Archive for July, 2011

More Seagulls – The Ring-Billed Gull

Posted in Bird Photography, Ring-Billed Gull, Sandy Point State Park, Seagulls, Wildlife Photography on July 30, 2011 by bobshank

This is interesting. I took a ton of photos this week and a bunch of the seagulls. I’ve been doing some research since my blog post yesterday to find out exactly which species of seagulls I photographed. The research is almost as exciting as photographing them!

I discovered through my research that these gulls are the Ring-Billed Gull. They are perhaps the most common gull seen today. They do migrate and actually spend a lot of time inland. In fact, some never even see the ocean. They are also sometimes referred to as “fast food gulls” because they can often be found scavenging at fast food restaurants. They are also sometimes referred to flying garbage men because they often eat garbage left behind by humans. They are mostly scavengers but also eat fish and other small aquatic animals.

Their primary identification mark is the black ring near the front of their bill, hence their name: Ring-Billed Gull.

Females produce between 2 to 4 eggs that are laid on a hollow on the ground sometimes filled with grass or debris. Both the male and the female take turns sitting on the eggs to incubate them. Eggs hatch anywhere within 21 – 28 days.

So, yeah, I learned a lot more than I figured I would about these gulls all because I captured these photographs. Fascinating!



Posted in Beach, Bird Photography, Low-Angle, Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary, Sandy Point State Park, Seagulls, Wildlife Photography on July 29, 2011 by bobshank

Tuesday was a day of adventure. It started out at Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary and ended at Sandy Beach State Park. Birds from osprey to seagulls were the subjects in front of my camera and I had a blast!

Seagulls are common birds that elicit thoughts of the beach and the ocean. They are often seen by everyone visiting the beach and yet are fascinating to observe. While our daughter, Lydia, was swimming in the bay, I spent some time with gulls. They were not very happy to have me chasing them around, so I just casually moved down the beach hoping to get closer to some gulls as I went. This strategy worked much better and before long I was composing seagull photos and clicking the shutter release. This was great photography to me because the subjects were all around. All I had to do was be cautious about the backgrounds and shoot away. This is relatively easy wildlife photography!

How many of you go to the beach? How many of you have photographs of seagulls?

As the evening wore on, I found myself trying harder to get quality photos of the gulls. My wife shook her head and actually laughed at me when I got down on my stomach to take some low-level shots of two gulls. Hey, I was taught that eye-level to the subject is the goal, so I didn’t think this was so outrageous! Actually, I do prefer low-angle shots. For example, when I shoot a baseball game I almost always wear knee pads and kneel along the first-base or third-base side of the field. This low-angle perspective helps focus attention on the player, which is exactly what I want to focus on.

The gulls at Sandy Point State Park made beautiful subjects; don’t you think?

Plebe Summer

Posted in Facial Expressions, Midshipmen, Navy, Photography, Plebe Summer, United States Naval Academy on July 28, 2011 by bobshank

Spending several days at the United States Naval Academy is a treat any time of the year. There is so much history, architecture, and more! I prefer the hot summer days mainly because this coincides with Plebe Summer–the six weeks new midshipmen endure their initial training at the Academy.

I was privileged to see a lineup before lunch on Monday and the Brigade marching on Monday evening. The photographs here that I captured during the marching maneuvers show some of the facial expressions, which show some of the wear and tear of Plebe Summer. There are a few light-hearted expressions, too, which goes to show that at least some fun is sometimes had even in the midst of a grueling hot summer evening for the Plebes.

These young men and women are going facing tough times this summer and over the next four years. All of it, however, is designed to prepare them for their commission upon graduation. I am so proud of these men and women. Their willingness to endure tough times, better themselves, and work as a team in protecting the freedoms our country stands for are just some of the reasons I respect them. It truly takes a special breed of person to be so willing to endure so much. We all could learn a lot from their dedication, commitment, and courage!

Look through these photographs. Study the facial expressions. Imagine the tough conditions these young men and women are enduring. Think about their commitment, dedication, and courage. What do you see in these photographs?

