Purposeful Persistence

California Gull Shakes Feather Off While Bathing

My PSA Nature Study Group Image for August

Title: California Gull Shakes Feather Off While Bathing.

Goal: I belong to three Bay Area birding lists or groups, East and South Bay, as well as Peninsula Birder’s Group. I receive email postings by members as to rare and unusual sightings. Birders also just publish their adventures and sightings to share with other birders. Its focus is birding, but many bird photographers use these postings to find and photograph rare and uncommon species. I am no exception! However, there is a big difference between birders and bird photographers. One obvious difference is that birders take pictures mostly for identification, whereas bird photographers are trying to create art. Another one is photographers need to get close, very close to make compelling beautiful imagery. I could go on with the differences, as I have in a previous blog post.

The point is that I was following a lead to find and photograph phalaropes in Sunnyvale, in the South Bay. When I saw the poor digiscope camera image from a birder; I knew that I was chasing a “wild goose”. Yet, because of his effort to tell me where the phalaropes where, I went anyway. I tried hard by putting my big 600 mm lens and tripod on my Rolle cart and got about a mile out, but the phalaropes were way out there another couple of miles. Too much for me to physical at this stage in my life. I decided to head north on the west side of the bay instead. I ended up at Atascadero in Palo Alto, here not that far from my car I found a shallow pond that must have been fed by some underground water source. It was July, not April and most or practically all non-tidal water had disappeared. I noticed a large collection of gulls in this pond, and I notice the center area seemed to be a little deeper and flowing or upwelling with water. The gulls were taking advantage of this relatively fresh upwelling and flowing water by bathing.

Even though it was still hard to get close to them because the water surrounded by a dry pan and the levy I was on was still farther away than I liked. Nevertheless, I had the reach with my 600 mm lens and a 1.4x tele converter and a cropped sensor with my 7D Mark II camera body.

The light was working for me; the sun was setting in the west behind me. Perfect conditions for creating painterly nature images. I kept waiting for them to bath and then jump up in the air which is their typical behavior, not all the time, but most of the time. I also took a few flying in and out images as well. Trying to take advantage of the beautiful photography conditions in any way I could.

You are waiting for the moral of the story or the point. Well, I could have given up twice: once by not going at all, second throwing in the towel after my researched location was a bust, but I didn’t give up and persisted in my efforts. As a result, I think I was richly rewarded. Nature is full of surprises, and it never disappoints if you’re opened to its secrets and its mystery!

Equipment/Source: 600 mm IS f4.0 lens, 1.4x tele converter, 7D Mark II camera body, on a Gitzo 3025 tripod. Shot Information: 1/6400 sec; f7.1 aperture; ISO 1000, Aperture Priority Shooting Mode, and Evaluative Metering, No Flash.

Technique: The light was so good I didn’t do much to the raw capture file. Some slight cropping targeted noise reduction and sharpening. Also, I did a mid-tone contrast enhancement technique using the RGB channels layer.

There is one point or criticism of the image that I know of, but it couldn’t be helped. I am interested in seeing if anyone mentions it.

Fortune Favors The Prepared

My “Little Bee Eater Toss Moth In Air Before Swallowing” image made the top one hundred images in the NANPA Expressions 2016 photo contest.

My 2016 NANPA Expressions Top 100 Winner
Little Bee Eater Tosses Moth In Air Before Swallowing
Little Bee Eater Tosses Moth In Air Before Swallowing

My “Little Bee Eater Tosses Moth In Air Before Swallowing” image made the top one hundred images in the NANPA Expressions 2016 photo contest. There were around four thousand images submitted, to make the top one hundred is a high honor indeed.

STORY BEHIND THE IMAGE:

We were in Tarangire National Park, the fourth day of our three-week safari. We had driven most of this particular morning and were at the edge of the large Lormakau Swamp. My friend John who organized the trip is a bird photographer like me. As a result, we weren’t just after the big five. In fact, John knew our driver and had especially requested him, because they had built up a good relationship over John’s previous trips to East Africa. Both the guide/driver and John loved birds and shared that love with each other. On the most difficult sightings when they would disagree about the identification, I would keep a mental scorecard of who was right and periodically announce who was ahead. They were very competitive in a friendly way.

