You know it’s winter when you see a bird sighting report of 4 Greater White-fronted Geese spending time in a corn stubble field and a dark morph Rough-legged Hawk soaring nearby or one of a Golden Eagle drifting by overhead accompanied by a couple of Common Ravens. These may have been Pennsylvania and Massachusetts reports respectively, but they could have been reports from many other places in the eastern U.S. You also know it’s winter—but also a sign of spring and new life—when you see a report of nesting Great Horned Owls. “GHOs” begin to nest as early as December in some southern states.
Get Out There
In “A Few Photo-Worthy Moments,” I encouraged you to get out there with your camera whether or not conditions were favorable, or photo opportunities abounded. I ended it with these words: “Bring the camera. Shoot even if you’re facing the sun, or it’s mid-afternoon on a cold winter day, or it’s cold and gray and the lighting stinks. Shoot on dreary mornings when rain is predicted, or when you’re deep in the woods, or there’s nothing around but a Great Blue Heron and some juncos. Shoot even if you have to shoot through brush or other obstacles, or you have to blow out part of the background to expose for the subject.” I then promised that in the next blog we’d take a look at some of those scenarios. So, let’s do it.
Shooting Through Brush
Conditions weren’t favorable when I took this photo through brush in October.
And they weren’t favorable when I took this shot through even heavier brush in November. I was also deep in the woods at the time. Shooting through brush or other things can either frame a subject or soften it, as it did with these. Photo opportunities abound even when you’re deep in the woods.
There Was Nothing Else Around
The Great Blue Heron is often a presence when there’s nothing else around. I’m thinking again, now, of winter. When my wife and I went for a walk on a chilly and gray afternoon in late December, this bird was one of the few we encountered. Conditions weren’t conducive to finding much of anything, but I brought the camera anyway. Here’s a close-up with the detail only a close-up can provide. We were just feet away, and there was nothing but air between the Great Blue and the glass.
Shortly after I photographed the big bird, I was able to capture this small flock right after takeoff. I’d already locked focus as they sat in the water. One of the secrets to capturing birds in flight like this is to do just that: stand ready and lock focus before they take flight.
Rain Was Predicted
I got up early one morning back in mid-October and headed to the park with my photo gear. It was dreary and rain was predicted. After I parked, I headed to the observation deck and waited. Fog had formed on the water, and I was enjoying both the view and the peace and quiet. All of a sudden, a small flock of Canada Geese that had been sitting on the water began to rouse up and to call. I knew they’d be airborne in no time, so I got ready. Here’s one of the results.
A Blown Background
Few aspects of a photo are more important than the background. But sometimes you have to blow out a bright background to capture a subject. I did that here. I was out on a small peninsula and had no way to dance around the teacup/get on the front lit side of the bird. I still like the image.
And This Just In
If you’d like to learn more about early signs of spring including nesting GHOs, check out this article from the Vineyard Gazette. It’s a quick but engaging read—and you’ll learn something about Martha’s Vineyard!
Here’s a great article about shooting through obstacles. It’s a thing! I love the opening line: “Photography is as much a study of the creative, as it is a study of the technical.”
“Glass” is photography jargon for “lens.” You probably knew that already.
All the photos here were taken in Pennsylvania state parks.
Quip, Question, Quote
“Wildlife photography is thrilling on many levels. Simply being near a wild animal and having it allow you into its world is a thrill unto itself. To see a magnificent creature up close and feel a connection is special indeed. Whether it be in the Serengeti, the western mountains, the midwestern plains, the Everglades or in your backyard, it’s all the same. When these encounters occur, it behooves you to be prepared to preserve the moment.” Russ Burden