In my back yard there is a tree that is full of these guys. They love to fly around the pond and catch the bugs. I caught this one just as it took off from the fence post.
Canon 7DmII Canon 600mm F4/IS + 1.4TC 1/1000 f/5.6 iso 500
The past year and a half has been a crazy roller-coaster of a ride. It all started with deciding to sell our house in Flower Mound, TX just because someone knocked on the door wanting to buy it. Then trying to decide where we wanted to live, only to find a place where we least expected, near the east Texas town of Overton. During all of this, there has been little time for photography as moving, job searches, relocation, and settling in has been the main focus of our time. But now, as things are finally starting to get into a somewhat normal routine, Canon released the long awaited update to the EOS 7D, the EOS 7D Mark II. To say that I have been anxiously waiting for this update for more than just a couple of years is an understatement. While I liked the old 7D, the new version really benefits from the latest auto-focus technologies and is a real winner in the wildlife arena.
So, with all that behind me, maybe now I can start getting serious about my photography “hobby” once again and begin posting more often. Let’s start with this visitor to my yard from yesterday. This red-shouldered hawk was gracious enough to sit and pose for me long enough to get outside with the big lens and take its portrait.
Enjoy, and hope to be back soon!
Canon 7D mark II, Canon 600mm F/4 IS 1/1600 @f/4, ISO 800
Can’t believe it’s been over a year now since I last posted. Guess I need to get off my butt and take some pictures to post.
My first day (afternoon really) at the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge started off with Texas Longhorns, something that you expect here in Texas, but not so much up north in Oklahoma. According to the WMWR website:
“The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge’s objective for the Texas Longhorn Cattle is one of protecting and preserving a significant cultural and historical resource“
I had a tip about pelicans migrating through the area at Lake Jed Johnson so I headed out there. Immediately upon entering the trail that would lead me to the back side of the lake, I noticed a few longhorns trotting past me, off the trail in the woods. Then I saw this young one coming up the trail towards me. Looked harmless enough so I stopped to take a photograph.
I figured it wasn’t going to hurt anyone with those horns. It looked at me and left the trail to follow the others through the woods. Continuing down the trail to the lake, I noticed several other longhorn hanging out in the area and I began to wonder just how aggressive these creatures are to people in their habitat. Surely the rangers would have warned me if they were dangerous.
Sure enough, as I get to the water, a couple more longhorn are there, enjoying the water.
I walk past, taking a wide arc around them and get my shots of the pelicans (which you will see in another post later).
I saw longhorn mostly all over the eastern part of the refuge. I don’t know if it was just the time of year I was there, or if the animals have marked off their territory and stay somewhat segregated. I did notice longhorn and bison integrated in several locations though.
In another area just west of this lake, I was able to get a few family portraits of the longhorns. I’m assuming mother and child in the same field where the prairie dogs live.
After getting shots of the pelicans, I began making my way back to my CR-V in the parking lot. However, I found my path blocked a couple of times by what appeared to be a couple of angry-looking bull longhorns. I would adjust my path accordingly and made it safely around them but when I got within eye-shot of my vehicle, the path was blocked by this one especially unfriendly looking bull who had his head down and was pawing at the ground. Now, I’ve seen enough Bugs Bunny cartoons to know what comes next, so again, I adjust my course, leave the trail, and make a very wide circle to get around this guy. By the time I get back to my vehicle, this guy is about 20 yards away, so I make my way to the driver’s side of the vehicle to make sure that I have something metal between us. It was then I noticed another bull approaching. Keeping the vehicle between us, I open the driver’s door and stand in the frame, shooting over the vehicle with the 100-400mm lens and capture the action as these two bulls go head-to-head right there in front of me.
After watching these two fight it out for a couple of minutes, it was all over. My adrenaline was pumping from being so close to such a powerful encounter, and I was thankful for the vehicle that stood between us. In any case, it was an exciting first day, but there were several more to follow!
I was fortunate to spend several days in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge a couple of weeks ago and thought I would share what I saw. Since I saw so many diverse varieties of flora and fauna I’ll break them into separate posts. This post will focus on the little furry creature known as the River Otter.
My first morning there I decided to head out to French Lake and capture the sunrise. I was hoping for some clouds and a dynamic sky, but as the sun began rising, I realized that wasn’t going to happen. Still though, the sunrise was magnificent and it did my soul good to see it. And then I spotted something special. In the reflection of the sun before me, there was something in the water. I had read that there were otter in these waters, but I had no idea where on the lake or at what time to expect them to be out. Sure enough, there were actually two of them swimming around and diving for their breakfast. I sat in amazement of their swimming ability and agility for a few minutes, and then realized that I came equipped for a sunrise. My big lens was still in the car! So I jumped up and ran back to grab the other camera with the 600mm attached, praying that they would still be around and active when I returned.
I get back to my spot and slap the 7D with the 600mm f/4 attached onto my Acratech GP ball-head, hoping that it would live up to its reputation of being able to withstand the extra weight, and I must say that it performed beautifully. I aimed and fired several frames in the direction of the otters and caught them both in the highlight of the sun’s watery reflection. Step one accomplished. I now have shots of river otters for my collection.
I watch in amazement for a while longer, just watching them diving, coming to the surface to eat, and then diving again. I keep firing as the opportunity presents itself. Then I notice that one of them is making its way toward the shore not far from me. Could it be that it would be gracious enough to climb out of the water onto that rock sticking out of the shore? Sure enough, it pops up and stretches a few times, resting on a rock that is just under the surface of the water. Long enough for me to capture a few more frames.
From here, the otters returned to the water and swam away, leaving me with a few frames and some great memories to carry with me.
The next time I saw an otter was on my last morning in the refuge. This time I was at Buford Lake. It was already past sunrise and I was going prepared for birds since this lake was surrounded by a forested area. I had already spotted some red-headed ducks when sure enough, there was the otter, swimming across the surface of the small lake. Still in the “golden hour”, the warm hues of the sun made for a nice capture.
At one point, the otter climbed up on the bank directly across from me and rolled around in the dead grass, as if using it for a towel to dry off. It popped up on its front legs and looked at me as if to try and figure out what the big piece of glass was in front of my face. I was able to make eye contact and –captured! After drying off, the little otter walked into the tall grass and I thought I had seen the last of it.
But a few minutes later, it came out, slipped back into the water and began swimming directly at me. Between my excitement and the limited minimum focus distance of the 600 f/4, I only have this blurry, very closeup look at its face, as it swam to within a few feet of me, probably checking out the reflection of the glass, before turning to resume its hunting. I share this photo only because of the excitement it generated in me while I was simultaneously trying to focus both mentally, and manually with the lens while the otter was advancing directly towards me! Add this one to my collection of “if only” shots. So close and yet fail.
Finally, as the otter continued its morning ritual of hunting and feeding, the thought went through my head that “sometimes you’re the otter, and sometimes you’re the fish”. This day, I was the otter!
If you have the chance, stop by and check out the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. It is in southwestern Oklahoma, right outside of Lawton. It is only about a 3 hour drive from the Dallas/Ft Worth metroplex (depending on which side you begin from), and it is well worth the drive. In the coming days, as time permits, I’ll update with some of the other creatures I was lucky enough to spend time with in this wonderful place!
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