Lens Artists Challenge #225: Wildlife Close to Home

Stop. Look. Listen. Doing those three things will help you discover the abundance of wildlife you have nearby. You have wildlife in your yard, nearby park, local pond or lake and just about anywhere around you. We often overlook opportunities to photograph these animals because we are so used to having them around us.

We live in a community with beautiful green belts, old oak trees, a creek and the wildlife that enjoys it. I walk my dog, Gem, every morning. He and I are used to seeing a variety of animals each morning. Sometimes we even catch the nocturnal skunks if we’re out early like at daybreak during the summer. I’ve picked him up three times when I’ve seen coyotes. Twice, I’ve seen deer looking around for something to munch on.

Beyond my complex, I’m fortunate to live near parks and nature centers where wildlife abounds.

Let’s start with the pond we have in the middle of our senior complex. It has fish for catch and release, turtles and the usual geese and ducks.

Oh, we must give special attention to our wild turkeys that seem to take over the place only to be daunted by the coyotes. I’ve only seen coyotes while walking my dog and I’m without a camera. You’ll note that the last group of turkeys is not that sharp. That’s because it was taken with my cell phone, which doesn’t have a great camera. I just wanted you to see how they congregate. These turkeys are protected so there’s no thinking of enjoying a Thanksgiving feast with them on the platter.

Moving a little beyond my community, about 15 minutes away (I gage in time not miles!), is Effie Yeaw Nature Center. It’s right on the banks on the American River. It’s nature at its wildest. I’ve been there and seen deer carcasses that have been ravaged by vultures and other animals. On the brighter side, most of the time the deer know that humans are not their predators.

About the same distance, but in a different direction is the Gibson Ranch County Park. It has stables and a pond. On a recent visit, a family was feeding the squirrels. This one was a cutie. And I found a goose that was not a Canada goose.

Further down the interstate, about a total of 30 minutes away, is the Vic Fasio Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area. We find mostly birds when we go around the dirt route, and in this drought, they are even a rare sighting. Here are a great egret and blue heron I photographed during our last visit.

From squirrels to birds, wildlife is around us. What non-domestic animals live in your neighborhood or nearby? Do you have feeders to attract wild birds? Look through your archives or take a nature walk with your camera. Maybe some of those flowers have bees looking for nectar with which to make honey? Lizards, praying mantis or spiders may be lurking around the rocks. Oh, how about butterflies? Let us see your wildlife. Remember to link to this post and use the Lens-Artist tag.

I had fun and learned some new things while responding to Sophia’s Exposure challenge. I hope you did too. Next week I’m pleased to tell you that our guest host is Jude of Cornwall in Colors. Look for her challenge.

If you would like to participate weekly in our Lens-Artists Challenge, click here for more info. 

Another early morning outing: Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area

I was out lensed as usual. Laura and I went for a tour around the Yolo
Bypass Wildlife Area before it got too hot for us and the birds. Laura is a
great nature photographer and uses a zoom that extends to 600 mm lens. I use my
trusty 300 mm lens. You can understand what I mean by out lensed! But, we have
great fun and lots of laughs. I’m happy when a bird is spotted close enough for
me to get a good picture.

This big bird did get close enough; almost too close. We couldn’t figure out what he was doing since he wasn’t spraying crops. I just kept thinking of Sesame Street’s Big Bird. That’s what happens when you’ve raised kids!

This Great Blue Heron was just about close enough for me. He was still and watching his prey.

The Great Egret is easy to spot!

The Mourning Dove was posing for us.

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Here are some non-wildlife images I was able to capture.

Lens-Artists Challenge #213: Here comes the sun

The sun, it rises and sets every day. We take that for granted, especially photographers. We get up early for the sunrise and go to bed late because we’ve been out capturing the sun set. This week Amy wants us to post our sun images no matter what time of day.

I’ve chosen to begin with a sunrise I captured in Yosemite from first light to almost full sun. I was with my photo buddy Laura and was 6 years younger. We were standing on Swinging Bridge and photographing Yosemite Falls. I don’t know if I’d face that cold again!

During the day, we can use the sun to our advantage. Sunflowers always face the sun to the sun.

This next flower has the sun at its side.

This duck has the sun at its back.

Now for sunset. Years ago I was out with Karen and Marlene and when the sun started setting we looked for a good place to capture the moment. Before we found the pond, we came across this piece of motorized machinery as the sun began its dissent. Do you know what it is?

