From Dinosaurs to Dragons

It’s been a while since I just grabbed a bunch of my old pictures, and
wrote about whatever comes to my mind. I suspect I do that mainly
because of laziness.  I find that it frees me from the
responsibility of searching for a meaningful point of view, as well as
any need to find too may common denominators among the images.  That
said, here we go.

I’ve shared more landscapes on these pages from two locations, the
Badlands of South Dakota, and Monument Valley Utah/Arizona, quite
possibly than I have of all other locations combined. My images from
those places have something about them that are quite similar, and
something quite different.

They have in common the fact that the body of work in both cases,
contain pictures created with sunny clear blues skies, blue skies with
majestic white clouds, overcast light, storm clouds and even rain
across the land. I also have images from both places which were made
in the very last rays of “sweet light” in gold and red.  Also in
common, is that the some pictures were made with 35mm film, some with
medium format 120 roll film, and some in the digital format.

The commonality they lack is, the Badlands imagery was made in a time
span of over 20 years, and the Monument Valley photos were created in
one single day. That day is in my top ten photographically speaking,
of my life.

So what’s a photographer to do when you have only one day, and/or you
are not blessed with 8 different styles of light to work with? You do
what most of us do most of the time, you do the best you can.

Dinosaur National Monument in Colorado/Utah, falls somewhere around
#499 on the favored “to do” list for most photographers. I will admit,
it’s not my #1 but it is still is worth visiting.

I pulled into the first section of Dinosaur well after the sweet light
of sunrise had disappeared.  Still, an oasis in a dry land (at about
99 degrees) is worth clicking the shutter.

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Moving on down the line to the canyon section of the park was fairly
inspirational. It is beautiful there, and the sunny skies with white
fluffy clouds made for nice settings, but just wait for sunset. Right?

I spent the better part of the day capturing beautiful locations and
“nice” pictures, but while I thought  I might be able to sell a few prints off my
website, there were certainly no awards or books in the future for
those pictures. I used rock forms of every color, clouds, Juniper
trees, and canyon vistas to make the best statement I could about what
Dinosaur National Monument was all about. Remember, sunset was yet to
come.

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I realized that I was hungry, for food that is. I drove into the
nearest town for a burger and “fixins”, and then wondered what was on
the road ahead of me. I had already decided to drive over the nearby
mountains into Wyoming after photographing Dino, but admitted I did not look forward
to a trip over a strange (to me) road in the mountains in the dark. By
the time I decided not to return to Dino I was already losing light. I decided to move on.

As I drew near to my mountain road I noticed that the light was
getting more moody and beautiful. Maybe somewhere in the mountains I
could find a sunset vista. Just before I made my turn I noticed a
sweet section of Utah beginning to adopt the color gold from the sun.
Now I was in a race up the mountain to find a place to pull over and
capture the scene below me. No place to park. A place to park with a
blocked view. Finally, now a few thousand feet above my starting point
there below me was my subject taking a bath in the last rays of light.
There was also just enough space for my car, my tripod, and me.  I
felt vindicated from my poor judgment in leaving Dino before the light
was right. It helps when there are beautiful locations all around you.

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The motto is to be patient and capture the light where you are, but if
you do make a bad decision and move on, do not give up, you never know
what’s waiting for you just around bend, or from the top of the mountain.

Birds, birds, birds…..everywhere birds. It is true that birds are our
most common photographic subject. They are also one of the most
interesting.

Getting close-up images of birds, be it by using a major or minor crop,
or by your close physical proximity, is a goal of most photographers.
I would suggest no image is worth risking the welfare of your subject,
so think before you make advances.

This backyard Grackle could have cared less about me. It was quite
busy stealing from other birds.  Certainly one of the most important
aspects of super close-ups like this, are the eyes. It is the eyes
that makes them most like us. They make them living, feeling creatures
rather than aliens that we cannot possibly understand.

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Even this crop on a Great-blue Heron benefits from the eyes. Along
with those trailing head feathers that say it is time for breeding.

Not a pretty picture, but meaningful none the less.

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These Great-horned Owlet’s are a fairly substantial image crop from
what I made originally. They are quite a way up a tree and they are
mainly in the shadows. I exposed for the shadows and then dropped the
values on the sunny part during editing to somewhat lower the contrast
levels within the scene.

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Poses, and the point of view we photograph our subjects, from make all the
difference in the finished work with bird pictures.

This male Eastern Bluebird is on a nesting box and the image was made
out the window of my car which of course became my vantage point, and
therefore my perspective. The background trees were out of focus
enough as to not conflict with the center of interest of my picture,
the bird. I used an aperture of 7.1 which carried just enough depth of
field to keep enough of the bird in focus, while the background stayed
soft.

In all wildlife photography depth of field, whether you need a lot or
a little, is a part of your finished composition.

The pose he struck also added to the charm of the picture.

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There are poses, and then there are poses. This Cedar Waxwing was in
search of insects and its travels up and down and around this tree
made for nice poses. I was standing in the open with my camera on a
tripod when this was made. Once again, enough depth of field, but not
too much is the key to this image.

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There is nothing better than a great pose and
a great point of view or perspective. I almost feel like one of the
pigeons that this Canada Goose is chastising.

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Of course one of the great things about birds is, they can fly. Birds
in flight is a major part of every bird photographer’s to do list.

Sandhill Cranes are among the easiest to capture in flight. They often
fly in groups or flocks. The are big and fairly slow,  giving
photographers not only a chance, but often two or three chances.

This image was made with a smaller than usual (for me), 300mm lens. I
used a shutter speed on that bright day of 1/1,250 sec at f5.6. It
might be one of my rare actions shots in which I used auto focus.

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Birds are not the only critters with wings. Dragonflies were always a
favorite subject of mine.

Dragonflies will return to the same perch again and again if they are
hunting and have had success there.  That makes life easy as
photographers can pre-focus on the perch and fire when they return.
This was made with a shutter speed of 1/50th sec (they can remain
quite still while hunting from a perch), and an aperture of f/14. That
was enough depth of field to cover my subject. The background here was
quite some distance from the dragon so it remained soft and
unobtrusive.

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Of course just like with birds and other animals, behavior is one
reason for photographing them in the first place. I felt cheap and
tawdry, as I pried into the sex life of these two. Not really but it
makes for a good story.

I used an aperture of f22 for this. If your background is a really
long ways away so it will stay soft at that F stop, and your subjects
are still enough to be kept sharp at a shutter speed of 1/160th sec.,
then use as much depth of field as possible so you can cover up any
minor focusing errors.

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Well, that’s the most I’ve written about photography in a while, and
it felt pretty good.

Have  a great day,
Wayne

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