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Olympic National Park – A Winter Photo Shoot – Part 2 [Video]

I’m back at Olympic National Park this month, photographing the old-grown temperate rainforests in winter. This time I’m at the Queets River Rainforest and Ruby Beach.

Click on image below for larger view and to buy a print.

Queets River old-growth rainforest
Maple Grove, Quinault Rainforest
Queets River old-growth rainforest
Maple Grove, Quinault Rainforest
Red alder along bank of Queets River
Pony Bridge, East Fork Quinault River
Big leaf maple tree, Fairholme Campground
Sams River Loop Trail, Queets River Rainforest
Lower Queets River Road
Sams River Loop Trail, Queets River Rainforest
Twilight reflection, Ruby Beach
Queets River Rainforest
Ruby Beach
Sams River Loop Trail, Queets River Rainforest

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Northern Harrier Hunting Over Skagit Valley Farmland [Video]

Caught this northern harrier backlit by the rising sun while hunting on Fir Island.

Northern harrier (Circus hudsonius) in flight hunting over Skagit Valley farmland during sunrise.
Northern harrier (Circus hudsonius) in flight hunting over Skagit Valley farmland during sunrise.
Northern harrier (Circus hudsonius) hunting over wetland, Fir Island, Washington
Northern harrier hunting over wetland, Fir Island, Washington
Northern harrier (Circus hudsonius) in flight hunting over wetland, Fir Island, Washington
Northern harrier hunting over wetland, Fir Island, Washington

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Olympic National Park – A Winter Photo Shoot [Video]

Some pics and a video tour from my four-day winter camping photo shoot in Olympic National Park photographing in the Hoh River rain forest, the Queets River rainforest and Ruby Beach.

Click on image below for larger view and to buy a print.

Queets River old-growth rainforest
Queets River old-growth rainforest
Red alder along bank of Queets River
Red alder along bank of Queets River
Big leaf maple tree, Fairholme Campground
Big leaf maple tree, Fairholme Campground
Lower Queets River Road
Lower Queets River Road
Queets River rainforest
Sun peeking into the Queets River rainforest
Twilight reflection, Ruby Beach
Twilight reflection, Ruby Beach
Ruby Beach
A fine day at Ruby Beach

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For landscapes:

For wildlife:

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Photographing Short-Eared Owls, Fir Island, Washington [Video]

I had a fine day watching and photographing short-eared owls on Fir Island, Washington. I found this owl in the Skagit Bay Wildlife Area.

Click on image below for larger view and to buy a print.

Short-eared owl hunting in marsh, Firs Island, Washington
Short-eared owl hunting in marsh, Firs Island, Washington
Short-eared owl hunting in marsh, Firs Island, Washington
Hunting over marsh, Firs Island, Washington
Short-eared owl hunting in marsh, Firs Island, Washington
On direct approach, Firs Island, Washington
Short-eared owl perched on driftwood, Firs Island, Washington
Short-eared owl perched on driftwood, Firs Island, Washington

Tips for Photographing Short-Eared Owls in the Wild

Short-eared owls hunt for voles and other small rodents during daylight hours, typically in early morning and late afternoon. This diurnal behavior makes them one of the easier owl species to locate and photograph.

The tips below are from my experience photographing short-eared owls in the winter in Washington State’s Puget Sound.

Finding Short-Eared Owls

  • Find a site with wet marsh grasses of various heights. You are looking for good vole territory. A short-eared owl will generally live and hunt over an area of approximately 0.2 X 0.2 miles.
  • If you also see Northern harrier hunting in the area, then you may be in good territory. Short-eared owls and norther harrier are fierce competitors, and are frequently seen hunting in the same areas.
  • I like to stand on a water management dike, where a slightly elevated view provides an eye-level view of the owl when if flies. Short-eared owls often fly 5 to 15 feet off the ground while searching for prey. This elevated view puts marsh in the background instead of the bright sky more likely from a lower point-of-view.
  • Watch for the short-eared owls erratic flight pattern. They use large wing beats and fly in fairly random moves. Some people compare this erratic flight pattern to that of a moth.
  • There is probably not any real reason to hide from the owl. It will know you are there. But do be quiet, don’t move much and maybe wear natural colors or camouflage if you have it.
  • Dress warm. You won’t be moving much. Bring some snacks and a hot drink.
  • Please don’t stand in the middle of its hunting area. I have seen other photographers do this, and it does change the owl’s hunting behavior. No photograph is worth disturbing an animal’s behavior.
  • Arrive before sunrise, or about 3 hours before sunset.

