Thoughts Behind Pictures…Part 4

As we drove into the Valley of The Gods, Utah in an ever reddening predawn light, I looked for a way to simplify what stood before me.  The one problem with making pictures in desert rock parks, is how to make the complicated look simple.  This is even more important when you are intent on making a sunrise silhouette.  The good news is that there are many fascinating forms growing straight out of Mother Earth.  The answer to this dilemma was to use my 500mm lens.  Isolation.  The shape below was the result.

Working in The Badlands of South Dakota presents some of the same issues as above.  How to you divide and conquer?  The photo below is the result of a very careful exercise of separating rocks.  This image was made in one of the most complicated sections of this versatile national park.  I again used a (shorter) telephoto lens to grab and compress a small section of these unusual rocks. The Badlands live in the middle of a national grassland and those grasses weave in and out of the rock forms.  The rocks in this area seem to actually grow out of the land as most have a grass/plant community living on the “flattop”  of these little plateaus.

I spent a great morning observing and photographing these (and two other nests of) four young Great-blue Herons.  I was fascinated as I photographed them in the act of waiting for a parent to bring home breakfast.  As other adult herons would fly by, their heads would sway to the left and then the right, as if they were watching Wimbledon.  The images were created in northern Illinois.

I am always looking to get two or more birds in a photo at the same time.  I especially like getting a bird of each sex in that photo. If they are in the water, my ambition is complete.  Note that the tail feathers of a third bird, are barely visible as she finishes a dive into the water. These Hooded Mergansers were photographed in a Lake Michigan harbor in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

When I am in the field making pictures of subjects that I have photographed many times before, I make up little assignments for myself.  When I made this shot in Kenosha, I was attempting to get two Lesser Scaups in the same frame, with one swimming and the other diving.  With my mission accomplished my next chore was to get two ducks diving at the same moment.  That aspiration goes unfulfilled to this day.

There is nothing more exciting to a nature photographer than to find and photograph a new bird, or mammal, or flower, or insect, or place.  If you have been pursuing that subject for many years it can be very sweet.  I cannot count all of the American Bitterns that I have photographed over the years.  Usually as I finish photographing another one, I spot a Least Bittern flying off into the distance.  In 2009 I finally accomplished that goal with about four pictures of this Least, at Horicon Marsh NWR in Wisconsin.  As serious nature photographers we would all love the celebrate the experience with a “world beater” type image, but the human being in us is still smiling inside with an average picture.

My success in the world of little critters was subject to a rise and fall on a yearly basis.  My success grew in exact proportion to the amount of effort I put into it. There was one or two years during my time as a photographer, that macros of all sorts were my number one subject matter.  Not only did I not mind those years but they were among the best ever.  You will never run out of subjects, and never learn more about the natural world, than when you, with your cameras,  are on your hands and knees in search of your next subject.  The Brown-spotted Yellow-wings below were photographed during a romantic interlude many years ago.  That is to say the dragonflies were having a romantic interlude.

When I search for subjects for posts on this blog, I often wind up with yet another shot of a Red Fox.  A few years ago some of us were fortunate to have a family of these guys to photograph, when the kits were still in that fuzzy brown stage of life.  They are still very dependant on mom and dad to protect them and give them a sign when they need to hide.  At this stage of life they rarely see you even when you are right in front of them.  They focus on their parents, their siblings and objects that they encounter that are in the immediate vicinity of their nose. Within a few weeks of this stage they will become redder and prettier in appearance, and they will also begin to notice you much more.  Every phase is wonderful but I always miss my moments with the little ones.

There is nothing in life that I enjoyed more than the days I spent exploring nature and then creating and sharing imagery of what I discovered.  I also have a great love of talking (writing) about that act of discovery.  As long as I can, I will continue to do so.  I appreciate your company and friendship along the way.

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2 Responses to Thoughts Behind Pictures…Part 4

  1. ron says:

    And to think we almost did not go to the Valley of the Gods…….We would have missed a marvelous shoot. BTW……I have one identical, but I think I had the 1.4 on.

  2. A great remote place. Would love to shoot a place like that with snow! I started with 300mm and then switched to the 500mm. Those long lenses certainly do allow you to make a clean and simple comp. I would imagine our pix of the sunrise are pretty much the same as we were standing side by side as well.

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