Tamron 150-600mm Lens at Sanibel Island, FL

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Shots taken with my versatile, lightweight lens on a Nikon D4 camera.

Morning Beachcombers

Morning Beachcombers: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, Tamron 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 420 mm, 1/1000 at f/8, Manual Mode, -1 1/3 EV,  (Auto) ISO 125

Page Intro and Comments

I think of this page as a follow-up to the post I made right after buying my lens back in February. Here’s that page: Tamron 150-600mm F/5.6-F6/3 Lens:

  • If you are considering purchasing a Tamron 150-600mm F/5.6-F6/3 Lens:, this page of photos and text should help you decide.
  • If you already purchased this lens and are having trouble getting sharp photos, there tips here that should help.
  • If you just want to see a bunch of pretty pictures from beautiful Florida, you will probably enjoy this page.

You could call this page a review, but I think of it more of hands-on report with photos and comments. Engineers spend hours taking shots of charts in controlled conditions. I typically get more out of seeing real life images than a page of charts and graphs with circles and arrows. That’s what this page is all about!

It has been almost three months since UPS dropped off my package. Here in the Tetons, I’ve taken a lot of photos with it on both my Nikon D4 and Nikon D800. Images on this page were all taken with a Nikon D4 and the Tamron 150-600 mm lens over a period of five days on Sanibel Island on the Gulf side of southern Florida.

The top section of the page will contain some necessary comments about the lens and the bottom section will simply contain images with a short note about the subject. For the people capable of gleaning important information contained in the shooting data, I will include it with each photo. I present these images the same as I might have done if I had taken them with my Nikon 200-400mm lens. All were taken in raw format, so all of them received the normal Lightroom adjustments for contrast, hue and saturation, sharpness and so forth. Most of the edits on these images were completed in a couple of minutes each. Over the period of almost two years of posting to this blog, I have become a big fan of a 1:2 crop ratio. I initially cropped to that ratio to help save bandwidth and load times, but now I am beginning to “see” shots in that aspect ratio as I take them.

Reddish Herons

Reddish Egrets: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, Tamron 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/1250 at f/8, Manual Mode, -1 1/3 EV,  (Auto) ISO 220

Too Many Photos on a Blog Post?

It would be way too easy to pick half a dozen photos from the 13,000 images I took at Sanibel and post them in a text heavy blog post. “Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while”. Right? I could simply get lucky six times out of 13,000, or possibly only show six images that dovetail with the lens’ best attributes. Instead, I loaded this page with around 40 images taken at all times of the day, of a variety of subjects, and at a variety of distances. I only kept 1400 out of the 13,000. Many of the ones I deleted were sharp and well captured, but were boring or less interesting when placed beside an image with action or showing behavior. Why keep them? Check out: The Secret to Becoming a Good Photographer:

The Sanibel Trip

Many people come to Jackson Hole in the summer to breath the cool mountain air, visit the two National Parks, and experience the many activities found here. Many people flock to Florida in the winter to escape the brutal winters up north and to walk the warm beaches.  Sanibel is a renowned destination for “birding” photographers. The Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge is a centerpiece for the activity—along with the many miles of public beaches on the island.

White Ibis in the Surf

White Ibis in the Surf: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, Tamron 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 400 mm, 1/1000 at f/9, Manual Mode, -2/3 EV, (Auto) ISO 720

My wife and I took our kids to Sanibel Island around 20 years ago. I had different priorities back then—namely kids! This time, I took the camera gear since I didn’t need a stroller. We stayed in a friend’s beach side condo and we rented a car for the week. I could set the alarm and be on the beach well before sunrise. Just like here, some of the best photography happens in the first hour of light. Colors are rich, saturated and vibrant! My wife was content to sleep later and make her way to the beach and pool. She really likes the sun and heat if she is not on the mountain with her snowboard.

Reddish Heron Fishing

Reddish Egret Fishing: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, Tamron 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 500 mm, 1/640 at f/6.3, Manual Mode, -1/3 EV, (Auto) ISO 1250

The Gear

For this trip, I took three lenses and one body—along with a travel tripod and a strobe. I chose the D4 over the D800 in anticipation of opportunities for “birds in flight”. The tripod was the one I purchased in Hawaii back in October. (Here Today, Gone to Maui!). Here’s a link to MeFoto GlobeTrotter Tripod.  I couldn’t get my Gitzo in the suitcase or I would have taken it. I also took one of my Wimberley “Sidekicks” to help with birds in flight. I mounted it on the Arca-Swiss Z1 ball head, which is a little bigger and heavier than the ball head that came with the MeFoto Tripod. The Tamron 150-600mm lens fit inside my smaller back pack, along with the strobe and Nikon 28-300mm lens (which I never used). I carried my Nikon D4 and 24-70mm lens on the plane as my carry-on item. The back pack went into the plane’s overhead storage compartment. The point here is the Tamron is small enough and light enough to fit in the small back pack.

Great Egret Landing

Great Egret Landing: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 450 mm, 1/1250 at f/8, Manual Mode, -1 1/3 EV,  (Auto) ISO 110

Many of the 13,000 captures were of birds in flight—or birds doing something on the beach. That takes more clicks than if I were only there for the landscape shots. At 600mm, it is much more difficult to keep the bird in the center of the viewfinder. The bigger, slower birds were easier, but it is still easy to crop off wings or legs. If I did my part and let the lens focus on a bird before shooting, the camera’s predictive auto focus system and the lens’ speed did a great job.

Fort Meyers Beach

Fort Meyers Beach: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/200 at f/9, Aperture priority Mode, -2/3 EV,   ISO 100

While I found the lens very capable for the birds in flight and the other animals of the island, I also had fun with it on landscapes and people shots. Telephoto lenses can compress a scene, if desired, or it can allow you to blur objects behind the main subject. With a telephoto lens, most people on the beaches never knew I was taking photos with them in it. Even when they do know, I’ve always found them to be more relaxed and natural when I am not right in their face with a lens.

First Light on the Beachcombers

First Light on the Beachcombers: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 550 mm, 1/1000 at f/8, Manual Mode, -2/3 EV,  (Auto) ISO 1250

Brown Pelican Diving

Brown Pelican Diving: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/1250 at f/8, Manual Mode, -2/3 EV,  (Auto) ISO 160

Some of the locals at Sanibel probably have better shots of some of the subjects than I managed to take on my short trip. If I were there for a month or two, I’d feel good about improving on some of what I did manage to capture. The diving Brown Pelican is an example. I’d like to be 50% closer for that shot, and if I were there longer, I think I’d get them.

Brown Pelican

Brown Pelican in Flight: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/1250 at f/10, Manual Mode, -1 EV,  (Auto) ISO 800

Lighthouse and Moon

Moon and Lighthouse: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 150 mm, 1/30 at f/9, Aperture priority Mode, -2 1/3 EV,  ISO 100

My comments (mainly for people considering buying this lens):

I could  just let the photos speak for themselves, but I’m probably obligated to talk some about the lens. After using it for two and a half months, I simply must say I am impressed! And, I can say that without regard for the fact the lens costs under $1100!

Before making my purchase, I read a lot of reviews and comments about this lens. To be honest, most of the reviews did me absolutely no good! Many of the people had posted photos they had taken with the lens they thought were “tack sharp”, but wouldn’t have made it through the first cut if I had been culling through my images. They were far from sharp! Still, mixed in with the blurry images, I kept seeing a few that were incredibly sharp. Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde? After a while, it became apparent the lens was extremely capable in the hands of someone with the appropriate skills. While still on the fence, I ran across a Flicker page by Kristofer Rowe. The page is LOADED with birds in flight.  His page, along with the many positive comments put me over the top: https://www.flickr.com/photos/coastalconn/sets/72157644820182203/.

Remember to check out my earlier post: Tamron 150-600mm F/5.6-F6/3 Lens:

In a nutshell, I am confident in saying this lens can, and should take sharp photos. You could look at it from the other perspective, too. IF, you take 25 shots and one of them is sharp, that probably means the lens and body “can” take sharp shots and “something else” caused the other 24 to not be sharp. And of course, “sharp” is a relative term for the pixel peepers. Many people consider the essence of action or emotion more important than the sharpness or crispness of an image.  I like to think I’ve done all I can to allow myself to get a sharp image “when I need it” and then be able to let the creative side take over when the situation calls for it. And remember, at 600mm any sloppiness in technique will be much more apparent or amplified than when shooting with a shorter lens! The list below contains a few suggestions and observations about this lens.

