Posts Tagged ‘Wildlife Photography’

December 9, 2012
Trumpeter Swan © Nichole Beaulac

Trumpeter Swan © Nichole Beaulac

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

Niki’s close-up of the immature Trumpeter Swan shows how the use of flash provides an increase in depth of field and area in optimum focus.  As with some wildlife, when found in close proximity to people, they become accustomed to close approach and allow for a more intimate photograph.

Depth-of-field (DOF) is the area between nearest and farthest points in the photograph that are acceptably sharp.  Depending on your camera and lens, there is always only one precise focal point at a time.  There is a gradual decrease in sharpness from the focal point as you move towards the front and the back of the photograph, so that within the DOF, the decrease in sharpness is imperceptible in normal viewing.

Niki followed the golden rule in photography, if your subject’s eye is in the photograph, it has to be the focal point and also has to be tack sharp.  Follow the focus both forward and away from the eye and you will see where the sharpness falls away.

In her photograph, Niki chose a composition (she got her camera lower so the only areas behind the swan’s face were well out of the acceptable DOF) which provided a foreground that was mostly in focus.  She could have elevated her lens to get more of the far side of the bird in focus and then cropped out the unfocused foreground, but this a composition question that is always left to the photographer.

We have all visited parks or gone camping and found that wildlife living in those areas, are much more approachable and easier to photograph!  It is a surefire way to get close-ups that might only be otherwise available to those that have some of the bigger, faster lenses.

Featured Photographer for December, 2012 – Nichole Beaulac, State of California and Province of British Columbia

Niki’s  residence is her motorhome where she spends six months of the year in British Columbia and the remainder in Southern California

From Niki:

I have been very interested in nature photography for a few years and now that I am retired I seek out places to go to photograph birds and animals and all other types of creatures but mainly birds. I have photographed birds at the Esquimalt Lagoon a few times. The swans are easy to approach and so beautiful.

See and find out more about Niki’s photographs at  http://www.nicolebeaulac.com

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

The Trumpeter Swan Society October 2012 Photograph of the Month

October 5, 2012

Trumpeter Swan © Mike Martin

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

Mike’s capture of the drops of water falling from the swan’s bill is just the start of all things right in his photo.  Yes, there might be some fortunate aspect like there was no wind, but the depth of field and the clarity of the primary focal points are all about Mike’s capabilities.

The water bokeh is only enhanced with the lack of wind chop on the water.  Imagine if there had been wind: The drops of water would disappear into the background and a messy background would mute the definition of the head and neck.  Mike went out to take photographs on the perfect day and was rewarded.

The pink “lip” (not all Trumpeter Swans have the pink “lip”), the bill, the eye, the neck and those water drops are all in crisp focus.  A high f-stop helps increase the depth-of-field, and again, Mike going out on a sunny day allowed him to utilize a higher f-stop.

Mike’s composition puts the swan’s eye just to the left of center allowing for a lead in from the right.  It also allows the neck to balance and circle the center-line of the canvas pushing the viewer’s perspective to the pink “lip” and then to those incredibly detailed drops of water.

Mike took the time to go out and photograph during the appropriate weather and then used his skills to come up with the best possible photograph.  I am not sure there would be any way to improve this outstanding photograph!

Featured Photographer for October 2012 – Mike Martin, State of Arkansas

From Mike:  “I am a native Arkansan and originally from Wynne, AR but I have lived most of my adult life in Northwest Arkansas.  I am a current resident of Cave Springs, AR.

I graduated with a Bachelors Degree in Criminology from Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, AR.  After graduating from college, I served as a pilot and officer in the U.S. Navy. My present profession spans over 30 years as a Human Resources professional in manufacturing, and I currently serves as the H.R. Director for Preformed Line Products in Rogers, AR.

I have been an avid nature and wildlife photographer for over 25 years.  I particularly enjoy the challenge of capturing birds in-flight and have a passion for birds of prey.  As an avid outdoorsman most of my life, I have coupled my knowledge of the outdoors with photography to capture animals in their natural habitats.

My photos have recently been published by the New York City Parks and Recreation Department, the New York State Parks Department, Cornell University’s Ornithology Department’s award winning website, “All About Birds” and the California Parks Department of Parks and Recreation.

Last year, one of my photos was selected for publication in a book entitled, Capture Arkansas.  The photo was one of only 200 photos selected for publication from over 63,000 submissions for this book that was published in November 2010.  In September 2010, one of my photos won the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s Spotlight contest “People’s Choice” award. This photo was the highest voted photo by the general public from over 10,000 submissions.  And in May of 2011, another one of my photos won the Nature division in a photo contest sponsored by the Mid American Photography Symposium held in Eureka Springs, AR.  This same photo of a great blue heron was also awarded the “Grand Champion” award.”

