donderdag 5 september 2013

Finally again a post... a long one!

It has been a very long time since my last post on my blog. That doesn’t mean that I have been sitting still. The opposite is more true… I have been very busy. 

After my first guest photographers left, in the end of April, I returned one more time to my favorite black grouse display area to do something which I have had in my mind for a quite some time…photographing the black grouse against the morning light. I put my tent on the other side of the display area as I normally do and was expecting the birds on their usual positions. However, in the early morning some female black grouse appeared scattered around the bog. With as result that all males were running around and were not sticking to their usual places. And when the first sun light started to come over the mountains there was not a single bird between me and the sun. But when the first strong orange beam of light came over the mountains, one of the males suddenly made 50 meter run and stopped exactly between the sun and me. PERFECT! 

I managed to get the shots I was hoping for. Afterwards I took some more shots of the birds with the light from behind. 

This is something which I will do again next year for sure and can advise my guest photographers to do too.

After this last visit at this display area, I spent the early mornings looking for new display areas for the upcoming years. I want to offer my guest photographers the possibility to photograph the birds in different settings. And by using multiple areas the disturbance is minimalized. I found a couple of new display areas, including one where the males are displaying in the tops of the trees.

One morning there was very dense fog in the forest which pushed my creativity forward and made me make this shot.

My trusty Canon 40D started to show more and more problems with focusing and the shutter bottom did not work always anymore. Canon estimates that this body will be able to make about 100.000 clicks, mine has almost reached 135.000 now…. Time for a new camera! I really want the Canon 1D mark IV, but my bank account does not allow that. So I had to settle for the 7D, which is a big upgrade from the 40D.  

Now the grouse display season had passed I had to look for a new subject to photograph. I didn’t have to wait long. One evening I was driving home when I saw something what made my heart beat faster. There was a great grey owl sitting right next to the road. Great grey owls are rarely found in Norway, so this was a special situation.

I decided to keep my finding a secret since I didn’t want everyone to go to this area looking for the owl. But I spoke about it with a researcher who informed me that there was a record number of breeding Great grey owls in Norway this year. And it didn’t take too long before the first Great grey owl pictures from this area started to appear on the internet. But I didn’t have the time to go out and photograph the owls. The weather got so bad that the valley flooded. Roads, fields and houses were under water, so no chance to go out. The flood gave me some nice shots doe. Luckily, just before the flood flooded the roads, my new camera arrived.

When the flood went down, the university of Hedmark hired me as guide for a group of forest, nature and wildlife managers from Scotland. We had an amazing week, saw many things, learned a lot from each other and had a lot of fun. It was an amazing experience for all of us. We saw beautiful sunsets, landscapes and a large variety of wildlife such as moose, musk-ox, reindeer, red deer, roe deer, short eared owl, golden eagle, hen harrier, cross beak, red shank, green shank, sand piper, wood cock, black throated diver, grey headed wacktail, capercaillie and many other species. We visited the Norwegian forestry museum in Elverum, went to Dovrefjell where two rangers of the national park informed us about the management of the park and took us for a short trip to their reindeer observation post. We stayed at a traditional Norwegian farm where we were served with typical Norwegian food. We found a wolf kill, visited a bear den, joined one of the grouse researchers into the field and placed a camera trap at a capercaillie nest and went fishing. In between there was a day where the Scots presented their field of work at the university of Hedmark and where some researchers of the university presented their field of work. Additionally, the university arranged meetings with a wildlife manager and a large forest owner. As you can see we had a full schedule.

This week made me realize that I also want to guide not just photographers but also other people with interest in nature, wildlife and forestry.

The evening which I came back home, I found out that a couple of long eared owls was using the field behind my house to hunt. I observed the birds one evening and set up a camouflage net on a tactical place. The next few days I spent quite some hours behind the camouflage net. Here I really got to test my new camera. Sadly enough I didn’t know all the servo tracking settings yet and had the wrong settings when a long eared owl flew straight at me up to just 1.5 meter distance! Too bad! However, I managed to get some nice shots of the two owls.

I only had a few days with the long eared owls, because I had a flight to catch. I went back to the Netherlands for 2 weeks to visit my family and friends. Of course I took my camera with me. I spent some time at a nature area close to my parents place and spent one morning in the photo hut of Hans Menop in order to photograph the Little owl.

When I came back from the Netherlands, I didn’t waste any time. I packed my backpack and went for two days to the Great grey owl area, together with a friend of mine. It didn’t take us long before we found the first owls. It was a couple with two chicks. We managed to photograph them at night with long shutter time.

In the morning we witnessed one of the parents feeding a chick with a vole. Amazing!!! 

After this trip I spent some more days in the area and managed to find a total of 13 owls! I can’t wait until the winter to get shots of the owls in the snow.

It is expected that many of the owls which were breeding in this area, will also breed here again next year. If this is true, I will organize guided trips to this area next year.

After the Great grey owl chicks started to fly, it really became time to work on my master again. I would almost forget that I’m still studying. However, I didn’t lock up my camera. 

Between studying and sleeping  I have been making short trips closer around the house for some small birds and beaver, went one weekend into the mountains and guided one of my nephews and his girlfriend through Dovrefjell in order to find musk-ox and reindeer antlers. We found 37 musk-ox in a short trip. Most groups had young animals, so we stayed on long distance. However, I spotted 3 bulls grazing together a bit further in the area. These we could approach a bit closer and observe nicely for some time.

With the reindeer antlers we were not so lucky. We went off the tracks, over a mountain top into an area which is used more frequently by the reindeer, but found only heavily damaged antlers.

Tomorrow I will have two Dutch photographers coming over. I will be guiding them in Dovrefjell in order to photograph the musk-ox. We will hike all the way to the middle of Dovrefjell and stay there for 3 days. Additionally we will also make some attempts to find the illusive Arctic fox. Fingers crossed!!!! 

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