Birds in Flight

I just went through all my birds in flight photographs from my trip to Chincoteague in January. Sadly, not many of those photos are worth much. Capturing birds in flight is not easy. So many things can go wrong: focus, light or lack of light, sun glare, obstructions, and much more!

I was using my 70-200mm f/2.8 lens so I was not able to reach out far enough and the low number of good, quality images captured proved to me just has challenging this specific type of photography is to do.

It was fun to try though and I learned a lot. Admittedly, I probably learned more of what not to do rather than what to do, but even this is good education for the future! I believe the challenge is part of the lure in just about anything. After all, if it was easy then everyone would do it. Where’s the challenge in that?

Anticipation and preparation are obviously key. Being ready, as in just about anything related to wildlife photography is paramount. Some of these birds caught me off guard when they lifted up into the air, so capturing sharp photos was no where in the realm of possibility. Eventually, I learned to be a little better prepared and ready for a bird taking flight.

I usually like the deep blue sky backgrounds in my birds in flight photos, but paying attention to other objects can create visual diversity for the viewer of your photos. We certainly do not want all our photos to look exactly the same! Visual balance and diversity are important in any portfolio.

I couldn’t help but go back to see how I did with birds in flight last year at Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary. That trip left a lasting impression on me because it was the first time I captured decent photos of an osprey–actually an osprey and two juveniles. They were a whole lot of fun to photograph and eventually the momma bird lifted off in search of food. Again, having a longer lens would have been very helpful, especially when she was skimming the water to catch fish. But I did capture several of her in-flight and this is one of them.

Have you been successful at capturing birds in flight? Give it a try. It’s definitely worth the challenge and it’s a whole lot of fun!

Merkle Turtles

Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary in Maryland was a very fortunate find for me. I came upon it when I was searching for something to do while my wife and daughter went to Six Flags. The internet search located this spot quickly and I was pleased to see it was less than 30 minutes away from the amusement park. I would much rather amuse myself in nature any day of the week rather than be forced to endure an amusement park! My wife, knowing this and being the sensitive, loving wife she is, suggested that I find something to do while they enjoyed the park.

I looked over the Merkle website, which was helpful, but I still wasn’t exactly sure what I might find there. I knew taking my bike seemed to be the prudent thing to do since the “Critical Area Driving Tour” was only open to cars on Sundays. Taking the mountain bike was indeed helpful and I saw wildlife immediately! This place is awesome!

Today I am posting some photos of the turtles I saw at the sanctuary. There were a lot of turtles to be seen but they were a little shy. They were mostly sunning themselves on the logs when I came upon them. Being patient was imperative and eventually some of the turtles accepted my presence if I didn’t move much.

As you can see in the one photograph below, some of the turtles have some green algae on their shells. This makes them more difficult to spot because they are well camouflaged with this accessory. I also saw several turtles in the river but they were farther away and stayed in the water. One of the photos below shows the head of one of these turtles.

The Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary was a great location to visit. The trails are well maintained and there is plenty of wildlife to see. I will definitely be going back there again!

My First River Otter

Last week I was photographing an Osprey family and having the time of my life!

Those who know me well will contend that I am not the most patient person in the universe. As a matter of fact, some say that I am rather impatient and a few will even say I am the most impatient person they ever met! Okay, so I can be a little impatient at times–I confess. However, put an animal in front of my camera and meĀ  and I can patiently photograph the animal for a very, very long time–all day in fact.

So, there I was, patiently photographing this osprey family, when I saw movement in the water below me. At first I assumed it was another turtle because I spotted several of them before this. This was not a turtle. I immediately saw it was brown and furry and it was a river otter. Fortunately, I was quick to point the camera on my tripod in the river otter’s direction and snapped a few photos. It was over just as quickly as it began. I photographed my very first river otter!

My fear was that I made a mistake during this small window of photographic opportunity. Was the otter fully in focus? Did I get the exposure correct before I clicked the shutter release? Even by looking at the LCD panel on the back of camera was not very helpful in answering these questions because the sunlight was so bright. I just had to wait to see the images later on my computer screen.

These three photos answer the questions I asked myself and are the first three photographs of river otterĀ  in my widening wildlife photography gallery.


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?


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

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.