Working the Fence Line

Fence lines or no fence lines? It’s somewhat cliche in photographs to have fences but I’ve always found that they have a time and a place. A fence is a man-made barrier that can make a photograph seem limited by a boundary but in some ways, it can also feel like there is something better on the other side. Sadly, there are a lot of fences in Montana and it’s hard to take a photo without a fence in it but it is possible. Since they feel like they belong out here I never mind including them, especially if there is something else amazing going on.

Don’t Go For Just the Males

It goes without saying that in photography we tend to go for the most color in our photographs. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing but when it comes to birds that can leave a lot out of the files. Male birds tend to have a more distinct color as they try to attract mates thus making them more impressive subjects to photograph. However, the females are just as important to the equation. This female Cinnamon Teal is a great example. The males are a very distinct red, it’s hard to miss them in all honesty. The females, while pretty, don’t stand out nearly as much. Both make for great subjects and if you’re just out for the morning or afternoon then why not spend time with both.

Gotta Love the Ground Birds

Spring is a great time for birding as the spring migration and nesting season makes for some spectacular photo opps. I was fortunate a few years ago to be able to photograph this male Spruce Grouse up in the Arctic Circle amongst the lands Boreal Forests. For those wondering, yes it is a male as the males have a rufous tip on their tails. This one did have those markings but are not visible in this photograph. The rest of his breeding plumage hadn’t come in yet.

Spruce Grouse can be seen in the trees as well as on the ground foraging. The female chooses the site for nest usually in a depression at the base of a tree, where it has a clutch size of 4-9eggs. They brood only once a year. The males have a distinct mating behavior which is best witnessed in person or next best by video.

When working with any ground bird species you have to be very vigilant and try not to come upon an individual by surprise. Once you have found a subject be sure to be patient and slow to not scare it off or force it to move.

76th Anniversary of D-Day

Today marks a very important anniversary, the 76th anniversary of the D-Day landings, which were the allied invasion of Europe in 1944. This invasion gave the allies a foothold in France that allowed them to push back against German-occupied Europe. Beach heads, Sword, Juno, Gold, Omaha, and Utah were the designated landing spots and were heavily fortified by the Germans. Omaha Beach was the deadliest with the high cliffs and heavy fortifications. The original plan for the allies was to link up the beaches by the end of the first day but due to heavy resistance, it wasn’t until 8 days later that they were secure. Many brave men from multiple nations helped secure this victory without which the war would’ve been much different.

The C-47 or C-53 based on its use were used to drop paratroopers behind enemy lines and push the Germans out of the beach areas and nearby towns and villages. It was the largest airborne drop in history. The planes were marked with the black and white stripes so that they wouldn’t be shot by friendly ground fire.

 

Hebgen Lake is Big!

Technically this is just the inlet, the lake is way down yonder! I’ve been to this inlet a couple of times now and it just amazes me. You walk along the river, through the trees, and eventually, you come out at the inlet where it just opens up to this. The first time I made the trek there was nothing but sunshine, this time there was nothing but clouds. Both times were beautiful but this time was far more dramatic. Taken with the D5 and 24-70 AF-S, closed down to bring out more detail knowing that it would be converted to black and white in post.

Clouds like Fire

 

Low hanging clouds can make for some pretty amazing photo opportunities. In the Gallatin Valley the weather systems always come in from the West and hang in the valley before exiting out over the mountains to the east. Since the Gallatin valley only sits at 4200ft in elevation those storms often are too high overhead to do much of interest, but down towards West Yellowstone at the Hebgen Lake where the elevation is 6500ft, the storms that move through can be pretty impressive.

I looked behind me on Saturday to this massive cloud bank move through the Pines. It was a thermal hole that had opened up enough for a brief moment in the rainstorm to allow a little light to make those clouds sing. When I saw it, it was like a storm of flames dancing on the other side of the trees. With the D5 and 24-70 AF-S, I took a couple of clicks and finished in Silver Efex Pro.

 

The Bearcat makes it into Combat!

This was one powerful plane! The F8F Bearcat was Grumman’s answer to the climb to rate ratio that at the time was deficient. After the Battle of Midway, Grumman pilots in the field were demanding aircraft with better performance. At the time, Grumman was introducing the F6F Hellcat, which was a large step up from the F4F Wildcat but still didn’t meet the demands the pilots were looking for. This was 1942, with the release of the Hellcat in 1943. Grumman used the Pratt & Whitney R-2800 engine for the Hellcat, which was the most powerful American made engine at that time with 2,000 horsepower. Thus it also was used for the Bearcat.

Modifications to the fuselage length, wingspan, vertical stabilizer, amount of fuselage behind the pilot’s head, canopy, landing gear, prop, and many other factors helped bring the weight down to 7,650lbs when empty. The result of all these modifications was a max speed of over 400mph and a rate of climb of 4,465 ft/min. However; due to the length of time to design, test, and produce the Bearcat, it never saw combat in WWII. The Bearcat had operational status with Fighter Squadron (VF) 19 on this day seventy-five years ago but the Cat never was able to make its mark. That being said, the Bearcat was believed to be one of Grumman’s best planes as it has been used for years as a racing plane, breaking speed records for piston-powered aircraft and even was the plane of choice for the Blue Angels at one point.

Spring Bunnies

Spring is the time of the year for new life. Whether it’s birds, mammals, or little people, there are creatures being born into this amazing world. As we start to see the changing in the seasons with the wildflowers beginning to bloom and the trees beginning to leaf out, the new life is also starting to emerge. Each species works on its own time table which is variable upon the region. Right now we are starting to see little rabbits and ground squirrels all over the place. If you haven’t spent much time working with the little guys you’re not alone. The best way to practice is to find a local park that is next to some open area. Typically there will be something living there and being that it is a park, the critters will be a little more habituated. Now depending on which state you live in and that states current Covid-19 response you might be a more limited but you can be doing research or even practicing with a stuffed animal if all else fails. You’d be amazed at how many basics can be learned with a stuffed on the ground.

 

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