James Keith: Blog https://jameskeith.zenfolio.com/blog en-us (C) James Keith (James Keith) Mon, 09 May 2016 02:39:00 GMT Mon, 09 May 2016 02:39:00 GMT https://jameskeith.zenfolio.com/img/s/v-5/u628305326-o536267037-50.jpg James Keith: Blog https://jameskeith.zenfolio.com/blog 90 120 A Sad Ending https://jameskeith.zenfolio.com/blog/2016/5/a-sad-ending One of the highlights of a recent visit to the Wakodahatchee Wetlands was observing the behavior of a pair of Black Necked Stilts as they protected their nest.  One of the mated pair was always on patrol nearby and as soon as it perceived any threat it would squawk loudly and should the intruder not retreat it would harass it until it left.  Size was of no concern as I observed it harassing a great egret which was easily 20 times it size until the egret finally flew off.

 

I observed the roosting bird for quite some time hoping to catch a glimpse of the eggs and after some time it raised up from the roost and spent a moment or two cleaning the nest and rearranging the eggs before sitting again. I obviously was not the only one enjoying the scene as once I moved away I could see a crowd of nature lovers and photographers near the vantage point.

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I was surprised to see a nest in such an exposed location and could only guess that this was a young, inexperienced mated pair of stilts.  I remember telling my fellow photographer that "i was surprised that a gator had not got them already" and sadly that came to pass.  Two days after I took this photo it was reported that the nest was abandoned, both the eggs and birds were gone, and a small alligator was now resting on the island.  I know it was a natural occurrence in Mother Nature's circle of life but it nonetheless saddens me that this story ended so abruptly.

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https://jameskeith.zenfolio.com/blog/2016/5/a-sad-ending Mon, 09 May 2016 02:33:47 GMT
Emerald Lake https://jameskeith.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/8/emerald-lake  

EMERALD LAKE

Emerald Lake is a lake in the southern Yukon Territory,  notable for its intense green color. It is located on the South Klondike Highway at kilometer 117.5 (mile 73.5), measured from Skagway, Alaska. The color derives from light reflecting off white deposits of marl, a mixture of clay and calcium carbonate, at the bottom of the shallow waters.

Emerald LakeEmerald Lake

 In June 2009, I took a family sea/land vacation to Alaska. Earlier in the year I had decided that this was my last year as a working man and that I would be retiring before the holiday season.  Knowing that I would need a hobby to fill my new found idle time and knowing that I planned on doing a lot of traveling, I decided to reenter the world of photography after a near 20 year hiatus.  I purchased my first digital SLR, a Nikon D40, and began to reacquaint myself to the world of photography.

This trip to Alaska was my first challenge as a newbie photographer.  During the cruise portion of our trip, the town of Skagway was one of our ports of call. The most popular excursions seemed to be the White Pass railway tour into the Yukon and the glacier tours, but we opted out of both of them.  Taking the advice of a friend who had multiple Alaska cruises under her belt, we decided to go on our own self-guided auto tour into the nearby Yukon Territory.

We had reserved a car at the only rental agency in town (Avis) and headed up the South Klondike Highway towards the Yukon Territory at our own pace.  The border crossing into Canada was no problem.  A few questions and we were on our way.  Our route paralleled the railroad tracks for most of the trip so we were seeing the same scenery as the RR passengers with one distinct advantage.  We could......stop.... and spend some time at those scenic locations which caught our interest. Numerous lakes.... the town of Carcross... trading posts... wildlife... and even a small desert near Carcross. 

For we photographers, that advantage made us forget about the comfort of the dome cars on the train.  We were also able to spend triple the time and travel much further into the Yukon then those who opted for the train.  Not only did we have the opportunity to stop for that magnificent scenery but we also could stop for wildlife and we did so for three grizzly encounters during our drive.

In fairness, I never heard any negative comments from my fellow passengers who opted for the White Pass Railroad but for photographers I truly believe that the freedom to stop and compose your photos is one factor which should weigh heavily on any decisions.  I heartily recommend the self-guided tour by auto up the South Klondike highway into the Yukon for any passengers stopping in Skagway.  It is also very economical as we were able to rent a vehicle for the four of us for near the same price as ONE train ticket.

 

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https://jameskeith.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/8/emerald-lake Sun, 09 Aug 2015 23:30:10 GMT
Grizz https://jameskeith.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/7/grizz GrizzlyGrizzly We were returning from a day trip to Beartooth and a few miles before we reached Cooke City we ran into this grizzly with a cub nearly her size.  What followed was the best grizzly encounter I have ever had in all my trips to Yellowstone/Tetons.

