Wednesday, November 10, 2010

My Photography & living from a place of Love

When it comes to photography, it pretty much takes front stage in my life. My Family, Pets and Friends of course come first.... though at times I bet they wonder.
I am out photographing a lot and I love it. However leaving my home, family and pets to go out on a long day or weekend shoot, can really tug at my heart. I love being out shooting, but after a long day, I can't wait to get back home to a warm fire and hug my dog.
A recent situation has made me step back and take a look at why it is so important for me to go out shooting. Am I crazy? Am I a bad person? What is it that motivates me to do this when I miss my family and pets. Well the answer came pretty clear to me a few nights ago. Which is no surprise. I knew it all along.
A few days ago, after running errands I was able to go up to a spot near my home and just make a sunset. I immediately felt better. While I was there, it was so clear why I do this. Seeing the sunset in all it's glory just made my soul happy. For me, photographing nature ... whether it is birds, landscapes or sunsets.... is a spiritual experience.
Now that may sound silly to someone who feels being pratical is more important. But for me, the feeling is so strong, that I can stretch out my arms and scream out "Thank You". And I did just that....feeling completely grateful for everything good in my life.
I realized that I need not worry about my love of photography and I can freely feel joy for doing what I love....photographing nature.
I think a situation can be put in my path to help me remember what is really important. Choosing love... To choose the positive in any situation and see the good in all.. In return life is rich and full of joy.
My photography is what it is today because I choose Love.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Nesting Pair of White Tailed Kites

I am facinated with Kite Birds.... they way they hunt for food by hovering in one place looking down. Their bright orange eyes are so amazing. So when I discovered that there was a nesting pair, I began observing them.
I had not been to this nest for over a month and wanted to see if the nestlings were visible. I placed myself by some bushes and kept still. After a short time, I noticed that the female was adding nesting material to a different tree top but not to the original nest. She did this many times. This new nest area was near the original nest but for hours I did not see either the Male of Female Kite go to the original nest area at all. I wondered if there were any chicks and why were they building another nest? What could have happened? Did they abandon the first nest?
A flickr contact who has kept an eye on the Kites has posted that he was worried that the Crows may have gotten to the eggs, but said he saw a chick in the nest. I didn't see any sign of this and was a little worried. Though it is really hard to see the nest, so I was not sure.

After many hours of observing them, the Male brought back a mouse and finaly it went to the original nest. Then I heard crying from the original nest. I was thrilled to know that there was at least one chick.

After the male brought the food for the chick he and the female mated.

The female then went back to getting more material and was adding to the new nest.
I had not heard of this behavior. But I read up on this and it is true they can have more than one clutch in a nesting season. It makes sense for them to make a new nest for the new eggs while in the original nest the chick stays until it fledges.

I went back a couple of days later with another person. We noticed the same behavior. Working on the new nest and later in the afternoon the male fed the chick in the original nest then the pair mated again. The Female was adding to the new nest.
But this time, we noticed movement in the original next. The nest is very hard to see, but we did see one chick flapping it's wings.

We then saw another chick though it was not as easy to see. So we believe that there may be at least 2 chicks in the original nest. That is great news.

The Kite pair have their work cut out for them though because the Crows in the area are very persistant and aggressive. A couple of times Crows flew around both the original nest and the new nest.

The Male is very protective trying to make them leave by flaping its wings and flying away to draw them away from the nest. But it was a potential dangerous situation.

So the Kite Pair are making way for another family. I am very happy to see that.