More of Mike’s photos can be viewed at his website.

http://www.ozarknaturegallery.com

About the Photo:

From Mike:  This image was shot at Magness Lake near Heber Springs, AR.  This small lake has become a migration wintering spot for over 200 trumpeters who make this lake their home from around November to late February each year.  I arrived at the lake in the afternoon on Christmas Day, 2011.  Afternoons are when the swans arrive back at the lake after feeding in the surrounding farm fields during the day.  I love the challenge of capturing birds in flight and these majestic trumpeters are a beautiful sight returning in formation to the lake late in the day.  I happened to catch this mature trumpeter sipping water after a long day feeding in the fields and loved the effect of the water droplet that fell from its beak.

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

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:http://twolfephotos.smugmug.com

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 May 2012 Photograph of the Month

May 11, 2012

Dawn on the Madison: Trumpeter Swan , Cygnus buccinator© by Jeff Wendorff

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

Jeff’s image of the Trumpeter Swan on the Yellowstone’s Madison River shows the importance of positioning yourself to get the optimum chance for a great photograph and the timing to accentuate different colors during that “sweet” light of early morning or late afternoon.  And having led many tours to Yellowstone myself, Jeff’s shot just exemplifies the knowledge of how to get a “natural moment” shot.

I know all of us have been to parks where a wildlife sighting is cause for most everyone to rush to the subject and click away.  And there are times (mating, dominance etc.) where it is appropriate to subtly and safely approach your subject and try to capture the moment.

But in the world of wildlife photography, you usually get your best shots by planning your time in the field (early morning when wildlife is beginning daytime activities or early evening when nocturnal wildlife start to forage) and also knowing the habits of your subject.

Jeff took the time to get into the field at dawn prior to sunrise.  Without having done that, the pink pastel reflection on the water would have been long gone and not even be a possibility for inclusion in the photograph.  We have all seen how rapidly a sky (and its reflected color) can disappear or change.

Most very good wildlife photographers know that it is usually best to let the wildlife come to you.  You will get a more relaxed pose from the subject, and you will see actions that are natural and not necessarily based on the animal’s response to your presence.  For me, this is the number one rule to follow to get the “natural moment” photograph!

Jeff also used a long lens which brought the foreground reflection and water into focus along with the swan.  Notice how the background fades into “nothingness”, thereby not taking away from the focal point of the photograph.

An obvious personal decision of the photographer is always where to put your subject in the photograph?  We have discussed the rule of thirds in the past regarding placement of your subject as Jeff has followed.  But Jeff’s decision on whether to include the reflection or not is a personal one.

If Jeff had decided to crop the reflection out of the photo, there still would be a partial reflection – and that might appear “awkward”.  To make your own decision, hold you hand away from your face and towards Jeff’s picture on the monitor.  Now move you hand up and down to see the different compositions with the reflection, without and partial.  As I did this, it made me very aware that Jeff’s decision to include the complete reflection was the most appealing to my perspective.

Jeff saw the opportunity of the swan moving down river and used his capabilities as a photographer to position himself to capture an outstanding swan photograph with the sky reflecting on the water!

The Life History Moment

A movement that could only be captured in a burst of photographs or a movie would show that Trumpeter Swan heads are not static when they are on the water.  Jeff’s shot shows just one position of the bird he was photographing – extended.

“Trumpeter Swans frequently bob their head and necks up and down (head bobbing). With this motion they also have a variety of vocalizations. This combined activity apparently serves as a form of communication between individuals and within the group. Head bobbing and vocalization activity increase when the birds are disturbed and reaches maximum intensity just prior to the birds taking flight. This behavior may be brief or absent if the birds are suddenly startled and take flight.”

Featured Photographer for May, 2012 – Jeff Wendorff, State of Louisiana

From Jeff:  Nature Photographer, Workshop Leader, Writer

I’ve been a professional photographer for almost 10 years and my focus is on the natural world. I have a particular passion for photographing birds, but am very opportunistic and when a moment presents itself, I try to capture it. That was particularly true with this Trumpeter Swan image.

Jeff’s work has been widely published from books and magazines to cans of cat food in China. He leads photography workshops throughout the year focusing on birds and nature photography. Jeff lives in New Orleans and is finishing his first book, Photographing New Orleans, to be published this fall.

You can read about all of his antics, workshops and photography at http://www.jeffwendorff.com.

