Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 A Year in Pictures: Part 2

Rounding a bend in the lake shoreline in early June I was awestruck by the beautiful scene that unfolded as the early morning sun reflected in the still water.  Changing lenses I maneuvered the boat to capture the scene from a few different angles with this being my favorite.

Continuing to frequent the wetlands in July the ducks were becoming much more difficult to photograph with foliage increasing, water levels decreasing, and the ducks becoming more mature.  One evening while slogging through the marsh this bullfrog allowed me to get extremely close.  This shot was made using the 400mm lens with a 25mm extension tube attached to allow it to focus at such a short distance.

By July the Whitetail Fawns were becoming strong and traveling with their mothers.  Spending time with them was a real treat; watching them cavort about the meadow displaying their youthful vigor and their curiosity as they explored their new world. 

Little did we know that within a few weeks they would become  targets for a group of thrill killers who would kill most of the fawns along with a few adult deer.  The poachers were never apprehended even though one of the local Deputy Conservation Officers spent a considerable amount of time trying to do so.  Evidence given to our District Conservation Officer in Fulton County was never acted upon.

A wetlands visit in early July produced this stunning image of a Muskrat.  I had captured a good number of muskrat photos during my many wetland visits but most were dull and unimpressive.  When this muskrat swam across a small pond through a single shaft of sunlight shining through the surrounding foliage; the result was a Muskrat photograph that I can never hope to top.   

One July morning I was treated to a rare sighting of a Mink as it chased a cottontail rabbit.  The rabbit had ran down the farm lane and made a soaring 90 degree leap into the high grass.  A moment later the mink followed hot on its trail; pausing momentarily at the point where the rabbit changed direction.  Just enough time for a couple of quick shots.

As the sultry days of August arrived the Whitetails were sporting their red coats of summer and the buck's antlers were becoming well developed.  I caught this buck along the lakeside one morning while fishing for bluegills.

By mid August holes were beginning to appear in the Whitetail's summer coats allowing some of the newly forming winter hair to show through.  This two year old buck would stick around until the early stages of the rut and then dispersed to a new home range never to return.

Early September provided me with a touching moment as a young fawn checked out a visiting buck.   

Late September found me once again visiting the Pennsylvania Elk Range.  The rut was on but the weather was for the most part uncooperative with dull dreary skies during most of my visit.  Although I encountered a good number of bulls the poor lighting conditions did not allow for stunning photographs.

Any disappointments I had with the excursion quickly evaporated on the last evening when shortly after sundown the sky turned a fiery red.  As I was in close proximity of an Elk herd containing a number of bulls I quickly moved into a position from which I was able to silhouette the bulls against the awesome sky.

This year we were blessed with the most abundant mast crop that I have seen in many years.  Although it was a blessing for the wildlife it proved to be a problem for a whitetail photographer as the deer spent their time feeding and rutting in the woodland instead of visiting the fields and meadows as in most years.

To help pass the time while watching for rutting bucks I turned to photographing the birds that were visiting the feeders.  This little Chickadee posed beautifully making that evenings shoot worthwhile even though no bucks showed.

As with our local deer herd; the Whitetails in Shenandoah National Park were also more difficult to photograph because of the abundant mast crop.  I did manage to photograph a few different bucks with this being my favorite image from the autumn's Whitetail rut.

Definitely one of my favorite shots of the year came in late November while shooting at our naturalized feeders. The lighting and background were perfect when this Gray Squirrel posed for my camera.

While Blue Jays are certainly not uncommon at our feeders, they are somewhat warier than the other species who frequent them.  By placing a Outhouse blind very near the feeders in December I was able to get close enough to capture this pleasing image of a Blue Jay with its head rotated 180 degrees. 

 If there is one thing I have learned this year it is to get close to your subject.  No lens, no amount of telephoto will ever make as great of a difference in the final image as will getting as close to the subject as is possible.  When you think you are close enough, get closer.  It takes a lot more work when dealing with wildlife but the results are worth the effort!

