My What Sharp Teeth You Have… I Think

In honor of tonight’s MEGA MILLIONS Lottery drawing I bring you your very own jackpot if you will.  That jackpot being a bonus post for the month!  I know, I know, a cheap replacement for the millions you could have won with the real drawing, but hey, the likelihood of getting this post was a whole lot better than your odds of actually winning that thing anyway.  Truth be told, one of the reasons for the extra post is due to the quality of this particular set of pictures.  One of the professional photographers Linda and I enjoying listening to has a podcast we play on our longer road travels.  In this podcast, Rick Sammon is always fond of saying “One blurry picture is a mistake, a hundred blurry pictures is a style”.  Generally I laugh this off, but in this particular case I’m going with wholehearted truth.  In a slight variation, these images are in the STYLE of high grain hand painted mural.  Here is a perfect example of this.

What do you think, captivating brush strokes, complimentary colors and that “stand back 20 feet” appeal common in many classic paintings in art history.  Any chance you are buying that?  thought so.  Now a little background.  The first time Linda and I visited Yellowstone, we did not get the opportunity to see a single wolf while we were out there.  Part of that is due to not making it out to Lamar Valley which is where these wonderful animals tend to hang out (or rather where they are most often viewed).  This trip out we had a bold goal to leave with at least one sighting and if a miracle occurred, some photos.  On the very first morning we headed out to Lamar Valley with our friends David and Dr. Giselle.  There we were met with lots of people with spotting scopes trained on a far distance cluster of trees on the banks of the river – just below the confluence.  Thanks to a friendly lady from the UK we learned that the Druid Pack had been in a 2 day standoff with an cow elk who had sought safety in the middle of the river.  I cannot give you a good estimate of the distance that was from where we were at on the side of the road, but it was way too far for the Beast to pull in any detail at all.  Some other visitors around us were more than happy to give us a look through their more powerful scopes (quite friendly people out there by the way).  Sure enough, we could see the cow elk’s head and top of it’s back along with a couple of wolves taking random passes along the banks.  I can’t imagine how stressful this was for the participants in the standoff not having eaten in two days in a struggle of life and death.  I do not usually take sides in the natural wildlife food chains but it turns out that a group of ignorant tourists decided they have the right to.  Later in the day, these idiots decided they would walk out near the standoff and have a bite to eat while watching the event.  Well, guess what, both the elk and the wolves freaked out at this intrusion causing the end of the skirmish – the wolves abandoned the hunt and the elk made off.  Now one would say that those people saved an elk, but those of us who understand that predators have to kill to feed themselves and their cubs consider this as even more days without nourishing the pack.  While were making our final scans, a park ranger came by and informed us that this had happened and he was looking for the morons that walked out there… so we’re not the only ones upset about this (the UK lady wanted them banned from the park immediately).

So one of our goals had been met, we actually saw wolves – Yeah!   But the story does not end there.

Hit the jump to read the rest of the goodness and the explanation for the shot above !

Continue reading My What Sharp Teeth You Have… I Think

A Walking Frigidaire or ???

Against my best wishes, January continues to fly by.  It is already the middle of the month and I am behind on a number of tasks I set out for myself for 2012.  Part of that is due to finally initiating Project Aunnauld – this one is going to take awhile so don’t look for posts on that for a few months (at least).  In my spare cycles I’m still trying to make it through the Yellowstone shots so guess what?  Yep, another post.  Unlike some of the previous ones, this set is what I consider sub-par.  There are times when it is fulfilling to just be able to slap the mirror and say you captured the moment whether it is tack sharp or not… which is usually photography speak for “I blew it”.  This set is more of the former based on being closer to a miracle than a failure.  If you have spent time on this blog at all you should be aware we invested in a rather large glass we affectionately call The Beast thanks to it’s beefy structure.  It is hard to actually demonstrate the reach this zoom glass has without first experiencing it through the viewfinder.  This set might just help out in this area… let’s begin shall we?

