It is this time of the year when temperatures may go below zero, both, in degree Celsius and Fahrenheit. It is also a great time for bird photography for two different reasons. First the birds come close to the house, to feeders, and most importantly to places where they can get some water to drink. If you make the efforts to provide food and water, by means of a heated bird bath for instance, you can create a good environment that draws the birds close to your camera. The second reason is the light. The snow that covers the ground works like a giant reflector and helps to make decent images without fiddling with additional light sources. Yes, a fill flash coming from a little softbox might be very helpful, especially if the sun is hidden behind clouds, but with sun light the “snow reflector” does a pretty good job.
I had written before here in the blog that we have seen up to six different woodpecker species on our ridge above the Little Maquoketa River Valley. The Northern Flicker is one of them but usually we see them only briefly during late autumn or from late winter into early spring. However, this season we watch a couple of them every day. This is the biggest woodpecker that comes to our feeders. They are slightly bigger than an adult Red-bellied Woodpecker. The Northern Flicker is only outsized by the Pileated Woodpecker but these big birds do not visit the suet feeders or even come near the house.
Today I had a chance to make a few clicks on this female Northern Flicker. Both sexes are easy to distinguish. The females resemble the males and have a black half moon shaped spot on their chest but they lack the black moustache stripes in their face. The Northern Flickers seem to be a lot more cautious and nervous than the other woodpeckers that are here all year long and so I’m very happy to share this image with you today.
Things were not in my favor this week regarding any of my ongoing photography projects. Lack of time because of other things that came across was the main reason. I hope you don’t mind that I show you a couple more images from the recent hiking tour with my son André in the mountains of Saxon Switzerland over in Germany.
The view goes from the sand stone rocks of the “Rauensteine” over to the “Lilienstein”, one of the big buttes of the National Park region. The Elbe River cuts deep into the sand stone and its water created a horseshoe shaped bend around the Lilienstein.
Finally, as we came back into the Elbe Valley some great light touched the rock formation of the Bastei again. Needless to say that a hiking tour in this region does not end without some great food and beer in one of the numerous restaurants or country pubs…
The third day up on the Door Peninsula was a gray one, and I mean a real gray one with no sun at all. That didn’t stop us to take an early ferry to Washington Island in Lake Michigan and explore this charming area. In this part of the country live many people with a Scandinavian heritage and therefor it was no surprise for us to find a Stavkirke (stave church) on the island. Almost all original stave churches are found in Norway and this one is a replica of one in Borgund, Norway. I have seen many of the Norwegian Stavkirkes during my frequent travels to Norway and the architecture is always awe-inspiring. The church belongs to the Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church on Washington Island and their present stone church is just across the road.
With no quality light present and the high contrast between the snow and the dark parts of the church I decided to bracket five different exposures and merge the images in NIK HDR Efex Pro. I know, it doesn’t substitute good light but the result is better than any of the single shots under these circumstances.
The two photos of the interior were made with an off-camera flash light that was directed into the ceiling. Joan assisted me with the flash light so I had both hands to hold the camera steady at 1/15 s. After a couple test shots I liked the results and didn’t even bother to use the HDR method.
I don’t think there is much to write about today’s photos made at Lake Michigan up in Door County, Wisconsin. Ice sculptures are a wonderful subject for nature photography and if the light is right their beauty can be revealed easily. We had a great time working these wonderful ice formations from different perspectives and angles. I hope you enjoy!
Joan and I went again up to Door County, the peninsula in the northwest corner of Lake Michigan, for Thanksgiving weekend. With us came the snow and made for a beautiful white Thanksgiving. We used the holiday for a hike in the snow along the shore of the Green Bay. The weather changed constantly from plain gray sky to heavy snow showers, to short sun light breaks, and back to clouds. There were times when the camera needed to stay in the bag because of too much snow falling from the trees. And then suddenly we had some moments where the sun sent some light through the clouds and the snow seemed to glow. It was just nice to be outside and try to catch the mood of weather and landscape.
We were already at Eagle Bluff Lighthouse on Thanksgiving last year. I thought I had a decent photo already but I love today’s quality of light on the lighthouse and snow much better. Have a look on last year’s image by clicking on the link HERE and build your own opinion.
Before we went back to our cozy little cabin, where Joan finally prepared a wonderful turkey dinner, we went to Bailey Harbor on the east side of the peninsula. A nice band of clouds and the last light of the sun made for some drama over Bailey Harbor Light in the background. The clicks were made quickly, the dinner was calling…
My last full day in Germany was a typical gray November day with fog and a little rain but nevertheless a very wonderful one. In our state of Saxony it was a holiday and my best friends had invited me to participate in a hiking trip through the Lausitzer Bergland, the mountains south of my hometown Bautzen. We were a group of twelve people and beside some great exercise we enjoyed wonderful conversation and awesome food at the end of the tour. The fog was hiding the landscape most of the day but when we stopped at an old granite quarry (the area is famous for its granite) I saw the potential for a good click.
