Robert photographing in the bogRobert and Kristin enjoy nature and outdoor activities. As a forest and wildlife biologist, Robert began taking photographs to document species and places where he was working. Quite soon a camera was always included in our outings. When Kristin, an ecologist, started shooting outdoor imagery as well, we began arranging trips specifically to take pictures as we evolved from a point and shoot mentality to a more thoughtful mode of photography to illustrate habitats, plants, animals, and some of the ways they act and interact. We find that we enjoy showing other people some of the outdoor world they may never get a chance to see, providing new perspectives, or helping them remember a special experience.

If you are interested in using any photograph for commercial or personal use, please contact us by email. All images are copyrighted and use without permission is illegal.

We hope you enjoy our imagery and thank you for visiting.

I am delighted to share that a selection of my favorite images of flora and fauna found in south Mississippi will be on display at the Moss Point Fine Art Gallery in the new Pascagoula River Audubon Center in Moss Point, MS from mid-February until mid-May. I will be available in the gallery several times while this show is hanging and will likely offer some short photographic presentations and workshops during this show.

MPFAG-PRAC-Photobiologist

There will be an artist’s address and reception on February 12, 2016 that is open to the public. Use the Contact link to get in touch with me for more information or contact the Pascagoula River Audubon Center (http://pascagoulariver.audubon.org/).

All of the framed photographs in this show were masterfully framed and matted by Randy Landers of Landers Fine Art and Framing (https://www.facebook.com/Landers-Fine-Art-and-Framing-335579478568/).

Southern Leopard Frog Tadpole

Southern Leopard Frog Tadpole

 

As I munch, I see a human typing.  I wiggle around getting air.  I also spot food that is not guarded by another tadpole.  Hi, my name is Rana and this is my story.  I used to be the middle egg in the egg pile.  It was a short but sweet time.  Soon I hatched in a small puddle.  It was cool.  I had competitions with other tadpoles to get food.  I had to watch out for predators like snakes and birds.  Then one day a big, white thing (net) captured me and others.  I was put into a bag!!!!!  Next, I was put in a big clear thing and given yummy cold leaves, and that is what has happened every day since then!

More to come!

A few weeks ago, I traveled to the mixed-grass prairie of the Nebraska Sandhills for a meeting.  It was a really good meeting where various folks looked at and talked about outreach to help private landowners better manage their properties so that both the economy and ecology of the area was sustained.  I took a few pictures during the field trips and stayed an extra day or two to photograph more things in the area.

I had a great time photographing in the central and northern sandhills.  The afternoon that I planned to spend in northern Nebraska turned off gray – not just gray but DARK gray.  At 3:00 the light was just gone – it wasn’t overcast, it was dark!  And the wind was blowing as the rain intermittently spit from the sky.  I could have gone with some long exposure to show grass movement in the rolling prairie, or I could be spontaneous and make a run for Badlands National Park just a couple of hours away in South Dakota.

Normally, I plan a photographic trip pretty carefully.  I look for all kinds of options, make an Excel spreadsheet that I can sort by location or species, have a plan A, B, and C.  This time, I hadn’t even considered going into South Dakota!  Well, I made a run for it anyway.  I got there right at dusk.  The visitor center was closed, and I couldn’t even find a park map!

I repaired to my hotel room, drank a Coke and ate some nabs for supper, and jumped on the internet.   I didn’t have time to do much planning.  I found the park map brochure on-line, but didn’t have access to a printer.  I noted a couple of spots that other folks had taken “sunrise” shots and saw that the western end of the park was “better” for wildlife pictures (with me being on the southeastern end of course…).

I went to bed planning to go shoot a sunrise spot.  Luckily, I got up at my normal eastern time and headed out anyway because I took a wrong turn and went about 36 miles out of my way well before sunrise.  I still managed to make it to Panorama Point well before sunrise.  As I set up my gear in the dark, I met a nice photographer that was shooting his way along as he moved from Chicago to Los Angeles.  I also met Jeannee C. Gannuch, the force behind Southeastern Living (http://www.southeasternliving.com/home.html).

Now, I photograph landscapes from time to time.  Unlike a lot of my friends who primarily photograph landscapes and create wondermous images, if I’ve got “good” light, I’d much rather be looking for a critter!  I took a few pre-sunrise shots.

Before the sun came up in the Badlands.

Before the sun came up in the Badlands.

As we stood around waiting for the light to change, Jeannee asked, “Do you like to photograph wildlife?”  Now, she had absolutely no way of knowing that I was standing there weighing in my mind whether to continue to stay here & wait for the light to change or jump in my rental vehicle and go off in search of animals who might cooperate.  After I replied in the affirmative, she told me that back towards the east a couple of pulloffs where a trail crosses the road, there had been a bighorn sheep for the last couple of mornings that was cooperative.  I figured that I knew about where she was talking about.