Rounding a corner on the highway we came upon a very large pullout with these two large bears searching for food in the nearby field.  Sometimes as near as 50 ft and never more then 50 yds away, we spent the next hour photographing them before they went into the nearby forest to take a nap.  After 15-20 minutes of shooting around other passengers and as they were completely ignoring us, I opened the door on the far side of the car and stepped out to get a shot over the hood.  A half dozen shutter clicks and momma bear raised her head and looked me straight in the eye.  I don't claim to have any paranormal senses but I did get her message loud and clear.  I immediately slid back into my seat then closed the door and momma went back to her search for morsels in the grass.  A few moments later I repositioned the vehicle so those formerly on the far side had the better shot.

Although it was a very large pullout, there were never more then a half dozen cars stopped at any one time.  Surprisingly everyone behaved themselves and kept the noise levels down and nobody, other then myself, did anything stupid.  I can only assume that since this was an isolated area off the beaten path that most of the traffic was locals with few tourists.  In retrospect, this was the high point of our trip as far as shooting wildlife is concerned.

 

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https://jameskeith.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/7/grizz Tue, 14 Jul 2015 14:28:07 GMT
Symbol of the American Frontier https://jameskeith.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/6/symbol-of-the-american-frontier

Few sights are more symbolic of the American frontier then the bison.  The American bison is the largest terrestrial animal in North America. They are good swimmers and can cross rivers over half a mile (1 km) wide. They are nomadic grazers and travel in herds. The bulls leave the herds of females at two or three years of age, and join a male herd, which are generally smaller than female herds. Mature bulls rarely travel alone. Towards the end of the summer, for the reproductive season mixed sex herds are formed.  During the rut, which lasts from June through August, the bulls will fight for dominance within the now commingled herds with the winners being rewarded with reproductive rights.

American bison are known for living in the Great Plains.  The bison were nearly hunted to extinction in the latter half of the 19th century when an estimated 50 million bison were slaughtered for their hides and meat with only a few hundred surviving at the turn of the century.  Now numbering close to 400K, most bison are now raised as domesticated livestock.  The Yellowstone herds, numbering between 4-5K are one of the few wild herds still extant.

On a personal note, bison are one of my favorite subjects on my annual visits to Yellowstone.  Yes, I like more stellar species such as grizzlies, foxes, wolves, etc., but I find the bison to be both interesting and photogenic and can spend hours observing a herd waiting for a behavior of interest to occur.  They seldom disappoint me.                  

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https://jameskeith.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/6/symbol-of-the-american-frontier Sat, 20 Jun 2015 16:15:19 GMT
Pronghorn https://jameskeith.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/6/pronghorn PronghornPronghorn

The Pronghorn is the fastest North American land animal, capable of sustained speeds of 40-50 mph and sprints up to 60mph.  Speed is its main defense and no predator can catch a healthy adult pronghorn on the run.  They are most at risk from predation as newborns when their mother hides them in the tall vegetation and guards them closely.  Even so it is estimated some 30-40% of newborns fall victim to predators. At about three weeks of age the youngsters come out of hiding and begin foraging with several females, their offspring, and yearling females in nursery herds.

Often mistakenly called antelope, they are not of that family which is native to Africa and Asia.  It is probably a tag that dates from observations noted during the Lewis and Clark expeditions.  Once close to 40 million roamed North America, but the settlement of the west decreased their numbers to about 20k at the turn of the century.  About 5000 reside in the Yellowstone area today.

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https://jameskeith.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/6/pronghorn Thu, 18 Jun 2015 14:00:36 GMT
Red Dogs https://jameskeith.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/6/red-dogs Red DogsRed DogsOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Spring is the season of rebirth in Yellowstone as the further Old Man Winter retreats the more Mother Nature replenishes her domain with new offspring.  Not the least of these is the bison.  Yellowstone contains the only wild bison herd which has populated the country since prehistoric times. While there are some +400K of bison residing in our nation very  few of them are wild herds as resides in Yellowstone.

Yellowstone’s herds (est. @ 4500) normally give birth in April and May.  Although there are births much later in the season, those calves have a significantly lesser chance of surviving the harsh winters.  Even the early spring births have a hard time with the winters with a mortality rate of near 40% their first year. Bison are steady breeders with the average female producing one calf, sometimes twins, each year after reaching maturity at two years.  

Springtime bison herds are full of these reddish bundles of energy which are fondly called “red dogs”, or in the local vernacular “red dawgs”, because of their reddish color.  Spending much of their day in their three favorite pursuits….nursing, sleeping, and play, they are particularly a joy to watch when at the latter.  Their playtime romps, mock battles, and foot races are a pleasure to both watch and photograph.  

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https://jameskeith.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/6/red-dogs Sat, 13 Jun 2015 14:22:47 GMT
Soda Butte https://jameskeith.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/6/soda-butte Soda ButteSoda ButteOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Often mistaken for the remains of a defunct geyser, Soda Butte is actually a mound of travertine (Calcium carbonate} formed more then a century ago by a hot spring.  Today only small amounts of hydrothermal water and hydrogen sulfide gas are emitted.  Despite its look it is very fragile and it is illegal to remove, deface, or destroy any part of it.  I have often photographed it but never liked the end result but when I passed it this timethe presence of the bison on the butte whispered to me...."Stop and shoot".   I did and I like it but then I must confess that I have an affinity for bison.  I find them interesting and extremely photogenic.  This stout fellow still in his winter coat lends a presence to the butte that would sorely be missed had he not been there.