  • In the reviews I read, a few people commented “the lens is not great for early or late day photography”. I think this comment needs to be paired up with the blurry shots shown as examples of tack sharp by some of the reviewers. I am not sure of their skill level? Additionally, people need to be at least somewhat realistic! A $10,000 F/4 prime 600mm lens is not going to be much better at freezing a flying eagle at daybreak than this lens. The Nikon F/4 600mm is 1.3 stops faster than this lens at F6.3 when zoomed to 600mm, but at 6:30 in the morning, neither are going to stop a lot of action.
  • The “one over focal length” rule: That’s an old rule of thumb for establishing the minimum shutter speed for hand holding a lens. Establish the focal length for a lens and turn it into a fraction by putting a one over it. For example, a 400mm lens would be 1/400th second. A 600mm would be 1/600th second. Vibration reduction can help by a stop or so. Leaning against a tree or vehicle can help, vs standing and holding the lens. Some people are more “rock solid” when hand holding than others. I prefer a tripod. I like to have the lens in front of my face at all times instead of having to raise and hold it if I anticipate action. There are trade offs of course.
  • Shutter Speed for stopping action: When I can, I like to shoot this lens at 1/1250th second. That stops most action (assuming you want stopped action) and it helps with getting sharp shots with still objects. I’ve still been able to get sharp images when on a tripod at 1/80th second, but the success rate is considerably less. A few months ago, I started using Auto ISO when shooting with either my D4 or D800. I set the camera to Manual Mode. I set the Shutter Speed to roughly 1/1250th second, then set the Aperture to F/8 or so. With Auto ISO turned on, the other two variables are set and the ISO bounces around as needed. I watch the ISO results and am willing to drop the shutter speed to 1/640th second and can open up to F/5.6 to F/6.3. With a good camera, high ISO is much less of an issue than it might have been three or four years ago.
  • Stopped Down or Wide Open?: In my earlier post, I mentioned feeling better about the lens when it is “stopped down” some. I think the lens is sharper wide open than I initially gave it credit. Still, I feel good stopping down to F/8 to F/11 if I have enough light and especially at long distances. All lenses have a “sweet spot”. I think F/8 or F/9 is good on this lens. Stopping down for birds in flight can help keep more of the bird in focus, but shutter speed and ISO must be worked into the equation.
  • Vibration Reduction: When using my Nikon 200-400mm, I typically turn off the VR when on a tripod. I followed the same logic with this Tamron lens initially. Interestingly, I saw some of my hand held images that seemed to be sharper than similar shots taken on the tripod. Tamron’s vibration reduction (VC) appears to be very good, and it doesn’t appear to be negatively affected if on a tripod. I am sure people have tested this extensively using charts and graphs. When in Florida, I was shooting with a lightweight tripod. I’d hate to call it “flimsy” but it is nothing like the two I use daily here in the Tetons. I had the vibration reduction turned ON for all images on this page. If nothing else, I figured this light tripod is still superior to a monopod. When back at home in Jackson Hole, I’ve been very impressed with images taken out the window at 600mm with the lens resting over a bean bag. BUT, it is also important to keep the shutter speed up, and it is VERY IMPORTANT to turn the engine OFF.
  • Birds in Flight: I also read comments by people suggesting this lens is not fast enough to keep up with flying birds. Again, I question the background and skills of the person making the comments. All you have to do is click on Kristofer Rowe’s Flickr page to debunk those comments. I had plenty of chances to photograph birds in flight while in Florida and found it more than capable. I’ve had other people tell me the Group Focus feature in a Nikon D810 makes this lens even better. I don’t own that body, so I can’t comment on the statement.
  • Clear or UV Filter: When I ordered my lens, Perfect Light was out of clear protective filters. As soon as the lens arrived, I took it out for some test shots. I ordered an inexpensive filter from B&H and it came in three or four days later. I didn’t really notice it at the time, but after adding the filter, some shots had either vertical or horizontal bands—mainly in images with a lot of clutter and activity in the backgrounds. Once I took the clear filter off, all of the problems went away. Some of the other images looked generally sharper without the filter, too.  I’d suggest either not using an add-on filter, or at least buy a good one.
  • AF Fine Tune: I spent some time initially adjusting the AF Fine Tune settings with the Tamron 150-600mm lens on both of my bodies using a Lens-Align tool. I do that will all of my lenses and find each of them need just a little (sometimes a lot) of adjustment. Some people suggest that is not necessary, but you’ll never convince me that’s the case. Maybe they just got lucky and received lenses and bodies that didn’t need it? Zoom lenses are not necessarily easy to fine tune. On some lenses the optimum AF Fine tune settings might be one number at the short end and another number at the other end of the zoom. At least on my 150-600mm lens, the difference at either end is not enough to worry about. I optimized it for the 400-600mm range because I figured that would be when I grabbed this lens over my 200-400, but I am finding it amazingly sharp when shooting close subjects and at the shorter end of the range.
  • Exposure Value: I mentioned this in the earlier page, but this lens consistently needs more negative EV than similar shots I take with my Nikon 200-400 or Nikon 70-200 lenses. That’s actually a GOOD THING! It gives me “back” some of the loss of going from an F/4 to a F/5.6-F/6.3 lens. For example, on my 200-400, I might often shoot at -2/3 EV, but on a similar shot with this lens, I might need to set it at -1 1/3 EV. In the Manual Mode with Auto ISO, the final ISO is influenced by the EV settings.
  • Pilot Error: I had a LOT of failures in the 13,000 images. Again, you might enjoy this old post: The Secret to Becoming a Good Photographer: If you only saw the 1400 keepers or the 140 that might make up the 1% group, you might think I have photography “nailed”.  The question for this page is what happened on the other 11,600 images? Some were terribly blurry. I didn’t get the bird in the focus group initially. Sometimes, I shook the camera or didn’t let the camera get settled properly before beginning to press the shutter. I cropped off wings or legs in a lot of them. It happens! Birds in flight, just like running horses or walking moose, have perfectly “natural” positions the camera can capture that aren’t particularly appealing. I delete them right off. There were distractions in some…like a power line or merged birds stacked on top of each other. Many were sharp and well captured, but were “boring”.  Keep the good ones and throw away the bad ones! I don’t blame the lens or camera for the bad ones.
  • Lens Goes Brain Dead: I’ve read reports of people saying the lens refuses to focus—requiring the person to have to pull the battery and reinsert it to reboot the camera’s operating system. Yes, I have experienced this issue on several occasions. It did it to me twice yesterday while photographing Clark’s Nutcrackers in the back yard. At the time, my battery was getting low, so I attributed the problem to the charge of the battery. I’ve had occasions where my 200-400mm lens acted up with a low battery charge. I changed out the battery yesterday and still had it happen one more time. So, I guess this lens will need to go back to Tamron at some point. I’ve spoken with a couple of other people that sent theirs in for this issue and they said it didn’t happen again after the fix. As I write this post, I don’t recall having a single problem like this on any of the 13,000 images in Sanibel. I hate to be without the lens now, so I will keep an eye on it for a while.

Beach Dwellers

Beach Dwellers: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 190 mm, 1/2500 at f/13, Manual Mode, -1 EV,  (Auto) ISO 640

Additional Photos and Info

River Otter

River Otter: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 500 mm, 1/800 at f/7.1, Manual Mode, -1 EV,  (Auto) ISO 2200

We have River Otters here in Jackson Hole. This one was sunning along the road at the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge early one morning.

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseatte Spoonbill in Flight: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 380 mm, 1/1250 at f/8, Manual Mode, -1/3 EV (Auto ISO)

These birds were popular with all the photographers each morning. At low tide, they stood in the shallows until mid-morning and then flew off to some other area of the Refuge.

Sanibel Alligator

Sanibel Alligator: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/1250 at f/9, Manual Mode, -1 1/3 EV,  (Auto) ISO 560

I kept hoping to see an Alligator. This one was in an open pool as I was driving out of Ding Darling Refuge on my last day. It was about 7 foot long. This is a shot that might have benefited by the use of a polarizing filter. There may be a polarizing filter large enough for the 95mm rings on the Tamron, but I have a feeling it would be an extremely expensive gadget—especially if buying from one of the top of the line manufacturers. Polarizing filters can also “cost” up to two stops of light.

Brown Pelican

Brown Pelican: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 420 mm, 1/1250 at f/13, Manual Mode, -2/3 EV,  (Auto) ISO 1600

The Brown Pelicans found old pier posts to preen and dry their wings. My inexpensive travel tripod has a center post—which I seldom use. In this case, I needed to extend it to eliminate some distracting sky above the trees. While I shot all of my Sanibel images with the Vibration Reduction (VC) turned on, this is one case where I think it came in extra handy. Looking at the settings right now, I could have dropped the shutter speed to 1/640th second and dropped the aperture to F/7.1 or F/8 to help reduce the ISO. That’s “Monday morning quarterbacking” and it can be a good thing. Still, while standing there that morning, I was also allowing for the possibility the Pelican might take off from the post. It didn’t, but at least I was ready!

Golden Eagle

Golden Eagle: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/1250 at f/10, Manual Mode, -1 EV,  (Auto) ISO 280

I was set up hoping the Roseate Spoonbills would fly towards me as they left the area, but without notice, the entire area spooked. Ospreys flew over fairly often without spooking the birds, but they are apparently leery of a much larger eagle.

Eagle with Fish

Eagle with Fish: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/1250 at f/10, Manual Mode, -1 EV (Auto ISO)

The Eagle fed on this fish for a while, then left the area, but the rest of the birds stayed away.

Palm Trees

Palm Trees and Rising Sun: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 460 mm, 1/1000 at f/13, Manual Mode, -5 EV,  (Auto) ISO 100

This shot would not be the same with a normal landscape lens. I am always careful when composing sunrise and sunset shots so I don’t look at the sun itself through the lens.

Beach Flowers

Beach Flowers: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/1000 at f/8, Manual Mode, -2/3 EV,  (Auto) ISO 10000

Check out the ISO on this image. There was a very slight wind, so I needed the fast shutter speed.

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Yellow-crowned Night Heron: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 400 mm, 1/250 at f/7.1, Manual Mode, -1 EV,  (Auto) ISO 360

I saw my first Yellow-crowned Night Heron on the first morning. Another photographer was taking photos of one in a tree. He told me it was unusual to see one in the daytime, so I felt extremely lucky to get a few shots. As it turned out, I found them each morning feeding on crabs at the edge of the water. I shot thousands of images of them with quite a few settings.

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Great Blue Heron: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/1250 at f/8, Manual Mode, -1 1/3 EV,  (Auto) ISO 280

There were Great Blue Herons and Little Blue Herons at Ding Darling. I took quite a few images of both. I don’t think there were as many Tricolored Herons, but I could be wrong.

Moving Birds

Moving Birds: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 320 mm, 1/8 at f/5.6, Aperture priority Mode, -2/3 EV,  (Auto) ISO 100

This is more of an “artsy” image. It was taken very early in the morning. The small birds ran out to feed, then ran back up as the next wave approached. They looked like little fleas on the beach. At 1/8th second, the small birds blurred beautifully.

Netter

Netter: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 420 mm, 1/2500 at f/13, Manual Mode, -1 EV,  (Auto) ISO 720

This guy was set up with a couple of fishing rods, a lawn chair, umbrella and all the necessary tools of the local fishing trade. He was using a throw net to catch bait for his endeavors. Snowy Egrets were attracted to the nets and fishermen and were looking for a few handouts.

Snow Heron

Snowy Egret: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 500 mm, 1/1250 at f/10, Manual Mode, -1 EV,  (Auto) ISO 450

Some of the Egrets, especially the ones frequenting the beaches, were amazingly tame. I shot at least a thousand images of this particular Egret. Sanibel is a renowned area for collecting sea shells. Even though the bottom is a little “busy”, I chose this one to include here to document the shells and also show how beautifully the background can go out of focus with a telephoto lens.

Fishermen

Fishermen: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, Tamron 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 240 mm, 1/800 at f/8, Manual Mode, -2/3 EV,  (Auto) ISO 2500

This was a popular location each afternoon. I didn’t witness a lot of people catching fish, but that didn’t stop them from trying.

