Tag Archives: wildlife photography

Crocodiles of the Cuero y Salado Honduras

croc-honduras

Floating down the Rio Saluda in a small native boat in Honduras, I found myself searching for crocodiles at high noon. This wasn’t exactly the time of day one expects to do any serious wildlife photography. Underwater is a different story, but above water, well, it was hot, bright, and contrasty as hell.  Yet, here I was.

The last three days had seen a major cold front stall out over Honduras. Thick clouds and dropping temperatures meant that for the crocodiles of the Cuerro y Salado region, their black water home fringed with lowland rainforest would be something of a prison for them as they worked to regulate their body temps during the front. By the fourth day the unusual cold that had settle over the usually hot country had moved on.

I had been on the water since day break in search of these hold overs from the age of dinosaurs but with no luck. Finally, as the sun reach overhead it was as if someone had flipped a switch. Hundreds of crocodiles began to emerge as they hauled themselves out onto downed trees, dense clumps of floating vegetation, and whatever else they could find. This was what I had been waiting for.

Given that crocodiles live in the water, they need to climb out into the sun to rid themselves of parasites – as opposed to bathing themselves in water like we do. At high noon, with the intensity of the sun at its apex, the crocs all began hauling out to burn off three days worth of funk that had begun to build up on their bodies.

Despite the intensity of the harshness of the light, all I had to do was find a bit of dappled lighting to work with. As the river narrowed and the forest began to close in around us, bright shafts of light were contrasted with the deep shadows that the gallery forest cast across the water. All we had to do was to keep paddling until we found a crocodile in one of these shaft of light with an appropriately shadowed background. Given that the dynamic range of the scene was too great for the camera to record detail across its full spectrum of tones, I was able to create this chiaroscuro lighting scenario in the middle of the day.

Posted in Technical Skills, The Inner Game of Outdoor Photography, Wildlife Photography Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Brown Bear Reflections

brown-bear-reflection

The biggest problem one faces when photographing brown bears along the banks of Cook Inlet in Alaska, is that they keep getting too damn close. Now, I should admit that I was being stubborn this morning. Back in the little cabin that I was staying in, I stood there staring back and forth between a 200-400mm and a 600mm lens. I wanted to bring both of course. And I could have brought both. But carrying both of these lenses on a four wheeler, hiking across streams, laying down in the mud on tidal flats… well, quite frankly, it just sucks. So against my best judgement, I shouldered the 600mm with my D5 attached and headed out the door.

Initially I assumed that I would be photographing bears fishing at the mouth of the creek where it dumped into the inlet. Wrong. Though we found a solitary bear down there doing her thing, she got bored pretty quickly and wondered off. This left us with a handful of bears out on the mud flats that was exposed from the astronomical low tide. For the record, an astronomical tide is one that is extremely high or low due to the phase of the moon – more commonly known as a “spring tide.”

Switching gears for photographing bears who were in search of razor clams to eat, I instantly knew that the 600mm was a bad choice. Like I said, the bears get close. Really close! And so with a 200-400 I could have just zoomed out. With the 600 however, I found myself in a constant state of backing up.

With the thin veil of water on the flats, I wanted reflections. And it seemed like no sooner did I work my way far enough back to get the bear and the reflection in, then they would come strolling in even closer. On several occasions we had to try and shew the bears back a little. 10 feet is just too close. Man it sure will be nice when Nikon releases an updated version of the 200-400mm with the built in 1.4 teleconverter like Canons. 

Although we did not get any good salmon fishing action this morning, the thin veil of clouds and super low tides did allow for a full morning of awesome photography with bears and reflections.

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Bears of the Smoky Mountains

blackbear-cadescove

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 »

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So You Want to be a Better Wildlife Photographer?

So you want to be a better wildlife photographer? No problem. Learn your camera and get a big lens. Did that already? Still don’t understand what your missing? Yeah, its a bit more complex than what you might think.

There are a lot of challenges to being a wildlife photographer. There are even more if you want to be a good one. Of all the obstacles that we face each and everyday there is one that transcends all forms of wildlife photography and must be overcome each and every time we walk out the door with our gear. It doesn’t matter if your Frans Lanting, Art Wolfe, or someone who just bought their first telephoto lens with big dreams and romantic aspirations of giving gallons of blood to mosquitoes while sitting in a blind for hours on end.

The transcendent challenge that we all must face on a daily basis is simply finding the wildlife to photograph. It doesn’t matter how well you know your camera, how technically precise you are with exposure and focus, or if you have the most mind blowing light ever to fall upon the Earth. If you can’t find, approach, and set up on the wildlife you want to photograph, then your camera skills and that sexy light aren’t worth a damn.

Wildlife can be found all around us. You don’t have to live in or travel to a national park to find a large diversity of subjects to photograph. Whether you live in a Chicago, Atlanta, the Outer Banks, or Jackson Hole, there is plenty to shoot right where you live. Even in a national park you still need to understand how to find your subject though.

I think that Jackson hole is a good case study for this. A lot of photographers come to the valley for moose. This is the place in the Rockies if that’s what your looking for. Only problem is, moose aren’t just standing around out in the open most of the year like the bison are. Most photographers understand and expect this much of course because they know that deer (yes moose are deer) tend to be out early and late (what’s known as a crepuscular species).

But why? Why do they prefer dawn and dusk, and why at times can they be found at 9am on some mornings but others they have all disappeared by 7:30? Adding to this, why can you find the moose standing around out one open all day long during certain times of the year, but not others?

Furthermore, the vast majority of Jackson Hole is an endless ocean of sagebrush. This is not exactly prime moose habitat. Or is it? Come spring and summer, you will be hard pressed to see moose out in the open sagebrush. In the fall and winter however its quite common, but only in certain areas.

We can even take it a step further and ask questions based upon particular photographs that you wish to create. The classic depiction of a moose is a monster bull in waist deep water raising his head up as water pours off him. I love these types of photographs. But, is this even something you are going to have the opportunity to photograph in Jackson Hole, or the Rockies in general for that matter? Or perhaps, if this is your shot that your looking to create, would be much better off going to Maine or Alaska instead? Its not for a lack of water. Water and wetlands are what make Jackson Hole so productive for finding and photographing moose.

This is the sort of stuff you should know if you are looking to photograph moose. Of course, you could drive around for hours on end in search of one and maybe get lucky, but knowing the inner workings of a moose will consistently provide you with far better opportunities. And that’s what this is all about of course, becoming a better wildlife photographer.

Ever wondered why it is that certain photographers always seem to find the best subjects, the best action? Do you look at your photographs and get frustrated that you never find yourself in those situations to photograph? Well when it comes to having animals in front of your lens, there is no substitute for doing your homework and learning all that you can about your subject.

Simply put the better naturalist you are, the better wildlife photographer you will become. It’s like being upset that you never seem to get a good photograph of a polar bear when you have never attempted to travel to the arctic to photograph them in he first place.

To be continued. . .

Posted in The Inner Game of Outdoor Photography, Wildlife Photography Also tagged , , , , , , , , , |