My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

Got to get me a chain saw!

You’ll see why in a moment. It wouldn’t do any good though, it isn’t as if critters are going to wait around while I clear a sight path to them for photography purposes.

The day before yesterday, I was doing my daily hike, and I was walking between one of the parking lots and a creek, which has a line of evergreens growing along it for a short distance. Just as I cleared the last evergreen tree, this is what I spotted…

Sharp shinned hawk

I froze as quickly as some one my size can come to a complete stop, I knew I wasn’t going to have much time with the hawk. I’ve been chasing this hawk for over two years now, and there it sat, about four feet off the ground and forty feet from me. I have dozens of extremely bad photos of it, either soaring over head, or perched back in a tangle of brush. In fact, I saw it on Monday during the mini-blizzard we were having and tried to get a shot of it then, but it does not sit still long when I’m around.

I could see it coiling to leap into flight even as my camera reset itself after that shot, I didn’t dare try for another shot of it sitting. I zoomed out to give myself a fighting chance of keeping it in the viewfinder as it started to fly, and that worked! The auto-focus was tracking it well, and I was panning with the hawk as it began to fly, so I knew I had it then!

I zoomed back in and fired!

Sharp shinned hawk in flight

And caught the hawk as it flew behind the small branch, darn, another almost winner. I didn’t know about the branch at the time, I just kept shooting.

Sharp shinned hawk in flight

Very, very good, but the other one would have been so much better if not for the stupid branch in the way.

I kept shooting, and the next shot has to be the strangest shot I have ever taken. I should have saved it just for the heck of it, but it looked like a Picasso painting of a hawk, rather than a photo. I literally couldn’t make heads or tails of the hawk. I don’t know how to explain it other than it looked like the hawk had been ripped apart, and then reassembled with all the parts in the wrong places.

The rest of the photos were the typical unidentifiable grey bird flying away type photos, so I deleted them as well.

A chain saw really wouldn’t do me any good, it seems there’s always something to spoil any of my attempts at the “Perfect” shot. Either a branch or tree, or I have the camera set wrong, or I’m in the wrong place at the right time. Case in point on the last one, I spent most of this last weekend walking the edges of fields hoping to spot owls. People tell me there is a pair of great horned owls and a screech owl in the park I walk in, and there have been reports of a snowy owl in the area. If you read my last few posts, you know that it was very windy and not the greatest of weather for a good portion of the weekend. I would have been a lot more comfortable back in the woods and out of the wind, but I want a photo of a snowy owl.

Wouldn’t you know, while I’m out there hiking 10 miles in the wind, the snowy owl was entertaining crowds at the local shopping center, half a mile from my home. Several residents of the apartment complex where I live have asked me if I got pictures of the owl this weekend, no, not me, but almost every one else did. They are popping up all over on the web this week, a local news crew was even filming the owl.

I admit I did get a few exceptional shots this weekend, like this one of the whitetail doe I posted earlier.

Whitetail doe bedded down in the snow

She’s one of the prettiest deer I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen thousands of them. I also got these three of a male mallard.

Male mallard

Male mallard

Male mallard

And, I managed some cool scenery shots that I’ll be posting later, but I want a snowy owl photo! And no, the owl hasn’t been seen at the local shopping center since I learned it had been hanging out there all weekend. What really burns my butt is that I was considering walking the Paul Henry trail this weekend, and the shopping center parking lot is one of the access points to the trail, the one I would have used had I decided to walk that trail other than the one I did.

I guess that’s human nature, we always want the rare and the exotic. I read other people’s blogs from different parts of the country, even different parts of the world, and wish I could see the exotic scenery and wildlife that those bloggers post.

