Monday, December 31, 2012

Year End

Looking backward or looking forward?  I am looking forward to 2013 with lots of plans and ideas.  I'll be concentrating on wildlife, big and small, video this year.  The Canon 7D is a great wildlife video camera so I'll be working it hard.  This is a shot I look at with new meaning each time I see it.  Is man encroaching on habitat? Yes.  Is wildlife thriving in the 21st century? Yes.  Overall there are more animals now than 50 years ago, think about the numbers of wolves, eagles, swans, bears, and deer.  Of course there are some lows but I am optimistic we have the ability to preserve nature for the future generations.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Winter Color

New images have been scarce recently with all the holiday travel.  The fresh snow yesterday was perfect for cross country skiing and photography but the former took priority.  While skiing, without a camera, we saw a doe surrounded by snow covered branches, a memory to cherish.  This purple coneflower was shot a few years ago after sunset.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Tracking Season

Stories made by tracks in the snow are fascinating.  This is one of the more unusual tracks which is a typical otter track.  Step, step, glide and repeat.  I wonder if the inventor of the skate board used the otter for his creation.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

A white Christmas!  Southern Minnesota does not always have snow and it's a treat this year, even enough for a little skiing.

Enjoy your day!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Hairy Woodpecker

Continuing my musings of similar woodpeckers, this shows the large beak in comparison to the downy's beak.  Technical: To clone out branches or leave them?   I cloned out a distracting branch coming in from the upper left.  I rarely modify an image with the clone tool but I decided to use it in this simple record shot.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Downy at the Feeder

I always have trouble determining whether I'm watching a downy or hairy woodpecker at the feeders.  If you are in the same quandary here are a couple hints learned during my most recent review of Sibley.  Downies are smaller (Diminutive). Downies have a small (Diminutive) beak compared to their head.  Downies Devour feeders.  They are very common at most feeders.  Hairy woodpeckers on the other hand are larger, have a large beak relative to their head size and are less common at feeders.  If you see a diminutive woodpecker with a diminutive beak devouring the feed it is probably a downy woodpecker.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Boreal Chickadee #2

Portraits are among my least favorite bird images.  Usually a portrait is a "bird on a stick" or butt shot. This portrait tells a story, at least to me, of a winter bird and the head position gives the impression of looking up and around as they are constantly doing.  Technical: 500 mm lens with 25 mm extender, slight cropping.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Boreal Chickadee

A trip to Sax Zim Bog yesterday was rewarding but frustrating.  The boreal chickadees, which are one of the areas signature birds, were active but getting footage was frustrating.  I finally went for the easy shot of one feeding on peanut butter. Technical data: shot at 60 frames per second, converted to 30 frames per second, therefore motion is 1/2 speed.

Sunday, December 16, 2012


The stare is almost frightening.  The reality is this coyote is hunting and intently listening for a vole under the snow as we stand on the road above it.  It is interesting to compare the relative size of the ears with the wolf image from a couple days ago.  This coyote ate 6 voles in the hour we were watching, all caught after hearing the voles move under the snow.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Big Feet

This young wolf is waiting for a pack mate to finish chewing on a sheep skin from a recent kill. The size of its feet and ears are two features I really notice in this image.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Getting a Drink

As this wolf is nonchalantly getting a drink there are two frantic, hyper-excited photographers jockeying to position their tripods in the back of a short bed pickup, with a gear box taking a third of its floor, parked precariously on the edge of the road facing oncoming traffic.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Canyon Pack Alphas

Most of you have heard about the recent shooting of a popular wolf after it roamed out of  Yellowstone.  I love wolves but am a hunter at heart.  There are no easy answers and each person will reach his own conclusion.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Next Generation

Continuing the Yellowstone theme despite the great opportunities in the snow yesterday. This youngster was curious and frequently feeding almost at my feet.  Most of the  herd was feeding for winter while the ram was burning energy chasing unwilling ewes.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

On the Move

Antelope were migrating to the Gardiner area during my recent visit to Yellowstone.  
A study of color and motion @ 1/20th second.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

After Dark

For the photographer: 13 seconds @ ISO 3200
For the naturalist: Life goes on when we are back home, tucked in bed.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Moonrise over Mount Norris

