Connecticut Audubon Society Coastal Center at Milford Point

I have heard a lot of things about the Connecticut Audubon Society
Coastal Center at Milford Point
and decided to check it out. I decided to visit the center on the day it was closed, Monday, so that I could make my way around without a lot of traffic. I found the center to be a great place, one I plan to visit many times this fall. It is equipped with a three level viewing turret that brings the observer up to roof height of the center.

I’ve been told that the salt water marsh area is a major migratory stop for over 300 species of birds and that fall and spring are the best bird viewing times from this location.

Connecticut Audubon Center Salt Marsh
Connecticut Audubon Coastal Center Salt Marsh

I had planned on practicing my panning while at the center. I had one problem, I don’t have a 600mm lens! As you can see from the image below, the best angle to photograph flying birds is from the top of the observation deck. This picture was taken from the ground and as you can see, the houses on the other side of the salt marsh create a bit of distraction.

American Black Ducks flying over Milford Point
American Black Ducks flying over Milford Point

The center even had a nice array of bugs to photograph. All in all I will be back to this location soon.

Slim Pickens

So this is my first fall with a full set of bird feeders on the property. I started this winter with just one all purpose Squirrel Buster Plus which was pretty good at discouraging the squirrels. I added a thistle feeder for small song birds this summer as well as a hummingbird feeder which was a must have according to my daughter! We have been busy getting the kids off to school so sitting in the yard taking pictures was not high on the priority list the last few weeks. I had some time this weekend to relax and enjoy the perfect “10” weather and take some bird pictures. Away from the Downy Woodpeckers, Tufted Titmouse’s and White Breasted Nuthatches, I think my flock has flown! It has been very quiet the last few days so I assume that the migration has started.

Tufted Titmouse
Tufted Titmouse

White Breasted Nuthatch
White Breasted Nuthatch

I will be watching closely the next few weeks to try and learn more about the migration patterns in the area and I look forward to seeing what species the cold weather brings to our feeders.

The Zoo is a Magical Place

I asked my daughter if there was anything special she wanted to do, just she and I, before school started on Monday. She answered quickly, “Go to the zoo”. So off to the zoo we went. Her request happened to coincide nicely with some work I wanted to do photographing big game in preparation for an upcoming trip to Botswana (Okavango Delta) and Zambia (Victoria Falls) hosted by David Cardinal (www.cardinalphoto.com). I think David still has 1 opening for the trip. If you are interested please contact him.

Today was a lovely day in the N.Y. Metro area and the Bronx Zoo was packed! We had a great day visiting several of the zoo habitats. It is a magical place for children. Most had big smiles on their faces. My daughter and I could not have had a better day together.

I told my daughter to pick which of today’s photos she liked best and that I would use them for this blog post. I was surprised at how much time she spent at my computer mulling over her choices. Here are some of her favorites and a few of mine as well. Most of these pictures were taken through glass so the focus is not the best.

No Respect
No Respect
Sleeping Panther
Sleeping Panther
Monkey in Tree
Monkey in Tree

My personal favorite for a whole lot of reasons:

Manly Mandril
Manly Mandril

If you are interested in supporting the Zoo or more directly the Wildlife Conservation Society, here is the link: (www.wcs.org)

All photographs taken with Nikon D700, 70-300 VR lens and Lexar Digital Film

The 3 P’s

If the 3 R’s are the cornerstone of education (yes I am dating myself by admitting I know what the 3 R’s are) then the 3 P’s are their equivalent in photography. No, there is no formula to the 3 P’s… no wild theories. Simply stated the 3 P’s are Practice, Patience and Persistence.

In photography I think I have practice and persistence covered, however; I need a lot of work in the patience department. To utilize a new photography technique learned at a workshop, you need to employ the 3 P’s. If you identify an area of your photography that needs work, the 3 P’s will help.

When it comes to nature and wildlife, patience is one of the most important virtues in order to be a successful photographer. No matter how much we want the perfect shot, animals and the weather don’t always cooperate. For me, installing a series of bird feeders on my property and using them to practice my patience (pun intended) has helped me tremendously in this regard.

Another area of my photography that consistently needs work is hand holding. Strange thing for someone taking pictures for 30 years to need to work on you might think. I have spent the last 23 years working behind a desk. The muscles, movements and techniques needed to hand hold a big lens need to be practiced regularly.

I also regularly practice digital darkroom techniques. The technology side of this art is changing all the time and accepting this change is necessary to compete and improve. As I spend more time trying to improve my craft, my appreciation grows for the amount of effort necessary to be good at photography. I have often been frustrated by the uneven improvement in my photography, but now realize it is part of normal progression. Like any job, what you put into it is what you get out and photography takes a great deal of effort. It makes me realize that this is not a hobby, passion or art form that is easily perfected. It simply means that I need to continue employing the 3 P’s.

Deer on the Dune?

No I don’t mean my wife, not that kind of dear. I was walking out by the beach yesterday morning and saw a pair of antlers sticking up out of the sea grass. As I moved closer the little fellow (I thought) picked up his head.

