This goes with my last photograph and video. This was taken at Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge as thousands of geese took off at the same time. This picture was taken early as the huge wave began to lift from the water.
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.
Early March on the south rim of Grand Canyon National Park was cold and brought the unexpected surprise of snow. Most of us think of the Grand Canyon as a high desert and are surprised to see pictures of the canyon in snow. Although the cold and snow was not something I was thrilled about I took full advantage of the opportunity. Here the canyon stretches for miles disappearing into the fog.
In order to capture the vastness of the Grand Canyon I took a seat on a rock in order to get lower to the ground and stabilize myself. By placing myself lower and getting the trees and bushes in the picture it gives the viewer a new perspective. I don’t usually use people so I use pieces of nature to give a perception of size. The snow also allows the viewer to feel the coolness of the moment. Shooting from different angles in the same places can create uniquely different photos. So give it a try.
Take a Hike: Grand Canyon National Park VIDEO
Here is something new that I have started. After having several people ask me to start documenting some of my stories and sharing my adventures I started a YouTube series called Take a Hike. This is the newest episode based around my trip to the Grand Canyon. Take a look at my other episodes.
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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One of the most best moments I have had in my short time as a professional photographer was when I was given the opportunity to take a ten day photography safari in Kenya. Early on I felt as though I had to photograph everything that I came across that I was not taking time to savor the experience. I knew I was there to work, but I came to the realization that I had to enjoy my time there because I might not get the opportunity to go back.
Part of learning to take the time to enjoy the moment is that as you continue to shoot in the same place or the same event you become more selective. That is not to say that you shouldn’t always have your camera at the ready. You should. You should also be willing to take in the moment. As a speaker and photographer having the ability to explain the feeling in the moment can sell a photograph or make your audience passionate about what you are as well.
When I am asked what the most memorable moment thus far in my career has been I will without a doubt tell someone it was standing a few feet away from two white rhinos. I knew going to Kenya I would see lions, elephants, and gazelle. I knew there were animals I would be lucky to see, but I was not at all sure that I would see a rhino. On the last day in the field I was told I would get to see a rhino. However, after several hours travelling, sitting on a roadside, and two jeeps I was adamant the experience was not meant to be, but with only an hour before sunset I visited the one animal I had every hope of seeing, but little expectation to find.
As I move further into my second life as a wildlife photographer and speaker I cannot help but get emotionally involved with the animals I come into contact with. I always do research before I travel and recommend it to anyone. I have become increasingly involved in supporting and watching what is happening with rhino conservation. As the numbers in Kenya dwindle I knew I was going to be lucky. I also knew to see one would be extremely special.
That evening when we came across the male and female that were under special protection outside of the Masai Mara Reserve I knew I was lucky. As the ranger brought us to the animals and the rhinos came into the clearing I started shooting. I got the shots and always had the camera at the ready. At some point I remember kneeling down to take some ground level shots and lowering my camera to savor the moment. I could not help but think about how lucky I was. I was close to an animal that future generations may never have the opportunity to see in the wild.
I can still visualize the moment in my head. That is something that I can still recall whenever I talk to someone about my favorite experience. I remember that whenever I get so caught up in getting the shot and forget to take in the moment. As a photographer always make sure you get the shot. Don’t forget to feel and savor the moment. Often the story behind the picture is more special than the picture itself.
Keep s\Shooting and Keep Exploring!
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!