The American Elk

•October 28, 2016 • 1 Comment
Bugle Boy

Bugle Boy – A bull elk bugles his readiness to mate and his frustration that the cows seem to be ignoring him

I have the good fortune to live in a location where elk herds roam. I have been able to watch them and photograph them in the nearby ranches in Silverthorne, Colorado. I can watch them from my balcony on the distant meadows of Ruby Ranch.  I have also photographed them in Rocky Mountain National Park (only 2 hours away), Yellowstone National Park, and in Jasper/Banff National Parks in Canada.

I am fascinated by these majestic, elegant, very large, captivating mammals. I  stay a respectful distance and photograph them with zoom lenses. They can be dangerous.  A frenzied cow elk thought that we were too close to her baby (we did not see the newborn calf in the grass, practically on the trail). Mother elk chased us around the RV park until we lost her behind an RV. I would not want to encounter a bull elk with massive antlers in the heat of the rut. Photographing from a vehicle is a safe strategy and one that I use frequently. However, occasionally, there are opportunities when one can photograph in the field at a safe distance.

Wapiti Watering Hole

Wapiti Watering Hole

Here I was photographing from across a pond, almost at eye level with this 6×6 antler bull elk. A safe place to shoot from.

Have a look at my elk gallery of images and videos taken over the years from Silverthorne, Colorado through Alberta, Canada:

Elk Gallery

Enjoy

Rich

Rodeo Tie-Down Sequence – Westcliffe Stampede Rodeo

•July 24, 2016 • Leave a Comment

The Westcliffe Stampede Rodeo is an amazing event to watch and photograph. The skills of the cowboys and the horses are impressive. Westcliffe is a “cowboy” town in southern Colorado where they hold the annual Westcliffe Stampede Rodeo – keeping the west in Westcliffe.

My wildlife photography skills came in very handy photographing the rodeo events, especially the Tie-Down event. A cowboy, riding his horse with lasso whipping, must chase down a calf, lasso the neck, jump from his horse, wrestle the calf to the ground, then tie three legs together all in a race against time.

See the following sequence where the event is captured:

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Herring’s Horror

•July 11, 2016 • 2 Comments

For the second year in a row, I have stood on the banks of the St. Georges river in Warren, Maine, watching osprey circle, hover and dive for the herring that swim upstream to spawn. This event occurs around Memorial Day, every year, and timing depends on weather, water temperature, tides and factors that I cannot imagine. Usually a 3 week window, from mid May to first week in June, is the sweet spot for this behavior pattern. A fish weir (net with “doors”) across the river in Warren creates a holding pool for the alewives (herring). At times the river can be “boiling” with fish driven by instinct to get upstream to spawn. A Cooperative of lobster fisherman controls the flow of the alewives, which they use for bait in their lobster traps. The osprey are here for the feast.

I wrote about this wildlife event in a previous post last year in:

Osprey Dive Catch and Kill

This post is more about the photographic challenge. Sometimes the osprey dive too far away for good photography. At other times they dive so close that they make you jump from the sound, if you are not ready. One bird approached from behind me and dove just 20 feet from the shore. I never saw it until it hit the water with a big splash, startling me. At one point I counted 15 dives in an hour at the peak. Others more like 3-4 per hour. Then there are those times when it’s zero dives per hour.

 

Fatal Finish for a Fish

Fatal Finish for a Fish

Canon 7D Mark2, Canon 100-400, f/4.5-5.6, IS II, 1/3200 sec, f/5.6, iso 500, EC-1, hand held

I use a Canon 7D Mark2 with a Canon 100-400 IS II zoom lens, handheld. I find this combination to be the most flexible for me to “find” the osprey in the sky, zoom in, and follow it to splash down. Many photographers use a 500 and 600 mm lens to catch the action. Whatever equipment is used, the challenge is to sight a bird circling and follow it down as it dives to the water surface. The “holy grail” image is talons out just before the osprey hits the water. I managed to capture a dozen such images in 5 days, 3 of which were acceptably sharp. Having a camera body that shoots at 10 frames per second is a big help, but the dominant challenge is the skill level required to follow the bird at the increasing speed (and it is accelerating from almost 0 mph to 35mph at the water surface) and holding the Auto Focus point on the bird the entire way down.

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I find that “practice makes perfect”, and a week of practice improves my chances.

 

Hummingbirds of Ecuador

•June 24, 2016 • 2 Comments

In early May of 2016, I had the good fortune to travel to Quito, Ecuador with friend Bob Karcz to photograph unique and colorful hummingbirds. Ecuador is known for over 130 species of hummingbirds. But to capture their glitter, glow and color is a huge challenge.

This challenge was met by the expertise of my friend, fellow photographer and workshop guide Matt Shetzer through the use of flash photography. Matt traveled with 14 flash units, 7 for each of 2 workstations. Each work station consisted of a natural, local flower, a special background and 7 flash units – 5 on the flower (and subsequently the hummer) and 2 on the background. When the hummer arrives at the flower all 7 flashes are triggered by the photographer with a remote release. The hummer image captured has extraordinary color, sharpness and contrast that is beyond anything that I have ever seen in natural light.

Now some may say that this is artificial and contrived. But I say the colors and beauty speak for themselves.

Male Booted Racket-tail - Male Booted Racket-tail hummingbird with wings and split tail spread hovers at a flower.