White Tailed Deer hiding in the sea grass Quogue, N.Y.
White Tailed Deer hiding in the sea grass Quogue, N.Y.

As I tried to move closer, the big fellow moved to the other end of the dune and thats when I realized just how big he really was.
White Tail Deer standing on dunes in Quogue, N.Y.
White Tail Deer standing on dunes in Quogue, N.Y.

I really thought this guy was much smaller than he turned out to be because of the fact that just his rack was visible from the sea grass. As I got closer, I still couldn’t believe how much antler was coming out from the grass. Just to the left of the picture, maybe 10 feet away, is the ocean. Not a typical place to find a deer.

Photos taken with Nikon D3X, 200-400 VR w/TC-17e on Lexar UDMA digital film.

Worldwide Photo Walk

Scott Kelby’s Second Annual Worldwide Photo Walk took place today, (Link). Some 30,000 photographers around the world in 940 cities took part in this event. A New Canaan, CT walk was hosted by Phil Scott of Phil Scott Photography (Link). Phil did a great job of organizing the walk and picking a great route, especially with the town sidewalk festival occurring at the same time. The best thing that Phil did for us was order a great day of weather!

Rainbow in the Sky
Rainbow in the Sky

The route gave something for everyone to shoot, even someone like myself who has lived in New Canaan for 19 years.

First Church of Christ, Scientist
First Church of Christ, Scientist

Lastly, as the day came to a close we wondered through the sidewalk fair on our way to the cafe at Mead Park for lunch.

New Canaan Sidewalk Fair Band
New Canaan Sidewalk Fair Band

Hats off and thanks to Phil for organizing a great day.

Persistence

I have spent some considerable time the last week and a half returning to several Osprey nests that are atop telephone polls all along the Hamptons on Long Island. The biggest challenge for me is to bring the image close enough to the viewer to grab their attention. One difficulty, trying to capture birds with a 200-400 mm lens. Clearly this is a job for a 600 mm but alas I haven’t made that investment yet! So I tried to use my 200-400 with the 1.7 TC and use DX crop mode for extra reach. The captures were better but still not what I would like them to be.

Osprey standing guard over nest in Hampton Bays
Osprey standing guard over nest in Hampton Bays

I also used my time at the beach to do some more work on the Egret population that inhabits the mud flats and marshes of Dune Rd. I thought this was a very interesting effect created by getting down low to the ground and shooting through the grass, using it as a diffuser.

Great Egret Preening
Great Egret Preening

Great Family Weekend

We had a great Mistretta family weekend out at the beach for the 4th of July. In addition to saying thanks for all that we have and in particular our freedom, it was great to have all 16 of us back together again. The weather and the food were spectacular. I even had time to do some shooting! First I was able to take some pictures of an Osprey nest, one of many supported by the Town of Westhampton Beach. Unfortunately I did not come away with the shot, the distance was just too far. However I did have a chance to work a few marshes where Great Egrets were foraging for food all weekend.

Great Egret on the lookout for food
Great Egret on the lookout for food

I will take one more crack at the Osprey nest on my way home, I have a few ideas on how I might be able to get the shot this time. I might even take another crack at the Great Egrets. I will post the results tomorrow.

Solo

I had planned to stay at St. Mary Lake for an additional day and a half to practice what we had learned during base camp. Having some free time to decompress and practice what Moose and Jake taught us was actually more beneficial than I thought it would be.

Black Bear along Going to The Sun Rd., St. Mary Lake, Montana
Black Bear along Going to The Sun Rd., St. Mary Lake, Montana

One of the themes Moose was harping on me all week was not to take too many “head shots” and to think about how to present the animals in their environment when communicating with your viewers. I tried to practice this much of the day.

Elk in Glacier National Park
Elk in Glacier National Park

But the highlight of the day for me came right at sundown when out of the corner of my eye I spotted a Coyote targeting a meal. After working the spot I was able to get this shot when he came out of the brush!

Coyote, Glacier National Park
Coyote, Glacier National Park

Last Day of Base Camp

Today was a bitter sweet day for all of us. This was our last “official” day together. You never know how these events will turn out as you usually get many different personalities, some of which mix like oil and water. We were fortunate to have 8 people that not only got along but enjoyed each others company. As for the shooting we had 3 cars in our daily caravan. This morning our car had the critter jinx. The only wildlife we saw was on other photographers monitors. That being said, Alex Mike and I made the best of our time together and tried to get some other shots that were not “big game” in nature.

Yellow Warbler Sunrise
Yellow Warbler Sunrise

Our day ended with a great 3 hour discussion and lecture about the business of Wildlife Photography and a great dinner at Many Glacier Hotel. We all couldn’t thank Moose, Sharon and Jake enough for their hospitality assistance and patience over the last 5 looooong days. If any of you are interested in learning about Wildlife Photographers Base Camp, check it out here (www.moosepeterson.com/basecamp.html)