Archive for the ‘Thoughts’ Tag

Always Look Behind You

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I had the opportunity to visit Fossil Rim Wildlife Park south of Dallas Fort Worth recently (a separate review coming soon) and was shooting out of my driver’s window.  I was so focused on what was in front of me, that I neglected to notice the interloper behind me – until he already had my lunch in his mouth!

Now, from a serious point of view – do make sure you “look behind you” when on nature and landscape shoots.  Some of the best shots I’ve gotten were 180 degrees opposite of my primary subject that day.  For example, the light in a sunrise shoot can be just as dramatic on the landscape behind you as the sunrise itself.

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Use your eyes as well as your lens when out in the field.  Constantly scan the field around you and keep your eyes sharp for interesting shadows and lighting – not to mention the occasional critter!

Stay in Focus,



Don’t Ignore the Mundane

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There is beauty and great images to be found in everything – don’t overlook the obvious just because “it’s always there”.

We can’t all live where the fantastic shots are everyday occurrences – but we certainly can get creative with what we do have to work with.  Find what is regular and common in your particular area (for me it’s gulls, Canada Geese and squirrels) and work on different concepts and techniques.  Work on identifying and photographing your common subjects on the “perfect” background.  Spend some time with these commoners and look for interesting behavior or quirky composition.

It’ll help put the fun back in your photography – and that’s the primary idea anyway, right?  Good photography is what you’re able to find interesting in a subject – not the interesting stuff that just lays around for everyone to capture.

Who knows, the local squirrel may even give you the “thumbs up” for not overlooking him!

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Stay in focus,


Review: Bosque Workshops

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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!


Nothing to Shoot Here!


How many times have you thought the same thing – “nothing to shoot here” Really?  Are you sure?  Because there is beauty to be found everywhere and in everything – if you know HOW to look at it.

For the past few weeks, “attractive” subjects have been a little harder to come by (it’s just that time of the year, right before some of the more interesting migrations begin) and the only plentiful targets have been Ring Billed Gulls and Canada Geese.  So, what else was there to do but focus on gull and geese!

Why bother, you may wonder – a question thats been asked by  more than one passer by recently, “they’re just trash birds and poopers” a older gentleman recently asked me.  Well, if you don’t know how to look at them – maybe that’s all they are.

The “right” way to look at these creatures is with an open mind.  Study a gull for a period of time, they’re quite accomplished fishermen!  The search patterns they run, identifying a target, followed by sometimes very aggressive dives straight into the water are amazing!  More than not, they’ll come up with the fish in tow.  Also the interaction and behavior of these gulls, interesting and amusing at the same time, as they fight for freshly caught fish and landing spots.

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The same thing goes for geese in my book, fascinating behavior and social interactions.  Watch a male put his head to the ground and “growl” and he waddles to an interloper is a blast to watch.  And if you catch them in the right light, they’re actually very nice looking birds, just like the gulls in the photos above.


These types of subjects are also very challenging targets, depending on the light.  You can really learn a lot by nailing down the exposure of these two – a white bird in an overcast sky is a different shooter’s blueprint from a white bird with a dark background.  And give it your best shot on a Canada Goose in bright morning light – try not to blow out the white patch between the black neck and head, it’s tough!

So find the beauty (and the challenge) in everything, it’s out there – if you know how to look for it!  Plentiful subjects that can be attractive and offer a nice photographic challenge – sounds good to me!

Stay Focused!


Action Can Really Be Boring!

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That’s right, boring!  You can literally spend hours of waiting for a quick 5 minutes of pure action.  Patience is a virtue in nature photography.

On a typical eagle outing on the Mississippi River, it’s not uncommon to stand for 2 hours or more with literally no action except for the occasional eagle coming and going.  Then, seemingly out of no where, a silent command must go out to all eagles – it’s time to fish!!  For the next 5 to 10 minutes you’ll have all sorts of action everywhere, you won’t know where to swing your camera next.  This is the way it goes for me with most nature photography.

There are really two main things to keep in mind:

    • Do Your Homework. All the patience in the world won’t do you any good if you’re not in the right place.  Here are a few homework tips:
      • In the post Always Look Close To Home, I discuss how to find great opportunities right in your own area.
      • Investigate sun rise and sun set times in your area – also the exact position on the horizon the sun sets for that particular time of year.
      • Scout the areas for the animal activity you’re looking for.  If in a local, state or national park – the rangers or workers are invaluable information sources on what’s going on, strike up a conversation!
      • Spend time in the area.  Get out an take a walk, see a sunset or just hang out.  The more you are familiar with an area, the more you will notice.
    • Be Patient.Your research and scouting done, now you’re on site – waiting for the perfect picture.  Here are a few things to keep in mind:
      • It depends on what and where you’re shooting, but you’ll generally need to keep still.  (Duh!)  Unless you’re really good, the birds and animals will know you’re there – but will tend to ignore you or become used to your presence (to a point).  Hopping around, popping the top on a soda can or anything similar will greatly reduce your chances.
      • It will be common to have an entire trip that doesn’t yield any results – this is standard fare and where the patience really comes in.  If you’ve done your homework and know you’re in a good spot, then give it time.  The critters don’t always run on a perfect schedule.

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It’s also useful to keep in mind that you’re out in the field, probably in a beautiful place, enjoying the country-side.  Enjoy that for what it is, some of the best trips I’ve had resulted in not a single image – but a very peaceful and relaxing outing filled with fresh air!

See the light,


Don’t Take That Picture!

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I recently grabbed my camera and my wife one evening to catch a great sunset, only to find out I didn’t bring the requisite memory card with me (yea, rookie mistake).  So what to do now?

Well, I actually sat on a bench with my wife, held hands and watched the majesty of a great sunset!  It was a wonderful evening and reminded me that we need to take time and experience some of these moments – without your eye always stuck in a view finder.

The image leading this post comes from one of my favorite Bald Eagle locations and, as I think about it, I’ve never taken the time to put the camera down and just enjoy the moment.  I’ve never seen an eagle before three years ago – this was a “bucket” item for me and I have yet to take the time and just experience it.  This will change during the coming season – I’m going to take the time to see it with my own eyes . .  and enjoy a short moment in real life!

So a little advice, take the time for yourself every now and then – and enjoy living the moment!

Hmmm, ya know . . . now that I think about it, I know I had a memory card in that camera . . . . I wonder if my wife . . . ?   Naaa, I just forgot it!

See the light,