It is often said that every picture tells a story. It is also true that every picture has a story. Photographers aren’t machines, and we gain a new experience every time we make a picture.
Hiding in the weeds. Mule Deer bucks in velvet, grazing in the dry grasses around Great Sand Dunes N. P.
Those white weeds and dark bucks in this picture are misleading. This is a true and proper exposure. I mean that those grasses really did look that way. An exposure that gave proper credit to the tones of the grass, meant only a slight under exposure with the deer. This is a visually unusual image and for that reason I have always enjoyed it.
I was headed to photograph those “great sand dunes” when I spotted the bucks. As it turned out I could not reach the dunes because the night before brought torrential rains to the area and turned the snow melt river that I would have had to walk through to get on the dunes, into a raging river. At around midnight the night before I was forced to leave my motel room and wade out to my rental car. The water on the car was just above the bottom opening for the door. I felt it was better to let a little water in the car now, than find the car a mile away tomorrow. I was thrilled when it started and I drove slowly to the edge of the parking lot. There I found a gravel covered steep hill that was the side yard of a small brick building. I managed to get the car up on top of that hill, and then waded back through the water to my room. About two hours later I remembered that I left a bag of camera lenses in the trunk. This time I noticed water coming in under the door of my motel room, which was several feet above the parking lot. I made the trip back to my car and the high dry hill, in butt high water. To shorten my description of this event, I, my car, my room, and all of my camera equipment survived just fine.
This is the first picture I ever made of a jackrabbit. It is of the White-tailed variety and I made it about 20 miles west of the Badlands in South Dakota. The rabbit is patiently letting me photograph him because he is quite sure that I cannot see him nestled quietly in the grasses. Notice his ears are down. Rabbits are a top prey animal for coyotes, foxes, hawks and other hungry predators, and this one wanted to remain anonymous.
Ron and I actually asked at the Badlands Café as to where we might find a sizeable number of Jackrabbits. That might seem odd, but neither of us had them in our stock files and that is what stock photographers do. They search out subjects for future use.
Birds that ride the wind currents, or sort of stand still in midair, provide photographers with a large variety of poses to work with. Living near the shores of Lake Michigan has always meant a large variety of gulls to practice my techniques on. This Ring-billed Gull gave me plenty of different looks.
It’s important to have fun with your photography. Sometimes it is those common birds that are right outside your door that can provide you with the most pleasure.
I love making images of waterfowl, including ducks, grebes, loons and especially mergansers. These images are of the Red-breasted variety. I went for many years without getting close to RBMs. I had made my share of images of Common and Hooded Mergansers but became convinced that the Red-breasted were impossible. Of course after having one close experience they seemed to be oblivious to me ever after. Persistence is the greatest quality a wildlife photographer can possess.
I made this picture of a male Yellow-headed Blackbird well after most of this species had already headed south. While he is a member of a gregarious society, it appeared as though he was alone on the world. He worked the roadside of a state highway for whatever he could find. Hopefully his journey south was successful and he hooked up with other members of his “tribe”
I have been blessed to have photographed my share of foggy sunrises. Of course it is not 100% luck. Wherever I was, I would check my forecasts the night before and plan an early a.m. trip to a location I had previously scouted. When I was at home the location was easy. It’s called Bong State Park. Even when it is not foggy at other places, Bong is often choked in fog. When the sun hits the horizon, it does amazing things. I look for trees and other things to silhouette. My intentions were usually not to feature those objects, but to include them as a part of the big picture.
Bong was also my second favorite dragonfly location. There is an urban fishing pond, called that despite its rural location, that hatches and attracts a spectacular number of dragonflies. I found that weather permitting on the perfect August day, I could find thousands of dragonflies of up to a dozen or species at any one time. On a blue sky day the pond would reflect such and all you needed to do was find a few empty branches that your subjects would use for a perch, and you would have a bonanza of clean and elegant images just waiting for your camera. A long lens like the 300mm that I used for this shot, would help to isolate those backgrounds as well as not frighten the dragonflies, and also keep your feet dry. I believe this is an Amber-wing Dragonfly. In any respect, its wings certainly are amber.
My number one dragonfly location in this area was Illinois Beach State Park, South Unit.
My favorite place closer to home where I headed for things like insects, flowers, birds, small mammals, historic buildings….well just about for everything, was Hawthorn Hollow Nature Sanctuary. I have had many great memories born here, including many workshops, both one on one and group shops with up to 18 participants.
Tiger Swallowtail, Hawthorn Hollow.
