Friday, December 24, 2010

Sperr Park Hawk

I headed to one of my favorite locations to hike and photograph.  I went to Trooper Sperr Memorial Park in Big Flats, NY.  I have been going there since before the tragic events that lead to its renaming.  I had no real purpose in mind.  Just wanted to walk and clear my mind.  I took my camera gear just because I always take it just in case, but I wasn’t really planning to photograph anything.

Today I decided to park at the far end of the trail as the bridge was out at my usual parking spot and would require me to drive the long way around to get there.  This was fine because it had been a while since I had walked the whole path and I was looking forward to this opportunity to do so.  It also worked out well because I was able to have some photographic opportunities that I would not have had if I had only been at my normal area.
As I walked I saw how nice and blue the sky was.  I noticed how the trees were reflecting nicely in the water of the large pond.  I did a double take.  Thought about stopping to take some photos.  Kept walking.  Then went back put my camera bag down on the park bench and got my camera out. 
I composed photos at different angles and with different focal lengths.  With lots of sky and little water and lots of water and little sky.
As I continued to walk along I heard the splash of birds landing in the water.  I didn’t think too much of it as I assumed it was some mallards or Canada geese landing, which are pretty common sighting for me and I had no desire to photograph them at this time.  To my surprise when I came to a clearing in the bushes that lined the pond’s bank I saw that the birds were neither mallards nor geese.  They were American Coots which are pretty uncommon in my area.  I have only seen them on a few occasions and never in this location.  They were a little ways off but I figured it was worth stopping to get a few shots of a bird I do not frequently see even if they would not be very close.  So I once again dropped my camera bag and this time I pulled out my gear for bird photos.  I liked the ripples created in the water as the dove and resurfaced.  It was tricky shooting as they moved along the surface of the water they continued to be screened from my view by the bushes.

I finally got to my usual area at the park and saw from a distance a hawk swoop down and land on a street sign.  I was quite surprised as the hawk landed right across the road from a car where people were getting into it and driving away.  In my experience hawks are generally skittish of humans and avoid or fly away from humans when they are near.  Since this one blatantly approached an area already occupied by humans I thought this was a good chance to get close and get some photographs.  I thought that if it didn’t mind the ones already being there it was a safe bet it might not mind my approaching it too much.  I was still a good distance away and had to hurry so I could get there before it flew off.
I arrived at the location of the hawk and slowly approached.  I took only a few steps at a time and I kept an eye on the hawk, watching it for any signs of distress so I could stop before disturbing it too much and scaring it off.  I also took photos after every few steps documenting my approach. 
Then my worst fear, when I am photographing, was realized.  More people heading my way.  A car was driving right toward me and stopped and parked in the parking lot and people noisily unloaded from the car.  I knew this was likely to cause the hawk to take flight so I kept my camera trained on the hawk.  The hawk did indeed take flight but to my surprise it did not fly off into the sky.  It flew only a few yards away and down to the ground.  Shortly thereafter the hawk took off again and flew up the road and landed on another street sign. 

I decided I would hang around a little bit and see if it came near again.  As I was looking around I saw a flutter in my peripheral vision.  I turned and saw that the hawk had landed in the tree about ten yards away from me.  I was quite surprised that the hawk would land in a tree so close to a human.  I immediately began to photograph it.  It did not seem to be phased by my presence.  I decided to see if I could move around and get a better angle without disturbing it.  I was able to move around quite a bit without noticeably disturbing the hawk. 

As I photographed it I noticed the hawk was eating something.  Apparently after heading up to the second street sign it caught some prey and returned to this tree to eat.  I imagine this must be part of its regularly visited territory and it comes here often to eat and may be used to the presence of humans.

I was able to photograph it the entire time it ate until it had fully consumed its meal.  Then it wiped its beak off on the tree branch and eventually took flight.  It still did not travel too far as I spotted it atop a light post at the park’s entrance opposite where I had entered.  Alas it was time for me to leave.  I could not wait for its return. 

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Dog Show at Sampson State Park

September 30 – October 3rd there are a series of dog shows at Sampson State Park in Romulus, NY.  I will be there doing freelance photography.  At the last two dog shows I photographed dog owners approached me about buying photos of their dogs.  This has lead to some business selling prints of their dogs to them.  This type of photography is something I have just started getting into over the past three years in addition to my wildlife photography.  I have photographed five dog shows and am always looking for more opportunities that fit into my schedule.

