Posted on

Dragonfly Resting On A Sunflower

dragonfly resting on a sunflower

When I photograph dragonflies I almost always try to get a real good close up to see their really cool head but sometimes, as in this case, I saw something different and tried to capture it in such a manner. I thought this little fella was looking pretty cool while sitting on this sunflower. He was pretty patient with me as I fidgeted with my camera and lenses for a bit, trying to get the best image with the dragonfly and sunflower I could.

dragonfly on a sunflower
Side view of a dragonfly resting on a sunflower.

This particular image I had to try and get the horizon level and lower in the frame as to not distract from the star of the image, the dragonfly. Composition is of the utmost importance in photography but is often overlooked. I took an incredible amount of photographs of this dragonfly resting comfortably on the sunflower in hopes some of them will look how it looked in my head when I came across this scene. As an outdoor photographer one cannot be afraid to take a lot of images in hopes of getting everything just right in the image.

dragonfly resting on a sunflower
Dragonfly resting on a sunflower with a slightly different background color.

The last image is pretty similar to the first image but it has a noticeable difference in the background color. I love trying to get smooth, soft backgrounds in different colors like this. I am torn as to which one I actually prefer over the other. Both were taken just a few minutes apart but the sun was starting to get pretty low on the horizon and that usually changes the lighting conditions so quickly images can often look different just from the changing light.

Posted on

Showy Milkweed Is More Than Just Another Weed

monarch butterfly caterpillar and hummingbird

I was not aware showy milkweeds were a nectar producing plant. A couple weeks ago I was surprised to see a variety of butterflies and a few hummingbirds feeding from the showy milkweed on the hillside where I was photographing butterflies. I watched in amazement all the different species of animals which utilized this often misunderstood plant. I tried to take a few images, unfortunately from a great distance, of the hummingbird feeding on the milkweed as it was a first for me to witness.

When I got home and started editing the images I was pleasantly surprised I had been photobombed by a monarch caterpillar who decided it needed to be in the photo as well. This particular day on the mountainside photographing butterflies taught me there are no useless plants in nature. Everything has a place. Even the showy milkweed which is often sprayed and dug up because it is viewed as and treated like a weed, hence the name. But after seeing all the different forms of life, from butterflies to bees and hummingbirds I have a new fondness for this plant. I am planning on planting a few showy milkweed plants in my yard for next year to help encourage monarch butterflies to lay eggs at my house but also hoping it will help the hummingbirds as well. Nature is a great thing if we stop and watch it, even for just a few minutes or so. We learn so much about the world around us and the plants and animals we share this planet with. What a world it is to have so much beauty and intrigue right around us to entertain and even enlighten us.

monarch butterfly caterpillar and hummingbird
A monarch butterfly caterpillar and a hummingbird share a showy milkweed.
Posted on

My First Ash-Throated Flycatcher

ash-throated flycatcher

I am not an expert birder by any means. I am barely a novice by most standards but that doesn’t keep me away from the excitement of finding new birds along my travels. A couple months ago I was out in a very remote part of northern Utah looking for owls to photograph when I came upon this perky little fellow.

I had not seen one before so the identification eluded me until I got home and reviewed the images with my bird literature. It turned out to be an ash-throated flycatcher, my first as a bird watcher and as a photographer.

I know very little, well, to be honest I know nothing, about the ash-throated flycatcher. I can’t say if it is a common or a unique find in the birding sense. Finding birds to photograph, however, regardless of species, is always a great find. I am happy with just about any bird to photograph but it adds a little extra excitement when it is my first for a certain species, like it was for this flycatcher.

Hopefully my unique personal finds in the birding and photography realm will keep coming. There are so many beautiful birds out there to find, observe and photograph I am anxious to get out and search again. Hopefully my next excursion will be as successful as it was for finding my first ash-throated flycatcher.

Posted on

An American Avocet Against A White Background

I have to admit I don’t remember exactly where this picture was taken. I don’t even remember when it was taken but I admire it for how soft and smooth the background turned out. The background is all natural and exactly how the camera captured it. I am sure it is a shallow pond as that is where the american avocet is almost always found, feeding and resting in a shallow bit of water.

The american avocet is a summer resident of the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge with many nesting pairs rearing young each summer. Each fall, as they start to congregate for the great trip south to a warmer climate for the winter, thousands of american avocets can be seen in large flocks along the Antelope Island Causeway. It is an important shorebird habitat and one that is greatly misunderstood or not appreciated by many.

As I sit and ponder over this image I wonder if I should have “edited” out the few sparse pieces of vegetation in the background. Doing so would have given it a completely smooth look which much of the time I prefer or if just a taste of something in the background gives it a little personality. I am not much into over-editing an image and rarely do I alter such things unless it is a small but very distracting part in the image.

Well, for now I will leave it. Maybe someday I will play with the image and see how it looks with the sparse stands of vegetation edited out. Until that day comes, if it ever does, I will admire this beautiful bird and be saddened when they soon pack their bags and head south for the winter. The older I get I feel this journey isn’t such a bad idea. Maybe someday I can follow the avocets example and head to a warmer climate for a few months to avoid the blast of winter which is only a few short months away.

Posted on

A Quiet Evening In My Backyard

It’s late in the day and all is quiet in the yard except for a scrub jay at the feeder and a few chickadees sounding off in the distance. This time of night dragonflies are the staple visitor to the yard. Them, along with small white butterflies, are comprising my companions here this evening.

I had one dragonfly come and sit in front of me for a few minutes so, despite the distracting background, I obliged with taking his portrait. I like the dragonflies. Not only do they eat many of the bugs in the yard but they are entertaining to watch and are part of the never dull natural world in which we live.

I added a super cropped version of the image because I love the facial features of the dragonfly. Some would call it macro photography I suppose but to me it’s all just photography. I don’t differentiate but rather just enjoy it all, especially the birds, butterflies and yes, the dragonflies too which are keeping me company on this warm summer evening.

