Bears of the Smoky Mountains

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After I finished up with my responsibilities at WNC Fotofest in Montreat North Carolina this weekend, I just could not help but notice how close I was to the Smoky Mountains. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of my absolute favorite places in the country to photograph. Biologically speaking, its the most biodiverse location in North America. There are more species of trees in this national park than the entire continent of Europe! From wildflowers to wildlife this place is very much unlike any other place we have in North America.

Now, with all of this said, Great Smoky Mountains National Park does not give up its really good wildlife opportunities easily – especially with the bears.  Continue reading »

If only I had a picture of me taking this picture

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I had just pulled my boat into the protected bay inside of the marsh where these horses were feeding. I was still actually idling my way in when this whole scenario began to unfold and really had no time to get myself into position, the boat anchored securely, and me and my gear into the water and set up on a shoal (sandbar) to shoot this.

Realizing I was in a sort of do or die moment here, I chucked the anchor of the bow, ran back to my camera, wrapped my leg around the chrome pole to the hardtop over the center console of my boat, and then hurled my body over the side of the boat. The result was me dangling head first over the water with me ankles hanging onto that pole for dear life.

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Wild Photo Adventures and Wyoming Grizzlies

bear-journalSo it’s been a minute since I have updates this here Photographer’s Journal. Busy summer to say the least. I kind of have this whole Johnny Cash thing going on in the back of my head. . . “Ive been everywhere man”

One of my recent projects was working on another episode of Wild Photo Adventures. We were actually supposed to do another wild horse show – though in Montana / Wyoming not North Carolina. However, due to permit weirdness this year we had to switch gears at literally the last minute. Faced with the decision to cancel a show, I decided that we could pull off an episode photographing grizzlies high up in the Absaroka Mountains of Wyoming.

I chose to focus on bears in this mountain range simply because it was NOT one of the national parks. That meant that we would be on our own. No people. No distractions. Fewer restrictions. So hopefully better photography.

Season 5 of Wild Photo Adventures airs this winter on PBS. So keep your eyes open for our show on photographing grizzlies in Wyoming.

Shoot this Now: Baby Mammals!

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One of the best things about spring for wildlife photography is the deluge of baby mammals all across North America. From whitetail deer to grizzly bears, red foxes to bison, spring is the time of rebirth. All of these babies makes for some incredible wildlife photography and since this only happens once a year, you need to be shooting this RIGHT NOW!

When it comes to photographing natural history, you have to think in terms of capturing the essence of your subject. Why is your subject worth photographing? What makes it special? What makes it worthy of being in front of your lens? Every potential subject has a story to tell. Every subject has something about it that makes it unique in the world. It is your job to understand what this story is and to figure out how to tell that story with your photography. This is what takes your work from little more than snapshots made with really expensive equipment to art that communicates and connects your viewer with your subject.

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Shoot this Now: Rookeries II

Overcast---snowy-blgoEach and every scenario in nature photography has its own nuances and challenges that it will throw at you the photographer. Some are completely random of course, whereas others are fully predictable.

Rookeries are no different. Each rookery that you visit will be completely different from the last. There will be different backgrounds, different challenges to access it, different lighting situations, and the list goes on. However, there will also be certain constants that you can mentally prepare for.

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Shoot this Now: Rookeries I

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Wading bird rookeries are without a doubt, one of the undisputed champions of springtime wildlife photography. Many of these communal breeding sites harbor mixed species and therefore not only provide you with a seemingly endless variety of photographic opportunities, but also a diversity of different species at the same time. From flights shots to nest building, courtship displays to feeding chicks, photographing rookeries is something you need to be doing RIGHT NOW!

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Shoot This Now: Woodpeckers II

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Building upon my last post about finding woodpeckers to photograph in the Spring, I decided to take my somewhat long post and shorten things down into something a little more bite sized.  So below you are going to find a bullet list of key things to keep in mind when looking for woodpecker nests to photograph. This stuff is straight out of my personal notes on finding and photographing woodpeckers . . .

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Shoot this Now: woodpeckers

 

spring-woodpeckerEach and every spring, one of my first goals is to hunt down a handful of woodpecker nests. Just the simple act of locating these active cavities is a great experience. This is going to force you to explore. It’s going to force you to get some dirt on your boots. And I really can’t think of anything that we need more after a long winter than to get out, and become totally immersed in the sensory overload of spring.

Woodpeckers are what we like to call ecological engineers. These birds work tirelessly to improve the quality of a forest ecosystem. It doesn’t matter what species of woodpecker we are talking about, they all serve a significant role in their world. The pileated woodpecker for instance has nearly 30 other species of wildlife that are dependent upon their existence in the ecosystem for their own survival. The red-cockaded woodpecker has even more “dependents” if you will.

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7 spring subjects you should be shooting right now!

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Its Spring. This means you have to ask yourself one very important question. Are you taking advantage of it like you should? Spring is one of the absolute best times of the year for wildlife photography. This is the season when the world reawakens. When trees bud, flowers bloom, birds migrate, and everything is having babies. This is an explosive time of the year!

I am going to do a series of blog posts on Spring. Basically I am going to lay down some who, what, where, and whys of nature photography for this time of year that I think will be pretty useful to folks. There are so many options out there and the subject matter that I could cover in a series like this is pretty much endless. Obviously I cannot write about EVERYTHING you can do or EVERYTHING you should be photographing right now. But I can hit upon a few of the big concepts that leap right to my mind.

Now I live in a pretty unique place when it comes to Spring. There is one rule of thumb that governs Spring in my mind and that is, the depths of winter in a location dictate the bounty of Spring. This is Jackson Hole. It hits minus 40 here at times in the winter. Needless to say, our spring is AMAZING! But I am not really going to focus on this area because it’s not all that relevant to everyone. Instead, I am going to try to concentrate on subjects that can be found in a variety of different locations, or at least subjects from a variety of different locations.

You will notice a distinct LACK of focus on mammals here. Why? So much of the mammal population has been obliterated or hunted into absolute fear and terror all across North America. I live where I live because it is the mammal photography capital of North America. For most across the US however, birds are something that everyone has access to and so I want to make this series as use as possible to everyone.

Here is the list of ideas I have so far:

  • Rookeries: How to find one near you and strategies for photographing the birds there
  • Woodpeckers: Locating their cavities and tips on photographing them there
  • Baby Mammals: exploiting the cuteness factors
  • Flowers: from macro to grand landscapes
  • Owl nests: locating and photographing
  • Waterfalls: they are not all created equal in the Spring
  • Ospreys: A southeastern Bananza

If you have anything else that you would like to see on this list as the days and weeks go by, please let me know! Shoot me a message via the contact for up top in the navigation bar, or hit me up on Facebook and I will try to work in your requests.

 

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BIF setting for mating sandhill cranes

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What is it about the prairie regions of this country that cause birds to evolve some of the most bizarre an exotic mating rituals that can be witnessed in the US? Growing up back east, I really cannot think of a bird whose mating rituals even begin to compare with those of the plains and prairies. Last week I spent several mornings tucked into a blind photographing the mating displays of greater sage grouse. This week it was sandhill cranes. . . 

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