As the sun broke the horizon, there was a brief flash of color in the sky that quickly dimmed.  I couldn’t see any way that I’d get more color than I’d already gotten, so I packed my gear and headed for the rental.

The sun breaking the horizon in the Badlands.

The sun breaking the horizon in the Badlands.

As I pulled into the pulloff that I thought she was talking about, there 30 yards from the truck was a gorgeous, mature bighorn ram eating dried grass in beautiful light.

Bighorn ram in the morning sun.

Bighorn ram in the morning sun.

I photographed the ram and went on in search of other critters.  (I did cross pass with Jeannee and thank her for the tip!).  Unbeknownst to me at the time, I had to have crossed paths at least twice during the day with my friend Eric Bowles (http://www.bowlesimages.com) who was prescouting for a workshop he was leading starting the next day!  (I was able to pass on the location to Eric who got some nice shots of him as well).

I spent the next several hours wandering Badlands National Park and wishing that I had more time there.  I did manage to get within photographable distance of several critters before I began my dash back towards central Nebraska to catch my flight home.

Bison strolling through the prairie.

Bison strolling through the prairie.

Bison headed for the Badlands.

Bison headed for the Badlands.

 

Pronghorn headed for the far side of a hill.

Pronghorn headed for the far side of a hill.

 

Coyote looking for a meal.

Coyote looking for a meal.

Prairie dog having a meal.

Prairie dog having a meal.

Western Meadowlark ready to leave a rangeland fence.

Western Meadowlark ready to leave a rangeland fence.

Clouded sulphur feeding on a fall aster.

Clouded sulphur feeding on a fall aster.

I was truly blessed to see so many critters and more in such a short time!

It seems that folks want a camera to take a few pictures.  And then once they get a camera, they want a BETTER camera to take BETTER pictures.  Camera lust has drawn many, many photographers down the path of knowing and understanding more about technology than they have ever wanted to know before!

In a lot of my presentations, seminars and workshops, I talk about the fact that we don’t really “need” all that new gear to create images.  I talk about the fact that I regularly use a couple of old, manual-focus lenses.  Sure, new gear with better high ISO capability, larger sensors, vibration reduction and more makes creating images easier in many cases, but it often isn’t something we HAVE to have to create an image.

I had an afternoon and an evening meeting one day last week. I took my cameras inside the day before to download cards and recharge batteries.  Since I knew that I wouldn’t have a chance to take any pictures, I purposefully left them when I went to the meeting. Well, suddenly I had an extra hour before my meeting – just enough time to go home and turn around and come back OR just enough time to take a few pictures (except for the not having a camera part). So, I found a nice parking lot to catch up on some e-mails in (I did have my laptop and WiFi card). I looked over and saw a large flock of roosting black skimmers and mentally kicked myself many times over for not having put my cameras in the truck.

I mentally went through my camera bags and realized that I had Annika’s camera with me!  Now, Annika’s camera is a Nikon D70 that I owned before she was born!  I almost didn’t get it out, but I thought about how often I’ve said that you don’t have to have the latest and greatest to get a decent shot, so I dug out the D70 and the longest lens I had with me (a 200 mm lens).

So with an old DSLR and a very slow-focusing lens, I attempted to take some bird pictures, and I ended up with a few that I kept.

One of these is not like the rest!  (Lone juvenile laughing gull resting with a flock of black skimmers) Nikon D70, Nikkor 200 mm, f/5.6, 1/1600th second, ISO 320, handheld, existing light, slight crop.

One of these is not like the rest! (Lone juvenile laughing gull resting with a flock of black skimmers) Nikon D70, Nikkor 200 mm, f/5.6, 1/1600th second, ISO 320, handheld, existing light, slight crop.

 

I was feeling rather happy with myself as I went into my meetings.  After I got out of my last meeting, I was ready for food.  I agreed to meet a colleague at The Reef – a relatively new seafood restaurant on the beach in Biloxi.  I’ve enjoyed watching a much larger than life-size marine mural on the side of the restaurant come to life as it is created by marine artist, Marty Wilson – http://www.martywilson.com/.  I’d watched the sketches appear, and then the color begin to appear, but I’d never seen Marty at work.  As I pulled into the restaurant parking lot late that evening to see the scissorlift and lights, it hit me that he needed the same calm wind conditions that are needed for foliar herbicide application.  Again, I wished that I had a camera with me.  I mean, a Nikon D70 is not exactly renowned for it’s low-light capability.  I thought about trying to return another night to get a shot, but decided that I’d better go ahead and shoot with what I had.

