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.
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:
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.
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:
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!
It’s 6am when the radio alarm clock tries to wake me up but fails. In anticipation of this failure, the evening before I set another alarm clock to go off right next to my head at 6.05am. Unfortunately I forgot to turn down the volume a bit causing me to wake quite abruptly… mission successful though, I’m awake. Next step is putting on 2 thermal underwear sets, a shirt, 2 fleece sweaters, 2 pair of thick socks, and 1 pair of glasses. I go down for breakfast, trying not to fall off the stairs with 20+ kg of camera gear (and a lot of other stuff necessary for my project of the day). I have breakfast, load everything into the car, program the satellite navigation, and set off for a 30 minute drive into the cold morning. There’s no traffic on the road this early causing me to regularly break the speed limit. I make it to my destination in just under 25 minutes, a record :p. I unload everything from my car, put on snow boots, and start to hike up the side of a hill. There’s a stiff and cold wind blowing with very little light present, causing me to almost tip over a few times due to bad weight distribution of my gear (heavy tripod swinging off the side of my backpack). The slippery slope isn’t helping much either. After a 15 minute hike I finally reach the top and make it over to the spot where I’m going to spend over 5 hours waiting for a few birds to occasionally fly by. 10 minutes later, I’m fully camouflaged, sweating like a mad man from the hike, and ready to go. After witnessing the sunrise I’m starting to cool off a bit and after 1-2 hours my toes seemed to have lost the connection to the rest of my warm body. Meanwhile, I’m just scouting the horizon for the typical shape of a hunting Hen Harrier (in Dutch: Blauwe Kiekendief). There’s no time for checking email or reading stuff since the moment can be over in 5 seconds… so just as my camera I need to stay sharp and focussed :p. Anyways, copy the above into 4 cold mornings and this is what you’ll get:
Amazing, graceful hunters. The Harrier jet actually got its name from these nimble and acrobatic hunters.
The next photo was taken in my garden where large amounts of birds come to dine when there’s little to be found because of the snow covered ground. The same is true for bird of prey that have difficulties with finding food. What an intense moment that was… incredible.
The last one was taken while waiting for the Hen Harriers. They must be quite skilled air traffic controllers these pigeons 😉
Every now and then I get a nice surprise from nature. Last year it was a Buzzard that sat itself down on a branch not even 3 meters above my head, a Sparrow Hawk that decided to sit down and chill within a meter from me, or me almost stepping on a small Deer fawn that was hiding in the grass. This year started out rather slow, hence the lack of weblog posts, but luckily nature decided to throw me a surprise this early in February. That surprise came today. The weather has been really strange lately, as December and January kept us nice and warm with temperatures of about +10-15°C, where this should normally be 0-5°C. But suddenly at the end of January temperatures started to plummet towards -20°C during the night and we finally had some snow again. Because of the frost, the birds were no longer able to find their food on the ground and therefor had to go closer to where the people live. Luckily they can rely on philanthropists (like me) who put a free buffet in their garden for the birds, out of the kindness of their hearts, or just because they are nuts enough to want to spend hours in a camouflaged tent in freezing temperatures hoping to get some nice bird shots. The birds in my garden also seem to attract some Sparrow Hawks now and then, also wanting to have a nice meal (yes… I’ve created an entire food chain in my garden 😉 ). So today, this lovely lady landed on my photography contraption (which is a large and nicely shaped branch which was ‘acquired’ from a German forest nearby):
Amazing moment to have this kind of a shy bird just sitting in front of your lens! It was sitting so close I could not get the entire bird in the frame so I had to be somewhat creative with the compositions.
Here are some of the birds that the Sparrow Hawk had it’s sights on:
I really love the snow in there. Creates a more intimate picture.
A Nuthatch, they can look very grumpy and often remind me of my college chemistry teacher.
And finally a flying deer from a few weeks ago:
That’s it for now. You can keep updated on my posts through the RRS feed by hitting the button on the top of the page or by manually adding it to your RRS reader: ( feed://viewonnature.wordpress.com/feed/ ).
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:
It has been snowing again in The Netherlands (the big country next to Germany ^^). So today I had some time to go walkabout in the Winter Wonderland of National Park the Meinweg. Everything was white and the forest felt like a magical place. When I saw al those white covered trees and scenery’s I felt like a little kid in a candy store again. I shot about 200 pics in one and a half hour! I took me about an hour of processing (no not because they were bad, but because there were so freaking many ;)). Get an Apple Macintosh btw! Windows is so 2009. About that, have you ever heard anyone switching from a Mac to a PC? It’s always the other way around! Think about it! Anyways.. have a look at some shots below (more can be found at my dedicated photo site Natuuridee.nl). Normally I’m not into the whole landscaping stuff (cause I’m not that good at landscape compositions) but I gave it a try anyway.
And now for the news on the Nikon front. February is going to be an exciting month for us Nikonians. Nikon guru Thom Hogan predicted: “New Nikon goodies are coming. Some time in the first two weeks of February we’ll have lots to talk about. Lots.” Late February is the PMA photography show in California, USA. But there will be an announcement early in February. We’ll probably see 2 new lenses and most likely a D700s or D800/D900 (before the Winter Olympics!). I’ll keep you all posted the moment something is confirmed.