Hen Harriers – revisited

This will be the first of two winter posts. This first one will cover my latest Hen Harrier adventures whereas the second post will show some other more common birds in a winter setting. For the first time in many years I haven’t had the feeling of spending the winter in hibernation. I actually went out into the blistering cold and got great results! I focussed all my efforts on capturing birds in the snow that I didn’t have any time to go out and shoot some landscape shots. Yes, the winter of 2012/2013 was great but I’m glad that it’s over and I’m ready for Spring now. I already have a few small colorful projects in mind but more on that in a few weeks. I will also be buying a new camera as I’ve set April 1st as a deadline to buy one. I’m afraid Nikon won’t release a D400 any time soon so I’ll be buying a D800 and 24-70mm lens (full frame instead of APS-C (crop)). I will still be using my D300 for when I need the additional reach and speed but the D800 will be great for more controllable projects such as macro, light rays, and king fishers. I’m a bit worried though about storage space on my computer so I’m going to have to increase that as well. Luckily my 2008 Mac Pro seems to handle large D800 RAW files very well. Anyways.. enough blabla and time for the pictures:

Hen Harrier
Hen Harrier
Hen Harrier
Hen Harrier

I do wonder what adventures 2013 will bring. Where do the kingfishers decide to nest? Will we see any new rare birds? How about the beaver? And will I see Roe Deer fawns again? I can’t wait!

Until next time!

The Deer Whisperer

I’ve figured it all out and I’m not going to share my secrets with you ;-). I found the right location, right time, and the best way to photograph Roe deer fawns. It all started two weeks ago when I entered a specific area that seemed to meet all the requirements for a Roe Deer meet. I slowly walked towards a meadow with tall grass and suddenly saw two Roe deer fawns jumping up from the ground, startled by my presence. Both looked at me and apparently saw no danger as they both just kept standing at the place where they landed after their jump. One of them just kept staring at me. I immediately brought up my camera and started shooting away, trying not to make any sudden movements, and anxiously wondering how long this moment was going to last. What happened next was awesome… both fawns accepted my presence and started to eat, groom, run, and play. I was able to closely follow them for about half an hour. Unfortunately the tall grass prevented me from taking any clear shots and also made the focusing quite difficult, especially when you have to hand hold a 500mm and manually focus at the same time. But that’s when those 50 daily push-ups come in handy! What an amazing moment that was. Little did I know that this was going to repeat itself 2 weeks later. More about that encounter in my next blog. Here are the shots:

Roe deer fawn
Wonderful moment!

Mom:
Roe deer
Just look at how graceful these creatures are. I’m sure I’ll go ballistic if I ever saw a hunter kill one. If you ever read in the newspaper that a nature photographer attacked a hunter, it’ll most likely be me :p. Please come and bail me out then by the way ;).

Next up is a Common Sandpiper. These birds are not very common in the Netherlands and it’s not at all common that one lands on your Kingfisher branch. Amazing moment once again.
Common Sandpiper

Next up are some macro’s I took in the meadow where the deer were playing.
grass macro

grasshopper
I could have sworn it was saluting me!

Last one for this post. This young Buzzard flew over my head while I was taking shots of the 2 Roe deer fawns. Had to act quickly to change exposure settings and fire away.
Buzzard in flight

Next post will probably be sometime later this week to describe my adventures of this weekend. As said before, I met the roe deer fawns again and one got close, really close :D.

Until next time!

4 in 1, and where did my mojo go?

Four weeks crammed into one blog post. So it’ll be a long one. I basically had the larger part of 4 weeks to spend on nature photography since this was, or as I’m writing this, still is my spring/summer holiday. I wanted to make the most of it so I threw myself out into the field every day looking for stuff to photograph. The weather was not really super, but manageable. I needed clear skies in the morning and clear skies in the evening. Once these requirements have been met, all you need to do is look for the correct location. So, the first three weeks all went pretty bad. No beaver, no kingfisher, no bee eaters, no buzzards, no wild boar or roe deer. The Buzzards (buizerd) were my largest project. I knew a nice location where these birds of prey have a nest each year and thought I should give them a hand in raising their young by laying out some bait (roadkill) for them. In the meantime, I’d be there waiting in my tent with my camera. I picked the perfect spots with the rising sun behind me so if it would work, I could capture these amazing birds in the warm morning light. Unfortunately these birds are quite watchful which meant that I had to go into my tent in the middle of the night when it was still dark! This meant getting up at 4 am in the morning, cramming food down my throat, cycling 10 minutes to the location, arriving without lights, without making a sound, putting the bait on the ground in the dark, securing it with hooks so they don’t fly off with it, and try not to fall asleep while waiting. Thus, there I was at 4.30 in the morning awaiting an attack on my bait. No such luck :(. After 3 long mornings I gave up. The third time they clearly saw the bait, circled 2m over it, and flew off again. Now, 3 days later, the bait is still there, untouched. I could have sat there for over 3 days and nothing would have happened. Lesson learned I’d say. I guess this only works well in winter time when there is snow and it is much more difficult for them to find prey. After 2 weeks of bad luck I started to doubt myself, and realized that I might had lost my ‘photography mojo’ (watch an Austin Powers movie in case you don’t understand the word ‘mojo’, if you do understand it, watch them anyways as they are kind of fun). So this is when I resorted back to macro photography in an effort to find my mojo again as this is the more easier part of nature photography. Your subjects don’t run away and you don’t have to get up while its dark outside. A good place to start to get my mojo back again. The results can be found directly below. I’m quite happy with the dragonfly shots:

Tulips

Tulips

After some time, I realized that most of the time you don’t have to go look for photo opportunities but they’ll find you eventually. Just by going for a bike ride or taking a stroll along the riverside. That’s when I saw this cutie:
roe deer fawn
It must have been a few days old! I hit the brakes (I was cycling), immediately started unpacking my lens + camera and was able to take just a few shots before it ran of. Good to see that their fear of humans is a genetic thing.

