Saturday, March 24, 2018

The Brandt's Cormorants of Santa Cruz

Every year, Brandt's Cormorants nest along a rocky portion of the cliffs at Natural Bridges State Beach in Santa Cruz, California and I love to visit not only to photograph, but to simply watch them go about their lives, building nests and raising their young.  This area is maintained by local conservation groups who remove the invasive ice plant, allowing enough space for the birds to build their annual rookery.

Yesterday I dropped by and they are busy preparing for a new batch of babies, mating and gathering nesting material.  Males were displaying their beautiful, blue iridescent necks, an area called a "gular pouch", while females were arranging the nest and bickering with their neighbors.

Many people walk or jog on by this spot without noticing the activity below. I did have one young lady visiting from the east coast stop to ask me what kind of birds they were and I got into a really nice conversation with her.  I told her a little about the birds and their behavior and she was looking forward to telling her mother who is an avid birder.  This is one of the aspects I enjoy of wildlife photography.  Sharing our love and knowledge of the wildlife we photograph and hopefully inspiring others to get more involved in the natural world around them.

Here is a short clip I took yesterday.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Saving the Albatross

I came across this heart wrenching video clip while conducting an on-line search for information pertaining to saving the albatross. I have been blessed in my travels to have seen both the beautiful Black-browed Albatross with their amazing eyes and the Wandering Albatross, with the largest wingspan of any bird on the planet! Seeing them wild and free as they effortlessly soar over the oceans is a sight to behold and the idea of them suffering due to our complete disregard for the planet makes me both sad and angry.

Both of these spectacular birds along with the many other species of albatross are in dire danger due commercial long line fishing techniques whereby they get caught up in or ingest the hooks and ultimately drown. But even more sickening to me is and the amount of plastic and garbage dumped into our oceans which they consume and ultimately die a long, slow, painful death. This applies to both adult albatross and their young. It brought tears to my eyes and an absolute feeling of helplessness and shame as I too am a consumer of plastic goods. It is definitely something to think about as far as how we go about our daily lives, from the items we purchase to how we depose of our waste.

If you would like to learn more and help in a variety of ways, visit here:


Friday, December 1, 2017

WIld Planet Magazine Female Nature Photographer of the Month!

Today I learned I have been selected as "Female Nature Photographer of the Month" with Wild Planet Photo Magazine. Based in the UK, this international digital publication receives thousands of unique visitors in more than 190 countries. The magazine contains excellent articles and stunning images from around the globe, both from professionals and enthusiasts who all share a passion for wildlife and the natural world.

The published image is of a snowy sheathbill attempting to steal food as a gentoo penguin is about to feed its chick. The image was shot this year at Port Lockroy in Antarctica and appropriately enough, today also happens to be Antarctica Day, when the Antarctic Treaty was originally signed on December 1st, 1959.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Alaska's Whales & Glaciers 2018 Photography Cruise!

I am thrilled to join UnCruise Adventures as guest host on their May 27th "Alaska's Glaciers & Whales" photography theme cruise.

May is one of the most beautiful times of year in Alaska and with less tourists. We will sail out of Juneau on the beautiful Safari Endeavor and explore Alaska's glaciers, search for whales and other wildlife, experience the native Tlingit culture and so much more! Our journey ends in Sitka with the stunning Mount Edgecumbe as a backdrop. 

This is not a small group workshop, but a theme cruise with 84 guests on board.  I think it will be an incredible experience for all involved and a wonderful way to share a trip of a lifetime with like minded travelers also interested in photography.  I will pass on invaluable tips, advice and instruction, but I think we can also learn a great deal from each other.  I hope you can join me!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory 2017 Click-Off!

Every year I submit images to the San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory's annual "Click-Off" fundraising event.  Entries require a fee which goes to much needed bird protection programs in the bay area and it is one of the ways I like to contribute. This year, they added a World Birds category and I am very happy to be honored with joint first prize for my snowy sheathbill and gentoo penguins image from Port Lockroy, Antarctica.

