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

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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.

 

ImageSpotlight: Whitetail Lip Curl

I’m back after a bit of a delay. 2016 has been an unbelievably busy year and I’ve had to sacrifice the time I would normally dedicate to my blog. One does what he must and while I had to do that…right now, I must share the following image with you.

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Whitetail Buck: The Flehman Response

This beautiful whitetail buck is exhibiting a behavior that many hunters and avid naturalists alike recognize and commonly refer to as…the lip curl. Technically, this is called the Flehman Response, which is a name derived from the German verb “to curl.” This is a breeding behavior that occurs between late October – early January in the USA based upon geographic location. Bucks in Northern states (e.g. Iowa) may hit peak breeding time in November whereas in South Texas, peak breeding occurs mid-December to early January. So what purpose does the lip curl serve? Basically, the lip curl exposes an organ in the nasal cavity and allows a buck to get a deep whiff of something. In this case, he is trying to get a deep whiff of a lady friend with whom he hopes to hook up with…if you know what I mean.

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

2015 – Year In Pictures

I finally put a video up of my 2015 images. I start out thinking I’ll just put a top 12 but you know, I just get carried away sometimes. There are way more than 12 photos shared in my HurtNaturePhoto YouTube Video which I have linked for you. I’m very much a novice at putting together videos and I’m working with a very outdated workhorse of a computer. In fact, the Apple reps call it “Vintage” but it continues to perform. It is taxed on resources so I am unable to determine whether there is video compression due to my computer or something that occurs when I share the video to YouTube. The images are sharp but please let me know how they appear to you on video. Enjoy and thanks for watching it. — KEVIN

ImageSpotlight: Northern Bobwhite Quail

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Northern Bobwhite Quail.  Canon 7D MkII | Canon 70-200/2.8 + 1.4x | ISO 1600 | f7.1

 

What a way to end 2015. I found myself back in South Texas on the Santa Clara ranch and once again, that ranch did not disappoint. I still haven’t viewed all of the photographs as I’ve not downloaded all of them yet; however, I really enjoyed the reflection of these 3 northern bobwhite quail and just had to share. I cropped this to a panoramic format to emphasize the reflection in the pond. While the original format looks nice, I think the panorama is a better portrayal.

Speaking of reflections, as you look back on your 2015, I hope that you accomplished all of your personal and photographic goals. As you look toward 2016, challenge yourself to stretch your photography skills. Whether that is to learn a new technique, travel to a new destination, or focus on that nemesis subject, may 2016 be your year.

Until next year…good light and keep shooting. –KEVIN