Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The commute.

I completely fail to understand the psychology of people who choose to drive recklessly. I have a 1 hr commute each way to work. I leave my house at 6 AM to head to work. This time of year the sun is just begining to rise as I drive to work. Visibility is an issue. Headlights are still necessary and often in this area there is significant fog causing visibility to be minimal. Due to construction on our main 2 lane highway I have been choosing to take our more rural routes that are single lane highways until I am past the construction area. Often deer are present along the road. Yesterday as I am driving to work along this rural route I am going the speed limit but 2 cars continue to tailgate me. I see a deer run across the road ahead of me. I also see another deer on the left side of the road begining to cross the road as well. I slam on my brakes to avoid a collission. What do the cars behind me do? Not slow down. They passed me on the left side of the road in an area where there isn't even passing allowed. People do not generally slam on there brakes in the middle of a highway without warning for no reason other than some type of road hazard. Why would these people think it is safe to pass me? I am often left wondering what these drivers must be thinking to make this type of decision. Then this morning on the 2 lane highway the same thing occured. At least on this road passing is allowed, but the deer was so close that you could clearly see it was a large buck and see its antlers. Why would a driver choose not to slow down? I simply fail to comprehend the thoughts and actions of many drivers around me.

Monday, November 7, 2011

So I am going to try a little bit of an experiment. Below is a very short very rough draft of an excerpt from a very long term project I have been working on. I am in the process of writing a book about my life with dogs. I hope you enjoy.  Feel free to make comments, critiques, or suggestions. I am also including a few photos of the subjects of the book.

My dogs love me so much they even help me in my career work.  They inspire me to write.  They inspire me to get outside and experience things.  They even sit nicely for me so I can photograph them.  Well maybe that last one is a bit of an exaggeration.  What they do is run around the yard like crazy people.  They do whatever suites them for the most part totally ignoring me.  That is they ignore me until I see them sitting still in a nice pose with nice light.  I have to be very cautious.  It’s almost like trying not to scare a wild animal.  I can’t let the dog know that I am paying attention to them.  I can usually get some nice shots if they don’t notice me too much.  Sometimes I really want to get a specific shot.  If this shot requires me to kneel or squat down in front of my subject, one of my dogs, then I have to be fast.  Kneeling or squatting is interpreted by my dogs as me saying, “Here I am.  Come and get me.” And they come running right at me ruining my shot I had just lined up.  Ironically enough, if I actually say come and get me the dogs just ignore me and stay sitting, laying, or generally ignore me. 

Friday, November 4, 2011

Dogs, birds, photos, fun

I had a fun morning today.  I threw on some sweats and a sweatshirt to go out into the yard and play with my four dogs and maybe work on some training.  I grabbed the treat bag and figured I'd take my camera just in case I decided I wanted to take some photos of the dogs while we were outside.  I also decided I'd put some bird food out since the feeders were empty.

The dogs and I played, explored the sights and smells of the yard (They explored the smells much more than I did.), and we worked on some simple training. We have been working with our husky Mojo a lot lately.  He is very aloof and does not like to be approached and petted.  He will approach you and let you pet him on his terms but backs away if he is approached. We are trying to condition him to be more comfortable around people and be more willing to approach people.  So that is what today's training focused on.  

After playing and working on training for a while I decided that since there was good light and I hadn't photographed the dogs lately I would get out the camera and take some shots.  I usually photograph the dogs with my 300mm and 1.4 teleconverter.  That way I can back off and just capture them in the moment just being dogs.  Plus if I am close and kneel down or anything they typically charge at me wanting to play.

Then I decided to turn my attention to the birds that were now arriving due to the fresh supply of bird seed.  I actually did not end up photographing any of the birds that were at the feeders.  I noticed that there was a small flock of Cedar Waxwings in the top of one of my trees eating the wild grapes from the vines that entangled the branches.  I was able to get some photos of them as they ate.

Then something surprising happened.  I was photographing Mojo from one side of the yard when I heard the call of a Pileated Woodpecker.  That is not too uncommon. I often hear them in the distance at my house. What took me by surprise was when the Pileated woodpecker came bursting out of  the woods at full speed and flew right over Mojo only about ten feet in the air.  Apparently the woodpecker was also aware of the wild grapes that grew on the edge of my yard as that was directly where it went. It flew back and forth between the trees a few times before finally settling in and eating the grapes while suspended almost upside down by only a small trig of a tree branch. Honestly, in retrospect I am a little disappointed as I should have been able to take some nice images of the woodpecker in flight but I didn't even attempt a single shot of it in flight.  I was too mesmerized by the speed and grace of this unusual visitor to my backyard.  I was just grateful to be there in the right place at the right time to bear witness to natures wonders.