I should remember something I learned when I did woodworking as a hobby, something that I miss since I am living in an apartment. I was a member of a woodworking group online where we exchanged tips and tricks, and shared photos of our work. This was back when saving the rain forest was the fad of the day, and the discussions often turned to whether or not we should be using exotic imported lumber from South America or Africa here in the United States. The group had members from all over the world, including South America, Africa, and Australia, and they would tell us that what we saw as exotic lumber was what they saw when they went to the local lumber mill for wood, and that they saw our maple, oak, cherry, and walnut as exotic lumbers that they would love to get their hands on. So I guess what we see as a common species in our area is exotic to some one else living in another part of the country, or the world.

But, I still want a snowy owl photo!

Well, that’s all for this one, thanks for stopping by, branches and all!

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15 responses

  1. I have shopping bags full of slides that I’ve shot in the past, and out of those maybe 10 worthy of framing. For every 100 there is that one, and that one is enough to keep us going back for more. Here you have 7 excellent shots in one post and I can guess how hard you worked for those, so I’ll say thank you for sharing your work.

    January 5, 2012 at 4:45 am

    • Thank you, I know what you mean. I have shoe boxes full of bad photos, but I have been the luckiest photographer in the world for the last three weeks, these shots have all been gimmees, just pull up and shoot. I have never had a run of luck like this before!

      January 5, 2012 at 2:44 pm

  2. A good story describing the frustrations we photographers endure.

    On the positive side, branches do give the birds somewhere to perch, and that ensures that they keep coming back. Our garden is mostly without large trees, so garden wildlife is always a challenge and most of my local pictures are of birds on birdfeeders, which are not very attractive. There are some good sites that can be reached by getting the car out though. I need to get out more!

    January 5, 2012 at 5:23 am

    • Thanks, we all need to get out more. 🙂 During this time of year, I know some people place an old Christmas tree near their feeders for birds to perch on, and as a holding spot so they can photograph the birds, just a thought.

      January 5, 2012 at 2:41 pm

  3. I enjoyed looking at these photos. I love the pics of the haw getting ready to fly and the doe staring straight at the camera.

    January 5, 2012 at 6:34 am

    • Thank you, and thanks for visiting my blog!

      January 5, 2012 at 2:39 pm

  4. I’ve never been successful taking photos of birds in flight–guess I’m not good with the shutter speed . . . yet! I do like the green sheen of the mallard’s head.

    January 5, 2012 at 7:25 am

    • Thank you! I keep the ISO on my camera bumped up to 400 on sunny days, 800 on very cloudy days, and my Nikon tends towards fast shutter speed to begin with. By keeping the ISO bumped up, I am ready for moving targets when they appear. I practice a lot as well, on low flying planes, cars, dogs running, etc. That’s the biggest thing, practice! You’ll waste a lot of photos, but you can delete them.

      January 5, 2012 at 2:39 pm

  5. NICE! My mother always asks me why I take so many shots of one thing. THAT is why! Here in MN we have had an unusual amount of snowy owls. They usually don’t come this far south. However, it has been said they are searching for food. I want to see one too! I have never seen one! I love your story-telling, definitely adds to the beautiful photos!

    January 5, 2012 at 9:06 am

    • Thank you! With digital photography, shoot away, and delete the ones you don’t like. I saw a snowy owl once when they moved south before, but no photos of it.

      January 5, 2012 at 2:35 pm

  6. I think every photographer has had numerous moments when they wish they had a chainsaw–clearer view of wildlife, opening up a vista, etc.

    You did very nicely, all things considered. Very nicely indeed.

    January 5, 2012 at 2:20 pm

    • Thank you!

      January 5, 2012 at 2:33 pm

  7. Your photos are outstanding!

    January 5, 2012 at 4:35 pm

    • Thank you Cee!

      January 6, 2012 at 3:30 am

  8. Fantastic photos! It’s great when it all comes together like that. And I too have a thing about branches…why oh why is it that when I want to focus on a bird on a branch in the foreground that my camera immediately focuses on the background, yet when I actually want a bird pic behind a single measily thin branch, the camera latches onto that grasslike branch in the foreground when 99% of everything else is in the background? Arrrgh!

    January 6, 2012 at 10:21 pm