Posts tagged ‘wildlife’

A SURPRISE PARTNERSHIP: COYOTE AND BADGER by Kathy Lichtendahl

Badger and Coyote in sagebrush

February 2013

I live in Wyoming. Anyone who has visited the state knows it has a lot of open space. What many people don’t realize is that the area in which I live – the northwest part of Wyoming – is almost always drier and more temperate than that to the south. So when I finished several days of meetings in Casper a couple years ago, I was anxious to make the 5-hour drive home to my own bed despite the dire warnings of an incoming snow storm. I knew that if I could make it the hundred miles across the sagebrush plains and then north through Wind River Canyon, I would probably leave the worst of the winter weather behind me. Before leaving the city, I consciously packed my camera gear in the back of the car, not wanting the temptation to stop along the way.

I was about 40 miles west of Casper when the blowing snow began to arrive in force, timed to the arrival of dusk. I hadn’t seen another vehicle since leaving the city limit, but I slowed anyway, knowing that going off the road in such conditions would carry serious consequences. Just as I settled into my reduced speed, I saw a large animal cross the highway in front of me at the limit of my vision. It looked like a coyote and I was feeling relieved it had made it to the side of the road when it did something unexpected – it sat down on the shoulder and looked back the way it had come. I immediately slowed further, suspecting it was traveling with another coyote. Instead what I saw, crossing behind the patient canine, was a large brown animal with very short legs and a large, fluffy tail. I couldn’t see the creature’s face but it clearly was not a coyote and my first thought was “raccoon!” I didn’t dare pull off the highway at that point and so as I passed the pair I watched as the smaller animal pulled up next to the coyote who put his head down, appearing to touch noses with his companion, before they both headed off into the sage in the midst of blowing snow.

I was totally awestruck. The 30 second experience stayed with me for the rest of the drive home and for many days after. It felt as though I had experienced something truly magical and I was having a hard time processing it. But when I told my worried husband what I had seen, his uncharacteristic skepticism was a pretty good forewarning of the reaction I would get from others and so it didn’t take long until I decided to keep the story to myself.

Coyote in sagebrush

Early May 2015

I was leading a sold out, one-day photo workshop in Yellowstone. One of the participants was an amateur photographer/biologist from Casper. As we sat down for a picnic lunch I couldn’t resist asking if he had ever seen coyotes and raccoons hanging out together on the plains. To my surprise, instead of immediately breaking into laughter, he appeared to consider the question and then asked if my “raccoon” could possibly have been a badger. He explained that there is significant data that shows coyotes and badgers hunt together quite regularly. Thinking back on that night I realized the second animal could very well have been a badger. The only reason my mind went immediately to raccoon was because I have seen so many more of them in my life. I couldn’t wait to get home and tell my husband of my newfound knowledge – a thought that immediately left my head as the workshop continued throughout the day.

Badger

Late May 2015

My husband and I decided to take a four-day mini photo vacation into Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks before the inevitable onslaught of summer tourists. After three days of hiking an average of ten miles a day with heavy backpacks loaded down with photo gear, we decided to do a slightly shorter hike across Blacktail Plateau on our way home and to lighten the load by taking a minimum amount of equipment. I limited myself to my Canon 5D III equipped with a 100mm – 400mm lens, leaving the 600mm and my heavy tripod in the vehicle. After turning at the halfway point and heading back to the car I suddenly remembered what the biologist had said and was recounting the information to my husband when he looked up and spotted a coyote on the ridge across from our position. As I focused on the animal I realized he was not alone in my field of view. Incredibly, the dog was traveling with a badger companion! For the next fifteen minutes we watched in total amazement as the two worked the hillside, never straying far from each other. Both animals seemed aware of our presence but comfortable with the distance between us. I was wishing desperately that I had taken the longer lens but feeling, once again, blessed to be witnessing this marvel of inter-species cooperation!

Badger and Coyote among sagebrush

I have since done a little more research on this subject. When I tell people of the experience they almost always comment on how the coyote must be taking advantage of the slower badger but neither the research nor my admittedly limited observation seem to support that theory. In both cases that I observed, the coyote would patiently wait for the badger who very clearly was striving to catch up to his companion. I think if it was a one-sided deal, the badger would try to elude the coyote rather than make an effort to join him. Whether the animals stay together for any amount of time or whether it is simply a short interaction in an effort to hunt their common prey more efficiently, I don’t know. I do know that I have now had one more opportunity to witness a little magic in the natural world and I am so thankful that this time I was able to capture it with the camera!