I am very appreciative of all that nature has to show me in right in my own backyard.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Best laid plans

As a wildlife and nature photographer sometimes what you plan to do and what you actually end up doing are two very different things.  As a wildlife and nature photographer I am very dependant on two things the weather and the wildlife itself.  These two factors can be researched, studied, and planned for but I will never be fully in control of them.

When I go out to take photos I generally go with a plan in mind about what I want to photograph and how and where I want to do it.  What I planned on doing today was photographing sunrise at the river.  I checked to see what the weather was predicted to be around sunrise today.  Partly cloudy with very little chance of rain.  I liked that forecast.  I like to have clouds in my sunrise and sunset photos.

So I planned what I would need to get the photos I wanted.  Tripod, check.  18-200mm zoom lens, check.  Three different levels of graduated ND filters, check.  Filter holder, check. 

I checked the location where I wanted to shoot and where the sun should rise in relation to where I'd be.  It looked like it would work out good. 

When I arrived at my location in the morning I was a little troubled.  There were thick clouds and thick fog in the sky.  Not even a glint of the sun was getting through.  The tripod, 18-200mm lens, and filters never even got unpacked.

 I had a backup plan.  I brought my 300mm, 1.4 teleconverter, and my 60mm macro lens.  I knew there were lots of great blue heron in this area so I would try to photograph them.  Unfortunately for me there was very little light.  I saw several great blue herons and green herons but they would not move to where I was.  When I tried to approach them I was unable to get within range of my lens without them moving off farther away.
Still I persisted.  Plan C: macro photography.  There were lots of wild flowers growing along the river.  So I turned my focus to photographing the flowers and the insects pollinating them.  I think I was still able to come away with some keepers despite my plans not working out quite the way I had planned.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Humans and Nature

For all the advancements and achievements our species has accomplished perhaps our biggest limitation is our inability to live in cooexistance with nature.  I am in some ways as guilty as any.  We are able to shape our world to meet our needs but we are unable or unwilling to preserve nature.  In our drive for advancement and "progress" we have driven multiple species to extinction and others to the very brink of that same fate.  Upon realizing our transgressions we have in some cases tried to preserve these species we almost eradicated by reintroducing them to areas they used to inhabbit before humans encroached on their land.  Perhaps the most famous example of this is the reintroduction of gray wolves to Yellowston National Park.  After all the hard work that has been done to resore this majestic species their fate has been left in the hands of the very groups that were responsible for their exterpation in the first place.  I do not understand why this path has beechosen for the wolf.  I also don't understand how their fate can be left in the hands of those that have the most to gain from their destruction.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Trying to make progress?

I feel like everytime I read an article about our government they are trying to repeal some law that has already been passed.  Repeal energy standards, repeal the health care act, repeal clean air and water regulations, repeal environmental conservation laws, and repeal the endangered species act.  These are just some items of note I have seen lately.  Isn't our governement supposed to be fighting for progress not fighting to send us back to the stone ages.  It seems to me if our government stopped fighting over what has already been decided and looked forward to making new decisions and solving new problems.  I'm sorry if you didn't like what the solution was but let's move on with it at least for now and tackle a new problem.  Maybe we can revisit old issues at a more appropriate time.

Environmental Concern

I have come to the sad realization that as a person that cares deeply about our environment and the animals that inhabbit it I have relatively little control over or say in what happens to it.  It is even worse to think that the companies that go about recklessly destroying our planet will be the only people that can afford to live here when needs such as clean air and water become scarce.  What will happen to the everyday person who cares about the environment and has taken steps to protect it?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Vick / Tiger Comparrison

I just read a report that Michael Vick won the Subway-sponsored BET Sportsman of the Year award.  He also signed a new endorsement deal with Nike.  Michael Vick is a convicted criminal yet he is being given awards and endorsement deals.  He was found guilty of crimes and went to prison.  Not the least of his crimes was killing defenseless animals.

Just a quick comparison.  Tiger Woods was a much greater player to his sport, golf, than Vick was, is, or ever will be to the NFL.  Tiger Woods committed an immoral act, but not an illegal act and people everywhere seem to want to bury him and want nothing to do with him.  He lost endorsements as a result of this.  His golf game even appears to be suffering as a result of this, which seems to evidence a much greater inner turmoil than that which Vick is experiencing.  I in no way condone what tiger did but I think we need a little perspective here.

