Showing posts with label birds. Show all posts
Showing posts with label birds. Show all posts

Sunday, June 30, 2019

The modern cliff dwellers

Great Horned Owl Nest, Montezuma Well, Montezuma Castle National Monument, Arizona

The Montezuma Castle wasn’t built for the Aztec leader. It isn’t even a castle. But it and the other cliff dwellings in central Arizona are still supporting life to this day, even though people haven’t lived in them for 600 years.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

A gull, its shadow and a lesson in beauty

Heermann's Gull and Shadow, Venice Beach, Calif.

As I stood on the fishing pier at Venice Beach, Calif., there were potential photos in every direction. To the west, the sun was about to set over the Pacific Ocean. Surfers were riding the waves. To the east, clouds were beginning to take on color in the sky above the city of Venice. To the south and north, the shoreline led to the Los Angeles skyline and the Santa Monica pier.

Below me, a gull waited for its last meal of the day. Of all the possibilities, that may seem like the least interesting, but it had me captivated.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Waiting for the owlet

Great Horned Owl and Owlet on Nest, Skagit Valley, Washington

As I write these words, more than a quarter-million people are watching a live Internet video stream of a captive giraffe that’s about to give birth. Or so they think. April’s keepers have been saying she’s due for a couple of months now.

I’m not much of a giraffe-cam groupie. I’ve seen a few minutes of the video every now and then as I scrolled down my social media feeds. But as a nature photographer, I realized I have a lot in common with those people who’ve been hanging on for her every tail flinch.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A sight to see: In For The Night

Crows at Roost, Glowing Eyes

There is no one today who has witnessed the spectacular migration of the passenger pigeon. The last bird died more than 100 years ago, but decades earlier their numbers had dwindled so much that they were no longer able to eclipse the sun.

Today, there is a similar spectacle. But just like when the passenger pigeons were in their prime, relatively few people appreciate the show.

Monday, February 29, 2016

The legend of the first robin

Robin in Snow

There have always been stories about the origin of the land and the life that calls it home. Before there was science, those stories came from imagination and spirituality. In this series, I have created contemporary nature photography to illustrate them. Read more about my Legends of the Land series.

The transition from boy to man isn’t easy for any teenager, but it was especially difficult for a boy named Opichi. He made that transition many years ago and we still celebrate it to this day — every year when winter transitions into spring.

Monday, November 30, 2015

The legend of the black crow

Black Crow and Full Moon, Bothell, Washington

There have always been stories about the origin of the land and the life that calls it home. Before there was science, those stories came from imagination and spirituality. In this series, I have created contemporary nature photography to illustrate them. Read more about my Legends of the Land series.

Today, crows are as black as night, but they used to be as white as snow. But appearances can be deceiving anyway.

While its color has changed over the years, its voice hasn’t. The crow has always been a loudmouth. And that’s what got it into trouble.

Friday, July 31, 2015

The thrill of the hunt

Atlantic Puffin, Close Up, Iceland

It may be hard to believe, but there are still a few wondrous places on Earth where animals aren’t afraid of people. With word this week that a hunter with more money than compassion brutally slaughtered a lion from one of these special places, I’m afraid we’re about to lose another.

I’ve never photographed a lion in the wild, but like most nature photographers who’ve ventured very far off the beaten track, I’ve had my share of absolutely magical encounters with wildlife. One that has had a dramatic impact on my view of animals and our relationship with them happened nearly 10 years ago on my first trip to Iceland.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Hands on with the Canon 100-400 IS Mark II

Spotted Towhee on Branch, Spring, Snohomish County, Washington
Captured with a Canon 1D Mark IV, Canon EF 100-400 f/4.5-5.6L Mark II, and a Canon Extender EF 1.4X Mark III

I spend relatively little time on this blog talking about equipment — I’m drawn more to the art than the mechanics — but there’s no denying that equipment plays a critical role. The wrong equipment can limit your creative vision. Bad equipment can cause you to miss the shot entirely.

With that in mind, I thought I would share some of my thoughts about the new Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens, which I’ve been using for about two months now. You won’t find test charts and studio comparison scenes here. There are plenty of those already that are produced under very controlled conditions. This is a Canon 100-400 Mark II review in the context of how it has performed for me as a professional nature photographer in real-world situations, which includes handling and other features that make a difference in my work.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The protection of Protection Island

Harbor Seals, Protection Island National Wildlife Refuge, Washington

Protection Island is a small island in the Strait of Juan de Fuca whose name now has a double meaning.

Harbor Seals and Mount Baker, Protection Island, Washington

Located at the mouth of Discovery Bay, the name originally referred to the island’s usefulness to humans. The island nearly stretches across the entrance to the bay, shielding it from some of the strait’s choppy waters.

