Spring 2013: Part I

I just can’t seem to find the time to regularly post something on my blog and that is why you’re getting only one or two posts every few months or so. Next to actually writing the stuff, and desperately trying to think up some funny sentences here and there, I also have to update my website, upload the images shown on this blog to tinypic, and go through the html story by actually making the pictures visible and correctly link to my website. I’m sure there are easier ways to do this but I’m rather conservative in that way. If it works, don’t mess with it :p. So here it goes, hope you like what you see (the downside to posting every few months or so is that you have to show so many photo’s per post, so please scroll down a bit :-P).

painting flowers
Straight out of the camera. Got to like that D800 🙂

Tawnly owl
While running after an Osprey I caught this sleepy beauty.

Rapeseed field
Rapeseed field

Spring leaf

Pheasant
This crazy fella often falls asleep in my garden giving me an opportunity to carefully position myself within 10 meters or so. He will suddenly wake up, raise himself up, and shout out to call for females. Then he takes a nap again, only to wake up 5 minutes later and do it all over again. I have many good action shots of those moments but all are in the shadows with an annoying background so not really worth sharing. This was the only acceptable one I think.

macro

bird flowers

On another note, the more I get to know the work of other photographers (I’ve started to follow several on Facebook), the more I’m starting to wonder if I’ll ever break through that solid brick wall that’s keeping so many photographers in the shadows, in some dark place where their pictures are hardly seen or admired, let alone make some money out of it. There are so many nature photographers out there, all with professional gear and time to spare that it is almost impossible to stand out (especially if you’re short like me and have a full time job :-P). The only way to burst through that wall is by winning (major) nature photography contests that are mainly dominated by professional photographers, or perhaps by doing something out of the ordinary in a business where ‘out of the ordinary’ opportunities are quickly diminishing. Luckily I’m only 26 years old and (like to) believe that I’m still on a steep learning curve so who knows what the future will bring. Up until then, I’ll just continue to do my best in the shadows… where it’s nice and quiet. Maybe my light ray project for the Fall of 2013 can shine some light through the bricks.

Until next time (very soon, I have a lot of sun ray shots to show you!)

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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!

Trading hours for seconds…

Time for another post! It has been some time since my last post but I’ve definitely spent that time usefully. Fall is setting in which means relatively cold nights, dampened forest floors and… light rays, if you’re lucky and know what to look for. I’ve been quite successful in matching last years light ray shots. The best ones from last year were at the peak of the autumn but unfortunately I have to travel to the US for work in the week that I expect Fall to reach its climax over here. Have to see if I’ll be able to go into the woods before and after my US visit. Next to the light ray shots I’ve also been busy with a family of Roe Deer that are currently residing in the corn fields near from where I live. A family of three, mom and her two calfs. Very nice to see them come out of hiding when the sun is setting and interact which each other.
Anyways.. this is not the only place on which I upload my photo’s as I also make use of the Flickr photo community website. The concept is that everyone can get a free account and upload up to 200 photo’s and then share it with everyone else. You can comment on each others work, join communities, look for inspiring work of other great photographers around the world, and if you’re lucky you get your shots on Flickr Explore. This is basically a large billboard for the entire community which showcases the best uploads of a particular day. On an average day millions of photo’s get uploaded and only 500 are selected to be shown on Explore. The white dove below got to spot #1 on Flickr Explore and one of my light ray shots got to #4. This meant that I got over 5000 views between those two shots. This also lead to a lot of comments and favorites and to over 300 emails which I had/chose to respond to :p. But, enough blabla and time for some of my latest work now.

First up, magical light:
sun rays
Note the heart carved into the tree on the right.

A slightly different point of view:
sun rays
More can be found on my website. I’ve created a new gallery especially for these sun ray shots (see link at the bottom of this post).

Next up is the dove photo I was talking about earlier:
white dove

And last but not least, the Roe Deer family, a sunset, and a Kingfisher I hadn’t uploaded yet.
Roe Deer family
sunset
King fisher

So all in all, these kind of shots don’t come easy. You really have to trade hours for seconds. But boy, are those seconds worth it!

