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Posts Tagged ‘Canada Geese’

Some bird species are very territorial and will chase off intruders, while others are content to peacefully coexist with members of other species. Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) are definitely in the latter category—they barely reacted when this Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris) passed through the middle of their flock, weaving his way in and around the much larger birds.

I love to capture images with multiple species in a single frame. In this case, I am curious why the duck chose to swim through the geese rather than going around them. Was he courageous and bold? Was he stubborn and determined?

How will you face the upcoming new year? Here’s hoping that, like this little duck, you will be able to move confidently forward towards your goals, mindful of the obstacles that face you, but unbowed by them.

 

Ring-necked Duck

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

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It is almost impossible to take a good portrait of a group of youngsters, irrespective of species—they are invariably energetic and inquisitive, almost incapable of simultaneously looking at the camera.

Yesterday I encountered a family of Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) as I walked down a path at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. They too were strolling down the path, stopping to peck at the vegetation along the way. When they became aware of my presence, they slowly made their way to the water’s edge and slipped into the water.

The cute little goslings had already learned their lessons well and stayed in a tight little group right behind one of their parents. Once they had paddled a little way from shore, the babies, however, seemed to lose their focus and started to wander a bit. The adult in the rear of the little group, though, helped to bring them back into line as they silently swam away.

Canada Geese

Canada Geese

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Some birds are stealthy and fly silently through the skies. Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) would not fit into that category. They like to announce their presence for all to hear, like this pair that I spotted on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge as they were coming in for a landing.

Unlike at the airport, there was no need for a loudspeaker to announce this landing.

Canada Geese

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Have you ever tried to shoot a group portrait? You get everyone lined up and facing the camera, but there is always one uncooperative subject. That was certainly the case with these Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) at a little suburban pond on Monday. The gaggle of geese was preening and cleaning themselves all in a row on a on a concrete bar sticking out of the water.

Canada Geese

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As the sun gradually illuminates the trees and burns off the mist on the water, Huntley Meadows Park is especially beautiful, especially at this time of the year, when the trees are showing off their changing colors. The park was silent when I arrived in the early morning darkness, but gradually I could hear the sounds of birds singing and I couldn’t help but notice the arrival of a small flock of Canada Geese (Branta canadensis).

The colors of the foliage here in Northern Virginia are not as bold and striking as in some other parts of the country, but there is an understated beauty in the muted tones or red and yellow. I am not used to taking landscape-style shots (and a 150-600mm lens is probably not optimal for doing so), but I tried to capture some different scenes to give you a sense of the park where I take so many of my photographs. It’s a wondrous location, particularly when you consider that it is found in a suburban location.

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autumn

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autumn

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) are our constant companions at my favorite marshland park throughout the fall and the winter as the geese migrate south or choose to overwinter at the park. Several small flocks flew in yesterday, accompanied by the usual amount of honking and splashing to announce their arrival.

Folks at the park either love the geese or hate them (because of the mess they make). I enjoy seeing them and they provide me with lots of practice subjects to hone my skills in capturing birds in flight. Their interactions with each other are also fun to watch.

Canada Geese

Canada Geese

Canada Geese

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Some of the reviews of my new Tamron 150-600mm lens suggest that it has trouble capturing birds in flight, so I was anxious to test out its capabilities and the Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) coming and going from my local marsh served as my initial test subjects.

These five geese were part of a larger group that was departing from the marsh and I started tracking them as they flew past me. Initially thought that one of the geese has flown out of the frame in the second image, but then I looked more closely and realized that all five were still there—the formation was really tight (or at least the compression caused by the long telephoto lens made it look that way.

Sometimes in the past I have had problems in grabbing focus on moving subjects, especially when the background is cluttered and is competing for focus. I was happy to see that I was able to acquire and hold focus pretty well and the geese are separated from the trees in the background.

I am learning how to manage this longer lens and, for example, still have trouble sometimes pointing the extended lens at a subject and then finding the subject in the viewfinder—the field of view is not very wide at 600mm. I plan to check out the different focus options for my camera to see if any of them will improve my changes of getting clearer shots.

Does it show that I’m pretty excited with my new lens? I’ll be sharing more images as I continue to practice and learn with it.

Canada Geese in flight

Five guys in flight

Tight Formation

Tight Formation

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Some people love them and some people hate them, but there is no question that the arrival of Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) signals the transition to a new season.

Yes, they are loud and often obnoxious. Yes, they are numerous and sometimes crowd out other species. Yes, their droppings are nasty and slippery. Despite all of that, I enjoy watching and photographing Canada Geese in the air and on the water.

