Feeding The Beast

Head Shot of a Mule Deer Doe
Mule Deer in Winter

 

Working on updating the stock portfolios today.  I call it “feeding the beast.”

I’ve found that uploading stock images on a regular basis, even in small quantities, seems to correlate with increased sales over time. With over 2,000 images online, the simple truth is that not all of my images have sold. Quite a few just sit there and though most will probably generate a few sales over time, I think the trick is to saturate the buyer with a variety of selections. The theory is that when someone looks for a particular type of image, it’s best to hog the screen with your photos. I’d rather they choose from one of my many shots than have to select one of mine from many other photographers offerings.

Feeding the beast, a term I’ve heard used by other stock photographers, helps to keep my images visible. It works. Sales from same month last year have been up over 300% on some agencies and have increased on all agencies, year over.

Until I get out to do more work, I’m in the office and feeding the beast.

I’ll Take It

Photograph of a baby mountain goat.
Baby Mountain Goat on top of Mt. Evans, Colorado

This morning was my first trip of the season to photograph the mountain goats.

Out with friend and fellow photographer Jim Esten, we struck pay-dirt near the summit of Mt. Evans. A good size group of these furry ungulates were gathered on the 14,000 foot peak,  along with a group of bighorn sheep.

I managed to upload a good selection of stock photos to my agencies and I’m still editing.

Now that I’m semi-retired, meaning I’m not really taking in much business beyond the photo tours, I’m enjoying a less stressful approach to photography. A good outing with a friend, nice breakfast at a mountain lodge and a leisurely editing pace is far more suitable than having to edit 3,000 wedding photos on a deadline.

I’ll take it.

I’m Not a Weekend Warrior

Photograph of a wild mountain goat
Juvenile Mountain Goat – Colorado

Mountain goat season is here.

This is a photo from June of 2016.

With the tourist season upon us here in Colorado, I try to avoid getting out on weekends. The crowds form quickly and the probability of getting nice photos goes down dramatically.

I’m not a weekend warrior.

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.

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.

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.

May The Moose Be With You

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The moose are coming out of the high country and looking for food. Fortunately, some of the best moose eats are just up the road from me.

I found this fellow at dawn this morning. Curious at first, he decided to give me a little dance act, charging my SUV from 100 feet away he stopped and hopped around snorting at me and kicking his legs in the air.

The cabin is up and running and the moose are here. Life is good.

Moose Monday

Photograph of a moose in Colorado
Shiras bull moose moving through a field in Northern Colorado..

It’s Moose Monday!

Taken in July of 2017, this particular moose seems to like the area where this photo was taken. I’ve seen him around several years in a row. Notice the mutant antler. I think their antlers grow back each year with the same basic configuration they had in previous years. The true test of this theory is to compare dewlaps, that flap of furry skin that hangs from their neck. If the mutation of the antler and the dewlap matches, it’s a good guess that it could be the same moose from an earlier outing or year.

I’m heading back to Red Feathers this coming weekend to scout a few new areas. As with every May, the weather is seldom good in Northern Colorado. Rain, snow, wind, thunder, lightning. It’s trips like this upcoming one that make the Moose Creek Cafe in Walden my favorite watering hole and grub stop. Granola bars on a dirt road in the rain doesn’t cut it.

Hunting moose is not for wimps.

 

My Job Is To Explore

Elk Photograph by Gary Gray
Young Bull Elk in Rocky Mountain National Park

For me, the month of May is the time of year when I begin gearing up for wildlife photography here in Colorado.

I’ll be heading to Northern Colorado later this week, where I will be spending a lot of time this summer. The Laramie Mountains of Northern Colorado are, from my view of the road, one of the least frequented areas of the state for photography. What that means to me is I get to work without crowds of tourists and weekend warriors to wade through.

Not that the northern mountains don’t get tourists, but the ratio of tourists per square mile is much lower than areas to the south such as Rocky Mountain National Park.

As a matter of fact, I’ve pretty much abandoned working in National Parks due to over-crowding and hostile park rangers. They can keep it. There are lots of unexplored and lesser known areas between Fort Collins and Steamboat Springs.

My job is to explore.