maandag 6 juli 2015

Pure magic

After a successful first photo session with the red throated loons, I just had to go back. Last time the birds left exactly when the most intense colored sunlight hit the water. Therefor I definitely had to give it another try. The weather forecast for yesterday night seemed perfect for fog, so I spent another night in the tent at the lake. Directly after arrival I noticed already one big difference from my last visit. The number insects drastically increased!!! I brought several types of repellant, which normally do a great job, but nothing seemed to really work this time. I just had to accept the situation and make the most of it.

Just like last time, before I arrived at the lake the male left. This time the female joined him on the hunt. Too bad, but at least I could normally walk to the tent without any sneaking while being eaten by insects! The evening didn’t bring anything special, but when I looked out of the tent at about 2:30, I knew it was going to be a magical morning. The fog rose several meters from the water surface and there was a slight breeze pushing the fog over the lake.

The fog rose several meters from the lake.

Now it was just a matter of hoping that the birds would be on the lake when the first light would hit the water and that the wind doesn’t pick up too much. …luck was on my side today. The female and here chick were hidden in the vegetation. But one of the young birds was floated around in the thick fog.

One of the young birds floating around in the thick fog.

One of the young birds floating around in the thick fog.
One of the young birds floating around in the thick fog.

Finally the light I was waiting for!

The video gives a good impression of the scenery. You can hear the female and the other young bird calling on the background. …pure magic…

Exactly at the moment where the colors were most intense, the other young bird landed on the lake too.

The two young birds together.

When the young birds left again, it was nearly impossible for the autofocus to focus against the strong light.

Running on fire.

Almost directly after the young birds left, the male arrived. After having delivered the fish to the chick, he came a bit closer to me and took off again. The point where he started, the back light was too intense to find the focus on the bird. I could just hope that I managed to get the focus on the bird after the first few shots. I almost didn’t dare to look on my camera display to see if the focus managed to find the bird…. Yes…. It did!



One of the young birds returned shortly, but almost immediately took off again. There was just a tiny bit of fog left on the lake, which was beautifully colored orange.

Takeoff. Probably my favorite picture of the morning. 

After that I had one more chance to photograph the male during takeoff before being burned out of the tent by the sun.

The last takeoff for the morning. 

Additionally to the pictures, I ended up with 57 insect bites on my right foot 26 on my left foot and plenty more in my face and on my hands. But it was worth it!

donderdag 2 juli 2015

One of those nights.

About two weeks ago, a friend tipped me about a nesting pair of red throated loons, not too far from where I live. Additionally to the nesting pair there are two more red throated loons in the area, which probably are the chicks from last year. The birds are on a small lake which doesn’t hold any fish. Meaning that they have to fly out to one of the other lakes in order to catch food. This produces great chances to photograph the birds during takeoff and landing. But there is one problem, they are very shy and it is not possible to come close to the water without disturbing them. So two days ago I place a photo tent, with the plan to photograph them the following evening/night. The weather forecast said there would be no wind and clear skies… meaning a high probability for fog on the water during the night. Therefor, I placed the tent so that I would have back-light in the morning  

The photo tent.
As planned, I arrived yesterday evening (around 21:00) at my tent and sneaked in. Just before arriving at my tent, I saw the male leave to one of the other lakes to catch fish. …if I would have been a bit earlier, I would have been able to photograph it… too bad. But normally it shouldn’t take long for the male to return, since it has to feed the female and the one chick which hatched a few days ago. After having installed my camera equipment, I took some pictures of the female in the distance on the nest and waited for the return of the male. The chicks from last year, where nowhere to be seen.
The female on the nest.
The hours ticked by, but no male, no other birds and the female hasn’t moved a bit. Around midnight the male still hadn’t returned and it had gotten too dark to photograph it, if it would return within the next 3 hours. I want wanted to stay awake, in order to see if the male would come back and when it would come back. So I occupied myself with photographing the reflection of the pine forest on the lake.

Reflection of the pine forest.

Reflection of the pine forest.

Hours passed, but nothing. Fog started to build up on the lake, but no birds to photograph. I thought… “it is one of those nights, where you spend hours and hours waiting without any result”. …I must have dozed off, because at 02:30 I suddenly woke up by the screaming alarm call of the female. I quickly looked through my camera to see what is going on. I had the camera fixed towards the nest, but saw instead of the loon, a red fox at the nest.

Red fox going for the nest.

I was afraid that it managed to catch the chick, but luckily I quickly found out that the chick was swimming safely next to its mother. I wonder if this fox has visited this nest before, since there is only one chick, but there were two eggs.