Thank you to Gabriela, Claus, Petra, Lutz, Martina, Götz, Annerose, Uwe, Ecki, Micha, and my son Andre for making this a very special day!!
Just want to say hi to all friends and followers of my blog. I’m still in Germany and had for the first time a chance to make some clicks in good light. My son Andre and I went on a hiking trip into the mountains and rocks of Saxon Switzerland (German: Sächsische Schweiz), one of the most beautiful areas in Germany and only an hour and a half away from my hometown Bautzen. The picture shows one of the most iconic rock formations “Bastei”. Between my shooting location and the rocks on the other side, down in the valley, lies the Elbe River that flows towards Dresden, the capitol of our state of Saxony. A big part of this area belongs to the only National Park in the State of Saxony, Nationalpark Sächsische Schweiz. I hope you enjoy.
I knew immediately when we saw the “Sea Pride” sitting on the beach of Mackerel Cove, a bay on Bailey Island in Maine, that this was maybe a good image for Black & White. I made a few clicks but the clouds didn’t cooperate and were just a gray soup in the background. But the wind moved them around after a while and suddenly they opened up and let the blue sky shine through. This makes for a much more dramatic shot. I love the lines of this lobster boat and the image leaves room for speculation about the story why this boat was on the beach at the end of the bay and not in the water.
This might be my last post for a while. Tomorrow morning I’m flying to Germany for a family event and some business as well. I might be able to make some clicks but I’m not so sure about if there will be time to write a blog post… I’ll try, so please stay tuned!
We all get overwhelmed sometimes by the great “postcard views” or focus only on the iconic elements a particular shooting location has to offer. It is easy to overlook the details that surround a great place. Sometimes the light that hits those details has a particular quality that makes them stand out and tell a visual story.
We have visited many of the lobster wharfs along the Maine coast. Beside eating there fresh lobster big time, we found countless opportunities to make the click. The detail shots I show you today are from different locations and different times of the day. There are some early morning and late evening shots and a couple were made completely in the shade. But they all got some quality light that brings the colors to life or pronounces the shape and suddenly a rough working place like a lobster wharf reveals a lot of beauty…
Last weekend was probably the last chance to make some images that tell the story about fall and its colors here in Eastern Iowa. Despite some night frost many Sugar Maples had still a few leaves left but they came down quickly as the wind blew quite a bit this weekend.
As I wrote a couple weeks ago, I try to isolate the leaves from the background to make the colors pop and draw the eye right to the subject. Exposure compensation by about one stop helps to suppress elements in the picture that would otherwise just take the attention away. There is no reason that every crack in the rocks or rotten leave on the ground needs to have detail. Yes, I know, high dynamic range is ubiquitous but I believe this type of image just needs the opposite. Even if you just use Lightroom or Adobe Camera RAW, leave the shadow slider in it’s parking position or maybe even darken the shadows. Here I applied in addition a dark vignette in Adobe Lightroom to keep the eye away from the edges of the photo.
Taking time and looking around while wandering along the edge of the timber leads to more interesting subjects that can be photographed only in fall in their particular state. This Common Milkweed had opened and exposed its many overlapping seeds, each with a tuft of silky hairs. I hope you enjoy.
I wrote in my post from October 16, 2013 that I may show more from Pemaquid Point Lighthouse in Maine. It is such a magic place that allows to shoot from many different angles during sunrise and sunset. Joan and I had the place well inspected the evening before and so I knew exactly where I wanted to place my tripod for this image the next morning. Maine is in clear weather every day the first state that is hit by the morning sun in the United States. Not that it really matters but it was kind of interesting to think about that everybody at home in Iowa was still in the dark of the night, while we enjoyed the warmth of the first sun rays touching the continent. The layered rocks in the foreground are a wonderful mix of metamorphic and igneous rocks, with veins of quartz, and slabs of schist and gneiss.
I used a 3-stop graduated neutral density filter for the photo. This allows me to keep your eye on the lighthouse or maybe let it wander over the rocks in the foreground. The Schneider Optic 77 mm ND.9 SE filter became a very useful accessory during our journey along the Maine coast. I like the optical quality of this piece of glass much better than my older Cokin ND filters. They are made out of resin, which is not a problem, but I always had the feeling that they also shift the colors slightly. Finally, very little adjustments had to be made in Camera RAW for this image and this is how I want to go with my landscape and wildlife photography.