, spot metering off the snow, +2 stops

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We photographed the wolves for over two hours and they eventually moved over the hill out of sight.  The bison took that que to try to make an escape by walking along the river right in front of us and then up on the road heading east, limping along as she walked.  We found her later on the opposite side of the road lying down next to a tree.

We all knew what would likely be her fate by the next morning, which came to pass.  The circle of life is very hard to watch in person but inevitable in the wild.

Manual mode, 1/1000 sec @ F10, ISO 400, spot metering off the snow, +2 stops

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Manual mode, 1/1000 sec @ F10, ISO 400, spot metering off the snow, +2 stops

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Manual mode, 1/4000 sec @ F6.3, ISO 320, spot metering off the snow, +2 stops

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Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II with 1.4X III teleconverter mounted on Induro tripod with leveling head and Wimberley II gimbal head, some hand held.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone!!  Hope that all of you have a great holiday season.

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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

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1/400 sec @ F8, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +2 exposure compensation, 560mm with 100-400 II lens and 1.4X III teleconverter, handheld

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1/500 sec @ F8, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +2 exposure compensation, 560mm with 100-400 II lens and 1.4X III teleconverter, handheld

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Sea Otters at Morro Bay, CA

Spent last weekend at Morro Bay in California taking photos of sea otters.  This was my second trip there in the last 4 1/2 years.  Got some time to see some old friends and make some new ones.  Love this small bay town and need to try to make this an annual trip.

Day 1 was cloudy with about 20 otters wrapped up in sea weed near the Morro Bay rock.  They wrap themselves in kelp to keep them from floating away at night while sleeping.

Tried to get as close to the water as possible, which meant positioning my tripod on the rocks and sitting on a rock for a few hours.  Had to shift position when the water came up with the tide.

Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II mounted on tripod with Wimberley II gimbal head.

Aperture priority, 1/800 sec @ F5.6, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, + 1 2/3 exposure compensation, 500mm

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Aperture priority, 1/400 sec @ F5.6, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, + 2 exposure compensation, 500mm

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Aperture priority, 1/640 sec @ F4.5, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, + 2 exposure compensation, 500mm 


Prairie Dogs

This is my 400th post since starting my blog in Jan 2011.  Thanks again Sheldon for talking me into doing it.  With 166 followers and over 67,000 hits, it’s been a very good time and thanks everyone for checking it out.

Here are some of my original targets from my trip to Lubbock, TX – prairie dogs.  They are cute little critters that I’m sure drive farmers crazy with all of their burrows in the fields.  They were very photogenic and would come out just after sunrise.

The youngsters were getting older but still fun to watch interacting with their parents.  I missed the money shot as one got too close to a burrowing owl and the owl attacked him.  Maybe next time…

Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II with 1.4X III teleconverter, handheld out my car window

Aperture priority, 1/640 sec @ F9, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +2/3 exposure compensation

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Aperture priority, 1/640 sec @ F5.6, ISO 2500, evaluative metering, +2/3 exposure compensation

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Aperture priority, 1/500 sec @ F5.6, ISO 2000, evaluative metering, +2/3 exposure compensation

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Aperture priority, 1/640 sec @ F7.1, ISO 3200, evaluative metering, +2/3 exposure compensation

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