Showing posts with label California. Show all posts
Showing posts with label California. Show all posts

Sunday, July 13, 2014

White-crowned sparrow in a sea of wildflowers, Point Reyes National Seashore

White-crowned sparrow in a sea of wildflowers in Point Reyes National Seashore
A white-crowned sparrow perched in the summer wildflowers along the Kehoe Beach Trail in Point Reyes National Seashore.

As I've mentioned in a previous post, the Kehoe Beach Trail is one of my favorite places to look for wildlife hiding in the sea of wildflowers that line the trail. I generally don't target song birds when I'm out looking for wildlife to photograph, mostly because I find it can be rather challenging to get close enough to obtain a bird that is relatively large in the frame and unobstructed by branches and such. However, a setting like this is, in my opinion, a great place to leave a lot of space around the birds. I particularly liked the layering to the wildflowers in this frame, with the white flowers extending on tall stalks above the yellow blooms.

View more photos from the Kehoe Beach area in Point Reyes National Seashore.

Friday, July 11, 2014

California quail calling out, Golden Gate National Recreation Area

California quail calling out in Golden Gate National Recreation Area
A California quail throws its head back in song along the Tennessee Valley Trail in the GGNRA.

For a long time, an image that was high on my wish list (at least of local opportunities) was a clean shot of a California quail in song. They’re already such interesting and charismatic birds, but it’s taken to another level when they throw their head back and call out toward the sky. During my time in California, I had a few fleeting opportunities to attempt a shot, but none of the images I produced quite met my expectations. On my recent trip to California though, I was finally able to capitalize. On one of my first mornings in Point Reyes, I photographed a female quail calling out from her fence post. She was not quite as exuberant about it as I might have preferred, but it still felt like I was putting a small checkmark on my list. Then, on my lone afternoon spent in the Marin Headlands, I came across this very loud male who was repeatedly calling out from his branch of coyote brush on a hillside above the Tennessee Valley Trail.

Quail singing from a twisted branch of coyote brush
The same quail singing from his perch on an old branch of coyote brush.

This quail was dedicated to making sure the whole valley knew he was there, and this gave me the chance to fire off a lot of frames from a few different compositions. It was exciting to have the chance to mentally score a photo of a quail singing in such a great setting as well. Coyote brush is a bit more appealing than a standard fence post would have been – and the unique twisted branches he selected as a perch really added some great character to the scene.

Browse more of my photographs of California quail.

Submitted to Wild Bird Wednesday -- follow the link for this week's posts!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Sparrow singing on a curved branch, Point Reyes National Seashore

White-crowned sparrow singing from a curved branch in Point Reyes
A white-crowned sparrow sings along the Abbott's Lagoon Trail in Point Reyes National Seashore.

While looking for songbirds to photograph on my recent trip to Point Reyes National Seashore, my primary objective was to capture them perched in front of wildflowers. Of course, it wasn't always possible to get a bright, colorful backdrop in each frame. I was drawn into this scene by the old, weathered branch of coyote brush that this white-crowned sparrow was perched on. Even better, a distant hillside provided a clean background of neutral colors for the shot as it started to sing. This otherwise drab bird provided its own splash of color though, flashing its green and orange leg bands.

Browse more of my photos of song birds.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Mule deer in the wildflowers, Point Reyes National Seashore

Mule deer in wildflowers in Point Reyes National Seashore
A mule deer hiding in the wildflowers along the trail to Kehoe Beach in Point Reyes National Seashore.

The trail to Kehoe Beach in Point Reyes National Seashore is one of my favorite places to photograph wildlife set against a backdrop of wildflowers. The hillside along the trail seems to explode in a wall of color, and the flowers conveniently grow all the way to eye level. In the past, I've photographed some song birds like this white-crowned sparrow set against the colorful backdrop, and I walked this trail a number of times on my recent trip looking for similar opportunities. As I was scanning for birds perched on the blooms, it was a delightful surprise to see these big ears and eyes staring back at me from behind the flowers. There was a slight breeze on this morning, so in many of my frames this lovely doe was distractingly obscured by the yellow blooms, but in this one, the flower stopped in the middle and gave a clean connection with her eyes.

