Osprey Chicks

I had the good fortune to visit one of my favorite Osprey nesting locations this weekend. This site is just killer at sunset…..when there are Osprey sitting on a nest of course :-).

Mother Osprey Returning to Her Nest

This was the first time I had a chance to visit this particular nest during the current breeding season. I have been here a few times over the last few seasons. This was the first time I have had a female feel threatened by my presence which I thought was odd given the nest was in a populated area. Since she seemed to be agitated, I grabbed my tripod and moved away as not to stress her. I’m sure you have heard the saying, “No image is worth the welfare of your subject”. I have never felt threatened by an adult Osprey before but she was definitely getting close overhead as I was retreating.

Osprey Chick Preening

Once momma landed on the nest I slowly and gradually made my way back to the nest. She seemed fine with this.

Osprey Calling

I wasn’t really sure what the Osprey and her chick were focused on in the swamp, it was out of my view. But you can see here that they were not very happy. The male Osprey was watching about 150 yards away from atop a pile driven into the swamp.

Images captured with a Nikon D700 600 f/4 w/ 1.4 TCe-II on Lexar digital film.

Monday Musings – Feeding Frenzy

First of all, I would like to wish my fellow Americans a Happy 4th of July! I also want to thank the countless numbers of Americans who have sacrificed so much so that my family and I could enjoy the freedoms that we do today.

Putting in your time is an important part of wildlife photography. I am often amazed by how many people think I can walk up to a wild animal and just take its picture! Sitting and waiting, watching and learning, sometimes for hours is a normal part of the job for me. Sometimes putting in my time pays huge dividends and other times it does not. Putting in my time this past weekend had some really big payoffs.

Snowy Egret with Bill Full of Fish

I am an incredibly poor sleeper. I only require about 6 hours sleep a day to function at 100%. Incredibly fortunate for someone who needs to rise at 4:30-5:00 everyday. High tide in the Hamptons was running early this weekend. I used my local knowledge of the area to concentrate on a strip of Dune Rd. where I knew I would find some tidal pools. I hit the area right on the mark.

Snowy Egret Side View

These images were taken as the tide was just going out, trapping a large amount of bait fish in a tidal pool. Because I put in my time on a previous trip, I had a really good idea where to go. Within minutes, a large group of Snowy Egrets, at least 25, descended on the pool and provided me with the photographic equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel!

Snowy Egret with a Big One

So next time you go out to find some wild creatures to photograph, make sure you come home with more than just images. Knowledge of your subjects is a powerful thing.

Images captured with a Nikon D700, 600 f/4 with 1.4 TCeII on Lexar Digital Film.

Willet

I really enjoyed watching this Willet last summer.

Willet Calling

I was amazed at how habituated to people this bird was. Maybe my birding skills are improving and he really didn’t see me! I have not come across any other Willet that was not bothered by my approach or presence.

Willet

With any luck I will find another just like him.

American Oystercatchers

Im really looking forward to some time off. The coming Fourth of July holiday weekend will provide me with some opportunities to get out shooting again, that is if the weather cooperates. I thought this week I would share with you some of the species I am going to attempt to find and photograph over the coming weekend.

American Oystercatcher Munching on Oyster

The first species will be the American Oystercatcher. They will not be easy to find but I plan on making them a target 😉

American Oystercatcher Looking for a Meal

Stay tuned!

American Goldfinch – Ever So Close!

As I mentioned a few posts back (post here), I have been a little obsessed with making some images of American Goldfinches in garden and woodland settings.

Male American Goldfinch

As I mentioned in Monday’s post, I decided to use some fill flash to compensate for the flat,overcast, drama-less light that has been the large part of our spring here in New England. One of the benefits (definitely think it is a benefit here) of the really shallow depth of field is how the Goldfinches pop off the black background.

American Goldfinch Male Low on Perch

Normally, people only like the images of the male of the species this time of year due to their rich, explosive color. This last image of a female however has me captivated. Maybe its because there is a subtle beauty in her feathers against the black background and not the bold yellow seen in the male.

Female American Goldfinch on Perch

While these images are better than anything else I have taken of this species, I still think I have more work to do. 😉

Images captured on Nikon D3x with 600mm f/4 and Tce-II 1.4 on Lexar Digital film.

Monday Musings – Unintended Consequences

Lets face it. If you live in New England, the spring has been pretty terrible….weather wise. We have had a ton of rain. Every weekend seems to be a rain out. Now don’t get me wrong, lots of great photography happens during the most unappealing weather conditions. One of the great benefits of overcast days for wildlife (especially big game) is that animals coats exhibit a different texture and look, especially when wet. Another benefit is longer shooting day. The high angle of the sun during the period of the day when wildlife photographers work on their images (or sleep) is usually 10-3, the time light quality is considered poor. Unfortunately, since Connecticut is not considered the big game capital of the world, I have to work with what I have….birds. And frankly, bird photography is difficult in the rain and overcast conditions. The birds feathers just don’t seem to pop in overcast conditions. So what can I do to make some images this spring given the poor weather conditions? Introduce flash! I recently started using the Better Beamer flash extender. This tool allows you to extend the range of your flash.

House Finch without flash
House Finch Using Better Beamer

As you can see from the images above, the first one using just the natural light has 2 qualities on an overcast day you might not like in your images. The first being flat light and the second being little drama or detail in the color of the bird. In the second image, the one using the better beamer on my SB-900, you can see much greater color saturation and feather detail. One unintended consequence however is that the background now is out of the exposure calculation (the flash extender does not reach that far) and the background is completely black!

Female House FInch using Better Beamer

You can see from the image of this female, that the characteristics of the feathers are much more noticeable with the help of a little kiss of light. Look how the brown pops off the page against the black background. I mention kiss of light here for a reason. I am using the flash just to draw out a little color from the subject, not to “light” the subject. In this application the intention of introducing flash is only to provide fill flash. so next time bad weather gets in the way of your bird photography, try introducing a little flash!

Gold Finch….So Close

I was asked not too long ago by a photo buyer for a major publication if I had any good images of Gold Finches in a garden. Unfortunately I did not. The result of not having the image has sent me on a mission to make such an image.

Male Goldfinch on Perch
Male Goldfinch on Branch Looking Down

While I think these images are getting me closer, I still don’t have the image I want. I have been a little surprised at just how timid this species is. They really don’t like my presence, even when I am very quiet and don’t move hardly at all.

I guess I will have to keep trying!

Images captured on Nikon D3x w/600mm f/4 and TCe II 1.4 on Lexar digital film

Monday Musings – One Very Proud Father

I can’t really think of a better way to spend my Memorial Day Weekend than with my family. Its even more special when you include high school graduation. Peter, our middle child, graduated from The Taft School this weekend and is on his way to Williams College in the fall.

Freshly Minted High School Graduate
Peter with Grandma and Grandpa Penfield
Peter with Grandma and Grandpa Mistretta
Peter and his girlfriend Katie

Peter was very fortunate to make some great friends while at Taft. 3 in particular we now consider part of our extended family. Like Peter, those boys also made the decision of leaving home early and attending prep school so that they could realize their dream of playing NCAA Hockey. While it is a very difficult thing for parents to let go, its even more difficult to do when it happens 3 years early!

I know its a cliche but its true. Enjoy every day with your children. The time goes by really fast.