It was an awesome day weather-wise today, Dec. 5, at the Ridgefield NWR. There were some clouds hanging around but also plenty of clearing to allow some light to shine through. The beautiful light was filtered by a thin layer of clouds for much of the day, reducing some of the harsh shadows while still supplying that commodity all photographers love–light! I didn’t make my usual sun up arrival but instead showed up at around 10 a.m.
This particular photo shoot is my first time out with my replacement Canon 5D Mark III camera body. My initial copy of the camera was defective and was randomly corrupting about 1% of the RAW files it was writing to my memory cards. It took me 30 days to discover the problem and adequately test all the different scenarios required to narrow down the problem to the camera. Once I had confirmed this, I got on the phone with Amazon.com (where I purchased it) and told them about the issue. Even though their system had closed the window on returns for the camera (just hours past the 30 day mark), the camera concierge on the line had initiated a replacement order within about 3 minutes. He also scheduled UPS to come to my house and pick up the ‘old’ camera and ship it back free of charge for me. I can tell you I was so relieved! I was getting a new replacement body in just two days! So at this moment, Amazon is at the top of my list for exceptional customer service. The way they handled my situation could not have been better.
This is my first outing with this particular camera body and I can report that after shooting 800 shots or so, I have had no issues with the camera writing corrupt files. I’m very happy about that. It’s sure fun getting new gear!
On the lens front, I also decided to rent a Canon 24-105mm f4L over the weekend to see how I’d like it. I currently had a 17-40 f4L lens and wanted more reach in a zoom for my non-wildlife shooting. So I put the 17-40 up for sale on Ebay and ended up really liking the 24-105. Even though the 17-40 is wider than the 24-105, I am used to it being a 27mm lens on my cropped sensor 7D (1.6 x 17mm = 27mm). So, the 24mm lens on my full frame camera will give me a real 24mm, which turns out to be even wider than I’m used to with the 7D. At this point in time I am not that interested in shooting wide landscapes and the 24-105 should be adequate for any landscapes I do take. So, I headed down to Pro Photo Supply in Portland to return the rental lens and also picked up the new Canon 24-105mm f4L zoom lens. Because I bought the same lens I rented, they applied my rental fee toward the purchase. Wow! A new camera and lens all in the same week! Did I mention getting new photo gear is fun? 🙂
Now, obviously the new lens isn’t going to be used much for wildlife but I did take the lens with me on today’s shoot so I could get some shots of the refuge to help my readers visualize where I shoot 98% of my photos. The landscape photos I post today are meant to give my out of town, state, and country visitors a visual of the habitats I drive through to get my shots. I have no experience shooting landscapes and these shots leave a lot to be desired technically. But my goal is to give my blog readers a visual of my home base for shooting–and that is the only goal!
For folks who are new to my blog, the Ridgefield NWR River ‘S’ Unit has a 4-mile gravel auto tour road that winds through a bunch of different habitats. I shoot almost all of my pictures from inside my truck utilizing bean bags to steady the camera for many of my shots. If you are interested, I have written and posted a series of articles on Bird Photography (from my perspective) and I talk about the equipment I use to get my pictures and talk about techniques I have learned over the years. The first seven articles talk about equipment. Here’s a link direct to Article #1 if you are so inclined. Keep in mind the series of articles is geared more toward beginning to intermediate photographers who want to learn about my experiences in bird photography and maybe get an idea of what they can expect as they acquire better equipment and put more time into the hobby.