Next day, I got a call from my king fisher ‘connection’ that he had found a nesting site which I could use to finally take some king fisher shots. And so I did:
king fisher
I’ll go back there in my last holiday days (this actually means crossing a fast flowing river in wading boots with 15kg of (rather expensive) camera gear on your back. One slip and things get pricey ;-).

The next shots were taken somewhere in the first 3 weeks or so. I had hoped for more and better but you can’t have it all, right?! We’ll see what the rest of summer will bring us. At least it seems that I have found my mojo again (or still had it all this time).
KungFu Goose
rays of light
phaesant on the move
I’ll end this post with a small bang. Our neighbors have a Little Owl (Steenuil) nesting box in their orchard and each year the young owls are ringed for study purposes (see how many there are and where they go after they leave their parents territory). Now, I usually don’t post photo’s of captive birds but as these are actual wild ones and it’s so darn cute I’ll show it anyway. Hope to get some really ‘wild’ shots of these ladies later this summer. Just look at the newborn! Melts your heart right?
Little Owl / Steenuil

Until next time!

Warming up for Spring

In the last few weeks I have been warming up for Spring, literally since the weather has been quite cold and rainy. Fortunately there were some sunny moments now and then which allowed me to go walkabout and scout new locations. I was hoping for some nice quality time with King Fishers but they apparently had a very tough winter meaning that only 1 pair is busy with building their love shack. This means that I have to find something else to photograph in May (my month off). Lets hope for the best (which would be to see the bee eaters return once more).

Now for some new photo’s!

This is what the Netherlands is famous for! Large tulip fields and cloudy skies:
Tulips

The next one is of an Osprey, a bird quite rare for the Netherlands. What’s even more rare is to see this awesome bird plummeting into the river to catch a fish at just 30 meters away from you. A nice camera with a tele lens attached would also come in handy of course ;). Luckily all those things came together and I positioned myself right in de middle of it. What an awesome sight!
Osprey

Next up are some Swan shots:
Swan

Swan

Swan

That’s it for this post. I hope May proves to have some nice warm weather and I’ll probably go after wild boar, the usual garden birds, and the beaver. But you never know what happens so maybe it’ll be the bee eaters again..

Until next time!

The music of the Forest

And now for my yearly Fall post! I try do different things each year but I’m always drawn back to 1 or 2 sites which have never left me down. I’ve discovered the secret to sun ray photography and boy, is Fall a good season for that! Mushroom shots are still on my to do list but I haven’t had the time for that unfortunately. So what have I been up to?

Fall color
Amazing view this was! There’s a small window of just a few days in which all the trees reach their full color potential. The sun is essential as well of course.

Fall sun rays
One of my favorites! Amazing leaf colors.

sun rays
Looks like a harp right?

sun rise
Gorgeous sunrise. I cropped it to 2×1 for a more panoramic view.

Please have a look at more of my recent shots.

Until next time!

I am haunted by light

Finally something new, or at least a little bit new as I’ve done these kind of shots before. It has been a somewhat unproductive last few weeks for me, hence the lack of posts. I took several decent shots but unfortunately, most were missing the X-factor. Now that Fall has kicked in, things are starting to pick up again and I’m eagerly awaiting the Fall climax of my favorite forest. I took some of my very best landscape photo’s over there. Anyways.. time for the new stuff:

HDR forest sunrays
Tips: know how to work with HDR software and learn not to overdo the HDR effects! Maybe I already did that here, but I’m still learning ;. Furthermore, these kind of images don’t just pop-up out of nowhere. I took location, season, time and weather conditions into account and ended up with the shot above and those below. I actually have another one with joggers that come running out of the light, really great shot. Fills up the void a bit.

I call this one: between two Giants:
Forest sun rays
Tips: basically pay attention to composition when these rays are visible. Keep in mind that this effect is not visible when you walk 10 meters to your right or left. Search for spots where the light hits the ground (those are the rays you are looking for!).

Forest sun rays
Tips: look for a decent composition. In most cases you are bound by the location so look for a good one! This location isn’t bad but it can be better of course!

mushroom
Tips: Fall is the season! Have a good, soft, colorful background. This one is too plain for my taste but I’m still happy with it. Experiment with flash and point the flash in different directions towards the subject.

Last one, but definitely not the least I would say! This was an awesome moment:
kestrel
Tips: it basically comes down to some luck! But also looking around when taking a walk, fast handling and good material. Unfortunately this is somewhat cropped but I’m still very happy with this one!! Amazing how these birds can balance on something that small.

Until next time!