Archive for the Photo Stories Category

Death Stalks on Silent Wings

Posted in Natural History, Photo Stories with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 23, 2015 by chamimage

Owl Silhouette

I was staying in Klamath Falls, photographing owls and bald eagles, at the Klamath Wildlife Refuges when I read in the newspaper that we had an owl problem back home in Salem, Oregon.

Around mid-January a jogger (local surgeon) running at 5:15 am in a city park was hit in the back of his head with what he assumed was a two by four. Looking around he saw nothing. Later, it was determined that he was attacked by a barred owl (Strix varia). Three other joggers have had the honor of repeating his experience since then. All have been running before dawn or after sunset, basically pretty dark out there. One jogger lost his favorite Nike cap and never got it back.

It was assumed the owl is nesting nearby and is protecting its territory, but no nest has ever been found to my knowledge.

I went to the park when I got back to find the owl in question and was not successful. Nobody has seen it in the day time so maybe it is roosting or nesting away from the park and only hunting squirrels there in the dark. I did notice a paucity of squirrels. Maybe he tired of having to chase joggers off and gave up and moved out.

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

I don’t have any images of a barred owl. They are relatively new to Oregon, being a bird of eastern forests. Their presence here in Oregon has been problematic in other ways. Remember in the 1990’s when the northern spotted owl was listed as endangered and old growth forest logging was essentially shut down to protect the spotted owls? Those same spotted owls are now being decimated and will likely go extinct due to the invasion of barred owls into their territory. They are similar owls in many respects. Both feature black eyes. The barred owls are more aggressive and are out-competing and driving out the spotted owls. The Forest Service now has a trial program of killing barred owls in northern California to see if it has any effect on the spotted owls and is feasible. 3,600 barred owls will be shot. The biologist involved described this as a classic Sophie’s Choice, deciding who will live and who will die when there is no clear fairness in the result.

The image directly above is of an owl I found early in the day when the sun was behind him. I came back in the evening when I knew he would be front-lit. I got near to his position, but there was a car behind me so I stopped at a porta pottie so as not to leads other to him and burden his life with too many people knowing of his location. To my dismay, when I came out of the latrine the driver behind me had not only seen the owl and stopped (I suspect he already knew he was there as well) but his stopping had created an owl jam with three other cars stopped. At that point I gave up on the stealth approach and drove up and got my images. Instead of a quick shot out the window of my car turned into stopping and putting the camera on the tripod. He obviously wasn’t going anywhere. By that time there were six cars stopped.

The title of this post refers to the silent flight of owls, which is unique. It hardly seems fair that they hunt at night and are completely silent in flight. They pay for the silent flight with feathers that are not able to repel water. Apparently you can be water-resistant or silent, but not both. Another fact I learned from Nature last week is that an owl’s feathers weigh more than its skeleton. Hollow bones.

At the Klamath wildlife refuge a biologist said that one morning when they came to work they found the head of a barn owl on the sidewalk. At first they thought they were victim to a boyhood prank, but later decided that it was a gift from a resident great horned owl. Owls like to behead their prey before eating them (perhaps they can’t digest the relatively dense skull?) and in the case of great horned owls they tend to spread body parts about their territory, probably for the same reason gangsters put horse heads in people’s beds.

Sunset

Sunset

The owl silhouette at the top was taken in one of these trees a few minutes later.

A good reference book on owls I “Owls of the United States and Canada” written by my friend Wayne Lynch.

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

Saw-whet Owl

Saw-whet Owl

Newborn Fawn

Posted in Natural History, Photo Stories with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 27, 2014 by chamimage
Doe and Fawn

Doe and Fawn

I found this black-tail doe and newborn fawn near Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park in Washington state. The series of photos that ensued told a story. These are all straight out of camera. None of them are great photos in and of themselves, but I like them as a series.

Newborn Fawn

Newborn Fawn

Momma decided to move away and stepped over a fallen log.

What's a Fawn to Do?

What’s a Fawn to Do?

The log was Mt. Everest to that little fawn.

He threw himself at it.

He threw himself at it.

He threw himself at it with all he had, but fell back on the first try.

The Second Try

The Second Try

His second attempt looked like it was going to end with the same result…

Kicking

Kicking

He was high-centered, but he managed to get his feet under him and start kicking his way over.

Success

Success

He made it.

Reunited

Reunited

Time for some security time beneath mom.

On the Road Again

On the Road Again

This image is all blurry, but shows how tiny and fragile this little guy was.

Hopefully, they lived happily ever after. The End

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eagle Chase Scene

Posted in Photo Stories with tags , , , , , , , on October 6, 2013 by chamimage
Eagle Chase

Eagle Chase

I first noticed a bald eagle hovering low over the Yellowstone River in Hayden Valley. I didn’t know eagles could hover.

I guess with a 30 mph head wind they can. He was trying to grab a duck off of the river, but they kept diving. It was only a matter of time before a duck came up at the wrong place and wrong time.

I was getting some nice photographs of him suspended in the air, despite the wind and rain. Then the golden eagle came along and ran the bald eagle off. My shutter speed was too slow for the spiraling shots to come out sharp.