The Girls

The Girls: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, Tamron 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 450 mm, 1/2500 at f/13, Manual Mode, -1 EV,  (Auto) ISO 8000

On the short end, 150mm offers some nice flexibility. My wife (the one in the sunglasses) met one of our neighbors, her daughter and friend in Sanibel. I took this shot from the pier looking back to the trees. The Tamron 150-600mm lens focuses as close as about 8′. Even stopped down, the background blurred out nicely. As I look at my settings above, I could have easily dropped to 1/800th second and F/11 to help reduce the ISO, but the image was still fine for most purposes at ISO 8000. I took most of our “family” shots with my Nikon 24-70mm lens, however many photographers like a lens in the 105mm length for portraits (70-200mm or prime 105mm). At 150mm, this Tamron lens might be an overlooked asset.

Brown Pelican

Brown Pelican: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 550 mm, 1/1250 at f/13, Manual Mode, -2/3 EV,  (Auto) ISO 720

This was taken at the same location as the other Brown Pelican shown earlier. This one was on a post with clouds in the distance. The basic settings were the same, but this one dropped the ISO automatically from 1600 to 720.

Shore Birds

Shore Birds: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/1250 at f/10, Manual Mode, -1 EV,  (Auto) ISO 360

These birds were gathered on a sand bar until an Osprey flew over. Most of my “birds in flight” shots were taken in continuous focus mode with 9 points active. These shots probably qualify as “spray and pray”. I just aimed at the flock and pressed the shutter button. Some worked better than others. I believe these are Willets.

Shore Bird in Ocean Foam

Willet: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/1250 at f/10, Manual Mode, -1 EV,  (Auto) ISO 640

I bought a small bird guide while in Florida. Willets are described as “Sanibel’s largest common winter shorebird”.

Morning Spoonbill

Morning Spoonbill: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/1000 at f/6.3, Manual Mode, -2/3 EV,  (Auto) ISO 1250

This Roseate Spoonbill was taken at 7:24 am at 600mm, wide open at F/6.3.

Resting Cormorant

Double-crested Cormorant: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/1250 at f/10, Manual Mode, -1 EV,  (Auto) ISO 500

These interesting birds are common in Florida. They catch their fish with a hooked bill while swimming under water.

Sunning Cormorant

Sunning Cormorant: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 400 mm, 1/1250 at f/10, Manual Mode, -1 1/3 EV,  (Auto) ISO 220

After fishing, Cormorants are often seen drying their wings in the sun.

Great Egret

Great Egret: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 190 mm, 1/1250 at f/8, Manual Mode, -1 1/3 EV,  (Auto) ISO 280

In most cases, the camera can do a pretty good job of adjusting for varying exposures. The white birds were a bit more of a challenge for me—knowing they might be flying against light blue skies and white clouds in part of a sequence and then fly into darker waters only a few seconds later. The bigger, slower birds were easier to track than some of the speedy ducks and other waterfowl.

Great Egret

Great Egret: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/1250 at f/10, Manual Mode, -1 2/3 EV,  (Auto) ISO 200

This shot gives a better idea of the size of a Great Egret. The booklet says it is 39″ tall compared to the White Ibis at 25″.

White Ibis

Young White Ibis: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/1000 at f/6.3, Manual Mode, -2/3 EV,  (Auto) ISO 720

White Ibis start out brown before turning white. Little Blue Herons, on the other hand, start out white and turn blue.

White Ibis in Flight

White Ibis in Flight: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/1250 at f/10, Manual Mode, -1 1/3 EV,  (Auto) ISO 250

Adult White Ibis. There were additional White Ibis in the Gulf’s surf near the top of the page. I took lots of similar images of the various species of birds at Sanibel. The first day I was there gave me a feel of what the birds might do. Other photographers also helped with identifying the birds. Over a period of a couple of days, I started seeing patterns to their feeding. For example, the Ibis and some of the Herons would stay on the sandbar for the first half hour of light, then fly towards the edge of the water in front of me. By the third day, I was set up in the right place to get them flying right to my feet. Some of the images I had to delete were caused by the birds flying into my frame, then filling it and sometimes inside my minimum focus zone. Too much fun! I also learned, by watching out the balcony window, the Brown Pelicans gathered and fed near the shore at around 3:00 pm to 3:30 pm. A few more days there, and I would have probably seen more patterns and have been more successful. Animals in Grand Teton National Park often have patterns—not immediately apparent to a visitor or photographer.

Reddish Heron

Reddish Egret: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/1250 at f/8, Manual Mode, -2/3 EV,  (Auto) ISO 450

Reddish Egrets were my favorite birds in Sanibel. In fact, I shot a lot of them and I kept more of their images than any other subject. They were the most animated and active. Reddish Egretss spot fish and then run to the location, dancing sometimes to get there, and then spread their wings to influence the direction of the small fish below.

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 380 mm, 1/1250 at f/8, Manual Mode, -1/3 EV,  (Auto) ISO 500

Another shot of an approaching Spoonbill.

Great Egret

Great Egret: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/1250 at f/8, Manual Mode, -1 2/3 EV,  (Auto) ISO 12800

I shot quite a few of this Egret as it slowly waded against the mangroves. In context of “shoot a lot, keep the good ones, and delete the bad ones”, I would have deleted the ones where the bird’s head was in front of the cluttered trees and roots. The “keeper” was the one with his head isolated against the less cluttered portion of the background. There’s always a chance the bird will fly off, so I tend to go ahead and shoot some of the less desirable images, just in case it does before it gets to an optimal spot. I could have still toned down the bright branches in post production. In this case, I didn’t have to do much work at all.

Cattle Egret

Cattle Egret: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/1250 at f/9, Manual Mode, -1 EV,  (Auto) ISO 500

This bird was not in the pamphlet. A Ding Darling volunteer identified it for me, saying they occasionally walk across one of the main roads and cause a huge traffic jam.

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/1250 at f/10, Manual Mode, -1 EV,  (Auto) ISO 500

This was taken with evening light at close range.

Sunset over Sanibel

Sunset over Sanibel:

Each evening, tourists and locals make their way to the beach to witness the setting sun. On clear evenings, the sun kisses the water just before touching it.

A Few Final Comments

I got five days of photography in Florida. That was plenty! I had to buy an extra external hard drive to hold all the images. I’ve always wanted to get shots of Cardinals and Pileated Woodpeckers, found on the islands, but I only managed to “see” them on this trip. Still, I had ample opportunities to photograph birds I had never seen, and I got a chance to fine tune some of my “birds in flight” skills. A few days after I made it home, I found myself itching from being bitten by the “no-see-ums” that attack tourists in the mornings and evenings when the wind is low. We were in Florida towards the tail end of their Winter season—yet is was already getting “hot” by Jackson Hole standards. We flew home, passing over the rugged snow covered Wind River Mountains just before a winter storm entered our valley. Getting back to the emphasis of this post, the Tamron 150-600 performed beautifully for me. It has an amazing vibration feature which lets people hand hold it far past what I ever considered. I am positive I will be carrying it around with me in the fall when I photograph Moose, Deer and Elk.

At $1069, this lens gives me some extra range I never had, and it will give some of my One-On-One Photography Excursion clients a chance to try out a longer lens while on their trip.

If you want to see even more photos taken with this lens, check out my Daily Updates and Photos page for April. It has a LOT of images taken here in Jackson Hole during the month. April 2015 Daily Updates & Photos for Grand Teton National Park & JH:

Okay…I lied. A couple of people asked to see an image at 100%. Yesterday, I took a shot at around 150 yards of a guy climbing a shear face here in the Tetons. If you click the link, it will take you to a full-sized hi-resolution image captured with a Nikon D800 and a Tamron 150-600mm. http://www.bestofthetetons.com/fullresolution/Climber100percent.jpg . If the guy had a t-shirt with lettering, I am sure we’d be able to read it! If you want to view this in your browser, use your zoom commands : Control + to zoom in or Control – to zoom out. Or, feel free to download this particular image to your hard drive and view it in Photoshop. I left the shooting data in the file. This is a Raw capture, converted to a JPG in Photomechanic with no additional adjustments.

http://www.bestofthetetons.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/750line.jpg

If you like this page, please help me out by sharing the page link on the social media pages like Facebook and post links on your favorite photography forums. MJ

Go to Source

Northern Lights Over the Teton Mountains

Northern Lights and Meteor

There’s been a lot more activity in the northern lights lately over Jackson Hole, Wyoming and Grand Teton National Park. Many believed the peak of the solar cycle was going to hit last year, which turned out to be a relatively quiet year. With all the activity lately however, some are beginning to question whether we might be hitting the peak now, later than expected.

Regardless, skies have been lighting up recently over the area, with even more on the way! If you’re wondering how to know if they’re out in your area or not, keep an eye on a website called SpaceWeatherLive.com. I check the data listed there every night to see if there’s any chance of seeing them where I live in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. While all the data listed there plays some role, the two main sections that I pay the most attention to are the Direction of the IMF (Bz) and the Kp-Index. If we get a strong southern direction of the Bz pushing below -5.00, or preferably below -15.00, that’s a great indicator that Grand Teton National Park could be seeing auroras. Likewise, if the Bz is south as described and the Kp-Index is exceeding 5.0, then we’ll probably be seeing the northern lights here in Jackson Hole! Typically, the auroras won’t be visible here without a Kp-Index of at least 6.0, but with other factors playing helpful roles, they can be visible with a smaller value.

If you’re interested in seeing the auroras, this is a great website to be in the habit of checking frequently as it starts getting darker. Even if it’s quiet early in the evening, activity can jump up in just a matter of a couple of hours, so be sure to check it throughout the night.

The following two time-lapses were shot within just the last week, both in Grand Teton National Park. The first was shot as storms were rolling in over Antelope Flats, and the second came from a longer night at the Taggart Lake Trailhead.

Read on Source Site

Monthly Overviews for JH / GTNP :

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This page contains a quick overview for each month of the year. Hopefully, the information below will give you a feel for the weather, animal activity, access, and events for each month in the Tetons. Click the links below to see actual photos taken during each of these months.

Recent Daily Updates Archives:
2015:
Apr: | Mar: | Feb: | Jan:
2014: Dec: | Nov:
| Oct: | Sept: | Aug: | July: | June: | May: | Apr: | Mar: | Feb: | Jan:
2013:
Dec: | Nov: Oct: | Sept: | Aug:

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January Header

January Overview:

January, along with December, are our traditional COLD months. Many of the zones are closed for the winter, along with some of the roads.  Most of the animals have either left the valley, gone into hibernation, or have moved into the southern end of Grand Teton National Park and the National Elk Refuge. Days are short, yet the sun is low allowing you to take photos all day long.

