The Thrill Of The Hunt

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Deer season is nearing an end and many hunters have filled their tags while others are still waiting on that one special animal. It’s been over 16 years since I hunted (I guess I’m still hunting but these days I’m armed with a 500mm lens) but I still get excited at the site of a truly beautiful buck. The hunting industry seems to have gone a bit awry, obsessed with manufacturing genetically freakish antlers to fuel hunter appetites for that record book buck. To me, genetically modified nontypical freaks have become somewhat grotesque. I much prefer the beauty of a big typical (natural) deer.

On this day, I woke up at 5AM, packed my gear in the truck, then drove to the ranch for my day’s hunt (yes, I was using a camera but I was hunting just the same). I had no idea what I would see on this day and that’s part of what I found exciting. At mid-morning, this buck appeared from the thick brush with his nose to the ground. It’s not often that one captures a mature buck like this in the open and in broad daylight, but when one does, it likely has something to do with the rut and a buck’s interest in finding a lady suitor. That was certainly the case here as he was hot on the trail of a doe in estrus. I tracked him through the lens, gave a slight vocal grunt to get his attention and have him stop. When he looked up and locked his ears on the sound I made, I took my shot and bagged my trophy for the year. That, my friends, was a thrilling hunt.

Photographically, what made this shot possible at that late morning hour was the overcast day. A bright sunny day would have ruined this moment with too much contrast/shadow. With the overcast sky, I had softened light that allowed me to photograph longer this morning. Overcast skies can be dull from a color perspective but setting the white balance to cloudy enhances the colors.

Until next time, good light and keep shooting.–KEVIN

Follow me on instagram: hurtnaturephoto

I Broke Down And Created an Instagram Account: HurtNaturePhoto

I have resisted opening an instagram account for the longest time as keeping up with a blog, website, and facebook is more than enough social media for me. However, I recognize that it is a popular platform and so I finally broke down and created my own Instagram Account. I hope you will visit and like the images. Chances are you have seen the ones I posted there on here in the past but it’s also highly likely that many of the images there will be new to you. I’ll be populating it with more images in the coming days and moving forward, I’ll share some images here but not there and vice-versa. Thanks in advance for any views/likes you may give.

Until next time, good light and keep shooting — KEVIN

Image Spotlight: Vermillion Flycatcher (2)

I recently returned from a trip to South Texas and while there I visited one of my old hotspots–Llano Grande State Park (i.e., Big Plains State Park). I have a love-dislike relationship with this park. On the positive side, it’s a great place to see and photograph many different bird species. In addition, if one is lucky, alligators or bobcats may be seen. I’ve had luck in the past with the alligators but the bobcat continue to elude me. What I dislike about the park is the large number of joggers, bikers, and portrait photographers that always seem to make their presence when the action is good, which inevitably scares the birds away. On more than one occasion, I’ve been photographing birds in beautiful light only to be interrupted by a portrait photographer attempting to take homecoming or quinceanera (15th birthday) photos. In case you are starting to wonder about that rant, yes it is a state park and they have just as much right to enjoy it as a bird watcher or photographer; BUT, a little common courtesy seems to be in order here. It’s a 230 acre wetland park so if someone is already photographing birds where you desire to take portraits…respect the photographer already there and find another place for the portraits…just don’t setup in the same location and start shooting.

OK, that’s off my chest. Lets get to the images in this post. The Vermillion Flycatcher’s winter range includes the Rio Grande Valley (South Texas). For the past 3 years I have seen this bird flying from perch to perch near the big pond behind Llano Grande’s park headquarters. Unfortunately, the perches within photographic distance near this area are man made; but hey, sometimes it’s good to photograph wildlife that shows the hand of man. I’d prefer a natural perch, but when photographing at a state park, one rarely has control of his or her shooting conditions.

Vermillion Flycatcher

Vermillion Flycatcher | Canon 7D MkII | ef 500/4.5 | ISO 6400  |  White Balance: Cloudy

On this particular day, the light was terrible, i.e. it was dull, overcast, and gray. In order to achieve a high enough shutter speed to freeze the wings in these light conditions, I would need to bump the ISO on my camera to 6400 and even then, the shutter speeds were not as high as I would desire. I had observed this vermillion flycatcher frequently visiting this perch as it fed on insects. So, as it made it’s rounds to a different perch I setup my shooting position on this post and then waited. It was a short wait. From this post, the vermillion flycatcher would take off, attempt to catch an insect (often successfully), then fly back and repeat the sequence. Understanding this behavioral pattern, I prefocused on the perch and upon the vermillion’s return, I depressed the shutter and let the 7D MkII capture its 8 frames per second. I liked the two shared here.

