100 miles of empty road and the car pulls up beside me. He gets out, careful to slam the door.
"What you taken a picture of?" he asks. "It just left" I say. "Shucks" he says "I was hoping to get a look through that telescope of yours."
Next time, don't scare away my photo and check out my blog instead. You can read about what I do before and after I "shoot and leave". I share my insights, my successes and my failures. Feel free to learn from my mistakes and improve on my examples.
Each March, hundreds of thousands of Sandhill Cranes travel
to a small stretch of the Platte River in central Nebraska.During their Spring Break, they eat, drink
and party before they continue their long flight north.
I enjoy their dances. Sometimes
even the most awesome footwork on the dance floor won't attract a female.
The women are impressed by any guy that can toss a corn
stalk and jump up with outstretched wings before the stalk lands.
I have attended many air shows but have never seen any
performance to equal the flying demonstration of the Northern Harrier I watched
this weekend.It was flying very low
over thick grass and weeds that were about 3 feet tall.It flew very slow and came to a complete stop
at times.Occasionally it would drop
down into the vegetation.Unfortunately,
It was an unsuccessful hunt.
I wasn't totally successful in my attempt to photograph it
either.I parked along the side of the
road and photographed from the open window.The Northern Harrier is a small hawk to start with and it was many yards
out in the field.I was using a Canon 1D
Mark IV with an 800mm lens coupled with a 1.4x extender.The images above and below represent between 1/4
and 1/8 of the original image.
This setting had the potential for a prize winning
photograph.I had a great subject that
was exhibiting interesting behavior.I
have years of experience with super telephotos.I had sufficient light.The 800mm lens is able to optically shrink
the distance between the camera and subject.The 1D Mark IVis capable of
focusing at f8.It doesn't get much
better than this.What else could I have
I had too much hot air between me and the Harrier. The heat
causes distortion.It wasn't possible to
achieve the necessary sharpness without moving closer.I couldn't move closer to it so I needed the
Harrier to move in my direction.It
The Northern Harrier is an experienced hunter and has
mastered flight.I'm sure that it had
captured a meal before the day was over.I know from experience that if I get this close to a great photo enough
times, sooner or later my subject will be in the right place at the right time.If I'm ready I'll be rewarded with a great
image.In the meantime, I'll enjoy my
time with nature and the privilege of watching animals in the wild.
You might look at this sunrise photo and feel that I used too much saturation in Photoshop. That isn't true. Even a mediocre sunrise can look spectacular through a super-telephoto lens. It allows the photographer to focus on a tiny bit of sky with the best color.
This Bald Eagle wasn't going to take any chances. He was in a tree near the road. I had less than a second to stop my vehicle and raise my camera to my eye before he had flown away.
The few Sandhill Cranes I saw today were far from the road. If I were in the blind on the left side of this photo, I would have a better photo. The cranes have hundreds of square miles to search for food so you could sit in a blind all day without a crane for miles. You have a better chance in the evening if you rent a blind near the river. The few blinds near the river cost hundreds of dollars to rent and the cranes often arrive after dark and leave before sunrise.
I drove over 300 miles yesterday to photograph migrating sand hill cranes.
My trip was at least a week too soon. The few live cranes I saw were
far in the distance. My final stop was the Crane
Trust's Nebraska Nature & Visitor Center near Grand Island I should have gone
there first. There were cranes everywhere. There were metal crane
sculptures at the entrance. There were stuffed cranes in glass cases,
crane bean bags, crane cups, crane paintings,
crane books and crane photos.
Some of the photos were amazing. Two
of them caught my eye. One was a crane flying at dusk. The other was
of several cranes silhouetted against the moon. This second photo made
me smile. It reminded me of a similar photo
that I entered in my first photo contest.
time was many years ago and the place was Monterey California. There
was an interesting tree a few blocks from our apartment. Every time I
passed it I knew that it belonged in a photo.
I took a few photos of it silhouetted against the sky and realized that
this amazing tree was surrounded by too much clutter. Successful
photography requires patience. I kept my eye on an interesting tree in
Monterey, waiting for the perfect moment. It
never came. A year later, I photographed the full moon and created an
image that looked like nearly every photo of the moon. Inspiration
struck in the darkroom. I exposed the Alabama moon on my paper, changed
the negative and then exposed the California
tree. When I entered my very first photo contest, I used this image.
It won Best of Show.
isn’t easy to photograph an object silhouetted against the moon without
resorting to creative darkroom techniques or Photoshop. The earth
rotates so the moon a moving target. You need
a clear field of view in front of the silhouetted object – sometimes a
mile or more. The sky behind the object needs to be clear from the
earth to the moon. While much of of this can be planned in advance, it
remains a challenge.
nearly impossible to plan the silhouette of an object in the sky
against the moon. It has to be directly between you and the moon. The
odds of this happening are small so patience and
luck is required. Yesterday was my lucky day! The sky was clear, the
moon was out and geese were flying everywhere. All I needed to do was
to put my camera on a tripod, focus on the moon and wait for the geese
to be in the correct position.
results were disappointing. Both the moon and the geese were sharp to
my naked eye. The camera saw a sharp moon but the geese were out of
focus. I changed my technique to focus on the
geese instead of the moon. I liked the results with sharp geese better
than those with out of focus geese. The scene with an out of focus
moon is more believable. With the moon and focus under control, I could
concentrate on the pattern of groups of geese
and the position of their wings. These images were improved but not
watched a person judge a photo contest a few years ago. He was trained
by the Photographic Society of America. He had a system to score each
photo based on points awarded for each objective
criteria. The photo of the silhouetted cranes would have scored
extremely well using his system. It was sharp, interesting and well
composed. The photo of the crane flying at dusk would have scored near
the bottom. It was dark, grainy and blurred
wasn’t judging a photo contest, but I scored the two images in another
way. I rejected the composite with cranes in front of the moon because I
knew that it was impossible. Its flaws ruined
it for me. I purchased the crane flying at dusk - It was the cover of a
book - On Ancient Wings by Michael Forsberg. The image is dark, grainy and blurred. I’ve
photographed cranes on cold dark mornings. This photo had all the
elements necessary to take me back to the sights
and sounds of that place and time.