Most of the winter months offer similar opportunities for both wildlife and landscapes: Dec: 2013Jan: 2014 Feb: 2014 . Also check out: The Dead of Winter: The Cold Realities and Exciting Possibilities of Winter Photography in GTNP..

Suggested January “Opportunities”: Here are my top spots to check out—especially for wildlife.  Some will be a bit of a gamble, but they might also pay off in a big way if you hit it right:

Important Winter Links

January  2015 Daily Updates and Photos: |  January 2014 Daily Updates and Photos:

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February Header

February Overview:

February can start out very cold, then warm slightly by the end of the month. In many years, Mountain Goats start becoming more dependable subjects. Red Foxes and Owls seem to appear in random places during this month. As in January, access in GTNP is limited. The southern end of the valley will probably be your best bet for the large game animals and possible wolves.

Most of the winter months offer similar opportunities for both wildlife and landscapes:   Jan: 2015  Jan: 2014 Feb: 2014 | Dec: 2013. Also check out: The Dead of Winter: The Cold Realities and Exciting Possibilities of Winter Photography in GTNP..

Suggested “Opportunities”: Here are my top spots to check out, especially for wildlife.  Some will be a bit of a gamble, but they might also pay off in a big way if you hit it right:

Important Winter Links

February 2015 Daily Updates and Photos:February, 2014 Daily Updates and Photos:

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March Banner

March Overview:

There can be a “hint” of a change in March.  Winter keeps a stronger grip on the landscape in the northern parts of the park and along the base of the mountains. It can start looking like early Spring in some areas and look like December in others.

Swan PlatformMost of the winter months offer similar opportunities for both wildlife and landscapes: Mountain Goats “normally” start becoming more dependable subjects in March. Red Foxes and Owls seem to appear in random places during this month. Feb: 2015: Jan: 2015  Jan: 2014 Feb: 2014Mar: 2014:Dec: 2013. Also check out: The Dead of Winter: The Cold Realities and Exciting Possibilities of Winter Photography in GTNP..

Suggested “Opportunities”: Here are my top spots to check out, especially for wildlife.  Some will be a bit of a gamble, but they might also pay off in a big way if you hit it right.

  • Flat Creek Observation Deck: Look for Swans Along Flat Creek, Geese, Ducks and occasional River Otters.
  • Boyle’s Hill Pond: Trumpeter Swans of Boyle’s Hill: (The link includes a map)
  • Miller Butte: Look for Bighorns , Elk, Pronghorns, Coyotes, Wolves, Eagles, Ravens, Bison. Watch for Mountain Bluebirds.
  • Gros Ventre River: Look for Moose , Bald Eagles, Elk, and Bison there.
  • Kelly Area: Look for Mule Deer at the edges of town and around the Shane Cabins. Also keep an eye out for a Porcupine near the Shane cabins. Watch for Mountain Bluebirds.
  • Alpine Junction: Watch for Mountain Goats near the mouth of the canyon.  March can be GREAT, or it can be lousy. It will depend on the snow pack each year.
  • Camp Creek along the Hoback River: Check out Bighorns along the road.
  • Sleigh Ride on the National Elk Refuge:  Best winter deal in the valley!

Important Winter Links

March 2015 Daily Updates and Photos  |  March 2014 Daily Updates and Photos

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April Banner

April Overview:

April is a month of transitions and can be difficult to predict from year to year. Some snow may start melting, yet get a thick new layer at any particular time. The large game animals adjust their movements from the south end of the valley based on snow pack. 2015 was a particularly warm year. Click here to view April of 2014, then click on March 2015 and you should get a good idea for the beginning week or two of April 2015.

Suggested “Opportunities” and Comments: Here are my top spots to check out, especially for wildlife.  Some will be a bit of a gamble, but they might also pay off in a big way if you hit it right:

  • The Inner Park Loop Road is closed to vehicle traffic until May 1st. You can walk, hike, bike, or roller blade the road during April.
  • Access to some of the normal “hot spots” will be limited. Schwabacher Landing will not be open until May 1 along with a section of the Moose-Wilson Road.
  • The valley is waking up early this year. Grizzlies should be visible beginning in early April. Carry bear spray!
  • Elk, Bison, Bighorns, and Wolves are migrating north out of the National Elk Refuge. Moose are visible in many areas. This is a great time to see wildlife.
  • Most of the large game animals will be shedding their winter coats and may look “shaggy” for a while. Bucks and bulls will likely have lost their antlers.
  • Some birds like Trumpeter Swans will be migrating out of the valley, while others like Osprey will be moving in.
  • April is a good month to photograph the Teton Range with it’s full blanket of snow.
  • To start the month, sunrise will be a little after 7:00 am and sunset will be between 7:50 and 8:00 pm.

Important Winter/Spring Links

  • Best of the Tetons : Start Here!: This page will give you a good overview of the earlier Feature Posts
  • Helpful Links and Resources: Weather Reports, Web Cams and Ski Reports have links in the right navigation bar, but this page has many additional links.
  • Winter Closures: Many areas are closed during the Winter months. Click the link, scroll to the Winter section and look for the Winter closure maps.

April 2015 Daily Updates and Photos:  April 2014 Daily Updates and Photos:

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May

May Overview:

April usually kicks off the change from Winter to Spring, but May is the month in which the valley floor actually begins to look and feel like Spring. Most of the elk, bison and wintering Pronghorns will have left the National Elk Refuge and are often well on their way to their summer homes. Wolves and other predators become more active and generally follow the prey animals. May 1st marks the opening of the Teton Park Road from the Taggart Lake Trailhead Parking Area to the gate just south of Signal Mountain Lodge.

Winter snow will still cover much of the area around Jenny Lake and String Lake. Jackson Lake will thaw and eventually clear. I always like the bright green leaves of May on the Aspens. Around the valley, merchants prepare for the upcoming tourists. Old West Days over the Memorial Day weekend kick off the summer season. Check out the Wildlife Reports:  for more specifics. Bison  cows will be dropping their “red dogs” in the first couple of weeks of May. It’s always a treat to see them, especially when they are in the Arrowleaf Balsom Root plants of mid-May.  By late May, some of the Moose cows give birth, followed by the Elk and Pronghorns in early June.

Major Road Opening Dates:

  • Teton Park Road and Inner Park Loop Road  — May 1
  • 2015 Yellowstone Road Opening Dates Weather permitting, roads open at 8 am. Changes and delays are always possible.
    • April 17: Mammoth to Old Faithful;Madison to West Entrance;Norris to Canyon.
    • May 1: Canyon Junction to Lake;Lake to East Entrance (Sylvan Pass).
    • May 8: Lake to South Entrance;Tower Junction to Tower Fall.
    • May 22: Tower Fall to Canyon Junction (Dunraven Pass); Beartooth Highway.
    • June 11: Old Faithful to West Thumb (Craig Pass).

Suggested “Opportunities” and Comments: Here are my top spots to check out, especially for wildlife.  Some will be a bit of a gamble, but they might also pay off in a big way if you hit it right:

  • Baby Bison, sometimes called “red dogs” start appearing next to their mothers in the Kelly area, along the GV Road, and Antelope Flats Road
  • Wildflowers, especially Arrowleaf Balsom Root plants, begin to bloom in numbers along the valley floor. Others appear later in the month
  • Grizzly Bears become more visible in the Oxbow area. Bring your fresh bear spray
  • Trees will be in full color in most areas of the valley by the end of the month
  • Migrating songbirds move through the valley. Watch for Western Tanagers, Lazuli Buntings, Bullock’s Orioles and Grosbeaks
  • Moose, Deer, Elk, and Bison will often still be shedding their winter coats
  • Most roads in the Park will be open as May progresses towards Memorial Day and into early June. Access to the Mormon Row Barns should be easy.

May 2014 Daily Updates and Photos:

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June

June Overview:

June is the first of the Summer Months. By early June, most of the large game animals will have migrated to their summer grounds. Most reports for July and August will look and sound a lot alike. The big difference in the three months is the the babies being born around the valley. Watch for young moose, bears, elk, deer, pronghorns, coyotes, foxes, and so forth. June is also the month things can start to feel “hot” in the daytime. Many of the animals will be active in the mornings and afternoons and will bed down during the warm hours. Elk, Deer, and Moose usually move into the forests to find shade. Bison will often find a spot and just “hang” until things cool down. Check out the Wildlife Reports for more specifics. Grizzlies and Wolves will be watching for baby Elk, so if you want to see either, go to areas with the most Elk, like the area around Willow Flats. June is also the month tourists show up in large numbers.

Wildflowers start appearing in late May and begin to cover many parts of the valley floor in June. Arrowleaf Balsom Root should be visible around Antelope Flats Road and the East Boundary Road. Purple Lupine are the other prominent flowering plant in GTNP. While many people think of foliage season as the most colorful season here, June might be considered a strong contender.

Suggested “Opportunities” and Comments: Here are my top spots to check out, especially for wildlife.  Some will be a bit of a gamble, but they might also pay off in a big way if you hit it right:

  • Baby Bison, sometimes called “red dogs” start appearing next to their mothers in the Kelly area, along the GV Road, and Antelope Flats Road
  • Grizzly Bears become more visible in the Oxbow area. Elk start calving in early June and the bears move into the area for easy meals. Bring your fresh bear spray.
  • June is the month for seeing most babies, including Moose, Deer, Elk, Pronghorns, Bison and small critters.
  • Trees will be in full color in most areas of the valley by the end of the month. Green grass, flowers, and leaves will be evident.
  • Pilgrim Creek Road has beautiful Purple Lupines lined in front of it in June. Wildflowers will be accenting the valley in fairly large numbers.
  • Migrating songbirds move through the valley. Watch for Western Tanagers, Lazuli Buntings, Bullock’s Orioles and Grosbeaks.
  • Most roads and facilities in the Park will be open to cater to the tourists. Be up early to have the best chances to see animals and avoid some of the tourists.

June 2014 Daily Updates and Photos:

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July

July Overview:

July is the much like the month of June. The babies of Julywhen you see them—will be larger, faster and usually darker than the babies of June. The lush green Spring growth gradually matures, dries and turns to a duller mid-summer color. Runoff from the thaws lessens and streams become smaller and clearer. Fishermen rejoice. Daylight hours remain long, however the yearly cycle shaves a few minutes off each end of the day as the month progresses. July and early August are the hottest months. Most of the large fur covered animals are most active during the early mornings and late evenings and will bed down during the middle of the day. Elk, Deer, and Moose usually move into the forests to find shade. Bison will often find a spot and just “hang” until things cool down. Check out the Wildlife Reports for more specifics. Bears and wolves will still be on the lookout for baby elk, usually around the Willow Flats area.

