Often heard at this time of year, is that the birding is slow. It is true, that the foliage is thick, which makes seeing birds much more difficult than the bare trees of spring and autumn. However, I went out today, and got some nice shots; a pair of Sandhill Cranes who are back early from up north, and a bunch of heron activity. Blue, Night and Green herons. A great day.
 
 
A week's training on Mass Casualty Scene processing. Devising methods for mass fatality incident management and processing.  A car was blown up with a road killed deer inside, and the Weldon Springs Protocols were applied to document and recover physical evidence on the large scale. Interesting short course of the Mercyhurst Anthropology program. An eclectic selection of photos that captured the week for me.
 
 
This summer, I really wanted to get two local birds photographed to my standards of tack-sharp focus, clear detail. Those two birds are the Scarlet Tanager and the Indigo Bunting. I was fortunate to get the Tanager earlier this year, and today, after a walk in the woods, I got the Indigo Bunting as well. Lucky? That's part of it. But if you go out often, look for nests, learn their behaviors, talk to other birders, well, it's nit just luck. The harder you work, the luckier you get!
 
 
Bruce is an expert birder who gives tours and teaches those interested in birds, how to become birders. You can submit photos for publication of your bird shots too. I can't seem to get this link to Bruce's article in The Citizen to come up here, so just click and copy the link below, and put it in your web browser.

http://ottawacitizen.com/life/world-of-birds/the-nest-is-where-the-camera-should-look-now

Worth reading each Saturday. There are gaps owing to his traveling and giving courses, but it will keep you current in what's happening ornithologicaly speaking in the Ottawa area.
 
 
Ok, so all I have for you today are more Great Blue Heron photos. However, it's June, the trees are full of leaves making small birds very difficult to see, and many birds are sitting on eggs so activity is low. I can generally count on coming back from Mud Lake with something. Today, while everything else was hiding away, this heron fished for catfish near the bridge on the Mud Lake walking path. I photographed him making at least three successful dives. It's a great spot; lots of birders and photographers to talk to.
 
 
While at Mud Lake on a day off, I saw a Great Blue Heron standing in the middle of the pond. It was early morning, so he had to be hunting up a bit of breakfast. I figured if I just waited, he would make a catch. He did, a catfish, which he then impaled violently several times (see the video clip below) after which, he tossed it in the air, caught it mid-air and swallowed it whole. You can see the outline of the whole fish in the bird's long neck as it works the fish down. I could almost hear the bird grunting out, "Git....in-side.....mah.....belly!" Amazing bit of nature at play, reminding always that having good paying jobs are a blessing and having to kill everyday to survive is something we've become somewhat removed from. The YouTube  short video shows the violent stabbing actions he does to finish off the prey. But, it's the way of nature. Anyways, enjoy.


 
 
We're into the middle of May, so summer is officially not far off. In any event, the trees this week are still free of leaves. In 3-5 days, tree branches will be full of leaves, and getting good pictures of birds in trees will be a challenge. This week will be key, but rani is forecast for much of the week. Here, the Cardinal, the Scarlet Tanager, the Hairy Woodpecker, the Yellow Warbler and a Doppelganger of two Wood Ducks.
 
 
Great opening night, thanks to friends and all visitors who attended the opening event. All of my aluminum prints sold! These are my images, printed on aluminum using UV-resistant inks. Two aluminum sheets sandwich a layer of polystyrene for lightness and rigidity. These images are durable and can be hung in doors or out, and with a variety of hanging options ranging from a clean borderless look to stand-out corners to give an industrial look, perfect for lofts or office space in renovated heritage buildings. The two metal prints I sold are the last two images here (of course, there is no watermark/logo on the print I sold).

ANY of my images seen on my website that you like, OR any photo you wold like me to take, can be printed on metal, and the company doing the work is Canadian! Te smallest size is 8 x 12, and with a float-mount system making it ready to lay flush to your wall out of the box, prices start at $95.00. People last night seeing the metal prints were anxious to buy once they saw just how amazing the light play is on the image. You have to see the metal prints to believe it; the colors pop and change in a very muted, tasteful way. The result is compelling, mesmerizing, tasteful and, if you use the four-corner post mounts, you get an industrial, Bauhaus effect. If you opt for the flush-mount, the image comes out of the box ready to hang, and will sit flush to a wall.

