Posts Tagged ‘Minnesota’

The Trumpeter Swan Society July 2012 Photograph of the Month

July 11, 2012

Trumpeter Swan Family © Tammy Wolfe

Professional Photographer and TTSS Photo-of-the-Month host Greg Smith says:

Tammy’s capture of the Trumpeter Swan pair with their three cygnets on the nest shows the how the use of a long lens, while factoring in subdued lighting produces a well exposed photograph.  Finding the nest early on, watching how the pen and cob interact and setting up on the appropriate day shows how planning can create the desired effects.

This nest was on private property and Tammy had the opportunity to watch the nest being constructed and the subsequent laying of five eggs.  Not that all swan nests are on private property, but photographing nests on public property is subject to disturbance from other folks out recreating.  Having access to private property allows you to practice ethical photography without having to worry about those outside disturbances.

A number of photographs we have reviewed have a consistent theme when photographing swans – fog/overcast conditions diffusing the light and minimize contrast between the white birds and darker areas/shadows of the scene.  Tammy utilized light, overcast conditions to remove these potential challenges and to take the photograph under optimal conditions.

Take a closer look at the lighting.  All of the swans are exposed with lighting from the front, not overhead.  If the lighting were overhead, the underside of the breast of the bird on the left would be darker than the rest of the bird.  So it was a photograph taken late in the day.  This is where knowing your subject, the setting and then planning your photograph gives you the right results.

Most very good wildlife photographers use a long lens when photographing wildlife.  You can get frame-filling shots as in Tammy’s photo, and you can control the focus of the background.  In this setting Tammy also used her lens to stay far enough away to prevent any disturbance to the birds, the ethical path to an outstanding photograph!

The Life History Moment

Tammy had been monitoring the nest long enough to note that the eggs had hatched two days prior.  The young were still using the nest two days subsequent to hatching AND that now both parent were now on the nest.

During incubation the pen does all the brooding, while the cob does not take part in this activity.  Even when the pen leaves for preening, feeding or any other reason, the nest is protected by the cob, but he does not incubate or shade the eggs.  So having both adults on the nest at the same is an unusual occurrence!

Featured Photographer for July, 2012 – Tammy Wolfe, State of Minnesota

Tammy and one of her photographs were featured in this column in May, 2010.  So here is an update of her background since that time.

From Tammy:  Nature Photographer

I have collaborated on a children’s story about Trumpeter Swans with Mary Lundeberg. Right now the book (Spirit of the Swan) is only available as an ebook on Kindle. However, we are currently working with an editor and small publishing company and hope to have the print version available later this year.

Another accomplishment as a photographer is that one of my owl images was selected for the October 2010 cover of Your Big Backyard magazine, a National Wildlife Federation publication, and a greeting card company purchased one of my Trumpeter Swan images to use as a greeting card.

Since May 2010 I have traveled to Alaska, Arizona, Montana, Hawaii, South Dakota, North Dakota, Texas, Wyoming, Colorado, and Florida to photograph mammals and birds, but my favorite subject to photograph is in my home state of Minnesota and next door in Wisconsin is the Trumpeter Swan.

See and find out more about Tammy’s photographs at:

About the Photo:

From Tammy: When I first started to photograph the swans several years ago, I mostly photographed them where they overwintered in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Nowadays I am thrilled to be able to photograph them year round. This spring I had two amazing opportunities to photograph nesting swans on private property. Both pairs ended up with five eggs hatching, and I was happy to be present at both sites when some of the eggs hatched. I hope to continue watching and photographing the cygnets as they grow up.

Photographing Trumpeter Swans in the late spring and summer can be difficult on sunny days because the light is harsh, and the birds are white.  The image was captured at a Minnesota site a few hours before sunset when the light is less harsh. The cygnets were two days old when the image was made. I used my 500 mm lens with a 1.4x teleconverter so that I could photograph from a safe distance but still get frame-filling images.

We are pleased that Tammy was willing to share this “keeper” shot in support of Trumpeter Swans and The Trumpeter Swan Society.