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Posted in Bird Photography, Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary, Ospreys, Wildlife Photography on July 27, 2011 by bobshank

My time spent at Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary in Maryland was well worth the time and effort. I had a blast, saw and photographed a lot, and will try to get back there again. It was very hot but wildlife sights and sounds were abundant!

My research on Ospreys taught me that most of their diet is fish. In fact, about 99% of their diet is fish. The parents fish by flying high in the air to spot a likely meal and then dive bomb the water to snatch the prey with their long talons. They will then turn the fish head first so they are more aerodynamic when they fly back to the nest. An average of three eggs are laid each year and both the female and the male are involved in keeping the eggs warm until they are hatched. The nest I photographed the most this week contained two juveniles and they looked hungry most of the time!

I was able to capture some decent photographs of this Osprey family and some of the flying action of the mother on her flights to find fish. In the last photograph you can see the mother and her two hungry young chicks.

Dragonflies and a Groundhog

Posted in Dragonflies, Groundhog, Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary, Wildlife Photography on July 25, 2011 by bobshank

Today I was photographing in Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary, which is located in Marlboro, Maryland. Denise and Lydia were at Six Flags, Maryland, but since I am not one who enjoys amusement parks, I was encouraged to leave them alone. It was hot; real hot!

The dragonflies didn’t mind the heat at all. They were flying around, chasing each other, and once in a while landed on a stalk of grass. I was not able to catch any in-air flights, but I did get a lot of photos of the dragonflies.

Later on I found a groundhog where I first saw a nice den. These critters can do an awful lot of damage to farm equipment like wagons when a wheel is swallowed up by one of these dens. Here at the wildlife sanctuary the groundhog is left alone and allowed to keep his deep-holed den. I first spotted him when I was quite a ways from him–maybe about 30 yards. I slowly, ever so slowly and casually, move quietly closer. One slow step after the other brought me closer and closer. I don’t know if wearing my camo shirt helped or not, but he didn’t move as I inched closer. This groundhog seemed like a model of sorts as it was positioned on his haunches looking around.

Here are some photos I captured today.

Free Lightroom Effects Presets

Posted in Adobe Lightroom, Photography, Presets on July 22, 2011 by bobshank

Effects in Lightroom can change the appearance surrounding a photograph by creating an outside border. This is helpful when desiring the main subject to stand out. Oval and rectangular shapes are available to create special borders around a photograph.

Here is a link to five free Lightroom Effects Presets that I created yesterday. The thumbnails show a small version of the finished product. Download these effects and give them a try today.

Directions can be found at the bottom of the web page on how to download and use these files.

Rabbits Out of Nowhere

Posted in 70-200mm, Aperture, Mountains, Rabbit, Shutter Speed, Wildlife Photography on July 20, 2011 by bobshank

Our daughter, Lydia, went for a walk late this afternoon. On her way out and then back again she was surprised to see a baby fawn lying right next to the front porch of house!

Motivated by her sighting, I grabbed my camera, put the 70-200mm lens on, and went out the door. It was just starting to rain and the cloud cover was blocking some of the light. Before I even took ten steps out our back door, I spotted a rabbit. It was a young one and appeared out of nowhere! I causally moved about as if just wandering around and was able to get closer. The light was too dim for a 200 ISO setting, so I bumped it up to 400. At an aperture of f/2.8 I was getting anywhere from 1/250 – 1/325 shutter speed. This was just enough to allow me to shoot handheld and get a few nice shots.

Before long, this little bunny moved into the brush, apparently having enough of my presence. So I moved on to another rabbit sitting just beyond our driveway. This was an adult rabbit. I observed and clicked the shutter release and then watched in amazement as he stretched out his neck to get some grass to eat. This was repeated several times as the continuous frames were blasting away from my end. Then, almost as if on cue, this rabbit started cleaning his back foot!

Wildlife is incredible and completely amazing to me. I am known to say, “There’s no place like the mountains.” I believe this deep down in my soul for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the wonderful wildlife I get to see and photograph!

Today I was hoping to photograph a fawn but ended up photographing two rabbits who seemed to emerge out of nowhere. I just happened upon them and I’m so glad I did!

What do you think of these rabbit photos?