John’s wife and I were keeping a bird species list as we went from National Park to National Park. During this particular moment, we were photographing a big bull elephant feeding on the edge of the swamp. On the hillside above the swamp where we were parked, there were several large bushes with open branches on top. Since we had been stationary for quite a while. The little bee-eaters resumed their hunting and sallying from these bushes. They came down the slope sparsely dotted with acacia trees. Important was staying put, this allowed the bee-eaters to become accustomed to our presence. Because they were so close, both John and I were watching this particular bee-eater with our cameras trained on it. When it sallied out it would usually come back to the same perch; we didn’t attempt to track our cameras out trying to get an image of it flying. Our focus remained on the perch when it came back with the moth, we were ready when it tossed the moth into the air, before eating. John and I got the shot. A fortune shot, yes, but those who are prepared and observant do get the prize.

A fortune shot, yes, but those who are prepared and observant do get the prize.

TECHNICAL DETAILS:

Equipment: Canon D7 body, 600 mm IS f4.0 lens, with a 1.4x Canon III teleconverter, 840 mm at 1/3200 of a sec, f6.3, ISO 1250, Pattern Metering, no flash.

Technique: 600 mm lens mounted on a bean bag from the top of A Safari Type Landrover vehicle.

Processing:  Some darkening of the background and slight reduction of overall contrast with Nik Viveza. Raw conversion with Photoshop ARC, some cropping.

NANPA 2016 Bird Winners:

NANPA Site Bird Winner Image

This image is also part of my Wildlife Beyond Borders collection. You can view the rest of the images here. My Astounding World of Birds.

Also, you can find more information about this incredible collection of images at our Facebook page.

https://www.facebook.com/wildlifebeyondborders/

Songs Gone Silent

Male Northern Cardinal
© 2013 Bruce Finocchio — Male Northern Cardinal

Songs Gone Silent

Each morning a bird call awakens me. Its song is familiar yet unknown. I have not been able to identify it yet, to come know what species makes its familiar call. It’s bothering me not to know. Nevertheless, it is very pleasing to hear each morning–like hearing an old friend’s voice again after a long absence.

Imagine the world without songbirds–without bird songs to wake you in the morning. The world would be diminished, and Rachel Carson’s vision of a “Silent Spring” would be realized. How sad would that day be, not to hear the thrilling sound of birdcalls? Have their calls only remembrances in our dreams!

© 2013 Bruce Finocchio --Immature Male Vermilion Flycatcher
© 2013 Bruce Finocchio –Immature Male Vermilion Flycatcher

Songbird populations across the world are in trouble. From the pesticides that worried Rachel Carson, “to the feral and domestic cats catching many birds in their claws, to those who die in collisions with skyscrapers, communication towers, wind turbines, and even glass windows and doors of suburban homes.”(1) Just the other day, I found a female Lesser Goldfinch outside of my glass back door lying dead on my backyard porch. It happens more than you realize.

Habitat fragmentation is a great concern as our world becomes more commercialized for our needs. Our exponential growing populations place greater demands upon the natural world. As more of wild nature succumbs to our human environments and less and less is left for wild creatures including songbirds. As we pave over, build our structures, and alter the world’s surroundings to meet our needs and wants. There simply are fewer and fewer places for songbirds to live and flourish.

Black-crested Titmouse On A Mesquite Branch
Black-crested Titmouse On A Mesquite Branch

Bird populations are falling fast; we have lost almost half the songbirds that filled the skies forty years ago, by some counts over a billion birds.(1)  Year by year more songbirds become endangered of going extinct. One of my large bird books has a picture of a passenger pigeon. An artist drawing of a beautiful bird of subtle pastel colors. Wow, I say to myself when I see this picture. I would have loved a chance to see one alive. However, it is extinct, and no long possible to see one fly in the sky, yet over a hundred and fifty years ago, millions blotted the skies of the eastern North America.

© 2010 Bruce Finocchio --Male Mountain Bluebird
© 2010 Bruce Finocchio –Male Mountain Bluebird

Ultimately, I think it comes down to a choice. Our generation and the next must decide to save and protect our natural world, preserving the diversity of life on our wonderful living planet.  Now we alone hold the future of life on earth in our hands. We must change our thoughts and actions from one of domination to one of coexistence.

Evolve enough to understand, I am because of you; I am because of other life forms. (2) Relearn that humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web; we do to ourselves. All living things are bound together. All living things are interconnected and dependent on each other for survival. (3)

Beautiful Male Cassin's Finch
Beautiful Male Cassin’s Finch

Otherwise, if we don’t relearn and absorb these lessons, take it to heart; it will be very bad and a very sad hour for mankind. No more melodic birds’ songs will grace the airways and bring music to our ears each every morning we awaken to greet a new day. Truly, their songs of life will go silent for the last time.

