Cranes of the World by Mike Endres

Greater Sandhill landing to roost at Bosque del Apache NWR, NM. This image took over 160 tries to get using manual focus & exposure and a Nikon D3 shooting 11 fps once the birds became visible in moon. Image © Mike Endres

Greater Sandhill landing to roost at Bosque del Apache NWR, NM. This image took over 160 tries to get using manual focus & exposure and a Nikon D3 shooting 11 fps once the birds became visible in moon. Image © Mike Endres

Images and Story by Mike Endres

Aldo Leopold once said, “When we hear his call we hear no mere bird. We hear the trumpet in the orchestra of evolution.”

Cranes are among the most graceful and symbolic birds known to man. That they’ve been around for some 10 million years is a testament to their hardiness in the face of numerous geological events that have challenged or even lead to the demise of other, perhaps lesser, genera. Found on every continent in the world, with the exception of Antarctica and South America, the 15 species are frequently incorporated into local culture and mythology as they help humans better understand their connectedness to the natural world around them.

What other species has compelled a grown man to move in with and perform a “mating dance” in order to arouse an otherwise reluctant female Whooping Crane, Tex, into breeding? Dr. George Archibald’s early and insightful work with Cranes through the International Crane Foundation has lead to significant understanding of their behaviors and what it takes to sustain viable and genetically diverse populations of all Crane species.

Living in Colorado I’m lucky to be relatively close to two large populations of Sandhill Cranes that provide me with the opportunity for viewing and photographing these magnificent birds as they stage on their north-bound flights in early spring or where they winter over. These locations are the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge in south-central Colorado and the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in central New Mexico respectively. For good Whooping Crane viewing one must travel to the Texas coast near Aransas NWR where these birds spend the winter. Numerous boat tours can be found in and around Rockport, TX. I’ve noticed over the last decade or so that more and more Whoopers are being found outside the Refuge in fields as they look for food. The severe drought over the past 10 years in this region has likely diminished their standard food source, the blue crab and clams, as wetlands dry up. After considerable legal effort on the part of the Aransas Project a recent ruling by a U.S. District court in Texas will finally begin to help ensure that sufficient water is available for wildlife and not diverted to watering lawns….

Greater Sandhill couple “chatting” at Monte Vista NWR, CO. © Mike Endres

Greater Sandhill couple “chatting” at Monte Vista NWR, CO. © Mike Endres

Equipment & Technique: I generally use either a 600mm F4 lens or a 300mm F4 coupled with a good body such as the Nikon D800 or D7100. Having the 300mm lens on the D7100 body allows me to take advantage of the digital factor and essentially have a 450mm lens without using a teleconvertor and still be able to easily handhold the setup. I have recently been using Auto ISO with a maximum ISO of 1600 and a shutter speed of 1/2000 in order to minimize movement. This gives me the shutter/f-stop combination I want while selecting the lowest possible ISO considering the available light. At other times I will choose a slower shutter speed in Aperture Priority in order to emphasize the movement of the birds. It is very important to not overlook your f-stop, especially with longer lenses. Even with a 600mm lens, which we typically think of as having minimal depth of field, there is an increase of over 8 feet in depth of field at 200 feet between f4 and f8 (8.59’ to 17.2’). Please visit www.cambridgeincolour.com/tutorials/dof-calculator.htm for additional calculations.

We’re off now to New Mexico to enjoy the sights & sounds of 13,000+ Sandhill Cranes!

Unison call by Greater Sandhill couple at Bosque del Apache NWR, NM.

Unison call by Greater Sandhill couple at Bosque del Apache NWR, NM. © Mike Endres.

 

See more of Mike’s work at www.mendres.photoshelter.com. To learn more about cranes, check out www.savingcranes.org, www.cranefest.orgwww.friendsofthebosque.orgwww.whoopingcranefestival.org, and www.alaskasandhillcrane.com

 

Greater Sandhills against backdrop of Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Monte Vista NWR, CO. © Mike Endres

Greater Sandhills against backdrop of Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Monte Vista NWR, CO. © Mike Endres

 

NANPA Summit Plants Seeds for Future Growth by Kelley Durham

 

Keynote Speaker Nevada Wier is introduced by Master of Ceremonies Roy Toft. © Mark Larson

Keynote Speaker Nevada Wier is introduced by Master of Ceremonies Roy Toft. © Mark Larson

NANPA Summit Plants Seeds for Future Growth

Article by Kelley Durham/Images by Mark Larson and Karine Aigner

As I prepared to attend the NANPA Summit this past week in San Diego, I learned from long-time members that Summit is a seminal experience for nature photographers. They told me about the insightful sessions and the worthwhile networking. They told me about the extraordinary professionals I would meet. They told me I would leave filled with inspiration.

From these tips, I developed a set of expectations that I carried with me up to the time I signed in at the conference center. As the event proceeded, expectations rolled into experiences, and I began to develop a set of questions that I carried with me throughout the conference.

Am I good enough to be a serious photographer (or put another way, will I embarrass myself)?