Male Booted Racket-tail

 

Fighting For The Flower - Two male Booted Racket-tail hummingbirds (you can see their little booties on their feet, and their racket-like twin tails) take aggressive positions (face-off, twin tails spread out) over who gets to the flower first.

Fighting For The Flower – Booted Racket-Tail hummingbirds spread their tails when in a defensive or aggressive situation.

 

Velvet-Purple Coronet - A Velvet-Purple Coronet hummingbird feeds on the nectar in a flower.

Velvet-Purple Coronet Feeding

 

Violet-Tailed Sylph InFlight - A male Violet-tailed Sylph hummingbird is about to extract nectar from a flower.

Violet-Tailed Sylph In Flight

 

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Matt Setting Up the Flash Stations

 

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Bob Karcz Aligning the Shot

 

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Two Flash Stations Ready To Go

 

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Rich Making The Settings

To see more of my spectacular images of hummingbirds click:

Hummingbirds

View a video of the Booted Racket-tail being attacked by other hummingbirds. Watch for the flash of the gorget. Watch for the defensive/aggressive tail spreading behavior when the hummer is challenged or attacked by another hummer. Part of the video clip is in slow motion.

Booted Racket-Tail Hummingbird Attacked Video

 

Wildlife and their Young

•May 5, 2016 • 7 Comments

In honor of Mother’s Day, I have a new show titled:

Wild Moms and Their Babies (Wildlife and their Young)

The show is on view at the Wildlife Experience Museum (University of Colorado – www.southdenver.cu.edu) in Parker, Colorado (suburb of Denver). The show will be at the museum May, June, July and August, 2016.

A reception will be held on Friday, June 24th from 5:30 pm to 8 pm at the Museum Atrium.

Wild Moms Announcement

Some of the images can be viewed on my website at:

Wild Moms and Their Babies – Wildlife and Their Young

Images of the hanging:

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Bald Eagles of Haines, Alaska

•February 22, 2016 • 10 Comments
Location of Haines

Location of Haines

Haines is one of the many jewels in Alaska. Not only is it a spectacular place with draw-dropping, stunning mountains, but it is also the location of an annual and unique wildlife event. Every November, thousands of bald eagles (peak has been about three thousand) flock to and converge on the gravel and sand bars of the Chilkat river near Haines for their annual salmon fish fest.  It is the largest single gathering of bald eagles in the world.

Because of a geological thermal condition, the Chilkat river stays warm late into the fall and early winter, delaying the freeze-over. This allows the salmon to spawn late into November and early December. Over time the bald eagles have discovered this location and have flocked in for a last feast before the harsh winter.

The American Bald Eagle Foundation and the town of Haines sponsor a celebration of this amazing event every year during the second week of November.

Haines Harbor

Haines in Summer

 

Haines Harbor

Haines Harbor

 

Reflection on the Chilkat River

Reflection on the Chilkat River

 

Waiting for the Salmon on the Chilkat

Waiting for the Salmon on the Chilkat River

An eagle would rather steal a fish from another eagle than find its own.

Fish Thief

Fish Thief

 

Sometimes the defending eagle will back off and let a dominant one take the prey.

Retreat - A juvenile bald eagle retreats from an attack of an in-coming eagle that is attempting to steal its prey. Haines, Alaska.

Retreat – A juvenile bald eagle retreats from an attack of an in-coming eagle that is attempting to steal its prey.

Sometimes the defending eagle will rear up with wings and talons exposed to defend its meal.

Defense

Defense

Often an eagle will grab a piece of salmon and fly to the nearby trees for protection, enabling it to consume the fish without threats from other eagles.

Salmon To The Trees

Salmon To The Trees

 

Salmon In The Trees

Salmon In The Trees

The eagles on the Chilkat do not need to fly and grab a fish swimming in the water, as they do in so many other places. Here the salmon die after spawning and float to the surface or to shore. The eagles usually just walk to a carcass and drag it to the shore, where they can consume the fish. They often will squawk to the world to announce “this is my fish” and “do not steal”.

Fish Claim

Fish Claim

 

Savory Salmon - A bald eagle and its reflection consume a salmon on the beach of the Chilkat River. Haines, Alaska.

Savory Salmon – A bald eagle and its reflection consume a salmon on the beach of the Chilkat River.

However, as one can see, this strategy just calls attention to the catch. Other eagles will wait for the right moment to attack.

In-Coming - A bald eagle attacks another eagle in order to force a retreat and steal the salmon. Haines, Alaska.

In-Coming – A bald eagle attacks another eagle in order to force a retreat and steal the salmon.

Watch a video of a bald eagle squawking its claim over its salmon:

Bald Eagle Claims Prize

 

Grizzly Bears of Alaska Photography Exhibit

•January 22, 2016 • 10 Comments

You are cordially invited to view my “Grizzly Bears of Alaska” photography exhibit at the Arts Alive Gallery, Breckenridge, Colorado.

As the Featured Artist for the month of February, I will have my framed and unframed prints viewable at the gallery from February 1 to February 28, 2016. The exhibit features grizzly bears and their cubs.

A reception will be held on Saturday, February 13, 2016, 4-8pm at the gallery.

I look forward to seeing you and sharing wildlife stories.

Grizzly Bears of Alaska Announcement