It was in the same area that we found this beautiful pond we photographed from the road. You can see the sun setting and after it set.

Yes, we can’t live without it, but sometimes the sun makes life difficult. It’s been a hot summer here in Sacramento. I try to do whatever I need to do outdoors before 10 a.m. and the sun is out full force.

Thank you Amy for this enjoyable post. When you reply, please remember to link to her post and use the Lens-Artists tag. We enjoyed your images of motion in response to Patti’s Motion challenge last week. Next week Ann-Christine is hosting our challenge, so look for her post. Have a great week and enjoy the sun!

If you would like to participate weekly in our Lens-Artists Challenge, click here for more info. 

Decision: The Nesting Tree

To buy or not to buy! To use or not to use! That’s my dilemma!! I’ll start at the beginning. For wildlife photography, I’ve been using an old, used prime F/4 300 mm lens on my Nikon D7100. It’s a bit heavy, hard for me to hold steady and the Nikon is not that good in low light. I finally decided to buy a used Fuji 100 – 400 mm lens for, of course, my Fuji XT3. It worked great and was easy for me to hold steady, but the barrel was tight when I zoomed. It’s in the return process. Question: should I get another one? Or just keep using the Nikon set up?

Here are some images from the Fuji set up taken at what I call the nesting tree in nearby Lincoln.

Great Egrets and Great Blue Herons nest each year in these trees. It’s a treat to sit and watch the activity. They fly off and bring back food and nesting materials to the nest. These next pictures were taken with the Nikon set up. Since I photographed mostly egrets on my previous visit, I was trying to photograph more of the herons. The trees are not close and I had to do a lot of cropping with these pictures for both set ups.

Do you see much difference? Both sets were processed in Lightroom and Topaz Sharpener AI. There is the handling ease, but that comes with about a $1,500. cost for a good used lens. I don’t think I need a new one because I don’t do that much wildlife photography.

So that’s my decision and dilemma! What do you think I should do?

Oh, if you want to see amazing Great Blue Heron Photography visit Babsje’s blog for wonderful stories and images. She is totally dedicated to the herons.

Oh no, birds again: Yolo Bypass Wildlife area

Let’s hope you see more birds once I get my new Fuji 100 – 400 mm lens. To do most wildlife photography, I’ve been using my Nikon D7100 and an old metal F/4 300 mm prime lens. It was almost impossible for me to hold until Ray made me a short monopod that helps hold the camera and lens steady. The other problem is the Nikon itself. It’s not very good in low light. So photographing in cloudy and overcast days was difficult.

So, I finally decided to try the Fuji lens which I hope is lighter. It’s coming tomorrow. Meanwhile, Laura and I recently went to our local wildlife area in Yolo County, just across from Old Sacramento. The Yolo Bypass is a favorite for local photographers.

I was lucky to get a series of a great egret hunting for what ended up being a cricket, beetle or some other bug.

There were also some other birds.

And then two cormorants.

Get ready and fly.

I’m not sure what bird this is but….

And here are some landscapes taken with my Fuji.

Now, I’m anxious to test out my new lens, but we will have to wait!

Lugging the long lens: Point Reyes National Seashore, part 2

I continue my Point Reyes adventure with Part 2. This area is not just about Tule Elk and Elephant Seals as shown in part 1. Beauty abounds in the grass areas and seashore. For this job, I raised my Fujifilm XT3 up to my eye.

There were also three birds and a coyote that wanted their picture taken.

Before we headed for home, I just had to see how the Point Reyes was getting along. The S.S. Point Reyes is a wooden steamship that crashed on a sand bar in the town of Inverness, Marin County, over a 100 years ago. Surviving having her stern set on fire by photographers light painting with steel wool in 2016, she still remains on the sand bar. Sadly she showed more corrosion in the few years since I last saw her.

This ends my wonderful get away with Laura. It was great to go to the ocean for the day!

Lugging the long lens: Point Reyes National Seashore, part 1

Cabin fever for me means I have to get away outside my local area to photograph, and I had it. So, when Laura asked me if I wanted to go to Point Reyes National Seashore in Marin County, I immediately said YES! It’s about 2 hours and 20 minutes away, so that was a perfect getaway.

