Nature clicks # 247 – Woodland Vole

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Nov 23 2014
Woodland Vole

Nikon D300s, Sigma 50-500mm / f4.5-6.3 APO DG HSM, Nikon SB 800 speed light,

 

This photo, of what I believe is a Woodland Vole, can create mixed feelings in our house. We knew already since the late summer that the critter is back in our yard after a couple years of absence. The recent development of a system of underground runways just below the grass surface, and even some mounds, is a good indicator. The damage in the yard can be tremendous and Joan is already afraid that none of the flower bulbs in the ground will survive. The diet of a Woodland Vole is diverse and according to several sources it includes roots, bulbs, tubers, nuts, seeds, and even animal material.

I saw the vole for the first time November 17th, a day before this photo was made eating under one of our bird feeders. I kept watching the spot and finally was able to make this one image. I “nuked” the shot with the flash since the natural light was not sufficient anymore in the early evening. It is not really flattering, although it is a sharp image, but I wished I had reduced the output of the flash light a little more. Too much work in post processing… Well, next time… I’m glad I can add this critter to my Iowa wildlife gallery.

 

Colorado landscapes: Last call ;-)

1 Comment | This entry was posted on Nov 19 2014
Maroon Bells 2

Nikon D300s, Nikkor 24-120mm / f4, @120mm

 

We did not see the peak of the fall colors in the Rocky Mountains during the first half of the month but with every day during our journey in September we saw the winter coming closer. The first snow on the summits, and finally on our little tent, left no doubt about that winter approaches earlier in the higher altitudes than here in Iowa. Colorado is a very pretty state and I’m certain you can’t go wrong at any time of the year to create some photos or just enjoy the wonderful nature there.

I like to conclude my little photo series about landscape and wildlife in southern and central Colorado with today’s images. I hope you enjoyed it and if someone picked up a tip or two about how to shoot and where to shoot, I will be more than happy. :-) Thank you to all of you, especially my friends on Facebook, who always encouraged me to keep going and publishing a new blog post during the last two months. I really appreciate your support.

Fall colors at Maroon Bells

Nikon D300s, Sigma 150mm / f2.8 APO EX DG HSM

 

Colorado Railroad Museum, part 2

1 Comment | This entry was posted on Nov 18 2014
Railroad Museum 4

Nikon D300s, Nikkor 24-120mm / f4

 

A few more about Colorado’s railroad heritage…

Railroad Museum 5

Nikon D300s, Nikkor 24-120mm / f4

Railroad Museum 6

Nikon D300s, Carl Zeiss Distagon T*, 35mm / f2 ZF

 

Colorado wildlife: The Sage Thrasher – a first sighting for us

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Nov 15 2014
Sage Thrasher

Nikon D300s, Sigma 50-500mm / f4.5-6.3 APO DG HSM

 

Traveling through bird habitats that are different than what we have here around the Mississippi Valley will necessarily lead to new encounters. The dry sagebrush plaines in the San Luis Valley, not far from Great Sand Dunes National Park, are the ideal place for the Sage Thrasher. There they can find insects, other invertebrates, and berries on the ground and in vegetation.

We saw them on fences, wooden posts, and in the bushes along small irrigation channels in this high-elevation desert. Needless to say that this was a first sighting for us and it took me a while to identify this bird. The Sage Thrasher is the smallest of the thrashers. Generic studies suggest that they are more closely related to the mockingbirds than true thrashers (source: iBird Pro app).

 

Colorado Railroad Museum, part 1

2 Comments | This entry was posted on Nov 14 2014

Railroad Museum 1

 

The tip came already some time ago from my German photography friend Maren Arndt. Don’t miss the Railroad Museum in Golden, if you are in this part of Colorado! Well, we finally used the last day of our journey through the southern and central part of Colorado for a visit. The kids were already back in school and so there were not very many visitors beside us. Good for photography in such a place! ;-)

Railroad Museum 2

 

I grew up in Germany traveling by trains that were pulled by steam locomotives. The smell of smoke and coal and the noise of the steam engine are deep in my memories. As a kid I often stood together with my grandpa Willy Stock on a bridge, west of the train station in my home town Bautzen, and we watched the busy traffic in the train yard. I don’t know if this had somehow influenced my decision to become a mechanic, and later a design engineer, but the technical and logistic side of railroads have always fascinated me. Going to the Colorado Railroad Museum stirred up all these good memories and I felt a little like a kid in a candy store…

Railroad Museum 3

 

I could bubble here about the technical aspects to make photos in a museum, but who cares? The bottom line for my style of photography is to keep the elements out of the frame that cry “museum”. I just want my images to tell the story about railroad heritage.

A last word about the people that work or volunteer in the railroad museum. We hear these days a lot about passion, passion in life, passion about photography, you name it. Everybody we had a conversation with in the museum, from the people at the reception desk and in the museum store to the engineers that kept some of the locomotives running, they all had a spark in their eyes, the spark of passion for railroad heritage… Love it!

