good photos from the zoo – part two

good photos from the zoo – part two

Creating Good Animal Photos from a Captive Environment – Part Two

Last zoo post I was sharing some ideas on learning wildlife photography skills while photographing captive animals. See Part One here

great white egret photoI followed this Great White Egret until the reflection was completed from beak to tail. The black and white treatment brings the bird to the highest contrast attention

One of the essential skills is to learn to queue on behavior. This means learning to see when the behavior will change. What will happen when you look at the feathers shaking in a certain way or excrement fall from a bird. These are indicators that signal flight or a change of wing position and either of those can lead to a more interesting photograph.

tiger from the phoenix zoo photoProcessed this image to BW also. Slight sharpening of the tiger using Skylum software as an Adobe Photoshop plug-in. I also softened the foreground and background with a gaussian blur as well as a darkening Curves layer  Significant help for me that increased my ‘keepers’ in photographing images of animals in zoos, parks and in the wild was a lens that has a long reach. The micro 4/3rds Panasonic Lumix system has been an enormous help. Being able to handhold an 800mm equivalent lens makes a huge difference because of the mobility and distance from the animals. The less you disturb your prey and having the ability to still fill the frame is golden.

tree trunk photoDon’t lose sight of other opportunities when photographing wildlife. This split tree trunk was good for an abstract look of colors and tones.

My main camera these days is the Lumix G9. The stabilization system gives an extra six and one-half to seven stops of hand-holdability. This means that hand holding a lens of 800mm equivalent at 1/60th of a second is very possible with sharp results. My favorite lens is a zoom lens – Leica 100-400mm f4.0-6.3


Yours in Creative Photography,    Bob

bosque del apache part 3

bosque del apache part 3

Festival of the Cranes
Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge – Part Three

I enjoy spending time with wildlife.

Watching. Waiting. Learning.

To get the best wildlife images it is important to study the behavior patterns of your prey. Especially in avian photography. Learning when a bird is about to make a move leads to obtaining more than a portrait. Portraits are cool, but my favorite images are highlighting behavior. A mating dance. A flight. A landing. Feeding or grooming all lend more to the captured image in my opinion.

These images are from the Festival of the Cranes in Socorro, New Mexico just a bit south of Albuquerque. I shared pictures from the event, but the previous ones were of Snow Geese. These are the stars of the show, Sandhill Cranes.

Let me know what you think!

sandhill cranes landing bosqueIn for a landing during first light at the first pond – Bosque del Apache NWR

crane in flightSandhill Crane in flight (with a couple of snow geese interlopers in the background)

sandhill cranesIn the warm glow of sunrise here’s the classic capture of three Sandhills with the three wing positions

More Sandhills in the next day or so. For more from the Bosque NWR see these posts with the Snow Geese.

Bosque Part One

Bosque Part Two

The previous posts have the information on the camera gear and links to find it.

Yours in Creative Photography,     Bob


bosque del apache part 2

bosque del apache part 2

Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge
Snow Geese Part Two

With twenty-thousand plus snow geese winging their way around the Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge it was a fantastic couple of days of sights and sounds. Sometimes it was quite overwhelming. On several occasions I had to put the cameras down to just experience nature in its pure form.

I’ve found there is a layer of distance that appears much larger than the six to eight physical inches when I put my face behind a camera — a certain detachment. This distance enables other photographers and me to do things like cover disasters, wars or record infant demises through organizations such as **Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep. This is an important feature, but it can occasionally interfere with the enjoyment of the moment that is unfolding in front of us.

More Snow Geese photos to share…

sandhill crane over snow geese photoA solitary Sandhill Crane glides in over a pond of snow geese

snow geese in flightSnow geese in flight

snow geese take flight imageTake off!

Kinda reminds me of that famous movie from Alfred Hitchcock!

To make successful wildlife photographs, I would suggest that you spend a fair amount of time studying their behavior long before you pick up your camera to try and capture images. I’m a big fan of bird behavior vs. a straight portrait, although portraits have their place. Being able to predict when a bird will fly, open its wings or display for another will make your photographs come to life. Having a lens with a long reach works to help you fill the frame without disturbing the natural behavior. See my gear below which gives me an 800mm equivalent which is handholdable for capture.

Images were made with Panasonic cameras. Most often the LUMIX G Leica DG Vario-Elmar Professional Lens, 100-400MM, F4.0-6.3 ASPH mounted on the Lumix G9 and the Lumix GH5 for a second body. I had the chance to try out the Leica DG Vario-Elamarit 50-200mm 2.8-40 lens I am working toward getting this lens.

Next up the Sandhill Cranes!!

Yours in Creative Photography,     Bob

** If you want to give back to your community think about photographing for NILMDTS. It is a very rewarding, if difficult mission.




bosque del apache national wildlife refuge

bosque del apache national wildlife refuge

Festival of the Cranes
Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge

White Snow Geese must have gotten the invitation too.

I was in Socorro, New Mexico at the Festival of the Cranes hanging with the massive flocks of birds and a mass of photographers. Gotta tell you I felt like the Snow Goose whisperer during my workshop. The 10,000-plus Snow geese seemed to be following me around the refuge. Seeing them move as a group and fly mass ascensions from place to place was magical! Here are a few photos to help visually tell the story.

snow goose in flightIf you look closely, you can see the water droplets on the goose’s body

sandhill crane landing over snow geeseA sandhill crane works to land over a pile of snow geese. The guides at the Festival of the Cranes consider the geese interlopers. (And there were about 20,000 plus!)

snow geese in flightA pair of snow geese in flight

This trip is my second time at the Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Preserve, and I certainly hope it won’t be my last. It is a well-managed area with wildlife throughout the year. Each year the cranes and geese return on their annual migration just before Thanksgiving. It is a sight to behold when 20,000 geese take to the air. I’ll share some photos of that spectacle in a day or so. To tell the truth, I stopped making images for a  while to experience the display of so many birds in flight, or as my friend, Skip Cohen says, “Take ‘Neurochromes’ and burn the images into your brain.”