About the Photo:

From Jeff:  It was taken in Yellowstone last winter and we were there primarily for the big game in winter. On our way in to the park along the Madison, we came upon a lone swan swimming in the river. We were able to move ahead and pull off of the road and get our gear ready for the swans arrival. It was one of those magical moments, when the subject came in to range and the sunlight cast a perfect pink glow of the dawn on the swan and the Madison River.

We are pleased that Jeff 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

NEW FEATURE ADDED TO PHOTO-OF-THE-MONTHSEE BELOW!!!

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

http://www.mpaulsonphotography.com

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

NEW FEATURE ADDED TO PHOTO-OF-THE-MONTH

SEE BELOW!!!

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:

www.mikelentzphotography.com

www.pbase.com/mike_lentz

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. 

The Trumpeter Swan Society January 2012 Photograph of the Month

January 15, 2012

Trumpeter Swan with Fish by Larry Jernigan

NEW FEATURE ADDED TO PHOTO-OF-THE-MONTH

SEE BELOW!!!

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

Larry’s image of this hatching year Trumpeter Swan with a fish in its bill gives us an opportunity to talk about close-up photography or cropping a photograph to create a close-up appearance.  It also kicks off the theme of our 2012 Photo-of-the-Month selections – The Natural History Moment!

This is a wonderfully crisp shot!   There is plenty of detail in the feathers, the bill and the eye is tack sharp.  To create a photograph with these attributes, you have three primary options as a photographer:  You can be physically close; you can be further away with a longer lens or you can closely crop (like drawing a box around the area you want to feature in your photograph and removing the extraneous material) the photograph after shooting with any size lens.

I see one, possibly two of the elements I mentioned above in Larry’s photograph: A longer lens and potentially some cropping.  One of the benefits of using a longer lens (in this case maybe 100mm – 400mm zoom) is that you usually have a very short depth-of-field (DOF is the area from front to back that is in focus).  We can see the DOF (in focus) drops in the water behind the second swan, which indicates a longer lens.

The potential cropping is indicated is by the position of the bird in the overall photograph (centered).  Cropping is the photographer’s choice and in this photograph Larry has put the subject (the fish in the swan’s bill) he was trying to capture in the appropriate alignment.

And it is the fish that brings us to a new feature in the Photo-of –the-Month:

The Life History Moment (our NEW theme for 2012)

Most swans, but especially the Trumpeter Swan, forage on vegetation that grows on terrestrial habits and underwater in the water column (hence their long necks for getting to vegetation that dabbling ducks and geese can’t reach).  There may be incidences  of where a swan swallows invertebrates of fish trapped in the vegetation, but it is uncommon to find a fish in a swan’s bill as a matter of purpose.  In other words, swans do not normally seek out and pursue fish as a prey item.  This juvenile swan’s behavior, caught in a series of shots by Larry, is quite a capture!  His reflections of the moment:

How it all happened!

On January 20, 2011, while at work as a 4-H Assistant Coordinator for the University of Arkansas, I spent the greater part of the day meeting with fourth and fifth grade classes from Heber Springs Elementary School at Magness Lake. The purpose of the outing was to introduce the young students to the one hundred or more Trumpeter Swans that had arrived from places north of us. As always when visiting the swans, I brought my camera and set it up on a tripod just in case of a chance of a good photo presented itself. The students were listening as I told them various facts about our visitors. As I talked with the students I noticed that one of the juvenile swans had something in its beak and seemed to be “chewing” on it. I took a quick look through my camera and saw that the swan had a fish about four inches long, a shad, in its mouth and was trying to swallow it. It was having trouble because the fish seemed to be too large. This went on for about five or six minutes until it had chewed it enough that the fish could be swallowed. The students not only had the opportunity to see the swans but also something that I have never seen or heard of before. They witnessed a swan eating a fish. In watching these swans over the past twelve years I have never observed anything like this before.

Editor’s note: in the photo below, see how the Trumpeter Swan gets a grip with the lamellae of its bill!