Badger

 


 

Kathy Lichtendahl is the owner of Light in the Valley, LLC, based in Clark, Wyoming. Her work can be found at Open Range Images Gallery in Cody and on the web at www.kathylichtendahl.com. In addition to selling prints, Kathy leads photography workshops in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

Hands Off by Gordon Illg

Land iguana walks through a group of photographers, South Plaza Island, Galapagos National Park, Ecuador. Image © Gordon and Cathy Illg.

Land iguana walks through a group of photographers, South Plaza Island, Galapagos National Park, Ecuador. Image © Gordon and Cathy Illg.

By Gordon Illg

This is a new monthly opinion column by photographer Gordon Illg about what inspires nature photographers and why nature photographers do what they do. Check back next month for the next installment! And please check out more of Gordon’s work at: http://www.advenphoto.com.

 

If you’re like me, you receive many, many petitions to sign. Well, one of the latest expressed the view that people should totally stay away from some sensitive parts of the planet just to better protect them. Their stance was that even ecotourism was too much pressure for some parts of the world, and they used both Antarctica and the Galapagos in their list of candidates that should remain totally people free. The petitioners felt that we would be better off reading about these places rather than experiencing them for ourselves. I did not sign that petition. In fact, my response was…how can I put this delicately? “What a crock!”

Read the rest of this entry »

The Captive Project, by Gaston Lacombe

Sea turtle in aquarium window

When I presented my project on rewilding at the recent San Diego NANPA Summit, it was a Lightning Talk, so I only had six minutes to address the audience. I did not have time to explain a bit more about why I started a photo project about releasing animals back into the wild. It stems in part from spending years working on another project, which deals with less fortunate animals living in captivity. After photographing animals who had lost all freedom, I felt the need to experience animals returning to nature. But still, the project I call “Captive” is a quest I feel passionate about, especially as I have seen my photos play an integral role in the current public discourse over reforming and rethinking zoos.

Burrowing Owl in cage

Since 2009, through “Captive,” I have been taking a critical look at the living conditions of animals in zoos all around the world. At the moment, I have gathered photos from about 60 zoos (I have lost count), in 11 countries, on 5 continents, and I keep adding to the collection whenever I get the chance. The main goal is to invite the viewer to reflect on what happens when we use animals as objects of display and entertainment. It’s something that we often forget when visiting zoos. We get distracted by the cuteness, the fuzziness, or the search for the elusive hidden animal, and we fail to stop and take a look at the habitat in which we keep these beings for our pleasure. Human vision is selective, so freezing a scene through photography allows the viewer to notice things in these animal enclosures that we would usually glance over.

Captive_Series_Gaston_Lacombe_010

No matter if I am visiting some of the “best” zoos in the world, or rusty old road-side attractions, and no matter if I am in the so-called developed world, or in developing countries, I always find animals living in deplorable conditions. Everywhere, cement enclosures are the norm, with little or no access to vegetation, fresh water or even daylight. Most animals never see any signs of nature unless it is through the idyllic scenes painted on the walls. Recently, many zoos have added conservation, preservation and education to their missions, which I applaud. But still, these are the rare exceptions, and quality of life is still something that eludes the vast majority of captive animals worldwide.

Tiger in zoo enclosure

I’ve been very fortunate to see this series take off and get noticed by a wide public. It has lead to 28 legitimate publications (and many more illegitimate ones), TV appearances, as well as a few exhibits. My high point up to now has been seeing one of my photos being used as a rallying call to save a highly distressed polar bear in Mendoza, Argentina. There also have been talks of creating a book from my “Captive” series, but I still need to do a bit more work before that can happen.

Polar Bear in zoo enclosure

Currently, maybe because of a slight fatigue caused by the negativism often depicted in these images, I am hoping to supplement this series with a “Beyond Captive” addendum. It’s clear to me that zoos and aquariums will always exist. There is a demand for them, they make money, and like it or not, for many people, it’s the only exposure they will ever get to animals beyond the barnyard. So what can be the 21st century solution for captive animals? What are the innovative ways to reform and rethink zoos? These are questions I am interesting in exploring, and using my camera to find answers. I feel that conservation photography at its best is not just about exposing the problems, but also seeking and documenting solutions that can better the situation.

Cotton-top Tamatin

I am currently looking for funding and support to undertake this “Beyond Captive” project. If you have ideas or suggestions, feel free to contact me at gaston@gastonlacombe.com. Thank you!


 

Gaston Lacombe is a photographer based in Washington, D.C., specializing in documentary and conservation projects. Most of his work deals with the relationships between humans and animals, and humans and nature.

Gaston has worked on six continents, including a residency in Antarctica. His photos and articles have appeared in numerous publications in North America and Europe, and he is the recipient of multiple international photography prizes. His photos have been shown in galleries and museums in Europe, South America and North America, including at the Smithsonian Institute. He regularly lectures on photography, and on his projects, around the world.