Nature has incredible restorative powers. Life has an indomitable spirit. If we make the right choice, then there is optimism. Hope for mankind and for a better future. Eventually, my singing songbird will come out of the dense tree foliage, and I’ll have my identification. I will have kept at it; the way mankind must persevere in the coming decades.

Bruce Finocchio is one of the WBB photographers who images are currently showing at the Art Ark Gallery in San Jose, California. Meet Bruce and the other WBB photographers at the June 3 reception from 5:00 to 9:00 PM, and hear their incredible stories of photographing wildlife all over the world, and how they take their work from “Beauty to Deeper Understanding”.

Register for the Reception: Register Here

 

(1) 1,000,000,000 Birds – Just Gone by Austin Baily, Daily Kos, 5/20/16

(2)Boyd Varty, Ubuntu, I am; because of you.

(3) Paraphrasing Chief Seattle’s famous words

 

 

Taken For Granted

Mesquite Frames A Calling Audubon Oriole
Mesquite Frames A Calling Audubon Oriole

Taken For Granted

Taken for granted are the sounds of nature, bird songs in the morning’s dawn, the whispers of the wind gently touching your face, and the powerful smell of raw wilderness. These are a few of the healing and soothing gifts of the natural world.

Male Allen's Hummingbird Does Tail and Wing Stretch On Cape Heath
Male Allen’s Hummingbird Does Tail and Wing Stretch On Cape Heath

Too often today, we have divorced ourselves from nature. This loss of connection has sent us adrift. Most of us are ill without even knowing it. There is so much nature can bestow upon us if we accept its gifts and live close to it. A timeless peace, a sense of harmony and balance, and a belief in the essential goodness of life are a few of the benefits of living with nature.

I have a friend who is a morning person. He would get up very early before dawn and prepare some coffee on the gas burning stove at the cabin we shared. Then, he would go outside with his cup of coffee and wait for dawn to break and watch the day begin. He would listen to the birds’ songs begin as the night passed to day, as the darkness faded minute by minute. This simple act gave him peace and rid him of the anxiety created by life in the modern world. I treasured sharing these moments with him; they became part of my early exposure to tranquil powers of the wild.

We shared another passion. He fueled my desire to learn about the birds whose calls we heard, to distinguish one from another, to learn their calls by heart, and discover their unique behavior of each individual species. I started my first species list. The mysterious California Thrasher whose spring calls from the tops of the chamise bushes first intrigued us became the first species on the list.

Black-crested Titmouse On A Mesquite Branch
Black-crested Titmouse On A Mesquite Branch

Yet, at some point keeping a list was not enough, nor was just taking their pictures. After a few years, I took my creative passion to capturing their beauty, their very essence, and their spirit of life. I now have gone a step further with my art and my photography to capturing the sacredness of life itself.

In this way, I can share this sacredness of nature with others. Through my images, they can glimpse within their hearts and minds the mystery and wonder of the natural world–regenerating the strings that once connected and attached them to the earth. They can learn not to take nature for granted, especially the morning serenade of bird songs, and again become part of the sacred circle of life itself.

Pileated Woodpeckers Chicks Beg Mother For More Food
Pileated Woodpeckers Chicks Beg Mother For More Food

Here with my Wildlife Beyond Borders collection of bird images, I hope to ignite the love of birds, spark feelings of marvel in their brilliant colors, and open people’s hearts to their unique world. Wherever we are in our daily life we must listen, and not take nature’s gestures for granted, for bird songs are windows into the natural world.

Some may say this is the fanciful thinking of an idealistic dreamer. Yet, I believe in the power of nature to heal, comfort and soothe the human soul. All my life experiences with nature have led me to know this truth.

Come to the Wildlife Beyond Borders reception at Keeble and Shuchat and learn more. Meet my fellow artists Mary Aiu, Susan Carnahan, Diane Rebman, Wendy Hannum, and Oliver Klink. Reception is Saturday, April 16, 2016, from 2:00 PM to 5:00 PM at Keeble and Shuchat, 290 California Avenue, Palo Alto, CA 94306.