The island still offers that protection, but now it protects a whole host of wildlife as well.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

March of the penguins

Yellow-Eyed Penguins, Jack's Bay, New Zealand

Think of penguins and you typically think of long lines of the flightless birds gathering on ice. New Zealand, however, is home to several types of penguins that march across bright scenery reminiscent of central California beaches, even if the temperature is closer to the Antarctic.

One of these types is the incredibly rare yellow-eyed penguin — one of the rarest penguins in the world. Considered by some scientists to be the oldest species of penguin in existence today, there are only about 4,000 left. And they’re all in New Zealand, where the natives call them Hoiho.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Can birds learn to be better parents?

Pair of Bald Eagles on Nest, Puyallup, Washington

If you would have asked me a decade ago about how a bird knows how to fly, I would have regurgitated the answer I was taught in school: They are hatched knowing how. But after intensely studying a bald eagle nest for three years, I not only believe the young eaglets learn to fly, but that their parents also learn to be better parents.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Fields of white

Large Flock of Snow Geese, Motion Blur, Skagit Valley, Washington

From November into March, the fields on Fir Island in the Skagit Valley of Washington state are often white, but it's not the result of snow. It's the result of snow geese.

About 80,000 snow geese winter in Western Washington. The vast majority of them winter in the Skagit Valley.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Best of 2013

In terms of the images I produced, 2013 was an unusual year for me. Over the course of most years, I shoot a wide variety of nature images. But 2013, like the title of the book I just completed, was for me the Year of the Eagle. Easily two-thirds of my images were about bald eagles as I worked hard to fill gaps in the story I wanted to tell.

But the year wasn't just about bald eagles. I made my third trip to Iceland. While there, I photographed the inside of an old volcano's magma chamber, the only known one in the world people can climb inside. I also got to capture an incredible northern lights display perfectly reflecting in a lake that is normally quite choppy. I also worked hard to capture beauty close to home.

In the end, I think my annual best-of collection is still quite varied. Here are a few of my favorite images of 2013:

Bald Eagle Perched at Sunset, Kirkland, Washington

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Letting nature tell its own story

Bald Eagle: Juveniles Playing Catch

It has never been easier for a nature photographer to create an image that they imagined in their head. No Photoshop required.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Long and short on teleconverters

Bald Eagle: Adult Feeding Juvenile

When you're a wildlife photographer working in a public park, the equipment you use undoubtedly draws attention. This summer, I've been documenting the development of a pair of young bald eagles. To get the images I need without disturbing the birds, I've been using a 600mm lens – a 13-pound monster of a lens that has a front element only slightly smaller than a dinner plate.

A small number of people come up and ask me questions about the birds. Many, many more grill me about my equipment. The vast majority say something like, "I bet you can see every nose hair with that." I cannot. In terms of magnification, the lens falls in between a pair of binoculars and a birder's spotting scope. The lens is physically big because it lets a lot of light in allowing me to capture action images at high resolution.

It's the second most common question that I'm going to address in this blog post. It comes from amateur photographers who want to know about my use of a teleconverter with this lens.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Nesting season is for the birds

Barred Owls: Mother and Owlet

All birds lay eggs, but where they care for them and how their young develop can be remarkably different from species to species. This spring, I've been watching several families of birds.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Get close by keeping your distance

For the second year in a row, there are fairly large numbers of snowy owls that are wintering nearby. Near Seattle, snow geese are a regular winter feature, but snowy owls are a rare treat. Reckless photographers, though, are in danger of driving our infrequent visitors well back north — or even worse.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

A waterfall of murres


I've seen plenty of waterfalls, but until recently, I had never seen a "waterfall of murres." That's how friends of mine in Cannon Beach, Oregon, describe a truly wondrous nature show that takes place this time of year on the nearby Chapman Point.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Don't let backyard photography give you cold feet

The black-capped chickadee is no ivory-billed woodpecker. Dozens visit my office window every day to feast on the free suet.

But just because they're common, doesn't mean they are not interesting. And a recent snow storm that, at times, had my yard buried under nearly 10 inches of snow allowed me to create some images that help tell their remarkable winter story.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Moving the camera to stop motion

The usual goal in photography is to create an exceptionally sharp image. If you're photographing a bird, for example, most photographers want an image that's so sharp you can see every feather on the bird and every barb on the feather.

To capture that, you typically need a sturdy tripod, a cable release, lots of light — and a stationary subject.

But what if the light is dim and your subject is moving? That's when you need to pan — moving the camera with your subject. It involves moving the camera so that your subject is always at the same spot in the image.