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bison buffalo butte landscape yellowstone https://jameskeith.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/6/soda-butte Thu, 11 Jun 2015 11:17:38 GMT
Life is Good https://jameskeith.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/6/life-is-good

 

Home again after a three week outing with a few friends in Yellowstone and the Tetons.  With nearly 4K of raw files to review, you shouldn’t be surprised to see a steady flow of wildlife and scenics being posted in the near future.

Although I shoot many genres and am probably at my best with landscapes, it is wildlife photography that stirs my blood and Mother Nature was most generous on this trip.  The weather was generally good and even the few stormy days were worthy of dramatic shoots.  The wildlife sightings were the best that I have seen in my eight trips to Yellowstone.  Everyone was able to nearly fill their bucket lists and I my only failure was not sighting an elk and calf.

The highlight of the trip had to shared between two sightings.  On our return from a day trip to the Beartooth mountains we sighted two grizzlies grazing on the roadside.  We were outside the park and able to shoot up close and safely from our vehicle.  Surprisingly we spent nearly an hour watching and shooting these bears and there was never more then six cars present and everyone acted sensibly.  Had we been in the park there would have been hordes of onlookers and the ever present rangers pushing everyone back to the 100 yard mark.

The other sighting of interest was the red fox.  On two separate sightings, we were able to shoot a red fox up close as it hunted for its prey.  Completely oblivious of us, it did a grid search of the area until its hunt was successful.  The normal sighting of a fox is a quick snap shot but on these instances we were able to shoot for at least 30 minutes.

Life is Good.  I can't wait to return.

 

 

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https://jameskeith.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/6/life-is-good Wed, 10 Jun 2015 02:24:28 GMT
Circle of Life https://jameskeith.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/5/circle-of-life OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 


We were there the day the two parent ospreys laid the first branch in building their nest in a dead tree with easy access.  Since that day we have visited this family numerous times and were present during all phases of the breeding season.  We watched patiently as they sat on their eggs and took turns bringing fish to their mate from nearby Florida Bay.  Our eyes were on them shortly after the eggs hatched and two chicks could be seen with their tiny heads barely sticking up from the deep nest and we were there a few times as they grew from small feathery balls into the fledglings who appeared bigger then their overworked parents who diligently brought their catch of the day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Today was probably our last time to see them together as a family. The two chicks are now fledglings and one of them is already flying and exploring the world nearby. Mom is still feeding them but I am sure that soon they will be on their own. Near Flamingo, Florida Everglades.

 

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https://jameskeith.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/5/circle-of-life Sun, 10 May 2015 14:24:08 GMT
Lesson Learned https://jameskeith.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/4/lesson-learned  

Every photographer has a few photos stored in their "mind's eye" which they hope one day to capture.  One of mine has long been to capture an alligator making short work of its prey and today I had an opportunity to scratch that item off my bucket list. 

Living in South Florida, I am a short drive from the Florida Everglades and visit there frequently.  Today I was at Anhinga Trail in the Florida Everglades when I came across this 7 footer which had just crawled out of the water with a large fish in its jaws.  Apparently exhausted by the hunt, the gator just sat there motionless for nearly 10 minutes and then he began to toss the fish in the air multiple times trying to get it oriented where he could swallow it head first.  Already prefocused and with my exposure set, I composed my shot and clicked my shutter and was rewarded with.........nothing but an error message " empty battery".

Stupid me.  Wanting to travel light I had left everything but my camera in my vehicle.  Normally I always carry at least a spare memory card and battery in my pocket but in a moment of laziness didn't take the 15 seconds to do so this time.  What was really upsetting was that the gator did not swallow the fish on his first attempt, nor his second,  so I would have had plenty of time to change my battery and get my shot.  LESSON LEARNED. 

 

 

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https://jameskeith.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/4/lesson-learned Fri, 01 May 2015 03:11:32 GMT
About my Welcome Photo https://jameskeith.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/4/about-my-welcome-photo Shady LaneShady LaneOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA This photo was taken at the entrance to the Wormsloe Plantation outside Savannah, Georgia.  The live oak canopy is quite inspiring but to be truthful other then this shot, and variations thereof,  there was not really much else here for we photographers.  This photo was taken in the middle of winter so I would imagine that when leafed out fully it may have a totally different look.  On a side note, the shot was taken with my Olympus E-M1 mirrorless body using a 12-40mm lens. Cropped from its original aspect ratio to maintain that feeling of depth that I perceived with my eyes.

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https://jameskeith.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/4/about-my-welcome-photo Tue, 21 Apr 2015 13:47:25 GMT