Blossom

I sometimes forget that the first pictures I ever posted to this blog were pictures of flowers, especially flowers from Pt Defiance Park, which is just down the street from where I live. Of course, that was before I had taken up birding and invested so heavily in camera equipment particularly suited to birding, not taking closeups of flowers.

Last year’s purchase of a 100-400mm zoom lens, though, made it easy to shift from taking pictures of birds to closeups of flowers. I bought the lens with Theler Wetlands in mind because it’s a great place to get shots of birds and flowers. And there’s never been a better time to focus on flowers because this has been a great Spring for tree blossoms because it’s been extra warm and we’ve had very little rain.

Unfortunately, except for the plum-tree in my backyard I can’t tell cherry blossoms from plum blossoms from apple blossoms. Luckily, I can still tell white blossoms from pink blossoms, and the white blossoms seemed to come first.

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But before long the pinkish buds began to reveal their full beauty,

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though I found the contrast between the pinks and whites hard to capture.

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The wild roses quickly followed our three record-setting 80 degree days,

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and so did the wild iris.

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Nothing quite like being surrounded by beauty

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and birds all day.

And a Belted Kingfisher, Too

When strangers ask me if I’m a bird photographer, my usual reply is that I’m a wildlife photographer and that birds are just the easiest form of wildlife to find. Of course, I’m not really a wildlife photographer, either. Maybe I come closest to being a nature photographer, at least if you count people as part of nature.

If I were a wildlife photographer, though, my favorite subject would have to be River Otters, and, conveniently, we observed a river otter laying on the dock at Fort Worden precisely where we saw the river otter family the last time we visited. This one seemed to be enjoying a recent meal laying in the warm sunshine.

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Of course, you can only take so many pictures of a sleeping otter, so I went to the other side of the dock to see what else might be around. Before long I noticed an otter swimming out into the sound, diving,

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and looking around when it surfaced.

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Eventually I tired of waiting for it to resurface, and I went back to birding. When I walked around the building, Leslie pointed out that the otter had returned with a meal.

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I must admit I was a little surprised how well this “river” otter adapted to the Puget Sound.

To cap the whole wonderful day off, I also got a shot of Port Townsend’s resident Belted Kingfisher resting on exactly the same pier he was resting on a month ago when we were here.

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A Red-Breasted Merganser

Although the climax of my recent trip to Port Townsend was photographing the Harlequin Ducks, getting a good shot of this male Red-Breasted Merganser was a close, and unexpected, second. When I spotted this guy, I quit taking shots of the Horned Grebes and the River Otter and worked my way down the beach to see if I could get close enough to get a good shot.

I did.

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I must have spent nearly a half hour photographing this bird, but much of that time was spent waiting for it to resurface after it dove.

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Patience definitely pays off when trying to photograph wildlife.

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Harlequins

Although I didn’t manage to get good shots of the Harlequin Ducks at Ft. Flagler due to the heavy fog, I did get some great shots of them after we stopped for lunch and some store-hopping in Port Townsend. Although I’ve gotten better shots once or twice when I could get closer to them, the lighting was as good as I’ve ever seen, with the sun breaking over my shoulder for a change. Though wary, the ducks were obviously used to people and went about catching food with only an occasional glance back at us.

This is as good of shot as I’ve ever gotten of a pair of Harlequins together,

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even though the white patch on the male is too white, lacking details.

When I zoomed in on the male, the exposure was much better, even showing some of the small feathers behind the bill.

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We actually ended up seeing two pairs of Harlequins, not particularly strange this time of year when they’re paired off, but I was a little surprised when both of the males separated from the females and reeled around in a big circle, at one point coming directly toward me, which gave me this chance to see how different they look from the front,

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not to mention a chance to get slightly different profiles of the two males.

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The hardest part of writing this blog entry was deciding which shots to use and which shots to delete because it’s hard to trash something this beautiful,

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just because it’s not quite as beautiful as the picture next to it.

