Trip to Chincoteague

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Earlier this month I had the opportunity to travel to Chincoteague, Virginia for some wildlife photography. I always enjoy spending time at this National Wildlife Refuge. The waterfowl and wildlife are usually abundant and fairly easy to photograph and this year was no different. In fact, this year was the best photography Chincoteague has offered me so far!

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Right off the bat, a Great Egret, which was perched in a tree preening itself, offered some very nice poses. Then several Great Blue Herons offered a variety of shots with my camera and lens. I enjoy photographing the Blue Herons, but they do scare easily. A long lens is definitely required for bird photography and even though the Blue Herons are very big birds, long lenses are still required when photographing them.

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The weather was absolutely beautiful for January and it was quite warm for this time of year. This definitely helped my wildlife photography on this trip because I prefer to stay on the wildlife for long periods of time. Many other photographers pull up in their vehicle, jump out, snap a photo, and are gone. This does not result in quality wildlife photography. There are some Blue Herons here in this brief blog post that I literally spent over an hour with behind my camera. Wildlife photography is not for the impatient. Time and effort and required for good, quality photographs. I hope these images show at least some of the time and effort I put into this day’s shoot.

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Late in the afternoon on Wednesday, the gates were opened in the waterways and the water was flowing, as gallons and gallons of water moved through the system. A Great Egret was fishing near the edge of the waterway. I just happened to walk up on it, but then a Great Blue Heron came onto the scene and wanted a piece of the action. He was forceful and chased the Egret away to take its prime place. It worked, too, as the Blue Heron located one small fish after another. It was a feast for a king!

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I found the challenge of capturing the action with my camera to be fun and rewarding. The Heron first eyed up its prey, carefully and methodically. This took time and patience, which is why the wildlife photography has to be patient as well! Then the Heron plunged its long beak into the water with a great splash. The Heron’s head emerged from the water with a fish in its beak almost every time!

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The back light from the setting sun behind the subject created an interesting glow on the Heron’s beak. I was actually on the wrong side of the Heron to get the best photos of this bird, but wildlife photographers cannot always be in exactly the right place and time. I happened into the spot and onto the Heron, so I took the opportunity and made the best of it. Sometimes that’s all we can do.

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As the last shooting hour came to a close, I focused my attention and my camera to the sky. Here is what Moose Peterson calls “God Beams.” I enjoy the challenge of capturing these captivating beams with my camera and I am slowly learning to do so a little better. I am also finding myself using Manual Mode in my camera a little more often, too.

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This sunset silhouette was one of the last photographs I made that day. I like the way this one turned out. The sky has interesting clouds and the sliver of water below the trees on the right creates a little contrast in an otherwise blackened portion of the photo. Do you like these images?

You Just Never Know

This past Friday I drove to Norfolk, Virginia to pick up my son from Sea Cadets Boot Camp. He was there for the past two weeks so I was there to attend his graduation and pick him up. He also wanted to tour the USS Wisconsin afterward.

I gladly attended his graduation ceremony but was not nearly early enough for my liking. I usually like to get to an event with plenty of time to spare so I can check out the best photo shooting angles, the lighting, check out any obstacles, and more. Well, the graduation ceremony location changed due to impending bad weather and heavy traffic were both reasons to delay my early arrival. I think I arrived about 15 minutes before the scheduled ceremony began.

I was given a program as I entered the facility, which was actually a hangar and now a makeshift graduation hall. I looked for my son’s name to figure out which company he was in so I could be close to him. I eventually found his name on the very back page and noted that he had some fancy brackets around his name. This indicated to me that he might be receiving some kind of award or recognition, so I positioned myself up near the side/front of the room to get a shot of his face if this actually happened.

The ceremony started. It was difficult to hear the speakers because sound doesn’t travel well in a hangar. A few cadets received awards and then the biggest, most prestigious award was being announced. It was the Battalion Honor Cadet Award, which is awarded to the most impressive cadet who is a cut above the others–above over 170 cadets in this particular case. They announced the recipient and sure enough it was our son, James Shank!

This proud papa kept his composure and shot away with the Nikon D300. I was equipped with a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens and a SB-900 speedlight. Here are two photos I snapped as James received his award and then was later marching with his company.

James checked out of his barracks, we grabbed a quick snack at a convenient store and headed over the USS Wisconsin. This battleship has a gloried history and is now open for topside tours. We had purchased our tickets online days before I departed for this trip to be sure we had a spot on a tour this specific day. The tour was led by a veteran who served on another Iowa-Class destroyer. He was fabulous and we learned a whole lot of details about this ship and how it was equipped for battle over the passing years. This ship saw active duty in World War 2, Korea, and the Persian Gulf!

Here are two photos I took on the deck of the USS Wisconsin, an amazing battleship with an impressive record of service.

The events of this day reminded me that you just never know what’s going to happen or what you might see, so have your camera ready at all times. I had hoped for better preparation and an earlier arrival, but all in all it wasn’t a bad day!