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Posts from the ‘Wildlife’ Category

Portrait of a Hawk – Another Couple in Elm Park

In my last blog I mentioned being provoked to think about the meaning of my work in the context of the on-going reconstruction of Elm Park, in downtown Worcester, Massachusetts.  I had bumped into a couple who had questioned the value, financially and otherwise, of the Park and its reboot.  We bumped into another couple today, quite a different experience.  These two young folks, sitting on one of the benches at the Park were chatting like, well young couples do, and probably enjoying the more moderate temperatures.  We happened to be passing by, pursuing yet another reflection shot, when we were joined by the individual you see here.  He landed not too high up in a tree, perhaps thirty feet from the four of us, and commenced to screaming at the top of his/her lungs.  In case you are not aware, hawks can really let it loose when they have something to say.  I think the young couple was amused or annoyed (their attitudes may have broken down along gender lines, I’m not sure), but I had the sense that they were thinking that it would be OK if I were to act like an annoying photographer and get the hawk to fly away, leaving them to get on with their business.  The ability to be annoying is of course is a key competency in photography, so I hit the shutter.

Hawk, Elm Park, Worcester MA James Hunt copyright 2013

I’m not a wildlife photographer.  I would never want to do anything that required that much work; and the hours?  Forget about it.  But this individual’s stare got under my skin a bit.  My wife and I talked about that look, trying to figure out what it means.  What was the screaming about?  There was another hawk in the area that seemed to be working closely with this one.  Hawks scream for a few different reasons and it is a scream.  It is a basic form of communications.  It may have been part of a conversation with its mate.  There may have been another errant hawk in the area, from another family.  I can anthropomorphize almost anything, so I kept thinking about a comment by the famed wildlife photographer Frans Lanting.  I can’t remember the quote, but in effect, he was making the point that animals in the wild routinely live with the experience of desperation.  They struggle every day with the unceasing need to balance the hunt for food with the loss of energy that is required by the hunt.  If they do too little, they starve.  If they do too much, they run out of energy for the hunt and die.  All that, and they have to raise a family.  It’s a tough way to make a living.  This is an image of a hawk on duty and for me, you can see it in his/her eyes.

The hawk flew off to join its partner about 50 yards away.  The mission of the annoying photographer was accomplished. The couple returned to their chat. Another day in the Park.

Technical note for photographers:  This image was taken with a Nikon D600.  The D600 is Nikon’s cheapest and lightest “full frame” DSLR.  I rarely talk about gear in the blog.  I’m far more interested in technique and art making, and most modern cameras are so good, it really doesn’t matter which one you use.  You should use the equipment you like.  In this case though, I have to make an exception for this camera.  This is a good camera that I don’t think gets the respect it deserves.  This image was heavily cropped.  I was only shooting with a 200 mm lens, which may seem like a very long telephoto lens to some, but it is nothing for birders.  The image was not sharpened in post-production.  The level of detail that can be recovered was, for me, stunning.  The autofocus was spot on.  The bird was nearly in silhouette, against a bright sky, but I was able to recover all the detail in this ISO 400 shot, without generating any noise.  This crop has about 5 megapixels left in it.  I bet I could print it at 13 by 19 and it would look great.  The high quality of the image from the sensor, the accuracy of the autofocus and the light weight form factor lead me to recommend this camera highly. There was a notion going around the net that the sensor was always going to be dusty.  I had no such trouble and the camera store where I bought it, E.P. Levine’s in Waltham, said that dust on the sensor was not a problem.  I have no affiliation with Nikon.

It’s Teddy Time!

It hasn’t been a great month for field photography, witness the lack of posts on the old blog.  Too many commitments close to home, even though some are quite small.  So, look for photo ops where you can be, not just where you can’t. I always have loved portrait photography, and had some good experiences with it, but just haven’t had the opportunity for the past few years.  What to do?  Ah yes, those small commitments. I bet I know where I can get a somewhat cooperative model, for a price. Here’s Teddy….

A distinguished looking fellow to be sure.  But is it me, or does he look like he just did something that maybe he shouldn’t have?

I forgot though, that when you shoot portraits, you have to have some help from time to time.  LIke a hair stylist.

Oh well, we’ll keep at it.  Take a bow Teddy!