So here is a shot of the mountainside at 80mm which is the low end of the zoom on our workhorse glass.

Are you seeing anything of interest in that shot.. maybe some large animal(s) out for a stroll?  Hint #1 – remember on the previous post where I mentioned that we spent the week scanning for butts in the horizon (link here)? well, that pretty much came into play here.

Still not seeing anything of interest?  Hint #2, I chose not to go with the Rule of Thirds to make it a little easier on you.

If you give up, hit the jump for a huge clue.

Continue reading A Walking Frigidaire or ???

Eagle Eyes

Well, as of 4:00pm today I am officially on holiday break from work until 2012 – WOOT. Of course, that really just translates to two extra days of standing in long lines at local merchants trying to finish up the gift list. Fortunately, that activity can start LATER in the morning so no need to get up at the ass-crack of dawn for the commute to the office. This month was dedicated to shots from our recent Yellowstone vacation. So far we’ve covered the Trumpeter Swans (link here), Mergansers (link here) and two posts covering those scary Ravens (link here and here). We’ll get to the big game soon enough, but today brings us a true American icon… The Bald Eagle.
I have had the opportunity to photograph the eagle a number of times now, both locally as well as up in the Quad Cities along the Mississippi River. I was excited to hear that they were out in the Yellowstone area as well. The first day we saw one from a distance gliding around, but the second to last day produced a great opportunity.  We were heading back to our room towards the end of the day when we passed by a small valley.  A glint of white from the trees caught my eye.  Hoping I was right, I had Linda turn back for a closer look.

Did you see it? (having it centered in the picture makes it pretty easy, but against the full backdrop of the woods it was definitely harder to locate).  The shot above is a pulled back shot with the Beast which starts at 200mm so you can guess how far away this eagle was from the road.  However, This is exactly where the Beast shines.  Pulling the bird in to the full 400mm gives a MUCH better shot of this awesome bird.

And there it sat keeping a watchful eye on the surroundings.  I was actually shooting out the back window of the SUV trying to use the window frame to steady the lens.  The initial shots were producing a lot of blur likely due to the engine vibrations coming through the vehicle frame.  To adjust for that, Linda shut the car off.  that dampened it a bunch, but that distance just amplifies any movement

Heck, why don’t we just pull that shot in a little more!

Hit the jump to see more pictures from the set!

Continue reading Eagle Eyes

Ummmm the Merganser…I Think

Howdy Everyone! We are still celebrating reaching our 300th comment here at LifeIntrigued so pardon the mess. For those interested, Ron was the lucky commenter and will soon be receiving a token of appreciation in the mail – well… as soon as we figure out what that will be, we’ll be sending it out. He was also extended a guest blog spot so we are all looking forward to that. In the meantime, you are just going to have to make due with more Yellowstone posts. There are two similarities with the last post – one is it once again covers water fowl and like last time there are struggles on the identification front. The good news is the images are little sharper (not tack yet, but getting more familiar with the Beast). I must say, I am actually pretty happy with the action shots. The takeoff scenes were actually taken from the car doing my best to keep the Beast on focus while panning to compensate for the narrow field of view. Be sure and check out the larger versions up on our SmugMug site (link here).

I had just maneuvered the Beat into position to capture these ducks enjoying the water when they started their pre-launch plan. I am not sure if pulling up next to them in the car or pointing the bazooka glass at them startled them, but they definitely wanted out of there.

I was shooting at f4 so the depth was too shallow to get all the ducks focused in, but to be honest it gives a pretty interesting effect. The larger version gives a better view of it, but they were literally walking on water while building air under the wings. In the following shot they are just beginning to get air under their wings.

Hit the jump to see some more images of these birds taking flight!

Continue reading Ummmm the Merganser…I Think

They Say it is a Trumpeter, But it Looks More Like a Bird

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

Another Check in the Bird List – The Scarlet Tanager

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