After a week in Utsjoki, Finland photographing the aurora borealis, I came home and found out that I missed the huge solar storm of March 17th by a few weeks! Oh well, what I would have given to have been in Finland for that event. However, I did go out on March 17th in Ottawa, along the Ottawa River to get the garkest venue for photographing the lights. It sure wasn't the show I saw at the 70th parallel, but here's what I got. As good as I've seen in many years here in Ottawa. A lot of creepy ice creacking and popping sounds that made me want to get the eff off the ice......
I'm currently at the or near the top of the world in Utsjoki, Finland, with Tony B of the Aurora Service Tours located here in Utsjoki. Tony is a displaced Brit who is enthusiastic about the aurora, and after operating an aurora forecasting service for years, decided to make a living doing something he loves. Getting here is not so difficult, since it entails getting to Helsinki, and then a flight from Helsinki to Uvalo in central Finland, from which point Tony picks you up and takes you to the site, a series of cottages with self catering (grocery stops are made along the way). Each night is spent driving to the most promising locales for sightings. If the lights are active outside your accommodation, you can shoot photos right there, as you're fairly isolated from people and light pollution. Daytime activities include tours of the fjords, dog sledding, etc. Details can be found at his site http://tours.aurora-service.eu/. And on our first night, outside my log cabin, the lights! Some of the pix here. LOW RES PIX to avoid some folks from nicking my better images for personal profit. Mounted, framed images are always available by going to my contact page or to my site at http://chriskiez.smugmug.com/ to order online. Thank you! I'll be posting more pix soon!
Wow. Out today, Mom spotted a snowy owl in a large cornfield in Ottawa's west end. High winds and very cold; I had the camera on a tripod and was using a shutter release, and still the images are soft and gooey. High winds shaking my lens? Wow. At least the nuthatch we saw later was pin sharp. Since it's just the start of winter, here's hoping I sort things out for my next snowy owl shots. Also, a riveting 15 second video of Snowy looking at me then looking away. You can almost hear the owl thought, "Who's that big doofus taking out of focus shots of me?"
This hawk outfoxed me all summer at Mud Lake Conservation Area here in Ottawa, Ontario. I caught glimpses of him gliding through the trees in his hunting grounds in the deep forest of this conservation area on a number of visits, but I could never get a good photo of him. On the past weekend however, I found him after he had caught a red squirrel. Once birds start feeding heavily, I have found they tend to become oblivious to photographers. That, combined with the lack of leaves on the trees, now that fall has passed and winter is right around the corner, made it much easier to get some really close, detailed shots. I was very grateful to finally get so close while he was feeding. Not a common occurrence in my experience. I know its a tad graphic, but it is as nature is, and if you saw how your hamburgers get to your plate, you'd probably become a vegetarian. Here's hoping I can get some good owl shots next.
I got the Cooper's Hawk (immature) after it tried (and failed) to get a rabbit. Later in the morning, the Blue Headed Vireo, also known as the Solitary Vireo, chowing down on a bug in the brush.
The "Woodies" at Mud Lake Conservation Area are showing the new colors and styles for Fall 2014.......
Finally, after a summer of trying to get closer than 300 meters, I finally got closer to a White Egret than I've been all year. Great way to finish off a few days of holiday.
Ok, so it's been a lot of birds recently. Yet consider, winter is coming and the birding really drops off until April next year. So, I'm getting in as many days as I can. Which is great for you if you have insomnia and you've found this blog! No more harmful chemicals to get you to sleep, just read my blog and wink out of consciousness......
Great time to head to Mud Lake Conservation Area. The water side (the pond and lake on the south side of the Cassels' Road) tends to have the waterbirds, the herons (both mature and immature, ducks, turtles, etc.) and the north side (the ridge between Cassels' Road and the Ottawa River) seems to have all the warblers. Patience and binoculars, as well as a sound camera set up are essential.
Remember, even with image stabilizing lenses, you really need to shoot at the fastest shutter speed possible while keeping the ISO setting as low as possible to reduce digital noise in your images (higher ISO = faster shutter speed in low light but higher ISO = grainy, affected images).
Using a tripod is really critical. If you want to know why, try holding a laser pointer at a wall from 10 feet. Watch how the laser dot bops around, despite your best efforts to hold it still. Now, if you're hand holding a camera that weighs several pounds, and your tiny bird subject is in movement, your hand movement (remember the laser pointer analogy?) and the bird's movement will result in less-than tack-sharp photos; you'll get blurred images. I carry my camera, set to the lowest ISO for the ambient light, ready to shoot over my shoulder while mounted to the tripod. If I see a bird, I carefully bring the tripod down to the ground and set up and shoot, generally in seconds. Take caution, however, if you decide to carry your tripod over your shoulder with the camera attached. I use a very high quality tripod (Really Right Stuff) to ensure that I can do so without losing my camera. If you carry your camera mounted, all ready to shoot, make sure you have a safety strap around your neck or some other point of safety. Failure to do so may result in your camera suddenly detaching and crashing to the ground! Frequently check camera-tripod connections.