I do want to mention one other thing before I get to this week’s photos. It’s exciting news for me and I think anyone in my shoes would want to share it with other bird photographers and bird enthusiasts. In a nutshell, I’ve been published! I have 3 shots in a book titled, “Capture Clark County and Southwest Washington,” published by Pediment Books. The way it happened was another photographer at Ridgefield introduced me to a website that was gathering photos from local photographers in and around Clark County, Washington (where Ridgefield is located). The website is captureclarkcounty.com and when I joined in January 2012, I began uploading my best work to the site. There were many other local photographers signed up and posting photos in all sorts of genres. Members of the site were asked to vote and comment on their favorite shots for the next 8 months. This formed the basis for a lot of the pictures that were to be selected in August 2012 for publishing in this hard cover book, which would sell for about $40. So by August, all the members of the site were excited to learn which photographers had pictures selected for the book. I was happy that I was one of 160 photographers that had at least one shot in the book. We then had to wait until late November, when the book was finally released, to discover which of our photos were actually included. I was stoked to find out that they chose three of my shots for the wildlife section of the book.
There were 28,999 photo submissions, 921,459 votes, 112,700 loves and 78,435 comments by the time the editors chose the shots. About 200 photos were chosen for the book so as you can imagine I am quite pleased that 3 of mine were included. Here are links to the three pictures:
Okay, now to the shots of the day.
Red-tailed Hawks are so abundant this time of year at the refuge! Here is one up on a perch checking me out. (10:23 a.m.)
[For a much larger view, please click once on the images].
This nearly mature Bald Eagle is perched atop a snag that is about 80 feet high and a hundred feet from the road. It’s a distance that I wouldn’t normally expect to get a quality shot from with my 400mm lens. But the lighting on this perch in the morning is excellent and that seems to be the key factor in getting a usable shot here. I’ve taken many other eagle shots on this perch as well. (10:29)
A Northern Harrier hen flies by. (11:07)
And a Song Sparrow on teasel. (11:11)
This is one of the signs the refuge personnel put up from October through April, to remind visitors to stay in their vehicles. The bird with the binoculars has got his sights on a Red-tailed Hawk. (11:15)
Here’s a Black-capped Chickadee. (11:51)
And at the south end of Rest Lake I spot this lone Ruddy Duck with the handsome blue bill. (12:00 p.m.)
Here is a short video of the Ruddy Duck preening. Near the end, two Coots come paddling by.
Speaking of ducks, this male Hooded Merganser was paddling away from me as I took this shot. These ducks are typically quite skittish. (12:45)
The graceful flight of the Great Egret can be seen all over the refuge this time of year. (1:21)
Not one of my better flight shots (not the best focus) but this bird has the appearance of a Harlan’s Hawk even though I believe it is a dark morph Red-tailed Hawk. (1:22)
Anytime I can get relatively close to an American Kestrel, it’s a good day. This female allowed me to approach closer than normal. This bird is the smallest falcon found in America. (1:27)
This Northern Harrier is flying higher than normal, when I see them hunting the fields. (2:35)
Here a Pied-billed Grebe seems to be reflecting on life at the refuge. (2:37)
At this point in the day, I put my new 24-105mm lens on my camera and took some shots of the refuge itself at various points along the auto tour loop. My hope is to give readers who can’t come here a visual of this awesome refuge for wildlife. (2:42 – 3:49)
A quintet of Tundra Geese coming in for a landing at Rest Lake. (3:58)
This is a video of a Great Egret’s hunting behavior.
These next two shots are of the “three tree” area I speak of often on this blog. In the 2nd shot you can see the cars on the gravel road in the background. The road winds between the single tree on the left and the two trees on the right. Many harrier and raptor shots are taken here. (4:05)
This next shot of a Red-tailed Hawk was not as sharp as I would have liked. But I liked the wing spread and the lighting on this one. Would loved to have included this one in the gallery but I didn’t nail it. (4:11)
And I’ll finish up with some shots from the main parking area at the refuge. Please excuse the fact that I blew the sky out of these shots! Try to imagine them with less bright sun! I did warn you earlier that I am not a landscape photographer, didn’t I? 🙂 (4:18)
Next week I will discuss a new GPS logging app that I tried out on my phone. In conjunction with Lightroom 4, I’m able to “geotag” each of my photos with GPS coordinates plus city and state locations–automatically. I’ll explain how it all works next time. Thanks for stopping by The Blog and take care!