Equipment and Settings for Photographing Short-Eared Owls

  • Bring the longest telephoto lens you have. 200mm is probably a minimum, but a 500mm or 600mm would be ideal.
  • Turn on your lens’ image stabilization (IS), vibration reduction (VR), optical image Optical SteadyShot (OSS), or whatever image stabilization technology your lens may have.
  • Also turn on any in-body sensor stabilization your camera might have.
  • Mount your lens to a monopod or to a tripod with gimbal head, if you have them. Otherwise, shoot hand-held.
  • Set your camera for Aperture priority, the aperture to the largest it will go (ie smallest f/stop number) and ISO to around 3200 on cloudy day or around 800 on sunny day.
  • Alternatively, set your camera for Manual mode, the aperture to the largest it will go (ie smallest f/stop number) and shutter speed for about 1/2000 sec for flying owls or about 1/200 sec for perched owls. Set ISO to “Auto”. This is the way I typically photograph birds.
  • Set you focus to a continuous auto-focus mode, preferably one that has subject tracking.
  • Set your shooting mode to continuous at the highest frame rate (frames/second) you camera will support.
  • Bring a spare battery and memory card, as you will likely be taking 100’s of images.
  • Take some test shots to check your exposure settings. Are images coming out sharp?

Photographing Short-Eared Owls in the Field

  • The owl may hunt for up to about 3 hours.
  • If the owl catches prey, it will likely stop hunting for that morning/evening while it consumes the catch. So you might as well move on to something else if you see it catch something.
  • When photographing a flying owl, obtain focus and then squeeze the shutter release button to fire off a handful of images. Their erratic flight pattern makes composition within the frame very difficult. Having lots of images will give you more options to choose from after the shoot.
  • Short-eared owls are very habitual, using the same perches and hunting the same territory. Once you find one, make return trips to keep improving your technique.

After the Shoot

  • After your shoot, work your way through the images to find your keepers. The vast majority of your images will likely be out of focus or awkwardly composed. This is why it’s important to take hundreds of photo.
  • Your images will likely have a fair amount of noise in them from shooting at high ISO. I highly recommend Topaz denoise for correcting this.

Resources

Short-Eared Owl Photography Equipment

Here is the equipment I use for photographing short-eared owls. While a 600mm f/4 lens would be the ideal, the system below is lighter weight and far less expensive, making it useful on wildlife photography trips into the remote back-country. This smaller setup is also far easier to hold when shooting without a tripod. (affiliate links)

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Introducing My New Songbird Print Collection

Are you a bird watching lover? Bring these little avian marvels into your home with my new songbird print collection. These prints feature colorful photographic portraits of some of your favorite feathered friends.

Collection of three songbird portrait framed prints.
Pre-framed prints

Available as ready-to-hang canvas wraps, metal prints or framed prints. Order them now through my Pixels.com page.

Three small 8X8 or 10X10 inch square-format prints look great lined up vertically on a small wall, or horizontally above a desk or wall table. When ordering a set of canvas wrap prints, I suggest the “black sides” option (as shown below) to harmonize the prints.

Collection of three songbird portrait canvas prints.
Canvas wraps (with “black sides” option)

These photographic prints are available in several sizes up to 30X30 inches. Every purchase comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Select from 17 different songbird images in spring, summer and autumn settings. Bird selection includes chickadee, towhee, junco, steller’s jay and the miniature bushtit.

Collection of three songbird portrait metal prints.
Metal prints

More images will be added to the songbird print collection over the coming months. So, subscribe to not miss out.


All birds in these photographs are wild, and were treated in compliance with National Audubon Society’s guidelines (PDF).

