As soon as Mama Muscovy Duck saw a photographer across the lake, she silently signaled her ducklings to hide beneath her. It amazed me to see all eight ducklings completely hidden underneath her feathers, while she confidently looked around as if to say, “what ducklings? I don’t see any ducklings.” In this sequence of photos, you can see the adorable fluffy chicks before they huddle together beneath Mama’s feathers.
Month: April 2020
Colorful Character: the Reddish Egret
Before leaving Florida for the season, I want to share a series of photos of the unique Reddish Egret. It’s a medium sized heron with a mane of elongated reddish feathers, a pink translucent beak and a cool way of dancing while foraging. You can find them in the salt water shallows foraging at low tide.
I observed this adult breeding reddish egret on Sanibel Island at J. N. Ding Darling Wildlife Preserve in February 2020. My friend marveled at the bushy neck plumage, asking, “Are you sure that’s not hair?”
As the Osprey Flies
The osprey is a bold, vocal and athletic bird. In Florida I enjoy watching them soar, pluck fish out of the water and return to the nest to feed the young. This week I aimed my camera lens at one osprey while it was looking for fish in a lake. Then I combined four images into one composite showing the same osprey in flight in four positions.
Bald Eagles: Parent and Its Offspring
Watching the skies for soaring birds around 6 pm, I saw an osprey, an anhinga, a cormorant and … a large raptor that looked like a juvenile bald eagle. That possible bald eagle disappeared in the trees to the south. Leaning my heavy lens, camera and tripod rig over my shoulder, I hiked in that direction and to the nearest lake edge. I scanned the sky again. A swallow tailed kite swooped over the lake and then disappeared into the trees, too quickly for me to find him with my lens.
Moorhens near my location squawked at each other, but they are too common to attract my attention. The breeze kicked up, helping me to feel a bit cooler in the April heat. I scanned the water and the trees. “Wait, was that a brown spot in the tree across the lake?” I wondered.
Looking through my 600 mm lens, I confirmed that fleeting sight. It’s an adult bald eagle — unmistakable — and on the next tree is the juvenile! The juvenile looks the same size as the adult, but is all brown with flecks of white. It will take 5 years for him/her to develop pure white head feathers and a white tail.
In this image, you can observe both parent and offspring in the same frame, as the juvenile takes flight. I stayed watchful for about 30 minutes, hoping to capture the adult bald eagle taking flight, but life was just perfect on that branch that evening and he/she outlasted me.
Bald Eagle Action
Earth Day 2020 is a quiet one for wildlife with the United States shut down to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The animal kingdom is no doubt wondering, “where are the people?”
Between illness and unemployment at unprecedented high levels, humans are having a very rough time. For the millions sheltered at home, trying to adjust to a new normal, art and nature can help to lift spirits.
Wildlife photography can happen in a limited way during this period, and I have found a few chances to get outdoors while staying away from all other humans. When I went out looking for bird photography opportunities yesterday, I got lucky and spotted something brown in a distant tree. The long lens on my camera focused on a compelling sight: this beautiful Bald Eagle. Please enlarge this photo on your device to see the detail.
Perched in a nearby tree was a juvenile Bald Eagle. My next post will show both eagles in the same image. I hope this eagle photograph brightened your day, and I wish you and your family good health.
Spanish Moss at Sunset
I remember the first time I saw Spanish Moss on my first trip to Florida. I think I was in seventh grade, and I was amazed. It looks kind of spooky hanging from the trees.
My delighted first impression still colors my thoughts when I observe this lacy plant hanging from tree branches. I especially like to see it in early morning or evening light when it looks like a chandelier.
Crystal trees in Jackson Hole
As we begin another week in Southwest Florida of temperatures around 90 degrees Fahrenheit and a heat index around 100, I’m thinking back on a bitter cold morning in Jackson Hole when my fingertips and toes were frozen.
Venturing through Grand Teton National Park with two other photographers, we spotted elk, bison, eagles, trumpeter swans, big horn sheep and a coyote during the day. We also admired the shapes in the snow-covered landscape.
A visual treat of the early morning light was the hoarfrost on the trees along the creek. Rising water vapor coated branches and froze overnight. Before the midday sun melted the ice, we were able to capture some photographs of these crystalline trees.
Shooting the Supermoon
The rising of the Pink Supermoon last week was an ideal occasion to test the sharpness of my new Sony a2rIV camera and the 200-600 mm Sony lens. The reach and exceptional clarity of this high tech team made me a believer!
The most effective way to photograph the night sky is with a DSLR camera in manual mode, mounted on a tripod and exposed for the moon. The purpose of using a 600 mm lens (as opposed to a 200 mm or a 50 mm lens) is that the far distant object, in this case the moon, will appear far larger in your frame. The purpose of expensive, high quality glass (lens) is clarity of its focus. In addition to choosing the appropriate camera and lens, you will also benefit from the know-how to shoot in RAW mode and process in Photoshop, Lightroom and Luminar. I share with you the results of bringing all these methods to bear on our opportunity.
Good Night, Birds
Have you heard of a “rookery island” where dozens of birds of several species flock at sunset to find sanctuary for the night? I have found it magical to observe: as one great egret and eight ibis and three cormorants and six pelicans and a couple great blue heron and even more and more soar in from every direction and land side by side on every available branch of a tiny island of mangrove trees as the sun turns a brilliant orange and the light rapidly fades across the water… and the scene is silent.
I described the scene to my uninitiated friends as a Christmas tree fully decorated with ornaments on every bough, or a crowded church were a few more families arrive late and say, “please make room for us.”
Creativity in Isolation
Are you finding ways to exercise your creativity during Isolation? I hope I can inspire you to play a little. Of course, first things come first: we pray, we clean, we prepare meals, we help our neighbors, we work remotely, we stay in touch over the Internet, we catch up on our sleep, we read, we exercise and then we do it all over again.
But for the first time in a long time, the rat race has paused. You can actually be patient when driving a car. You can smile and say hello to strangers you pass outside. You can reflect about life and how to live a better life when normalcy returns. And you now have time to be creative. It’s okay to amuse yourself — draw, write, cook — whatever pursuit suits you.
I have been experimenting with my Lensball, which I ordered in December, but have been too busy doing everything else until now. It is a carefully manufactured and polished spherical prism. When you take a photo of it, the image you see is reflected on the back and then the front of the sphere and it appears upside down. Don’t let this stop you. You can always invert the image in photo editing software if you need to. There are endless creative possibilities. (You just have to be very careful to keep the lens ball out of strong direct sunlight, as it heats up in about 2 seconds and can burn your fingers!) You can guess how I discovered this outdoors in southwest Florida.