The Trumpeter Swan Society April 2012 Photograph of the Month

April 11, 2012

Trumpeter Swan Flight Into Fall Color© by Mark Paulson


Professional Photographer and TTSS Photo-of-the-Month host Greg Smith says:

Mark’s image of the pair of Trumpeter Swans flying in front of the fall color shows a “planned” opportunity to share two very different subjects with the intent of highlighting the swans in the foreground.

Mark focused his camera on the swans, which was the planned highlight in the photo.  Each bird is in detailed focus including the eyes, wings and feet.

When you look at the background of exceedingly bright-colored foliage, it is muted.  This soft focus on the trees allows their color to come through and highlight the swans without the distraction of other objects stealing the focus.

The composition of the birds on the left side of the photo is a slightly different interpretation of the rule of thirds.  It is usually more appealing to the viewer to have the subject in either the left or right third of the photograph as opposed to the center.  In fact Mark’s swan’s heads are dead center in the photograph, which would appear to refute the rule.  But it is body of the swans that makes the rule of thirds work.  The head and neck of both birds are such a small component of the photograph, and this creates the effect with the bird’s bodies fitting the rule of thirds!

All of the above can happen with the focal length of the lens, but Mark saw the opportunity to put himself in a position to the have swans in the foreground and those trees in the background.  And it worked with exceptional results!

The Life History Moment

Waterfowl (including swans), cormorants, cranes and some shorebirds (and there may be other long distance diurnal migrants) utilize flight technics that essentially minimize impacts to the individual and spread the physical outlay to the other(s) in the flight.  With Mark’s pair of swans we do not see them flying side-by-side or one directly in front of the other.  We see the second bird behind and to the side of the lead bird.  This helps in two ways: First they are minimizing any potential accidental contact while flying (this would certainly help in trying to escape a predator!).  And second, the lead bird is “cutting” a hole in the wall of the air they are flying through.

In other words, like automobile racing, the second car does not have to expend as much fuel as the lead car does to achieve the same speed.  Of course they are built just a bit different than those cars, and it is because of the wings that they fly behind, but off to the side.  When that lead birds tires a little, the second bird will head to the front and the lead bird than reduces the amount of energy it utilizes (aka taking a breather).

Featured Photographer for February, 2012 – Mark Paulson, State of Minnesota

From Mark:

“My current focus is on capturing perspectives of the natural world, concentrating on images of nature, wildlife and travel (the world). The experience of getting to and capturing the beauty of nature and the wildlife is a large part of my personal experience in photographing their imagery. Actually making the photograph to capture the scene, so it can be shared with others, is the other component I enjoy. I work to find the unique or different perspective when making photographs, giving the viewers a sense of the place that I experienced when making the images.”

Mark is a long time resident of the Lake Minnetonka area of Minnesota and has been taking photographs since the mid-1980s. Mark has taken several award-winning photographs and his work has been published in books and regional magazines and exhibited in local galleries. Mark has traveled extensively to numerous locations in the United States as well as many international destinations including: China, Egypt, Southern Africa, Thailand, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Fiji, Greece, Argentina, Japan, throughout Western Europe, various islands in the Caribbean, Central America, Mexico, etc. and has an extensive portfolio of photographs from these locales.

You can find Mark’s images at

About the Photo:

From Mark: “This image of the Trumpeter Swan pair was taken at Baker Park in Minnesota, (location of TTSS headquarters). There is a small pond in the park where Trumpeter Swans gather. I try to get images of the swans in flight, and especially during autumn, when the surrounding trees provide a colorful background to highlight the white swans. “

We are pleased that Mark was willing to share this “keeper” shot in support of Trumpeter Swans and The Trumpeter Swan Society.

The Trumpeter Swan Society February 2012 Photograph of the Month

February 10, 2012

"Angelic" Trumpeter Swan by Mike Lentz



Professional Photographer and TTSS Photo-of-the-Month host Greg Smith says:

Mike’s image of the Trumpeter Swan flapping its wings early on a misty morning provides us the prospect of how to use misty weather to enhance a photograph.