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Vermillion Flycatcher | Canon 7D MkII | ef 500/4.5 | ISO 6400  |  White Balance: Cloudy

I hope to capture this bird in better light next year but for now, I’ll have to be content with these two. Until next time, good light and keep shooting. –KEVIN

For information on the equipment used to capture these images, please click on the gear recommendations tab.

ImageSpotlight: Red Eared Slider Reflection

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During a recent trip to South Texas I found this red eared slider sitting on an old log. It was an extremely quiet morning around Ibis Pond at Estero Llano Grande State Park. The birds were not too active on this day but this image was one I could not pass up.  While this turtle is native to much of the Southern United States and Mexico, its popularity in the pet trade has made this an invasive species elsewhere due to their release by pet owners. While I have many concerns with the pet trade (exotic pet trade in particular), I will leave that to another post. In this part of the world, and in this image, the red eared slider is in its native habitat and thriving in a balanced ecosystem.

I used the gear below to capture this photograph (to see a description of this and other gear I recommend, please see my gear recommendations page).

Canon 7D Mk II 

Canon 500mm

Gitzo Tripod

Kirk BH1 Ballhead

Until Next Time….Good Light and Keep Shooting! –KJHurt

 

ImageSpotlight: Great Blue Heron with Prey

Great Blue Heron.  Canon 7D | 500/4.5

Great Blue Heron. South Padre Island, Texas.

During a quick visit to Texas, I ventured out one morning to South Padre Island. I’ve always had good luck at this location and the morning would not let me down. While a bit slow by a “good day” standard, my patience was rewarded as this Great Blue Heron began to hunt/fish in front of me. I managed a series of images of this particular sequence and this is one I particularly liked with the heron’s wing position and the blood trailing from fish to water.

Until next time, good light and keep shooting. — KEVIN

Gear I used to make this shot:

Canon 7D – I used v1 of this camera body which is now my backup to the 7DMII.

Canon 500mm–  I used version 1 of this lens which is no longer available now that vII is.

Gitzo Tripod – I own and still use the Gitzo 1325 which has not been manufactured for years now. However, I have linked a good on you can purchase today (other options on my gear recommendations page).

Wimberley WH200– an essential piece of gear for long lenses.

Wimberley P40– without this you can’t mount the lens to the tripod.

 

Where Have You Been?

I have been getting that question a lot lately as I all but disappeared completely from my blog posts. However, I have been here and busy as ever. I have continued my nature photography exploits but I have nearly doubled, tripled even, my involvement in sports/action photography. For the past year, the sports photography has dominated my time and since I’ve tried to keep this blog dedicated to my wildlife/nature pursuits, I didn’t blog about the sports stuff. So, let me give you a brief update on my near-term plans: 1) I will get back to my first photographic passion (nature photography), 2) I’ll continue expanding my sports/action photography, and 3) I’m committed to getting a YouTube channel started that will mostly be about nature and sports/action but since I plan on doing that for fun, I’ll share other things that I enjoy (gear reviews, BBQ, and other general interests).

WHATS NEW ON MY BLOG?:  I have added a new page for Gear Recommendations. I find that I’m always answering questions related to gear so I put together this page to help others.

That’s it for now but I’ll leave you with a few sample nature images. I’ll update you once my YouTube channel is up and running. Until then….

Good light and keep shooting. — Kevin

 

Fall Cabin

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Fall Cabin.  Canon 7D MkII | ef-s 10-22mm | ISO 200

Fall 2016 in Central Georgia has not been the most prolific. The temperatures have been hotter than normal and there has been little to no rain thus far. The colors have simply not been as abundant or long-lasting. Nevertheless, some colors do exist and the challenge for us as photographers is to find and make a pleasing image. The challenge for me was particularly great today because I also had to contend with shooting at the wrong time of day and the contrast between light and shadow.

I drove out to this old cabin and was pleased to see some colors extending above the cabin roof. Given that the colors extended high in the trees, I shot this image in a vertical orientation. While you can envision the peace of sitting on the rockers on a cool fall evening, there is one thing that the image simply cannot convey to the viewer….the deep scent of the pine cabin. I stood at the doorway and took a deep fresh breath, then hit the trails in search of another image.

Until next time…Good light and keep shooting.–KEVIN