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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New season, new adventures

Goodbye Winter! We’ve had some good (mostly cold) times, see you again next year. To say goodbye, here are some of the last winter shots.

starling
blue jay
Finch
cranes
This was quite fun! Almost 2500 Crane’s that spend the night at National Park the Meinweg and I was there when they woke up and took to the skies :).

And since Spring is upon us:
snowdrop

While looking back, I can’t help but wonder what the next seasons will bring me. Most of the times, opportunities find you instead of the other way around. While exploring new grounds, I often stumble upon something to turn into a new project. I also wonder what new opportunities (and challenges..) my new, yet to be bought :p, camera will bring me. 36MP is a lot of fun but it has its drawbacks of course.. I’ll hate the small AF area coverage (compared to DX) and the massive file sizes, but I’ll love the additional cropping, detail, better noise handling, dynamic range, and AF performance…. O well, nothing is perfect in life.

And now, time to go after that Pheasant that just walked into my garden. Good to know he survived the killing spree of the local hunters.

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!

The diary of a nature photographer (part II of II)

Last Wednesday I was sitting behind my desk at work when I heard the weather forecast on the radio. After a long spell of dark and cloudy weather we were finally going to get some clear skies and warm Spring days. I decided to take the next two days off from work and spent it in the great outdoors with my camera. The report of day 1 can be found in my previous post.

Day 2

Just as day 1, day 2 started at 5.45am but this time with John Mayer and his Heartbreak Warfare. A nice way to start off the day. I decided to try my luck again at the forest of day 1. I set off on my bike and arrived close to 7am, made my way into the forest, nervously looking out for wild boar and put up my hide. The story of day 2 is going to be a little bit shorter than of day 1 because basically nothing happened the entire morning. No deer or wild boar today. Unfortunately this is an integral part of nature photography. Patience and perseverance… (I was able to level up some Angry Birds levels though :p ).

Back home again. I was planning to have another go at the snowdrops when I suddenly saw a frog in my pond. It had already laid eggs in the water and I was able to get close enough for some nice portrait shots.

frog
(D300, Sigma 150mm F2.8, F5.6, ISO 200, 1/125sec)

While I was taking photographs of the frog I suddenly heard the distinctive sound of 2 Tong-tailed Tits (I’m not kidding, they’re really called Tits…). I immediately remembered the pair of Tits that made a nest in my garden last year. These little fur balls with long tails are really cute so I decided to run after them to see where they might be building their love shack. Sure enough, they were at it again this year. The female, or at least I assumed it was the female for obvious reasons, selected a nice yew bush (taxus) next to the driveway.

long tailed tit
(D300, 500mm F4 VR, ISO 250, 1/1000sec, F4, handhold / had to be fast hence the weird settings).
I decided to help them out a bit by putting some stylish, soft nest building stuff next to the building site.

The bird below is a Blue Tit (family of the other Tit):
blue tit
(D300, 500mm F4 VR, ISO 250, F5.6, 1/250sec, tripod)

I was also (fairly) successful with the snowdrops this time. I used the flash to fill in the background a bit. If I hadn’t used the flash, the background would have been much darker and not as appealing.
snow drop
(D300, Sigma 150mm f2.8, F3, ISO 250, 1/1000sec)

That is it for day 2. The rest of the day was spend enjoying the nice sunny weather and chilling a bit.

Day 3
Started at 9.30am (… I had to recover from days 1 and 2 :p). It was going to be a cloudy day so there wasn’t much to do photography wise (also I thought..). One of the important aspects of nature photography that often goes overlooked are being outside and scouting the territory for nice scenery or wild life. In nature photography you often need to be at the right place at the right time, hence the scouting for possibilities. Anyways.. I was going out for a walk (I always take my camera with me, you never know..) when I heard something in an old corn field. I looked over to find a gorgeous male pheasant having lunch on the left over corn. Something was off since I was able to come quite close without the pheasant screaming and flying off in the opposite direction. I put one and two together and concluded that this had to be a fairly tame pheasant that was bred and set free by local hunters. That would also explain the lack of pheasants during the winter when the hunters catch the wild ones, use them for breeding, bring up the chicks and set them free again to murder them later on in the year (preferably Christmas, a joyful season for all, except if you’re a pheasant). This breeding is highly illegal but those scumbags don’t give a sh*t since there is no one there to check that hunters follow the rules. Anyways.. back to my specific pheasant:

pheasant
(D300, 500mm F4 VR, ISO 400, 1/60sec, F6.3, handholding)

Day 4:
The last day was spent selecting and processing the best shots, writing this story, updating my blog and website, and cleaning up the camera gear.

So… long story… but fun to write. Hope you found it interesting to read.

Until next time!

White portraits

Today started out like any other day; woke up at 6 am, got out of bed at 6.30 am (yes I’m a slow starter), did my usual morning rituals and set out to go to work. Unfortunately, it had been snowing all night which subsequently lead to me not even making it out of my driveway. I actually got stuck in the snow just as I was trying to turn onto the main road. So, there I was in about two feet of snow with the front of the car on the main road (well, it wasn’t so much a road as it was an ice-skating track). Couldn’t go backward or forward. After digging out the car with a shovel, I started to get some movement but the road was just so slippery and the visibility was so low that I just didn’t want to risk the long drive to work. So, in the end I decided to work at home today. I had already taken the afternoon off actually.