This concludes my series; 2010 A Year in Pictures. I am working on processing the photographs I captured on my recent Florida visit and will be publishing them in upcoming posts.

Thank you all for visiting Country Captures and thank you all very much for the nice comments and encouragement during the past year.  Happy New Year to all of you and may your 2011 be an exciting and rewarding year.

Full Cards,

Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 A Year in Pictures

As 2010 winds down it's a good time to look back at some of my best images from the year.

Mid January ushered in a warm spell that brought this chipmunk out of hibernation.  It used the nice weather as an opportunity to raid the natural bird feeders refilling its underground larder.  With cheeks stuffed this little guy has a lot of "cute" appeal; enough so to get him published in the 2011 Pennsylvania Game Commission Calender.

February gave me incredible images of my first close-up observation of an all-out Wild Turkey fight.  The Gobblers were so engrossed in fighting that they totally ignored Willard & me as I shot hundreds of still images and he kept the video rolling.

A trip to Conowingo gave me this close-up Bald Eagle shot.  The number of Eagles had declined dramatically by the time of our visit but the close-up encounter still made for a memorable day.

Visiting Middle Creek during March Willard & I just missed the major migration of Snow Geese.  With only an estimated 10,000 hanging around that day we had plenty of subjects for our photographic pleasure.

A March visit to Elk County allowed me to visit with Kisser for the last time.  I had grown fond of this gentle bull having photographed him over a number of years.  One of my 2008 images of him and a small cow was published in the 2010 PGC calendar.  Sadly I did not encounter him during the 2010 rut; he was killed during this years elk season.

March also ushered in the spring waterfowl migration.  Using an electric powered boat allows me to get some good images of waterfowl at this time of year.  This pair of Hooded Mergansers is one of my favorite images from the spring migration.

With the warmer days of April the Wild Turkeys begin their spring mating ritual.  Being at the right place at the right time can yield incredible images of these majestic birds.

A migratory flock of Bonaparte's Gulls passed through my area in early April.  These birds are incredibly trusting allowing me to drive the boat up to within a few feet of them.  This reflection shot of the gull with wings lifted is my favorite from the mornings encounter

The same day, shortly after shooting the gulls, I noticed something swimming in the lake.  Approaching closer with the boat I could see it was an Otter!  My very first sighting of a Otter in the wild!  This image also was published in the PGC's 2011 calendar.

May blanketed the area in fresh green foliage and I began spending evenings at a local wetland.  Wood Ducks, Mallards, Hooded Mergansers, and Canada Geese were nesting there.  This colorful Wood Duck male swooped in low giving me a wonderful passing shot.

And a Wood Duck hen with her tiny ducklings swam past my hide as she eyed me intently trying to determine if I were a danger.

Passing close by this young Wood Duck reflected beautifully in the placid water of the wetland.   These ducks are very wary and I was using the best camo I had and they were still picking me out allowing only a few shots at best before they disappeared.

2010 A Year in Pictures will continue with my next post.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Great Egret

Staying with our son & daughter-in-law in Saint Cloud, Florida I was eager to head down Canoe Creek Road looking for wildlife.  As dawn broke Friday morning Chad & I headed in the direction of Joe Overstreet Landing ready for some quality guy time.  We had barely passed the city limits when I had to slow the car for a herd of deer that was undecided about crossing the roadway.

Before reaching our destination I spotted a flock of Wood Storks feeding in a small roadside wetland.  Swinging the car around we grabbed the camera gear and ambled into position.  Our arrival coincided with that of a Great Egret.

The gimbal tripod head allowed me to follow the bird as it came in for a landing

I liked this shot best as the egret flared its wings in preparation for landing.  The composition doesn't suit me but action shooting doesn't always work out a well as hoped for.  These photos were shot very early, the sun was just hitting the tree tops giving the images a very warm glow.

The little wetland had much more to offer than I suspected.  I'll be sharing more in the coming days. 

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Return from Florida

I just got in from spending Christmas in Florida.  After logging 2300 miles of driving, lots of eating, and enjoying getting together with family that we hadn't seen in nearly two years my behind is dragging.