Tiger Woods is booed, rooted against, and financially punished for his immoral behavior.  Michael Vick is cheered, given awards, and signed to lucrative endorsement deals after committing multiple criminal acts and being sent to prison.

I firmly believe if Vick was told he could never play in the NFL we would not have heard even the most insincere apologies from Vick.  Everything he says about what he did is motivated by his desire to make money.

I am embarrassed to have been a customer of both Nike and Subway in the past.  I will not be a customer of theirs in the future.

As a photographer dogs are among my favorite subjects.  As a photographer and a person I am very passionate about animals and dogs especially.  I felt I needed to take a moment to write briefly about this topic. I would love to hear the thought of others on this topic whether you agree with me or not.

I won't linger on this any longer.  Lets just make peoples punishments fit the crimes or lack there of.

For more information about Vick and Nike here is a short article:

For more information about Vick and the sportsman of the year award and other details check out these links:

Wire fox terrier

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Another interesting commute

I had another interesting incident durring my drive in to work today. I was driving down the highway with my cruise control set to the speed limit as usual. I was approaching an exit and i could see a car traveling down the on ramp to merge with traffic at about the same time I'd be at that point on the highway. So with no traffic around me I did what you should do and I moved over to the left lane to allow the car on the on ramp to merge into the right hand lane of the highway. While i was in the left lane another car comes flying up behind me well in excess of the speed limit flashing his headlights at me to try and get me to move out of his way. This driver continued to flash his headlights at me the entire time I was passing the car on my right. Then when I was clear of the car on the right and moved over to the right hand lane the driver of the car speeding, driving recklessly, and breaking the law gave me the finger for driving safely and following traffic laws and using common sense. Yes HE gave ME THE FINGER. Yup that finger. And he wasn't telling me i was number one. I am not sure how i was the one that deserved to be flipped off in this scenario.
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Friday, June 24, 2011

The commute

I commute to work every day 1 hr each way on route 17/86 from Elmira to Endicott.  I feel like this is becoming an increasingly treacherous situation.  I almost always drive the speed limit.  I get on the high way, set my cruise control to the speed limit, and then adjust it when it increases and decreases.  Countless cars pass me every day.  Most of the cars are not going just over the speed limit and barely passing me.   Most cars go whipping by quickly disappearing into the horizon.  The same goes for tractor-trailers and construction vehicles.

On two occasions recently I became seriously concerned for my safety as tractor trailers came barreling down behind me  getting so close that the only thing I could see in my rear view mirror was the emblem on the grill of the truck.  On the first occasion, I noticed the tractor-trailer quickly catching up to me.  As I monitored its approach, I could see clearly in my rear view mirror the driver with a piece of paper in front of his face blocking his view of the road on several occasions as he approached.  As the tractor trailer became perilously close to me I had to move over from the right lane of the highway into the left hand lane, the passing lane, to get out of the way of the truck and the truck just continued on its way passing me as if the driver never knew I was there which I believe was exactly the case.  The truck driver either, never knew I was there or did not care that I was there.  More recently as I was proceeding through the construction zone as you approach the Elmira exit where there is only one lane and you are surrounded by concrete barriers a tractor-trailer repeatedly closed in on me from behind to uncomfortable proximity.  At one point, the truck was so close I began to swerve off the road as far to the side as I could without hitting the barrier to avoid an impact as best I could.

On occasions where there are cars in the right hand lane driving under the speed limit, as is their right, and I pass them in the left other cars catch up to me at reckless speeds and do not begin to slow down until they are right behind me.  They ride my bumper as close as possible as if they are NASCAR drivers trying to draft with me to increase my speed so I will be able to pass the other driver better.  Then once I am past the car on the right and I signal and begin to move over to the right lane myself they begin to pass me on the left before I am even in the right hand lane.  Commuting to work should not feel like a NASCAR race with all the danger involved and none of the safety measures. 
It has gotten to the point where I almost feel forced to speed in order to avoid the other dangers of the traffic around me.  Where is the protection for the law abiding citizens who drive the speed limit and obey traffic laws?  I am sure that if I decided to speed to lessen the impact of other drivers around me I would probably end up being the one who was ticketed.  With the pressures and dangers of the traffic around me it feels like I am the one breaking the law and causing danger for everyone else when it is the other way around. 