Posted on

Backyard Photography

One of the joys of photography is going out and finding new places and seeing new things. Recording those new experiences are what keeps me behind the camera. Unfortunately, however, I don’t always have time to go to new areas and look for new things. I don’t go photograph far away and exotic places either so I have to look for the interesting and unique close to home. In face, sometimes I have to look for it right at home.

I find some of the greatest satisfaction in photography by observing and recording nature right in my own backyard. It is amazing how much life there is right under our noses. All we have to do is look for it.

Yesterday after I went on a fairly successful butterfly excursion I came home and wanted to photograph some hummingbirds. To my dismay my yard has been pretty devoid of these little creatures this summer. I haven’t seen one at my feeders in almost a week but I had hope today would be the day the dry spell would be lifted.

Well, the clouds rolled in and nothing was happening at the feeder so I was thinking about packing it in and getting back to editing the endless stream of butterfly images I took earlier that day. Something caught my eye, however, just as I was getting up to head back inside. Something was making a branch on my newly blossoming butterfly bush bounce. I investigated and it turned out to be a bumble bee enjoying the fresh bounty from my butterfly bush. I tried to get an image of it but nothing worth while came of if but I noticed a dragonfly on one of the branches and I gave it a shot.

The light was low due to the clouds so I had to open up the aperture all the way, resulting in a very, very narrow depth of field but I caught the head of the dragonfly in focus so I can live with a little depth of field on the rest of the image.

It’s nothing fancy or even a wall hanger but it is rewarding to find and photograph nature in ones own backyard. I haven’t given up on the hummingbirds but sitting here early this morning looking at all the clouds I wonder if I will get to use my camera today at all or not. The yard is full of young chickadees just waiting for their portraits to be taken so hopefully the clouds will disperse so I can enjoy an afternoon photographing and watching the birds and other creatures right in my own backyard.

Posted on

A Yellow Headed Blackbird In A Nice Setting

yellow headed blackbird

Sitting here on my porch, listening to the chickadees chirp in the nearby tree, as I wait to go look for butterflies I took a few minutes to browse through some recent but older photographs. I came across this one of a yellow headed blackbird which I quickly realized I have not posted yet. I have to admit I can’t remember the exact location where the image was photographed but chances are it was on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.

It isn’t anything fancy or of a unique behavior but rather just a nice pose of a beautiful bird. I remember it was hard to get the image I wanted with the head turned the right way. Birds can be frustrating subjects to photograph in an artsy way because they never seem to pose the way the image in my head calls for.

The background came out how I love, clean, smooth and of a soft color. It’s simple but to me at least it speaks volumes. I like bird portraits like this, one that lets the beauty of the bird tell the story. I could actually look at this for hours and I have often glanced at it as I peruse through my images from time to time.

Even though it is expected to be near or at 100 degrees today the yellow headed blackbird days here in northern Utah for this year are numbered. With the efforts of another breeding season winding down it won’t be long before mother nature signals them to head south for the winter. That’s ok because it just means another spring isn’t far behind. A funny thing to say I know when it is still 100 degrees in the dead of summer but I always appreciate the changing of the seasons and the changing of the things out in nature to go look for and photograph.

Posted on

Close Up Of A Barn Swallow Against A Smooth Background

barn swallow on the bear river migratory bird refuge

Barn swallows on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge are extremely common. I would guess they would number in the many of thousands or more. I have photographed them a couple times, or at least tried as they are very agile, quick and don’t sit for very long. As summer comes to an end and fall prepares it’s stay the barn swallow prepares for it’s long journey southward and eventually the refuge will say goodbye to one of its summer residents.

barn swallow on the bear river migratory bird refuge
Another view of a barn swallow on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.

I had the opportunity to get a couple of poses of a barn swallow sitting on a wooden fence post. What I like most about the pictures is how clean and smooth the background is. It was taken against a canal of water on the bird refuge but I never expected it to be so smooth, giving full attention to the swallow on the post.

When I photograph birds and butterflies I prefer a simple background which doesn’t add a lot of distractions to the image but lets one focus on the subject, in this case a cooperative barn swallow. Some detail in the background does indeed help give character to an image but, at least for me, too much can be distracting and take a way from the subject.

I will note this was taken on a very cloudy day. The colors of the bird didn’t exactly pop due to the soft light but I am pleased with how it came out.

Posted on

A Common Raven On A Slow Day

A couple months ago I found myself on one of those birding excursions where nothing was happening. Yes, it happens and I hate to admit it happens quite often. Finding and photographing birds isn’t always an easy endeavor and there is never a guarantee birds will be there to photograph, even in the best of spots. But one must always have hope and be ready for anything, even if it isn’t what one set out to find.


On this particular day I found myself heading home with not much to show for my efforts. In fact I had nothing to show for my efforts as I was skunked. Yes, skunked. I was coming off the Great Salt Lake and came across a raven sitting on the side of the road seemingly without a care in the world. This both interested and perplexed me as ravens are quite camera shy and even the slowing down of my vehicle will cause them to fly off so I wondered why this one was being so cooperative. I have never photographed a raven before despite them being extremely common.


To this day I have no idea why this particular raven let me photograph it for a period of time which seemed like an eternity in a photography perspective. Usually a successful photo shoot with a bird lasts only a few seconds or a minute or two at most but this particular raven sat for what seemed like 10 minutes or maybe more.

One thing to note about photographing ravens and very dark colored birds is the challenge of getting great detail in the dark plumage without the camera totally washing out the background by it overcompensating for the dark subject. Cameras are funny that way and when there is a wide spectrum of contrast often times parts of the image is washed out when the camera tries to compensate for the dark subject.

Well, anyway, it’s my first raven and I am happy with how they turned out. The images aren’t of a very artsy nature but I am glad to at least break the seemingly never ending dry streak I have had with this particular bird.