Featured Photographer for January, 2012 – Larry Jernigan, Arkansas

http://www.LarryJernigan.com

About Larry Jernigan:

From Larry:  “ I was born in Tennessee and moved to Arkansas in the 7th grade, received a B.A. Degree in biology at Arkansas College. I did graduate work at the University of Oklahoma where I was fortunate enough to study under the internationally-known ornithologist George M. Sutton. I was drafted into the army before I could finish my Master’s degree. While in the army I did medical photography during the time I was stationed in Japan. When I left the army I taught school for three years before opening a photography studio and running it for ten years. At the age of forty I went back to school and got a Doctor of Chiropractic degree. I came back to my home town, Pine Bluff, Arkansas, where I had a chiropractic practice for twenty years. In 2000 my wife and I decided to build our retirement home in Heber Springs, Arkansas. We moved here in July of 2000 and I commuted back to Pine Bluff until 2005 when I retired from my practice. I began some part time work with the U. of A. as 4-H Assistant Coordinator working with the youth of Cleburne County. I have had an obsession with photography ever since I began taking pictures in undergraduate school 50 years ago.”

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

The Trumpeter Swan Society November 2011 Photograph of the Month

November 12, 2011

Trumpeter Swan 7H2 Family by David Hoffman

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

David’s image of this Trumpeter Swan family (and the cob with an easily identifiable neck collar band) brings up a challenge all photographers face, do you do post-processing and if so, how much?

This is a wonderful shot!   The pool of water holds the family together, as the pen and cob create “bookends” of protection for the cygnets.  The consistency of the green vegetated background just adds to the formation of the “family” setting.  It appears it was an overcast day as there are no hard shadows and that adds to the fine detail in bird’s feathers.

Given the shape and size of pixels (as opposed to film grain), there is one step in post processing that should be considered, and that is a slight sharpening of the focus of the photo.  It is just an intrinsic part of digital photography.  Beyond that, altering the photograph with additional processing is up to the photographer.

One individual might want to remove the grass seed stalk in front of the cygnets so there is no distraction, while another views the stalk with no inherent thought of distraction.  Still another photographer might want to remove the neck collar band to lend a more natural setting to the cob.  All of these can be achieved by using post-processing software (Adobe Photoshop or Elements, ArcSoft Photo Studio, Apple iLife etc.)

But in the end it is the photographer’s decision and for this photograph David said: “I would kind of prefer to have swan 7H2 with collar showing, mainly to encourage people to report marked swans and promote TTSS Trumpeter watch.”

And with every photo there is always the story of the photographer, and as David explains below, he had a very personal involvement with one of the adult birds.  And it is that involvement that gives it a personal touch and a story to share beyond the photograph.

Featured Photographer for October, 2011 – David Hoffman, State of Iowa

David Hoffman is a wildlife research technician with the Iowa DNR.  He has been involved with the Iowa DNR’s Trumpeter Swan Restoration Program since 1995.

David had provided this link to report any Trumpeter Swan sightings in the State of Iowa.  http://www.iowadnr.gov/Education/IowasWildlife/TrumpeterSwanReporting.aspx

About the Photo:

From David: “Trumpeter 7H2 is male hatched at Steve Nelson’s farm pond near Cherokee, IA in June 2004.  His mother died shortly after his hatch.  I cared for 7H2 and his siblings at my house for ~a week in 2004.  Del Huebner of Clinton, IA cared for him till Sept. 2004.  He spent the winter of 2004 at Laurie & Tony Severe’s Pond near Nora Springs, IA. and flew from their pond the following summer.

The female is originally out of THE LIVINGSTON RIPLEY 
WATERFOWL SANCTUARY (Litchfield CT) http://www.lrws.org/ and she was hatched in ~1984.  She nested from 1994-2003 at Von Maur Clothing Corp. office in Davenport.  She also nested at the Lemke Funeral Home pond at Clinton, IA.  She has only hatched successfully ~3 times since 1994, no more than 2-3 cygnets at one time.

This pair is the first wild nesting pair in Winneshiek County Iowa since the late 1880’s!!!  I heard the news that this pair had hatched cygnets. I stopped by to visit with the landowner (Langreck) and answer any questions about the Trumpeters and their care.  I had my camera with, and was able to snap a few quick shots.

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

The Trumpeter Swan Society October 2011 Photograph of the Month

October 10, 2011

Trumpeter Swans at Sunset by Stu Davidson

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

Stu’s image of the two Trumpeter Swans in flight with the sunset-tinged snow on Mt. Baker in the background shows how a very effective use of the camera’s ISO (the international standard measurement of sensitivity at which your camera’s sensor reacts to light when the shutter is open) can enhance the lighting on a photograph.  The position of the swans in the photograph also gives a feel for some of the hardships these birds face in the wild!

As Stu mentions below, the light was fading fast in the last few minutes prior to the sun slipping below the horizon for the day.  We all know this light as the “sweet” light, but there are challenges photographing your subject in these low light situations, especially if you want some detail.

