After a successful evening with an adult red fox, I was itching to take more pictures of the fox family. I moved my photo blind closer to the front of the den and left it there for a few days. Most animals wouldn’t care about a photo blind, but a wary animal like foxes know their environment very well.
Of course,… things didn’t go as I planned. For the next two days, the fox kits were so wary that they didn’t even come out of the den. As you can imagine, sitting in a photo blind for hours in a hot and humid day isn’t necessarily fun.
The third day, I tried something different. I sprayed myself with a scent eliminator and went into the blind well before sunrise. The first hour I saw one kit poking its head out a few times. The second hour I saw a second one and then a third one poke their head in and out of the den. At last, the next hour, a magic happened. All three of the kittens came out of the den at the same time.
Startled at the sounds of camera shutter, they pointed their ears and looked straight into my direction. With a 600mm lens with 2x teleconverter, I decided to have more depth of field (f/stop) to get all of them in focus. I set my f/stop at f/11 and sacrifice a shutter speed, as slow as 1/60sec.
With a new Canon 1D Mark IV, I was able to set ISO at 1600. Amazingly, this new Canon camera allowed ISO to go this high and still managed to produce sharp images. How sharp? I made a 24×36 inches print and I could see every hair on them.
For several years some birds like Henslow’s Sparrow, Sedge Wren, and Upland Sandpiper had eluded me. They are not the most striking-looking or the most interesting birds. However, they are unique and important in the prairie ecosystem.
In fact, Henslow’s Sparrow is on a watch list in many states including Missouri. These birds spend most of their time hiding in grass and only in certain time of the year (and only if you’re lucky) you can hear their calls.
Some photographers don’t get much excited about these birds or don’t have much desire to photograph them. But as a conservation photographer, I feel it is my duty to document these birds and make people care and understand their importance.
To find these birds, I have to learn to listen to their calls and watch for their movement in the prairie. Both Henslow’s Sparrow and Sedge Wren pop up very quickly to perch on grasses or flowers. My technique of getting close to these birds is to sit low and move slow.
I was able to get close enough to this bird with my 600mm lens with 1.4x teleconverter. One hot evening I spot an upland sandpiper perched on a fence post. I positioned myself directly below where the bird appeared.
Some people may think that prairie landscape is boring. Some folks even teased me - “Did you see grass moving there?”
Actually prairie is quite a sight to see, not to mention it plays a very important role in our ecosystem. Many species including birds, insects, and plants depend on it. Sadly, these precious grasslands are disappearing from our landscape.
With a good amount of rain this year, flowers were thriving. Grey-headed Coneflower and Prairie Blazing Star were blossomed as far as my eye could see. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath of fresh air. All I could hear was the sound of grass waving in the wind.
One late evening thunderclouds approached from the west. I scrambled for my wide angle lens, a polarizer filter, and a graduated neutral density filter. The light was fading fast and I knew I had less than a few minutes to capture the scene. In fact, I didn’t know what I had until I got home and really took a look at the image. And it took my breath away.