Here’s to Fishin’

There are so many reasons I love spending time at Clarksville watching the eagles.  One of the primary reasons this is so much fun for me is the glimpse that it provides of the biology and everyday life of these birds.  I can never predict what the birds will be doing or even where they will be on a particular day.  Try and use the weather patterns to predict their numbers and when and where they’ll be fishing or finding a meal.  More than likely you’ll be wrong.  Just recently I was somewhat disappointed during a trip where I thought the conditions would be perfect for some photography of some wild fishing activity.  Nope.  During that day the birds were in the hundreds, but primarily concentrated near the ice-line about a half mile downstream.  I guess maybe they were finding meals in the disappearing ice?

So, here are a few interesting things that I think only still photography can give one a glimpse of.

You see this in a lot of the eagle shots that I post.  I love that the birds always look closely at their catch, even as they are still getting the air back underneath their wings.  Every-time they do this.  I’m not sure if they’re inspecting the size of their meal, or if perhaps they’re just ensuring a good foothold on their prey.

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Next is something I noticed while I was watching in the middle of one of our extreme cold spells this winter.   There were not great numbers of birds fishing immediately below the dam, but those that were there were fishing like crazy!  I saw several instances of what you see here: birds with obviously stuffed crops were still picking them up left and right.  I wondered if these might be animals with chicks in nests nearby.

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Finally for tonight, here is one I was fortunate to catch a frame of.  This fish was so large and the eagle was travelling so quickly that the inertia rips the single leg that had a strong hold backwards.  The bird seemed to barely hold on.

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OZB’s Favorite Images from 2013!

Yeah, I know.  We are almost through two months of 2014, however that’s possible.  But, I really wanted to make a post like this (I still don’t have all of 2013’s images processed) .  I know it’s popular in the photo-blog community, but I think it really is a nice way to cap the year.  I had quite a time in narrowing this list to ten.  I’m not saying these are my best images of the year, but these are the ones I found to be the perfect combination of capturing something special, being meaningful for me and being at least competently captured.  Follow the links to the posts that each image was featured in.  I apologize to the images that did not make the list.  😉

Here we go…

#10) “Confluence Contradiction”

Taken on a trip to Big Spring this April, this one was something I had never seen in all of my visits to this feature.  Sarah and I were really excited to see the Current in high water and I was lucky to make this image before the water from the river had overtaken the blue colored spring effluent later on this day.

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#9) “Autumn Regality”

Taken early one cloudy autumn morning following an evening storm, the diffused light, and saturated foliage worked well with the complacent attitude of the alpha buck.

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#8) “Singing Cerulean”

Observing multiple Cerulean Warblers was one of several things that made putting up with the heat and insects worth our while.

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#7) “Greater Prairie Chickens in Flight, February 2013

Lifers for both Steve and me, spotting and photographing two of Missouri’s literal handful of Prairie Chickens was the highlight of our trip to Prairie State Park last winter.

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#6) Untitled composition taken at Lee’s Bluff on the St. Francis River

This was a recent finding for us, and one in which I hope to get back to soon and often.  This relatively easy S-curve was but one of many potential compositions that I tried to capture.

#5) Untitled composition of Short-Eared Owl

I’ll never forget the day when we were able to watch multiple SEOW up close and personal.  The highlight was taking a shot of this one perched on an MDC sign at B.K. Leach C.A.

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#4) “Coward’s Hollow”

I had been looking for this spot since I first started exploring the MO Ozarks several years ago.  This year I was able to find it, and just after an incredible amount of rain!

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#3) Untitled composition of Sandhill Crane in flight

Taken with my newest bird lens, I was in the right place at the right time to squeeze off this keeper.

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#2) Star Trails at Dunn Ranch Prairie

Among so many other unforgettable experiences from Steve’s and my trip, the chilly July night spent working on my first serious attempts at astro-photography ranks near the highest from 2013.

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#1) “Are You Sure It’s Dead?”

With my medically documented disorder for decision making, it’s an official miracle that I was able to narrow down the subject and the specific image for the top spot in my favorite images of 2013.  Finding such a nest at just the right place and time to observe these parent Scissor-tailed Flycatcher raising a healthy brood was such serendipity.  This image was taken at Tucker Prairie C.A., the first stop of this particular journey.  We were torn between watching these guys until fledging and heading on to the other great spots along our route.

