It was a tough debate with myself. Do I blog about the Zook finally getting the hook (a triumphant time for all Illini fans) or do a rant on what a piece of crap software iTunes is (you would think an half brained programmer would allow you to sort your playlist folders by the physical file name). At last I decided to go with … oh geez, I better get going on those Yellowstone posts or I’m going to spending the rest of the month wading through all the email from my angry readers. I need to ease into this thanks to the fact there are probably 30 posts alone from our shots that week and like a big night of bar hopping, once it’s tapped … you’re in for a long stream (too graphic?.. thought so). This set is a little bitter sweet. The sweet part is I was able to put another check in the bird list with Trumpeter Swans. The bitter news is I wasn’t able to get the best shots due to a combination of the weather conditions and just not having the required reach – those suckers were out there and even though we ended up hiking out pretty far to improve the shots, I didn’t exactly execute. Enough chit chat, let’s get those pictures up!
Linda and I were able to meet up with David and Giselle while we were out there. They are friends from here that recently moved out to Billings, Montana (to join the militia ha!). On our first day out there we passed by Swan Lake and noticed what looked like rather large white birds enjoying the water. Now keep in mind that was a ways off! I pulled out the Beast and tried to pull them in, but it just didn’t have the desired reach. Somewhat adventurous we decided to hike out there to get a better shot. It looked like just prairie grass at first, but we soon found out it was kind of swampy – luckily the cold weather firmed it up enough for us to pick our way out there. Linda took this great shot of us shooting the Swans.
As you can tell from the shot, it wasn’t the best day for shooting – glad we bundled up before hiking out there. I should probably point out that if it wasn’t for the cold there is absolutely no way Linda would have been out there with us because this field must be a snake haven on warmer days! As it turns out, we checked back at this lake later in the week and had a little better lighting than our first day. Since those came out a little better, I’ll start with those – note, I wasn’t about to ask Linda to head back out there in snake land so the better lighting cost some distance.
Here they are pulled in a little bit more thanks to a tighter cropping. For a bird that is somewhat rare, there sure was a nice grouping of them in the appropriately named lake.
Hit the jump to see more pictures of the Trumpeters!
Continue reading They Say it is a Trumpeter, But it Looks More Like a Bird
I bet you were all ready to read a post about our recent vacation. Unfortunately, I am generally behind on my vacation pictures and if I recall correctly I have not even posted any shots from our Zion trip other than the Phoadtography set (link here). It would be cruel to make you wait until I get completely caught up, but at least allow me the liberty of getting a few of the posts out before deluging you with a gadzillion pictures from our latest trek to the West. Although, I could just be buying some time to get through tagging and filtering all those images, but I’ll never tell… to the post!
If you recall, we took a ride up North so our poodles could compete in the TDAA Nationals (link here). The “Linda” part of that sentence was changed to “we” due to all out bribery. Linda knows I enjoy visiting the Chain O’ Lakes State Park mostly due to the opportunity to see Sandhill Cranes again (link here) and was quick to remind me that the park was on the way. Couple that with a promised stop at the Anderson’s Candy store and there was no hope for resistance. Alas, there were no Sandhill Cranes to be seen anywhere in the park (this is where you shed a tear for my heartbreak… I’ll wait). Come on, pull yourself together, the trip turned out very fruitful. On our way out of the park, I was keeping my eyes focused on the field where the cranes were hanging out the last time. Disappointed at the lack of birds I started to turn back in my seat. That is when a a white spot caught my eye way off in the trees. I yelled out our secret code word for “Stop the car, there is some kind of animal out there that Brian must have a picture of”. The code word is short and sweet to help cut down on the ear to brake response – no, I will not reveal the code word but for effect it isn’t one you would not use in other company.
Linda put the car in reverse and rolled back a little to the observation spot. It was definitely white and definitely sitting in a tree, but exactly what it was remained a mystery. Time to bring out the Beast! The viewfinder revealed that it was a White Egret. Well, that is what I have always called it, apparently it is now just referred to as the Great Egret. Here is my initial shot giving an impression of how far off it was even with the help of the glass – remember, the Beast goes out 400.