Gaston is also the Communications Coordinator for the International League of Conservation Photographers, where he helps coordinate conservation expeditions with some of the world’s top photographers.

www.gastonlacombe.com

 

 

 

Multi-flash Hummingbird Photography by Nate Chappell

A Sword-billed Hummingbird (left) and a Chestnut-breasted Coronet battle over a hummingbird feeder. © Nate Chappell

A Sword-billed Hummingbird (left) and a Chestnut-breasted Coronet battle over a hummingbird feeder. © Nate Chappell

Images and Text by Nate Chappell

Photographing hummingbirds in flight in countries like Ecuador and Costa Rica with natural light or with just one flash can be very difficult. The reason – most of these birds live in the cloud forest where there isn’t much light due to both shade from trees and cloud cover. One solution for this, which creates beautiful flight shots, is a multi-flash hummingbird setup. By setting up several slave flashes set to 1/32 or 1/16 power around a hummingbird feeder or flower you can produce stunning images of hummingbirds in flight. The reason is that the flashes are actually synching at speeds of 1/8000 to 1/12,000 of a second changing the effective shutter speed from what is on your camera – let’s say 1/200 sec to the lightning fast speed of the flashes synching. The key to this is having the flashes produce all of the light, otherwise you will be mixing ambient light and flash lighting. In that case the 1/200 sec shutter speed will affect the image by causing blurring in parts of it. So you need to have your camera’s exposure set to at least -3 or -4 stops below the ambient lighting.Another helpful component is to have an artificial background – often a large printed photograph held a few yards behind the mutli-flash setup. Read the rest of this entry »

Observing an Osprey’s Pursuit by Robert Strickland

© Robert Strickland

© Robert Strickland

Images and Text by Robert Strickland

I recently observed one of the greatest nature shows I had ever witnessed. I was over at a subdivision near my home, which has good-sized pond. I was there to photograph water birds and other water fowl that frequent the pond. While I was setting up and watching for subjects, I kept hearing an Osprey cry out. I soon discovered him on the top of a tree just across the pond from me.

As I was focusing my eye on him, he swiftly took off and climbed high above the pond. The osprey suddenly went into a hover, staring into the water below. Finding nothing, he started flying around in circles, and then went back into a hover, moving side to side, hovering, and then going around in circles. After a few moments, he did a free fall toward the water. I immediately swung my camera to capture the aggressive splash and watched him fly off with a fish. However, the fish he picked was much too big and he could not immediately get it out of the water. He was stranded with his wings spread, trying to stay afloat with a huge fish in his razor sharp talons. After a few moments of struggling, he was airborne and flew off with his catch. However, he only got to the edge of the pond because the fish was so big.

Read the rest of this entry »

Balancing Flash and Ambient Light by Charles Glatzer

Image by Charles Glatzer

Image by Charles Glatzer

Text and photographs by Charles Glatzer

When I hear someone say, “I hate flash images,” it typically tells me they feel uncomfortable or do not fully comprehend how to use flash effectively.  Many people state that they can always tell when flash is used as the images have a “flashed” look to them. By this they mean that the subject appears overly bright and unnaturally lit within the image. By applying varying levels of flash output, we are able control the degree of subject illumination independent of the ambient light. Keeping the flash and ambient exposure separate in your mind will help you better achieve your goal.

The image of the heron on the nest (above) is a good example of how I use flash to balance ambient light. Here are the steps I took to make this image using flash.

1. First, I used my in-camera spot meter to check the yellow background highlight and I set my exposure 1.3 stops above the mid tone (in this case, my exposure was 1/250 sec at f/8 at ISO 200).

2. Next, I focused my lens on the subject and read the distance scale on my lens (in this example, 10 ft). Since my flash was on the camera, the flash-to-subject distance was the same as the lens-to-subject distance (10 ft).

 

Where to check the focusing distance on your lens.

Where to check the focusing distance on your lens.

3. Then, I set my flash to manual mode, which allows me to control the flash output independent of the exposure. I used the Select button on the back of the flash, turning the dial to place the black bar even with the subject distance. (Note: Strobes will vary by manufacturer. Some use buttons, others wheels, or a combination of both to alter the flash output.) Altering the flash output moves the distance scale, and that is what you are concerned with at this point. Do not be concerned if the scale says 1:1 or 1/128. Just make sure the distance appearing on the scale (10 ft in this example) is the same as the focus distance on your lens (10 ft).

 

Where to look for the focusing distance on your flash.

A few examples of where to find the focusing distance on your flash. Flashes set to manual.

TIP: When you zoom to alter your lens focal length, the flash will also zoom to evenly illuminate the field of view. If you take a given quantity of light and squeeze it into a narrower or wider area, the output of the flash (known as the guide number) will vary. Thus, you will need to adjust the flash power each time you change the focal length of your lens. I suggest you manually fix the flash zoom to the widest focal length you plan on using. No worries if you are shooing a fixed lens.