Anyways.. now about the photography stuff today. As I was working in my planning files, suddenly 8! pheasants showed up in my garden (I think we can call them pets by now as they return every day to my bird feeding spot). So after I had finished my work, I went outside with my camera and sat in my photography tent for about 4 hours in total (it was freezing and yes, the blizzard hadn’t stopped). But it was all good fun since I took about 350 shots. Light wasn’t really good but the light-reflecting snow kind of made up for that. The diversity of birds was amazing: 8 pheasants (fazant), 30 pigeons (duiven), 1 buzzard (buizerd), 1 sparrow hawk (sperwer), 7 great tits (koolmees), 2 Nuthatches (boomklever), 10 blackbirds (merels), 1 Eurasion Jay (vlaamse gaai), 1 woodpecker (specht), 1 Brambling (keep), 8 Finches (vinken), 2 Robin Redbreasts (roodborst), 2 starlings (spreeuwen) and 5 House sparrows (mussen). So all in all, great fun.. if you’re a nature photographer that is.. It is really cool to see how all these different kinds of birds work together when a buzzard or sparrow hawk is approaching. One individual bird simply blows the alarm and all the other birds immediately fly off (sometimes even crashing into my tent). This happened about 20 times today as the buzzard was really hungry and made a lot of fly-overs. He didn’t catch anything though.
Anyways.. here are the results of today:

buzzard
This is the buzzard.

pheasant
Gorgeous bird!

Nuthatch
The Nuthatch.

Eurasian Jay
Eurasian Jay.

Pheasant
Female Pheasant.

Many more of these can be found on my website.

Until next time!

P.S. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all!

Blending in, Part II

This is the second and last part of the ‘Blending in’ post. As mentioned in Part I, I’ve had a pretty darn good weekend. I got up early and set out to one of my favorite spots. Its on the border of a large forest and some farm fields. I put on my suit and made my way along the forest border, trying to blend in with the long grass. I finally ended up under a small tree and lay myself down on the ground, camera on my backpack. It was seriously uncomfortable since I was laying on a pile of dirt and in between some nettles. Anyways.. after a few minutes or so I saw this hare coming straight towards me. It really didn’t seemed to notice me, it just kept going. I had to take some shots while holding the camera since the nettles were in the way. The hare just kept coming until it stopped no more than 3 meters from me. I really thought it would see me by then, but strangely enough it didn’t. I could just click away and it didn’t seemed to notice. As long as I didn’t move everything was ok. That’s how I took this incredible shot:
hare / haas
Uncropped with the Nikon AF-S 300mm f4. Amazing moment!
It then pleasantly hopped away into the grass, raising its butt every few hops or so ^^. Such a funny sight. Luckily for me, the hare had some brothers or sisters of which I could take the following shots:
hare / haas

I really like the way the hare looks in this one! Check out the eyes!
hare / haas
Really love the AF of my D300. It’s pretty darn accurate and fast, especially with the 300mm f4 attached to it. Hardly missed a shot. As you can see, also these hares came pretty close. After a while I also noticed a deer and a pheasant. How amazing was that. Thirty meters to my left was a deer, right in front of me at 5 meters was a hare cleaning and scratching itself, and to my right was a pheasant at 10 meters. None of them knew I was there, quietly laying between the nettles, shooting away… how about that for blending in with nature!

Truly amazing. I’m addicted to that place and will be visiting it a lot more (too bad I have to work during the week :(). Here are the deer and the pheasant btw:
deer

pheasant
Next time I hope to get this kind of a pheasant shot from the front side and a little bit closer.

I could just walk behind the pheasant today. Normally they fly the hell out there when they spot you. Now, with my suit on, it didn’t know what to make of me.. awesome!

Have a look at my recent pics for more hares, pheasants and deer!

Until next time!

slow times in high season

Yesterday my tripod ballhead broke. A metal thread of some sort came out of the space between the ball and the cylinder. The friction also went haywire, meaning that is was very difficult to turn the ball. So I gave up trying and send an email to the company I bought the ballhead from. I’m expecting an answer sometime this week. This is pretty annoying since it is Spring and thus high season for a lot of animals, including nature photographers ^^.
Anyways.. I’ll have to work without my tripod for the next few weeks (not longer I hope). Below are some new shots I recently took. I really like the Pheasant because of the small DOF and surrounding flowers. The Honey Buzzard took me quite some effort. I was walking around and suddenly saw it landing in a nearby tree. So I laid down on the ground, camera on top of my backpack and moving closer every few shots or so. The buzzard didn’t seemed to mind as long as I stayed on the ground. After 10 minutes or so he/she flew to a nearby pole… and so I followed… on the ground.. in between mud and nettles.. so great fun :D. Magnificent birds! Click for a bigger view!
pheasant

Honey Buzzard)

Until next time!