Archive for March, 2011

Here is my final installment of images from my quick one day trip to the Rock Mountain Front to catch the waterfowl migration.   As in the past the show in the late afternoon and evening was incredible.  Wave after wave of snow geese flew over me on their way to the nearby fields to store up extra energy for the long trip to the prairies of Alberta.   I hope you enjoy.

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The images in the previous blog post were taken from the morning.  The morning count was around 30,000 snow geese in the area.  By the evening the count had risen to 100,000 as wave after wave of flocks arrived from their Southern Oregon waypoint.   These next set of images reflect the mid-afternoon shooting as new geese arrived.  Also, I like to explore backroads during mid-day and my two landscape shots came from just such an exploration.   I love the lonely vastness of the Front Range when looking towards the East and I attempted to capture it with these two shots.

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Last week I took a long one day trip over the Continental Divide to photograph the Spring snow goose and tundra swan migration along the Rocky Mountain Front of Montana.  Put simply, it was spectacular.  Not only did I catch perfect weather (starting mid-morning), but the migration was in full swing as wave after wave of snow geese flocks came over the Rockies from southern Oregon all day long.   This post of photos will be the first in a series over the next couple of days.

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I’ve had the great pleasure of photographing a Great Gray Owl (Strix nebulosa) the last week.  He took up residence in a light residential area on the outskirts of Missoula a month ago and since then has been very visible.  After photographing him the last seven straight days I could not find him today, but hopefully he had a good night’s hunt and roosted for the day.  Below are a few photographs from the fantastic week.

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I sell cameras to make a living while I build my photography business.  Since I live in Montana, where the natural world can be literally right outside the door, my customers are buying cameras often times to document the abundant and diverse wildlife they encounter on an everyday basis.  For these customers I usually recommend buying the longer zoom point & shoot cameras.  It’s the smart and practical buy –  you don’t want to be holding a 4x zoom point & shoot when a grizzly is 100 yards away.  However, there is a bit of a mental trap with these cameras because there is a tendency to zoom to the maximum range for wildlife in attempt to fill the frame.   As we will see, while a frame filling portrait can make an interesting and compelling image it shouldn’t be done exclusively.

Take for instance this first image.  I think it is a compelling image because it is a view we don’t often see.  Especially considering that the bird is uncommonly seen.  However, can we even identify the species from this image?  I’m not sure I could even with a bird identification guide.   Likewise, we have almost no sense of place with this image and we could only roughly guess the season based on the dead foliage.  An interesting image that doesn’t tell the complete story.

This next image tells us much more.  We can now identify the bird (a white-tailed ptarmigan – Lagopus leucurus) and we know more about the season (late Fall or perhaps Winter).  And just by looking at the image we start to know the animal.  The white of its feathers and the leaf-like markings show how the ptarmigan blends in with the environment.   If we were far away we may never notice him.  By not filling the frame I was able to tell more about the subject as I incorporated more of its life in the image.

My final image of five white-tailed ptarmigans (Yes, there are five.  Can you find them?) was taken without zooming at all.  In fact, it was taken with a slightly wider focal length than your typical point & shoot has.   Yet, I believe it is the strongest of the three images because it tells the complete story.   You can identify the subject with this image.  You know its habitat – mountainous – and you should be able to deduct that the season is sometime in Autumn as the foliage is dead and the snow levels are low.   And if you’ve ever been to Glacier National Park you probably could identify exactly where the photograph was taken.   The best images tell stories, in my opinion, and I think this image falls into that rare category.

Nevertheless, while I think the last image could stand by itself I think all three become stronger when grouped together, telling the complete story.  A diversity of perspectives expands the story for the viewer and I think telling stories is what ultimately compels people to take pictures.

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