I was armed with my Fujifilm for landscapes and my Nikon and the F/4 300 mm lens for zoning in on the animals. I was not disappointed. In my few trips to Point Reyes, I didn’t see Tule Elk at the preserve. However, it pays to go with a true nature photographer, Laura, who knows the area. She picked me up early in the morning, and we found the elk. A first for me! The early bird does get the worm!!

Next we drove to where the elephant seals were. When we arrived, Park rangers were on the beach and we were able to get a great view of the seals.

Along the shore, we spotted a brown pelican who performed for us: swimming, flying, landing and diving!

So far this was a great adventure, but it’s not over. The rest will be in part 2. Stay tuned!

The more I photograph, the behinder I get: Sacramento Zoo

I love Thursdays at the Sacramento Zoo because it’s bone day–the day they give the big cats bones to snack on. For a photographer, that means they are likely to be out and chomping. We went to the zoo on a Thursday in December 2021. We hadn’t been for a while and the animals didn’t disappoint us.

The Jaguar was enjoying his bone.

The lions weren’t as cooperative. I had to go back a couple of times to get a good photo of only the male.

The orangutans were out and playful, putting on a show.

The newest zoo addition is Chigüiro the Capybara–the biggest rodent in the world. He’s sort of cute for a rodent!

Did you know that the Okapi are related to the giraffe? You might think the zebra would be a better choice, but no. They are beautiful no matter who they are related to.

One of my favorites, the white pelican, was preening himself. He lives with the flamingos. He has only one wing, and will never leave the zoo. Fortunately, he was facing the right way for me to photograph him. He’s another of my favorites.

The flamingos weren’t doing much. At one point, they were all sleeping. I happened to be talking to a docent about the flamingos when I saw an opportunity to photograph one asleep with its feathers being blown by a slight breeze. As I was shooting, this particular one opened its eye as if to say “Can’t you see I’m asleep!” This image won picture of the night in the open category at the Sierra Camera Club. Patience prevails.

I’ve renewed my zoo membership, so there will be more visits and more blog posts about these animals.

Catching Up: Swans at Mather Lake

Things happen and sometimes get us off track. I realized that I haven’t been keeping up with my personal posts that I do on Wednesdays. So….I’ll make up for lost time.

Mather Lake is a small lake, and part of the Sacramento Regional Parks System, at the southern end of Sacramento. It’s a great place to photograph swans and other small wildlife like beavers, etc. So I said I’d go and crossed my fingers, hoping there would be swans more in the middle of the lake so I could capture them with my 300 mm lens.

Again, I will thank my friend Ray who made me a short monopod for my heavy lens. Wow, what a difference! We walked around the lake and I was happy. There were many Mute Swans, and some were by the shore! Here’s some of what I captured.

We didn’t see any other critters, but I was happy with these swans. I think they are so graceful in the water. On our way back to our cars, I spotted a juvenile swan. I looked it up and it was a juvenile. It was by itself so maybe it was mature enough to be on its own.

This is not my “Swan Song.” There will be more catching up posts, in addition to my regular LAPC weekly post, soon.

Lens Artists Challenge #181: Double Dipping

This week Tina encourages us to share photos from other challenges in which we participate or places in which we post. I’m typically not one for taking part in challenges except of course for LAPC. For the last year and a half, I have waited, with joy and anticipation, until 9 a.m. PST for the latest LAPC challenge to be posted. Then I would formulate my response and go through my archives. This was an enjoyable experience as I revisited former outings, bringing back fond memories.

And there I stay. You can call me one-challenge-Anne! But I do post in a few other places. First is the juried competition club Sierra Camera Club. I have gain so much knowledge by having my photos judged and critiqued. I’ve also found critiques of fellow members’ photos invaluable. Here are some of my past entries. With each entry, I choose a picture that will give me feedback in different areas.

The Sierra Camera Club is a member of the Photographic Society of America which I also joined. I quickly joined one of their Projected Image Division groups (PID). Each month we upload two images to be critiqued by the group members. I used the knowledge gained in the Sierra Camera Club to good use while looking at and critiquing the other group members’ photos. It’s all a wonderful learning experience. Here are some of my entries.

And finally, my own group of seniors, Camera Totin’ Days. We go out once a week, take it easy, enjoy shooting our photographs and then eat lunch. Here are some images from our outings.

Now that John, Sophia and I are joining the Lens-Artists team, I’m looking forward to some new experiences.  Patti will be leading our next challenge so be sure to visit her Pilotfish blog or to watch for her post in the Lens-Artists Reader section.