I'm currently going through wildlife images from last week's trip to Yellowstone.  While those images are "simmering" as part of the editing process.  I'll share a couple landscape images.  Moonrise over the mountains was an hour after sunset, just enough time for a couple blue sky shots.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Montana Backroads

It's time to take a break from sheep and share other Montana images.  We are heading back to Minnesota tomorrow with more images than I could have ever imagined.  John Pennoyer and I have spent the last five days in a photographer's dreamworld.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Lip Curling

Another name for this behavior is flemen.  Think of it as savoring a fine wine except in this case it's ewe urine.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Say Cheese

Ruminants chewing can produce some interesting facial expressions.  This ram posed for about half an hour before we left it and climbed the hillside looking for another subject.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Big Sky Country

The big horn sheep are very busy at keeping the species going, more images later.  This resting ram was soaking up the sun and enjoying the view.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Big Horn Quest

I'm on my way to Yellowstone to watch big horn sheep and perhaps get some good head banging shots.  We were there the third week in November during 2011 which was too early for serious competition.

Sunday, November 25, 2012


One squirrel had intruded on another's territory causing a serious but brief dispute(1/1500 second capture). This fall squirrels have been my photo passion.  In the process I learned each species has its personality.  The regal fox squirrels watch from above, gray squirrels are shy and retiring, red squirrels have a nervous energetic disposition.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Otter activity

Last week a pair of otters were feeding and limited in their mobility by the newly formed ice allowing for some observation time and an couple images.  Captured on North Fork Flowage.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

MIgrating Waterfowl

I explored the Mississippi R. between Nelson and Trempeleau NWR yesterday looking for tundra swans, trying to recapture intimate images like the last time I was there in 2006.  There were a few shy swans on Riecks Lake but the dredging has moved them some distance from the viewing platform.  Trempeleau has birds but all at an extreme distance.  It was a good birding trip with a couple images as a bonus.

Friday, November 16, 2012

November Color

Back to color images since they are a rare find in November.  Blue skies days mean cold temperatures and increased feeding activity.  Everyone is eating, eating, eating.  A muskrat consented to being photographed by an admiring photographer yesterday.

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Each August I start anticipating the arrival of the sandhills.  In early September patrolling of the flowages to see the arrival of the first birds begins.  In October the sunrises and fly ins at dusk cannot be missed.  November is my crane photography month, the crowds are back home, and cold mornings cause the birds to linger.  Ice brings them closer to the road and the light is warm until mid-morning.  At some point each year crane saturation occurs.  I've seen another migration, life is good.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


I like the balance produced by the upper left goose.  Waiting for beaks to get in alignment required some patience.  Nature photography is about patience.  We are always waiting for the wind to stop, waiting for the clouds to move, waiting for sunrise, waiting for the heads to turn; the list goes on and on.  Patience, patience, patience.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Flight in B & W

One of the goals I have is taking shots that I have not seen before.  This can be frustrating at times with common subjects.  Canada geese are everywhere and to tell the truth I don't find them visually interesting.  Nonetheless, if it is in the viewfinder I'll shoot it.

Monday, November 12, 2012

On the Move

The air yesterday afternoon was filled with the whistling of tundra swans riding the northwest wind to warmer climes.  A couple hundred rested on Dueholm Flowage then moved on.  I can understand their short stay with an 18 degree temp this morning.  Photographed at Reicks Lake, WI, several years ago.

Friday, November 9, 2012

What happened?

A couple of slow days after a good start to the week.  The wind shifted to the south and east, now everybody is feeling good with the squirrels doing a lot less feeding.  Lots of deer on the move this morning but they saw me first.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Gray Squirrel Portrait

This guy was surprised when I moved as he was heading to a walnut tree.  He scurried to safety, checked me over, then came down, and continued on his way.  He seems to be looking at me intently.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Lift Off

I wish I could sat this was a snapshot but it took a few tries.  With the first sun in a few days I went to the park looking for squirrels.  This red squirrel was gathering walnuts and taking a log between trees. Autofocus was too slow so manual focus on the log edge was used.  ISO 1600 got the shutter speed to 1/1500, f 4.5.  About 3 feet before reaching the predetermined field of view I started pressing the shutter, occasionally he was in the frame.  The shutter speed is too slow to freeze the action, hence the soft head.  I'm looking into something called "pixel pitch"  which may explain some of the softness.  On the other hand these guys can fly.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Flying High