Stu’s knowledge of ISO allowed him to adjust his camera’s sensor to accept more light, thereby creating a more realistic lighting of the birds.  If shot at the “usual” 100 ISO (my standard ISO setting is 200), your camera would probably take the photo at 1/15 second, thereby creating a blurred, or out-of-focus photograph.  Bumping the ISO up to 2000 allowed Stu to increase his camera’s sensitivity to light and have a sharper image.  (One thing to remember about bumping up the ISO, the higher the ISO, the granier the pixels can look on most cameras – more on that in future articles).

Stu was already aware of the lighting on Mt. Baker, which allowed him to concentrate on positioning the swans.  Stu used the darkened ridge in the foreground and the two trees silhouetted in the sky to create a frame for the birds.  The trees and the ridge effectively bring the viewer’s eye right to the swans in front of Mt. Baker!

Even without Stu’s comments about time of year, we know these birds are surviving in a winter (the deciduous trees) scenario that involves lots of snow (Mt. Baker).  This is a harsh environment for sure.

All of this points to Stu’s knowledge of his camera’s mechanical limitations, the potential views of one of his favorite photographic sites, and his own capabilities to create an outstanding photograph on the spur of the moment!

Featured Photographer for October, 2011 – Stu Davidson, State of Washington

Stu Davidson is a lifelong native of the Pacific Northwest and now resides in just outside of Snohomish, Washington.  He is a retired software Engineer of thirty years, is currently pursuing his lifetime passion of photographing nature and wildlife.

You can view more of his wildlife and Trumpeter Swan photography at:  www.StuDavidsonPhotography.com

About the Photo:

From Stu: “Each winter I spend a good deal of time driving north from Snohomish to the Skagit Valley area of our state.  The Skagit Valley, just south of Mount Vernon Washington, is an incredibly pristine area to see and observe large numbers of migratory birds.  The birds that draw me to the area to photograph include: Bald Eagles, Golden Eagles, Hawks, Snow Geese, Canada Geese, Blue Herons, Tundra Swans, and Trumpeter Swans.

This particular shot happened at the end of another great day of photographing wildlife in the Skagit Valley.  Being winter, and getting late in the day, I was losing light quick!  I began packing up my equipment to head home when I noticed the last of the day’s light lit Mount Baker in a nice soft hue, I thought “one last photo” before driving home.  Because of the low light, I adjusted my camera’s ISO to 2000.  As I began to position for a shot of Mount Baker, I caught a glimpse out the side of my eye of some large birds coming into “position”..   I recall feeling that my lucky day was continuing!  A pair of Trumpeters on a landing approach graced my viewfinder!!

Photo facts:

Photo taken: January 1, 2011 @ approximately 4:30pm

Equipment – Nikon D300s – Nikon 200-400 F/4.0 VR zoomed to 400mm

Aperture Priority – f/4.0, ISO – 2000”

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

The Trumpeter Swan Society Photo-of-the-Month February, 2010

February 3, 2010
Trumpeter Swan Pair bJerry Hogeboom

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

Jerry’s photo of the two Trumpeter Swans captures so many of the traits that attract us to these magnificent birds. The graceful curves of the necks and wings, and the position of the two birds seemingly acknowledge the lifelong pair bond. Jerry’s choice not to do any post-processing sharpening of the photo, while inappropriate in some circles, actually adds to the fog-bound lighting and the overall saturation of the photo. If the birds had the usual sharpening, it would have been out of context given the surreal lighting in the photo. The fact that Jerry was able to position himself so that the blue water faded into the blue sky of the background just enhances the ghostly feeling of this outstanding photograph.

Featured Photographer for February, 2010 – Jerry Hogeboom, Minnesota 

Jerry is very active with photography and belongs to three photo clubs near his home in the Twin Cites area of Minnesota. He is a board member of the Twin Cities Area Council of Camera Clubs (TCACCC).  He tells us this about the photo, and his passion for photography.  “What you see in this original RAW format photograph (no post-processing) is what I saw through the viewfinder. It is these types of opportunities that for me seem to melt away the cold and stresses of in life. I love photography and have done everything from underwater to street to nature to weddings and portraits. My favorite though is nature photography. I enjoy getting outdoors for hiking, walking and exploring. To me, it’s very therapeutic, educational and it provides good exercise. I say educational because I typically research the subjects that I shoot. Winter wasn’t my favorite time of year but several years ago I made a decision to embrace the season and have been getting out and enjoying myself even on the coldest of days. This photo was taken on a cold day in February when localized fog was created by the warm water interfacing with the colder air. Seeing and photographing those Trumpeters was amazing.”