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Dream comes true – photographing River Otters

January 20th, 2010 49 comments

River Otter

After waiting a number of days for dense fogs to clear up, I decided to go check my favorite wetland area not too far from my house.  I was cruising around the area searching for waterfowls without much expectation, when I spotted a River Otter sitting on the ice.  However, before I could even pull my gear out of bag, it went underwater.

I’ve always dreamed of photographing River Otters in winter.  So, missing an opportunity to photograph a River Otter on the ice was very frustrating.  After kicking myself for not being prepared, I sat quietly inside my vehicle hoping to get a glimpse of it again.

Hours passed, and I finally spot not just one, but five River Otters.

Camera SetupI covered my car window in camouflage and sat quietly inside the vehicle.  The otters approached with caution but later presumed their daily activities.  After years of photographing wildlife, my gut told me that this was going to be once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

My choice of lens was Canon 800mm f/5.6 IS and 1.4X teleconverter, which allowed me to get a lot closer than 600mm or 500mm.  Besides, 800mm lens is very sharp even when used with 1.4X teleconverter.  River Otters have high contrast with darker coat, so overcast light didn’t hurt.  I over-exposed by +1 ½ stop over a camera normal recommendation.

Several times the Otters came so close as it caught a fish underwater and brought to the ice to feed on.   The light wasn’t great, but it was a unique opportunity to capture a close-up of River Otters hunting, socializing, and playing in front of me all morning.

Actually it was a dream come true in the most unexpected bad weather.

River Otter

River Otter

River Otter

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Photographing winter birds

January 10th, 2010 No comments

Northern Cardinal

Snow and cold weather bring some of the most unique wildlife photography opportunities, since most of wildlife have to concentrate their efforts on searching for food and enduring the severe weather.  As eager as I am to photograph them, I am very careful in approaching them during these harsh times.  I believe no image is worth putting wellbeing of my subjects in danger.

Fox SparrowDuring the heavy snowstorm in early January, I located a spot in the field nearby my house where many birds feed on leftover gains.  I sat my photo blind across the area.  I didn’t have to wait long before more than 20 Northern Cardinals and a few dozens of various birds showed up.

The temperature was in minus with wind chill as low as -30F.  All birds puffed up their feathers to keep the heat inside, which made them to appear bigger than they actually are.  That’s why I always prefer photographing birds in early spring and winter.

Northern CardinalWhen photographing something less than 18% gray especially snow, I overexpose by +1/2 to +1 depend on the subject.  For a Northern Cardinal, I normally give +3/4 exposure, so it won’t blow too much highlight of the bird’s bright red feathers.

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