Until next time!

P.S. I’ve also updated my website with my latest work, including a lot of photo’s I haven’t uploaded on Flickr or this blog. I’m planning to modernize it a bit more this winter but haven’t thought of how I’m going to do this or what I’m going to change. I have to learn that programming stuff all over again as I’m getting a bit rusty in using HTML…

The Kingfisher diaries

Time for my yearly Kingfisher post! I seem to be getting better at photographing these birds every year. You need to find the nests (the hard part), find some nice looking branches, put them into the river bed, think about where the sun is going to be relative to the stick, and get out of bed early for nice and warm morning sunlight. At least, that’s what I thought until it started to rain a lot in these past weeks. After some time I realized that rain can also add some drama to the pictures and it pretty much worked out ok I’d say. The first picture of this blog must be one of my best Kingfisher shots so far. Gorgeous pose, action shot, an ice catch, all that’s missing is full frontal warm sunlight. Still, I’m very satisfied:

Kingfisher action shot

Next up is the rain shot:
Kingfisher in the rain
Really adds something special to the shot I think.

Another action shot:
Kingfisher action shot

Besides the Kingfishers, I’ve also spend a lot of my time on beavers. I was successful on quite some occasions but was never fully satisfied with the results. I have some new ideas for the coming few weeks when (or maybe I should say ‘if’) the weather clears up a bit. I want to get close, really close… but beavers seem to have quite a good sense of smell so I have to pay more attention to the direction the wind is facing. During one of my agonizingly long sessions of lying down on a hard and wet river bed (for the beaver), I was able to take a few shots of these cute little explorers who happened to be investigating their new and interesting world while I was lying flat on the ground (camouflaged of course). They must have been only a few days old! The kept biting on everything they could find to see if it was edible.
ducklings
Moments after this shot, the mother duck decided to head off in the opposite direction after hearing my loud shutter noises. I really need a new camera. Nikon, where’s my D400 with silent shutter, 16-24MP, 8fps, 1080p video at 60fps.. etc.??

Last but not least: A great spotted woodpecker. Three of these bold birds are now living in my garden and they regularly visit my bird feeding station. This one posed very nicely in the warm evening light:

woodpecker

That’s it for this post. Hope to have some nice beaver shots soon.

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!

Sitting, waiting, wishing…

Since my last Kingfisher post I’ve had the opportunity to take a week off from work. The weather forecast was good so things were looking quite positive. I planned to spend a lot of time at one of my Kingfisher sites in order to take those dream shots of parents feeding their young etc. So, I created an excellent site at which the youngsters could dine and I could sit with my tent. Things were a little bit tricky since I had to cross the river to get there, also meaning that I had to walk through the, relatively fast flowing, river with about 10k worth of gear on my back. You don’t want to take a swim then I can tell you! Luckily it all worked out and I was able to spend, ow lets say, 14 hours in my tent. Result: nothing, nada (hence the ‘sitting, waiting, wishing’ title). They just did’t like my branches or something.. (even though I saw them sitting on them a few times when I was observing them). To get my dream shots I even got up at 5 am, something I don’t like to do at all :p. So, it wasn’t meant to be. Another subject I wanted to photograph under somewhat more controlled conditions were wild boar. So I got up at 5 am (again…) and went to my favorite forest. No luck! They didn’t show up.
Luckily, the one thing you can always count on (besides taxes and death) is the sun! That’s when this happened:

sun rays
Great moment!

So the morning wasn’t a total waste. On my way home I also drove past this barley field which was also the home of a lot of red poppies. So that’s were the following shot was taken. I really like the flying bumble bee.

red poppy field

The last shot is a woodpecker silhouette. I actually took this one while waiting for the wild boar. I underexposed this photo and then darkened it a bit further in Lightroom. I really like the blue color in the darkness.

woodpecker

That’s it for today. Until next time!

Gone fishing..