View more photos from the trail to Kehoe Beach in Point Reyes National Seashore.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

White-crowned sparrow with a beak full of bugs, Point Reyes National Seashore

White-crowned sparrow with a beak full of bugs
A white-crowned sparrow brings a beak full of bugs back to its young in Point Reyes National Seashore.

During my recent trip to Point Reyes National Seashore, I dedicated a fair amount of time to photographing song birds among the early summer wildflowers. The first stretch of the Tomales Point Trail was absolutely covered in colorful wild radish and the trail to Kehoe Beach was also lined with dense wildflowers. These shots were taken on the trail to Abbott's Lagoon, which doesn't have as high of a density of wildflowers, but the yellow bush lupine was in full bloom (and provides the splash of yellow in the background here).

White-crowned sparrow with grasshoppers in Point Reyes National Seashore
A white-crowned sparrow looks around before returning to feed its young.

While I didn't see any nests, there were definite signs of young birds around with the parents bringing back beaks full of bugs. In the high-res version of these photos, you can clearly see that this sparrow returned with at least two grass hoppers crammed into its tiny beak. While on a much different scale, this behavior reminded me of seeing photographs of puffins returning to the cliffs with a mouthful of fish (definitely something on my lifetime photographic wishlist!).

View more photos of songbirds perched on wildflowers in my Song Birds Gallery.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Curious quail in focus, Point Reyes National Seashore

Curious quail in Point Reyes National Seashore
A California quail casts a curious glance at the photographer in Point Reyes National Seashore.

If you couldn't already guess from the banner on my blog, California quail are one of my favorite subjects to photograph, and Point Reyes National Seashore is a great place to get them in front of your lens. I photographed a bunch of quail on my recent trip there, and this was one of my favorite shots. Quail seem to have such personality, and the way that they turn their head in a curious glance cracks me up. For these shots, I was parked in the Abbott's Lagoon parking lot watching a few quail bouncing around the tops of coyote brush a bit further away, then out of the corner of my eye, I saw this guy pop up between the bushes to get a look at me. After slowing turning my lens toward it, it was exciting to see that it positioned itself behind another bush in a perfect way to provide a smooth out of focus foreground and background. 

Wildlife Photography by Pat Ulrich: Quail &emdash; Quail stare-down
An alternative view of the same quail after it moved higher on the coyote brush.

As he made his way to the top of the bush, the delightful bokeh effect started to disappear, but he posed there for a while providing some clean portrait opportunities too.

View more of my photographs of California quail.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Five days in Point Reyes National Seashore

An overcast sunset at North Beach in Point Reyes National Seashore
An overcast sunset casts a pastel glow over the landscape at North Beach in Point Reyes National Seashore.

In June, I had the opportunity to take a trip to relax and focus on photography for a few days. It had been almost two years since I was last in California, so I decided to spend those 5 days photographing and hiking around my favorite park, Point Reyes National Seashore. While early June isn't necessarily what I would consider prime time for photography in Point Reyes, I had an exceptional trip and came back with a number of photographs that I’m rather excited about. The wildflowers were really putting on a show (especially the wild radish and yellow bush lupine), the tule elk were looking handsome in their summer velvet, quail were running around all over the place, and I even had a nice encounter with a bobcat.

It was a truly refreshing experience to be back in a place that I love so dearly and to have the chance to focus so much contiguous time on experiencing the park through photography. Each morning I rolled out of bed with the first light under the fog and spent as long as possible photographing wildlife under the overcast skies. Then as the harsh light of the midday sun finally broke through, I'd pack away my camera and head out for a long hike. I hit up a number of trails that I had never hiked on during my five years of frequenting the park while I was in California, so it was great to experience new aspects of an old friend. Then as the sun started dropping, or the fog started rolling back in, I'd start searching for wildlife again.

