Monday, January 6, 2014

Right at Home

-11 Fahrenheit and Plunging                   5 January 2014

Snowy Owl

A nationally famous Snowy Owl invasion year is upon us, and, with owls in good condition, this one isn't likely due to dwindling food supplies.  Perhaps it is a strong recruitment year in the owl populations of the eastern North American Arctic.  These images of one Arctic visitor were taken at Crex Meadows State Wildlife Area in Burnett County, Wisconsin.

The owl was spending some time along Dike 4 and 5 Flowage, right along the Main Dike Road.   I kept my distance and observed the owl from the gravel road for nearly forty-five minutes before the owl, as if hearing a distant call, focused intently on the southern horizon and finally lifted off toward the unbroken ice of Phantom Lake.  The owl's flight was as lovely as unusual.  There is no other bird on Earth that flies like a Snowy Owl, with giant wings bent at the wrist but held rigidly, then, defying all rigidity, dipping into a deep bow before springing back to the top.  It is almost as if a gull and an owl had shared flight engineering tips and swapped parts before the Winter migration...

Both images were made using a refurbished Canon 7D and 300mm f4L IS lens.  I used a Gitzo tripod and Canon electronic cable release.  No vehicles came down that wintery gravel road for the entire forty-five minutes I observed the owl (Yes, it is wild up here!)  To combat the strong North winds, I slung my camera strap over the top of my lens so that it wouldn't kite my camera into subtle shaking.  With wind-blown tears freezing in the corners of my eyes and some loss of physical control in my hands due to the cold, it was very hard to achieve critical focus.  While the tree made for a busy picture, I was very happy with the position of the crescent moon, barely visible in the image.  This was as good as it got for me!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Through a Different Lens

Trumpeter Swans in Wide Angle                       30 December 2013

A quick look at Trumpeter Swans from a new view, these images were made at 5 degrees below zero Fahrenheit and photographed using a GoPro Hero 3+ Silver. Open water remains where there is enough current, and these swans tend to overwinter here, though they do a mysterious disappearing act for a couple of weeks each year.   This day was spectacular in its beauty and its cold, but it also was a day where I learned to see things differently.  

Fancy Hats

A Gallery of Winter Birds       26 December 2013

Blue Jay

Winter brings a certain monochromatic lull to Wisconsin.  From a distance, the land is white with scattered shades of gray and black.  Even the balsam fir, bur oak, and sugar maple give the impression of blackness against the subtle tones of white snow.  Look more carefully, and you begin to see the deep greens of the evergreens, the scattered yellowing of lichens upon black ash, and the peachy orange of the paper birch.   Look even closer, and you find the deep red of the birches’ newest growth and the optimism of an aspen or a willow in the greenish yellow photosynthesis of young bark.  And then…there are the birds!

Red-bellied Woodpecker and a rare look at the red belly!

 American Tree Sparrow

 Downy Woodpecker

 American Tree Sparrow

 Tufted Titmouse

Northern Cardinals, Blue Jay and Red-bellied Woodpecker...winter color

Wisconsin’s winter birds are surprisingly colorful.  In the truth of their versatility, it could be said that each bird, each durable survivor of winter, must “wear many hats” in its ecosystem.  Equally, in art, each species of Wisconsin winter bird seems to be wearing a decorative hat!  Enjoy this gallery of fancy hats, the perked up, personality inducing, colorful and bold caps that adorn our most resilient permanent residents.

Blue Jay

White-breasted Nuthatch

Tufted Titmouse

Northern Cardinal

Oregon Dark-eyed Junco

Blue Jay and Downy Woodpecker

Mourning Dove and Winter

All of these images were made with a refurbished Canon 7D and Canon 300mm f4L IS lens.  These images were handheld, and the prior evening’s carbohydrate loading on chocolate and cookies provided the stability of arms against shivering cold. Peace on Earth!