Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Tag

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

Review: Bosque Workshops

MCT 2011 12 09 7732

I had the opportunity this year to make it to Boque Del Apache Wildlife Preserve for the first time – WOW!  Fantastic landscape and the birds (geese, ducks and cranes) certainly did not disappoint.

Since this was my first time there, I decided to participate in a photography workshop with seasoned veterans (Rick Sammon and Juan Pons) who knew their way around the preserve as well as a camera – and they most certainly did not disappoint!

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Our workshop began on the evening of December 5th and the weather was a real challenge – 8″ of snow at the beginning on the week and below zero temperatures for the rest of it.  Juan and Rick were determined not to let the weather deter us and found new and interesting places to shoot for the first day and a half (when Bosque was actually closed due to the weather)  The alternate sites were fun and full of adventure but most importantly, the guys kept it very upbeat and interesting.  Once we were able to enter Bosque, we were treated to a true winter wonderland, with Juan scouting out super locations for both morning and evening while Rick provided excellent insight into composition and new techniques.  Always eager to lend a hand, these workshop leaders were a delight to the entire class.

Now, their dedication and first class instruction was really great – but what makes these two fellows truly unique is the care and concern they show to all of their participants, regardless of skill level.  In this day of “photo egos” and the many “professionals” flying at a higher than thou level – both Rick and Juan were firmly planted on the ground, providing excellent instruction, encouragement and support – even though their skills certainly flew high.

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I can enthusiastically recommend both of them for their learning style, passion and sincere desire to help aspiring photographers.  Checkout some of their work, learning materials and upcoming workshops – you won’t be disappointed!

Stay in Focus!

Mark

Book Review – Ducks of North America – The Photographers Guide

Ducks

Photo books are a dime a dozen, and most rehash all the same stuff over and over again – but E.J. Peiker’s book is different, it’s targeted specifically at one subject – ducks.  The book does cover all the standard fare topics (equipment, exposure, light, technique . . . and so on) but every subject is directed back to the book’s main focus – how it relates to ducks!  The section on field techniques is very detailed and was found to be a strong benefit to enhancing my outdoor acumen – espeically the section on Outdoor Flash Photography.

Field Techniques Section:

  • Approaching Wild Ducks
  • Exposure
  • Composition
  • Natural Light Photography
  • Outdoor Flash Photography
  • Lens Technique
  • Ducks in Flight

It’s an easy, enjoyable and informative read!  This is also one book that you’ll keep handy as it makes a great “field guide” of ducks, both native and visitors to north america, as it is wonderfully illustrated with E.J’s great images.  I use it regularly as a reference to confirm identification.

Now this is an eBook, but I consider that an advantage as it’s always with me (in my iPad or iPhone) and available for that quick identification.

You haven’t tried an eBook yet?  Well, this is a great one to start with then!

Purchase it Here

I have no affiliation to the vendor in the link provided other than being a satisfied customer.

Keeping Your Feet Dry

Protection from the muck!

I found a Great Blue Heron Rookery recently with about thirty nests – along with a great location to get some morning shots. There was just one problem, the “right” spot was about twenty feet into ankle deep water and muck! It was finally time to try out my new Neos Trekker Overshoes!

From this first outing (including a couple hours in the water) I can conclude these things are pretty good! The nice benefit of these overshoes is that you can wear your normal foot-gear (an important point when this is coupled with a several mile hike) and they are very easy to put on. They unwrap to a wide mouth, making it easy to get your boot laden foot in. A quick snap of the buckle, twist wrap the uppers and Velcro in place – You’re all set.

They’re a snug fit (which is good) and if you’re wearing over hiking boots be sure to go up a size for a good fit. Two hours in the water and no leaks. I’ve heard complaints from some that these leak – I’ve found no evidence of that, the seams are sealed up pretty well. Since these are water tight, my calves did sweat pretty good and make my jeans damp – maybe that’s what they’re running into – not much you can do about that though!

If anything changes, I’ll post it here, but so far these guys get two thumbs up from me! Looking for a good place to get them? Checkout Outdoorphotogear.com. Great people to deal with, lots of stuff focused at nature photographers, in stock with quick shipping and great customer service.

Keeping your Feet on The Ground

And your behind off of it!

This was my first real winter shooting off-trail and in the snow and ice.  My primary goals were to keep dry, comfortable and everything (both me and my equipment) in one piece.   Several items helped accomplish this: long underwear, good boots, winter socks, gaiters and “Yak Trax”.

The Yak Trax are basically snow chains for your feet, easy to put on and comfortable to walk in.  They stretch easily around your shoe (various sizes are available) and secure firmly in place to give you increased traction in snow and ice.  I’ve put them to good use this past season and never once had a problem with them – work very well, as advertised.

The traction they provide on pure ice is incredible!  With these things in place, I was able to traverse solid sheets of ice with minimal effort and keep both my gear and myself safe.  I highly recommend them as a great addition to your winter hiking kit or as part of your winter emergency kit.  They’re also pretty easy on the wallet and can be found at many locations for around twenty dollars.  Two thumbs up from me!!

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