Birds, Beasts and Bits About Me – My 500th Blog Post

Wow, this is my 500th blog post and it has been great fun to share my images and the stories behind them. I thought I’d share a few images and bits about my thoughts on photography.

Adult Dunlin feedingAdult Dunlin feeding – Nikon D200, handheld, f7.1, ISO 200, 1/250, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 400mm, natural light

What got me hooked on bird photography?

I would say shorebirds are why I am addicted to bird photography because they fascinated me and photographing them allowed me to crawl through mud, sand and water.

When I first started photographing shorebirds I could walk around covered in mud with my camera in my hand people just ignored me or would say “Wow, that camera must take good pictures”. Maybe they were too polite to mention that I had sand all over my face, muddy legs or a combination thereof.

Sanderling in nonbreeding plumageSanderling in nonbreeding plumage – Nikon D200, handheld, f6.3, 1/1000, ISO 200, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 400mm, natural light

I simply loved being out in nature, the feel of the sea breeze on my skin, having warm water lapping against my legs and the birds that I saw everywhere around me. I learned that if I sat or laid very still the birds would approach me and allow close ups like the Sanderling image above. Even when there were no birds around I could wade into the water fully clothed and just make it “look” like I was searching for birds while cooling off and giggling because I was in the water with all my clothes on and I didn’t care one bit.

While slithering around in mud and sand crawling through sugar sand I had many wonderful opportunities to meet and makes friends with a lot of like-minded people who love nature. I figured if they crawled around in the mud with me and didn’t mind that I smelled like a combination of fish and crab poop they had to be great people.

I learned a lot about shorebird ID, which were peeps, plovers and sandpipers and then figured out the rest. Breeding and nonbreeding plumage puzzled me for a bit but with experience, people who let me pick their brains and field guides I’ve become proficient at figuring out shorebird ID.

Roseate Spoonbill in morning lightRoseate Spoonbill in morning light – Nikon D200, handheld, f6.3, 1/750, ISO 250, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 400mm, natural light

Then there were the larger wading birds, some with razor-sharp bills, some that curved downwards, looked like wood and spoons! I got addicted to photographing them too.

I learned not to over saturate the colors of my subjects in post processing so that they looked like what I saw through my viewfinder.  The Roseate Spoonbill above is colorful enough without pushing that saturation slider up.

Why do I always mention “natural light” in my techs under the images I post?

My answer to that is that nature provides terrific light and I don’t like using flash on birds or other wildlife. I just prefer natural light over artificial.

Dancing white morph Reddish EgretDancing white morph Reddish Egret – Nikon D200, handheld, f6.3, 1/1250, ISO 250, Nikkor 70-300mm VR at 250mm, natural light

I studied the behavior of my subjects so I could tell when they were about to take flight, bathe, catch prey or dance like the white morph Reddish Egret above. The egret isn’t truly dancing, it is actively chasing after prey.

By observing my subjects I have gotten great action images that I might have missed if I hadn’t been able to anticipate their next move.

Little Blue Heron with a PipefishLittle Blue Heron with a Bay Pipefish – Nikon D200, handheld, f6.3, 1/800, ISO 160, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 400mm, natural light

I found out that going out to photograph with other people was very enjoyable and that knowledge about techniques could flow easily back and forth. I photographed the Little Blue Heron with a Bay Pipefish above with two photographer friends and we all walked away with images that we were very happy with.

I worked on my stalking skills and patience so I could get closer to my subjects without stressing them or making them flush. Of course; some still flush & fly.

Laughing Gull in breeding plumage at a water fountainLaughing Gull in breeding plumage at a water fountain – Nikon D200, handheld, f6.3, 1/1000, ISO 250, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 400mm, natural light

I feel that all birds are worthy subjects and that even the most common birds can be uncommonly beautiful in the right light, pose or setting. Normally I prefer natural settings and perches but I also enjoy images that have manmade items in them. I think the water fountain as a perch for this Laughing Gull adds a touch of whimsy.

Male Northern Harrier in flightMale Northern Harrier in flight – Nikon D200, f7.1, 1/2000, ISO 320, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

Paying attention to how close the background material is to the subject is important. If the dried Phragmites behind this male Northern Harrier had been any closer to the bird the background may have looked very messy but because of the distance from the harrier to the vegetation plus my choice of aperture and the bokeh of the lens created a background that doesn’t draw attention away from the subject.

Loggerhead Shrike perched on SagebrushLoggerhead Shrike perched on Sagebrush – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/640, +0.7 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

I selected the colors for this blog and my web site using the hues of greens from Sagebrush, a shrub that is found in many areas of my adopted state of Utah. I find the gray greens soothing and I have to admit I find the aroma of Sagebrush very appealing. Besides, Sagebrush makes a great perch for many of my subjects.

Pronghorn does on a hilltop at sunsetPronghorn does on a hilltop at sunset – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/3200, ISO 1000, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

Even though birds are my primary passion for photographic subjects I can’t resist taking images of other subjects like the Pronghorn does above. If there aren’t birds around I will take images of flowers, scenery, mammals, insects and more.

The Wedge in the San Rafael Swell, UtahThe Wedge in the San Rafael Swell, Utah – Nikon D200, handheld, f9, 1/2000, ISO 400, -0.3 EV, Nikkor 18-200mm VR at 18mm, natural light

I see spectacular views, sun rises and sunsets because of my photographic journeys, some time the views take my breath away. Looking down into the Little Grand Canyon from The Wedge certainly did.

Coyote eating Falcon leftovers Coyote eating Falcon leftovers – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/640, ISO 800, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 314mm, natural light, not baited or called in

There are times when paying attention to one species gives clues about another. I’d seen Peregrine Falcons feeding on ducks on the shoreline of the Great Salt Lake and later saw a Coyote feeding on the falcon’s leftovers, now I know why the Coyotes were along the causeway the year before which had puzzled me. I love the piled up sheets of ice in the background of this image.

Adult Bald Eagle in flightAdult Bald Eagle in flight – Nikon D200, f6.3, 1/2500, ISO 400, +0.7 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

Patience is needed for bird photography, waiting for a bird to fly, waiting for the right banking turn to light the whole bird up and sometimes just waiting for birds to show up.

Perched adult western Burrowing OwlPerched adult western Burrowing Owl – Nikon D200, f6.3, 1/400, ISO 200, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

Because of my bird and nature photography I have met the most interesting people in person and have become friends with many of you through this blog or yours and I appreciate you all. Life is good.

500 posts. Wow.

Mia

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