Posted on

Trying a new way to post

I am trying a new way to post to the blogosphere. I have been wanting to try from a mobile device as I don’t always have a computer with me but still want to share images while out in nature.

This image is of a butterfly I was able to photograph yesterday but as of yet my very limited butterfly knowledge can’t make the identification. The high country here in Utah still has some wildflowers and butterflies so hopefully I can get back up to photograph one more time before they start to decline for the season.

Well, like I said this is a test post and hopefully it will work out. I will try and identify the species of butterfly and edit the post when I find out what species of butterfly it is.

I have been informed it is a red admiral butterfly. I was thinking painted lady.

Posted on

My Heart Has Turned To Butterflies

monarch catarpillar

I admit summer is usually a time for pelicans and other wildlife but this year my heart has literally turned to butterflies. I have been spending as much time as I can photographing butterflies but I have started to get interested in their biology as well. I have started to raise monarch butterflies from caterpillars to learn more about them and hopefully someday help with the declining population of the monarch butterfly.

monarch caterpillar
A monarch caterpillar feeding on a showy milkweed plant.

The main reason noted for the decline of the monarch is highly attributed to the decline in milkweed, the only type of plant the female monarch butterfly will lay her eggs for the egg and caterpillar to hatch and feed on until it completes the cycle and turns into a monarch butterfly itself. I am not certain of the decline of milkweed as I have just started to get interested in learning about monarchs so forgive me if I have no serious biological information to report as of yet. I did want to, however, encourage others to get involved in learning more about the monarch butterfly. This picture is of a monarch caterpillar I found a few yards from my house in a patch of showy milkweed. In a few weeks this little guy will grow up to be another one of natures beautiful creatures, a monarch butterfly. If you want to know more about the monarch butterfly and butterflies in general and how to raise them and release them into the wild visit raisingbutterflies.org for more information.

Posted on

Another Close Encounter With My Resident Juvenile Coopers Hawk

juvenile coopers hawk

I seem to be quite lucky lately with catching glimpses of one of the juvenile coopers hawks that was raised in a nest in my yard. I just had another close-up but brief encounter with what I think is a female juvenile coopers hawk due to it’s larger size than the other juvenile.

juvenile coopers hawk
Resident juvenile coopers hawk from a nest in my tree.

As I was pulling a hose around the front of the yard one of the juvenile coopers hawks buzzed me and landed in the tree in front of me and started squawking as if it wanted me to feed it. It was only 10 feet away when it flew by me and landed in the tree. I am certain the parents have left and now the two juveniles are on their own and are very hungry. I wondered if for some reason since I have had many encounters with this bird it has gotten so accustomed to seeing me in the yard this particular encounter was in a way it hoping for some kind of help or something. It was peculiar how it flew right to me and landed just in front of me and immediately started screaming. I actually felt bad for it as I knew this is the hardest part of nature, when the juveniles leave the nest and are forced to fend for themselves.

juvenile coopers hawk
One of the juvenile coopers hawks from the nest in my yard paid me a visit tonight.

I quickly went inside and grabbed my camera, hoping it would still be there when I came back because it isn’t everyday one gets to be 10 feet away from a wild hawk like this, especially in ones own yard.

juvenile coopers hawk
A juvenile coopers hawk from the nest in my yard.

The images aren’t tack sharp as this encounter was like all the rest, late in the day and in the shadows so the light was very poor. I didn’t have time to try and set up a tripod so I shot it hand held and at 800 ISO and the shutter speed was only 1/200 of a second, not the ideal settings for a handheld shot but I had to do what I could do under the circumstances.

As I sit here typing I can hear both juveniles calling back and forth, flying from tree to tree chattering in hopes their parents return with food. I haven’t seen either parent for more than a week now so I am sure this is their first life lesson on survival. I hope they pass and can survive to adulthood. I am grateful I get these close encounters with such a grand bird in my own yard. It strengthens my resolve to keep photographing and loving what nature has to offer no matter where I am.

Posted on

It Has Been A Slow Year For Owls, At Least For Me

burrowing owl

I have been fascinated by butterflies and sunsets lately but let’s get back to what I love to photograph the most, birds. And owls are very near the top of the list of things I love to photograph. This year, however, has been slow for me in finding owls to photograph and observe. I have come across a couple short eared owls and a small handful of burrowing owls but it hasn’t been the banner type of year last year seemed to be for me.

burrowing owl
A burrowing owl posing for a portrait on an old wooden fence post.

A couple weeks ago I did come across a small group of burrowing owls. It was in a location of a known nest so I can only assume it was the family of owls which resided in the roadside burrow. It is interesting to note I see a definite time of day when I do see burrowing owls the most frequent and that is early morning and late evening. Not really a surprise as most animals tend to shy away from the heat of the day when it is this blistering hot. On this particular day I was having almost no luck finding any owls to speak of until about 30 minutes before the sun set. The roads I was driving on for the past 2 hours all of a sudden came alive with life. Birds of all kinds seemingly came out of the proverbial woodwork to take advantage of the cooler temperatures and impending shade.

burrowing owl
Burrowing owls have been a little harder to find this year for some reason.

The downside to this is I was up against the clock to get a few images for my efforts. Me and the sun were deadlocked in a heated battle of which I knew my time would soon be up. I drove up and down the deserted country roads hoping for a close encounter of a burrowing owl gracious enough to allow its portrait to be taken. I am always amazed at how well most of them seem to sit for a photographer. I wish short eared owls would be as friendly as the burrowing owl as they seem to be short with their patience for us photogs hoping to capture their beauty on film.

burrowing owl
A burrowing owl giving me a slightly different pose.

I was able to get a few images of the burrowing owl, one of which on an old wooden fence post which I prefer over the metal t-posts used on many of the fences where I search for owls. I still haven’t captured my ideal owl image yet, at least for the burrowing owl that is. I seem to get great images but none yet on the preferred perch. I will keep looking and enjoy the time spent out photographing owls and the rest of what nature has to offer.