Backyard treasures. We don’t always have to be in exotic locations to find beautiful subjects. Every yard holds a treasure. Male Northern Cardinal top, and female Northern Cardinal
We humans are a fickle and flawed bunch. We often take joyful experiences and make them tension filled, and difficult. While I may have the most faults of anybody I have ever known, I can promise you this, for anyone who ever wanted to experience the “road trip” as an art form, for any photographer who wanted to know what it is like to immerse yourself in photography, in nature, in history or any other photographic subject, I was the one to travel with. Everybody has to have some attribute, and as tiny as it is, that has been mine. Travel can be an exasperating experience for many people. For me it was sheer joy. There are many of you out there who I wish we could have shared that experience. There would have been stories to tell…..I promise!
Journeys, whether they are large or small, are a part of the joy of being a photographer. Whether you venture to the other side of the world, or only into your own backyard, make everyday a memorable journey.
I hope all of you are enjoying this late spring/summer season. Sometimes this time of year takes me back to those long summer days of my youth.
In recent years health issues have kept me at home more than I would have ever thought possible. That fact has allowed me to notice the differences (in this neighborhood anyway) in being a child today, than during my childhood of yesteryear.
Children today seem to spend shockingly little time outside in the summer. We would head out after breakfast, stop back for a little lunch at midday, stay out until supper, which was always a requirement. After supper we would stay out until dark, although we would usually stay closer to home the later it got. Except for those rare days when there something else was required of us, we did this Monday through Friday. We didn’t have this thing called the internet, cell phones, or Xbox. We did however have television. On Saturday almost every television station was devoted to kids stuff, so in the summer Saturday was TV day. That is unless we lost a weekday to weather. Nothing would keep us from being outside all day at least five days a week. Sunday for most of us was for Sunday School/Church, and family matters. For my family it often meant a ride. Nowhere special, just wandering. Now you know where I got that from. Maybe a movie or a trip to the beach of one of the many little lakes in this area.
On those days spent with friends outside, we played self-created games, sports, we climbed trees and we explored. We did all of this without the “help” of overbearing adults. We played baseball or football all on our own. If an adult showed up (rare), we would stop playing. When we were little if an adult would have said “you don’t need to keep score, you are all winners”, we would have moved our game away from adults so we could keep score and figure out who won. As we grew older, if adults would have stood around screaming and browbeating us into winners, we would have found a quiet spot away from the “grownups”. You see we knew that winning a game, didn’t make us a better person than the loser. It’s funny, but we learned how to be good losers, and good winners, without 30 adults supervising us.
If most of our parents existed in today’s world they would be taken to court for child neglect. We usually got our own breakfast and our own lunch. We weren’t latch key kids because there was indeed always an adult near-by, when we needed one. They just gave us some space so we could grow-up.
It takes space to grow up, but it takes wisdom to know what kind of space to give.
Not long ago right here in my home state of Wisconsin, two 12-year-old girls lured another 12-year-old friend into a remote place, and stabbed her 19 times trying to kill her. It was premeditated and calculated with chilling coldness. They felt no remorse. This is becoming more common. They were fulfilling an order received on an online game. They thought it was pretty cool. The girl who was stabbed, thank God, has survived.
I recently watched a TV show of an educator giving a talk to a group of children. He described a video game called Grand Theft Auto which has long been a favorite, not just of gothic oriented 20-year-old boys, but children as young as seven years old. I think we all know the game and that the purpose is to successfully steal cars. What you may not know is the game also included shooting cops. Hopefully anyone that would read my blog finds this horrific. That’s not all. You get points for running down homeless people. When you are playing online, you can download an add-on that allows you to first lure and then rape and sodomize a sexy looking woman. It’s no wonder that kids don’t play outside any more when you can have fun like this. Yes that was sarcasm.
Summerfest is arguably the world’s largest music festival and it occurs in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Several years ago Summerfest had a Marine recruiting station (tent) on the grounds. In the tent the Marines had a simulator. It was designed to show you what a Marine had to go through during their training sessions. Because armies are created to kill the enemy, a non realistic opportunity to do so to an unrealistic enemy was a part of the simulation. A local “do gooder” group found this out and expressed to the Summerfest officials that they were going to picket the front gate if they did not remove the Marine training simulator. The officials agreed and the extremely polite Marines also agreed. Fifty feet from the Marine tent was a video game tent. That tent included a game called Grand Theft Auto. Neither the local “anti violence” do gooders, or the Summerfest officials, seemed to care. I wonder how many young men (or women) in that group of peace lovers, play Grand Theft Auto? I guess unlike the Marine simulation, teaching theft, rape and murder to small children is just a form of free speech.
Our children need to get outside, play children’s games, explore and listen to the birds sing.
Thank you for stopping, Wayne