Suggested “Opportunities” and Comments: Here are my top spots to check out, especially for wildlife.  Some will be a bit of a gamble, but they might also pay off in a big way if you hit it right:

  • Moose!: Bull Moose are in velvet and their antlers are growing fast. The old winter fur will have been replaced with their slick summer coat. Look for moose in these areas:
    • Along the Gros Ventre River. There are several pullouts near the river and the moose can often be seen along it.
    • Around the Snake River Bridge at Moose Junction: A couple of moose hang around the bridge, but can roam north to Blacktail Butte overlook.
    • Along the Moose/Wilson Road: Several moose have been spotted grazing in the beaver ponds along the road.
    • Buffalo Fork River bottom: The Buffalo Fork flows into the Snake at Moran Junction. Look for moose in the willows and side channels.
    • Oxbow Bend Area: Seen less often with wolves in the region, Moose graze on will bushes in the area.
  • Baby Bison: Watch for young bison near their mothers along the Gros Ventre Road, Antelope Flats Road, Mormon Row and also farther north near Elk Flats.
  • Grizzly Bears: Grizzlies are often found in the Oxbow Bend area, feasting on young elk. Grizzlies are seen more often during the middle of the day than most other animals, so search for Moose, Deer, and Elk early then move to areas where the bears hang out during the summer months. Remember, you must remain at least 100 yards from a Grizzly or Black Bear. Rangers have been ticketing people this year that violate the 100 yard rule—and that includes sitting inside your vehicle or approaching a bear in a vehicle at less than 100 yards.
    • Oxbow Bend
    • Pacific Creek Road
    • Jackson Lake Lodge and Christian Pond Area
    • Pilgrim Creek and Pilgrim Creek Road
    • Colter Bay Area
  • Bison and Pronghorns: By the middle of July, the most consistent two species of animals will be Bison (AKA Buffalo) and Pronghorns (AKA Antelope). By late July, watch for rut behavior for the Bison and even more so going into August. Many of the other animals like Deer, Elk, & Moose move into the forests during the daytime or bed down in the tall sagebrush. Sunrise is roughly 5:45 AM during the first of the month and sunset is at roughly 8:55 PM. You need to get up early or stay out late. Staying out late has a caveat, of course, as the Teton Range puts most areas into shadows long before actual sunset. Beavers have been active just before dark at Schwabacher Landing.

Wildflowers are also “Hot” during July. Common summer wildflowers include Mule’s Ear, One Flowers, Indian Paintbrush, Columbine, Purple Lupine, Stick Geraniums, Penstemon, Skyrocket Gilia. Grand TetonNational Park Service-Wildflowers.

Landscapes! Sunrise in early July is around 5:40 am, so you have to get up very early to capture the beautiful color. Oxbow Bend is now full of water. On calm days, you can get great reflection shots. On windy mornings, think about places like Snake River Overlook, the Mormon Row Barns, or the Old Patriarch Tree that look great without the fear of ruffled water. Schwabacher Landing is now open and getting a lot of traffic.

July 2014 Daily Updates and Photos

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August

August Overview:

August is more of a “transitional month” than June and July.  Maybe from day to day, it is not overly apparent, but things are definitely changing. Grassy areas are drying out. Streams are getting lower. Flat Creek opens to fishing on the National Elk Refuge (some areas). Days are still long, but getting shorter. Nights begin to get much cooler.  The first half of August can be “relatively hot”—even though it would feel cool to most people coming here from elsewhere. Bison are usually well into their rut season in August. Moose, Elk and Deer will be in velvet much of the month before they begin their rut season. With the daytime heat, expect the large fur bearing animals to be bedded down during the hottest hours. The babies of Spring will be much larger, darker, and more independent. Canada Geese practice their V formation in preparation for their trek to the south. Other songbirds slowly slip back through the valley, going almost unnoticed. Tourists continue to fill the roadways, rest stops, and stores for most of the month. By the third week in August, much of the young workforce pull up stakes and head back to college as tourism begins to slowly drop off.

Check out the Wildlife Reports for more specifics. Bears and wolves will still be on the lookout for baby elk, usually around the Willow Flats area.

Suggested “Opportunities” and Comments: Here are my top spots to check out, especially for wildlife.

  • Moose!: Bull Moose will continue to grow their antler through August.  Look for moose in these areas:
    • Along the Gros Ventre River. There are several pullouts near the river and the moose can often be seen along it.
    • Around the Snake River Bridge at Moose Junction: A couple of moose hang around the bridge, but can roam north to Blacktail Butte overlook.
    • Along the Moose/Wilson Road: Several moose have been spotted grazing in the beaver ponds along the road.
    • Buffalo Fork River bottom: The Buffalo Fork flows into the Snake at Moran Junction. Look for moose in the willows and side channels.
    • Oxbow Bend Area: Seen less often with wolves in the region, Moose graze on will bushes in the area.
  • Bison: Watch for bison along the Gros Ventre Road, Antelope Flats Road, Mormon Row and also farther north near Elk Flats. Bison begin their rut in August.
  • Grizzly Bears: Grizzlies are seen more often during the middle of the day than most other animals, so search for Moose, Deer, and Elk early then move to areas where the bears hang out during the summer months. Remember, you must remain at least 100 yards from a Grizzly or Black Bear. Rangers have been ticketing people this year that violate the 100 yard rule—and that includes sitting inside your vehicle or approaching a bear in a vehicle at less than 100 yards.
    • Oxbow Bend
    • Pacific Creek Road
    • Jackson Lake Lodge and Christian Pond Area
    • Pilgrim Creek and Pilgrim Creek Road
    • Colter Bay Area
  • Bison and Pronghorns: By the August, the most consistent two species of animals will be Bison (AKA Buffalo) and Pronghorns (AKA Antelope).

Wildflowers are often still visible in August. Common summer wildflowers include Mule’s Ear, One Flowers, Indian Paintbrush, Columbine, Purple Lupine, Sticky Geraniums, Penstemon, Skyrocket Gilia. Grand TetonNational Park Service-Wildflowers.

Landscapes! Be up early for the best sunrise opportunities. Oxbow Bend is now full of water. On calm days, you can get great reflection shots. On windy mornings, think about places like Snake River Overlook, the Mormon Row Barns, or the Old Patriarch Tree that look great without the fear of ruffled water. Schwabacher Landing is open and getting a lot of traffic. Don’t forget about a trip across Jenny Lake on the boats for a hike to Inspiration Point and Hidden Falls. A Scenic Float Trip by any of the companies can get you to remote areas of the Snake River.

August 2014 Daily Updates and Photos:  |  August 2013 Daily Updates and Photos:

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September

September Overview:

September is my favorite month. Many of the tourists leave the valley, giving everyone a little more elbow room. “Change” is the theme for the entire month—both on the landscape and the wildlife—and the changes are usually rapid and evident. Leaves begin to change and magically transforms the valley with a new palette of warm colors. Berries ripen and wildlife finds them. Fall officially begins on the 22nd of September this year, but hints of the new season will be evident at the first of the month. By the 22nd, Fall foliage will be in near peak form in many areas of the valley. Moose, Deer, and Elk will be in the rut much of the month. At some point, we’ll likely see our first significant snowfall in the high country, some of which might hang around all fall.  The valley floor might also see a short lived blanket of snow from an early storm.

Suggested “Opportunities” and Comments: Here are my top spots to check out, especially for wildlife.

  • Moose!: Bull Moose start stripping their velvet in early September then begin their rut period.  Look for moose in these areas:
    • Along the Gros Ventre River. There are several pullouts near the river and the moose can often be seen along it.
    • Around the Snake River Bridge at Moose Junction: A couple of moose hang around the bridge, but can roam north to Blacktail Butte overlook.
    • Along the Moose/Wilson Road: Several moose have been spotted grazing in the beaver ponds along the road.
    • Buffalo Fork River bottom: The Buffalo Fork flows into the Snake at Moran Junction. Look for moose in the willows and side channels.
    • Oxbow Bend Area: Seen less often with wolves in the region, Moose graze on will bushes in the area.
  • Bison: Watch for bison along the Gros Ventre Road, Antelope Flats Road, Mormon Row and also farther north near Elk Flats. Bison begin their rut in August.
  • Grizzly Bears: Grizzlies are seen more often during the middle of the day than most other animals, so search for Moose, Deer, and Elk early then move to areas where the bears hang out during the summer months. Remember, you must remain at least 100 yards from a Grizzly or Black Bear. Rangers have been ticketing people this year that violate the 100 yard rule—and that includes sitting inside your vehicle or approaching a bear in a vehicle at less than 100 yards.
    • Oxbow Bend
    • Pacific Creek Road
    • Jackson Lake Lodge and Christian Pond Area
    • Pilgrim Creek and Pilgrim Creek Road
    • Colter Bay Area
  • Black Bears often show up in September along the Moose-Wilson Road looking for berries.
  • Pronghorns: By the August, the most consistent two species of animals will be Bison (AKA Buffalo) and Pronghorns (AKA Antelope).

Streamlined Viewing Links:

September 2014 Daily Updates and Photos:  |  September 2013 Daily Updates and Photos:

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October

October Overview:

Normally, peak foliage around Oxbow Bend is during the first few days of the month. Snow will be the big game changer in October. Temperatures drop considerably during the month and some of the snowfall will begin to stick in  areas of the valley. Early snows usually melt quickly on the valley floor, yet remain in the high country. Moose and Elk will continue their rut into the first few weeks and Pronghorns begin their later rut. More migrating birds pass through the valley, or leave the valley. After the Fall Foliage, the bulk of the tourists leave and the valley becomes amazingly quiet and peaceful.

Suggested “Opportunities” and Comments: Here are my top spots to check out, especially for wildlife.