Mike titles this “Angelic” and the ethereal feeling the mist adds to the picture has something to do with that title.  First thing we notice beyond the swan is the bokeh (we discussed how to accomplish this in an earlier version of Photo-of-the-Month), that muted blue and white area in the background without any focus.  The focal length of Mike’s lens adds to this, but the mist coming off of the river also softens the background and allows, actually makes the viewer focus on the bird.

The effect of the mist on the swan is subtle, but really does add to the photo!  First, notice that the eye and the rust on the head are tack sharp in focus, not being affected by the mist!  This draws the viewer to the bird and makes the initial contact.

The next aspect that your eye wanders to is the flight feathers or primaries on the wings.  The feather shafts are all visible, the feather edges are almost crisp but not blurred and while the secondaries become a little muted.  But when you look at the body feathers they are really muted without defined focus.

All of the above can happen with the focus of the lens, but I think it is the mist that makes these features so “angelic”.  And the reason for that is that the head and the breast/body feathers are on the same focal plane – or the same distance from Mike and his lens.  So the breast should have the same focus detail as the head and eyes – it doesn’t!

Mike saw the opportunity with mist rising from the river and used his capabilities as a photographer to create an outstanding photograph!

The Life History Moment

There are a few reasons we see swans (and other waterfowl) rise up and flap their wings without taking flight.  One could be that the swan had just finished preening and flapping the wings allows any “ruffled” feathers to fall in place.  There is also the opportunity to shake any water from the feathers, whether from foraging, droplets from the mist or as Mike describes below, it just finished a short bath.  There is also the thought out there that wing flapping shows dominance (perceived or otherwise?) relevant to other swans in the area.  Any other thoughts out there as to why swans might do this?

Featured Photographer for February, 2012 – Mike Lentz, State of Minnesota

Mike specializes in nature photography and nature photo instruction.  The world of natural history has always been a love of his, as is photography, and combining the two only seemed fitting.  You can find Mike’s images on:

About the Photo:

From Mike: “I was on the Mississippi River laying on the shoreline with many Trumpeters.  I spent most of my time concentrating my efforts on the individual birds.  This was a very cold day, it was -18 when I got out of my car and when I walked down to my spot and saw all the steam I knew the chance to capture a special image was possible.  In this moment the swan had just dipped in the water multiple times and was just opening up to do a flap his/her wings. “

We are pleased that Mike was willing to share this “keeper” shot in support of Trumpeter Swans and The Trumpeter Swan Society. 

Lynn Lovett, The Trumpeter Swan Society Administrative Assistant

September 17, 2011
Lynn Lovett at work on Trumpeter Swan Quilt to benefit TTSS at our upcoming Conference & Silent Auction

My interest in Trumpeter Swans started in 1998.  My kids were in 1st & 2nd grade so I had time to get out of the house while they were at school and do some volunteer work.  I enjoy the outdoors so I attended the volunteer orientation program at Hennepin Parks, now Three Rivers Park District in Minnesota.  My first opportunity to help out was office assistance in Natural Resources – Wildlife Department. That work was helping with The Trumpeter Swan Society, working with Madeleine Linck & Larry Gillette.

After a few months I was hired as an employee.  My duties consist of keeping our membership database updated, banking, mailing merchandise and preparing the Trumpetings newsletter for mailing.  Occasionally, I have been able to tag along in the field which is my favorite part of my job.  How many other people have the opportunity to hold a Trumpeter Swan?!!  Madeleine & Larry have been great to work with and have taught me much about swans and other wildlife.  My work is minor compared to that of the biologists who have devoted their expertise and time to Trumpeter Swans but I still feel proud when I see how much the swan population has grown in my area.  By taking care of the details in the office I am giving the biologists time to concentrate on their work so we can all enjoy the beauty of the swans. 

