Friday Funnies – February 1st

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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,


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Friday Funnies – December 21st

5DII Eagles 2010 01 30 121 Original

Yea, I studied Ballet . . . WHAT OF IT?

One of the advantages to shooting at a high frame rate, you’ll tend to grab a unique pose or element that you would have otherwise missed.  In the next frame, the eagle’s second foot was back parallel to its body.  This split second shot imitates a perfect toe-nail pirouette worthy of the best ballet dancer!

Stay in focus,


Friday Funnies – December 14th


Popeye?  I’m Not Popeye . . . . They Call Me “Crusty”!

He really did look like a crusty kinda fellow – crusty but cute!  Thanks to the Stillman Nature Center for caring for these injured birds.  Do a search and find out if there are any rehabilitation centers around your area – They’re worthy of your support.

Stay in Focus,


Can’t Make it to Bosque, Try This

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Looking for Sandhills, find them in Indiana.

Bosque del Apache is still the supreme fall location to find Sandhill Cranes and Snow Geese but Jasper Pulaski (JP) is a close second for cranes.  Located in northwestern Indiana, just south of Valparaiso, JP is a prime migration point with end of November crane counts in excess of 28,000.  The preserve does a great job of providing access to viewers and photographers with a raised viewing platform position right in front of the morning and evening gathering spots.

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You are limited to viewing locations (primarily shooting due west) so the time of day dictates your shots.  Evening shots are either difficult low light shots or some fantastic silhouettes as seen above. (click the images to see a high rez versions).  Learn to take what nature gives you and you’ll come away with some great sunlit backdrops as the cranes arrive from feeding in the near by fields.

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Get there at sunrise as the Sandhills arrive from their night time spots in the adjacent marsh and you’ll be treated to wave after wave of arriving cranes, just as the light gets really sweet.  Arrivals and departures will continue until around 10:00AM.  Just as the best light starts to slip away, you’ll get to witness a huge series of blast-offs as the cranes head out to the corn fields for daily feeding.

Weekends get a little crowded with fellow bird watchers and photographers – but weekdays are perfect for a relaxed adventure.  The main parking lot is about an 1/8 of a mile walk from the observation deck and a dedicated handicapped parking lot is available right next to the observation deck.  The deck is equipped with both stairs and an access ramp.

Crane populations have peaked but there will still be plenty of action through December.

Stay in focus,


Cold Weather Shooting Tips – 2012 Version

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4 years of cold weather shooting (down to -23F) has taught me a thing or two.  Here are a few rock solid tips – some you’ve probably read a few times, along with a few that will be unique!

Camera and Gear

  • Moving from cold to warm – and vise versa
    • Probably the most common topic addressed, my answer is very simple – pack your gear in a photo bag, and leave it there for a little while. For example, the pack will be warm when leaving your house and will allow the camera gear to gradually cool down in the car or field.  The same concept works when going back into the house – I take my memory cards out of my camera/bag (and anything else I want to get to immediately) and then let the bag sit for a few hours in the warm house.  The camera gear will gradually adjust to room temperature.
  • Keeping your breath in check on a really cold day (this is the really big one)
    • Use a lens hood  – the shorter the lens the more critical this tip is.  Your breath (even straight from your nose on a really really cold day) will roll around and frost up the front of your lens – and there is no easy way to get it off without warming up the lens.  This is a real killer just as the sun starts to crest above the horizon on a fantastic cold weather sunrise shoot (yea, ask me how I know about this!)
    • Use some “Scope Dope” to help keep your LCD clear.  This stuff does a pretty decent job on the LCD and an ok job on the view finder.
    • Use a Hoodman Eye Cup to keep your breath away from your view finder.  Actually turn it vertical like in the image below for the best results, it does a great job of keeping your view finder fog/frost free in all cool to cold weather.
  • Battery Power – I’ve never had trouble with battery power in cold weather – and I keep my spare battery in my outer most pocket for easy access.
    • My spare battery is easily accessible, but it is also kept company in my pocket by Mega Size Hand Warmers to keep them warm – along with my hands when I stick them in there.
      • Open those hand warmer packs in advance of heading out into the cold, they take 5 to 15 minutes to warm up to full strength.