Tomorrow at this time this will be the mood of a lot of people.  Photography and politics have a some things in common.  If you concentrate on the process both are very interesting.  If you worry about the outcome, each can be equally frustrating.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Stepping softly

It's all about light! November is usually the month of subtle color and flat light.  Let's hope for some days of sunshine before the cranes head out.  Image taken from the truck window using a bean bag for support.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Taking a Bath

I have been watching cranes at Crex for years but have never seen this behavior.  Several cranes were bathing before and after these scenes were recorded on Grettum Flowage.  I could have titled this "Crane Gymnastics"

Saturday, November 3, 2012

After Sunset

The full moon was reflecting off the water creating a spot of light to work with well after sunset.  Recorded using the 500 mm lens.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Hanging Out

Most of the time geese are non stop feeding or hanging out in town avoiding hunters.  This is a scene from Grettum Flowage earlier this week, just as safe for them but more photogenic for me.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Warming Up

As the sun rises so does the energy level.  Isn't that true for everyone?  There was no rush to leave with the temperature well below freezing on this clear morning.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Chilly Cranes

These Sandhills were warming up this morning in the clear, calm, 12 degree air.  After sunrise they began stretching and later headed out to feed.  Photo gear was stretched to its technical limit shooting at ISO 1600, 1/90 sec. with the 500 mm on a car braced tripod.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Full Moon at Crex

There was a tremendous full moonrise last night but the cranes were scarce.  Either there are fewer cranes this year or they are more scattered.   Most of the cranes seem to be on the north end of the Refuge.  It will take a few more mornings to get a better impression of the 2012 crane season.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Time Flies

I taught a class on Saturday and afterward it was time for reflection.  The class is a basic DSLR class which has been given at least a dozen times.  Of all the classes I have given since 2006, this is my favorite.  Many classes are a struggle with the students never really grasping the joy of using their camera.  This class is different, each time there is a "lightbulb" moment for at least one of the students which makes it all worthwhile.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Lonesome Deer

This young deer walked about a hundred yards out of thick cover to check me out.  It eventually was about 15 feet from me, so close I could hear it chewing.  This is not typical behavior although they do have an intense curiosity.  A great experience and a couple good shots before it got inside the lens' minimum focusing distance.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

In the Rough

Yesterday I helped judge a photo contest in New Hope.  It was great to see photos representing enthusiasm for the outdoors.  Most images were from photographers in the rough, technically speaking.  It would be easy to criticize their attempts if not for remembering when I started with a Kodak Instamatic and my feeble attempts to record what I was seeing.  Some days I feel the same frustration I did back then.  Check out the work of these enthusiastic photographers at: 

New Hope Photo Contest

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Bluff

This was one of many moments during the morning that will long be remembered.  Each time a bird would get too close to the feeding bird it would defend its territory.  Occasionally they would just face off for awhile and separate without doing battle.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Wilson's Snipe

Who is Wilson you might ask.  Alexander Wilson was a birder in the late 1700's prior to Audubon whose name is associated with several shorebird species.  A large flock of snipe is hanging around Crex.  Technical info: about 1/500 and +1 compensation to show full wing detail because of the bright water, moderate cropping.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Last Color

I was hiking along Knife River yesterday and came across the last color of the season.  The ground leaves had already faded leaving this bush with the only color to be found.  The photo doesn't relay the noise from the overhead traffic on the Highway 61 Expressway bridge.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


This view off Stoney Point created a dilemma.  The extreme contrast just does not translate to the screen although I could easily see the colors.  HDR seemed unnatural when put together.  A split density filter could have worked if I had thought of it.  My solution was shooting for the highlights and using ND filters in Lightroom at both the top and bottom to bring the contrast into acceptable range.  About 2 stops were reduced from the top and 2 stops added to the bottom.  A long explanation for a process that took less time than this typing.

Friday, October 19, 2012

On the Move

We are passing through Crex Meadows today on our way to Duluth so had to check out the cranes.  The crane viewing and photography is the best in years with birds being close to the dikes in multiple locations.  The light and drizzle this morning were not the best for photos but the rain is much needed.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Fox Squirrel

The largest of the squirrels and much more tolerant than gray squirrels these guys like to sit and watch you.  In contrast grays quickly run up and hide behind trees, eventually peaking at you.   This is low light photography with ISO 1600, 1/20 second at f4.5.