There were only a dozen or so geese at my local marsh this past weekend, but I am well aware of the fact that this is only an advance party for the hundreds of geese that will move through this area, with some of them choosing to remain here for extended periods of time.  From the perspective of my blog, this is the first posting of the season dedicated to Canada Geese, but certainly not the last.

Canada GooseCanada Goose

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Earlier this month, when the ponds were almost completely frozen over at my local marsh, I watched as some Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) zoomed across the ice at a very low altitude. It looked like they were racing each other. In the background you can see some potential spectators, but they didn’t seem to want to get caught up in a wild goose chase.

wild_goose_chase_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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It’s a bit of a cliché, but I really want to capture an image of geese in flight against the backdrop of a beautiful sunset.

There is certainly no shortage of Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) around here and they seem to take off and land so often at my local marsh that it sometimes seem as busy as a regional airport. Beautiful sunsets, though, are harder to come by and many of our days seem to simply fade into darkness. Getting the geese to fly in a proper formation is an additional complication.

This is my most recent attempt at my aspirational image of geese at sunset. There are a few streaks of color and the formation is a little ragged. It’s not quite what I envisioned in my mind—I’ll keep working on bringing that image to life.

geese_at_sunset_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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It was cold enough Monday that the pond at my local marsh froze over. The ice may not have been thick, but it complicated landings for migrating Canada Geese (Branta canadensis).

One goose slid to a stop by lowering its tail, as other geese watched with varying degrees of interest. It has warmed up a bit and we’ve had a lot of rain since Monday, so the ice is almost certainly gone by now, but I suspect that I will see this scene repeated as we move into winter.

slippery_landing_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Sometimes you don’t have to make a choice between two options—you can have them both.

In this morning’s blog posting, I posed the question, “When it comes to images of birds in flight, do you prefer the sky as the background or some element of the earth?” and I received quite a few responses, with a greater number having a preference, in general, for background or contextual elements rather than a plain blue sky.

Sometimes I manage to get an image that incorporates the best of both worlds. This image, for example, has one Canada Goose against a leafy background, one against the sky, and one in between.

Who says you have to choose? (In the interest of full disclosure, I intentionally set up the question as a false dichotomy in order to stimulate thinking. For me, the best answer to the question I posed, which called on you to make a sweeping overgeneralization, was the person who responded quite simply with the words, “It depends.”)

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When it comes to images of birds in flight, do you prefer the sky as the background or some element of the earth? Here are two photographs of Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) that I took this past Monday that illustrate my question.

Canada Geese are some of my favorite subjects as I try to improve my skills in photographing flying birds—they are relatively big, flight slowly (especially when taking off and landing), and, perhaps most importantly, there are a lot of them.

In some ways, it’s a little easier to track a bird in the sky, since there is nothing else to grab the camera’s focus (if you can lock in the focus quickly enough). However, the light is a lot more variable, particularly when a bird is circling, so proper exposure is a challenge and shadows are a sad reality. I was happy that I was able to time the second shot so that the light illuminated most of the underside of the goose. Some photographers, though, seem to look down at photos of birds in the sky and prefer more environmental shots.

I had to act quickly to get the shot of the goose with the trees in the background, when some geese took off and flew by me at almost eye level. The trees were far enough away that they blurred out and the head of the goose is mostly in focus. Depth of field is always an issue for me in shots like this—you can actually see the depth of field in the amount of the extended wings that is in focus.

So there you have it, two different shots of a goose in flight. Does the background play a role in your assessment of which one you prefer?

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goose_flying2_11Nov_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Standing at the end of a small pond, I heard the sounds of an approaching flock of Canada Geese (Branta canadensis). I looked all around as I prepared to track them and couldn’t help noticing areas of beautiful autumn foliage.

Wouldn’t it be cool  if I could capture the geese landing with the colorful leaves as a background? I put that idea in the back of my mind, remembering that it was going to be tough enough to capture decent shots of the geese without worrying about the background.

It’s a noisy crazy couple of moments when the geese come in for a landing—they come in waves and there is so much activity that it’s hard to figure out what to focus on. Usually, as I did here, I will try to concentrate on a single bird as it approaches and to keep it in focus.

I captured this image at the moment when the geese were slowing down just prior to entry into the water. My main subject is in a pretty good focus and the other geese are in interesting positions. I was surprised that I was able to get the orange background—it had been a hope, but certainly not an expectation. The result is an image that I really like, an image that combines two of the iconic elements of the autumn.

geese_landing_fall_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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One of the first waves of migrating Canada geese (Branta canadensis) loudly announced its arrival and landed right in front of me in the beaver pond of my local marsh yesterday.