I am not saying I have never exceeded the speed limit in my life but as I have grown up and matured, I have realized how reckless and dangerous it is to oneself and everyone else around.  By the way, I am only 33.  I just do not understand what logic or lack thereof causes someone to speed.  If the speed limit is 60 m/h and you drive 60 miles, it takes 1 hour.  If my math is correct if you exceed the speed limit by 10 m/h and drive 70 m/h and still drive 60 miles it takes approximately 51 minutes to arrive at the destination.  Therefore, the point is speeding does not really even save a significant amount of time if that is supposed to be the logic for speeding.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Yesterdays Best

Here are some of yesterdays best photos from my visit to Tioga-Hammond Lakes in PA.

Friday, June 17, 2011

something new

I think i am going to try something new with my blog. The mainfocus will bo on photography and nature but I will also blog about other events or subjects that interest me such as politics, animal behavior, and psychology. In the past I have not posted as much as I would have liked to because I always wanted to have a long written post including several photos ideally. Now some posts will be like that. Some posts will have short text with a photo or two. Others will have just a photo. Still others may have just text and or links to supportive information. Please feel free to comment as to what you do or do not like and I will try to adjust accordingly. Thank you.
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Friday, January 7, 2011

Elusive Red-Bellied Woodpecker

Last weekend I set up my blind outside my feeder stations with one objective in mind.  I wanted to photograph a bird that has been pretty elusive and only seldom photographed by me.  Red-Bellied woodpeckers in my area see, to be very skittish, more so than other species of woodpeckers.  I see them fairly frequently at my feeders and in the woods around my house. I can watch them fine from inside my house without disturbing them.  They will even approach the feeders as long as I am a long way away from them if I am outside.  If I am close enough to get a good photograph them they either stay away and I can hear them vocalizing in the surrounding woods or they fly to the feeders, see me there, and instantly fly off.

I recently resorted to taking a screen out of one of the windows in my house so that the Red-Bellied Woodpeckers would feel safe to approach the feeders and I could get a clear photograph of them through the open window.  At least this is how that plan was intended to work in theory.  The first part worked fine.  The Red-Bellied Woodpeckers still came to my feeders.  However, being that it is currently winter I do not sit there and wait for them with the window open.  Once the subject arrives I have to open the window before I can photograph it.  This almost inevitably scares off my quarry.  In the instances where the woodpecker does not immediately flee the sound of an opening window it is still gone before I am able to train my lens on it and create an image.

These failures led me to attempt using my blind which previously allowed me to successfully photograph bluebirds at their nest box, feeding their young.  So I figured this would surely work with the Red-Bellied Woodpeckers too.  Somehow, this plan too failed.  Not a single Red-Bellied Woodpecker appeared at the feeders while I was in my blind.  I even tried setting it up in two different locations.  There are several variables that could account for this and it may take a few trials to work out the details that will allow the woodpeckers to feel safe enough to approach the feeders in the presence of the blind.  Repeated trials should allow me to work these out.  Perhaps the blind was simply too close to the feeders.  The woodpeckers may have been afraid of the new and large object suddenly appearing near the feeders.  Maybe the Red-Bellied Woodpeckers simply were not hungry that day.  I am sure I will get it worked out in the long run.

The good news is that out of this experience where I was attempting to photograph a bird I see frequently but am seldom able to photograph I was actually fortunate enough to be able to photograph a birds that I rarely see and have never been able to photograph.  The Brown Creeper is a species that I can probably count on my fingers the number of times I have even seen it.  They generally show up at the tree my feeders are at creep around a little bit and then fly off.  I probably only see them twice a year at most.  I see them so infrequently that I do want to at least watch them a little bit to enjoy their presence.  Once it seems they may stay around a little while I go get my camera to try and get a photograph.  Inevitably this fails.  They never stay very long and leave by the time I am ready with my camera.  I usually see them when I am inside my house so this makes it even more difficult.

This time one appeared while I was sitting in my blind.  I took as many photos as I could.  Not many of them were great, or even good for that matter, but I had finally been able to photograph that little elusive bugger.  Then before I knew it the Brown Creeper flew off into the woods and did not return the rest of the day.

So, even though my plans did not work out as I had planned I was still able to accomplish some other goals.  I created many nice images of more commonly photographed species.  I learned what things not to do if I wanted to try and photograph Red-Bellied Woodpeckers and what to try next time.  And I was able to successfully create some nice images of a bird I had never photographed before and did not expect to be photographing that day.  It’s funny how things have a way of working out.