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
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
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).
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).
You may recall that in 2014 I wrote a blog post about “Making Hummingbird Backgrounds.” I’d actually be surprised if you remember that but you can enter those terms in the search tab if you care to refresh your memory. Anyway, two years later and those backgrounds are still in use. For the past two weeks, I’ve had female and juvenile ruby-throated hummingbirds but today, the male showed up. While I like the females and juveniles, it is the male with its iridescent gorget that gets photographers excited. Those brilliant colors add a dash of pop to the images.
To capture this photo, I used a 5 flash setup. Each flash was set at 1/16 power and placed in various positions to light the bird. I had one dedicated flash aimed at the background and 4 at the hummingbird. My camera (Canon 7D MkII) was set to Manual mode, ISO 200, f18, 1/250. I used a 70-200/2.8 with 1.4x converter. Because hummingbirds drink, move back and hover, then drink again, I prefocused on a spot where I anticipated the birds would hover. Each time the birds hovered, I pressed the shutter button. I’m looking to improve this image by adding an additional flash and incorporating a flower if I can find a suitable one at a nursery since there are no natural blooms around my home.
Last year I made a voyage to South Florida and came away with some spectacular photos. This summer I returned once again with the hopes that I would find terns and skimmers on their breeding nests. I was a bit pessimistic, though, knowing that the area had been hit by tropical storms. Unfortunately, the area where I was photographing was hit too hard and none of the nests survived. I trekked a couple miles along the coast trying to find some survivors but it was a desolate sight. Such is the way of the wild but those birds will nest again and hopefully, next year mother nature will be more merciful.
Although I did not find any nesting birds walking along the beach, I did come across a Willet probing for prey. While fairly common in some areas, they have seen declining numbers due to a decrease in possible nesting sights attributed to coastal development in California. While wildlife is equipped to survive natural disasters, those due to man can have long-term harmful consequences. I’m not one of those who thinks you have to choose a side between man and wildlife. On the contrary, life is about man and wildlife living together. After all, man’s first home was in a garden. We do, however, have to remember to respect each other.
Willet. Canon 7DMkII | ef 500/4.5 + 1.4x | ISO 1250 | f 6.3 | 1/5000
I hung out with this willet for about half an hour watching him probe the sand and scurry through the water. There wasn’t a soul around other than the two of us and soon the willet would move on leaving me alone. So, I sat back and listened to the waves for a bit before calling it an evening…and what an evening it was.
Until next time, good light and keep shooting…KEVIN
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.
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