Lately I have been busy with several different projects which took a while to pay themselves off. I’ve mentioned in some of my previous posts that I’ve been busy observing king fishers for the past few weeks and that I managed to find some pairs that are in love with each other. Now, one thing leads to another of course, and the female, as in any other relationship, starts to show clear ‘nesting’ behavior. For humans this means regular visits to the Ikea in which the male, under supervision of the female, has to pick out the right cushions for the new sofa. If the chosen color or fabric of the cushions is not to the liking of the female, the mating is postponed until the male comes up with the correct combination of both color and fabric… For king fishers, this whole selection process basically comes down to fish. If the male wants to win over the heart of the female, he basically has to present her with a dozen fish. Now the (emancipated) female, rather catches her own fish instead of accepting the gracious present of the hard working/fishing male. Were it not for persisting males (both humans and birds), both populations would be doomed of course. So after several gracious fish presentations, the (bird, not human) female gives in and the romantic mating ritual can begin. For humans, this is a little bit more complicated since the male also has to pay the restaurant bills and hold open as much doors as possible for the female. Since I don’t have any pictures of mating humans to show you (even though I would consider this to be ‘nature photography’) I will stop with the whole human – bird analogy and continue with the king fishers.

Now one of the nesting sites is situated along a small creek somewhere in the middle of a dense forest (so pretty bad light conditions!). I carefully entered the area trying not to step on any branches, most of the time succeeding in this, and pretty much always getting my Wimberley tripod head stuck in some branches.. Anyways.. first I always sit down about 50-100m from the nest to listen if there’s any activity going on. I can’t just walk in uninvited to their romantic candle light dinner now can I? So, after about 5 minutes of quietness I sneaked towards some sticks that I placed above the water for the king fishers to sit on before they would enter their nests. They often use these kind of look outs for resting or cleaning themselves. I unpacked my tent and gear and was ready for the birds. After about 10 minutes (of playing Angry Birds on my phone), I suddenly heard the unmistakable sound of an approaching king fisher. He landed on one of my branches and I was able to take a few great shots. Now, as I previously mentioned, the light conditions in the forest are really bad. After a few try-outs I noticed that I could still get amazingly sharp images at ISO 200 and 1/15s. Luckily these king fishers don’t move around that much and can sit perfectly still. I decided to focus on limiting my ISO to 250 since 1/15s produced excellent images. Having a Nikon 500mm f4 VR on an excellent Gitzo and Wimberly head II also does wonders of course! For the first shots I noticed that I was sitting too close to the branches since my lens couldn’t focus close enough (3.85 meters). All of the shots below are therefore full-frame! So I did some camouflage-tent re-decorating and was able to move it back by half a meter. Next time I have to try to increase my F-number to get some more depth of field. It is way too narrow now at f4, but I think I need some more light to do this.

king fisher

king fisher

king fisher

Whenever the birds didn’t land on either of my 2 branches, I spent the time observing their behavior. They didn’t just have 1 nest but also a freshly dug outhouse and garage. That’s 3 in a row.. a real settlement. Let’s hope that they will start with a second round of mating really soon to improve the population figures (the king fishers have had some harsh winters for the past few years). So after a few hours of taking photo’s I suddenly noticed I got several small itches all over my arms. These itches were caused by little ticks crawling over my arms to find a nice spot to dig in and suck the life out of me. Luckily I was able to get all 8!! of them off of me. These little buggers can be quite dangerous since about 15% of the ticks are carriers of the bacteria that cause Lyme Disease. So there is a realistic chance of getting this disease, something not to be taken lightly of course. So I was freaking out a little bit since they were just crawling all over me. Last year I got 8 in 3 months, in this half an hour yesterday I had already broken that record. I decided to call it a day and drove home and took a shower as soon as possible to try and wash those ticks off that I couldn’t find. I looks like I’m tick free for now.. However, I think I will go back there in the coming days since the youngsters are about ready to leave the nest. Once that happens, I can have 3 or 4 king fishers sitting on my branches at any given time. I’ll have to take even better precautions to prevent the ticks from forming a problem.

Next to my king fisher expedition I also visited a site which had a rare Melodious Warbler (Orpheusspotvogel). These are quite rare for the Netherlands and the little guy soon attracted bird watchers from all over the country (it was like last years bee eaters all over again). Here it is:

orpheusspotvogel

Until next time!