Well, I hope I did my 2013 collection justice with this list.  I can’t imagine 2014 could top the experiences of last year.  If the experiences and associated photographs of 2014 even come close in comparison, I will truly be a fortunate creature.  Happy New Year.

Ozark Bill

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Return to Stegall Mountain

A number of years ago one of the first hikes I remember into the Missouri Ozarks was a short spur trail off the OZT up to the summit of Stegall Mountain within Peck Ranch C.A.  I had my first “serious” camera that I wanted to document Nature as I found her on these journeys and I made a couple images that I was satisfied with at the time.  This past holiday break we found ourselves back at this location and enjoyed a pleasant winter’s day.  Here are a few images from this visit.

One of the highlights of Stegall Mountain Natural Area are the Oak savanna and glades.  Some of the most gloriously colored rhyolite in the state is found in this area.  The trees pictured in thes images are mostly stunted and gnarled Post Oaks.  I couldn’t get enough of them.

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The Ascent

No, Steve and I did not take a daytrip to make it to the summit of K2 or one of the other Himalayan peaks, although we easily could.  This image was made on one of this winter’s sub-zero days at Elephant Rocks.   I had an idea of the image I wanted to make that may showcase an optical effect that Galen Rowell made famous called “diffraction fringe“.  By putting oneself in the shadow of your back-lit subject at just the right difference and position, one may see a ring of hot light that outlines the silhouette of the subject.  This proper geometry of sun, subject and camera (including optical settings)  is just one requirement to observe and capture this effect.  The other, as far as my understanding allows is the need for dry, clean air.  On this particular day we had temps below zero degrees Fahrenheit and the air was as dry as could be with no interference from any noticeable smog.  With the air quality requirement met, it was simply a matter of trying to position the model (Steve) at the correct position between myself and the sun.  This part was more difficult in this setting and ultimately led to us missing our ultimate goal.  Trying to work this out in minus 30 degree windchill proved our undoing.  I could only ask Steve to climb so many boulders in this type of weather, which seemed to be increasingly affecting our mood and thought process the longer we were in these elements.  Ultimately, I did not achieve the diffraction fringe.  I am not sure as to the reasoning for this failure.  I feel the geometry of our positioning, afforded by the placement of boulders and the limited availability of where I could position myself was the biggest factor.  Getting the required distance that I believe necessary was impossible.  Other factors that could have played a part were not having the most appropriate focal length and aperture settings, the air quality not being as suitable as I thought and perhaps the quality of the optics I was using.  Many of these optical phenomena are the result of imperfection in lens design.  Galen took most of his images with older generation optics that were often lower quality compared to today’s standards.

I’m not exactly sure what the reason for the failure in acquiring this diffraction fringing was. I guess this was just a very long explanation of an image I thought turned out to be pretty successful anyway.  I look forward to trying this one again one day.

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The Gulf

Pulled from Beveridge’s gift early after my discovery of the book, “The Gulf” of Wayne County has been on my list of desired destinations for a while now.  Recently Steve and I made this our target in a winter’s outing, which is an appropriate time for nice viewing of many of the Missouri Ozarks geological features due to lack of green vegetation that blocks views and light.  The Gulf is a narrow sinkhole that is approximately 100 feet long and 20 feet wide.  This sinkhole is actually an opening to an underground lake that is more than 200 feet deep at its maximum depth.

Here Steve posses for a bit of reference.  In periods of lower water, the entrance of the “cave” portion of the underground lake would be seen at the opposite end of the sinkhole from where Steve stands.  A small boat and/or scuba equipment would provide for excellent opportunities for exploring.

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Just as the Tyndall Effect explains why the sky is blue, it is also the reason that the deep bodies of water found in the Ozarks often appear blue.  These carving waters carry the dissolved limestone with them.  This ultra-fine suspension scatters the shorter blue wavelengths more than the other colors of natural light, giving the blue appearance in the waters, even though there are no blue pigments to be found. In fact, this blue appearance is somewhat dictated be the angle of light and the viewer’s position to the reflecting light.  With a slight turn of the head, the water will often change color.

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A potential practice picture for spring, here you can see some old wild hydrangea growing on the edge of the sinkhole.  Can you find Steve in this image?

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