On The Road Again

Dark morph Swainson's Hawk lifting off from a Montana hillsideDark morph Swainson’s Hawk lifting off from a Montana hillside – Nikon D7100, f6.3, 1/3200, ISO 500, +1.0 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

Yes, I am wandering again. Leaving this morning actually. I am not sure whether I’ll photograph primarily in Montana or Idaho or I might even end up photographing in both places equally. I never know what treasures I will find or if I will be taking wildlife, scenic or bird images but that is part of the fun. What I do know is that I’ll relax and focus on nature and for me that is crucial for my well being.

I have scheduled posts to be published while I am away but I might end up doing some posts from the field too if I have a good cell signal.


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Richardson’s Ground Squirrel in northern Montana

Richardson's Ground SquirrelRichardson’s Ground Squirrel – Nikon D200, f6.3, 1/1600, ISO 400, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, -0.3 EV, natural light

Every time I see this image of this Richardson’s Ground Squirrel I have to laugh because of how full its mouth is. I’m not sure if the vegetation is material to line the burrow for a litter or food because they do eat nuts, seeds, grains and grasses as well as grasshoppers. We don’t seem to have this species of ground squirrel here in Utah but I know that they are abundant in northern Montana.

Richardson’s Ground Squirrels stand on their hind legs like Prairie Dogs do and have a shrill whistle, they also chirp and chatter.  They are native to short grass prairies but because of land being cleared for farming their range has spread and they can even be found suburbs. Richardson’s Ground Squirrels are considered to be agricultural pests because they will eat crop species.

Pests though they may be, they are a great deal of fun to observe and photograph. I know I just could not resist taking this photo.


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Cooling down with views of Alaska

Last sunset for a period of two weeksLast sunset for a period of two weeks

This week the temperatures here in Utah are going to be in the mid to upper 90′s so I was looking for something to visually cool down with and I thought of Alaska. During the summer of 2005 I made a trip to Alaska and the Yukon where part of the journey was a cruise and the rest was by land. The cruise started in Vancouver, British Columbia on a clear, cloudless day and as the ship headed towards Alaska the clouds slowly built up and by the time the sun was setting those clouds lent themselves to a dramatic sunset. That sunset was the last I would see for almost two weeks because the days are so long in Alaska during the summer.

Cruising Tracy ArmCruising Tracy Arm

I was delighted to sail up Tracy Arm and see the gorgeous blue silt laden waters, tree covered mountains and low hanging clouds. Later in the day I cursed the clouds because they were thick, low and blocked a lot of the light I had hoped for to photograph my journey. Those clouds also made it feel cooler than it actually was but in a polar fleece jacket I felt warm enough. It was July and I could still see snow up high.

Views of Tracy ArmViews of Tracy Arm

Looking at this image I can almost feel the cool, fresh air on my skin. I saw several seals on the ice, this image shows one on top of the white speck in the water, I wish I had been closer to get a clear shot of the seal but I know it was there! The clouds hung over the mountains and I could barely make out some of the hanging glaciers.  It would be lovely to get back there on a sunnier day.

A waterfall and water colored by glacial siltA waterfall and water colored by glacial silt

There were waterfalls everywhere and there were trees and shrubs sprouting out of what appeared to be solid rock.  The water really was this vividly colored from the glacial milk (silt) that flows into it from the waterfalls and glaciers.

Denali National Park - Polychrome PassDenali National Park – Polychrome Pass

I also visited Denali National Park and traveled by bus as far as the Toklat River and on the way there I was able to photograph this view from Polychrome Pass while a storm was clearing over the distant mountains. The rock (larger than it appears to be in this image) is a glacial erratic meaning it was carried there by a glacier and it may have originally been from an areas many, many miles away.

After leaving Anchorage by plane I was flying over Oklahoma and there was turbulent weather below and we were advised to keep our seatbelts on. I looked out the window to the storm underneath the plane and thought “That is the darkest, meanest looking storm I think I have ever seen”.

Then I realized that it was night time of course it would be dark! I had forgotten what that looked like during my time in Alaska.

Yes, I felt silly. But I can laugh at myself.

For those of you in hot climates I hope these images helped you feel a little cooler if only for a moment or two. It worked for me.


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American Kestrel lift off

Male American Kestrel lift offMale American Kestrel lift off – Nikon D200, f7.1, 1/1250, ISO 320, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 328mm, natural light, not baited

American Kestrels are a challenge to photograph when they are in flight or lifting off because they move so quickly and in low light it can be even harder. This male kestrel had been perched on a pole at Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area when I noticed that it was about to lift off so I was ready when it did. Even though the light was low due to fog I was able to obtain enough shutter speed to capture the moment just before his feet left the pole.

I would have preferred a blue sky background with a few fluffy clouds but photographing in low light conditions does test my skills and abilities and I enjoy that.


This image was taken in 2010.

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Move a little – Red-breasted Merganser

Resting Red-breasted MerganserResting Red-breasted Merganser – Nikon D200, handheld, f7.1, 1/320, ISO 200, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 400mm

Moving; even just a little bit, can change the background of an image even when the subject is stationary. One May morning I spotted a Red-breasted Merganser resting on the shore of the Gulf of Mexico at Fort De Soto, Florida and I knew I had to photograph it. The merganser wasn’t bothered when I slowly belly crawled up to it in the wet sand but after taking quite a few images of the merganser I wanted something different in the background besides the incoming waves. This image was taken looking due west.

Red-breasted Merganser taking a rest on the Gulf shoreRed-breasted Merganser taking a rest on the Gulf shore - Nikon D200, handheld, f8, 1/500, ISO 200, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 370mm

So I belly crawled into a slightly different location where I could view the bird looking southwest and started photographing the Red-breasted Merganser again. Completely different background and completely different look.

I learned if I didn’t like the background or wanted a different look I could just move a little.


Another post about this same Red-breasted Merganser is here. See how the background changed because of the waves?

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