Posted on

A Small Brag With My Resident Juvenile Coopers Hawk

juvenile coopers hawk

Ok, I have to admit I am pretty lucky some days. Today is a good example. I am sitting here in my backyard editing butterfly photographs I took today and have been hearing a screeching sound off in my trees for about an hour. I know it is one of the juvenile coopers hawks that were raised in a nest in my yard this year. What I didn’t know was it was down on a very low old tree stump where I could get a photograph.

juvenile coopers hawk
Juvenile coopers hawk perched in my yard tonight.

I got up to change the water and decided to walk over and see where he is at. Low and behold he was on his favorite perch this whole time and I didn’t think to go check it out until now. His never ending squawking tells me just maybe he and his sibling are now fending for themselves. I haven’t seen the parents for a few days and the calling is almost non stop so it sound like mom and dad have left the area to force the youngsters to start to fend for themselves. I sure hope they make it. Each year I get a nest of coopers hawks in my yard but I never get to see just how many make it to adulthood. Well, back to my butterfly editing but I was ecstatic I had such a great opportunity to see one of the juvenile coopers hawks in my yard just now.

Posted on

A Drake Cinnamon Teal Keeping An Eye On Me

drake cinnamon teal

I admit, despite how humbling it is however to do so, I have a few nemesis birds I most definitely struggle getting great images of. I have a few, with the northern harrier at the top of this list mind you, I struggle to even get a poor photograph of. The drake cinnamon teal is one of those birds I do struggle with on a regular basis. I have achieved a few images here and there but nothing I would call stellar.

drake cinnamon teal
A drake cinnamon teal poses for the camera.

This image, obtained a few months ago on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, is one of those good but less than stellar images a few of my nemesis birds only occasionally seem to allow me to obtain. It depicts a resting drake cinnamon teal, one of my favorite ducks for sure, where he is keeping a close eye on my as I sit in my truck watching him from afar.

Each spring the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge is flooded it seems with cinnamon teal anxiously awaiting the start of another breeding season. They are pretty common on the refuge but not always easy to photograph at this time. I find the males are less concerned with the casual human observer but the hens seem to be kind of skittish and take off at the least sight of trouble, causing the drakes to tag along in hopes of the upcoming breeding season endeavors to fall upon them. This particular drake cinnamon teal was by himself, which is kind of strange this time of year as many of them are out trying to impress the ladies. Well, I am glad he took the morning off from the constant dating efforts because he did give me a good image of one of my nemesis birds and I am glad for that.

Posted on

Reminiscing About The Importance Of Good Light On A Cloudy Afternoon

I am sitting here on my porch on this very windy, cloudy afternoon. I don’t have to tell you how many photographers hate such conditions, especially when photographing birds. There are, however, some subjects that actually do well in the soft, filtered light from a few clouds but this amount of clouds as well as stiff winds can only cause even the most patient photographer to pack his things and head for home. Light is what photography is all and when we don’t have good light or even enough average light it makes the job of getting a great image pretty hard.

A case in point is the two images I have posted below. One is a very tight crop of the other. It is a species of heron I frequently see on the Bear River Migratory Bird refuge but the species isn’t what’s important but rather the images themselves. I took them on a very sunny bright day where the light was very good. It gave me enough light to work with to capture great color on the bird as well have enough light to open up the aperture to blur the background and foreground, cutting down on the distracting vegetation. Well, almost that is.

I took this image to highlight the head features of this particular heron as the lighting conditions were great. The angle was not, however, as I had to shoot through a bunch of weeds and annoying vegetation. But because of the great light I was able to crop it down quite a bit to get the part of the bird I was hoping for, the head and beak for a type of head study. The image worked out quite well even despite the heavy cropping from the original image. On a cloudy day where I would have to use a much lower shutter speed or a higher ISO setting I would not have been able to get such a crisp, sharp image and the colors would not have been so brilliant either.

This is the result of photographing on days with great light, meaning full sun. Don’t get me wrong, there are many days I go out and photograph on cloudy days and I have gotten some great images but nothing beats photographing on a full sun type of day when the light allows you to play with the camera settings a bit and yet not lose too much light to get the image you want. Always think about light and how much you have when photographing. Photography is about capturing light and it is the most important thing a photographer needs to consider when going out and photographing outdoors. Great images can be had in many different conditions but the best images with regards to color and sharpness usually come from days when the light is in great abundance like it was on this particular day.

Posted on

A Burrowing Owl On The Hunt

burrowing owl with a vole

Ok, I have to admit I am rather proud of these images of a burrowing owl after a couple of successful hunts. It is quite hard to catch them with prey, at least for me it has been, so having the opportunity to get a few great images of a burrowing owl with prey, in this case I think it is a vole, is a dream come true for me.

burrowing owl with a vole
A burrowing owl after a successful hunt.

Patience is the key to great bird photography. Some days I have it and some days I too am found being frustrated things just aren’t happening like I want. With nature, however, the outdoor photographer has to be patient and very observant and take what nature gives him. I had no idea on this day I would find a burrowing owl with prey but I kept being vigilant in my efforts to find an owl to photograph and it turned out the several hours of driving around searching for this predator paid off in a big way for me.

burrowing owl with a vole
Returning to feed its young this burrowing owl stops for a minute before heading to the nest.

When I teach photography seminars I stress the importance of being ready and knowing ones camera and settings. This is vital. Opportunities such as these are rare and come and go quickly. The outdoor photographer has to be ready to take the shot with the right camera settings or he will miss the image of a lifetime. Each subject or setting has different camera setting requirements such as bird photography, sunsets or photographing waterfalls, for example. Even within each situation the changing light may even cause one to need to change a few settings quickly or lose the shot so one has to be pretty comfortable with the camera and how the change settings back and forth. This comes from experience and practice. Lots and lots of practice but going out photographing things in nature is one of the most relaxing things I have ever done so even though it is practice it is quite enjoyable.

burrowing owl with a vole
Another successful hunt for this burrowing owl.