I didn’t see any contact between them. The bald eagle was just sort of escorted out of the golden eagle’s territory.

I knew there was quite a size difference between the two kinds of eagles, but have never seen them this close together to really appreciate the contrast before.

This was taken Sept 29th. Two days later Yellowstone Park shut down with the government shut down and the fun was over. My hotel in West Yellowstone had three guests on the night of Oct 1st because all of the tour buses cancelled. All of us who traveled to a national park of monument weren’t given much consideration by our government. We actually paid for access to the park and were then denied it. I really feel for the people who traveled from Asia, Europe, etc. And for the people who are trying to make a living from tourism. For congress to use all of the above people as pawns in their little games is just unconscionable.

Arctic Bird

Posted in Photo Stories with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 23, 2013 by chamimage
Black-legged Kittiwake

Black-legged Kittiwake

It is not often you get a chance to photograph birds at eye level or shoot down on them.

These photographs were taken from the deck of a Russian ice-breaker ship in the arctic. We were looking for polar bears and there is a lot of down time between bear sightings.

Immature Glaucous Gull

Immature Glaucous Gull

The kittiwakes and northern fulmars follow the ship because as we broke up ice floes, or moved them aside, we exposed the arctic cod that were hiding beneath the ice.

Northern Fulmar

Northern Fulmar

The birds liked to fly slowly past the ship and then drop back and do it again for some reason.

There are large colonies of sea birds on the rock cliffs of every sea stack and island in the arctic. Apparently the fishing must be pretty good.

There are arctic foxes beneath the rock cliffs cleaning up the fallen eggs and chicks.

Northern Fulmar

Northern Fulmar

It is also not often you get a bird to fly close enough to photograph it in flight with a wide angle lens. The two wide angle shots were taken with a 28-70 mm lens at 28 mm. The other two were taken with a 280 mm lens (70-200mm with a teleconverter).

These photographs were taken in July. Yes, it snowed. A lot.

 

New Web Site

Posted in Photo Stories with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 2, 2013 by chamimage
SmugMug Web Site

SmugMug Web Site

SmugMug

I have spent some time this weekend working on a new web site on SmugMug. I was getting bored with what I had before and it didn’t seem to be working very well so I decided to mix it up a bit and launch the portfolio site I have been thinking about for a long time.

I had heard SmuMug displays images well so decided to give them a try. Unfortunately, there has been a major upgrade recently at SmugMug and everything has changed so the help forums are mostly outdated. There is very little help in how to set up your site and it is not for the faint of heart. The only training videos are hour long webinars!!! From the comments attached, I am not the only one who thinks that is rather sadistic. Little five minute snippets on a specific topic are the norm everywhere but SmugMug.

Needless to say, it has taken days to accomplish simple tasks. For instance, the theme I picked comes with a stock image on the homepage. It took me the better part of three days to figure out how to get my image on the homepage, instead. Even after sitting through the damned one hour webinar, which was no help for that task at all. The webinar was helpful in setting up an About Me page. I am not a web designer (obviously), but I’m not stupid and have set up several other web sites before.

After three days I finally have a few images on the site and the painful part is mostly over (I hope). I did have to re-upload all of the images at least once. Some had a watermark that said PROOF across them for some reason, their default watermark, I assume. Once I had my personal watermark uploaded I found out the only way to apply it was on upload so I had to delete and re-upload everything to get the watermark applied. Unfortunately web images are a lot like gym clothes in school, if your name isn’t all over them in indelible ink they are bound to be stolen.

Now that most of the pain is over I think I will enjoy the site. I have anted up for the first month, anyway. Just be forewarned to experiment with the free trial before committing and getting in over your head. For a while I thought maybe there were just things I couldn’t do on the trial version. Not true.

By the way, the Homepage image swap was accomplished by clicking on Customize in the top toolbar, choosing Homepage on the right sided panel, choosing Theme (of all things, you would think it would be under Content), and (here’s the good part) if you hover the mouse over the name of your web site (Thomas in my case) a couple of symbols magically appear to the right. You want the wrench symbol. So intuitive (NOT). I am surprised I ever found it.

Sea Stacks

Sea Stacks

500px

I am starting to like 500px lately. Flickr’s recent change to becoming totally unusable helped. Not only is the quality of the images on 500px better, but the feedback I get on images I post seems to be better. Nobody is going to rip your image, but the silence is deafening if you post something that is not appreciated. They either love it or hate it. On Flickr, there is no apparent logic to feedback. Some of my best images have 24 views on Flickr. On the other hand, the image above has only 24 views on 500px, but 600 views on Flickr so you never know. Isn’t it interesting that the two can yield such completely different results?

500px seems to be more competitive. I don’t know why. It’s not a contest. There are no cash prizes involved. It is all ego driven. The need to feel loved in this faceless society we live in today? I don’t know why.

I used to pay Flickr a few shekels a year to be able to parse out some statistics, but now the only pay plan is too expensive for what it does. If they have a strategy at Flickr, alienating photographers seems to be on the top of their list these days.

