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Posts Tagged ‘Canada Goose’

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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One of the first games that children often learn to play is called “one of these is not like the others” and I felt like I was playing that game this past weekend. As I surveyed the geese that dotted the surface of Lake Cook, a small, pond-sized body of water not far from where I live, it became clear that one of them was different, very different from the others. It had a pinkish bill and a white stripe on its head and pinkish orange legs and feet.

All of the other geese at the lake were Canada Geese (Branta canadensis). Was this possibly a French-speaking separatist Canada Goose? When I looked through my bird identification book, there was no such variant of the Canada Goose.

In fact, there were not very many geese from which to choose. “My” goose sort of looked like the images of the Greater White-fronted Goose (Anser albifrons), but not exactly. In an effort to get some help, I posted some photos to a Facebook birding page and received a range of responses. Most folks seemed to agree that this was a hybrid Canada Goose of some sort, but there was disagreement about the other part of the goose’s genetic makeup. Some thought there might have been a pairing of a Canada Goose with a domesticated goose, while others thought it might have been a Canada Goose and a Greater White-fronted Goose. I tend to be in the latter camp.

When I did a Google search on goose hybrids, I found there are an incredible number of hybrid variations. When it comes to bird identifications, I suppose I am going to have to be content with making my best guess—I refuse to take the next logical step of doing DNA testing of all of my subjects.

hybrid goose

hybrid goose

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When you have as many little ones as this Canada Goose family (Branta canadensis), you have to take roll call almost all of the time to make sure that everyone stays safely together.

I was trying to focus on the group of goslings that were following the adult when the adult abruptly stopped and turned around. The little ones drifted forward and I ended up with this shot. I love the way that the attentive parent is almost at eye level with the cute little babies and has its neck almost fully extended.

Canada Goose

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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There were a lot of Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) coming and going at Huntley Meadows Park early yesterday morning. This one was descending rapidly and coming in so fast that it looked like the goose was going to land right on me.

Canada Goose

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Some mornings when I am out with my camera at Huntley Meadows Park, I am simply entranced by the colors, shapes, and patterns of the reflections of the trees in the water. For extended periods of time I will become lost in the ever changing abstract world of reflected beauty.

Any wildlife that happens to come into the frame is a bonus.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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How do you capture a sense of motion in an image? One of my favorite methods, panning, involves tracking a moving subject with the camera set at a slow shutter speed. The results can be a bit unpredictable, but are usually fun, like these images of a Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) coming in for a landing this past weekend.

In this case, the shutter speed ended up being 1/60 of a second. I was shooting in aperture priority, but knew that the shutter speed would be slow, because of the limited light early in the morning. With my telephoto zoom extended to about 550mm, I concentrated on trying to do a smooth pan handheld. My biggest challenge turned out to be keeping the goose centered in the frame.

None of these images are perfect, which is typical of most of my panning efforts, but there are elements of each of them that I really like. Photos like these remind me that it’s ok sometimes to have photos that are not perfectly in focus.

If you haven’t tried this technique, I highly recommend it, especially if you like “artsy” images.

Canada Goose

Canada Goose

Canada Goose

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Happy Mother’s Day to Moms everywhere, who loved us and supported us as we took steps toward independence, all the while keeping a watchful eye over us.

Thanks especially to my Mom, who is now in heaven.

Canada Geese

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The Canada Geese at my local marsh seemed thrilled that the ice on the ponds had finally melted and they splashed about happily in what looked to be a group bathing session. Their exuberance and excited splashing reminded me of a children’s pool party. Previously I had seen geese dip their heads underwater to get wet, but these geese took it another step and appeared to be doing complete flips underwater. There was so much activity that it was virtually impossible to isolate and capture the action in a still shot.

Eventually they needed to dry off and I got this shot as one Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) rose up out of the water and vigorously flapped its wings. There is something about the goose’s pose that I really like, with the curved wings almost mirroring the curved neck.

Canada Goose bath

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When you hang around with a gaggle of your closest friends, it’s hard to find moments of privacy or solitude. This Canada Goose seemed pensive as he walked alone on the ice, far away from the other geese that were clustered together near the unfrozen area of the pond.

Canada Goose

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Do you ever wake up and feel the need for a drink of water? That was apparently the case for this Canada Goose (Branta canadensis), who was sleeping one-footed on the ice. Fortunately a small amount of water had pooled on the surface of the ice and the goose was able to lean down and get a few sips of water.