I don’t know when or even if may ever get the opportunity to photograph and observe burrowing owls with prey again. It was quite a remarkable moment for me to witness. Owls fascinate me, as do all birds, but on this day finding and photographing such a rare moment in the life of a burrowing owl was a remarkable experience I will always remember and cherish.

Posted on

Another Burrowing Owl And My Least Favorite Kind Of Light

burrowing owl

I am in owl mode. I love them so this time of year I go and look for owls to photograph any chance I get. Burrowing owls are fairly easy to find and photograph so they are a common subject for me. Typically when I go out in search of owls it is late in the day, early afternoon so the sun isn’t in the best of spots for the location I tend to frequent. I always try to get front lighting on my subjects so it shows the most available detail and color but sometimes I have to be satisfied with what mother nature gives me. This recent image of a burrowing owl is a great example. The amount and angle of light was great but was coming from the wrong direction, directly behind the owl giving it back lighting. Other images I have shot have not turned out as well on birds with back lighting but this one turned out rather well. It still gave lots of color and detail to the owl despite not having direct light on its face and front feather. I will always prefer front or even side lighting as opposed to back lighting when photographing birds but sometimes I am pleased with the results like I am with this one.

burrowing owl
A burrowing owl with some back light.
Posted on

My First Burrowing Owl Of The Year And That Pesky Metal Post

burrowing owl on a metal fence post

As most of my followers probably know by now I am not a fan of metal fence posts in wildlife photographs. I prefer a more natural look with a bird on a natural perch or even an old wooden fence post but when a golden opportunity arises to photograph ones first burrowing owl of the year you take it no matter what the owl is sitting one. This image is my first burrowing owl for 2017. To me it is a superb shot, very clean background with a soft color. Both things I really strive for in portrait style shots with birds. It gives all the attention to the owl where it should be. In fact, the only thing I would change about this image is that pesky metal fence post which seems to be a common sight for me lately when photographing birds. Not a deal breaker by any means when one gets a shot like this but it does leave something to strive for as this photographer is still in search of the perfect owl image on an old fence post.

burrowing owl on a metal fence post
A burrowing owl on a metal fence post.
Posted on

A Western Meadowlark In A More Natural Setting

singing western meadowlark

One of the goals I have when I photograph birds is to try and get them in a natural setting. It doesn’t always happen but that is a goal I strive for. Sometimes, however, one has to make exceptions when the opportunity arises like I did the other day but more about that in a minute.

The western meadowlark can easily be described as one of my favorite songbirds, if not my all time favorite songbird. I have been trying to get a really clean, sharp image of one singing in a natural setting all spring this year. I finally achieved it, well, at least I think so. The first image is my best effort to date, a western meadowlark singing on a sage brush perch. It has a very clean, soft colored background and not cluttered and it’s on a natural perch. So what’s not to love, right?

singing western meadowlark
A singing western meadowlark on a sage brush perch.

The second image is one I am using for comparison, an image already posted on some of my social media outlets. It is one of my best portraits of a western meadowlark except, of course, for that pesky metal fence post. It to has a clean background and soft colors behind the bird and if it wasn’t for the metal fence post I might actually like this image more than the first but I just can’t wrap my head around an unnatural setting for such a most beautiful bird so between the two the first image has a much higher probability to be printed than the second.

singing western meadowlark
A singing western meadowlark in a less natural setting, a metal fence post.

Don’t get me wrong, I do love both images but for me a wall hanger of a bird should be in a more natural setting if and when at all possible. The first image is what I am after but the pursuit is not over but only has begun. I am in search of a similar image but on an old wooden fence post. I know the irony with this endeavor as an old wooden fence post is still a man made object but there is just something so unique about a bird perching on such a pedestal singing its spring time song I am willing to overlook it to try and fulfill the image that is in my head I am in search of.

Posted on

The Burrowing Owls Are Back

burrowing owl

Saturday afternoon I decided to take an owl excursion of sorts. I went out in search of burrowing and short eared owls. Last year was a banner year it seemed so I was hoping for the same this year. So far on this first owl excursion I have only seen 2 short eared owls and 5 burrowing owls but I am hoping this is the start of another great year for owls. This burrowing owl was the only one which gave me an opportunity to get a photograph yesterday. It sat just long enough for me to snap a quick picture before it flew off further away from the road and well out of photography range. I am excited for another summer photographing and observing these beautiful birds.

burrowing owl
The burrowing owls have returned for another nesting season.
Posted on

A compilation of my sunset photography and my guitar music

Photography and guitar music are my two biggest passions. I have played guitar for almost 30 years, just for myself, and I have been into photography about the same length of time. I decided to combine them into a short video depicting one of my favorite photography subjects, sunsets. All the sunset photographs were taken by myself and all the background music was written and performed by myself. I hope you like it.

Posted on

The End of Summer

Summer is fading fast. It looks like all my hummingbirds have moved on and the bees are in a feeding frenzy, cleaning out my hummingbird feeders almost daily. Soon it will be fall with cooler temperatures, shorter days and fall like colors in the mountains. I will miss the bright yellow of the vibrant sunflower and the quirky antics of the migrating hummingbird but fall and winter offer their own rewards, mostly somber and solitude-like scenes for me to photograph and enjoy. Fall is soon upon us and it is time to enjoy the end of summer.

sunflower
sunflower

IMG_3494a

Posted on

Great Blue Heron on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge

Lately I have spent a lot of time photographing baseball games, following a little league team around to several local tournaments and trying to catch the action. It has taken me away from my love for birds and bird photography so the other day I took a break from editing thousands of baseball pictures to go relax and visit the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. It was a great day as great blue herons were in great abundance although they weren’t too willing to sit for a portrait. I was, however, lucky enough to get a couple shots of a flushing great blue heron before it got out of sight. They can be tricky birds to photograph as often times they won’t sit still for a picture and at other times they seem to want to pose for the camera. Either way, they are a fascinating bird and one of my favorites to photograph.