I am bringing two more metal prints on Saturday, so come take a look, the weather is perfect for a pleasant walk along the Mississippi River afterwards, along the Riverwalk promenade, which will take you right onto Mill Street and a whole array of excellent restaurants, those little gastronomic gems that small towns always have when big-city chefs flee the iron kitchens of urbanity and come to settle and create amazing cuisine in quieter, more relaxed environs. Foodies, Il Postino, The Heirloom Cafe, Palms Cafe, the Euro crepe spot, all on the same kilometer stretch of historic Mill Street in Almonte, just around the corner from Art in the Attic at 14 Bridge Street!
 
 
Art in the Attic is a showcase for local (Mississippi Mills--Almonte, Carleton Place, Ottawa--artistic talent. A number of us will have artwork up for sale at the old town hall, an historic stone building at 14 Bridge Street in Almonte. The event starts tonight, Friday the 9th, at 7:00 p.m. Wine and cheese until 9:00 p.m. tonight, then the show runs Saturday and Sunday from 10:00-5:00. There is parking in the lot of the building, and on nearby streets. There are also great restaurants just a few minutes walk from the town hall. Places such as Foodies, The Robin's Nest, The Palm cafe, Il Postino and the Heritage Cafe, all with 3-5 minutes walking on Mill Street from the town hall. Make a day of it, you may even visit display # 13 and take one of my gallery framed photos home!
 
 
Shots of Monument Valley, Utah. This is on Navajo lands, so you must hire a Navajo guide to do a guided tour, which I recommend over driving your rental or your Prius over the very rough terrain of the 17 mile road that goes into the Valley. Navajo guides also get you into spots that the self-guided tour don't allow access to.

We started at dawn, by pre-arrangement with our guide, meeting at the parking lot of the famous View Hotel (owned by a Spanish couple, not Navajo, go figure).
Monument Valley is worth arriving at in time to get the sunset and sunrise, both of which can be shot from the parking lot of the View Hotel. Check local times; you're on Navajo time there, and if we hadn't seen the clock at the hotel the night before the tour with the sign "Navajo Time" showing local time an hour ahead, we would have been an hour late for our morning tour.

Our guide pointed out good spots for the sunrise. I generally used prime lenses (20 mm or 24mm) for the sunrise shots. There is some flare as the sun rose over the left "mitten" (the two hills are called the "mittens" because they look like a left and right hand standing up beside one another). The flare was caused by my use of a magenta and neutral density grad filter, which stopped me from being able to use a lens hood to bead down the flare. Up to you to use or not use filters at sunrise.

Out in the Valley, you'll be brought to a small Navajo trading site, where a fellow dressed as the Marlborough Man will ride out onto the rock ledge, on the same spot where the iconic cigarette ads were taken. The fellow you see in my shots was sitting on his horse when we arrived, so I snapped a shot and was yelled at by a female vendor nearby who said that I now owed him money for his posing. There are no signs to indicate this, but once on Navajo lands, I found everything from parking to looking cost a fee. Fair enough, it's their land and tourist dollars are a key revenue source. That's just how it is, and I'm only reporting exactly what happened to me so that others reading this may be prepared. Our Navajo guide, Byron, was very accommodating and played us a traditional, original drum and flute piece to get us home safely on our travels. My plan was struck by lightning on approach to the airport at Montreal, and all was well besides the surprise of a bright light in the cabin, so I highly recommend a guide who does a traditional song for your safe arrival home.

I paid the ersatz Marlborough Man for his posing, and we continued driving through the valley after sunrise. Shooting in the valley mid-morning requires some consideration with your exposure rates. Large, impressive rock formations up close (arches, the Whispering Ear) require a tricky balance for bright sky and darker rock. I shoot on manual and check each shot carefully using a Hoodman loupe to really see into the corners. Checking histograms is important to get correct exposure.

The broad open areas of sand in front of the famous "totem pole" were shot with my lovely Zeiss 20 mm, no filters, just a lens hood. The color saturation, clarity and sharpness of that lens makes it imperative to have for landscape work, with minimal filter additions or Photo Shop post-production. Our guide also took us to see some ancient petroglyphs, which are rock-carvings where the surface rock is abraded by the artist. Use of paint on rock walls are pictographs as I learned.

Be safe shooting out there.

Chris