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.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Semipalmated sandpiper reflection, Sandy Point State Reservation

Semipalmated sandpiper reflection

I have a habit of keeping tons of images that I'll never do anything with. On my first pass after downloading the images from a trip, I'll delete anything that doesn't meet my standards for focus or sharpness. I'll mark images that have a particularly strong composition (flag with a "P" in Lightroom) to come back for another look, but I generally just let the normal images take up space on my disks and fill up my Lightroom catalogs. I basically make the argument that if it's sharp, perhaps I'll find a purpose for it later. I've really come to the realization though that there are tons of images I'll probably never look at again, and that I'll certainly never do anything with. So, I've started going through old folders and trimming out things that just don't meet a minimum level of compositional interest. It's kind of fun to re-experience old outings, and while my primary focus is cutting images, I've found a few diamonds in the rough that I had no idea were in there. This image of a semipalmated sandpiper and its reflection in the sand is one such example. I have no idea how this wasn't favorited when I took an initial pass through this folder, but I'm excited to find it again!

View my twenty favorite shorebird images in my Shorebirds Portfolio.