Red fox at the nest.

Suddenly the fox noticed something in the distance and run off. Hopefully it won’t come back.

Red fox running off into the darkness.
The female didn’t waste any time and almost directly got back on the nest.

Female with her chick swimming back to the nest.

Female back on the nest.
Finally, at 03:50 I heard the male return, and luckily with a fish! The female and chick have been without food for almost 7 hours. The fish was about the same size as the chick, so I was quite surprised to see the whole fish disappear into this tiny bird.

Chick getting a fish.

The family together.

The chick just swallowed the fish, when suddenly the two other loons literally crashed into the lake.

The two young loons crashing into the lake.

Finally…. ACTION!

Running over the water.

 Everything went so fast, birds flying, running over the water, diving, splashing, from left to right, from right to left… it was hard to keep track of them while constantly changing the autofocus points and trying to keep the right settings in my camera, since the light conditions varied a lot over the lake.

Almost had him...

Running over the water.

Running over the water.

In the fog.

Stretching the wings.

…but I couldn’t complain!

One of the young birds taking off.
Sadly, just before the first direct sunlight hit the lake and colored the fog in bright orange (the light conditions I was waiting for), the loons left again and the female was back on the nest.

The right light, but no birds.
One and half hour later, at 05:30, the two young birds returned. The colors in the light were not that intense anymore, but it still produced a nice setting.


Stretching the wings.

A green shank visited the female at the nest.
They swum around and were not that active as before.

Floating around and cleaning the feathers.

Stretching the wings.

Looking for fish... which isn't there.

About 45 minutes later they left again. Luckily I managed to photograph both takeoffs.

In flight.


 The light had gotten too intense to continue to photograph, but I was more than happy to end the session there. In the end I took about a thousand pictures… It was just one of those mornings…

Kjell, thank you for taking me in trust and sharing this amazing location with me!

vrijdag 23 mei 2014

Black grouse Olympics 2014

This was my fifth year of photographing black grouse during their courtship. I wanted to do things a bit different this year. I had some ideas in my mind and managed to realize some of them. See here the result of one of my ideas.... A photo reportage of the "Black grouse Olympics" 2014.

Opponents: Knut versus Ole 

First game: Two person dance battle.

Ole starts off with an impressive jump...

but slips and allmost falls during the landing. He manages to balance...a good safe.

Knut responds with an open wing backward jump.

Ole quickly follows with an open wing forward jump...

and continues with back stretched forward jump.

But again slips on the ice. That will cost him some points.

Yeah.... the jury is definitely not impressed. Ole's agressive style is not paying off on this slippery ice and Knut wins the battle.

Second game:  5 wing flaps forward jumps.

 Knut starts with a modest jump with not much ground clearance. Probably he still needs to warm up a bit.

Ole doesn't wait and directly begins with a fully wing stretched jump.

 Knut seems to have warmed up and increases the height of his jump.

Ole's next jump is an impressive one, with the wings fully stretched he manages to get the attention of the jury.

Knut tries to improve, but looses points for not pulling in his legs. 

Again Ole comes with a perfect jump and catches the eye of the jury.

Knut finishes with his best jump of the day, but it won't be enough to catch up with Ole.

Also the last jump of Ole gets the full points, with which he wins this game.

But what is that... Knut seems to be upset about something and rushes to the jury.

He thinks Ole used 6 wing flaps in his last jump, which would disqualify him.

However, the external jury (with excelent eyes) counted exactly 5 wing flaps. So no disqualification.

Third game: The stretch jump (best out of three).

First up: Knut
Jump 1.

 Jump 2.

Jump 3.

That last jump impressed the jury so much, that she stopped cleaning her feathers.

Now it is Ole's turn.
Jump 1.

...not impressed.

Jump 2.

Jump 3.

The spectators cheer.

That last jump got her attention again. They both get the same score. It is a tie.

Fourth game: Since it is a tie, the fourth round is a open round. The competitors can choose their favorite moves. 

 More spectators gather to see the final show.

 Ole opens with a sideways jump.

Knut with a perfect open stretched wings jump.

Which Ole directly repeats in perfect style.

...a perfect synchronized jump of the two competitors.

But that was not what Knut wanted!

A fight breaks out.

...the jury quickly gets out of the way!

Knut picked a hole in the head of Ole. 

This means that Knut gets disqualified and Ole wins the games.

Ole doesn't waste any time and directly takes his price....

And after that he had a smoke. ;-)