Last year we seemed to have geese arriving and departing so frequently that I felt like I was at a major geese transit airport. I kept expecting to hear departure announcements on a loudspeaker.

Several areas of the marsh had dried up in the last few months, because of a lack of rain, and I had been fearful that the migrating birds would not stop over. The rain storms this week have partially filled those areas, so my concerns have been partially assuaged.

When I looked at this photo, it seemed like it was mostly black and white already (except for the pink tongue), so I played around a little and converted it to black-and-white. For me, the second version really draws my eye to the texture of the feathers, but I can’t decide whether I like it more than the color version.

What do you think about the black-and-white version?

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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The last few weeks I have been following the adventures of a family of Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) at my local marshland and encountered them this morning as they were foraging in the muddy grass.

There are currently four goslings (there may have been six initially if this is the same family I saw previously) and it was fun to watch them as they would wander off a little from their parents and then scurry back quickly.

It was hard to get clear shots of the youngsters, but I did manage to get this shot that I like when one of the goslings walked to the water’s edge to get a drink.

gosling1_blog

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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On Monday, I watched a family of Canada Geese (Branta canadensis), the parents and five little goslings, as they made their way from a little pond to forage in a field of cattails nearby. It was raining at the time, as you can see in the first photo, where two of the babies are swimming along (there was one parent to the front and one to the rear in the little convoy).

Once they made it to drier land, the little geese vigorously munched on small bits of vegetation. In the second photo, there is a little piece of a plant hanging out of the mouth of the baby goose. When they were in the water, the goslings looked like round balls of fluff, but they look more gangly and awkward on land.

I noticed a couple of geese sitting on what appeared to be nests. If so, I suspect I will be taking more photos of cute little baby geese.

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Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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It’s hard to imagine anything cuter than this tiny little Canada Goose that climbed into the water at my local marsh for a swim along with his siblings and his parents. They were close enough to me that I was able to frame the shot pretty much like you see it.

I really like the expression of the gosling as he seemed to turn his head to look at me and also like the contrast between the bright colors of the gosling and the more muted tones of the full-grown geese.

I just missed the drop of 15 Hooded Merganser ducklings from the nesting box this morning by about twenty minutes. Hopefully I will have the chance to celebrate more new lives like this little goose in the coming weeks.

gosling1_blog

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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At a moment when the lighting was particularly beautiful yesterday morning, I sensed that the pair of geese was getting ready to take off from the pond. I readied myself and somehow my timing, composition, and focus clicked together with my shutter.

I ended up with some images that required almost no adjustments or cropping. I was particularly happy, because I have been experiencing difficulties capturing motion with my newest lens, a Sigma 135-400mm telephoto zoom.

Luck played a big role too, since I had no control over the way that the geese would move their wings (though I guessed correctly the direction in which they would take off).

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Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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What is the best way to capture motion and have the subject in focus? Recently I have been experimenting with different camera settings and shooting techniques in trying to photograph birds in flight.

Yesterday I concentrated a large part of my efforts on Canada Geese (Branta canadensis). They make good test subjects because they are large and relatively slow-flying birds (and there are lots of them). I have done a number of postings of geese taking off and landing and in those cases I usually try to freeze the action. Getting the photo in focus is not always easy, but the action is usually taking place in a small geographic space and that helps a little with getting the focus locked in.

Capturing the geese before they being the landing process or after they are in flight has always been tough for me, but I think my skills are improving with practice. Generally I will try to focus on a single goose to make things easier. Yesterday, though, I decided to try to capture a group of geese flying together and had some success using a panning technique. The background blurred nicely, the necks of the geese are in focus, the wings have a bit of motion blur, and the geese themselves have assumed interesting poses. As I recall, I had my focusing point on one of the geese in the center. Some of the photographers I see with really long telephoto lenses have special mounts on their tripods that let the lenses swing freely as they track the birds, but for the most part I have been taking these shots hand-held.

panning_blog

I used a slightly different technique with a couple of geese that were closer. Using one of the first rules I learned about photographing people and animals, I tried to focus on the nearest eye of one of the geese. Well, actually I probably was trying to keep my focusing point on the goose’s head in reality, but I was thinking of the eye. As you can see, there was not a lot of depth of field, but things worked out well with the face of the nearest goose in pretty sharp focus. The blurry wings provide a nice contrast with the sharper elements and my eyes are drawn to the goose’s eyes and open bill.

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For me, experimentation is one of the best ways to learn new things and I am definitely learning more and more about my camera and my techniques, which will help me when I try to photograph subjects, like hawks, that are less cooperative than the Canada Geese.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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