I came back with a ton of pictures which are partially sorted and processed so far. You can drop by my Point Reyes National Seashore Special Collections to see my new work as I upload it, and I'm hoping to post new images here on the blog with a regular rhythm over the coming weeks.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Spring is here! Wildflowers at Point Lobos State Reserve

A carpet of poppies in Point Lobos State Reserve

Well, the first day of spring is finally here! I wouldn't know it from looking out my window at the over 6 inches of snow we got in the Boston area yesterday, but I am happy to have the longer days already. Spring is the time of flowers, and before this most recent snowfall, we did start to see them breaking through the earth around town. This shot is a field of summer wildflowers, mostly California Poppies, in Point Lobos State Reserve in Carmel, California.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Windblown tule elk at sunset, Point Reyes National Seashore

Windblown tule elk at sunset, Point Reyes National Seashore

This is another selection from my Favorite Photographs of 2012 that I had not blogged about previously. The light was magical on this last evening of my September trip to California. I was watching this herd of tule elk along the road to Drake's Beach, but as the sun started creeping towards the horizon, I had plans to catch the sunset overlooking the Great Beach from the lighthouse. After capturing my planned images there (and nearly getting blown over in the process by those Point Reyes winds), I drove back to watch this grazing herd of tule elk in the fading pastels of dusk.

View more photos of tule elk in Point Reyes National Seashore.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Caspian terns, Point Reyes National Seashore

Caspian tern touching down in Point Reyes National Seashore

On an overcast morning during the summer of 2011, I found a sizeable flock of Caspian terns relaxing on the exposed mudflats of the Estero de Limantour in Point Reyes National Seashore. In my experience, terns can be somewhat difficult to approach, since they are quick to fly away. However, this flock was amenable to a ground-level approach. As I crawled towards them across the sand, something spooked the flock and they all took flight. Much to my delight, they circled around a few times and landed closer to my position.

View more photos from the Limantour area of Point Reyes National Seashore.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Great Beach in Point Reyes National Seashore

The Great Beach in Point Reyes National Seashore reflecting warm sunset colors

This image of the Great Beach in Point Reyes National Seashore at sunset was one that I had always intended to make while I was living in California. Somehow though, I never found myself near the lighthouse around sunset -- so I specifically added this shot to my to-do list for my September trip to Point Reyes. This view looking north from the lighthouse parking lot is a very common vantage point for photographers, but the sight of the last rays of the day lighting up the sandstone bluffs is well worth it. Even though I would have worked this scene regardless of the conditions, I was excited to see the wave-like patterns in the sand.

View more landscape photographs of Point Reyes National Seashore.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Tranquility at sunset, Dowitcher at Radio Road Ponds

High key image of a dowitcher at sunset

As the sun dropped low in the sky, it slipped behind a nearby building and cast a shadow over this preening dowitcher. In order to the expose for the bird, I had to push the exposure compensation up to +5/3, which left only a bit of the reflected sunset color in the ripples of the water. This high-key exposure worked well to help capture the tranquility of the moment that I shared with this bird along the shoreline.

View more of my shorebird photos.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Feeding dowitcher, Radio Road Ponds

Dowitcher feeding in blue water at Radio Road Ponds

My conference was near SFO, so during an evening dinner break in the program, I headed down to Radio Road Ponds for the sunset. I was greeted by the sight of a large flock of avocets when I got out of the car, and after I sat there for a while watching them, a flock of dowitchers flew in and started feeding close to the shoreline. I have no ideal if this is a long-billed or short-billed, but they were fun to watch at close range!

Browse more photos of dowitchers.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Goldfinch on the fence, Point Reyes National Seashore

Female goldfinch on an old fence rail in Point Reyes National Seashore

While I was preparing for my talk at the PSA conference last month, I spent some time digging through my archives. I have a ton of images from California that were only partially sorted and processed, and it was a lot of fun to relive some of my trips to Point Reyes National Seashore. While there were plenty of images that I passed over for a reason the first time, I came across a handful that I was excited to find again. I typically save any image that is sharp, just because you never know when you'll see the advantage of a new or different composition within the frame. I passed over this image many times before, since in the full frame, the fence dominated the image. Eventually though, the light bulb finally turned on for me, and I saw the potential in using a 20x10 aspect ratio.

This lovely female goldfinch was perched on a lichen-covered fence railing in the Tomales Point parking lot in Point Reyes National Seashore. There's a male sitting just outside the left edge of the frame that she's intentionally ignoring as he tried to court her. It goes against my usual tendency to prefer subjects that are looking into the frame, but for some reason, this "rule-breaker" works for me.

