Monday, March 24, 2008

A photo kinda day

The Salt Lake Tribune has a birding column once a week. This past week they talked about the Sage Grouse and a birding trip on Saturday to visit a lek. A lek? This is a grouse gathering spot to pick up hot dates. It's kind of like the bar in a cheap hotel. The female grouse hang out, waiting to be impressed. The men get all spiffy and try to attract the women. I thought this would be a great photo opportunity, but didn't want to go with a big group.

The bad news is that the lek is only happening from the crack of dawn until the sun just barely gets a good start. Given that we live about an hour away, Jasper and I had to get an early start. This was a quick photo of the moon as we arrived at our destination.



The best shots came right at the very end of the activity. The sun was up as far as it was going to get which makes it a lot easier to get a picture that isn't blurry. Try shooting a 400mm lens in near dark without being able to use a tripod.

OK, start by fanning the tail and puffing up a bit.



Now, duck the head and puff out the boobs. Use the wings to look even bigger.



Pop those man-grouse boobs, puff out as big as possible, and give it all you've got!



If that didn't get her, she must not be worth it. Head off for other things.



Having a truck, a dog, tons of camera gear, and momentum, I decided to head over to the middle of the Great Salt Lake and visit Antelope Island. The first interesting thing I found was a life bird for me: a Chukar. There was a pair of them, but they ran so fast in random directions, I could never find a way to get them both in one shot.



Then I saw the antelope. Here is a small herd a long ways away. I am shooting this fully zoomed in with a 400mm lens and a 1.4 teleconverter. It is a good foot of lens.



Then I found one a bit closer. Still a long, long ways off.



Then I got ticked off. I found another one and spent 45 minutes slowly stalking him. It was literally step, stop, step, stop. This got me closer.



But with 45 minutes of painful, slow motion, I got a good shot. He's lucky I bring a camera and not a gun. By this point, I probably could have just thrown a rock and hit him.



The final animal I photographed today was the bison. If they are there, the main challenge is just trying to get the lighting right on something that dark without making the rest of the picture a blinding white flash.. I always struggle with this.



But what do you do when a full grown bison rolls over and wants his tummy rubbed?



What a ham!



It was a long day. Jasper and I drove 200+ miles over nine hours. He makes a great companion. He sat completely quiet, mostly with his head out the window about 30 feet from a bison, just sniffing as much air as he could suck in. He is a remarkable dog for wildlife photography. He's just so happy he got to go for the ride.
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