Now the kids are in college, my husband & I just got a Golden Doodle puppy to liven up our empty nest, I have second job as bookkeeper for a gymnastics club and I still love working for The Trumpeter Swan Society.  My favorite pastime is quilting and I’m busy finishing a quilt that will be auctioned at the 22nd Trumpeter Swan Society Conference in Montana next month, October 10-14, 2011.

The Trumpeter Swan Society September 2011 Photograph of the Month

September 10, 2011

Trumpeter Swan in Flight by Richard Eyre

Professional Photographer and TTSS Photo-of-the-Month host Greg Smith says:

Richard’s image of the Trumpeter Swan in flight shows that having slightly less focused aspects of the subject can bring out the highlights you want to accentuate in your photograph.

The soft focus on the wings helps in at least three ways: They push the viewer’s field of vision towards the head and the eye of the swan.  The soft focus also helps transition the bird into the warm, subtle tones of the background.  And the third point is that it gives a feeling of action and movement to the swan.

We have gone back and forth over lighting issues on a white-colored subject.  There are pros to bright, sunny days as the basis for the photograph and there are different positive aspects for photographs taken on warm, overcast days.

What I enthusiastically appreciate about this photograph is the muted tones of the water in the background.  There is no harsh blue contrasting with the softness of the swan, just an overall feeling of serenity in the lighting and the composition.

All of this points to Richard’s capabilities in creating an outstanding photograph!

Featured Photographer for September, 2011 – Richard Eyre, Wisconsin

Richard Eyre is a Northern Wisconsin based photographer specializing in unique, expressive landscapes and scenic images.  His prints feature vivid colors and artistic composition to create captivating visions of the world.

Rick has spent years exploring and photographing many diverse landscapes though-out the United States and around the globe.

His web site is

About the Photo:

This swan was photographed along the Mississippi river in Minnesota last winter, on one of the coldest days of the year.

We are pleased that Richard was willing to share this “keeper” shot in support of Trumpeter Swans

The Trumpeter Swan Society Photo-of-the-Month October 2010

October 11, 2010

Trumpeter Swan in Flight, by Tracy Knighton

Professional Photographer and TTSS Photo-of-the-Month host Greg Smith says:

Tracy’s challenge of capturing the swan in flight while creating a photograph with artistic merit provides us with a photo depicting a mastery of lighting and depth-of-field.

Given the deep blue sky and the side-lighted swan, the challenge would be to find detail in the primaries and secondaries that are shadowed. And there is detail in those shadows as well as in the sun lighted head, neck and upper breast. Histograms are a great source of information and can let you know whether there will be highlights in the lightest and darkest areas of the photograph. Most newer digital SLR’s have a viewable histogram that can tell you almost immediately whether your photograph will show details in those areas.

Depth of field is another challenge faced with a head-on photograph. Tracy was able to get the bill and face of the swan in focus as well as the back end of the bird. You can make this happen in at least three different ways: utilize a very high f-stop on a bright day (f16 or f22); utilize a flash in conjunction with the high f-stop; or bump your ISO up to a higher speed to give you the light and then use the higher f-stop.

Tracy was in the right position relative to the bird and the lighting and utilized a very broad depth of field to create this exceptional photo of a Trumpeter Swan as it winged toward her.

Featured Photographer for October, 2010 – Tracy Knighton, Coon Rapids Minnesota

I am Tracy Knighton from Minnesota and I have been interested in photography for about a year and a half now. Although I have lived in MN all my life, I am discovering new things as I look at the world through a lens. I am always looking for new places, events and challenges to use my camera. I have taken a couple of classes with community education, but most of my learning has taken place through hands on experience. I manipulate the camera settings to see what I like.

This photo was taken at Swan Park in Monticello MN. It was a chilly winter day, with some early morning fog along the Mississippi River. I got caught up in taking pictures and ended up being there for about two hours. The swans winter there from November to February each year. It is an amazing sight to see, and hear! I am currently working on a website/photography blog but it is in the developmental stages.