  • Moose!: Bull Moose continue their rut into October.  Look for moose in these areas:
    • Along the Gros Ventre River. There are several pullouts near the river and the moose can often be seen along it.
    • Around the Snake River Bridge at Moose Junction: A couple of moose hang around the bridge, but can roam north to Blacktail Butte overlook.
    • Along the Moose/Wilson Road: Several moose have been spotted grazing in the beaver ponds along the road.
    • Buffalo Fork River bottom: The Buffalo Fork flows into the Snake at Moran Junction. Look for moose in the willows and side channels.
    • Oxbow Bend Area: Seen less often with wolves in the region, Moose graze on will bushes in the area.
  • Elk: Elk are seldom seen unless you are out very early or just before sunset. During the rut, you have a good chance of seeing them at Willow Flats, Lupine Meadow, and Timbered Island.
  • Bison: Watch for bison along the Gros Ventre Road, Antelope Flats Road, Mormon Row and also farther north near Elk Flats. Bison begin their rut in August.
  • Grizzly Bears: Grizzlies are seen more often during the middle of the day than most other animals, so search for Moose, Deer, and Elk early then move to areas where the bears hang out during the summer months. Remember, you must remain at least 100 yards from a Grizzly or Black Bear. Rangers have been ticketing people this year that violate the 100 yard rule—and that includes sitting inside your vehicle or approaching a bear in a vehicle at less than 100 yards.
    • Oxbow Bend
    • Pacific Creek Road
    • Jackson Lake Lodge and Christian Pond Area
    • Pilgrim Creek and Pilgrim Creek Road
    • Colter Bay Area
  • Black Bears often show up in September along the Moose-Wilson Road looking for berries.
  • Pronghorns: By August, the most consistent two species of animals will be Bison (AKA Buffalo) and Pronghorns (AKA Antelope).

Streamlined Viewing Links

October 2014 Daily Updates and Photos:  |  October 2013 Daily Updates and Photos:

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November

November Overview:

Some locals view November as a “shoulder season” month. That’s short for “not much going on”. Of course, those people are merchants, tour operators, skiers, and so forth. All you’d have to do is look over last year’s November Daily Updates and Photos pages to know that is far from accurate when speaking about viewing and photographing wildlife and landscapes in and around Grand Teton National Park. In many ways, November might be THE BEST month to capture wildlife images on a consistent basis. First off, days are much shorter and the sun stays low in the sky much of the day. The hours are compressed, but more importantly, the quality of the light is better for much longer.  Weather wise, November is a transitional month with winter storms blanketing the mountains and some snow starting to build on the valley floor—however not so much that you can’t get around. One of the major park road arteries, the Teton Park Road closes on November 1st, but there are still plenty of places to go to and see. Trumpeter Swans can be incredibly fun to photograph as they migrate into the valley, landing and taking off on Flat Creek. Later in the month, Bighorn Sheep move onto the National Elk Refuge as they gather to begin their rut. All of the ungulates still have their antlers and are usually active and visible. Lastly, when you do find something of interest, you’ll often be the only person there taking the shots. November might be considered the “locals little secret”. Variety is the hallmark of the month if you are willing to go out into the cold and enjoy what Mother Nature has to offer.

Suggested November “Opportunities”: Here are my top spots to check out—especially for wildlife.  Some will be a bit of a gamble, but they might also pay off in a big way if you hit it right:

  • Flat Creek Observation Deck: Look for Swans Along Flat Creek, Geese, Ducks and occasional River Otters.
  • Boyle’s Hill Pond: Trumpeter Swans of Boyle’s Hill: (The link includes a map)
  • Miller Butte: Look for Bighorns near the end of November, Elk, Pronghorns, Coyotes, Wolves, Eagles, Ravens, Bison. Bighorns.
  • Gros Ventre River: Look for Moose , Bald Eagles, Elk, and Bison there.
  • Timbered Island and Lupine Meadows: Watch for Elk and Pronghorns
  • Kelly Area: Look for Mule Deer and Moose at the edges of town and around the Shane Cabins.

Streamlined Viewing Links

November 2014 Daily Updates and Photos:  |  November 2013 Daily Updates and Photos:

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December

December Overview:

Winter is here to stay! I can almost sum up the month in three concepts: Cold days and nights—short daylight hours—limited access. That’s not all necessarily bad, but it is a far cry from the norms of summer. The cold brings heavy snow and that creates numerous winter activities like snowmobiling, skiing, shoe shoeing, and so forth. Some animals are hibernating, while others are more available to us than ever, such as Bighorn Sheep and possibly Mountain Goats. Some of the winter sunrises can be spectacular and you seldom need a graduated neutral density filter!  The sun goes behind the mountains by 4:30 pm, so it’s easy to be back for dinner. The sun is low in the sky, allowing you to take photos almost all day long with limited high contrast issues. Many roads are closed during the Winter months, however other opportunities seem to fill the void.

Consider a sleigh ride on at the National Elk Refuge. The Bighorns on Miller Butte are always good in December, including the opportunity to witness their annual rut. Swans move into the valley for the Winter, with good access spots along Flat Creek and Boyle’s Hill. Check out a guided snowmobile trip to Granite Hot Springs and see Granite Falls along the way. Holiday lights wrap about every tree and all four of the Elk Antler Arches downtown. At the end of the month, plan on going to one of the torch light parades to say goodbye to 2014 and hello to 2015. Fun photography!

In many ways, the months of December, January, and February are almost carbon copies of each other. Check out each of last year’s Daily Updates to get an idea of the opportunities! Nov: 2013  | Dec: 2013Jan: 2014 . Bull moose drop their antlers during the month of December and early January, so prime moose opportunities become more limited in January and February.

Suggested December “Opportunities”: Here are my top spots to check out—especially for wildlife.  Some will be a bit of a gamble, but they might also pay off in a big way if you hit it right:

Important Winter Links

December 2014 Daily Updates and Photos: | December 2013 Daily Updates and Photos:

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Reclaiming the Night Participant Profile – Julie Pastrick

I knew Julie Pastrick, president and CEO of the Greater Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce, would be a fun person to have on the film based on her email response: “We’d love to be part of the interview because this designation rocks…” The designation she’s referring to is of course being a certified Dark Sky City by the International Dark Sky Association. And not just any certified Dark Sky City, but the first International Dark Sky City, a sign I saw for the first time on the town’s limits nearly a decade ago that intrigued me, foreshadowing an involvement that I couldn’t have even begun to imagine. – Read more

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Downtown Jackson: History revealed in collectible postcards.

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Ever want to step back in time and see what downtown Jackson Hole might have looked like in the ’40s through the ’60s?

Old post cards and other ephemera can do just that! Maps, brochures, guides and other printed materials are a treasure trove of history. With the aid of the Internet and sites like eBay, it is relatively easy to find and usually not that expensive. I buy them when I can. This page contains shots of old downtown, mostly of businesses on Broadway and Cache. In the future, I’ll try to add another page of Hotel/Motel postcards and other types of businesses. In case you are not familiar with the term, here’s the definition of ephemera:

EPHEMERA 1 : something of no lasting significance —usually used in plural 2 ephemera plural : paper items (as posters, broadsides, and tickets) that were originally meant to be discarded after use but have since become collectible. (Source: merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ephemera)

As in today, very few postcards are printed without a date on them. They could sell them for years without the dates. Of course, the town changed regularly, dating them none the less. A car buff could probably date the cards to some degree by simply studying the make and model of the vehicles. Under each of the postcards, I’ve added the obligatory text and any kind of information identifying the photographer or company. I’ve also added the street and direction of view.

Downtown1

Looking south if standing at the intersection of Deloney and Cache.

JACKSON, WYOMING: Located in the shadow of the towering Teton Range, Jackson is the county for Teton County, Wyoming, and the commercial center for the entire Jackson Hole area, “The Last of Old West”. : Mike Roberts, Intermountain Tourist Supply, Inc, Salt Lake City 1, Utah

Downtown2

Looking north if standing at the intersection of Broadway and Cache.

#4162 — Street scene in Jackson along the west side of the town square. This picturesque western town is the supply point for the Jackson Hole Region, Wyoming. : Genuine Natural Color Made by DEXTER PRESS, Inc., West Nyack, N.Y.

Downtown3

Looking south if standing at the intersection of Deloney and Cache.

S-335X  JACKSON, WYOMING – Looking south along U.S. Hwys. 26, 89, and 187 toward Snow King Mountain. Jackson is famous for its Old West Atmosphere and is gateway to Grand Teton National Park. : Published by Seaich Card and Souvenir Corp., Salt Lake City

Broadway Jackson Hole

Looking east if standing a block and a half west of Broadway and Cache. Glenwood is the close intersection.

C-408-MAIN STREET, JACKSON, WYO. – Jackson has some of the finest western outfitter stores and great many modern hotels and motels. Shown here is the Wort Hotel, one of the best in the Jackson Hole region. : Published by Cooper Post Card Co, Lakewood, Colo.

Downtown5

Looking south if standing at the intersection of Deloney and Cache.

JACKSON WYOMING: Located in the shadow of the towering Teton Range, Jackson is the county for Teton County, Wyoming, and the commercial center for the entire Jackson Hole area, “The Last of Old West”. : Mike Roberts, Intermountain Tourist Supply, Inc, Salt Lake City 1, Utah

Downtown6

Looking east if standing 1/2 block east of the intersection of Glenwood and Broadway.

C-410-FRONTIER POST, JACKSON, WYO. – The old time log buildings convey to the visitor the western spirit of long ago. Strolling along over the wooden sidewalks, exchanging greetings  with cowboys and cowgirls, the tourist get the picture as it looked 100 years ago.

Downtown7

Looking east if standing at the intersection of Broadway and Cache.

#4029 – Street scene in Jackson, Wyoming, where boardwalks, western fronts, and the western atmosphere still impress the touris. Jackson is the starting point for Grand Teton National Park and the south entrance of Yellowstone. Pub. by Sanborn Souvenir Co., Inc., Denver, Colo.

Downtown8

Looking south if standing at the intersection of Deloney and Cache.

ES-220 – JACKSON, WYOMING – Looking South along U.s. Highways 26, 89, and 187 toward the chari lift. City Park on left. : Published by Eric J. Seaich Co., 120 West Broadway, Salt Lake City 1, Utah

Downtown9

Looking east if standing in the intersection of Glenwood and Broadway.

S-547X – JACKSON, WYOMING – Last of the old west. Looking east on Broadway Street. : Published by Seaich Card and Souvenir Corp., Salt Lake City

Downtown10

Looking west if standing in the intersection of Broadway and Cache.

JACKSON AT NIGHT – Business section in Jackson, Wyoming, trading center for the Jackson Hole country — “The Last of the Old West.” :  Distributed by the Geo. Mc Co., Box 7146, Murray, Utah 84107

Downtown11

Looking north if standing at the intersection of Broadway and Cache.