The sight line went through a series of trees causing the leaf splotches. Once again, this park had come through. This was the first White errr Great Egret I have been able to photograph and therefore another check on my Bird List. This distance just wasn’t going to do for this opportunity. Time to go cross country. You cannot tell from these shots, but there was a large field in front of his perch that appeared to be thick prairie grass browned from the coming Fall. Two steps later it was revealed that it was not really prairie grass, but more like cattail stalks growing up in the middle of a swamp. My wet shoe and sock was a proof enough. Crap! Out came the cell, a quick call back to Linda (she had driven off to find a pull off) and on came the hiking shoes. Once again I was off to get the shot. Without a doubt, this was great entertainment for the egret. 15 minutes later I was standing in the middle of the swamp trying to find an adequately firm spot to put the tripod. Still not as close as I wanted to be, but navigating much further was going to require some serious rubber boots and the nerves were a little frayed at the though of water snakes closing in for the kill.
Hit the jump to see the rest of the Great Egret pictures!
Continue reading Another Check on the Bird List – The Great Egret
There is no rest for the weary these days. I can see the edge of October and it is approaching fast. The good news is I am down to one more post after this one and I think that is doable … at the moment. I ended up losing yesterday because I forgot to process all the pictures for this post. Soooo last night was spent getting that done and uploading them to our Smugmug account (Eddiesoft) so I could post tonight.
Today’s entry is from our trip up to Milwaukee, Wisconsin in early October. Linda and the boys were competing in the Petit Prix, also known as the Teacup Dog Agility Association National’s. Although I have really nothing to do with this since I neither train the dogs or run them in the ring, that doesn’t stop me from taking credit for how well they competed in the event. Both Kerby and Rizzi came home with a pile of ribbons and Rizzi even made the Semi-Finals consisting of the top 84 dogs in the whole event. Of course, there is a reason I get to take some credit…. I have to take off work and help Linda haul everything to and from the car and these toy dogs travel heavier than Paris Hilton. The good news is Linda drove most of the way providing ample time to snap some shots along the way. With that, let’s get to the pictures eh ? (in my best Wisconsin accent)
Keeping with the Halloween theme from the previous posts, I’ll start with these. My eyes lit up when I saw this pumpkin. Just imagine the cool pumpkin carving I could do with one of these babies. It might take a chainsaw instead of a Dremel, but I’m definitely up for the challenge.
Hit the jump for the rest of the pictures from the trip
Continue reading Phoadtography: Visiting Our Neighbors to the North Pt 1
This post comes to you with a saddened heart. It has taken me three months to tackle this particular topic due to the emptiness that has resulted from an event back in July. I should probably give some background first. Do you remember when we took a trip to Indiana (link here)? There is always a drawback to taking a vacation because all your day to day activities start piling up to greet you upon your return. Well, this is exactly what happened to me. During our week of fun in the sun our grass decided to go on steroids making the yard look more like prairie grass than lawn. I had the Bix7 race that weekend so this particular chore had to wait a few extra days. Eventually I took the new green machine out and starting cutting swatches through the jungle. Things were going great until THIS!
Hit the jump to read more about the fate of Termi!
Continue reading Goodbye Old Friend
Welcome to the 6th post for this month which successfully puts another check in the monthly post commitment and thankfully this one comes earlier than usual. As you probably know I am usually rushing to get these babies done before day 30ish comes to a close. Not this month, but that is primarily due to focusing on getting these done in order to spent the rest of the month (and some into the next month as well) focusing on a big personal event that is scheduled for September 11th. Not really talking about it at the moment to keep from jinxing myself so we’ll just let that go for now. On a side note, thanks to the ass Don Henley finding the need to come out in favor of the PROTECT IP Act (and using invalidated studies and hyperbole fear as a basis – must be learning from Gore), today marks the first day of never giving a penny to anything that funds the Eagles or Don Henley in any form. This of course includes additional albums/CDs/DVDs to those already sitting in our shelves and god forbid anymore $75 tickets to their concerts. Just my little way of helping make Donny-boy’s fake claims as real as I can – say, won’t you join me?