I was able to shoehorn in a few hours of wildlife photography and as always Florida came through with some good encounters.  It will take some time to cull the images and then lots more to process the keepers so I just took a quick peek at a few this evening to find an image to share. 

Elaine over at Artic View loves the Sandhill Cranes that visit her area around Fairbanks Alaska so Elaine; this shot's for you!

Sunday, December 26, 2010


Frequently seen during the summer and early fall this young buck disappeared during the rut.  Upon his return a few days ago it was quite evident that the rut had left him with a nasty injury.

As you can see his right antler points unnaturally forward, the result of his antler pedicel having been broken where it intersects with his skull.  An abscess which formed at the injury site opened near his eye causing the hair loss above his right eye.  He seems to be doing well and although one would think this would be quite painful I did observe him gently sparring with another young buck a couple of days before I captured these photos.

It will be interesting to see if the pedicel will straighten after shedding or of it will reattach to the skull in this awkward position.  I hope he makes it through the upcoming archery/flintlock seasons and continues to stick around.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Merry Christmas to All

Tis the Season of cold nights and bright lights.  I was asked to photograph this scene as part of a photography project I am working on.  The Christmas display is so ho-hum as one passes the plant in daylight but at night with a dusting of snow it comes alive. 

This will be my last post before Christmas so allow me to take this opportunity to wish everyone of you my faithful viewers a very very Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Surprise Visitor & An Unwanted Surprise

A call from my wife Saturday evening alerted me to a surprise visitor to our lawn.  Grabbing the camera & tripod I set about trying to capture some close-up images without becoming perfumed.

Skunks seldom if ever spray unless they feel seriously threatened.  Moving in close I was more concerned with the little critter fleeing than I was of his double barrel. 

The skunk surprise was a good surprise but Saturday's other surprise was much less welcome, my computer crashed.  I'm still working on getting back up & running with a new machine so my post will less frequent as I get used to the new machine and Photoshop CS5.  I expect to be back to posting regularly in a week or so.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Canon EF 300mm f2.8L IS USM

While setting up the pop-up blind close to the bird feeders this afternoon Willard added a new twist to the day's shoot by offering me the use of his new Canon EF 300mm f2.8L IS USM with 1.4x extender.  I was quick to accept his offer.  With his lens locked onto my camera I settled in and soon the feeders were swarming with birds filling up for the long cold night ahead. 

I have been shooting this location quite a bit lately with my Canon 30D and the Canon 100-400mm.  The images captured today would allow a good comparison between the two lenses.

The images displayed on this post were all shot at ISO 200 F5.0.  Shutter speed from 1/60th to 1/200th according to lighting conditions.

My first impression of this lens drawn from this afternoon shoot and the review of the images captured is WOW!  The incredible detail & sharpness will probably keep me up at nights trying to figure out how in the world I can squeeze one into the family budget and still have a family :)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Blue Jay: Rapid Fire

As noted in the previous post I usually shoot high-speed continuous when photographing wildlife.  Poses and expressions change far to quickly for me to successfully capture just the right moment otherwise; thank God for digital!

In this series a Blue Jay landed between the natural feeders striking different poses as it checked me out trying to decide if it was safe to put its head into the woodpecker hole to retrieve some food.

This particular perch is a favorite of mine because of the beautiful brown tones imparted by the dead poke and the more muted browns and grays found on the tree parts.  Heavily clouded skies provided very even lighting for this series. 

I'm happy with all of these images so please tell me which raucous Blue Jay shot you like most.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Feeder Action Shots

Bird action at the feeders is often frantic as most of you visiting here know so well.  Trying to catch birds in good portrait poses requires patience along with shooting many many frames, I usually shoot burst with the camera set on high-speed continuous which sometimes results in catching birds as they begin flight.  Here a Black-eyed Junco lifts one foot as it begins to take flight. 

One Tufted Titmouse peers intently at the feeders as another seems to fall off its perch.