The Loons Call to Me

As I mentioned in the previous post, as we were leaving Ft.Flagler the fog was finally burning off. We weren’t more than five miles down the road where I stopped at Mystery Bay State Park because I’ve often seen loons there. We didn’t see any when we first stopped, but after we heard a loon calling to me I decided to walk out onto the dock to see if I could find it.

Before long, this Common Loon

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surfaced in the inner harbor next to the dock. At first, I thought I would get great shots because of the sunshine, but as is often the case when shooting birds with black and white colors the whites were overexposed and attempts to correct that resulted in underexposed areas on the head and the neck even though I was shooting in RAW format. In the end, I had to “burn in” the white areas in Photoshop to put the stripes back in the neck area and to refine the white checker shapes on the back and “dodge” the head areas to restore the remarkable red eye.

Photography not only forces you to really “see” your subject, it also makes you appreciate the miracle of human sight and just how adept our eyes (and brain) are to adjusting to different lighting conditions.

Luckily, for the fifteen minutes that I spent on the dock observing the loon(s) I wasn’t even aware of the work I would have to do to correct the camera’s exposure problems. No, I was busy watching the loon paddle around looking for

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a flounder.

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Apparently this loon was used to people because it continued to float nearby as I snapped shot after shot.

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Apparently it’s mate wasn’t bothered by people either, because it turned out I was probably photographing two different loons, which I wouldn’t have realized until I saw the two of them together.

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I probably should have known the loon wasn’t calling to me when I got out of the car.

Recapturing the Color

As bad as the fog was at Ft. Flagler, it was still possible to get some good shots of birds with the help of Lightroom, Photoshop and On1 Photo 10. I shoot everything in RAW and it’s capable of capturing images better than the human eye so that you can recapture some of the color that’s lost in the fog.

This is definitely the closest I’ve ever gotten to a Black-Bellied Plover and though the feathers aren’t as sharp as I’d prefer, I really like this shot.

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It’s hard to believe this shot of a California or Western Gull wasn’t shot in full sunshine.

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I also got as close to a small flock of Turnstones as I’ve ever gotten, and they seemed less concerned with me than most times. I particularly liked this shot of a Turnstone bathing,

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while this shot of one examining the barnacles seems the most Turnstone-like.

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Despite the fact that the camera wouldn’t focus on the small flocks of Sanderlings, I like this shot of a Sanderling with a white feather in its beak.

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Although I’m not fond of photographs that have increased “saturation” and “clarity,” I’m glad to have the ability to capture the “true” colors of birds when lighting is less than ideal.

Foggy Morning at Ft. Flagler

In the midst of a heat wave here in the Pacific Northwest, we decided to spend the day at Ft. Flagler and Port Townsend. Though it was sunny when we left Tacoma, it was completely socked in when we arrived at the beach at Ft. Flagler and were greeted by this White-Crowned Sparrow.

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Personally, I thought the fog added to this shot of a Cormorant atop the two piers.

PiersInFog I began to realize the fog was going to be a problem when I tried to get some shots of these Sanderlings and realized that despite being surprisingly close that there wasn’t enough contrast for my camera to focus on them. SndrlngFog

I must have ended up with 20 blurry shots, and that’s almost unheard of with my Canon EOS 1D.

If it hadn’t been for the bright white tail, I might not have recognized these birds as Brant.

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While photographing the Brant flock, they suddenly all took flight, and I accused Leslie of startling them.

It wasn’t until we started back and Leslie pointed out this large bird on the top of a sign that I realized that they had taken flight because a Bald Eagle had flown by.

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They must be even better than I am at recognizing a Bald Eagle by its silhouette.

Even the brilliantly colored male Harlequin duck looked drab on this morning, though it would have been a great shot in sunlight.

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This White-Crowned Sparrow seemed almost as happy as I was when the fun finally began to burn off the fog nearly two hours later as we headed to Port Townsend.

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