Enough ranting, you are hear for one and only one reason.. to fill the empty void when you found out there were even more phoadtography pictures from our Indy trip! So, picking up where part one left off (link) I give you this sign found on a building as we were driving through a city.
Talk about a bad signage planning. Reading this to someone would put them in a quandary. Those Damn Pentecostals! or those Pentecostals are one Damn Ass Company. If their lucky they would have seen the name of the city (Damasco) as they drove through.
As we drove into Indianapolis we spotted this hotel rising up above the trees. From a design perspective it was pretty stunning and blended nicely with the environment. Turns out our hotel was right near this Marriott and could have used it to navigate directly where we needed to be. The construction around Indy had us uncertain we were on the right road and quite frankly the neighborhoods we were passing through had us a little concerned. It all turned out okay, but simply heading for this landmark would have probably worked better.
Hit the jump to see the rest of the Indy Phoadtography Collection
Continue reading Phoadtography: Checking Out Our Neighbors to the East (Pt 2 of 2)
Can you tell I’m !#%!@@#$@ cooped up in the house this weekend with a hell spawned cold? If memory serves (and it is on the fritz at the moment) this is the third post in three days. Blogging at least keeps my mind off of the missed training runs this has caused which couldn’t happen at a more inconvenient time… but more on that in less than a month. To be honest, today’s post is really more about a half check than a full check on the Life Birding List. Linda and I headed out to a photo shoot at Wildcat Den about 30-40 minutes outside of Davenport in Muscatine County, Iowa. We were in Davenport for our 3 day concert extravaganza (yes, that will be a future post topic) and figured it would be a good opportunity to take some shots at the State Park. So we strapped on the backpacks, cleared out the memory cards and grabbed the cameras. Needless to say with opportunities for wildlife, The Beast was in tow.
For the first hour there was not much action in the feathered category. I decided to focus on some large butterflies while Linda busied herself with some water landscape shots. From there we moved deeper into the State Park when Linda (so she says) pointed out a reddish bird sitting in the dense trees. Having learned from previous mistakes, I dropped the tripod down and did my best to get a preliminary shot so I wouldn’t be leaving empty handed. Once I had sufficient attempts from afar, I slowly moved in to try and better the shot. Out of all of them, this is probably the best one.
Hit the jump to see more pictures of this distinctive bird … prepare yourself, some are a little scary
Continue reading Another Check in the Bird List – The Scarlet Tanager
Greetings from the road to Terre Haute. Linda and I are on our way back home from our trip to French Lick (chuckle) and thanks to being so far behind on posts this month I have resorted to using our travel time to pump a few blog posts out. Today we have a special treat and by that I mean a guest photographer. The first stop on our mini-vacation was to the Indianapolis Zoo. Linda and I loaded up all of our camera equipment and headed out for a day of mirror slapping. Later that night, Linda post processed some of her pictures for her peeps on Facebook (sigh). I must say, she produced some amazing shots and thought I would share them with you. Let’s start with the big cats.
That cat came out tack sharp with nice detail in the fur. The tiger also has a look of intent as it stares down a small child with a face painting of a deer… kidding, it was actually watching his mate (below) taking a morning swim. In truth, I would hate to be a deer that came face to face with that killing machine. The composition isn’t the only thing that impresses me about this particular shot. The fact that it even came out at all is a credit to Linda’s photographic abilities. The tiger was actually behind GLASS at high sun. One might be able to dismiss this as pure luck (hints of a certain sunflower picture), but then she pulled out this shot.