HDR Workflow

I thought that it might be of interest to show how I created the above HDR Image. This is just to give you an idea of what an HDR image process is like. It is by no means a complete detailed instruction.
Yesterday I attented part 1 of a 2 part HDR Worksho held by the San Luis Obispo Camera Club. The name of the workshop is "Higher Dynamic Range". The Workshop is being led by Howard Ignatius. In this Workshop, Howard shows how to take images for HDR processing to a Higher Level. Day one was a lecture and photo shoots to multiple locations. Day 2 is for post processing. It is an Excellent Workshop. I learned so much. I can't tell you how much I enjoyed being around wonderful photographers that I admire. I can't wait for the post proccessing portion of this workshop.
Howard Ignatius quotes Ansle Adams saying “You don't take a photograph, you make it.”
I cant agree more. HDR photography is a very debatable subject. But for me, I love it. If someone doesn't like HDR Photography, there is a very good change that they do not understand it or the creative work involved. I realize that it is not for everyone or situation. But for those who are interesred in HDR here is a sample of my workflow.
Below are a series of images taken to produce a Final HDR Image (above) that was taken at one of the shooting locations from yesterday's workshop.
Images 1,2, & 3 are the actual bracketed images saved from the Raw files 2 stops apart. (-2, 0, +2)
All images are reduced in size and saved as jpegs for this article.
Images 4 & 5 are the Tonemapped Tiff Images that were produced after the HDR process thru the progam Photomatix Pro. Image 4 is the first Tonemapped Image produced and Image 5 was run thru Photomatix again. (In some cases I like to re proccess and image thru Photomatic twice for a richer result.)
The settings in Photomatix allows you to add color, make all kinds of tonal changes and much much more.
You can even produce an amazing B&W Image.
After Image 5 was produced, I then worked on the image in Photoshop CS4 and Lightroom 2, to clean up the image, straighten, crop, clone out unwanted artifacts, bring out detail, color and create the image that I ultimately wanted based on what I actually saw and experienced as I was shooting this Image.
Keep in mind that the image's shown can never produce what the eye actually sees. And that post processing can only bring out what is actually stored on the Raw Files themselves. You can decide how much it does or doesn't resemble the actual conditions.

As you can see this Tonemapped image below has the tonal ranges of all 3 images merged together.
But also in Photomatix I have made other adjustments that bring out color and much more.

Again... The Final Image

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Killdeer Behavior

While meeting with the Sheriff and another Offical to see the Owls yesterday, I came across something interesting and fun. As I parked my car there right next to my car on the curb in the parking lot was this Killdeer Bird. Being the Bird Stalker that I am and having my camera with me on the front seat of my car, I slowly moved to take shots of this neat bird. It took forever, but I carefuly and gradually got out of my car to take a few closer shots.

As I did this, the Killdeer did something that I was not familiar with. It started walking away with it's graceful way and as it did, it made some strange movements. I was thrilled and thought I was on to something big..... and what in the heck was it doing in a parking lot? Little did I know that this was no great out of the ordinary find. The Officials that I spoke with knew about this Killdeer and "it" was a she. She has eggs in the area that I parked. They are monitoring them and keeping them safe. The behavior of her leading me away is common and they told me all about it. I read up on the Killdear bird and it is quite common to find them in parking lots and to see this behavior with nesting females.The killdeer frequently uses a "broken wing act" to distract predators from the nest. I was the photog preditor.
So even though this is not uncommon to see, I was so happy to have experienced it.
This is one of the many things that I love getting up in the morning for....going out on an adventure somewhere out in open spaces to discover one of nature's secrets.
How cool is that?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Male Great Horned Owl & Family

Got some pretty bad news and also some good news.
Today I visited the Owls Nest. I didn't see the male around anywere. I was told by the local sheriff in the town where the nest is located that the male was hit and killed within this last week during the night. I was devistated. The feeling of loss was overwhelming. Now the female is on her own.

The good news is that there are 2 Owlets. I hope that the female can take care of them on her own. They look heathy. I don't know when they were born, but it has been 2 weeks since I was out there so it has been within that time.
I will be going out often to check on them and see how they are doing.

Nesting Great Horned Owls

I have a rare opportunity to observe this Nesting Pair of Great Horned Owls. Look at how they blend into their surroundings.
I found this nest by miracle. To explain:
I had just posted a comment to a Flickr Contact of mine of his Owl shot, that I would love to find and get shots of a Great Horned Owl. And the very next day I scanned some trees (as I always do looking for Birds) and what do you know, I found not just one, but a pair at the nest.
Not a coincidence... a Manifestation. ( thing)
I am leaving the location private so as not to disturb the nest. Also I have special permission to be on the land that the nest is on. I want to honor their wishes.
I will continue to post updates on the progress on this nest.
I plan on documenting the events that transpire with this nest and will give a slide show CD to the person in charge of this property.