Thursday, May 27, 2010

Keep Exploring & More Vertical

GVP #40 to #48 - From

A couple weeks ago I went to the Air Show at Andrews Air Force Base. This was my 5th year going, and I'm starting to get my fill of it all. The highlights of past years have been the F-15 which is awesome and so fast when they kick on the afterburners. The F-22 Raptor is amazing too. It can basically defy normal laws of physics, and hover, flip, flop, slide, go backwards, sort of crazy.

F-16 @ JSOH 2010Oracle @ JSOH 2010F-22 / Raptor!Golden Knight Jumpers @ JSOH 2010
-click for more-

The part that has gotten pretty old this time is the crowds. My basic routine for the past few years is to be on one of the very first buses from Fedex field so I can get a front row spot near the middle. Doing it this way makes it a very long day but there's not a better place to shoot from really. With no one in front of you, you can have an unblocked view of just about all of the show. They have restrictions on what you can bring to the base/show, but you're allowed to bring a chair, a tripod, and whatever camera gear you might want to carry (but bag sizes are limited to 1 cubic foot). The problem is that even if things go smooth it is a stressful day. Carrying around a couple cameras, a few lenses, a chair, a tripod, and being out in the hot sun on the tarmac takes a toll. Add to this the fact that the crowds are usually around 100,000 people, and being up front makes your space a target. Every one that was home sleeping at 7am now wants to stand in front of you. So it turns in to a defensive struggle to not get ousted from the front row, or just stepped on and bullied.

The other thing that I found some this year is that it is somewhat hard to get unique photos when you and 99,999 other folks are there too. I guess it is not impossible, but it is hard. My vertical project helped a little to keep me trying new stuff, but, more and more I want to keep advancing my photography and being where lots of other people are shooting isn't part of the plan.

Maybe next year I will take a different approach to it to keep it fresh - like sleeping in, or not bringing a big lens and tripod or chair, etc. Doing it completely the opposite way, and shooting the static display stuff more, or maybe the people of the air show.

(I realize that I am posting this to my nature&wildlife photography blog, but to me all photography is part of the same continuum - the learning, exploring, and processes involved.)

Luke Says It Will Be Ok.
The sad news of the zoo's lions loosing their new born cub was a real downer. But the work involved in the zoo's effort to build a lion pride has been going on for around 5 years! The fact that they have a male, 2 females, they've settle in to the zoo well, and now are a pride of 3 - and there's been mating and a single birth (this recent one) is a success. And this setback is temporary, and I am still hopeful and proud of the hard work the zoo has done to come this far.

And now on to some WILDLIFE! Last year I went to Cape May New Jersey for the first few times ever. I stayed over night both times, and had a real blast. During Fall Cape May is a major hot spot for migratory birds. I saw hawks, and a variety of other birds but the Black Skimmers were my absolute favorites.

The Four Tops
In October (2009) there had to have been 500 birds (black skimmers) along the beach - in just one or two groups. By November (2009) the group was down to roughly 50, and of those only a handful for adults. For reference as to how much I enjoyed watching and shooting them - I probably spent 50% of my time just with them on the beach, and maybe took 3000 shots. The hawks, raptors, etc which motivated me to go in the first place weren't my favorites or even a big highlight. Just this one image stands out - and the close encounter I had with a Cooper's that flew by me at around a distance of 5 feet and plunged in to a bush to try to catch a meal.

This weekend I went again but didn't find any Skimmers. There were some on the other side of the Delaware Bay in DE. The highlight of this trip was probably the Piping Plovers and Laughing Gulls. Much like the Skimmers, the Laughing Gulls are pretty common but they have some character and aren't too skittish.

Piping Plover @ NJLaughing Gulls Getting SeriousPlover

I was keeping Cape May a "secret". Lol. The thing is that people do follow where I go, and I wanted to keep the spot to myself. But in actuality the spot is probably the most famous and known birding spots of all the east coast north of Florida. I realized this (obvious fact) and also that I should be able to get my unique images regardless of who knows I shoot there. I am still going to try to keep my smaller spots off of my publicly shared spots (just going to share the images themselves) - but a spot like CM, it's like Blackwater or Bombay Hook - the locations are very well known already.

Later in the weekend I checked in on one of the osprey nests I visit, and the female appeared to be sleeping when I got there. She woke up when some other birds chirped to alert the neighborhood to my approach. But she didn't fly off the nest, and just watched me for a few. There's gotta be chicks already or maybe by this weekend. I didn't see any feeding last weekend, and have high hopes for this nest this year.


I've been shooting video on and off, trying to keep at that. Here's a short clip of the osprey from above, sitting on the nest and yelling to the skies!

Those are some of my recent travels. My goal of late is to see and shoot differently as much as possible. The vertical thing has opened some doors. Going to new places like Cape May, and oh yeah, I took the ferry there this time. That was interesting.

Other ways I changed it up this year was in February when I took a day trip to Assateague State Park. That's around a 150 mile trip ONE WAY! I got there within 10 minutes of sunrise! I shot there for a few hours and had some fun/success. I went to Blackwater Refuge also that day. And to show just how crazy/motivated I can be - I went to Great Falls for sunset too - all in the same day. Was about a 15 hour day door to door. And I got some great shots. And because that day was so good at Blackwater, I went again the next day and probably got my best / most different Snow Goose shots to date. That weekend I drove around 500+ miles and "worked at it" around 25 hours. / Jon