 

Yard visitors

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Nov 13 2014
Cedar Waxwing

Cedar Waxwing, Nikon D300s, Sigma 50-500mm / f4.5-6.3 APO DG HSM, tripod, gimbal head, Nikon SB 800 speed light

 

Last Sunday we had again a flock of Cedar Waxwings around here. They were joined by a large number of American Robins. Both species seem to enjoy the heated bird baths for sipping some water between their meals in the red cedars around here. I wasn’t home for the last couple days and don’t know yet if the cold weather has forced them out of the area. We don’t have snow on the ground yet but a few snow flurries made clear that winter isn’t far away…

American Robin

American Robin, D300s, Sigma 50-500mm / f4.5-6.3 APO DG HSM, tripod, gimbal head, Nikon SB 800 speed light

Getting the last seeds

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Nov 11 2014
Goldfinch picking seeds

Nikon D300s, Sigma 50-500mm / f4.5-6.3 APO DG HSM, tripod, gimbal head

 

I still have a few images from our Colorado trip but today I like to show you another, more actual photo. The American Goldfinch has long changed to its winter plumage. It is not as colorful as during the summer but it is still a very pretty bird. Joan left the dried up Black-eyed Susans in the yard so that the birds can get the seeds, and they do not need an extra invitation for this offer…

I tried to make this kind of a shot since quite some time already but did not like the outcome always. It is not so easy to separate the bird enough from other distracting elements, like dried leaves or other plants. Sometimes the head of the finch was behind a flower stem or the gesture was just not right. Today’s photo gets a little closer to what I have in mind, There is even a seed flying through the air, leaving no question about that the goldfinch has some serious business going on…

 

Nature clicks #246 – Northern Flicker

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Nov 09 2014
Female Northern Flicker

Female Northern Flicker

 

This morning I spent some time behind the camera with the long lens attached and watched the birds in the “front yard studio”. We are happy to see a pair of Northern Flickers again around here. They were mostly digging in the ground for food with their beaks. It came a little bit as a surprise when suddenly the female landed right in front of me on a dead branch. I made three clicks and liked the one you see here, with her head turned back, the best.

The other good news is that beside the woodpeckers that are here all year long (Downy, Hairy, and Red-bellied Woodpecker) a young Yellow-bellied Sapsucker showed up. I saw an adult sapsucker in April 2014 for the first time here on the bluffs and today’s encounter makes me believe that they had a successful breeding season. The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is usually not here during the winter and I wonder if I may see the bird again in the next few days.

Lots of other birds but this has to wait for another post…

 

Colorado landscapes: Maroon Bells

1 Comment | This entry was posted on Nov 08 2014
Maroon Bells

Nikon D300s, Carl Zeiss Distagon T*, 35mm / f2 ZF, tripod

 

One of the most photographed locations in the Rocky Mountains is the view across Maroon Lake to the peaks of the Maroon Bells. And if the sky is blue and a few clouds are in the air you can’t go wrong with this picture. It is a simple click, even with the camera in your phone. If after a day of rain in the valleys the first snow of the season has fallen at higher altitudes and the aspens start turning yellow, you even have a bonus for your image. The wind made a few ripples on the surface of the lake but that didn’t bother me a bit while making this photo. We hiked up to Crater Lake, just below the Maroon Bells, after this photo opportunity. The air was really clear after the rain in the morning, but it got a lot hazier and I didn’t like any of my shots I made up at Crater Lake later in the day…

 

Colorado wildlife: A favorite critter – the American Pika

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Nov 07 2014

Pika with food

 

I have written and presented photos of one of my favorite animals, the American Pika, here in the blog several times during the last few years. If you type ‘pika’ into the search field in the left side bar you can see the older photos and blog posts about this cute and highly interesting critter.

We saw them again this year during a hiking tour in the Maroon Bells- Snowmass Wilderness in the Rocky Mountains. If you cross a boulder-covered hillside above an altitude of 8,000 feet you may have a good chance to hear and eventually see them. The pikas were busy gathering grass and other plants as food for the upcoming winter. I guess they know that there is more than just work in life and sometimes they stop for a few minutes and take a sun bath or just watch what’s going on in their rocky neighborhood.

Pika on the rocks

All images: Nikon D300s, Sigma 150mm / f2.8 APO EX DG HSM

 

I have quite a few images of the American Pika on my hard drive already but still missed “the” shot that tells the story about their preparation for the winter. It is not so difficult to make the click while the pika takes a break and looks down from a rock, but if they have the mouth full of plants and grass they move darn fast between the boulders. Because of the rocks it is not so easy to follow them with the lens and track focus. Peak of action, the short stops the pika makes sometime on its way to the den was again the key for success.

I got the shot I went after this time but I know there is still room for improvement. Sharpness is not 100 percent nailed and the photo is slightly cropped. I was closer with the Nikon D300s / Sigma 150, f2.8 combo for the second image and it is definitely a tad sharper. The question is always, which photo tells the better story? For me it’s the first one despite the little technical flaws…

 

Colorado landscapes: Aspen (no, not the city… ;-) )

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Nov 06 2014
Aspen grove

Nikon D300s, Sigma 150mm / f2.8 APO EX DG HSM, @ 1/350s, f/5.6, ISO 200

 

Hey, I’m back. A busy travel schedule during the last couple weeks kept me away from any photography work. I still like to show you a few more photos from our trip to Colorado in September.

We were a little early for the peak of the autumn colors, the aspens just started turning yellow. But we kept our eyes open for locations with some color and good texture in the timber. As soon the light touches a scene like this you have your shot, a photo that tells the story of the changing season in the Rocky Mountains.

Aspen stems

Nikon D300s, Nikkor 24-120mm / f4, @ 66 mm, 1/45s, f/8, ISO 200

 

Another interesting subject for a nature photographer can be the tall and mostly straight stems of the aspens. Their light color in combination with a subtle light and a dark background always appealed to me. I like the graphic impact of the staggered arrangement and the rich texture of the bark and grass in the foreground.

While making the photo I already had a black and white image in mind. As always when it comes to black and white, the post processing was done with NIK Silver Efex Pro.