I also received two Merit Awards in both the Bird Behavior and Birds & Humans categories.  The bald eagle with a ground squirrel was captured in Milpitas, California where two bald eagles set up a nest this year in a large redwood tree in the grounds of an elementary school. They certainly generated a great deal of interest and successfully produced an offspring.

The fleeing snowy plovers was captured at Seabright State Beach in Santa Cruz, California. Visitors to the beaches along the California coast many times do not notice resting birds in the sand right below their feet. Off leash dogs are also an issue as owners ignore signage posted at various access points.  This causes the birds to continually flee, using up much needed energy reserves.  To learn more about these beautiful, little birds and their plight, I have more information and images here.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

National Geographic Your Shot Selection!

Thrilled to have one of my favorite images selected today by National Geographic editors for Your Shot's "Daily Dozen".  It is quite an honor since thousands of images are submitted daily!  I don't think I would want the job however of sifting through them all on a daily basis, so I thank them for spotting and for selecting mine.

The image was taken at Port Lockroy, Antarctica while on assignment with G Adventures in March. I noticed a pair of gentoo penguins on a rocky area next to the now famous Port Lockroy post office and stood and watched them as a parent was attempting to feed it's persistently begging offspring.  Every now and then however, a pesky sheathbill would swoop down in an attempt to catch a piece of the food the parent would regurgitate.  So how to capture this?

I increased my shutter speed to 1/2000s to freeze the action and made sure I had an aperture of f/8 with a wide enough depth of field to hopefully get both the penguins and the bird in focus.  I made sure I focused on the head of the adult penguin and waited.  Each time the sheathbill flew in, I fired off a few shots.  After several attempts at capturing the repetitive behavior, I managed to get this shot.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

An Encounter to Remember

On a recent month long assignment in Arctic Norway as Photographer in Residence with G Adventures, I had a very unique encounter with a juvenile Arctic (or polar) fox.  It took place in a beautiful area called Alkhornet and one of my favorite locations in Svalbard.

Alkhornet is a striking mountain located on the west coast of Spitsbergen, which is the largest island in Norway's Svalbard archipelago. At 428 meters in height, it towers over the tundra landscape below. It is home to a large bird population, reindeer and the Arctic fox.

In this area and as is the case in most of Svalbard, it is necessary to traverse the landscape in small groups accompanied by a trained member of staff with a firearm.  Polar bears make Svalbard home and although we may assume they are only found out on the sea ice, they are also seen on land during the summer months and at times with their young.  So before we can even go ashore, a scouting team is mobilized to explore the area both on land and in the surrounding waters. Once the area is secured, they remain at strategic locations and always on the lookout until everyone has returned safely to the ship.

As our group slowly meandered our way across the lush, green tundra of summer, a juvenile Arctic fox was spotted in the distance.  So we stopped and waited in the hope it might come closer for a better view. My immediate reaction was to eliminate my obvious presence simply by getting down low to the ground and to just sit quietly and wait. Chasing after wildlife is unethical and ultimately ends up in the animal leaving the scene. Respecting wildlife and its environment, along with a little patience can certainly reap its rewards as was soon to be the case here.  G Adventures makes sure this is adhered to and it is something I emphasize to guests in my on board lectures. 

The Arctic fox is well suited to the harsh environment it inhabits, particularly in the frigid winters when temperatures can easily drop to -58℉. With furry soles, short ears and a short muzzle, they are well adapted to the Arctic climate.  Arctic foxes live in burrows and in the winter will dig a tunnel in the snow to shelter from a blizzard.  

The coat of the Arctic fox changes according to the season and acts as a camouflage in order to effectively hunt for prey.  In winter, the coat is a stark white, so it is well hidden in the snow and ice. As the season changes, the coat adopts a brown or grey appearance in order to blend in with the summer tundra landscape.  