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The Photographer



  • Keep your feet warm, dry – and on the ground where they belong
    • Don’t slip!  There are now plenty versions of the YaK Trax seen in the image below.  Get a pair, they work wonders on ice (including ice that is hidden below a layer of snow)  There are even versions now that have actual spikes.

  • Dry feet are happy feet!
    • If you’re in wet or snowy conditions, it goes without saying to at least have water-proof boots/shoes.  In light snowy conditions (1″ – 3″) consider a simple pair of elastic leg gaiters (as seen above) to keep the snow out of the top your boots.
    • In heavier snow (greater than 3 inches and up to 7 inches) try some of the Neos brand products.  The image below shows me using the Neos Trekkers in water but they do the job in snow as well.  Warmer versions are also available – to cover both the “dry” and “warm” requirements.  And yes, you CAN COMBINE the Neos product with Yak Trax.

Iphone blue herons 4 4 10 2010 04 04 55 original


  • My hands are the hardest body part to keep really warm.  Before I talk about gear, here is the most important tip I’ve learned over the years – once your hands (fingers) get cold, you’re in trouble.  Get out of the cold and get them plenty warmed up again.  So the best tip is to have your hands fully warmed up before you set foot outside – “gear up” in advance so you move into the cold with maximum advantage.
    • 1st layer of protection – liners with pockets for warmer packs.  The pockets locate the warmer packs on the back of your hand, above your blood vessels, enhancing the warming impact for your fingers.
    • 2nd layer of protection – primary winter gloves, water proof with thinsulate or other warming material.  How heavy this primary pair of gloves are is up to your personal needs.
    • 3rd layer of protection – Mega Size Hand Warmers. Depending on how cold it is, I’ll keep 2 or 4 of these in my coat pockets.  Hands go in the pockets when not in use and I’ll actually hold these mega warmers in my hands (between my hand and the camera) when I’m doing extending shooting in really cold weather.


  • Keeping your core body temperature up helps you stay warm longer.  So similar to your hands, get toasty (without sweating) before you head outside.  Staying dry is a very critical component of staying warm, and layers are the other key.  If the “core” of your body starts to get cold, it will quickly contract and divert warm blood from your extremities, sucking the heat right out of your hands and feet
    • 1st layer of protection:  Light duty long underwear made of water wicking material (not cotton) to help you stay dry
    • 2nd layer of protection: Medium duty long underwear is added as a layer to increase warmth
    • 3rd layer of protection: Heavy duty long underwear is added (depending on how cold it is)
    • 4th layer of protection:  Outer shell winter coat that is roomy, (with your layers on) wind and water proof.  Collar protection and an insulated hood are a must as well


  • Your head is one of the primary places heat escapes your body, so keep protection on and layer it as much as needed.  I’ll typically wear a full face mask and my winter coat’s insulated hood.  When it’s needed, I’ll add a neck gaiter or a warm cap.  That’s me below in full cold weather gear! 

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Staying warm is not only the safe and smart way to shoot in the winter, it’s also the path to great images.  When you’re warm and comfortable, you can place all your energy on the task at hand – getting some great shots!!

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Stay in focus,


Make Notes – Tip 1

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When you go back and look at your awesome image, make sure you can remember what you did!

One of the things that really dives me nuts is when I go back and look at an older image of mine and just can’t remember all the tweaks and pokes I did to make it pop.  Now this doesn’t really apply to the standard raw editing elements (exposure, highlights, shadows, contrast, etc) but it certainly applies to creative edits, especially filters and plug-ins.  Now, when I run across the above image two years from now, I can look in the notes field and see that I added a couple special items – first was a recipe I built in Nik Color Efex Pro followed by a Topaz colored sepia filter.

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I created a custom field in my image editing program (Aperture) but you can use standard fields if you’d prefer.  “Caption” is probably the easiest, and you can over write your notes when you do a digital export to an online photo gallery.  Here are a couple other things to keep in mind:

  • Label your special effects/filters in the order they are applied, separated by the “+” sign
  • Don’t wait to do it “later”, make the note as you apply each unique item
  • Use a similar schema in PhotoShop layers, title the layer with a descriptive of what you did

Have fun and stay in focus,