I came away with two answers: 1). I’m really fairly good, and 2). I have SO much to learn.

In a spectacular keynote address, world-renowned photographer, Dewitt Jones, so eloquently shared the advice of his first boss at National Geographic—don’t work to prove yourself; work to improve yourself. Your daily goals should not be about comparing yourself to others. Instead, always strive to make the work you do today better than the work you did yesterday. Read the rest of this entry »

FIELD TECHNIQUE: Bringing the Field Indoors, Story and photos by F.M. Kearney

March is an interesting time of year. Spring flowers have yet to bloom, and most of the winter snow has melted. It can be slim pickings as far as nature photography is concerned. One option is to bring a little bit of nature indoors. Buy some flowers at a local florist and let your imagination run wild. I don’t have an actual studio, so I used a container to hold the flowers, a few tripods, some flashlights and a mirror.

AF_182 Read the rest of this entry »

My Journey as an Apprentice by Margaret Gaines

This image is one of my favorites created towards the end of my journey to Level 20. The Little Susitna River is at the height of fall color. I wanted to blur the water to capture the essence of it flowing over the boulders. I used the fog and trees to frame the image and processed it to bring the colors out in the trees and water.

This image is one of my favorites created towards the end of my journey to Level 20. The Little Susitna River is at the height of fall color. I wanted to blur the water to capture the essence of it flowing over the boulders. I used the fog and trees to frame the image and processed it to bring the colors out in the trees and water.

I had the most wonderful opportunity this past year to grow as a photographer. In April, Karen Hutton, a mentor at The Arcanum—a new online learning platform based on the master and apprentice method of learning—selected me to be in her cohort. I applied to The Arcanum because my photography had stalled. I wanted to get better, but most workshops and learning opportunities were beyond my reach, because they are either far from home or expensive. The Arcanum fit me perfectly. I would receive personal attention from a mentor and work with a small group of photographers who would get to know me and my goals. Read the rest of this entry »

VOLUNTEER: William Jaynes

Bill JAYNES pikFor 11 years Bill Jaynes managed the Inner Reflections engagement calendar, which specializes in publishing superlative nature photography. During those years, many of the best nature photographers in the world said that each year Inner Reflections set the standard for nature photography. The Calendar Marketing Association has stated that Inner Reflections won more gold, silver and bronze awards in its annual competitions than any other calendar in its history. This includes all types of calendars from around the world. In 2006 alone, Inner Reflections won four gold and four silver CMA awards.

Bill has given generously of his time to NANPA by doing portfolio reviews, judging the Showcase competition and sharing his expertise in writing and editing as an integral part of the Communications Committee. He received a Fellows Award at the 2003 Summit for “…outstanding contributions to the field of nature photography.” Read the rest of this entry »

PHOTOGRAPHER PROJECT: The Mystery of Philodoria, Story and photographs by Chris A. Johns

A Philodoria moth resting on a leaf of its Hawaiian host plant, displaying its characteristic striped metallic wings and body-length antennae. Based on wing patterns, this individual moth is a close relative of P. splendida, yet it was found outside of P. splendida’s known range and on an entirely different host plant, indicating that it may be a new species. Findings as unexpected as this one have been common during this project and reflect how little we know about these Hawaiian micromoths.

A Philodoria moth resting on a leaf of its Hawaiian host plant, displaying its characteristic striped metallic wings and body-length antennae. Based on wing patterns, this individual moth is a close relative of P. splendida, yet it was found outside of P. splendida’s known range and on an entirely different host plant, indicating that it may be a new species. Findings as unexpected as this one have been common during this project and reflect how little we know about these Hawaiian micromoths.

I fly around in helicopters—guided by documents that are nearly a century old—to remote Hawaiian rainforests looking for metallic, microscopic moths that may or may not exist. I do this to collect data for my dissertation. Here’s my story. Read the rest of this entry »

NATIONAL PARKS: Grand Canyon National Park, Story and photographs by Jerry Ginsberg

Powell Point Sunset

Powell Point Sunset

First explored by John Wesley Powell soon after the Civil War, Grand Canyon National Park is a geologic layer cake displaying more than two billion years of history. “Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it,” heralded pioneering conservationist President Theodore Roosevelt, “The great sight that every American should see.” Read the rest of this entry »

NANPA College Scholarship Program

© Mark Larson

© Mark Larson

NANPA College Scholarship Program

Text By Don Carter and Photos by Mark Larson

You may not know that NANPA has a college scholarship program where we pay expenses for 12 college students to come to the Summit where they network, learn, have their portfolios reviewed, and create a conservation project for a client. The NANPA college committee finds a client who would like the students’ help in creating a multimedia presentation about some type of conservation effort. This year, the students will be working with the San Diego Fish and Wildlife Services, documenting their restoration work along the San Diego Bay. The students will take images, shoot video and conduct interviews in the process of creating the multimedia presentation that will be used by FWS to introduce their conservation efforts to the local community. The presentation will also be shown prior to the keynote address on Saturday evening of the summit.