 

What We Have

It seems that we, meaning us humans, are going to continue getting in our own way for a while longer.  I’m reminded of the joke about the Chimp who made it clear that he didn’t believe in evolution.  On religious grounds?  Nope.  He didn’t want himself and his kin to be blamed for the craziness we perpetrate on one another.  I think he was off on scientific grounds, but I see the point.  Weekend events in Colorado remind us just how fleeting life can be.  We happened to be driving through Quabbin Park in the evening last Friday and in the quiet, came upon, an alternative perspective.  The Quabbin is also one of the most spiritual places in New England, as the locals well tell you.  There are many reasons for that, but part of it may be the fact that, so close to busy Route 9, is another world, one that takes you away from this one.

If we’re lucky, we have our families.

It’s good to be alive.  Sometimes, it’s even fun.

Tech notes:  80% of life is showing up.  Wildlife comes out in the evening.  Nikon D4, 70 – 200 mm lens, with a TC 1.7 teleconverter.  It was dark, so the ISO was pushed to around 1600.

Timing Is Everything

Just back from another adventure at Chincoteague, Virginia.  Chincoteague is a nice, relatively quiet island on the Atlantic side of the Eastern Shore of Virginia.  We’ve been several times and enjoyed the sites, though they tended to seem rather modest at the time.  We wanted to give it another try, and as they say, timing really is everything.  Our room looked out on beautiful sunsets.  (Click on the images for a better, view.  There will be lots of them this post and in a number of them, the subjects were quite far away.  So click!)

But we never felt very alone.  In fact, the gulls were of the “in your face” variety.

We quickly made our way to the main show, Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge.  Chincoteague Island is really best known for the book Misty of Chincoteague, by Marguerite Henry, which was subsequently made into a movie as well.  The book tells the supposed story of a horse family that lived out in the marsh land in what is now the Wildlife Refuge.  In fact, the family was actually a domesticated lot, and the horses that live on the Refuge are probably better taken care of than any group of wild horses, anywhere, in the world.  This of course is all thanks to Misty and Ms. Henry. The horses are rounded up each fall and some are sold at auction, bringing an absolute fortune. There’s a touch of Hollywood in all that, but maybe that’s OK, if the horses are well cared for, and if it sensitizes people to the value of the Refuge.  In a previous blog I told of having never gotten a good shot of the horses on the march, because they tend to be, well eating.  Got lucky this time.  Again, timing…

These two families, at least that’s what I surmised, were heading from one protective clump of trees and tall grass to another.  The little ones just loved to run and play, which was quite a nice sight. Unfortunately, they were too far away for my lens to catch anything meaningful when playtime came. But wait, there’s more.  Two days later, we hit the jackpot.  Chincoteague also lies on the Atlantic flyway, and is a stop over, resting place, and all around inviting locale, for perhaps millions of birds each year.  Again, timing is critical.  If  you aren’t there when the large numbers are, you’re out of luck.  Not so this time.

This image captures only a fraction of the gathering that day.  There are several different species of Egrets, as well as Ibis, Terns and several different kinds of Gulls.  They were fishing.  No one was feeding them.  And for them, the timing was right as well.  Some would fish while others took a break.  Even the trees were filled with birds.

This was shaping up to be a pretty good day.  The photographic challenge though was to come up with interesting shots that conveyed something of the beauty of the groupings.  That was more challenging than you might imagine.  Catching an Egret in isolation is one end of the spectrum. Massive group shots are at the other end.  Both interesting, but the later in particular wer limited by the angle of view that was available.  They were gathered along a stream that ran parallel to the road.  Venture too far off the road, and you’ll scare even these rather dispassionate birds away.  I began then to focus on smaller groups and how their movements in relation to one another gave one the impression of a dance.

Nature provides us with powerful graphics if we stop to notice them.  Again, timing. You have to wait for some of these to unfold before you.  That wasn’t a problem in this case as the scene was absolutely hypnotic.

Occasionally the dance had a more provocative undertone.  There were a lot of folks fishing out there.  Perhaps too many for one spot, at times.

Largely though, in spite of the numbers, and the variety of species, and the finite amount of fish (worms and other assorted goodies) in the water, things were surprisingly peaceful.  It is interesting to contemplate the nature of these individual creatures, adaptable, tough and beautiful world travelers who ultimately have to make it on their own.

(The image above has was taken from a rather severe crop, but I thought his pose was so interesting, and vulnerable, I decided to include it in spite of the grain.)  While at the same time, they work so well with each other.

Perhaps we could learn a few things from them.  It was a good day in the field, timing wise in particular.

Tech note:  The images from the Refuge were largely made with a  Nikon D4, 70 – 200 mm VR2 lens, and a 1.7 teleconverter.  I was pleased with that combination overall.

To Those Who Make it All Possible….

Happy Mother’s Day!

Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge.