Top Stock

One of my more popular stock images of late.

These bison are genetically pure and roam wild in Yellowstone National Park.

I got this photo one July morning as the bison crossed the river and took up position about 80 meters from me. It appeared to be a family group with newborn calf in tow. That big boy on the right was boss bison. You can still see the morning steam emanating from his fur in the direct sunlight.

Thank Goodness for Fresh Coffee

Photograph of a Moose
Northern Colorado Moose Action

Happy Wednesday everyone.

I’ve been slogging away here finishing up this past Winter’s projects.

A minor computer drive crash sidelined me briefly last week. These things happen. The real effect is to redirect my thinking to things of a more immediate nature. Solving a computer problem is a never ending repetitive task if one uses a computer.

Back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Thank goodness for fresh coffee.

Birds of a Feather

Photograph of two Sandhill Cranes in Flight
Sandhill Cranes in Monte Vista, Colorado

Today’s photograph is from the stock photography catalog. Two sandhill cranes performing a flyover of my position.

I was thinking about posting a train photo today, but I don’t really have any new train photos and I’ve been in a wildlife state of mind lately, so you get the birds.

Holy Grail Photographs

Photograph of Bighorn Rams in Combat
Bighorn Rams Butting Heads.

In wildlife photography we look for what could be called “Holy Grail” photos.

I think that phrase is over-used, but the fact remains. We look for specific types of behavioral scenes to photograph. In this case, the bighorn ram fight scene.

I’ve seen this combat several times over the years. It isn’t hard to observe it happening, one must simply keep trying to find it. The hard part is finding it in a situation that allows a decent photograph. It is rare to get a good look at this occurring. The trick of course is to have the right camera/lens combination in the right environment at the right time. More easily said than done.

There is a distinct pattern of behavior to look for when seeking this shot. There are also things you can do to prepare yourself for it when it does happen.

Most important to know is the fact that this behavior only occurs at a certain time of the year. The annual rut. In Colorado, the bighorn rut begins in October and runs through late December. The combat is more commonly found at the beginning of the rutting period. I seldom find two rams in combat in December. These guys want to get things sorted out early. There is mating to do and the sooner one establishes domination over the competition, the better chance of attracting the affections of the mating females.

When seeking this action, the first thing to look for are two equally mature adult rams hanging out in a herd of females or even roaming the hills together. While you may find younger rams with less developed horns trying to spar with an elder, the elder will normally ignore the younger ram. I think peer pressure is key to this. Two equally developed animals are in direct competition with one another to gain the rights to mate.

These two were near a herd of females and youngsters, but decidedly apart from the group. Notice the development of the horns on each animal. I’ve read that it takes about 10 years for a ram to grow a horn that is fully circular. In my estimate, these two are roughly the same age, with roughly the same head-gear, maybe 6-8 years old.

They hang out together for most of the morning and moved around together in and out of the herd but it became apparent that they needed to prove to the ladies and to each other, whose horn was better.

The action typically begins with the two contenders standing face-to-face together, with their heads side by side. Eye contact, visual comparison, body language. One of the animals will turn and walk about 15-20 feet away from the other and then turn back around to face the other animal at a gunfight distance. For a few moments they’ll stand there staring at one another and then instantly both will rear up on their hind legs and simultaneously lunge at one another with all their strength. The collision of the heads is powerful and makes a sound similar to two bowling balling colliding. Often, both animals will completely leave the ground when they collide. It’s powerful and deadly. One mistake in angle or body preparation could be fatal.

They will repeat this ritual combat action several times. I’ve seen it go on for up to twenty minutes. Sooner or later one of the animals will realize he isn’t getting the better of the other and will turn away and the combat ends. Afterwords, they act like they were best friends. Only now, one knows he gets first dibs on the females.

The photographic trick is to position yourself to capture the event if and when it occurs. You’ll need a good telephoto lens too. These guys don’t do this in the parking lot of Starbucks, they are more likely to be on a rock covered steep hillside 75 yards away. Another trick is to never distract them when you find the two similar rams together. If you do, they’ll head on over the hill and do it somewhere else. They are there for themselves, not four your photographic pleasure.

Scenic Saturday

East Beckwith Mountain
East Beckwith Mountain – Kebler Pass, Colorado

Back to full speed operations on the computer.

I thought I’d put up one of my favorite landscape shots today. Taken on an Autumn photography trip with my dear friend Merlin Peck. Autumn interrupted by Winter on Kebler Pass near Crested Butte, Colorado.

Enjoy your weekend.

Fox Friday

Photograph of a red fox
This red fox was found napping beneath a bush in my back yard.

It’s Fox Friday!

Foxes frequent my yard here in the suburbs of Denver.

I try to keep a camera handy so I can get shots like this when they happen. There’s nothing worse than running to the office to grab a lens and camera only to return and find the subject has vanished.

Reality Bytes

Recently back from a week long jaunt in Northern Colorado, I was anxious to begin editing new photos and updating stock agencies. Little did I know that my photography world would take a 90 degree turn.

First, let me say, if you are using a computer and don’t have a backup strategy for your image files, you are going to pay the price sooner or later. I have a backup strategy. A series of 1-3 terabyte external USB drives. I’m religious about backing up my business files at least weekly. I thought I was being religious about backing up my image files too.

For the majority of today’s photographers relying on computers is a must. I’ve gone through 4 different computers in my studio over the past 15 years or so. My current configuration in the studio is a PC that I built from scratch. I have roughly 19 Terabytes of hard drive storage attached to an i7 based motherboard with 64 gigs of ram and a dual monitor setup.

With all of those hard drives, a failure is inevitable and those failures will occur when you are not paying attention more often than not. The real question is how well you’ve backed up your images.

My images are kept in directories by subject matter and sub-directories by year. Most of my cataloging is done via Adobe Lightroom so along with my image files are xmp sidecar files that define all the editing I’ve done to each file. All told, I have about 50 different active Lightroom catalogs scattered among multiple hard drives in my computer.

The day after I returned home from Northern Colorado I was anxious to begin editing my latest batch of moose photos. I downloaded the new images to a directory on one of my 3 terabyte hard drives and imported them into Lightroom and started mining the best shots for editing and uploading to my services. On the sixth image, things went south. I could no longer access the hard drive I was working from and that hard drive contained a lot of my wildlife photos. Close to 70,000 images in total.

A quick scan indicated that the computer still recognized the presence of the drive but the drive was corrupted somehow. The utilities built into Windows 10 are not very robust. I couldn’t solve the problem without some type of advanced intervention. The first thing I did was go to Best Buy and purchase a new 4 terabyte hard drive. It installed easily and after a few minutes partitioning and formatting the drive, I was ready to restore my backups.

When I accessed my backup drives what I discovered was deflating. Yes, I had backups but many of them were not very current with most ending in early 2018. Any images stored on the failed drive that were newer than February were not backed up, except to two catalogs that I had recently backed up. Catalogs that I had been working on. Out of sight, out of mind. I had failed to keep all the backups current and in one instance I could not find an entire catalog of Bighorn Sheep in the backups. My heart sank. Over 10,000 photographs gone forever, or so I thought. I restored what I could and began coming to grips with my oversight.

Once I had restored my backup files to the new drive, I began the process of trying to recover the defective hard drive. I was lucky. I found a utility called TestDisk.

TestDisk is a freeware utility written by Christophe Grenier at www.cgsecurity.org. It runs in a DOS window and is a very basic non GUI interface. TestDisk found my hard drive and I was able to scan the contents of the inaccessible disk. I was also able to get a clue as to what happened. It appeared that a recent update to Windows 10 may have spurred this problem on. I found numerous Windows swap files on the hard drive and I had specifically told Windows not to use that hard drive for a paging file. Somehow, Windows began barfing swap files on to the drive and it corrupted the boot sector. The drive light was staying on all the time and disk activity was reporting at 100% on the idle drive.

Using TestDisk, I was able to locate all of my photographs stored on the defective drive and able to copy them to the new drive. Time consuming to say the least, I was able to recover everything I needed from the bad drive, along with the xmp files that contained my Lightroom edits.

What I learned is what I already knew. Keep your backups current. If you aren’t backing up your photos you will eventually lose them. Digital storage is temporary. My slack attitude about staying current with my backup routine almost wiped out years of work. All because I lulled myself into forgetting to do the necessary computer work to insure there were second copies of everything I had.

So, guess what I’m doing today? I’m backing up all of my files, one catalog at a time. It will take several days to accomplish, or should I say nights. I’ll begin a backup in the evening when I’m done working for the day and let the computer groan away copying everything to external hard drives while I sleep.

My advice to you. Back your images up now. You could wake up in the morning with a good backup or you could wake up to a crashed hard drive and lots of missing photos. Windows won’t alert you until it’s too late.

Mooseaholic Monday

moose, wildlife, animal, photography, photographer, nature, water, grass, young, bull
Young bull moose walking through a pond.

Six Hundred photos for the opening of summer in Red Feather Lakes.

My first impression this year is that the moose are there and just waiting for me to find them. The few I found within a mile of my place prove that they are on the move looking for the best food.

Environmentally speaking, the Aspen trees have just greened up above 8,000 feet and most of the willows are sprouting fresh green shoots, which is what attracts these hungry ungulates.

I managed to get a full test in of the new kit. I’m shooting with the Nikon D810 using the 200-500mm VR and the Nikon D750  using the 70-200mm f4/VR. No complaints. I don’t have to swap lenses in the field. If I need wider angle, I have a D7200 the 24-120mm VR and a couple of fast & wide primes. I’ve been shooting in predawn light and both cameras handle it well.

I’ll probably take a few days of down time and edit shots. I’m looking forward to getting back out though. The summer is only starting.

Patience Pays Off

Bull moose wading through a pond in Northern ColoradoFresh moose.

Staking out a position and being patient paid off this morning.

I’ve been working a large pond near the cabin for years. I’ve seen moose poo, tracks and plenty of evidence they were frequenting the place, however, I’ve yet to find a photograph of any quality.

Today, the worm turned.