I photographed this scarlet macaw in flight while visiting Costa Rica for the second time last March. I have not shared any of these images until now due to a lot of things that happened around this time that lead to my family making our decision to move to Kauai. Out of thousands of mediocre to useless images that I shot, this one clearly stood out and is my personal favorite. I visited the Lookout Inn on the remote Osa Peninsula specifically to spend 3 days photographing scarlet macaws. These flying macaws were one of the most difficult subjects that I have ever photographed, mostly due to the intense heat and humidity. Each day, I spent from sunrise to sunset sitting on the deck attached to my room on top of the lodge waiting. This was the best vantage for being at treetop level for when the macaws would suddenly fly past and land on the top branches. I spent hours each day using my room as a blind while sweating to death. When I heard their distant call, I would grab my camera sitting next to me and spring into action. The whole moment only lasted a few seconds during which I tracked the birds with my long lens while furiously firing away.
During my November visit to Costa Rica, I began my trip with several days of birding in the San Gerardo de Dota. While my main goal was to photograph a resplendant quetzal, I also spent time photographing hummingbirds by the lodge’s feeders. There were often dozens of hummingbirds darting back and forth, sometimes sharing the feeders, but other times heatedly pursuing each other over some imperceptible slight. This is one of my favorite photos of a green violetear hummingbird ruffling its tail feathers. I especially love the detail and iridescent colors in the feathers.
Almost a decade ago, I first considered visiting Costa Rica specifically to photograph the incredibly rare resplendent quetzal. This amazing bird was considered divine by Aztec and Mayan civilizations. The male of the species is especially beautiful with its long, iridescent green tail feathers. I did not end up going on that trip, so my research languished on my computer until I finally visited Costa Rica this past November. The first stop on my trip was the San Gerardo de Dota in order to photograph a quetzal. On my first day, I hired a birding guide who showed me an ideal location to observe them as they foraged for wild avocados in the early morning. I visited this same location three mornings in a row during which I observed several females and males feeding. They were very difficult to photograph, because they were mostly obscured by branches as they perched in the tree. Fortunately, they sat perfectly still while digesting the tree’s fruit for upwards of 20 minutes. This allowed me enough time to move around and position my camera in order to photograph an unobstructed portrait of this brilliant male.
As I mentioned in my previous post, this was my third visit to Iceland, but Tony Wu’s first. As part of his pre-trip incentive to live out of a van with me for two weeks, I had promised him that I would take him to see Atlantic puffins. The bird cliff at Látrabjarg is among the best locations in the world to photograph them, but in order to get there it requires a long drive along some awful roads.
Our goal was to spend two days and nights photographing puffins, during which we were rewarded with ideal conditions. We kept an Arctic summer schedule by sleeping during the day while most of the puffins were out at sea fishing, anyway. By the time the light starting getting good in the early evening, the puffins had returned. The sun barely dipped below the northern horizon after midnight, so we simply stayed up and prepared for another round of fantastic light. I enjoyed photographing the puffins and observing their comical expressions, but I told Tony that I do not think I ever need to drive all the way out to Látrabjarg again.
This is an abstract image of an endangered red-crowned crane in flight from my recent Japan Wildlife Photography Tour. While photographing the cranes, I was surrounded by hundreds of other photographers at the crane centers. I’m not used to being around so many people and have to admit that it is not an experience that I am going to repeat anytime soon. The harsh, middle of the day light also wasn’t the most ideal to shoot in. So, I experimented with my camera and this is one of my better images. I intentionally slowed my shutter speed while panning in an attempt to record subtle movement of the flying crane, as well as blur the busy background.
As I previously mentioned, my favorite part of my recent Japan Wildlife Photography Tour was photographing the eagles. The two types of eagles that we observed were the Steller’s sea eagle and white-tailed eagle. In order get into position to photograph them on the ice at first light, we had to board the boat at 5am in Rausu’s harbor. The boat then motored out to the ice edge where the guides attracted the eagles with fish. This image of a white-tailed eagle in flight is one of my favorites from the entire tour. I like how its wings are completely outstretched and razor sharp talons are prepared to grapple the ice pillar as it lands. I prefer this more natural flight behavior image compared to when the eagles were swooping up fish that were thrown on to the ice for them.
My favorite part of my recent Japan Wildlife Photography Tour was photographing the Steller’s sea eagles. This involved getting up at 4am, boarding a boat at 5am, then motoring out to the pack ice in the dark in order to be in position for first light. It was also very cold, something like -20°C. Once we arrived at the ice edge, the crew then proceeded to attract the eagles by placing and throwing fish on to the ice. Within a short time, we had tons of seagulls, crows, white-tailed eagles, and Steller’s all around us. There was so much action in the chaos that it was hard to figure out what to shoot. I blew the gorgeous sunrise light the first morning, but focused on dramatic flight shots the second morning. That is when I photographed this dynamic eagle coming in for a landing with its talons out.
This is an abstract image of king penguins that I created while visiting Gold Harbor during my South Georgia Island expedition. I initially photographed this scene with the aid of my tripod using traditional depth of field and sharp focus techniques, but later decided to explore it using slow shutter speeds and hand-held camera movement. I like how this image represents the dynamic chaos of the penguins as they group together, but constantly move about. I searched for repeating patterns and then used a shutter speed of 0.5 second while panning my camera from side to side. Hundreds of experimental images eventually produced a few, like this one, that realized my artistic ambition. I created this image using my Canon 5DmkIII and Canon 70-200mm f2.8 IS II lens. I processed the RAW file using Aperture 3, Photoshop CS6, and Nik Software’s Color Efex 4‘s White Neutralizer filter.
Baby king penguins are simply adorable. I was very fortunate to be able to spend as much time as I did photographing them at Salisbury Plains. The juveniles, like this one, were especially curious. I think that it was hungry and hoped that I would feed it. Keep in mind that in order to visit South Georgia Island, I chose to sail on a small sailboat and suffered for almost a week each way. It was much more difficult than what your average cruise ship visitor experiences. However, I did not join the trip for the misery of the sailing. I paid to be able to spend time photographing wildlife up close and personal. I hope that everyone who admires my photography appreciate the special risks and challenges that I undertake in order to create images that are truly unique. I also hope that people appreciate the drama and humor that I strive to integrate into my work. I created this image using my Canon 5DmkIII, Canon 17-40mm f4 lens, and Singh-Ray LB Warming polarizer & 2-stop Hard Graduated Neutral Density filter. I processed the RAW file using Aperture 3, Photoshop CS6, plus Nik Software’s Color Efex 4‘s White Neutralizer filter.