I have photographed agility trials, conformation, and obedience portions of these dog shows.  Information for the upcoming shows indicates that there will be AKC Rally Events at this series of dog shows.  I am excited by this difference because I have never photographed or even watched a Rally event before, and Rally is a relatively new event in AKC.  I am a little dissapointe4d by the fact that there will be no agility trials at these dog shows, because I love watching and photographing them. 

It appears that there will be approximately 140 breeds of dogs at the dog shows.  I thought I’d make it easy on myself and cross of the breeds that I already had quality photos of.  To my surprise that left me with 120 breeds that I still needed to photograph.  So I have my work cut out for me if I want to get photos of all the breeds of dogs at the show, which was my goal prior to this discovery.  I am planning a very workmanlike focused photo session for the first two days then a more relaxed go with the flow approach for the final two days.

The first two days I will focus on getting photos of as many breeds as I can.  The next two days I will try to look for more fun and interesting photos.  Also my style of photos tends to focus on the dog and exclude their handlers.  This time around I want to try to include more photos of the dogs with their handlers and owners as well as more wide angle shots of the whole dog show event.  This upcoming event will be the most time I will have spent photographing one dog show event. 

The hardest part of photographing this event will be pulling myself away from the breeds I naturally gravitate to because of my own personal preferences for dogs.  I want to have photos that will appeal to dog lovers of all kinds, not just those that love the same breeds as me.  I also want to have as broad a portfolio of stock images as possible. 

I love Australian Shepherds, but I attended an all Aussie event earlier this year and have a bunch of great shots.  I will have to tear myself away from the Aussies at this event because I do not need photos of them for my portfolio.  I will still photograph them if they are competing in the Rally or obedience portions.  I also own Bernese Mountain Dogs and especially enjoy photographing this breed.  I will have to restrict the time I spend photographing breeds I already have plenty of photos of.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

My wife and our dog Buck

This is a photo from a few years ago of my wife and our Bernese Mountain dog Buck. It just happen to pop up in the random selection of photos in my sidebar on my computer and I thought it was cute so here it is. Random cute photos you don't normaly look at are the best.
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Sunday, September 5, 2010

Life Lister

One thing I greatly enjoy about being not only a nature photographer but a nature lover is that you never know what you are gonna get.  I find surprises in nature all the time.  I even get nice surprises from nature in my own back yard.  All I have to do is look out my window or step out onto my deck.  Yesterday I stepped out on the deck to watch the birds at the bird feeders and was surprised to see two birds I had never seen before.  Ususally it is the same old crowd of species of birds at my feeders.  These 2 were definitely not one of the regular crowd.  Figuring I might not get  a chance to see them again I sat and watched a minute I wanted to get a good look at them so I could later look them up and identify them.  They stuck around a few minutes as I watched and I figured that since I had gotten a good look at them now I would chance running in and getting my camera and try to get a few images of them.  Luckily when I got back out on the deck they were still there.  I was able to snap off 4 quick shots and then they flew off into the woods and did not return.  Of course this happened when my wife and I were about to head out the door to an event so I could not stay out there and wait to see if they would come back or not.  None of the images I took were particularly good but they were good enough to identify the bird as a Black-Throated Blue Warbler.  So I can now add this bird to my life list of birds.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Slobber anyone?

This past weekend a photographed an AKC dog show in Owego, NY.  It was a great event. Especially for a person who loves dogs as much as I do.  I was able to combine my love of photography and love of dogs.  I was not there on any assignment or photographing any particular dog.  I was there in large part for fun and in hopes of capturing some images for stock archives.  I was approached by one individual who requested a business card, and perhaps that will result in a business relationship.  But that said even if I do not generate a single dollar from this venture I had a great time.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

An eagle kind of day

Today just felt like an eagle kind of day.  It has just been a good day.  Enjoyable.  So for no reason at all I am posting a nice photo of a bald eagle coming in for a landing in a tree just down the road from my house.  The photo was taken in the winter of this year.  I have not gotten many chances to photograph bald eagles yet this summer.  I do enjoy watching them and photographing them.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

This is an image of a garter snake I encountered in my yard for the second time in 2 days. I wanted to move him somewhere my dogs could not get him. They are not fond of snakes. As I was holding him I realized I had my 60mm lense on my camera and could actually take some photos while I was holding him. So I did.
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Sunday, June 13, 2010

Bear Visit

Since moving to a more rural area four years ago we have had periodic visits from black bears.  They typically make there presence known in early spring after emerging from hibernation.  They like to forage on bird feeders.  On several occasions they have plundered my feeders occasionally destroying them.  On a few occasions my wife and I have been able to see the bears.  Usually just a glimpse as they move off into the woods and usually at night in low light.  This time I was able to see one during a time of day in which it would be light out.  The only down side was that it was a very overcast and foggy day.  My camera at times could not even focus on the bear through the dense fog requiring manual focus.  It was very interesting to observe the bears behavior.  I was happy to be able to get my first quality photographs of a black bear.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

That time of year

It looks like it is finally that time of year.  The time of year of which I speak is the time of year when raptors that migrate south for the winter begin to return to the north east United States.  This is one of my favorite times of year.  One of my favorite and most sought after subjects for my photography are birds of prey.