View more of my song bird images.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Coyote on Tomales Point, Point Reyes National Seashore

Coyote on Tomales Point in Point Reyes National Seashore

I had the chance to spend a few brief days in California recently, and it felt great to be back. I was invited to give a talk at the annual Photographic Society of America conference, which was in San Francisco this year, and I enjoyed the chance to share a collection of my favorite wildlife images from my time as a resident of the Golden State. It had been over a year since I had left California, and at first it felt a little weird to be a tourist in the Bay Area. I headed straight for Point Reyes National Seashore on my first evening though, and the feeling of home quickly came rushing back!

This shot is of a friendly coyote I met one morning along the Tomales Point Trail. By friendly, I mean that it didn't directly run down the hill to disappear -- it first gave me about two minutes to get off a shot. Quite a handsome specimen though, and yes, that's a tule elk watching the scene unfold in the background.

View more photos from Tomales Point in Point Reyes National Seashore.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Velvet buck after sunset, Point Reyes National Seashore

Mule deer buck with velvet antlers in tall grass

I typically preferred to do my photography at sunrise in Point Reyes. There's something so special about being out in the cool morning air as the first rays of light break the horizon. Plus, I could very often have most of the park, or at least my trail of interest, more or less to myself if I arrived at dawn. Every now and then though, the promise of the warm sunset colors was a lure enough to keep me from having dinner at home, and instead catching a sunset in the park. On this particular evening in June 2011, I spent a long time hiking in thick fog on Tomales Point during the evening hours (so much for the warm sunset colors!). As I drove out of the park around what would have been sundown, the skies gradually cleared as I neared the Bear Valley Visitor's Center. I decided to take a swing through the parking lot for a quick chance at finding some quail, and I came across a small herd of mule deer grazing in the tall summer grasses on the hillside. After the sun had dropped below the trees, I captured this buck browsing in the glowing grasses of dusk.

View more of my mule deer photos.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Goldfinch through the flowers, Ellis Creek Water Recycling Facility

A male goldfinch perched on yellow wildflowers

A view of a male American goldfinch (Spinus tristis) as he briefly perches among the wildflowers surrounding a treatment pond at the Ellis Creek Water Recycling Facility in Petaluma, California.

View more photographs of songbirds.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Sanderling stands alone, Point Reyes National Seashore

Sanderling stands alone on sand reflecting an overcast sky

A sanderling in transitional breeding plumage stands in the wet sand on an overcast morning last August in Point Reyes National Seashore.

View more photos of sanderlings.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Flock of sandpipers, Point Reyes National Seashore

Flock of sandpipers landing on Limantour Beach in Point Reyes National Seashore

It's been an eventful couple of months since I last posted to my blog (including starting my exciting new job with the Environmental Sciences & Engineering program at Harvard!), and I'm feeling the need to start sharing my creative vision again. While I have had only very limited photographic productivity so far in 2012 (and really, it was just in the first few months of the year), I still have a back log of hundreds of images from California and our trip through Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks waiting to be shared. In addition to sitting on some of my favorites from these trips, I've also spent some time over the past few months mining through old folders looking for images that were once overlooked -- like this one of a flock of shorebirds on Limantour Spit in Point Reyes National Seashore. I'm looking forward to getting out again for the fall shorebird migration, but until I have some new images from coastal Massachusetts, I hope you enjoy some travels through my archives.

More photos from Limantour Spit in Point Reyes National Seashore

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Vernal equinox or summer solstice?

Spotted towhee perched in wildflowers in Point Reyes National Seashore

I'm not sure what happened to winter, but it seems like spring has decided to follow suit. On this first day after the vernal equinox, it sure feels an awful lot like summer. The windows are open and we're expecting high temperatures in the low 80s over the next few days in the Boston area. While I might have liked to have a bit more snow for my first winter back in the Northeast, I'm not going to complain about these unseasonably warm temps. It's a nice treat to bring my shorts out of the closet in March, and the warm morning air does make me feel a bit like this happy spotted towhee that I photographed singing among the wildflowers of Point Reyes National Seashore last summer.