Beautiful Birds of Prey

I want to share with you six images of six gorgeous birds of prey that I was lucky to photograph up close at the NatureVisions photography expo a few weekends ago.

The expo is a nicely organized collection of opportunities for people who want to learn about photography: There’s an all-day lecture on Friday by a respected nature photographer, followed by a large array of choices for shorter seminars on Saturday and Sunday, mixed in with chances to do some actual shooting. This year they offered a session where you could do flower photography, a chance to photograph macaws and other parrots (I wrote about that last week), and a session featuring birds of prey brought in for us to practice on.

There’s a wooded area right outside the performing-arts center where the expo took place, so the guy who provided the raptors, Deron Meador—more on him in a moment—would just bring a bird out of one of the cages and position it on a tree branch at the edge of the woods, giving us a nice natural backdrop for our images. (The birds were tethered, so they weren’t going anywhere.)

Deron had a whole bunch of cages with him, an incredible variety of raptors. Below are the ones I was able to photograph before I had to scoot off to an image-critique session I’d signed up for. First, an American kestrel, a small, colorful predator that you sometimes see on power lines along Pennsylvania roads:

Next, a barn owl, which impressed me with its big round face: Read more

An Image Critique at NatureVisions

One of the new features at NatureVisions this year is that you can sign up for an “image review”—a chance to meet with one of the photographers on the faculty and have him or her critique a dozen of your photos. I’m always interested in hearing feedback from photographers who are a few notches (or, more often, more than a few!) above me, so I happily paid the $60 fee to spend 20 minutes getting feedback from Steve Gettle.

This evening I finished figuring out which 12 images to take to the review, and I thought I’d share a few here. One is a macro, or close-up, photo of a katydid from a trip to the Tambopata region of Peru in August 2016:

I have all kinds of things I wonder about it: Do the eyes pop enough? Is enough of it in focus? Is it artsy enough to enter into a competition, or is it too plain, too monochromatic? But I think the important thing when I’m meeting with Steve next weekend is to just keep my mouth shut as each image comes up on the screen, and see what he says, unprompted. And if he says, “It just doesn’t work, and here’s why,” my job is to listen and learn.

Next is Read more

Stunning Photos from the Windland Smith Rice Award Winners

Whether you’re a photographer or just a fan of nature, you should take a few minutes and treat yourself to a gallery of some of the world’s best nature photos. Nature’s Best Photography magazine last week announced this year’s winners of the Windland Smith Rice International Awards, and it goes without saying that there are some stunning images in the collection.

Categories include Wildlife, Ocean Views, Birds, and Landscapes, among others. There are spectacular underwater creatures, a close-up of a leopard draped over a tree branch, a gorgeous image of the Aurora Borealis … just one amazing photo after another.

I was pleased to see that Greg Basco, who runs Foto Verde tours in Costa Rica, was honored for a macro shot of a bullet ant. I’ve gone on two photography-workshop trips that Greg led, and I’ve learned a lot from him, not only on the trips but also from his e-books. Piper MacKay, who offers well-regarded photography trips in Africa, won the African Wildlife category with an image of a pair of reticulated giraffes.

You can see all of the images that were honored here. You might also take a minute to read about Windland Smith Rice (here and here), the nature photographer who died at age 35; the awards are named for her.

The winning photos and many of the “highly honored” images will be on exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., from Oct. 24, 2017, through September of. 2018. Looking at them online is such a treat; I can’t imagine how great it would be to see them in person.