Over the past few weeks the broad winged hawks that are normally active in our woods have returned.  I can year their calls on a fairly regular basis.  Their familiar screech is quite noticeable out in the country when there are few other sounds.  I have seen them circling the woods, streaking over my house, and soaring high overhead.  I have been fortunate enough to see multiple broad wings flying through the same patch of sky.  Hopefully one pair will choose our woods to nest in.

There are generally bald eagles to be seen in this area as well.  Last week I saw my first bald eagle of the spring season as I was driving down the highway on my way home.  They are often seen over the highway because it intersects so many waterways in the area.

Today I saw my first osprey of the year.  I was so excited to see one that I took a detour from my original drive home route so that I could watch it longer and maybe observe some hunting behavior.  I drove over the bridge to cross the river watching the osprey all the while.  I saw it raise up and hover in one spot while it rapidly flapped its wings.  This is sometimes a sign it has spotted some prey and is about to dive down into the water to catch it.  I was not able to keep the osprey in sight long enough to see if it dove for prey.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

In Pursuit of Dreams

About 6 months ago I began a new job. I was really looking forward to it. It was a big improvement from my previous jobs. The pay was excellent compared to my previous jobs.  So that was a big upside especially in this economic climate.

Over the years I have been pursuing furthering my education in the field of psychology. My bachelor’s degree allowed me to get this new job. I recently earned my masters is sport psychology. It has been a goal of mine to become a psychology professor at a university. To have a legitimate opportunity to obtain such a position I need to earn my PhD. So I began this process shortly before starting this new job.

Also over the past ten years I have been becoming increasingly involved in photography.  I finally reached the level of competence where I thought I could begin to pursue photography professionally, at least part time.  As I build myself up as a professional photographer it requires an increasing amount of time to present the type of work a professional would present.  I need to work on expanding my subject list, continually perfecting my technique, writing articles to accompany my photographs, and submitting them to editors.

So as I began this new job a lot of thoughts began to flow through my mind.  This job pays well with increases yearly.  There are great health insurance benefits.  There are good retirement benefits.  There is stability.  All of these things maybe close to or better than I would have with careers as a professor or photographer.

I began to wonder, why am I killing myself to work full time, and pursue my PhD, and become a professional photographer?  Should I be content with what I already have?  Is it worth my time and effort to pursue these other career options if they are not going to get me to any better a position than I am already in?

I have found out recently that it is worth my effort to pursue these goals.  After working for nearly six months I know that this is not the job I want for the rest of my life.  I still dread going to bed each night because I will have to wake up and go to work.  My job may be comfortable but it does not captivate me.  I desire a job that I look forward to every day of my life.  I think that is what I will have with a career as a professor or photographer.  I am willing to get up early in the morning and stand in the freezing cold to get that shot.  I am willing to write a twenty page paper to earn that next degree.  The job I have now is something I fell into.  I did not strive for it.  I will embrace the job as a stepping stone on the way to achieving my dreams.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Dogs and dog shows

I love to photograph my dogs but I cannot possibly live with one of every breed of dog that I like.  So to fulfill my desire to photograph more breeds of dogs than just the ones that I am lucky enough to live my life with I keep my eyes open for opportunities to photograph other dogs.  I may not be out looking specifically to photograph dogs but if I see one while I am out I may stop and photograph it quickly if the opportunity presents itself.  I have photographed dogs at local parks that I have happened to come across.  I have photographed dogs while on vacation in Bar Harbor, Maine.  Some of which were on vacation themselves.  I have even stopped my car while driving down the road and rolled down my window to photograph a dog that was walking down a local street alone as it passed by me.