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Successful Backyard Songbird Photography: A How-To Guide [Video]
November 13, 2020

More Backyard Songbird Photography [Video]
March 30, 2020

Successful Backyard Songbird Photography: A How-To Guide [Video]

Backyard songbird photography can be a very satisfying way to enjoy outdoor photography while getting close to your neighborhood feathery friends.

In this article, I collect and share my approach to backyard songbird photography. But first, please join me for a photo shoot from my backyard photo blind by watching the following video:

Songbirds specialize in perching. They have three toes pointing forward and one toe directed back. This so called “anisodactyl” toe configuration, along with a tendon arrangement in their legs that causes the toes to curl and maintain grip “by default” (i.e. without engaging muscles), make these passerines expert perchers.

This article will focus on photographing perching songbirds using a bird feeder to attract them, and a photo blind to get in close to these miniature flying marvels.

Chestnut-backed chickadee against autumn background
Chestnut-backed chickadee

Ethical Backyard Songbird Photography

Songbirds can generally benefit from the photography experience when done in an ethical way.

First, we need to follow some basic rules about attracting birds to your backyard with feeders. I encourage you to read the National Audubon Society’s Guide to Bird Feeding (PDF).

Here are a few measures I take in consideration of these guidelines:

  • I feed the birds in autumn, winter and early spring, leaving the birds to fully revert back to natural foods when it is plentiful in summer. I try not to let the feeder go empty for more than a couple days in a row during these times.
  • When I’m not actively photographing the birds, I hang my feeder from a stand that is at least 15 feet from surrounding bushes and 30 feet from house windows. This makes it harder for cats and other predators to ambush the birds at the feeder or on the ground below the feeder. And it reduces collisions between birds and windows. This second feeder stand is equipped with a squirrel guard to keep them off the feeder.
  • If my seeds get soaked by rain, I will throw them out and then wash and sterilize the feeder. This avoids the growth of mold, which can be deadly to birds.
Dark-eyed junco
Dark-eyed junco

Key Factors for Successful Backyard Songbird Photography

Here are the factors I consider key for successful songbird photography in the backyard, which we will cover more detail in this article.

  • Attracting birds with feeders
  • Arranging the feeder, perch and photo blind for best light, for best bird pose and for best background
  • Getting close in to the songbird action
  • Using the right equipment and equipment settings
  • Timing the shoot
Chestnut-backed chickadee perched on red flowering currant
Chestnut-backed chickadee perched on red flowering currant

Attracting Songbirds to Your Backyard

Many songbirds, and other types of birds, are easy to attract with feeders. I suggest that you go to your local home and garden store and ask about the best types of bird feed and bird feeders for your region. They also may offer advice on how to deal with squirrels or other animals in your locale that may cause a problem at your feeder.

(more…)

Boulder River Waterfalls in Pouring October Rain [Video]

The Boulder River Trail offers easy hiking into the Boulder River Wilderness, with scenic views of waterfalls cascading down cliffs and right into the Boulder River.

Join me for a photo shoot of the Boulder River waterfalls in the pouring rain.  First, we shoot Feature Show Falls, wading out into the flooding river to anchor the scene with big mossy boulders in the foreground.  Next, we shoot an un-named falls pouring over a cliff another 1/4 mile up the trail.

This is wet and wild Boulder River Wilderness at its autumn best.

Thanks for reading and thank you for your support!

Un-named creek falls over Feature Show Falls and into Boulder River, Boulder River Wilderness, Central Cascades, Washington, USA (Brad Mitchell Photography)

Feature Show Falls, Boulder River Wilderness, Washington

Un-named creek falls over Feature Show Falls and into Boulder River, Boulder River Wilderness, Central Cascades, Washington, USA (Brad Mitchell Photography)

Feature Show Falls pours into Boulder River, Boulder River Wilderness, Washington

Un-named creek falls over waterfall and into Boulder River, Boulder River Wilderness, Central Cascades, Washington, USA (Brad Mitchell Photography)

Un-named creek pouring into Boulder River, Boulder River Wilderness, Washington

Fog shrouded forest, Boulder River Trail, Boulder River Wilderness, Central Cascades, Washington, USA (Brad Mitchell Photography)

Fog shrouded forest, Boulder River Wilderness, Washington

(more…)

American Pika – Mount Rainier National Park [Video]

On an autumn hike up into the subalpine meadows of Mount Rainier National Park, I found these adorable American Pika (Ochotona princeps) busy topping off their hay piles before winter sets in.