She also captured the tiger’s mate taking a swim in their pond. Again, tack sharp (check), captivating expression (check), difficult lighting (check) with the added composition element of reflection (score). All that is plenty enough but yes, it was taken through the very same glass protecting it from us. She actually manually focused these shots to compensate for the false glass readings. My only credit point is I taught her how to take pictures in full manual exposure mode which she is now downplaying as just a refresher from her 35mm Pentax days. This is probably a good time to point out that it was extremely hot the day we were there which is probably why a cat (notorious for not really liking water) decided to seek relief in the stream. “How hot was it?… it was so hot, even the cheetahs had their sneakers off and lounging in the weeds.”
Although not through glass, this big cat shot was nicely done as well. It was actually in mid sentence asking us if we’d be willing to get it a slurpy (antelope flavored) to help cool down. One of the features at the Indy zoo was to test your speed against a cheetah. I had heard the programmed announcer (Tony Stewart who helped fund this exhibit) initiating the races which were going off about 3 minutes apart. I was actually feeling sorry for the poor cheetah having to continually race in blistering heat until I came upon the race site. It was just an electronic simulation consisting of lights representing the cheetah’s speed above a single lane track for the human to run on. If those lights were accurate, that cat can move! The heat was getting to everyone that day and most of the animals were seeking any shelter they could find in their natural pens. The polar bear below was taking a snooze when we first arrived at the zoo around 9:15am.
Hit the jump to see a few more great pictures of wildlife at the Indy Zoo
Continue reading A View from the Zoo
So last post we brought out the big guns and showed you what the 200-400 Beast is capable of pulling in. To contrast that, I figured I’d go all the way in the opposite direction and feature the 105 Macro glass for this post. And the best picture opportunity for the Macro is?.. you guessed it, my porch. Continuing the Night Dweller themed posts (here, here and here), I bring you the latest set of arachnids found late at night out here in the Midwest country. Thanks to our toy poodles we often have the opportunity to check out the creatures that visit our house late at night. As of late, the spiders look like they’ve been on a steroid kick resulting in some rather large specimens. One night I stumbled on this huge spider and ran for the camera.
It always creeps me out a bit when looking through the macro glass. The unassisted viewing reveals enough features to make your heart skip a beat, but add the full blown macro magnifications and it’s like you’re staring at creature from a bad B-Horror movie. So there I was laying the ground taking pictures of this spider when a large moth dropped out of nowhere in striking distance from a natural predator.
This might get very interesting. Both subjects remained very still which might have been due to my presence potentially interfering in the survival of the fittest experiment. The small macro depth made it difficult to get both creatures in focus but it did create a nice effect. (Yes, I had to manually fix the moth due to pet eye, but for my first attempt ever at it Photoshop it turned out pretty good). After about 10 shots, there still wasn’t any movement between the two. It reminded me of an Old West quick-draw, each waiting for the other to flinch. Low and behold, another visitor showed up to take part.
The first thing that came to mind was the Mexican standoff from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Unlike the Eastwood show, only one of these competitors had a loaded gun in terms of a bite and venom. Now I am officially way beyond the field depth for an eye level view so I moved up higher in an attempt to bring a little more focus into the shot. The Opilione (or as we call them around here – Daddy Long Legs) and Moth are still on the wrong end of this fight for survival, unless they can team up – maybe the moth does a 360 maneuver to land on top of the spider while the Harvestmen (another common name for the Opilione) pokes the spider’s eyes out with its long legs. Although this might be more difficult that choreographed since the Harvestmen can’t make out images with their eyes and thus have to use the second set of legs as antennae to navigate the world. Come for the pictures leave with trivia – what a deal!
By the way, I generally try to provide some reference for size since the macro has the ability to distort reality. There was no way I was going to stick my finger in that mess. Instead I tried to get the old standby penny visual in, but even that proved difficult due to my reluctance to get real close to the wolf spider. Here is the best I could do … sorry!
I have a lot more pictures of our eight legged friends after the jump (if you dare)- most of them have the more traditional macro shots showing them up close and personal.