To register for the VIP at 1:00 PM and/or Main Event click register link below

Register

Embracing Life

An Alert Young Burrowing Owl
An Alert Young Burrowing Owl

“If you have no love in your heart, you have nothing, no story, no dreaming, nothing.”* That’s why you need to follow your passion and be “in spirit”.  Inspiring others, with your love and imagination, and love will come back to you a thousand fold.

I love nature, and wildlife! This young burrowing owl is taking its first steps away from the home and safety that’s been its burrow. It’s alert and cautious about this strange and wider world, yet willing to embrace what life has to offer.

Are you willing to embrace life like this young burrowing owl?

*Quote from the Movie Australia.

Sometimes You Get Lucky or Maybe Not!

Within The Egret's Beak
Within The Egret’s Beak

Sometimes you get lucky!

Maybe, that’s not the case, when you practice, practice, and hone your skills for years. The most overlooked capability is evaluating a nature situation, and thinking about what would make a great image.  What angle, what viewpoint will capture interesting behavior from the animal or bird,  and ultimately tell an exciting visual story.

I must admit that I am getting better at this; over the years I really have improve in this aspect of my nature photography.

Putting yourself at the right place at the right time, then, executing with the right technical skills already mastered, so you can let your eye and mind create art. Creating art with a Zen like focus: that’s in harmony with your inner divine self, as well as with the outer photographic world—like considering the quality and direction of the light, and the spiritual connection with the living being you are photographing.

Yes, I used a six by seven format and cropped the image to this size. In this case, with the diagonal line of the beak, all the focus goes to this little minnow that you know is in the last moments of life. A beautiful, tragic, and powerful story; yet presented so visual simple that it grips and tugs on strings of your heart and emotions.

What do you think about the creative process; is it luck or experience that gets the great image.  What about this image, was I lucky or not. Maybe a bit of both? Yes or no?

Bruce

Here is another image from that morning, involving more anticipation and preparation than luck.

Young Great Blue Heron Flight
Young Great Blue Heron Flight

Faces of Sulphur Creek Nature Center

The Faces of Sulphur Creek Nature Center

Intent and Intense
Intent and Intense

For three or four years now, I have been photographing the birds of Sulphur Creek Nature Center in Hayward, CA.  My friend and fellow photographer, Oliver Klink, has been running photography workshops there to photograph these birds in captivity. All of these birds are unable to be return to the wild and live normal lives; some of them are missing an eye, and/or have a broken or missing wing. They only live through the grace of man, yet it was man himself that caused and ended their wild lives.

Into The Eye Of A Falcon

With the backgrounds being very difficult even in somewhat of a control situation, I have used my 600 mm lens to capture mostly their faces, rather than showing the whole bird without clutter and a chaotic background. This way I could look into their eyes, and show you their true hunter spirit. These raptors and owls live by their eyes, and it’s their remarkable vision that stirs our souls.

Here is a collection of some of my best images: haunting, fierce, and incredibly strong sense of life—a hunter gaze. Look into these images, and what do you see? Something mysterious and other worldly that tucks at something in the deep recesses of your soul.

Bruce Finocchio

3/1/2014

PS: If you would like to capture images like these, or with your own particular photographic style and vision, please sign up on my friend Oliver Klink’s, mailing list, at http://www.incredibletravelphotos.com so you can receive a preview of the next workshop at the Sulphur Creek Nature Center, something a nature photographer wouldn’t want to miss.

I have also add a poll at the end of this post so you can vote for your favorite “face”!

Screech Owl Looking Over Its Back
Screech Owl Looking Over Its Back
Western Screech Owl With Lady Bug
Western Screech Owl With Lady Bug
Side Profile Of A Great Horned Owl
Side Profile Of A Great Horned Owl
Great Horned Owl Looks Up
Great Horned Owl Look
Face Of A Gray Fox
Face Of A Gray Fox
Barn Owl, Side Portrait Emphasizing Facial Disk
Barn Owl, Side Portrait Emphasizing Facial Disk
Fierce Yet Contemplative
Fierce Yet Contemplative
Peregrine Falcon, One Wing One Feather
Peregrine Falcon, One Wing One Feather
Barn Owl Portrait
Barn Owl Portrait
Red-Shoulder Hawk With Water Droplet On Beak
Red-Shoulder Hawk With Water Droplet On Beak
California King Snake Coiled Around A Branch
California King Snake Coiled Around A Branch
Western Screech Owl In Tree Fork
Red-tailed Hawk Portrait