JACKSON, WYOMING – Looking north toward Teton and Yellowstone National Parks along U.S. Highways 89-26 and 187. Jackson’s famous Elk Horn Arch and city park at the right. : Pub by Eric J. Seaich Co., 120 West Broadway, Salt Lake City 1, Utah

Downtown12

Looking east if standing at the intersection of Broadway and Cache.

#4066 – Street scene in Jackson, Wyoming, where boardwalks, western fronts and the western atmosphere still impress the tourists. Jackson is the starting point for Grant Teton National Park and the south entrance of Yellowstone. : Pub. for Sanborn Souvenir Co., Inc., Denver, Colorado 80211

Downtown13

Looking east if standing at the intersection of Broadway and Cache.

JACKSON WYOMING: Located in the shadow of the towering Teton Range, Jackson is the county for Teton County, Wyoming, and the commercial center for the entire Jackson Hole area, “The Last of Old West”. : Mike Roberts, Intermountain Tourist Supply, Inc, Salt Lake City 1, Utah

Both Sides

Looking south if standing at the intersection of Deloney and Cache.

Comments: A couple of these cards are labeled “Main Street, Jackson, Wyoming”. Our east/west main street is actually Broadway. I am unaware of any street in Jackson officially called Main Street.  I am sure they exist somewhere, but I have yet to see a vintage postcard taken looking up or down Center street.

If you like this post, check out Harrison R. Crandall – The Park’s First Official Photographer

This is a list of additional Feature Posts with early JH History:

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Snow Day On Mormon Row:

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Photographic opportunities for anyone willing to brave the elements.

We’ve had snow here in Jackson Hole on the 4th of July, so getting a blast of it in April should not be a surprise to anyone. It’s great for the high country snow pack and the reservoirs that hold the water it produces. My kids are always saying something is “bad” when they really mean it’s good—like “that’s a bad ride”. So, when it’s “bad” outside, it can be “good”. If not good—unique!

On most snow days, the majestic mountains in the Teton Range are covered with clouds. This more or less forces me to look for alternative angles and views. Most shots of the two historic barns are taken from only a few spots. Right? I enjoy just milling around and looking for interesting compositions—even if the Tetons are not part of the picture.

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Half Mile Barn: I took this shot from Antelope Flats Road using a Tamron 150-600mm lens on a D800. This image was captured at 600mm.

Half Mile Barn

Chambers Barn: Taken from the same spot with the same equipment.

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Heavy Snow captured at 1/125th second: The flakes are mostly frozen.

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Heavy Snow captured at 1/8th second: The flakes streak as they pass in front of the subjects.

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TA Moulton Barn — Front View:

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TA Moulton Barn — Front View: On snow days, I typically take dozens of the same shot. They won’t be exactly the same, of course, because of the endless concentrations of flakes. This is a random pick out of the group. On a “real” project, I’d go through all of them looking for the best one. When photographing animals in the snow, like moose, I shoot even more! I end up looking for images without a big flake across their eyes.

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Long Distance Shot to the John Moulton Homestead: I’ve never measured it, but I’d guess the distance between barns is around half a mile.

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Windmill:

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Remains of the Old Fences:

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Chambers Homestead:

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Chambers Homestead: The snow lasted long enough for me to walk around the various homesteads. The Bed & Breakfast is still privately owned and is marked with signs, but tourists and photographers are allowed to mill around the rest of the areas.

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Cart: This cart is actually on the Bed & Breakfast property, but I don’t think they care if you shoot from outside the fences. It helps to find subjects with dark areas behind them to show the falling snow.

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The Gate: I shot this one with a telephoto lens from across the road with a wide open aperture. It helped blur the background and isolate the gate.

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Gate and Wheel: The snow was not coming down as briskly on this shot of the corner gate at the Bed & Breakfast. Here’s their link: Moulton Ranch Cabins | Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

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Chambers Shed: For a lot of the images on this page, I “opened up the shadows” by dragging the Shadows slider to the right in Lightroom. Doing so helps reveal some of the snow flakes against the dark zones.

Web_TAMoultonBarn_April6

TA Moulton Barn: For the snow shots today, I set my camera up with “back button focusing”. Large flakes can play havoc with the camera’s auto focus. With back button focusing, I am able to put the center focusing sensor on the corner of the building. When the focus locks down on the corner, I let up on the back button. That sets the focus. I can recompose the scene. When I press the shutter button (even half way), the back button focus settings prevent the AF from trying to find a new position. On a daily basis, I go back and forth between the default focusing and back button focusing, but this is definitely a good time for the latter. Here’s a YouTube tutorial if you are not familiar with the feature: Back Button Focus : Steve Perry on YouTube

Web_BarnThroughCottonwoods_April6

TA Moulton Barn: I moved back and shot through the cottonwoods on this one. I am not sure if I like it, but it was worth a try.

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Moulton Barn with Wintering Robin:

A Softer View

A Softer View: The artist side of my training is always tugging at me after a photographic shoot. For this image, I dragged the “clarity” slider to the left instead of the right to create a soft layer in Photoshop. I made a second version of the image in Lightroom with more traditional settings and brought that into Photoshop. I used the “Find Edges” filter in Style group of Photoshop filters on that layer, then desaturated the results. I pasted that image on top of the soft layer, and changed the blending mode to Multiply, then adjusted the opacity to fit. This little image took only a few minutes to make (for this blog post). If I were doing a more serious version, I’d soften or reduce the dark edges on the branches at the bottom. If someone asked, I could do a tutorial on this technique in a future Feature Post. If you were to scroll up to the gate image, you might notice this is just a cropped area of that image. On a personal level, this image trips my trigger more than the literal photograph.

Winter Robin

Winter Robin: For this image, I desaturated everything but the Robin.

High Key

High Key: This is the same image as the one at the very top. I did a quick “curves” adjustment. Snow day images leave you will tons of post processing flexibility.

Comments: “Bad” weather is all the more reason for me to want to be out. I am not a big fan of heavy, steady rain, but I love being out as storms are moving in or moving out. Snow storms usually offer opportunities at showcasing familiar subjects in an entirely different manner. We’ll probably get additional snow days through April and possibly into May. Count on me being out, and if you are around, I’d suggest doing the same!

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Please, if you like this post, share it on any of the Social Media sites like Facebook and Pinterest. And, please respect my copyrights! MJ

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Reclaiming the Night Participant Profile – Peter Lipscomb

I had spent nearly a week on the road before even meeting my first interviewee, Peter Lipscomb. By the time I had gotten to Santa Fe to meet him, I had been camping in Dinosaur National Monument, the Moab area, and had even just discovered Bandelier National Monument. Though I had been filming plenty of desert scenery along the way, it was feeling less and less like a trip to film a documentary, causing me to question if I even had the skills or desire to even try.

I met Peter after spending a night in Santa Fe and poking around the area a bit. – Read more

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How this image got from start to finish

On March 23 I was in Kearney, Nebraska to view and photograph the annual migration of the Sandhill cranes.  These birds are graceful, awkward, beautiful and kooky all at the same time.  They fly with grace, but while on the ground sometimes exhibit some of the funniest behaviors you'll see from a bird.  With a wingspan of up to 7 feet, these birds aren't the biggest, but they're some of the biggest most of us will get to see.

Every spring, hundred of thousands of them, 80 percent of the world's population in fact, gather in a 10 mile stretch along the North Platte River in Nebraska.  It is a sight, and a sound, to behold.  So on our way back from Wyoming to Massachusetts its always a good stop.  It's not always a great photo opportunity, though.  The weather can be bad, the light can be bad, and so on.  Plus, it's hard to get my wife to want to stay in the middle of Nebraska for very long!

This year there weren't as many cranes and they were hard to find at first.  I think we may have come a bit late in their migration cycle.  But once I found them, there they were.  The photographic problem was that it was heavy overcast, the light was flat and the cranes were acting skittish.  Usually I can approach them on the ground within about 50 yards and photograph them doing their thing with a telephoto lens, but this year I couldn't seem to get anywhere near them before they would hop or fly away.  Hmmm...  I started trying to get some flying shots.  Typically the flying shots aren't my favorite as there are lots of them out there and I try for something at least slightly unique.  But there I was with my tripod and long lens so I thought I'd point upward and see what happened.

I got this.

Yuck.

What was I going to do with that?  Well, I'll take you through my thought process, and then post-production process in the hopes that you may find it interesting to see how one photographer gets from here, to something that I think isn't too bad at all.

I didn't like this image at overall but there were a couple things that I did like.  The two birds at the top were in just about opposite points in the wing movement.  I thought that was interesting. But there were many things wrong.  Like the birds were way too dark.  The sky was drab. They were flying the wrong way!  (I like animals to move left to right, I have no idea why!)  And finally, the bird at the bottom was doing the same thing as the bird above it and that was boring.

So I checked the image to make sure it was sharp (that's the first thing I do) and decided to focus on the two birds on top.  I cropped it and flipped the image so they were flying the right way and got this.

Now, most photographers and artists will tell you that you should never have two of something.  One is OK, three is much better, but two?  And they're right.  But rules are meant to be broken and I though that because the two were so complimentary in their wing position that it just might work.  But it sure wasn't working yet.  I had obviously messed up the exposure allowing the sky to overpower my camera's meter and not compensating for that.  So the next thing I'd have to do was to adjust the exposure of the raw image from my camera.  After a little tweaking the image started to look a little better.

At least now you can see them!  But still boring.  Because the light was so flat, the contrast is low, the details were hard to see and one of the coolest features of the Sandhill cranes, their red bonnet, was not really evident.  But we have a few trick to fix those pesky problems, and once done, the picture was improving.

OK!  Now we have some nice looking birds.  But it's not much of a picture, is it?  No.  But why?  Maybe if the birds were closer together it would be better because they seem to be doing their own thing and now that I can see them, they appear more separated.  Maybe we should use just one of them.  No, wait, let's keep them both but ask them to move a little closer to each other.

Fortunately these are very obliging birds and once they were closer, and they appeared to be flying together, the image was starting to look like, well, something.  But it just wasn't quite right.

So I put it down for a day.  Sometimes it's better for me to get away from a project and let the brain work on it without my interference.  I came back the next day and looked at it again.  Now I had an idea.  What if the bird on the left were above the other bird rather than behind it?  That might make for a much more pleasing composition.