The students arrive on Monday, prior to the summit to start their planning and create their shooting schedule. They will work with the San Diego FWS personnel to document the ongoing projects. Canon supports the NANPA scholars by providing the equipment for the students to use during the week; they will be providing the new 7D Mk IIs and 1Dx cameras and lenses from 800 mm to 17 mm tilt shift.

This year’s group has seven graduate students and five undergraduates; six biology majors, most of the others are science majors (ecology, wildlife management, etc.), and one photography major. Ten come from all over the US and two students will be coming from Canada.

If you are attending the NANPA Summit in February, please say hello and introduce yourself to the scholars!

To learn more about the program, please visit: http://www.nanpa.org/students/app_process_co.php

If you’d like to support this program, please consider donating to the NANPA Foundation, a 501(c)-3 non-profit organization. All donations are tax-deductible.

 

© Mark Larson

© Mark Larson

© Mark Larson

© Mark Larson

© Mark Larson

© Mark Larson

 

NATURE’S VIEW – A visit with the eloquent denizen of the cypress swamp, Story and photographs by Jim Clark

Prothonotary Warbler

Prothonotary Warbler

The charm of its haunts and the beauty of its plumage combine to render the prothonotary warbler among the most attractive members of the family.—Frank Chapman, ornithologist, 1907

Many nature photographers have locations or subjects that have been a desire or challenge to photograph. It may take years—sometimes, a lifetime—for a photographer to achieve a certain photographic goal. Indeed, it may never happen. The charm is that the photographer never gives up.

For years I wanted to photograph the prothonotary warbler, a beautiful yellow and orange warbler of the bottomland wetlands and cypress swamps. In the spring of 2013, that goal became a reality. It was a matter of being a naturalist first and photographer second. Knowing about the subject and using my skills at anticipating a moment and chasing one all played a part. Steadfast determination and persistence had something to do with it as well. Read the rest of this entry »

Let the Games Begin! by Gordon and Cathy Illg

Orb weaver spider in dew-covered web, Jefferson County, CO by © Gordon and Cathy Illg

Orb weaver spider in dew-covered web, Jefferson County, CO. Image © Gordon and Cathy Illg

Text and Images by Gordon and Cathy Illg

I’ve known photographers who were totally oblivious of this fact, and I’ve lost sight of it myself from time to time: nature photography is not a contest. This can be a difficult thing to keep in mind, and it was another photographer–thank you Valerie Millett–who recently reminded me. Nature photography is not a game in which the person who visits the most locations or the most exotic sites wins.

I have fleeting moments when I think it might be nice if it was a game, at least for a little while, but those thoughts are generated by a desire for financial security. Speaking as a photo tour leader, it would be great if everyone was in a competition to see all the places we want to take them. However, for good or bad, it is not a contest, and it makes no difference if you’re photographing in Alaska or your own backyard, as long as you’re out there shooting.

The miracle that compels us to push the shutter button is not something that is only present in far away climes. The beauty and the life and death struggles that we want so desperately to capture happen in our own gardens, just as they do in the rainforest. This orb weaver spider laid her trap right beside our front door, and the fact that we didn’t need to travel to the far corners of the globe did not detract from the engineering marvel that was her web. From our house, we observed the evolutionary miracle that her stronger-than-steel gossamer strands represents and we witnessed the deadliness of her attack.

Orb weaver spider with prey, Jefferson County, CO. Image © Gordon and Cathy Illg

Orb weaver spider with prey, Jefferson County, CO. Image © Gordon and Cathy Illg

The poetic naturalist, Annie Dillard, once wrote, “Fish gotta swim and birds gotta fly; insects, it seems, gotta do one horrible thing after another. I never ask why of a vulture or a shark, but I ask why of almost every insect I see.” And the same applies to spiders. You see, spiders do not simply eat their victims. They inject a witch’s brew of poison and enzymes that paralyzes the prey and reduces its muscles and organs to a protein shake. Then it can be sucked out. Don’t you get hungry just thinking about it?

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to photograph exotic locations or to search for the Shangri-Las of nature photography. There, you can find magnificent scenery, charismatic megafauna, and colorful birds. Our business depends upon some of these destinations, and even though Cathy and I have been lucky enough to visit a good number of these places, there are many more that are still on our list. This desire to see new places often has little to do with the quality of the photos we come home with, and a photo of an iceberg or a grizzly bear or a lion cub is not inherently better than one of a flower, a bug or a squirrel. When we judge photography competitions, we’ve found that the most ordinary and pedestrian images are often the ones with the most exciting subjects. It’s easy to make the mistake of thinking the image is exciting just because the subject is. Some of the most extraordinary images are composed of ordinary subjects. I’m not sure if the ones I’ve included with this blog illustrate this fact adequately, but you get the idea.

Personally, I think that nature photography is a contest, the winner is the one who gets to spend the most time immersed in the mystery and majesty that we are a part of.

You can see more images by Gordon and Cathy Illg and learn about their photo tours at http://www.advenphoto.com

Image by © Gordon and Cathy Illg

Image by © Gordon and Cathy Illg

© 2013 - North American Nature Photography Association
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