If all other factors remain constant (f/stop. shutter speed, ISO and background illumination), both the background and the subject will be perfectly illuminated.

If you want to get a firm grasp on how to use flash effectively, consider taking Charles (Chas) Glatzer’s STL Tech Series Flash Seminar. Chas’ work has been celebrated internationally with over 40 prestigious awards for superior photographic competence demonstrated through photographic competition, advanced education, and service to the profession. His images are recognized internationally for their lighting, composition, and attention to detail and have appeared in many publications worldwide including National Geographic, Outdoor Photographer, Popular Photography, National Parks, Discover Diving, Smithsonian, Professional Photographer, Birder’s World, Birding, Nature Photographer, EOS, Digital PhotoPro, and many more.

Visit http://www.shootthelight.com/ to learn more. 

South Texas for the Wildlife Photographer by Jeff Parker

Painted bunting by Jeff Parker

Painted bunting by Jeff Parker

Images and text by Jeff Parker

The desolate landscape of the South Texas Brush Country doesn’t look like much, but the biodiversity makes it one of North America’s best places for wildlife photography. It definitely ranks high on my list!

Scientists classify South Texas as a “semi-arid, sub-tropical” region. The result? Lots of wildlife! That includes a large number of bird species living at the far northern edges of their ranges.

Many—e.g. Kiskadee, Green Jay, Audubon’s Oriole, Couch’s Kingbird—are known as “South Texas Specialties.” And spring migration dramatically boosts the number of photogenic subjects that fly your way. By the end of April the summer breeders, such as Painted Buntings, Varied Buntings, and Scissor-tailed Flycatchers have arrived.

The best photography occurs when the animals grow hot and thirsty and flock to water to drink and cool off. Painted Buntings, in particular, really like their baths! This makes late-May and June prime photography time in the South Texas Brush Country.  Read the rest of this entry »

The Flint Hills by Scott Bean

Out in the Flint Hills by Scott Bean

Out in the Flint Hills by Scott Bean

Text and Images by Scott Bean

Talk about landscapes in Kansas and a lot of people are going to think of the stereotypical image of Kansas – one big flat wheat field. Kansas certainly does have some flat regions, especially in the western half of the state. Kansas also has a lot of wheat fields – which are beautiful in their own right. However, Kansas has a number of unique landscapes that may surprise a lot of people. The Flint Hills are one of the unique physiographic regions of Kansas. They are an especially interesting area as they contain some of the last large contiguous areas of tallgrass prairie. The interesting topography of the Flint Hills and the flora of the tall grass prairie combine to make for wonderful photographic opportunities.

Wide open views and gently sloping hills are characteristic of the Flint Hills. I like to use a wide angle lens to try and capture the sense of space and the unique shapes that can be found out in the prairies, but short to medium telephoto lenses are also useful to bring in details of the hills and focus attention on the lines and textures of the region. Magic hour light can really bring out the contours and shapes of the hills, and sunrises and sunsets are often full of amazing colors.  Read the rest of this entry »

Nature’s View – Top Secrets of Bird Photography, Story and photographs by Jim Clark

What the Pros Don’t Want you to Know

With the professional bird photographers hot on my trail, I’m going to reveal, right now, the top secrets of bird photography. I’m ready to sacrifice myself for the betterment of every one of you who want to photograph birds. All are welcome, but if anyone asks, I had nothing to do with this.

Sincerely,

Jim Clark, uh, I mean Ansel Wolfe Lepp.
P.S. You never heard this from me.

Read the rest of this entry »

Photography from Your Car by JP Bruce

Sandhill crane photographed from my car!

Sandhill crane photographed from my car!

Text and Images by JP Bruce

Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do. – John Wooden

Having trouble with mobility? Can’t cover the distances you used to? Rough terrain look too imposing to try? Whether this is permanent or temporary I wrote a book to show that you don’t have to give up your photography due to this limitation. I had polio as a two year old and have needed a brace and crutches for mobility since then, so I have learned how to adapt. I want people with and without mobility limitations to see that quality photographs can be made while staying in or near a vehicle.

There are many advantages of photographing from your car. The car can transport you to many places in a short time. Many animals are used to vehicles passing on the road and will ignore them so your car makes a good blind. Your vehicle is a solid base so with the addition of a support such as a beanbag or window mount you eliminate camera movement (remember to turn off the motor!). As a bass fisherman I used my boat as a large tackle box. Now, as a photographer I use my car as a huge camera bag. I have all my equipment available without worrying about weight, so I’m ready for any photographic opportunity. Read the rest of this entry »

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