Category Archives: Nature

Elegant Trogons of Arizona

My first good view of the male Trogon.

My first good view of the male Trogon.

While in Arizona for the Tucson Audubon Bird and Wildlife Fest, a barely got out to shoot or view any birds. However, Sunday evening after closing down the vendor area and packing up, I drove to Madera Canyon to seek the Elegant Trogons that still had young in their nest.

Upon arrival at the location, a met a couple who had attended the festival and they were patiently awaiting the birds’ return. As I set up my tripod, the male flew in, called, then flew back out of sight.

The second Elegant Trogon fledgling to leave the nest.

The second Elegant Trogon fledgling to leave the nest.

Suddenly one of the juveniles flew from the nest, followed by the other. They perched for a few moments outside the nest experiencing the surprise of their first free flight! After a few quick photos of the young birds, they followed the voice of dad and disappeared.

I waited patiently after the other photographers left. The light was waining and I was ready to walk away when I heard the male quietly calling a short distance up the trail. I followed the sound and there he was — the remaining light offering a faint rim around his shape.

As the light waned I was rewarded...

As the light waned I was rewarded…

After a bit, he flew down the trail and I followed, found an opening in the trees and waited. I was rewarded for my patience when he flew in right in front of me for a few brief seconds before disappearing high into the trees as the final rays of light dissipated.

—Kevin Loughlin
http://wildsidenaturetours.com

Light Ever Changing

St. Mary's Lake and Wild Goose Island @ 5:41 AM

St. Mary’s Lake and Wild Goose Island @ 5:41 AM

St. Mary's Lake and Wild Goose Island @ 5:53 AM

St. Mary’s Lake and Wild Goose Island @ 5:53 AM

St. Mary's Lake and Wild Goose Island @ 6:01 AM

St. Mary’s Lake and Wild Goose Island @ 6:01 AM

St. Mary's Lake and Wild Goose Island @ 6:13 AM.

St. Mary’s Lake and Wild Goose Island @ 6:13 AM.

I’ve said this before… “Nature photography is 98% patience…” Photography is all about the light and the light never stays the same.

The images above were all taken on the same morning between 5:40 AM and 6:15 AM. A short period of time, really. The weather was warm, though a bit breezy, pushing the clouds at a quick rate which caused the shadows and light shafts to continuously create new patterns.

These conditions need to be taken advantage of by photographers! However, you need to be prepared with your tripod, graduated neutral density filters (a 0.6 soft-edge ND was used on each of these images), and a remote release.

Of course… bring a big bag full of patience, too, then be ready for when nature provides!

–Kevin Loughlin

98% Patience for Great Nature Photos

Snow Geese 'blast off' at the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. Patience is key as the wait can be hours before they take off!

Snow Geese ‘blast off’ at the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. Patience is key as the wait can be hours before they take off!

Snow Geese pre-blast-off

Snow Geese still coming in… about an hour before the ‘blast off’ at the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico.

Anyone who has joined me on one of my nature photography workshops or has read my book knows this formula… 98% patience, 1% luck ands 1% skill is required to be successful at nature photography.

Waiting for hours in a blind for wildlife to appear or for the light to be ‘just right’ can tax even the most patient soul! It is very easy to get distracted while waiting, especially if the weather is less than desirable! Keeping your task at hand in focus, however, is required to take advantage of the 1% luck, when your subject appears or the light has peaked. Then you can use your 1% skill to get the shot!

Long-billed Hermits typical return to the same flower about every 40 minutes.

Long-billed Hermits typical return to the same flower about every 40 minutes.

The waiting can be minimized in some cases by ‘knowing’ your subject. Understanding the natural history of the wildlife you are photographing is key to creating opportunities and getting the best images. Some hummingbirds, for example, are known as ‘trapliners’ because they feed on a circuit of flowers rather than staking out a territory. In other words, they return to the same flowers time and again, on a schedule. Depending on the species, the time will vary from 10 minutes to as much as 40 minutes. Observing your subject until you  know the timing will help keep you alert for when the action will begin.

Many big (and small) mammals have circuits as well and create ‘game trails’ that can be staked out for placement of blinds. Look for woodpeckers, bluebirds and other cavity nesting birds in spring as they fly back and forth to their nest to feed young. Don’t get too close to the nest as this can alert predators to it’s presence. Stay back to get a better angle, or build a platform blind a safe distance away for minimal disturbance.

 

A young Social Flycatcher in Honduras caught my eye with fluttering wings. As I waited patiently, mom came in to feed it and offered a fun composition on approach.

A young Social Flycatcher in Honduras caught my eye with fluttering wings. As I waited patiently, mom came in to feed it and offered a fun composition on approach.

Once you understand your subject and have your tools in place, the luck factor comes into play. Having your subject ‘perform’ as you had hoped, or better yet, with an unexpected behavior, is up to luck. Enjoying a woodpecker flying into and out of its nest hole may get monotonous… but be ready for when the male and female connect for that brief moment before they change places, or for a chick’s head to appear in the opening before mom returns with a meal. It’s those extra opportunities outside the repeated behavior that you hope to capture. Something ‘different’ from what others have seen and captured!

This is where the 1% skill comes into play… understanding your camera’s controls to be sure you have all the proper settings for the light and action when the ‘unique behavior’ happens is your key to success! Practice, practice, practice! Getting outside and playing with the settings to see how everything works in different levels of light and speed of action will help prepare you for when the moment presents itself and you have a split second to react!

— Kevin