American pika (Ochotona princeps) sitting on boulder, autumn color in background, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington, USA (Brad Mitchell Photography)

American pika (Ochotona princeps), autumn color in background, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

American pika (Ochotona princeps) sitting on boulder, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington, USA (Brad Mitchell Photography)

American pika (Ochotona princeps), Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

American pika (Ochotona princeps) sitting on boulder, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington, USA (Brad Mitchell Photography)

American pika (Ochotona princeps) sitting on boulder, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

American Pika inhabit mountain side boulder and talus fields, where they live and store hay among the rocks. Pika don’t hibernate. Instead, they survive the frigid winters by remaining active in their rock piles under the snow.

In fact, it is summer’s heat that threatens the pika more than winter’s cold. Like rabbits, to whom they are related, pika have limited thermoregulation capabilities. They overheat and die when exposed to temperatures as low as 78 °F (25.5 °C) for more than several hours. While global warming pushes them to higher and higher elevations, they can become trapped on their mountainside “rock islands”.  This limits their ability to migrate to cooler climes.

Pika now serve as an indicator species for climate change. In fact, Pika have already disappeared from more than one-third of their habitat in Oregon and Nevada.

Tips for Finding Pika in the Wild

  • Hang out at subalpine boulder fields or talus slopes.
  • Avoid hot days, when they will likely be deep in their rock piles trying to avoid the heat.
  • Listen for their short squeaking calls.
  • Watch for quick darting motions as they sprint among the boulder.
  • Look for little round furry balls sitting on top of larger boulders, as you can see in my photos above.  Pika like these perches for keeping an eye on things.
  • Look for piles of hay stacked under larger rocks, especially in the fall.  Pika stockpile hay to get them through the winter.

Support Pika Conservation

Resources

Photography Equipment

(affiliate links)

Thanks for reading and thank you for your support!

South Coast Trail – Olympic National Park [Video]

Join me on a 5-day family backpacking trip on the South Coast Trail in Olympic National Park to photograph seascapes along this wild stretch of Washington Coast.  We start at Third Beach and make camps at Scotts Bluff and Strawberry Point.  Along the way, we found towering sea stacks, coastal sitka spruce forests, tide-pools, seals, sea otter, great blue heron and bald eagles. A pack of coyote howl 100 feet from our tent. Weather ranges from light rain to coastal fog to clear skies full of stars.

Sea stack on Washington Coast in fog, near Toleak Point, South Coast Trail, Olympic National Park, Washington, USA (Brad Mitchell Photography)

Sea stack on Washington Coast in coastal fog, near Toleak Point

Moonlit sea stack on Washington Coast under starry sky, near Toleak Point, South Coast Trail, Olympic National Park, Washington, USA (Brad Mitchell Photography)

Moonlit sea stack on Washington Coast under starry sky, near Toleak Point

Great blue heron (Ardea herodias) wading along shoreline below Giants Graveyard sea stack on Washington Coast at sunset, near Strawberry Point, South Coast Trail, Olympic National Park, Washington, USA (Brad Mitchell Photography)

Great blue heron (Ardea herodias) wading along shoreline below sea stacks, near Strawberry Point

Glowing tents camping on beach below sea stack on Washington Coast, Scotts Bluff, South Coast Trail, Olympic National Park, Washington, USA (Brad Mitchell Photography)

Tents camping on beach below sea stack on Washington Coast, Scotts Bluff

Old growth coastal forest on Washington Coast, Scotts Bluff, South Coast Trail, Olympic National Park, Washington, USA (Brad Mitchell Photography)

Classic coastal sitka spruce forest, Scotts Bluff

Giants Graveyard sea stack on Washington Coast at sunset, near Strawberry Point, South Coast Trail, Olympic National Park, Washington, USA (Brad Mitchell Photography)

Sea stack called “Giants Graveyard” on Washington Coast at sunset

Resources for South Coast Trail

Photography Equipment

(affiliate links)

Thanks for reading and thank you for your support!


Adventure

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