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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

Happy 4th of July

Happy 4th of July! Here is a recent photo of a bald eagle, symbol of freedom in the US, that I took in Alaska a few weeks ago. There is a very interesting story behind this eagle and my favorite pair of bears that I’ll share later.

1/6400 sec @ F11, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, -2/3 exposure compensation, 500mm from ground pod

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

Drop in a Splash – Expensive Outing

American Avocet at Bolivar Flats Audubon Shorebird Sanctuary

When using a high shutter speed, sometimes the splash is more interesting than the shorebird.  I always start shooting when their head starts going towards the water as you never know what you may capture.  In this case, the frozen splash also shows a cool water drop.

As mentioned in my previous post about becoming “one with the flock”, my 1DXIII camera got wet from the salt water lapping at the bottom of my camera after the tide came in while I way laying on my stomach with shooting from my ground pod.  After that outing, had some issues with my fully charged camera batteries being fully discharged before I took one shot with them.  Would put another battery in and it worked fine.

Sent my camera to Canon to have them check it out.  My salt water encounter ended up costing me a $1,200 repair bill.  Canon described the issue as: “The bottom multi-controller on the back cover is stuck and will not move. At this time the PCB ASS’Y, MAIN W/LI BATT and COVER ASS’Y, BACK will be replaced.”  Apparently, it got dunked a little more than I thought in the salt water.

Will it make me think twice about doing it again next time?  Nope.

1/2000 @ F11, ISO 2000, evaluative metering, -1/3 exposure compensation, 700mm (500+1.4X) from ground pod, minor cropping

#1 Whooping Crane Photo on Google

You never know what my happen to your photos when submitting them to Audubon for their annual photo contest. You get the option to let them use any of your photos in their publications, which was the case for this 2017 whooping crane photo from near Rockport, TX with Kevin Sims. It got published in Audubon’s Whooping Crane Field Guide, which led to lots of views and before I knew it, #1 on Google. Very nice surprise several months ago.

Galveston FeatherFest 2021

Had a great time again this year leading field trips for Galveston’s FeatherFest. Very glad that we could have the field trips this year as last year had to be cancelled due to Covid-19. We reduced the size of the groups this year for social distancing but it turned out great. Actually like the smaller groups better from an interaction perspective at Bolivar.

The weather did not cooperate with day 1 trip to Bolivar Flats being cancelled with high surf. Had everyone cancel ahead of time except one participant that was driving from Winnie. She called me as I was waiting at the Galveston side of the ferry and the highway along the Bolivar peninsula was getting flooded and had debris on the road. Safety first so I cancelled that trip. Had another day with very high winds that turned out very well. I’ll post some of my bird photos later.

Here are some cell phone group shots from 2021 FeatherFest at Bolivar Flats and the east end of Galveston Island.

Snowy Egret with Backlighting

Always love to take back-lit photos at High Island TX rookery and captured this one on Friday

Focused on the snowy’s on this trip as they were in abundance compared to my last visit. Way too many people at the rookery. Got there well before the sun came up and had the last platform by myself. By the time the sun came up, I was sharing the platform with 16 other people. So much for social distancing.

Should have known better than to go on Good Friday but the weather was too good to pass up a sunny morning and some back-lit images.

1/1600 @ F8, ISO 800, evaluative metering, -2/3 exposure compensation, 500mm from tripod.

Playing with the Sun

My favorite part of wildlife photography is playing with the light. In this case, I was playing with the sun.

This is a great egret at High Island TX rookery. Got there well before sunrise and was taking silhouette photos before the sun came up. Kept track of where the sun was going to rise to optimize my chances of playing with the sun and one of the egrets. This one cooperated while standing in some branches. She moved to the right and displayed her breeding plumage just at the right time.

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

1/3200 sec @ F8, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +1/3 exposure compensation, 500mm

1/8000 sec @ F8, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, -1 exposure compensation, 500mm

1/8000 sec @ F8, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, no exposure compensation, 500mm