Red and White Dahlia

Red and White Dahlia

I was trying to be so creative and innovative on my dahlia shoot last weekend. It turns out the image that has gotten the best feedback this week is the image above, which is pretty much a straightforward, could have taken it in Program mode whilst falling out of a truck image. Which reminds me of a couple of stories I have heard. I believe it was Willard Clay who was once asked how he made a tree trunk look so beautiful? He said “Because I looked at a thousand tree trunks and photographed the most beautiful one.” The other story was by Joe McNally, now a National Geographic photographer. When he was a young newspaper photographer he approached one of the grizzled veterans who had consistently better photos than Joe and asked him how to take more interesting photographs. The veteran eyed him and said “Put more interesting stuff in front of your camera.” Joe apparently took that to heart, with self projects that have included circus performers and elephants, ballerinas, and a lady painted in snake scales holding a boa constrictor. This week I guess being arty lost to mother nature again. This was the most interesting thing in front of my camera this week.

The Colosseum image at top was an image taken on my first night in Rome. Arrived at my hotel at 4 pm. Shot that image about 7:30. I was so jet-lagged and exhausted it was all I could do to stand up and push the shutter button. Those were the best shots of my trip. I suspect it speaks to getting out of your own way and not over-thinking everything. Let your instincts take over. Either that or it was just one hell of a great subject and I never got back to it due to rain.

Dahlia Festival

Posted in Photo Stories with tags , , , , , , , on August 26, 2013 by chamimage
Pink Dahlia

Pink Dahlia

It is that time of year for lots of florals. I went to a dahlia farm in Canby, Oregon for their dahlia festival on Sunday.

Canby is about thirty miles from my home, but I had never heard of this dahlia farm or their annual festival until I saw it listed as a workshop site by east coast photographers Arthur Morris (Florida) and Denise Ippolito (New Jersey).

Red and White Dahlia

Red and White Dahlia

Sunday started off okay, with a hazy sky that was just right for soft light. There was a bit of a breeze, but I was able to handle it with a bit higher shutter speed and didn’t have to resort to my Plamp, a clamp device with one end on the tripod and the other clamping the stem of the flower.

After about an hour the sun started to break through and that presented problems with harsh light. I was using a reflector so employed it as a shade for a short while. Fortunately the full sun only lasted on and off for about ten minutes.

Then the skies got progressively darker. This surprised me because no rain had been in the forecasts I saw. I got about two hours and 257 images in before it started raining. I might have stayed for another 30-60 minutes, otherwise.

Dahlia Portrait

Dahlia Portrait

I used my 105 mm macro lens almost exclusively. The above image was taken with the 50 mm f/1.4 lens. I like it on the computer better than I liked it on my camera LCD (good reason never to delete images in the camera), so I might employ the 50 mm more next year. Oh yeah…I’ll be back.

The Oregon Owl Controversy

Posted in Photo Stories with tags , , , , , , , on July 29, 2013 by chamimage

In the 1990’s we had a controversy in the northwestern US over the Spotted Owl  (to say the least). The Spotted Owl lives only in old growth forest and feeds almost exclusively on flying squirrels (and the occasional mouse swung in the air by a researcher).

When the Spotted Owl gained endangered species status it pretty much shut down the logging of the few remaining old growth forests in the west.

The Spotted Owl is now losing ground to the Barred Owl in those forests.

The Barred Owl started out as an east coast bird, but it is tough and it eats anything that moves, so it has managed to widen its territory relentlessly and is now at home here in the forests of the west coast. It likes it here just fine and has no intention of going away.

The problem now being that the Barred Owl is eating the Spotted Owl out of house and home. Spotted Owls numbers are decreasing again, 4% per year.

What to do? This is the natural order of things. This has happened over the millenia over and over. Species come and go.

But, the Spotted Owl is an endangered species and by law must be protected from extinction. The National Forest Service has proposed killing 3,600 Barred Owls in an attempt to save the Spotted Owl. A small scale culling was done in the redwoods of northern California and the Spotted Owl did benefit from it.

There are many layers to this controversy. Most people come down on one side or the other based on how they feel about logging old growth forests.

If you are an environmentalist – can you really endorse the killing of 3,600 owls by the government? But if you don’t, and the Spotted Owl goes extinct, the old growth forests are likely to open up to renewed logging.

I am having a hard time with the thought of interfering with a natural process like the Barred Owl taking new territory from the Spotted Owl. Survival of the fittest.

On the other hand, if it were tigers or lions that were at stake because some bigger and badder predator moved in I would probably be in favor of intervening so I am somewhat of a hypocrite there. Not that I don’t love owls, but big cats are a whole other level.

This one takes some soul searching. It sounds like the Barred Owl removal is likely to go forward unless there is massive resistance to it, and so far it has been a pretty quiet controversy, for obvious reasons.

Saw-whet Owl

Saw-whet Owl

This is a Saw-whet Owl. It has nothing to do with the story, but I have no Spotted Owl or Barred Owl images and I like this little guy. He used to hang out in the bushes at the headquarters of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Oregon. His preference for thick vegetation made him difficult to photograph, but protected him from the Great-horned Owls and the red-tailed hawk that nested at headquarters, and from the bobcat that came through on her daily rounds. It’s a jungle out there.