So, I dug out the D70 and that wonderfully light-weight, plastic y 28-80 kit lens that is Annika’s main lens and put it on a tripod to see what I could come up with.  The irony of my old tripod legs costing about what the camera body and lens sell for now wasn’t lost on me…nor the real irony that the tripod head cost about two times the amount it would take to buy the tripod legs, camera body and lens!

I took a couple of shots, checked the back of the camera, put it away, and ate a shrimp po-boy.  When I downloaded that card several days later, I was pleasantly surprised at how nice the image quality was in my quick grab shot of Marty Wilson working his magic and making the ocean come alive on the side of a building (it did make me wish that I’d spent a little more time setting up the shot and getting a better angle & composition though…).

Marty Wilson, marine muralist, working his magic Nikon D70, Nikkor 28-80 @ 28mm, f/5.6, ½ second, ISO 320, tripod, existing light, slight crop.

Marty Wilson, marine muralist, working his magic
Nikon D70, Nikkor 28-80 @ 28mm, f/5.6, ½ second, ISO 320, tripod, existing light, slight crop.

 

So, the next time you think that you can’t get the shot because you don’t have the latest and greatest camera gear, shoot it anyway!

I know it’s going to sound repetitious, and it is repetitious because I keep repeating it.  When I’m photographing something, even something as simple as a fallen acorn, it’s all about the light.  A simple and inexpensive change in lighting can make a big difference in the way an image looks.

As I was getting in my truck this past weekend, I noticed that the white oak acorns were dropping.  And I noticed that there was one particularly nice looking acorn laying on a recognizable white oak leaf on a bed of moss near the base of the oak tree that I presumed had dropped the acorn.  Knowing that I often talk about acorns in a number of different contexts – fruit of a tree, natural reproduction of a hardwood forest, as hard mast (fruit eaten by animals), mast quality (red oak vs white oak), squirrel/deer/turkey management, and more, I decided that I would photograph this simple acorn.

So, I took out my camera and a macro lens and laid down next to the tree and took a shot or three.

White Oak Acorn In Existing Light

White Oak Acorn In Existing Light
Nikon D3, 105 mm macro, f/16, 1/25th second, ISO 1250, handheld, slight crop

The shot looked fine to me, but it didn’t show the detail & potential vitality of this little gem that I wanted to show.  I knew that adding some soft, golden light should make this image look different (hopefully better), so I dug out my gold reflector and got my lovely, helpful wife to hold it for me (which saved me from having to dig out a tripod & clamps!).  And then I shot the same shot again…

White Oak Acorn with Gold Reflector Nikon D3, 105 mm macro, f/16, 1/80th second, ISO 1250, handheld, slight crop

White Oak Acorn with Gold Reflector
Nikon D3, 105 mm macro, f/16, 1/80th second, ISO 1250, handheld, slight crop

 

The shot with the gold reflector looks more “alive” to me.  The angled light shows more detail in the cup, the shadows are not as dark, and my shutter speed increased a couple of stops making a handheld shot much easier.

Neither shot is “right” or “wrong” but that little bit of reflected sunlight improved the shot slightly for most of the reasons that I would use it.  I’m sure that I could have done something similar in Photoshop, but the details wouldn’t have been revealed as nicely, the shadows wouldn’t have been filled as naturally, and it sure wouldn’t have increased my shutter speed towards something reasonable for hand-holding.  This “manual Photoshop” basically replicated the light a few hours earlier that morning or a several hours later that day – that “golden hour” of rising & setting sun…

Here’s a side-by-side comparison of the two shots…

White Oak Acorn  Existing Light on Right Gold Reflector on Left

White Oak Acorn
Existing Light on Right
Gold Reflector on Left

 

I find the relatively small expense & light weight of a reflector in my camera bag to be worthwhile for situations like this.

Of course, if you can catch “good” natural light, then you don’t need the reflector.  Later that afternoon, I found a chinkapin loaded with fruit.  I went back in late afternoon when the natural light quality was good and photographed yet another hard mast species without needing to use a reflector to get the light quality that I wanted.

Chinkapine fruit (a chestnut relative whose populations have been decimated by chestnut blight). Nikon D3, 105 mm macro, f/8, 1/80th second, ISO 360, handheld, existing light

Chinkapine fruit (a chestnut relative whose populations have been decimated by chestnut blight).
Nikon D3, 105 mm macro, f/8, 1/80th second, ISO 360, handheld, existing light