I took one of my spring trips down to Shiloh National Military Park a couple of weeks ago to see the new eagle chicks. There are two eaglets this year. I did not see them, but their mother sat on this limb for a long time protecting her nest and her young. Witnessing amazing animals like bald eagles in the wild make spending time in nature worth every minute.
Here is a video I shot last weekend of a huge wave of Canadian Geese taking off from one of the marshes at Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge in Missouri. I had my camcorder set up while I was snapping pictures when all of the sudden all of the geese took off in a wave. This is one of the most fascinating experiences I have ever had doing wildlife photography.
Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge sits in northwest Missouri and is known for it’s large concentration of Bald Eagles during the winter and spring. It is also known for the large number of waterfowl that migrate through the area before and after winter. Here is a close up of a large group of thousands of Canadian geese that took off at the same time on a recent trip to the refuge.
Sunset and sunrise are a great time to get out and photograph. In Kansas the wide open spaces allow a photographer to see for miles. Even when I am not planning on spending much time in the field I do try to get out to find the a good spot in the mornings and evenings when I am home. The flat land and vast spaces can create some amazing colors.
In this shot I was set up trying to capture the vibrant colors of the sunset with the land and fences silhouetted in the scene. As I was shooting this bird landed on a fencepost within my eyesight. I got it focused in my camera and started shooting as the sun went down. The bird silhouetted in the orange clear sky made for a striking image in what I thought would be an uneventful night.
When traveling it is easy to get caught up by the large things that are easy to see, but try to look for the less noticeable parts to life. The large elements are easy to spot and thus easy to photograph. There is always something beyond what we can easily spot. Whenever I need a wake up call to remind me of that this picture is what I go to.
While I was in Samburu National Reserve in Kenya it was easy to spot the elephants roaming the landscape, but the birds that roamed with them were not always easy to spot. Thus, they never seemed that interesting to photograph. However, I always try to practice what I preach and look beyond the usual. That is when this small cattle egret stood out to me walking around with it’s much larger partner.
We had stopped to watch a herd of elephants tear apart a small tree I noticed an elephant walking by itself on the other side of the jeep. I pointed my camera toward the elephant as it came closer. As it came out of the tall grass I noticed the egret walking in and out from under the elephant’s feet picking up bugs, the egrets live with the elephants and will pick bugs up to eat in the elephant’s wake. Neither seemed concerned with all of the commotion around them. They just went about their business. I got down on the floor of the jeep for a better view and took several shots of the two, but didn’t think anything would come out of my work. However, when I got back to the US and started looking through and sharing my work people were amazed by this picture.
It took me a while to see it, but it is easy to get caught up in how two animals of such different sizes can be so important to one another. The others with me asked where I saw this and when I told them they said they noticed the elephant, but didn’t pay any attention to it. I did and as luck would have it one of my most memorable photographs from Kenya came from watching two animals that were doing what they do naturally. Watch for the small, less noticed things and sometimes they can make the best pictures.
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Over the last several weeks I have been taking short trips to Squaw Creek Wildlife Refuge in northwest Missouri to try to photograph bald eagles that are migrating south following the other bird migrations. It reminds me of my first experience trying to photograph the birds in the wild. I have spent many long hours in the field trying to photograph different species of animals, but I must say that photographing bald eagles has taught me more about patience than any other animal I have photographed.
During the school year I spend most of my time in western Tennessee. Often on weekends I will drive down to Shiloh National Military Park to walk the battlefield and photograph. Last spring I learned about a nesting pair of eagles that call the park home during the spring. My first day to make my attempt I arrived at the park just as the sun was beginning to rise. I drove the park and then found the nest where I made myself comfortable for the next 8 hours or so. After spending the day attempting to capture the birds I did not come home with anything that I felt was worthwhile.
The following week I headed back out to make another attempt. It was my last weekend in Tennessee before I had to head back to Kansas for the summer. I arrived early in the morning and prepared myself for a long day in the field. I photographed as the birds came back and forth from the nest feeding the eaglet. After spending the day in the field I decided to pack up in the late afternoon. I was unsure if I had anything worthwhile, but I knew there was a god chance I had something. When I got home I discovered this photograph of the female coming into the nest with a trout from the Tennessee River.
I must admit that there is something that comes over you when you are close to these majestic birds. I have been extremely lucky to photograph some pretty amazing wildlife, but bald eagles are special. There is something about the thrill that comes over me when I am close to these birds. Shots like this make the long hours in the field worth every minute. These experiences also are what make me go back for more. The main lesson I learn from these birds is to be patient and tenacious. Keep shooting and keep exploring!