Now before you think to yourself "Hey, wait a second.  You can't just be moving these birds around willy-nilly.  That's not how they were in nature."  You're right, that's not how they were flying.  And if I were editing images for a nature or bird magazine I wouldn't accept this image.  If I were photographing trying to depict Sandhill cranes in their habitat I wouldn't be making these changes either.  I am making photographs as art, and just as a painter might position the birds in a pleasing composition, so does the photographer when creating art photography.  So let's move the birds a bit.  When we do we end up here.

  By moving the birds and squaring the crop, I now felt that I had a much more pleasing composition and I was starting to like it!  But we were not quite done.  As I looked at the overall image, it started to take on an asian art look to me.  So I thought I should accentuate that and give it an asian treatment.  And when I did, we have the finished product.

By adding a thick white border, a thin red border and placing some Chinese calligraphy I now have a piece that I am happy with.  I'll print his on a parchment style paper and I think it will look pretty good.

If you scroll back to the top and remind yourself of what we started with, you can see that we've come a long way, but we have maintained the integrity of the subject, which is very important.  I'd love to hear what you think of this and what images you may have overlook that you might go back to.  Thanks for reading and your comments are welcome and appreciated!

How this image got from start to finish

On March 23 I was in Kearney, Nebraska to view and photograph the annual migration of the Sandhill cranes.  These birds are graceful, awkward, beautiful and kooky all at the same time.  They fly with grace, but while on the ground sometimes exhibit some of the funniest behaviors you'll see from a bird.  With a wingspan of up to 7 feet, these birds aren't the biggest, but they're some of the biggest most of us will get to see.

Every spring, hundred of thousands of them, 80 percent of the world's population in fact, gather in a 10 mile stretch along the North Platte River in Nebraska.  It is a sight, and a sound, to behold.  So on our way back from Wyoming to Massachusetts its always a good stop.  It's not always a great photo opportunity, though.  The weather can be bad, the light can be bad, and so on.  Plus, it's hard to get my wife to want to stay in the middle of Nebraska for very long!

This year there weren't as many cranes and they were hard to find at first.  I think we may have come a bit late in their migration cycle.  But once I found them, there they were.  The photographic problem was that it was heavy overcast, the light was flat and the cranes were acting skittish.  Usually I can approach them on the ground within about 50 yards and photograph them doing their thing with a telephoto lens, but this year I couldn't seem to get anywhere near them before they would hop or fly away.  Hmmm...  I started trying to get some flying shots.  Typically the flying shots aren't my favorite as there are lots of them out there and I try for something at least slightly unique.  But there I was with my tripod and long lens so I thought I'd point upward and see what happened.

I got this.

Yuck.

What was I going to do with that?  Well, I'll take you through my thought process, and then post-production process in the hopes that you may find it interesting to see how one photographer gets from here, to something that I think isn't too bad at all.

I didn't like this image at overall but there were a couple things that I did like.  The two birds at the top were in just about opposite points in the wing movement.  I thought that was interesting. But there were many things wrong.  Like the birds were way too dark.  The sky was drab. They were flying the wrong way!  (I like animals to move left to right, I have no idea why!)  And finally, the bird at the bottom was doing the same thing as the bird above it and that was boring.

So I checked the image to make sure it was sharp (that's the first thing I do) and decided to focus on the two birds on top.  I cropped it and flipped the image so they were flying the right way and got this.

Now, most photographers and artists will tell you that you should never have two of something.  One is OK, three is much better, but two?  And they're right.  But rules are meant to be broken and I though that because the two were so complimentary in their wing position that it just might work.  But it sure wasn't working yet.  I had obviously messed up the exposure allowing the sky to overpower my camera's meter and not compensating for that.  So the next thing I'd have to do was to adjust the exposure of the raw image from my camera.  After a little tweaking the image started to look a little better.

At least now you can see them!  But still boring.  Because the light was so flat, the contrast is low, the details were hard to see and one of the coolest features of the Sandhill cranes, their red bonnet, was not really evident.  But we have a few trick to fix those pesky problems, and once done, the picture was improving.

OK!  Now we have some nice looking birds.  But it's not much of a picture, is it?  No.  But why?  Maybe if the birds were closer together it would be better because they seem to be doing their own thing and now that I can see them, they appear more separated.  Maybe we should use just one of them.  No, wait, let's keep them both but ask them to move a little closer to each other.

Fortunately these are very obliging birds and once they were closer, and they appeared to be flying together, the image was starting to look like, well, something.  But it just wasn't quite right.

So I put it down for a day.  Sometimes it's better for me to get away from a project and let the brain work on it without my interference.  I came back the next day and looked at it again.  Now I had an idea.  What if the bird on the left were above the other bird rather than behind it?  That might make for a much more pleasing composition.

Now before you think to yourself "Hey, wait a second.  You can't just be moving these birds around willy-nilly.  That's not how they were in nature."  You're right, that's not how they were flying.  And if I were editing images for a nature or bird magazine I wouldn't accept this image.  If I were photographing trying to depict Sandhill cranes in their habitat I wouldn't be making these changes either.  I am making photographs as art, and just as a painter might position the birds in a pleasing composition, so does the photographer when creating art photography.  So let's move the birds a bit.  When we do we end up here.

  By moving the birds and squaring the crop, I now felt that I had a much more pleasing composition and I was starting to like it!  But we were not quite done.  As I looked at the overall image, it started to take on an asian art look to me.  So I thought I should accentuate that and give it an asian treatment.  And when I did, we have the finished product.

By adding a thick white border, a thin red border and placing some Chinese calligraphy I now have a piece that I am happy with.  I'll print his on a parchment style paper and I think it will look pretty good.

If you scroll back to the top and remind yourself of what we started with, you can see that we've come a long way, but we have maintained the integrity of the subject, which is very important.  I'd love to hear what you think of this and what images you may have overlook that you might go back to.  Thanks for reading and your comments are welcome and appreciated!

How this image got from start to finish

On March 23 I was in Kearney, Nebraska to view and photograph the annual migration of the Sandhill cranes.  These birds are graceful, awkward, beautiful and kooky all at the same time.  They fly with grace, but while on the ground sometimes exhibit some of the funniest behaviors you’ll see from a bird.  With a wingspan of up to 7 feet, these birds aren’t the biggest, but they’re some of the biggest most of us will get to see.

Every spring, hundred of thousands of them, 80 percent of the world’s population in fact, gather in a 10 mile stretch along the North Platte River in Nebraska.  It is a sight, and a sound, to behold.  So on our way back from Wyoming to Massachusetts its always a good stop.  It’s not always a great photo opportunity, though.  The weather can be bad, the light can be bad, and so on.  Plus, it’s hard to get my wife to want to stay in the middle of Nebraska for very long!

This year there weren’t as many cranes and they were hard to find at first.  I think we may have come a bit late in their migration cycle.  But once I found them, there they were.  The photographic problem was that it was heavy overcast, the light was flat and the cranes were acting skittish.  Usually I can approach them on the ground within about 50 yards and photograph them doing their thing with a telephoto lens, but this year I couldn’t seem to get anywhere near them before they would hop or fly away.  Hmmm…  I started trying to get some flying shots.  Typically the flying shots aren’t my favorite as there are lots of them out there and I try for something at least slightly unique.  But there I was with my tripod and long lens so I thought I’d point upward and see what happened.

I got this.

Yuck.

What was I going to do with that?  Well, I’ll take you through my thought process, and then post-production process in the hopes that you may find it interesting to see how one photographer gets from here, to something that I think isn’t too bad at all.

I didn’t like this image at overall but there were a couple things that I did like.  The two birds at the top were in just about opposite points in the wing movement.  I thought that was interesting. But there were many things wrong.  Like the birds were way too dark.  The sky was drab. They were flying the wrong way!  (I like animals to move left to right, I have no idea why!)  And finally, the bird at the bottom was doing the same thing as the bird above it and that was boring.

So I checked the image to make sure it was sharp (that’s the first thing I do) and decided to focus on the two birds on top.  I cropped it and flipped the image so they were flying the right way and got this.

Now, most photographers and artists will tell you that you should never have two of something.  One is OK, three is much better, but two?  And they’re right.  But rules are meant to be broken and I though that because the two were so complimentary in their wing position that it just might work.  But it sure wasn’t working yet.  I had obviously messed up the exposure allowing the sky to overpower my camera’s meter and not compensating for that.  So the next thing I’d have to do was to adjust the exposure of the raw image from my camera.  After a little tweaking the image started to look a little better.

At least now you can see them!  But still boring.  Because the light was so flat, the contrast is low, the details were hard to see and one of the coolest features of the Sandhill cranes, their red bonnet, was not really evident.  But we have a few trick to fix those pesky problems, and once done, the picture was improving.

OK!  Now we have some nice looking birds.  But it’s not much of a picture, is it?  No.  But why?  Maybe if the birds were closer together it would be better because they seem to be doing their own thing and now that I can see them, they appear more separated.  Maybe we should use just one of them.  No, wait, let’s keep them both but ask them to move a little closer to each other.

Fortunately these are very obliging birds and once they were closer, and they appeared to be flying together, the image was starting to look like, well, something.  But it just wasn’t quite right.

So I put it down for a day.  Sometimes it’s better for me to get away from a project and let the brain work on it without my interference.  I came back the next day and looked at it again.  Now I had an idea.  What if the bird on the left were above the other bird rather than behind it?  That might make for a much more pleasing composition.

Now before you think to yourself “Hey, wait a second.  You can’t just be moving these birds around willy-nilly.  That’s not how they were in nature.”  You’re right, that’s not how they were flying.  And if I were editing images for a nature or bird magazine I wouldn’t accept this image.  If I were photographing trying to depict Sandhill cranes in their habitat I wouldn’t be making these changes either.  I am making photographs as art, and just as a painter might position the birds in a pleasing composition, so does the photographer when creating art photography.  So let’s move the birds a bit.  When we do we end up here.

  By moving the birds and squaring the crop, I now felt that I had a much more pleasing composition and I was starting to like it!  But we were not quite done.  As I looked at the overall image, it started to take on an asian art look to me.  So I thought I should accentuate that and give it an asian treatment.  And when I did, we have the finished product.

By adding a thick white border, a thin red border and placing some Chinese calligraphy I now have a piece that I am happy with.  I’ll print his on a parchment style paper and I think it will look pretty good.

If you scroll back to the top and remind yourself of what we started with, you can see that we’ve come a long way, but we have maintained the integrity of the subject, which is very important.  I’d love to hear what you think of this and what images you may have overlook that you might go back to.  Thanks for reading and your comments are welcome and appreciated!