IMG_4960a

IMG_4957a

Posted on

Water Conservation for the Great Salt Lake

Our water resources here in Utah are in high demand and that demand will only increase as our population continues to grow. We are the second driest state in the nation and we need to start conserving our water before it’s too late. There are many important demands and uses for our water resources but we all need to find ways we can conserve and use less water each year or we may find ourselves without it. For example, the Colorado river has been drained to the point it doesn’t even reach the ocean any more due to too much water being pulled out of it. We face a similar scenario here in Utah as we watch the Great Salt Lake dry up because more and more water is being taken out of its rivers for other uses. We could lose one of our states greatest natural resources if we keep taking more water out of the Great Salt Lake ecosystem than it can handle. There are many important uses for water in this state but all of us need to start thinking of conserving water or we may lose an an incredible recreation area and ecosystem. The Great Salt Lake and all its tributaries and marshes provide a great source of economic benefit to the state through recreation and tourism, not to mention just the intrinsic value of having such a great and unique natural place so close by. Water conservation does matter and can affect us if we choose not to conserve. And by the way, this picture was shot on the great salt lake a couple of months ago and normally this spot would be under 5-10 feet of water and is now a mudflat. Food for thought.

fb43

Posted on

The American Avocet

The american avocet is a summer resident on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. It is one of the priority species the refuge directly manages for. They are an interesting and quirky bird, often found squabbling over a small patch of territory during breeding season. Like many birds the american avocet molts and changes it’s feathery attire from a drab winter coat to a more colorful breeding plumage. When they arrive on the refuge they are already colored in their breeding plumage and will transform back into their winter plumage in late summer. Avocets don’t usually stick around when the cold weather hits but this past year I witnessed avocets on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge all the way until about Christmas time with temperatures dipping down in the single digits and most of the refuge locked up in winter’s icy grip. They are a great bird to come explore and get to know on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge and soon they will make their return to the refuge for yet another breeding season.

american avocet
An american avocet on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge
Posted on

Photographing Great Blue Herons

Great blue herons are a favorite bird of mine and I spend a ton of time on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge watching and photographing them. These unique fishermen offer a great opportunity for birders and photographers alike to get a great portrait shot of one of nature’s skilled and incredible birds who fish for a living. Their slow and stealthy technique, often standing completely still for 5-10 minutes or more, offer a great opportunity to photograph these birds. Quite often it is hard to get great action shots on moving birds but a fishing great blue heron is a prime opportunity to get a great shot of a heron. Visit the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge this summer to see these great birds in action.

great blue heron
Great Blue Heron fishing on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge
Posted on

Great Salt Lake Sunset

Photography is all about light and color. Sunsets provide the best opportunities to capture and exhibit the great color nature has to offer. I go out and photograph sunsets every chance I get, whenever it looks like there is even the remotest possibility of a grand sunset. The shoreline of the Great Salt Lake offer some incredible spots to capture the colors offered by Utah’s scenic and colorful sunsets. Sometimes there is little color and cloud variation and sometimes there is a lot of deep color and cloud shapes but each one is unique and breathtaking in it’s own way. Great color and light can make even the most ordinary of subjects or scenes come alive. When I shoot outdoors I do so hoping for great light and warm colors from the sun because that is what makes a picture come alive.

IMG_6653a

Posted on

Red Winged Blackbirds

Red winged blackbirds are one of my all time favorite birds. I love their sweet sounding spring songs as they perch high on a cattail and declare their territory towards other male blackbirds. They also offer a unique and challenging subject to photograph due to their dark black feathery attire, allowing for little contrast for the bird. Often times when a camera reads the extremely dark feathers it over compensates and over lightens the background as it tries to tone down the dark subject. It is also often a challenge to get a good clean facial shot of a blackbird, especially looking towards the camera because of the dark feathers and little contrasting color on the bird. But these aspects are why I love photographing the red winged blackbird so much. It is a great challenge to get a good clean sharp shot of these birds because of their very dark attire and the tricks it often plays on a digital camera. Spring time isn’t too far away, even though the calendar still reads February, because the male red winged blackbirds have started their annual ritual of singing each morning to declare their territory. It’s a sure sign spring is just down the road.

red winged blackbird
Red winged blackbird perched on a reed on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge
red winged blackbird
Red winged blackbird
red winged blackbird
Red winged blackbird
red winged blackbird
Red winged blackbird
red winged blackbird
Red winged blackbird
red winged blackbird
Red winged blackbird
red winged blackbird
Red winged blacbird
red winged blackbird
red winged blackbird
Posted on

Neck Collared Swans

Photographing and watching birds has been a life long passion of mine. It is challenging and rewarding to get a great photograph of a wild bird in a natural setting. But for me there is more to it than just watching and photographing birds. I love birds, always have ever since I was a little kind, and bird migration fascinates me. When I was younger I wondered how biologists figured out when and where birds migrate to each spring and fall. It seemed like an daunting task as many birds migrate thousands of miles each year. I got my answer when I had the opportunity to help the state and federal biologists band waterfowl on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge many years back. We went out in air boats at night and netted numerous ducks that were flightless due to their summer molt. Once caught and back on shore the birds were tagged with metal leg bands and the day and location and band number were recorded for future reference if the bird ever was caught again or harvested by a waterfowl hunter.

bblswan2a

Banding birds and getting reports from hunters has aided in valuable knowledge of bird migration but it has a limit. Unless the bird is caught again in another study, the only other way for the bird to reveal vital migration information is to be harvested by a hunter, which means it can only give valuable data once. Another method of marking birds so they can be spotted by anyone countless times, such as birders or biologists any time of the year, is to put a neck collar on the bird along with the standard aluminum leg band. The neck collars are colored and have large numbers and letters on them, making them easy to spot and record without having to harvest the bird. This allows for more sightings of a particular bird all along the migration route and throughout the year, giving more detailed data of a birds migration, survival and behavior.

