2013: Favorite Photos – Wildlife

I saved the best for last.

I’ve covered all the bases with People, Places, and Things.  Now it’s time for my favorite category, and the one I spend the most time on.  Wildlife.

There is no way I could trim this down to just 10 shots, so I’m breaking my rules and rolling with 20.  Even though the second half of the year wasn’t very productive with the camera (I was actually focused more on running and riding, which was a great trade-off), I still got some fantastic images that I am super happy with.  Looking through all of these makes me want to get back out there and see what else I can find!

18 of these shots were taken within 5 miles of my home. Just goes to show how much cool stuff is right in your own back yard when you take the time to stop and look for it.

I was lucky enough to spend around 2 hours with this bald eagle on New Year’s Day. It was a great start to 2013. I would liked to have been just a bit closer, but this shot has several great features that are hard to come by when shooting raptors like this. I was able to shoot from a hillside so the angle was nicer than the typical view from below, the perch was a good one and free from interfering branches, there were elements of background action with tons of geese flying around, and the eagle was very cooperative – content to soak up the afternoon rays.

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I spotted this mule deer in Chatfield State Park before he saw me. This gave me a chance to stalk up a small draw on an intercepting route with a favorable breeze and get quite close by the time our paths crossed. It’s so cool to see a majestic animal like this at the top of its game.

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Western Meadowlarks are common around here, but they are always a welcome sight and have a beautiful call. They are the state bird in six states! I always try to get an uncommon shot of a common subject, and think this image fits that description.

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I love the look this hawk gave me as it flew past.

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This year I went from never even noticing a kestrel before, to spotting them all the time. On this particular day, I hit the jackpot. Conditions were perfect – the day after a spring snowstorm when the sun was shining. This left everything blanketed in snow, except for the dirt road I was on, and had the effect of concentrating the kestrel’s attention there in its search for food. The caterpillars were abundant, and I watched a male/female pair feed for a while as I crept along in the car at .000001 mph. The car makes a good blind when shooting birds, and they are a lot more tolerant of it than of a human standing up. They don’t like a stopped car, though – which makes it tough to get close.

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I watched this osprey eat lunch for over an hour, keeping my distance so I wouldn’t bother it. The zoom and some cropping got me in nice and close for this shot. They are messy eaters! Look at the bits of fish scattered everywhere – talons, pole, wires, etc. A great bounty for the crows and magpies that act as cleanup crew when the osprey is finished.

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I got to witness 3 incidents of bird-to-bird combat this year. This bald eagle mature vs. juvenile fight was incredible. My heart was pounding so hard and my adrenaline was maxed out making it a struggle to hold the camera steady. It all happens so fast, birds slashing the sky, fingers twirling dials and pressing buttons, hoping you at least got some of it recorded.

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I layed motionless on the beach at the edge of the water for so long to get this shot, I overheard some people a ways off from me debating whether to call the ranger. I guess I resembled some foul play that had washed ashore… The wait paid off as I was able to get this incredibly unique view of 3 pelicans in one frame. I didn’t even know the other two were lined up like that until I downloaded the photos to my computer!

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Yet another bird I had never noticed before, the american avocet. I am constantly blown away by the endless form and function present in the bird world.

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One of my luckiest and best shots. I was creeping down the dirt road in my car with my head out the window looking back at something. My head swiveled forward at the same moment this burrowing owl noticed me and our eyes locked ever so briefly. In that moment of its hesitation, I swung the camera up and fired just before it took off. The addition of flash after sunset really brings out the eyes. So glad it turned out, I doubt if I would ever get another chance like that one.

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Big-daddy ram along the I-70 corridor. If there is ever a look I strive for in my wildlife shots, this is it. A single subject, powerful portrait, good eye contact, with a downplayed and consistent background. Another use of flash after the sun was gone for the day. Using flash with long zoom (450mm equiv) was not intuitive at all, and you can’t count on it as the primary source of illumination, but when conditions are right throwing a few photons downrange can make all the difference. I practiced with the zoom/flash combo a LOT this year and was rewarded with some great results.

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Like this beaver in our neighborhood pond. Another zoom/flash combo after sunset. Sensing a theme here… Mainly because that is when the critters are most active. Shutter speed was a bit low on this one (1/100) due to it being so dark, but my timing was perfect as I caught it just before the sllllap!

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Ohhh, man. Do I ever love this shot. Some day I will write a post with the details of how I got this egret at takeoff.

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I found this prairie rattlesnake on the road in Roxborough State Park, and it cooperated with me for a few minutes as I got nose-to-nose with it. Well, I was about 5 feet away…

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If you look closely, you can see my whole family reflected in the eye of this prairie falcon. It was on display at the Hawkwatch booth during our local arts and crafts fair. It was awesome to see these incredible creatures up close. This one had been hit by a truck in Wyoming and was being nursed back to health (but would likely never fly again).

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Two mule deer in some deep vegetation. Deer are incredibly common, but again – I like striving to get the uncommon shot of the common subject. The soft lighting and interaction made this a keeper.

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I chased this butterfly all over the place until I finally got a good angle and it held still long enough for me to capture it.

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Sitting in the patch of flowers near the maintenance shed in Roxborough State Park, I was able to get this shot of a bee lifting off (after many tries). I was stuck using a slow’ish shutter speed since it was so dark, but was able to rely on the flash to freeze the motion of the bee.

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First and only sighting of a hummingbird moth. Malcolm spotted this as we were wrapping up our hike of Mt. Sherman. Thankfully I was able to snag a quick shot before it flew away.

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And finally, some bluebird perfection. Probably my all-time best shot. The perch, pose, eye contact, lighting, and feather detail all combine to make one sweet image. Truly a moment I will never forget.

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Well, if you made it this far – thank you! While I definitely have a passion for this stuff, all of the kind words and encouragement I have received when sharing my work really make me happy and give me the fuel to continue doing what I love to do.

Posted on December 30, 2013, in photography. Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. I think the kestrel is my favorite, with the bluebird and prairie falcon vying for second.

  2. Wonderful photos, all around. I love the bluebird! Great work, sir!

  3. Curtis Simmons

    Chris you have a wonderful gift my Dear Brother in law. Thank you for sharing this gift with us. Just awesome!!!

  4. AWESOME STUFF. Completely unrelated to this post I was showing someone that very shot of the osprey tonight.

  5. These are seriously stunning. I showed my family and everyone was awed.

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