Other times go out looking specifically for opportunities to photograph lots of dogs.  I have attended a few dog shows and photographed the dogs there.  I intend to attend more of them in the future.  It is an amazing experience for me.  I love to see all the dogs and I can combine my love of photography with my love of dogs.  It’s great fun!  It’s amazing to see so many dogs in one place at one time.  It is also great to see so many different breeds of dogs in person.  I enjoy watching the show dogs competing for best in show, but I think my favorite part is watching the dogs compete in agility competition.  For me that truly exhibits what dogs are really about.  The dogs look so remarkable.  The show dogs all done up to the max with perfect grooming and the agility dogs are perfect examples of maneuverability and grace.  I can’t imagine the work it must take to compete in either the agility or show portions.  There are other types of dog competitions I would like to watch as well. 

I tend to gravitate to the medium and larger breed dogs as that is what I prefer for myself as companions.  I have seen amazing representatives of Bernese Mountain Dogs, which my wife introduced me to, and we are fortunate to share our home with two Berners.

It is great to see entire show rings full of enormous dogs.  It is also interesting to see the variation within the breeds themselves in what the dogs look like.  You can see representation of all the variety of coat colors as well as differentiation in how the coat patterns are displayed in each dog. 

   When I used to think about agility compatitions I generally thought of border collies and austrailian shepherds and similar dogs participating in these competitions.  To my surprise I saw all types of dogs competing and enjoying it.  There were Dalmatians, Collies, Doberman Pinschers, Rottweiler, as well as Australian Sheppard’s among others competing.  It was quite a variety.  I could go on and on about dogs and dog shows but I won’t for now.  Perhaps in another post.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Different, but good.

Today has been a different kind of day for me.  Different but in a good way.  I live in upstate NY where for the first time all winter we are getting a significant snow storm.  I personally love the snow and do not have much problem dealing with it.  However, I have a one hour commute each way to and from work.  So I decided that it was not worth the risk to make that drive in the bad weather.  At first I felt guilty.  But I decided to make the best of it.

I got my gear together and I went outside and photographed the birds in my backyard in the snow.  I was quite fortunate.  There were many birds around today.  I wasn't sure if there would be a lot out or if they would be taking shelter from the storm.  I was able to photograph black capped chickadees, tufted titmice, dark eyed juncos, white breasted nuthatches, and what are quickly becoming one of my favorite little buffers red breasted nuthatches.  I have become fond of the red breasted nuthatch because I had already been fond of the white breasted nuthatches and the red breasted variety seldom showed up in my yard.  This winter however I have been seeing them on a fairly regular basis and got my first photograph of one this year.  I was able to get quite a few shots that I think are quite nice today.

Today as I was watching the birds and waiting for a good shot I thought to myself I don't think I have ever seen more than one red breasted nuthatch in my yard at a time.  I didn't really believe that there was only one that came to my feeders, but it lingered in my mind as a remote possibility.  Shortly after that train of thought had run its course through my mind lo and behold there were two red breasted nut hatches in the very tree I was standing in front of.  I certainly don't know why there were two on this day and not on others.  Perhaps it was due to the snow storm and one that was farther away was attracted to my feeder instead of foraging.  I will never know, but I was very excited and fortunate.  I love to see the birds interact with each other especially same species birds.  This was my first opportunity to see interactions between two red breasted nuthatches.  I hope to continue to be so lucky.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

For the Love of Dogs

While most of my photography centers around wildlife and nature I also love to photograph dogs.  I love dogs.  They are one of the passions in my life.  I have five wonderful furry companions that my wife and I share our lives with.  They are amazing creatures.  They each have their own personality.  They each have their own quirks.  There is no normal with my dogs.  They each have some oddity about them.  I greatly enjoy photographing them and I have been able to create some amazing images of them.  They each respond differently to my attempts to photograph them.  I simply watch them as they roam our yard and wait until I see something that I find interesting or that I think will make a nice image.  I try to get the dogs to ignore me.  I just move around the yard to get the light right and the right composition. 

Sometimes trying to get lost in the background and be invisible to my dogs does not always work.  Some times while I am photographing one dog another dog takes an interest in what I am doing and come over to start jumping on me or leaning on me and trying to get my attention. As you can probably imagine this can make creating a nice photograph a little more challenging.  So I usually have to take a break from the photographing and show some affection to the dog now seeking my attention or I may never get peace to create another image.  Sometimes it looks as if crouching down to get closer to eye level with the dog will create a nicer image.  However, I usually try to avoid this with my dogs since I do not try to pose or otherwise control them and for a very specific reason.  When one of my dogs particularly the one I am photographing sees me crouch down they instantly take more interest in me.  They usually will come running to me even if they are laid out and completely relaxed.  While this may ruin the image I was trying to create it may, if I am lucky enough, allow me to capture a nice motion/action shot of the dog coming at me.