We are pleased that Tracy was willing to share this outstanding shot in support of Trumpeter Swans and The Trumpeter Swan Society. To see more of her photos, please visit her flickr site at

The Trumpeter Swan Society Photo-of-the-Month – September 2010

September 20, 2010

Trumpeter Swans in the Mist, by Bernd Ruttkowski

Professional Photographer and TTSS Photo-of-the-Month host Greg Smith says:

Bernd’s photo of the three swans taking flight from a mist-covered river takes advantage of conditions not commonly found in the wild.  The crisp focus on the birds is in stark contrast to the diffused focus of everything else in the photo, thereby making the birds pop.

Bernd’s use of backlighting enhanced the illumination and detail of the swan’s flight feathers while silhouetting  the head and neck.  An otherwise all white bird now shows detail in sunlit feathers as well as shadowed feathers.

A photograph with three subjects always seems to have a sense of balance that can’t be found with other combinations of individuals.  Although the focal point of the photo are the two swans in the foreground, the third swan in the background softly balances the entire photograph.  And as it should be, the birds are on the left moving to the right and out of the picture.

The crisp focus, perfect exposure and composition combined with the river mist make this an outstanding photograph from a technical and an artistic perspective.

The three Trumpeter Swans were photographed at Monticello, Minnesota where the outside temperature was around -15C (5 F).   The cold temperature is important, as this location is adjacent to a nuclear power plant that discharges cooling water (which is warmer than the ambient water temperature) into the Mississippi River.  With the water temperature being warmer than the air, a light fog or mist  is created which on bright, sunlight days created the effect of swans in the mist.

Featured Photographer for September, 2010 –  Bernd Ruttkowski, Spring Park, Minnesota

I live and work in Minnesota and developed my passion for photography in the early 80’s with a Canon A1. Mainly photographing in black & white, I captured nature and urban themes, developing the photos in my own dark room. Now with the switch-over to digital printers and Photoshop having replaced the darkroom, my portfolio now ranges from nature and urban via people and portraits to stills and architecture.

We are pleased that Bernd was willing to share this “keeper” shot in support of Trumpeter Swans and The Trumpeter Swan Society. Find more his images on his website at


Minnesota’s Suburban Trumpeter Swans

July 25, 2010
Trumpeter Swan Adult with Cygnets by Arnie Frederickson

Trumpeter Swan Adult with Cygnets by Arnie Frederickson

Minnesota is known for its 10,000+ lakes and many more small marshes and bogs with high numbers of nesting Common Loons (greatest number in the Lower 48 States) and Bald Eagles (right behind Alaska and Florida). In more remote parts of Minnesota, most of the wetlands are difficult to access to count waterfowl except by airplane. Later this year, Minnesota will participate in the 2010 Trumpeter Swan population survey.

Last year, it was estimated that about 3,000 Trumpeters live in the state. While Trumpeters occur most often in remote marshes (they prefer quiet marshes over larger lakes with boat traffic), they have also proven to be quite adaptable to humans. Arnie Fredrickson, long-time TTSS member, is a swan volunteer for Three Rivers Park District and has found, along with reports from landowners, a number of nesting territories located right in the middle of suburbia. Plymouth and Maple Grove, Hennepin County, have populations between 60,000 – 70,000 people and host successful nesting pairs of Trumpeter Swans. One of the Maple Grove pairs is raising seven cygnets this year! Two pairs are adjacent to subdivisions and one pair is in a marsh right behind a busy shopping mall. Another pair with six cygnets claimed a territory on a former golf course pond in Anoka County that now has a new housing development surrounding the pond. Another pair with cygnets occupies a small marsh behind a housing development in Medina, Hennepin County. Frequent reports from local residents show how excited the human neighbors are to have swans on territory in their neighborhood. The swans keep their distance, but offer great views of family life for the residents. While we think of Trumpeter Swans as symbols of wilderness, the swans are showing us that some are very adaptable. At least six pairs of swans in the western Minneapolis metro area have broods of six to eight cygnets.

Madeleine Linck works with Hennepin County Parks, and is a long-time staff member of The Trumpeter Swan Society.