Saturday, November 12, 2011

Young bull tule elk, Point Reyes National Seashore

Young bull tule elk in tall grass on a foggy day

I finally started going through the images from my final trip to Point Reyes National Seashore before moving to Massachusetts. On many occasions I had glanced at the folder in Lightroom, but couldn't bring myself to seriously go through my last set of new images from my favorite place in the world until yesterday. My wife accompanied me for my last trip to Point Reyes two days before we left California, and we decided to start with a hike along the Tomales Point Trail with the hope of photographing some rutting tule elk. As you can see, the day greeted us with the characteristic fog of Point Reyes, and really, no weather could have been more appropriate! That park taught me to love the fog, and especially the quiet solitude that it brings, and I spent so many mornings walking this trail hoping that the fog would lift just enough for photographs.

This was my favorite shot from the day, since there is a fair amount of emotion to the pose of the bull elk -- much like we were at the time, he was sensing the wind and deciding which direction to go (of course, his decision was based simply on the availability of female elk). Otherwise, I didn't get too many images that I was very happy with from this trip. We spent a fair amount of time watching a large bull guard his harem, and were able to listen to him bugle at many rival males in the area, but the images lacked the clarity that I favor due to the amount of moisture in the air. No regrets though -- Point Reyes gave me more than my fair share of favorite photographs over the years, it was wonderful to spend one last morning in the park with my wife. Even though I'm not sure when I'll make it back, I am already looking forward to greeting the sunrise (or a thick layer of fog) the next time I'm able to be in Point Reyes!

The tule elk in Point Reyes National Seashore are fantastic photographic subjects and you can view more in my Tule Elk Gallery.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Feeding dunlin, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

Photograph of a dunlin about to eat a clam at Parker River NWR

The seventh beach at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge on Plum Island came through for me again on Tuesday when I went out looking for shorebirds in the late afternoon. The weather was absolutely beautiful, which meant that there were many more people on the beach 2 hours before sunset than I had seen on my sunrise trips, but the birds didn't seem too perturbed by the small crowd. As the sun crept closer to the horizon, the beach started to empty out and it was mostly birders and other photographers wandering across the exposed sediments of low tide. It was a nice change of pace on this trip to have a flock of mostly dunlin and black-bellied plovers to photograph, instead of the sanderlings like on my previous trip.

View more photographs of dunlin and other sandpipers in my Sandpipers Gallery.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Sunset over the salt marsh, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

Golden back-lighting highlights cattails as the sun sets over a salt marsh

With the beautiful weather we had yesterday, I just had to get outside with my camera. After having an October snowfall a week ago, it was clear skies and temps in the upper 60s! Since there was going to be an evening low tide along the coast, I took a trip up to Parker River National Wildlife Refuge to look for shorebirds. I found a friendly flock of dunlin, and was able to crouch in the sand with them for quite a while as the sun dropped towards the horizon. Just before the light started reaching the top of the dunes along the shore, I decided to pack up there and start my trek out of the refuge to see what might be around to photograph with the final light of the day. I was headed for the ponds in the northern part of the island, but when I saw the backlit cattails and reeds along the road, I just had to stop to photograph it! Tidal marshes hold a special place in my heart, and this one looked fantastic last night.

View some of my favorite landscape photographs in my Landscapes Portfolio.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Sanderlings feeding at low tide, Parker River NWR

Photograph of a sanderling picking up a clam

Here are another couple of images from a recent trip to the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge. There was a very low tide that morning, which left behind some wonderful textures in the sand as it pulled out. The low angle of the sun just after sunrise was perfect for capturing the bright blue colors of the morning sky in the wet sand, and there were also some opportunities to capture some reflections of the birds as well.

Photograph of a sanderling carrying a clam at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

The shorebirds were taking advantage of all of the exposed sediments, and were pulling small prey from below the surface with ease. It is amazing to me how much life there is just below the sand, since huge flocks of these birds will scour the area during every low tide. It was also really interesting to see them pull small clams from the sand, and then swallow them whole. Sometimes they would even rinse it in a puddle before eating it.

Photograph of two sanderlings hunting on the sand in Massachusetts

View more photos of sanderlings in my Sandpipers Gallery.