IMG_5965a

I have been fortunate to see two separate neck collared tundra whistling swans on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, one in 2013 and one just a week ago. I was able to record the numbers and send in the date, location and neck collar markings to the Bird Banding Laboratory in which I received a certificate on when and where the swans were banded. It’s cool to note that the swan in these pictures is actually the swan referred to in the certificate.

2013swana

It’s really cool to find out such information about a wild bird and know where it has been and how old it is. So when you are out watching swans on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, keep your eye out for swans and also canada geese with plastic colored collars around their neck. Record the number, color, date and location and send it to the Bird Banding Laboratory on their website http://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/bbl/

bblswana

IMG_5966newa

IMG_5949newa

Posted on

Great Salt Lake Black and White Sunset

Photographing sunsets on the great salt lake is one of my all time favorite things to do. It offers a very unique and serene setting and countless miles of shoreline to find a great spot. Today I found myself out on the great salt lake again in search of another sunset, much like I do on any day there are a few clouds forming in late afternoon. It’s quiet and peaceful out on the lake shore. One thing I have been getting into more and more lately are black and white as well as sepia versions of sunsets. They are more somber and moody. Tonight the sunset didn’t quite show any spectacular colors so I thought they would look more unique in a black and white format. I might be the only one but I am really liking black and white sunsets and waterscape shots. Here are a the results of my efforts today on the great salt lake. Most of them are in black and white but I did add one color shot that I liked.

IMG_7930asepia

IMG_7955asepiaa

IMG_7948asepia

img_7973a

Posted on

american goldfinch winter

It has been a very mild winter this year. It’s only mid February and we have had many days in the 50’s and even 60’s for temperatures. I don’t mind the warm weather at all, in fact I am loving it with one exception. I have noticed ever since the weather turned from the short but brutal cold temperatures we had earlier in the year, dropping down to near zero degrees at times, the american goldfinches in my yard have been less eager to come and feed at my feeders. Earlier this winter when it was much colder I have had 30-40 at any given time but with the warmer temperatures its rare to have more then 5-7 now at any given time. I am glad they aren’t having to deal with the colder temperatures and can find more natural food with the current and long standing lack of snow cover but I do miss them watching them squabble over a perch on the feeder. I have noticed also some are just barely starting to get some of their summer yellow feathers to come in as well.

american goldfinch
American Goldfinch
Posted on

Bird Watching and Photographing at Home

I love to get out and see new places and even photograph in places I have frequented often. But the times I enjoy the most are those times I get to sit in my own yard and just watch nature’s bounty around my house. Today I was able to do just that, spend a few minutes watching the american goldfinches and house finches come to my feeder. I was able to get a few good shots although photographing them was secondary to me just being able to sit and watch them for a few minutes and not have to do much else. Bird watching is a great way to relax. I sometimes forget how enjoyable it is when I am out trying to find cool things to photograph. It’s nice to be able to just sit and watch the birds and enjoy them. They can remind us how important nature is and how easy it is to enjoy, even in our own backyards. Put out a feeder and water container for the birds this year in your own yard and enjoy what comes to visit.

IMG_4008asepia

Posted on

Winter Solitude on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge

Winter is a quiet time on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. Most of the birds have migrated south and the marsh is overcome by a thick layer of ice. It is quiet and peaceful on the refuge at the time but not completely barren of visitors. Winter time brings down bald eagles and rough legged hawks to the refuge in search of winter food. In mild winters, like we are experiencing this year, tundra swans often return early to the refuge hoping to find pockets of open water in which to rest and feed on. But sometimes the most beautiful things on the refuge this time of year are the things often taken for granted, the peace and solitude of being out in nature. I try to find things often overlooked when out photographing. Things which I find beauty and peace in and which might have a small story to tell, such as a feather from a migrating tundra swan blowing in the wind and being caught on a reed. The Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge is a great place to visit year round, and even when it isn’t filled up with much of the millions of birds that frequent the sanctuary each year it has beauty on it in all of its forms.

IMG_3947a

Posted on

Great Salt Lake Sunsets

Some of the most incredible things I have ever seen in my endeavors in photographing nature are sunsets on the Great Salt Lake in Northern Utah. It offers incredible views and spectacular colors on those days when the clouds are around to offer up one of Utah’s spectacular sunsets. I visit the lake as much as I can and I have rarely seen sunsets which rival those shown over the Great Salt Lake. They are just plain spectacular and the whole Great Salt Lake itself deserves a trip to explore and understand and appreciate its beauty, both its natural wonders and it’s wildlife. Visit the Great Salt Lake and see what kind of sunsets and other natural treasures it has to offer.

great salt lake
Visit the Great Salt Lake for spectacular sunsets
Posted on

American Kestral Posing

One of the hardest birds I have tried to photograph is the american kestrel. It’s quite perplexing as they are very common birds. But for some reason they just don’t sit still for me when I am in range to photograph them. I was able to get a quick portrait shot of an american kestrel the other day as it sat and watched me fumble with my camera, trying to change lenses before it flew off. I had been out shooting portraits and forgot to change lenses when I arrived at the wildlife refuge entrance. Lesson learned the hard way. But I was able to get one good shot of him so I came away happy.

american kestrel
american kestrel
Posted on

Sunset Over The Bear River Bird Refuge

A couple days ago I realized I haven’t been out photographing sunsets in a long time so I decided to grab my camera and head out to one of my favorite places to visit, the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. Being we are right in the middle of a cold snap this winter I didn’t expect much open water as I love to photograph reflecting sunsets over water. I was surprised and glad I was met with a lot of open water. The sunset didn’t disappoint either. It ended up being a spectacular show of colors and reflection.