Images were made with Panasonic cameras. Most often the LUMIX G Leica DG Vario-Elmar Professional Lens, 100-400MM, F4.0-6.3 ASPH mounted on the Lumix G9 and the Lumix GH5 for a second body. I had the chance to try out the Leica DG Vario-Elamarit 50-200mm 2.8-40 lens I am now lusting after this… A sweet piece of glass!

Have a happy Thanksgiving!

Yours in Creative Photography,    Bob



bombay hook national wildlife refuge

bombay hook national wildlife refuge

Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge – Smyrna, Delaware

I’ve been a bit remiss in posting. Travel for speaking. Travel for family visit. And catching up upon return fronfrom the travel makes Bob a bad boy. But, I’m back and with plans to have more posts even when traveling to judge images &speak in Oregon and do a seminar and a couple workshops for the Festival of the Cranes in Socorro, New Mexico in the middle of November. We’ll see how that works out!

pipers imageDunlin Sandpipers enjoying breakfast

While on the family visit I made it up to the Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge. I spent the day making images and talking photography with my friend Ned Levi. This was the first time we met in person. I highly recommend spending quality time with your peers. It’s wonderful how much you can learn from each other. (learn more about Ned and his blog)

canada geese in loose formationonThought this was an interesting formation of the Canada Geese. I normally enjoy them mor eisolatedbut the overlap of the birds is kida cool. Watcha’ think??

If you have not spent time in wildlife refuges there are some protocols that make the system work for everyone. If you do go please follow the rules and regs. use the longest lens you have and do your best to not disturb the wildlife. There’s an expression, “Take only images, leave only footprints.” Not sure I have the exact words but you understand the sentiment.

This is from the Refuge website and the rules are much the same in all refuges.

Know Before You Go

  • The wildlife drive is open from 1/2 hour before sunrise to 1/2 hour after sunset daily.
  • The visitor center is open weekdays from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. year round.
  • During spring and fall weekends, the visitor center is open Saturday and Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
  • The visitor center is handicapped accessible and has educational displays and videos.
  • The visitor center is closed on Federal Holidays.
  • The visitor center is closed on weekends during July, August, mid-December, January, and February.
  • Check the website or call to find out about refuge road closures during bad weather and hunting season. During summer months, visitor should bring insect repellent and wear long-sleeve shirts and long pants.
  • To protect wildlife and their habitat and to provide the best opportunities in wildlife observation and photography, it is important not to disturb, injure, or damage plants and animals on the refuge. In fact, it is a prohibited act as stated in 50 CFR 27.51. This disturbance includes flushing birds and other wildlife or using mechanical or electronic devices to lure birds closer for observation or photography. Please remember to take only memories and photographs and leave only footprints.
  • Unmanned aircraft systems (Drones) are prohibited.

House wrenA simple houe wren was dancing in and out of the flowering bush. Behavior and movement photos are my aim.

Images were made with the PANASONIC LUMIX G Leica DG Vario-Elmar Professional Lens, 100-400MM, F4.0-6.3 ASPH mounted on the Lumix G9.

Yours in Creative Photography,       bob

long lens photography

long lens photography

Long Lens Photography – 100-400mm

I enjoy my long lens for outdoor photography. It’s a beautiful piece of equipment for isolating subjects against a background with nice bokeh. The longer the lens, the easier it is to have an out-of-focus background. The PANASONIC LUMIX G Leica DG Vario-Elmar Professional Lens, 100-400MM, F4.0-6.3 ASPH is a magical lens IMHO.

Here are some images from a walkabout at the Sedona Wetlands. I didn’t find many waterfowl as it was midday and possibly the wrong time of year. In any case, I always try to make the best of any photography situation and started looking for details. There are still some wildflowers scattered throughout. This attracts butterflies, birds, and bees.

bird with seed photoAdult female Lesser Goldfinch snacking on some wildflowers that have gone to seed

lesser goldfinch feeding photoI always look to capture ‘behavior’ photos as well as straight portraits of my feathered friends. Here the Lesser Goldfinch is working to get the seeds free from the plant.

butterfly image in flowersButterfly caught with shallow depth of field between the plants.

The butterfly photo was my favorite photo of the day. If you’ve chased butterflies in the wild, you know how difficult it can be to get an interesting image. I tracked this one for a while and looked to ‘sandwich’ the butterfly with DOF. I wanted a sharp subject surrounded by the in and out of focus flowers. This was made more difficult as there were not a ton of flowers in bloom and the wind was making the flowers dance as well. Now that I see the image here I’ll crop in a little tighter and loose the past prime flowers on the right-hand side of the photo.

bee in flower imageWasps one of our other pollinators were flitting between the blooms as well as the butterflies.

I choose this one to share as it has a different color with black and white stripes.

Back to the lens. One complaint I hear about the lens is that it is very stiff to zoom. It was designed that way not to suffer ‘lens creep’ when you hang it from your shoulder. I’ve found a perfect way to change the zoom. Instead of trying to turn the lens, hold the lens and turn the camera. It’s like opening a bottle of champagne where you hold the cork and twist the bottle. Makes it easy and you don’t end up with the lens creep!

When paired with the Lumix G9 you get 6 and a half stops of handholdability. All images were handheld in this post.

Yours in Creative Photography,    Bob