Continue reading Night Dwellers Part 3 – The Big, The Hairy and The Scary
As a note, I highly recommend checking out this particular set of pictures on our SmugMug page at http://eddiesoft.smugmg.com. The reason for this is the required size reduction for this blog really takes away from the detail and coloring found on the full sized shots up on smug – you can pick any size you want to view by putting your cursor inside the border for the picture and picking from the menu that comes up on the right.
Today is the true unveiling of the capability of The Beast. We took it out one morning to see what we could find. For the most part, our attempts to capture some interesting sunrises fell short. A few of our favorite locations were either weak with color or there was nothing real interesting going on in the cloud front (trust me, sunrise pictures without anything to add to the composition are pretty boring. Striking out there, we headed over to Jubilee Park to see what kind of wildlife was out and about. That ended up being a great shoot, but more about that in another post. I was elated that we didn’t come away empty handed and was feeling pretty good about the outing as we drove the short distance back to home. That’s when the day turned from great to awesome. It is a fact I am always looking around for any interesting wildlife. To my surprise, this little guy was busy running alongside the road!
What luck. Not only have I not been able to capture this particular bird on camera yet, but The Beast was already attached to the camera. I quickly yelled out our code word for “Stop the car I see something worth taking a picture” (yes, we have a secret code for that since the time it would take to say all that could spoil the whole shot). In immediate recognition of the command, Linda pulled to the side of the road and I brought The Beast into firing position through the open car window. The added stability of the car frame to rest the camera on turned out to be a big plus. This was the first outing with the big glass so there was some quick learning going on to figure out how to get the focus points where I wanted on a moving animal. The size of the glass barrel may have alarmed it a bit since it tried to keep an eye on me as it ran around in the tall grass.
Again, it is hard to really see the detail in the small pictures here, but a quick crop should give you an idea of how pleased I was with the results. Nice to know this huge investment pays off when it comes to the quality of the glass and the ability to get close enough to wildlife to see this level of eye detail. For the record, this is a Ring-Necked Pheasant for those keeping track and more importantly, a new check mark in the bird shot list.
Hit the jump to see even more pictures of this bird and more examples of the clarity the big glass brings to the table.
Continue reading A New Checkmark for the Birding List
looking back, I have probably shot at least a thousand birds over my life. Luckily for my winged friends (with the exception of two) these shots have all been with a shutter release and not with projectiles. However, I must confess that indirectly I have shortened the life of a few. Call me a softie, but this always saddens me a little when I think about how much pleasure I get from watching them gather around my feeders. The irony of it all is that the feeders are often the catalyst for their accidental demise. To fully experience living in the country, we architected our house to provide nice views into the surrounding woods. This translated into a large amount of glass, the evil nemesis of all Aves. Every once in awhile we hear a loud bang in the living room. Being familiar with the common cause of this startling noise, I reluctantly head towards the windows. Inevitably, this is the typical scene:
A perfectly good bird cut down by the magic of sand and a small cavity for brain matter. Actually, I’ve seen humans walk into glass doors as well, so not sure how much the brain size plays into this particular situation. By a general rule of thumb, the survival rate is directly proportional to the volume of the impact. Through extensive trial and error, I’ve been able to improve this rate at least a little bit. The success is dependent on how quick you can come to the aid of the injured bird. Upon impact, the bird often loses consciousness and drops backwards onto the porch – the reasoning behind this still needs further research. If the bird doesn’t snap it’s neck, it will show signs of convulsions both with fluttering wings and spastic feet. This is exactly the state I found the bird pictured above (note I had the camera in my hand already taking pictures of some other subjects). If you can get to the bird in this state, you must immediately flip it back over on its feet/belly. If you leave it upside down, it will die every time (my apologies to all the failed experiments before this was figured out). Kind of reminds me of my mode of operation with my drunk friends in college, but let’s stay on topic.
Hit the jump for some good news!
Continue reading When Man and Nature Collide