Archive for the ‘Wildlife and Nature’ Category

Review: Mike Moats Macro Photography

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Don’t ignore macro photography just because it’s winter!

Springtime is usually the most popular time of year for macro work – everything blooming and coming to life and all – but don’t ignore the winter months, it’s my favorite time to shoot macro.

A nice winter morning (after a fresh snow fall or especially after an over night refreeze) can yield great opportunities.  Keep your eyes open for some of these subjects:

  • Snow or ice settled on top of branches, winter berries or left over shells – like the opening image in this post
  • Puddles on the trail or along the banks of small streams and rivers that have frozen over night – look for trapped leaves, air bubbles and unique patterns (this is my personal favorite)
  • Mother Nature’s overnight composition work in the leaves and pine needles that were blowing around.  It’s a special delight to find a contrasting light colored leaf that landed or bent in a unique way around a darker one

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Are you new to macro and looking to give it a try?  Then check out Mike Moat’s Website.  Mike is a self taught, outstanding photographer who specializes in macro education.  In addition to his blog and clinics around the country, Mike does a really good down to earth instructional series in his books.

I can highly recommend his Creating Art with Macro – ebook, it’s what I turned to as my first instructional tool into the macro world.  The first couple of chapters rehash some of the typical camera basics, but after that it’s all macro.  Mike’s writings are down to earth and easy to read in a nice simple format.

Check Mike’s stuff out, if only to subscribe to his blog – I’m sure you’ll find it worth your time!

Stay in focus,

Mark

Friday Funnies – February 1st

NOTE: my place on the web is moving, including this blog.  Please join us at http://www.soaringart.com

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Don’t you YELL at ME, Sonny . . . . I’ll Snatch Ya BALD!

That’s a juvenile Sandhill Crane on the right, getting some “training” from a parent.  The beginning of the fall migration season is a good time observe unique behavior as the adults are finishing up some final lessons with the kids before the big trip.  Some species will stay with their parents throughout the first year while most begin to go their separate ways.

Stay in focus,

Mark

NOTE: my place on the web is moving, including this blog.  Please join us at http://www.soaringart.com

Duck Bill Do’s and Don’ts

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The Little Things Make a Difference

The opening image isn’t perfect from a composition standpoint (I don’t like the dark line running right across this Wood Duck’s head or the contrast change running through his head) but the angle and position is pretty good.  Good eye and head position compliment the upright pose of the bill, turned slightly towards the camera and the gap between the beak and the body looks natural.

Discussed below are a few of the things to avoid.

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This first image is a non-starter, the top of the log cuts right through the head and bill.

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The second image has the bottom line of the bill “merged” with the top line of the body – doesn’t appear natural and is a little disruptive.

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The third image is better, there is separation between the bill and the body – but just a sliver.  Again, this is a little distracting to the eye.  The composition (in the opening photo) has more separation and a more upright head angle, producing the best overall image.

As your photography improves, you should begin looking for these types of details in the field – and understanding when to pull the trigger.  It comes with practice and will naturally get better with the more images you take.  You’ll notice things like eye contact and head angle – when the background is not working for you and when various elements are pleasingly separated.

Stay in Focus,

Mark

Location Review: Bosque del Apache

MCT 2011 12 09 7732 Bosque del Apache . . . a nature lovers “life list” kinda place

There are a few places that qualify as a “must do” location, but Bosque is definitely one of them.  Located just south of Socorro New Mexico, Bosque is a managed wetlands area of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and migratory home to literally tens of thousands of geese, cranes and ducks.  Comprising over 57,000 acres, the refuge is managed into areas of wet bottomlands, fields and natural landscape.  Refuge roads and “loops” provide excellent access, with most photographic opportunities within 30 yards of where you park along side the road.  Detailed site information can be accessed at Bosque del Apache NWR or the Friends of the Bosque del Apache websites.

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There is plenty of wildlife to view and photograph during the morning and evening hours as the pictures above illustrate.  In fact, the shot directly above of the Blue Goose isn’t one of my best but it does illustrate the opportunity.  The Blue is trying to find a place to land in a “sea” of Snow Geese – yes, the whole shot is nothing but birds!

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The best way to experience Bosque for the first time is to attend a photo workshop or nature tour.  Like most visitors, your time on site will be limited to a few days and it would take a few days just to learn the basics of where to go and when.  Workshop or tour leaders know the lay of the land and “when to be where”.  I’ll be going to Bosque myself this year – but because I attended a fantastic workshop last year, I now have the basics down.  Checkout my Bosque Workshop Review post from last December – I can highly recommend Rick and Juan’s session, great guys and they know where to go and will work hard for the best shots.  Last time I checked there were still a few spots open for this years end of November and early December sessions.  You can learn more about their workshops here.

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The weather in Bosque can be unpredictable and varied.  It’s not uncommon to see a daily range of temperatures between 20 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit – and at times MUCH colder!  Last year was a little different it seems.  There was a couple week stretch of below zero weather and during my week there we had 3 inches of snow on the ground – which certainly provided some unique photo opportunities.  So the lesson here is to come prepared – checkout my Cold Weather Photography post from last year.  I’ll be doing an update to cold weather photography in a few weeks with new lessons learned.  But this post will give you the basics.

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At minimum, I’d suggest 3 days at Bosque, with 5 days probably ideal.  The main support area to Bosque is the little town of Socorro, NM which is about 30 minutes north of the refuge.  Hotel space can fill up during the prime fall viewing period so plan to make reservations early.  If you sign up for one of the workshops or tours, they will usually have rooms pre reserved for you.

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If you can’t make it this year, mark your calendars now and save your pennies for 2013 – you won’t be disappointed!

Stay in focus,

Mark

Friday Funnies – September 14th

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Look Ma!

I’m a fighter jet . . . yea . . . an F-16!  Yea . . . that’s it . . . I’m a FALCON!

All kids dream big . . . don’t lose your inner child.

This male juvenile Wood Duck was preparing for takeoff.  You could tell he was still a bit uneasy with flight (or at least the take-off part) as it took him 4 “false starts” before he made the leap into the air on his 5th try.  And only a bit of his tail hit the water!

Stay in Focus,

Mark

Friday Funnies – September 7th

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Bite Ya Butt!

Watching and learning from animal behavior is still amazing to me.  The more time you spend with your subjects, the more you’re able to predict what is going to happen.  Personal space was definitely invaded here!

Stay in focus,

Mark

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