Without so much as lifting its wings a Junco hops across the top of an upright snag.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Seasons End 2010

With the weather report calling for cold & calm Saturday my fishing buddy and I decided to make our last foray for Chesapeake Bay stripers.  Arriving at the marina, the frosty air and the snow lying in the boat made us wonder about our sanity but two other boats were in line ahead of us to launch so at least we knew we were not the only nut cases heading out.

Water temps had dropped to between 39 & 43 degrees giving the striped bass a good case of lock-jaw.  Trolling from 7:30 am to 3pm produced only one strike, a fat 20"er to end the season with.

The high point of the day occurred when I noticed two birds circling and diving quite a distance away.  Since surfacing bait fish draws birds, gulls, terns, and gannets; diving birds frequently lead the way to great fishing action.  With anticipation I headed the boat towards the action and began scanning the birds through binoculars.  I was very surprised to see that the two birds were mature Bald Eagles!  Soon the eagles were joined by a few gannets and although the gannets circled they did not dive as the eagles.  As we neared the location we began noticing a disturbance in the water preceding each eagle dive but each time the eagles would come up with empty talons.

Upon our arrival at the location the eagles flew away and I watched the sonar intently looking for the school of fish I was expecting to see but the water was empty.  My puzzlement continued until a lone coot popped up beside the boat.  There was no doubt as to what we had just observed.  The eagles had been attempting to catch the coot which was evading each of their attacks by diving.  The eagles were circling about waiting for the coot to come up for air and each time it did they were launching their attacks. 

I suppose our arrival was welcomed by the coot, possibly savings its life but leaving the eagles hungry and having to look elsewhere for a meal.  I wish I could have photographed the eagles, but I was only carrying a little P&S camera, not wishing to subject the DSLR to the rigors of salt spray.

The day wrapped up my fishing for this season and the eagles gave me a great memory to take with me into the long winter months.

Friday, December 10, 2010

First Snow at the Feeder

 The seasons first accumulating snow passed through our area late this morning leaving slippery roads in its wake.  It wasn't much of a snow, maybe one-half inch at best but it sure did make travel treacherous for a little while.  While vehicle travel was impeded on the roadways, bird traffic really picked up at our feeders.

I took the opportunity to once again set up the pop-up blind near the feeders in my continuing quest for close-up bird shots.  A Dark-eyed Junco posed momentarily on a log no more than 10 feet from the front of the lens.
A White-throated Sparrow dutifully waits its turn at the hollow log feeder as chickadees, tufted titmice, white-breasted nuthatches and cardinals swarm about.

The blind is allowing me to get closer to the birds than was possible from an exposed position.  The birds certainly know that I am there as they watch me swing the camera and frequently make eye contact.  I believe that their greater level of trust is because with the blind enclosing me they perceive me as being restrained and less threatening.  I am enjoying shooting at the closer distances giving me an added level of sharpness and image detail not to mention the added protection from the winter winds.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Mourning Dove Closeup and More

Another close up image from my feeder session using the pop-up blind came when a Mourning Dove lit on a nearby log.  Doves are ground feeders and will not perch on our naturalized feeders; perferring to forage on the seed that other birds have scattered on the ground.  Other species like the fox and white-throat sparrows share the doves preference for ground feeding making it more difficult to photograph them well as compared to the perching birds.

Birds are not the only critters to visit the feeders as can be seen here with one eye looking out of woodpecker hole.   

 To my knowledge the Pileated Woodpeckers are the only woodpecker species in our area who chisel rectangular holes. 

Monday, December 06, 2010

Northern Yellow-shafted Flicker

A pair of Northern Yellow-shafted Flickers were surprise visitors to the bird feeding area.  As these birds feed primarily on insect they are not attracted to our offering of various seeds. 

While waiting in the pop-up blind I described in the previous post the female flicker dropped in to perch momentarily on the broken poke stalks. 

A moment later she hopped onto a branch and began watching the standing tree beside her perch.

As she continued watching I noticed the male scaling the standing tree searching for a meal.  The male was partially concealed by branches and never gave me an opportunity for a good photograph.

In less than two minutes the encounter was over as the pair flew away but in that short time I had captured eighteen images; three of which you see here.