IMG_0587a

Posted on

Todays Visitor

I get a lot of birds in my yard and trees throughout the year and that is always exciting. One frequent visitor stirs more excitement, however, than most other birds and he paid me a visit again today. I got to see another great horned owl in my yard today, up close and personal. Too bad it was a cloudy day with little light so I couldn’t get any great shots of him but just having him in the yard is worth it. The past few nights I have hear a lot of hooting outside but as morning comes around all I see are remnants of him with droppings and owl pellets in the driveway. He is a frequent visitor but rarely do I get a chance to get a great photograph of my favorite visitor. Hopefully he will be back again soon when there is more direct sunlight for a better portrait of him than what I was able to get today.

great horned owl
great horned owl
Posted on

Hummingbirds are one of my favorites.

IMG_5379a

Hummingbirds are quickly becoming one of my favorite subjects to photograph. They are so fascinating with how they fly and how one bird will guard a feeder at almost any cost. It seems the protective hummingbird spends more energy fighting over the endless supply of sugar water at my house than it is worth.

IMG_5639a

During peak migration it is not unheard of to have a dozen or so hummingbirds gathered around the feeder, all jockeying for a place at the table. This makes for a very interesting photo shoot as I have had many times the crazy little birds come over and scope me and my red lawn chair out when there is such commotion going on at the feeder.

IMG_5634a

Nothing is funner than watching hummingbirds and trying to get a great picture of a hummingbird in flight. I have learned a lot about photography buy just trying to photograph these fascinating and often neurotic little birds. It gave me a chance to try things I haven’t done before and I learned a few tricks that not only has helped me with photographing hummingbirds but with other birds as well.

IMG_5364a

If you want to add some beauty and have a peaceful activity at your house, put out a hummingbird feeder. It is an incredible way to find peace and joy with such an incredible and beautiful bird. There is something very therapeutic about bird watching and hummingbirds are one of the easiest to attract to ones house.

IMG_5395a

IMG_5490a

Posted on

The Unexpected Shot

IMG_4813a

A couple of weeks ago I wanted to go find a new place to photograph birds so I fueled up the car and headed to the Bear Lake National Wildlife Refuge on the northern end of Bear lake in Idaho. I was excited as I planned on some new shots and some new birds from what I had been seeing down at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.

Don’t get me wrong, I love taking photographs on the Bear River Bird Refuge but I am out there several times a week so I wanted to change things up a bit. Try something new and unknown.

The Bear Lake Refuge is about 2 hours away, quietly tucked away in the most southeastern portion of Idaho. I had visited it before, many years ago, but I couldn’t remember much about it and I actually had to stop for directions when I got to the nearest town because it had been so long since my only visit.

It was hot and dry on the refuge with low water conditions prevailing on much of the marsh. My visit was sadly becoming a disappointment since the only birds I had seen were Canada geese, a couple of white faced ibis, a family of rudy ducks and a couple of pelicans on the Bear River. I did eventually see a northern harrier off in the distance as I was contemplating my next move, which included leaving and cutting my loses by maybe making it back home for a sunset shot somewhere.

IMG_4832a

I was sitting on the bench, far away from my vehicle out in the marsh on an interpretive trail, watching butterflies dance around some purple flowers. I didn’t want to leave without taking a picture or two so I thought this would be a great time to practice taking some pictures on a subject I have not done before, butterflies on flowers.

Not expecting too much I snapped a few quick shots and headed for the car, sadly disappointed in the day’s events. I wasn’t even planning on looking at the pictures when I got home.

Later that night, I decided to take a quick peak at the pictures before I went to bed, thinking the day’s efforts were a loss. Much to my amazement, when I opened the file and looked at them I was stunned. I didn’t expect to have them turn out the way that they did. I quickly looked through them all and started to format them for facebook to share with my friends and their response was incredible.

It just goes to show when you go out to take a certain type of picture always keep your eyes open for the unexpected shot because you never know when or where it may come up. Admittedly, I was so impressed with those pictures, the next day I headed back out to photograph butterflies, ending up at a local mountain spot I knew that had a good hiking trail and meadows in search of more butterflies to photograph.

Most of my favorite shots have been from similar experiences such as this, I head out for one shot and come home with something completely different and totally unexpected. I always try to keep an open mind and my eyes open for those unexpected shots that are always around us if we take a few minutes to find them. And as a final note, the first two pictures on this post with the white butterflies on the purple flowers are from that day on the Bear Lake National Wildlife Refuge.

IMG_5198a

IMG_5200a

Posted on

How Light Can Change Things

galleryimage13fulla

There are a lot of similarities between life and photography, with the most apparent being success in both are all about what kind of light you look at things through. An example is the photo I attached. It might not mean much to anyone else or be the most exciting picture but it is a good example of this.

I had driven past this place literally a thousand times in my life, never giving it a second look. It is up in Logan right across the street from the Cache County Landfill and not a very attractive site. One day I was coming home from photographing a sunrise and the way the light and shadows were I slammed on my brakes and waded in snow up to my waste to get this picture. Somehow the light made all the difference that day. It was incredible and I wish I could have captured every ray of light that was present. Each time I drive past it now i am reminded of that day and how the light was just perfect and took a very boring and unattractive setting and turned it into one of my favorite photographs.

It’s all about looking at things in the right kind of light. Life is the same way. We can either choose to be down and frumpy all the time or choose to make our own “good light” and see things in a different way. Photography has given me the drive to change how I look at things and try and look at them in a different light because, like the above example, I can see now that anything can look great if we look at it in a whole new light. Even tough life struggles can have a silver lining if we look for it in a different light.

I would suggest to look at things in our lives through a metaphorical camera, looking and searching for the light that takes something unappealing and turns it into something amazing. It is all about what kind of light we look at things with.