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!)

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!

Feeding time

It’s feeding time! The new families that were formed this Spring are now all coming to my bird feeding setup to feed their young newborns. Very nice to see this all happening not more than 4 meters away from me. We finally have some Great Spotted Woodpeckers in our garden, but unfortunately only with one little one. It still makes for a nice seen though, especially after a long exhausting day of being fed by the parents:
woodpecker
I’ve taken over 100 photo’s of these gorgeous birds.

And now for the Blue Tit fur balls. I attached a metal ball to a white cord hanging from one of the bird feeding branches to try and prevent the Magpies from flying off with the bird food. The little Blue Tits use this cord to hang from and to wait until their parents come by with a peanut. Just look at how cute these little fur balls are:
Blue tits

Next up is a Honey Buzzard. These are gorgeous birds of prey with beautiful markings underneath their wings:
honey buzzard

And finally a colorful one:
colorful

That’s it for this post. Next projects are the beaver (again), and Little Owls.

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!

So it begins…

The title points to the start of a new season. A season full of color, sweet scents and (hopefully) good weather. We recently had some very nice and warm spring weather causing all sorts of plants to pop their heads out of the soil and start showing off their gorgeous vivid colors. An excellent time to go out and about with my camera. The following shots have been taken in the past two weeks and I must say I’m quite satisfied with them. I’ve had to endure mud on my clothes, face, and camera, but somehow I also managed to overlook a nice pile of sheep shit when taking photos of little lambs. Luckily only my clothes were harmed in that operation.

Anyways.. here we go:
blossom

Something new, something blue:
blue bokeh

The culprit of my ‘smelly’ clothes:
lamb

On another note: Unfortunately today I had to burry a Tawny Owl (bosuil in Dutch) that had died in my neighbors barn. He called me today that he had found a dead owl in his barn and if I was interested in taking some shots of it and burry it. Very unfortunate death since these birds are absolutely stunning (and very soft/cuddly!) but just as life, death is also a part of nature. Luckily my Little Owls (in Dutch Steenuil) seem to be ok and are hopefully able to give birth to some little fur balls later in June.

Until next time!

The diary of a nature photographer (part I 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. Below is my report from day 1. Day 2 will follow tomorrow. Days 3 and 4 (the weekend) were going to be cloudy and would therefor be spent on selecting and processing over 500 photo’s.

Day 1

My day started at 5.45am when I was wakened by the radio alarm, with Sectrets, by One Republic. I decided to get out of bed at 6.15am (I’m not a morning person, one of my biggest achievements of that day was actually getting up that early..). So, I put on 3 layers of cold clothes, which I kept outside overnight to loose their freshly washed scent, and started to fix breakfast (toast, fruit drink). I watched some cartoons on tv while eating and set off to a forest nearby. It was a 20-minute bike ride (mostly uphill) with 20kg’s of camera gear on my back and a portable hide hanging from my neck. Oh, and did I mention it was freezing? Pretty darn cold if only half an hour ago, you were lying underneath warm, cuddly bed sheets. Anyhow, there was a dense layer of fog hanging over the meadows and the birds were already singing their hearts out. I came close to my final destination, which was a big open forest with old trees and a great diversity of wild life. It was my intent to try and find that wild life before it would find me (and would run off in the opposite direction). Unfortunately I have to walk for about 5 minutes through the forest to get to the spot where I usually set up my hide. These 5 minutes are always quit nerve-racking, as I have to be sneaky and extremely watchful at the same time. The forest is inhabited by wild boar and around this time the females are giving birth to these cute little rascals. If I would, lets say, walk into a group of resting wild boar and come between the those little rascals and their mommies, these mommies would likely attack me. As I’m not a very big guy and those mommies outweigh me by a lot, it could get more interesting than I would have initially hoped for, especially with the before mentioned weight on my back and around my neck. So, after the 5 minute walk I ended up at my spot and set up my tent. I was greeted by an orchestra of singing birds, which were getting themselves ready for Spring. It was 6.45am by now and I was sweating profusely from carrying all that stuff around, making my scentless approach pretty useless. Anyhow, I installed my gear, got comfortable (for as far that’s possible in a tiny hide) and peeked through the openings in the tent to see if there was something worth taking pictures off. Nothing there yet, no deer, no wild boar, no squirrels. I decided to check my e-mails on my phone and have another go at Angry Birds level 2-15. Every now and then I took another peek through the hide openings to see what was happening in the world outside my tent. After looking around to the left and right, I suddenly heard the sound of cracking leaves and hoped it was a deer or wild boar. After a good look I saw two squirrels going up a tree and racing each other up and down. The one in the lead must have been the female since, also in the animal kingdom, the male has to race after the female to get some….. uh…. romance. Love was clearly in the air as the birds were doing the same thing with the males trying to impress the females with their loud singing. All these sights and noises made me realize that I too was looking forward to the upcoming Spring season. I always feel more alive during Spring and Summer, more energetic and positive. Anyways, so after the squirrels left my view, I suddenly saw a deer in the distance, walking closer and closer towards my hide, every now and then sniffing and licking at stuff. I was able to take some good pictures, even though the light was bad and I had to increase the ISO to get a reasonable shutter speed. My heart was pumping as the deer came closer and closer and I was wondering how close it would come before it started to notice my smell or the sound of the camera shutter.

Roe Deer

Unfortunately it started to walk a bit away from me and laid itself down behind some branches, 50 meters from my hide. I was still able to see her (the deer was female) and she kept moving her ears around, like little radars that continuously scanned the area around her for suspicious noises. After a while I saw here eyelids falling shut and guess she was ready for a nap. At the same time the sun rose above the pine trees, thereby lighting the fog that was slowly moving through the forest. The sunrays shining through were amazing! It really felt like I was in a fairytale. The deer was clearly fighting the sleep as the eyelids kept falling shut and slowly opened up again.

Roe Deer

After an hour or so, the deer stood up and walked away into the bushes. I could have sworn she yawned a bit before getting up though.
In the next 2 hours nothing interesting happened. Unfortunately, no wild boar today so I headed home, had lunch, and inspected the garden for some Spring flowers (crocus and snowdrops). I took some nice shots of the crocus flowers (most of which had already lost their full glory) but found the snowdrops to be a somewhat more difficult subject so I left them for day 2.

crocus macro

Day 1 ended with listening to Little Owls singing to each other under the night sky.

Until next time (so tomorrow with day 2)!