As we watched and waited, the little fox began to play and explore the landscape, but it would occasionally look in our direction. Maybe it saw reflective light in my lens, or was simply curious at the group of onlookers, but whatever the reason, it began to make its way toward us and in particular me!

As it drew near I was continually shooting and it was only when it became impossible to take any more images as my lens would no longer focus due to the close proximity, that I put my gear down and just sat and watched this beautiful, resilient, resident of the Arctic. 

Even though the encounter only lasted a few minutes, it is one I will certainly never forget! Being so close and making eye contact with this amazing creature was one of those moments I will carry with me for the rest of my life. It then turned and went off on its merry way.  

As this was all taking place, another group on the far side were watching this unfold and I was thrilled to receive an image documenting the encounter by Helmut Jacob, one of the guests and also a wonderful photographer.  It is rare to have images of myself in action, so to acquire this really meant a great deal!

Photograph by Helmut Jacob

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Antarctica & Patagonia 2017 Video

Has taken me quite some time to complete, but I hope you enjoy a condensed view of my travels in Antarctica and Patagonia in March/April, 2017!


Friday, June 2, 2017

"Behind the Lens" - Wild Planet Magazine

Seeing one's images published is really quite exciting and validates the preparation and effort involved, especially when seen in an international publication.

In the June 2017 of Wild Planet Magazine my image of snow geese blasting off last December at Bosque del Apache in New Mexico appropriately made it to the "Behind Lens" feature detailing how I managed to capture the shot.

My explanation was as follows: During a recent visit to Bosque del Apache, I wanted to be a little more creative and experiment with motion blurs.  I also found this a useful way to extend my shooting time when lighting was not optimal.  This image was shot in the late morning in bright light. By using the lowest ISO and smallest aperture, in addition to a -2/3 EV adjustment, I was able to zoom in and capture the motion and the mayhem as a massive number of snow geese were blasting off."

Shot with my Nikon D750 and the Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6 ED VR AF-S lens, my settings were: 1/30s, f/32 @ ISO 50, -2/3 EV

Using slow shutter speeds is a wonderful way to create abstract, artistic renditions which in turn make fabulous large scale display pieces.  This one in particular is a favorite of mine as it truly captures both the scene I witnessed and the excitement and awe I felt as I watched these beautiful birds take to the skies en masse.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Sad Ending for Leucistic Hummer?

Over the past year or so, a beautiful little leucistic hummingbird has drawn quite a bit of attention at the UCSC Arboretum in Santa Cruz, California.  People have flocked to see this little beauty as it made the local news, birding sites and newspapers!  I had the unique opportunity to spend a couple of solitary hours with the bird on a gloomy, rainy morning at the arboretum.

October 2016 vs May 2017

Sadly however it appears to be on a downhill path based what I saw yesterday morning and is in a very much bedraggled state.  Once I had located the bird, I zoomed in with my telephoto lens and noticed distinct deformation to the beak. The overall appearance was not good with many feathers missing particularly on the back and wings which explained its lack of sustained or frequent flight.

As it rested, it exhibited labored breathing and I also wonder with the lack of plumage and the chilly, rainy morning yesterday, if it was also lacking sufficient insulation.

I am curious as to the cause of this drastic change in appearance although I am aware that leucistic hummingbirds are more prone to disease.

Audubon California posted an informative story last October entitled "Rare White Hummingbird Steals the Spotlight at California Garden". It details the rarity and excitement of the sighting, in addition to the challenges the bird may potentially face due to the lack of pigmentation, which it now clearly is exhibiting.  Very sad to see.

I subsequently contacted the Santa Cruz Bird Club and received this response:  We have known for some time that "Moby Dick" was not doing well.  I think everyone is surprised it has survived so long.  We don't have any avian disease doctor contacts, but ornithologists at UCSC are well aware of it's plight.  There was a good discussion a few months back about whether or not to intervene and the consensus was to "let nature take its course".