This post was submitted to the World Bird Wednesday blog meme -- follow the link to check out this week's posts.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Young pronghorn at sunset, Yellowstone National Park

Baby pronghorn at sunset

I've been fascinated with pronghorn ever since seeing them in nature documentaries as a child. I think that they are so remarkably beautiful, and its amazing to see them running so fast. While in California, I had learned that there were a few populations of pronghorn in the state (some remaining naturally and some introduced) and we had taken a road trip to Carrizo Plain National Monument with the hope of finding and photographing some. We did see pronghorn, but it was always at too far of a distance for good photographs. Having missed out on that opportunity before, I was really excited to have another chance to photograph one of my childhood favorites in Yellowstone National Park in September. Since I had read that they can be skittish, I wasn't sure what opportunities I would have to photograph pronghorn in the park. Much to my delight, we saw a small herd of around 8 animals right near the Gardiner entrance every day as we drove in and out of the park. It was so much fun to be able to pull the car over and watch them for an extended period of time, and it was great to have so many opportunities to see them up close. One of the members of the herd was this young pronghorn, and it was especially cute as it bounded around the group with the unbridled enthusiasm of a young animal.

View more photos of Antilocapra americana in my Pronghorn Gallery.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Large bull moose, Grand Teton National Park

Photograph of a large bull moose with velvet antlers sniffing the air

This handsome fellow is the largest moose that we saw during our visit to Grand Teton National Park in September. We found him feeding fairly close to the road as we drove along the Gros Ventre River corridor before sunrise.

Since I was shooting in pre-dawn light, I had to jack up the ISO for these shots. To get a reasonable shutter speed of 1/100 of a second (which was still a bit of underexposure), I pushed the camera to ISO 3200. At the time I was thinking, "why am I even bothering trying to shoot under these conditions?" -- since it seemed like it was just too dark to get anything decent. But then I quickly realized that I have no idea when the next time I'll be this close to a large bull moose will be, and of course, pixels are free, so I kept shooting. I'm really glad that I did as well, since I was impressed with the quality of the images when I reviewed them later. I had never really shot at such a high ISO before, and sure, there's a fair amount of noise (especially before any correction in LR3) and they aren't tack sharp, but overall they came out pretty good considering the conditions.

Large bull moose with velvet antlers in Grand Teton National Park

View more photos of moose in my Moose Gallery

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Herd of gray seals, Cape Cod National Seashore

Photograph of a herd of gray seals on the beach at Cape Cod National Seashore

The ability to take a day trip to Cape Cod National Seashore is a definite perk of living in the Boston area, and I was excited to go there this week for the first time since I was a little kid. I don't remember all that much from our family vacation there, but I do remember enjoying the trip overall, going whale watching, seeing horseshoe crabs, and eating my first lobster. Well, I suppose it's more accurate to say ordering my first lobster. As the story goes, I was very excited to try lobster on this trip -- most likely since my dad was so excited for it. I do have a memory of sitting in a restaurant, putting on the plastic bib that they give to those who ordered lobster, and then having a whole steamed lobster put on my plate. My family tells me that the look on my face was priceless, and that I ended up not eating it since my 5-year old self couldn't eat something that still had eyes.

So what does my story about not trying lobster have to do with the pictures I've posted for today? Perhaps not too much, it was just a memory I have of Cape Cod from a long time ago -- but I have read that gray seals do occasionally eat lobster!

Photograph of gray seals resting on the beach near Truro in Cape Cod National Seashore

Long before we moved to the area, I was already looking up information about the wildlife I would be attempting to find and photograph once we arrived. I had read that gray seal populations have been steadily increasing along the coast, and that there are a few breeding sites near Cape Cod and the Islands. Large pinnipeds will always rank highly in my book, and I was excited to take my first trip into Cape Cod National Seashore to try to find them. The conditions weren't great, since it was heavy clouds and strong winds, but seeing a large group of these seals resting together on a sand bar just offshore was a lot of fun! I'm already planning a return trip for a late afternoon low tide to try to get some better photos of these delightful marine mammals in nice light.

View more of my photos of gray seals in Cape Cod National Seashore.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Great egret on a dreary day, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

Photograph of a great egret in a salt marsh on a dreary day

I chose the day for my first trip to Parker River National Wildlife Refuge last month based on the forecast of a cloudy day. I really enjoy shooting under cloudy skies since it means nice even lighting during the day, and that I can shoot in reasonable light for more than just sunrise and sunset. However, my trip on this day was not the nice high clouds I was hoping for, but instead ground level fog and light rain all day. The birds didn't seem to mind though, and I was able to watch all kinds of waterbirds enjoying the weather. There was a large number of great egrets and snowy egrets in the marsh along the main road -- far more than I've seen on any of my return trips so far.

Photograph of a great egret preening in a salt marsh at Parker River NWR

I enjoyed watching this great egret preen along the edge of a salt pond, and the feeling of the dreary day added a bit to the image I think. It wouldn't have quite the same mood if was under blue skies and direct sunlight, and I might not have been able to capture the same kind of reflection either.

Photograph of a preening great egret with a reflection

View more photos of great egrets in my Egrets and Herons Gallery.

Submitted to World Bird Wednesday -- Follow the link to check out this week's posts.