Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

This is likely to be my last post of 2010, and I wanted to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Thank you so much for following my work during this past year. Here's to a beautiful and productive 2011!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Lake Tahoe -- Pat Ulrich Wildlife and Nature Photography

A lone "Christmas Tree" on the shores of Lake Tahoe at Nevada Beach. I don't really have any snowy scenes, so this rainy-day evergreen will have to suffice. (And with the amount of snow the Sierra's have received recently, I'm sure this tree looks very Christmasy now!)

See you in the new year!


2010 Favorites

Inspired by Jim Goldstein's annual blog project, here are my personal favorites from 2010. I had a very productive year, with almost 150 blog posts and images appearing in a few conservation publications. Additionally, I was honored to take second place in the Wildlands category of the 2010 Defender's of Wildlife contest. I also just launched my new portfolio website -- www.patulrichphotography.com -- so please stop by and take a look around.

In no particular order, here's my favorite fifteen of 2010, with a link to the original blog post of each.

Evenly Matched
Our August hike to see the tule elk rut was awesome, capped off by having a front row seat while these two males fought. This image quickly became one of my most viewed on Flickr, and was selected as a weekly pick in the 2010 National Geographic contest.
Photograph of two fighting tule elk in Point Reyes National Seashore

Sleeping Sandpipers
I had a fantastic encounter with a very large flock of peeps along Limantour Spit in Point Reyes in November. I spent a fair amount of time crawling around in the sand with the birds and took a lot of images, but this frame jumped out to me right away as I was going through the shots.
Photograph of sleeping sandpipers in Point Reyes National Seashore

From that same November trip, this was just a small portion of the entire flock of shorebirds. I had a handful of opportunities to photograph the flocks moving up and down the beach, and this was my favorite of the bunch. The light, birds, waves, and bluffs all came together at the right moment.
Photograph of a flock of shorebirds landing on the beach in Point Reyes National Seashore

Calling Plover
This was the first good opportunity I've ever had to get close to a black-bellied plover, and I was happy to come away with a frame of it calling.
Photograph of a plover calling out on the tidal flats in California

Stalking Salmon
One of my favorite trips of the year was an October drive up to Lake Tahoe to see the Kokannee salmon run, and especially the local black bears that feast on it. We were fortunate enough to get to see this cub and its mother catch many salmon in the creek.
Photograph of a black bear cub stalking salmon near Lake Tahoe

Salmon & Bears
This is the mother bear with a fresh caught salmon from the creek. Until about a week before I took this trip, I had no idea that you could see a scene like this in California! Once I found out about it, it was too incredible of an opportunity to miss, and we were there the next weekend.
Photograph of a black bear with a Kokanee salmon in its jaws

A lone western sandpiper separated from a large flock of sanderlings. It can be challenging to compose a striking image from a large flock of birds, but it gets much easier when one bird is separated from the group.
Photograph of one sandpiper isolated from the flock in Point Reyes National Seashore

Too Much Fun
One of my favorite wildlife encounters of the year was getting to spend some time watching this long-tailed weasel play in a cattle grate. It was full of energy, and was very curious about me (and my car) as it bounded in and out of the grate, and snuck closer to me to get a better look.
Photograph of a long-tailed weasel having fun in a cattle grate

Prim & Proper
I had a handful of great quail encounters this spring, and this is one of my favorite shots from them. The creamy backdrop is a hillside across the valley.
Photograph of a prim and proper California quail in Marin County

Another frame from our August hike out Tomales Point to see the tule elk. While seeing a few fights between bulls was the highlight, we spent most of the time watching them feed.
Photograph of a tule elk browsing in Point Reyes National Seashore

Quail in a Sea of Gold
This quail picked a great perch in front of a sea of yellow wildflowers, and was kind enough to hang out on it until I got close enough and at the right position to take this shot.
Photograph of a California quail set against a backdrop of golden wildflowers

Whenever I view this image, I can still feel the stillness and quiet solitude of that morning. I've taken many trips to Limantour Beach under the early morning fog, and this shot really captured the essence the experience.
Photograph of a foggy morning in the estuary at Point Reyes National Seashore

Quail on a Post
I had a good year photographing California quail in 2010, and this image was on my first really nice opportunity. I like how this light and the pose help to highlight the beautiful patterns of the feathers on its neck.
Photograph of a male California quail on a fencepost in Point Reyes

Douglas Iris
I'm not particularly drawn to photographing flowers, but irises have a special place in my heart. I love to find these early spring wildflowers covering the coastal hillsides of Point Reyes National Seashore.
Photograph of a wild Douglas iris in Point Reyes National Seashore

Relaxing on Loser's Beach
My favorite annual event along the coast is the winter arrival of the northern elephant seals. These animals are incredible, and walking among then at Año Nuevo State Reserve really makes you feel like you're in a nature documentary. I can't wait to take my annual pilgrimage there in early January!
Photograph of a northern elephant seal relaxing on the beach

And finally, as a bonus, here is one of my favorite shots that my beautiful wife took of me behind the lens this year. This is from our trip up to Tahoe:
Photograph of Pat Ulrich photographing Lake Tahoe

Monday, December 20, 2010

Shovelers at sunset

Sunset shovelers

Northern shovelers are one of my favorite ducks -- right up there with northern pintails. I think the males have really pretty coloration, and I just love that oversized bill. Here's a male and female in very late light at Radio Road Ponds in Redwood City.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Preening Dunlin

I always enjoy photographing preening shorebirds. One reason is that its a good sign that the birds are comfortable with my presence, since they wouldn't risk taking their eyes off me if they weren't. I never want to add extra stress to the birds that I'm watching, which means approaching really slowly while crawling in the sand, as well as leaving in exactly the same way when I'm done. And since the birds are ok with me being around them, I can get images of their normal behavior. Its wonderful to have a window into their lives.
Preening Dunlin

I also like preening shots since you can get more definition in each individual feather when they have them fluffed out a bit. Its easy to see a bird's plumage as the overall pattern. But when they are cleaning the feathers, you can see the shape and detail in each one, and how they all fit together.
Preening Dunlin 3

Here's a third frame that's pretty similar to the first, but there's a little better light on this angle of its face, and the little western sandpiper has an eye on the scene.
Preening Dunlin 2

Friday, December 17, 2010

One-legged sentinel

Dunlin Sentinel

A dunlin on the outer edge of a large flock, keeping an eye on the approaching photographer. It's interesting how dynamic these group scenes are. The birds were very interested in preening and napping, but the turnover of who was on the outside of the group was pretty high, with other birds constantly moving into the flock and being replaced by others.