Council Bluffs, high atop the Loess Hills. I’m not normally a wildlife photographer, but this doe got between me and last night’s sunset, so I shot her. For the procrastinators out there, our dining room has become a temporary gallery for last-minute Christmas gifts. Email me if you’re interested in stopping by to browse through the big selection of prints I have on hand. An added bonus is that you’ll see a 30X60 print of my favorite local photo, which I’ve never shared (nor will ever share) online.
Lake Manawa, Council Bluffs, Iowa. Four geese glide past the north end of Boy Scout Island. Barely visible in the shadows is a blue heron, poised like a silent assassin. Of all the mornings I’ve spent here, this is among my favorites. If you sit quietly enough for long enough, the lake forgets you’re there and resumes its normal goings-on. For the procrastinators out there, our dining room has become a temporary gallery for last-minute Christmas gifts. Email me if you’re interested in stopping by to browse through the big selection of prints I have on hand. An added bonus is that you’ll see a 30X60 print of my favorite local photo, which I’ve never shared (nor will ever share) online.
Of all the times I have been to the alpine summit of Rocky Mountain National Park over the past fifteen or so years, I have never been there at sunset, until last Wednesday. The alpine tundra is such a beautiful otherworldly experience, and even more so as the sun lowers, revealing the majestic relief of the mountainous display in front of you. I had a difficult time focusing my attention on any one particular element as the sunset was deepening the colors to the northwest and painting orange the craggy outcroppings to the east and south, all the while elk were emerging everywhere. Our thermometer said it was 50°F, but it must have been lying. My sister-in-law, Anne, and I were struggling to stay warm in the bitter-cold wind as we ran around frantically trying to photograph what we could while we had the chance.
I snapped the below shot near the beginning of the spectacular show. I’ve chosen to believe that he is admiring the light show right along with us.
I’m still trying to figure out if my interest in bird photography is born out of a real appreciation for birds or mere laziness, or more likely, some combination thereof. Of all the time I spend shooting, at least half of it is spent in my own backyard, photographing birds. If you’ve been to our house, specifically out back, you’ve already begun to suspect that Teri might have an unhealthy obsession with feeding birds. But I won’t deny my role as enabler. Indeed, I did build her the biggest bird feeder I’ve ever seen or heard of. It’s nearly eight feet tall and has four separate platforms, as well as hooks and other implements for additional hanging feeders. I call it our bird hotel. It is also completely squirrel- and raccoon-proof, but that’s beside the point.
On clear mornings, just as the sun peeks over our neighbors’ house, the top of the bird hotel is completely illuminated, while the rest of our densely wooded backyard remains in darkness. Birds in the spotlight of the morning sun with only blackness behind them make for some interesting shots. I sometimes spend hours at a time under our deck's gazebo, working on my laptop or reading, camera by my side, raising it every now and then when I notice potentially interesting bird activity on one of the feeders. My favorites are the bluejays, who attack the peanuts in the top platform of the bird hotel, sometimes fitting as many as three in their gullet before returning to the branches above to crack them open.
So if my interest in shooting birds can be described as passive (or circumstantial, or convenient) at home, it’s much more active while traveling with my camera, particularly near the ocean. Serious bird photography is an expensive hobby, usually requiring long, fast, heavy lenses that can cost several thousand dollars. But coastal birds are typically much bigger than nuthatches and red-bellied woodpeckers, so my budget-telephoto-of-choice (Tamron 70-300 VC) does well enough for pelicans and egrets in decent light.
As I’ve said before, my favorite bird subjects are pelicans; luckily for me, they are nearly everywhere in the Keys, and they were beyond cooperative during our visit to Garden Key (Dry Tortugas and Fort Jefferson). We spent at least an hour watching them fish, and in the process, I nearly filled an 8 GB card.
And no discussion about birds in the Florida Keys could possibly be complete without mentioning the chickens in Key West. They’re all over the place, especially near the south shore. I made sure to include a shot of a Key West rooster below. Enjoy.