A few seconds later, the goose stuck its head back under its wing and drifted off to sleep.

Canada Goose

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Standing one-legged on the frozen pond, this Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) briefly stirred to adjust its position as I passed by. A few seconds later, the goose slipped one leg and its head back under its wings and gradually drifted back to sleep on a cold winter morning.

In case you are curious about the physiological explanation of the one-legged pose and why the goose’s feet don’t freeze to the ice, check out this blog posting from last November by Sue of Back Yard Biology.

Canada Goose

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) have now invaded the ponds at my local marsh in full force, but the population seems mostly transient, with lots of arrivals and departures, particularly in the early morning hours.

Earlier this weekend, I continued to practice my skills in tracking birds in flight and took a couple of shots that I really like of geese flying in the early morning mist. In both cases I managed to capture a pretty good amount of detail on the goose and the background is a pleasing blur, especially in the first image, in which the hazy outlines of a distant tree line are visible. The goose in the second image was making a turn, preparing for an upcoming landing.

Canada GooseCanada Goose

© 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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A new month started quietly, with few animals, birds, or insects visible on a cold. overcast day. I walked around my local marsh for a couple of hours and experienced nature in a series of small encounters, signs of the changing season.

A lone swallow sang softly in a tree; (CORRECTION: A sharp-eyed reader noted this is a female or immature Red-winged Blackbird)

A mallow flower bloomed unexpectedly in the water;

A squirrel peeked out from behind some branches;

The trees showcased their muted autumn colors; and

An advance party of Canada Geese came in for a landing.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I watched the glorious sunset at my local marsh yesterday, I kept hoping that a V-shaped formation of geese would fly into the frame. I was happy to settle for this solitary Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) and an amazing pink-tinged sky.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Folks may have mixed emotions about adult Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) and many consider them a nuisance, but I think that just about everyone agrees that goslings are really cute.

gosling2_bloggosling1_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Some folks complain a lot about Canada Geese, but I enjoy trying to photograph them, especially when they are taking off and landing. It seems like the number of them has dwindled somewhat at my local marsh recently–perhaps some of them have migrated north.

Yesterday, this goose began to sound the alarm as soon as it became aware of my presence and took off a short time later, still crying out with its tongue extended. I managed to track the bird as it was taking off and to shoot a series of shots. The sky was pretty heavily overcast yesterday, so I had raised my ISO to 320 and figured that I would have enough speed to capture the action. What I didn’t realize at the time, though, was that my aperture was still set at f/11, because I had been shooting some landscapes just prior to these shots. I was in aperture priority mode and my camera chose a shutter speed of 1/1oo of a second.

In the first shot, the goose is relatively sharp and there is little motion blur, except for the background, which is blurred, I think, because I was panning as I tracked the goose. In the second shot, though, which preceded the first in time, the wings and the feet have some motion blur, which accentuates the feeling of the goose scrambling to get into the air.

I keep going back and forth in trying to decide which of this two photos I like better. The technical side of my brain wants to vote for the first one, but the artistic side prefers the second image. What do you think?

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

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What it would be like to fly like a bird? When I look at this photo I took recently of a Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) in flight, I feel almost like I am flying in formation with a gaggle of geese and have glanced over to look at one of my flying companions. The sad reality, of course, was that my feet were firmly planted on the ground and this goose flew by me at a relatively low altitude.

I’d still like to fly—perhaps in my dreams I can take flight.

goose_flying_blog

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What happens if you try to photograph a bird in flight with a shutter speed of 1/100 second? Under most circumstances, you get a really blurry image. However, if you can track your subject by panning the camera, you can freeze (or in this case, almost freeze) the action and as a bonus you get a really cool background.

It was pretty early in the morning and there was not a lot of light when I took this shot. Even though my camera was at ISO 400 and f/6.3 aperture, I knew that the shutter speed was not going to be fast enough to stop the action, given that I was in aperture-priority mode. That’s the main reason that I resorted to trying this panning technique. Getting the right speed for a pan is little hit-or-miss and I never know for sure how well it will work until I look at the results.

I’m pretty happy with this result, because I managed to capture a sense of motion in a still shot, a sense that is accentuated by the motion blur of the wings, as well as by the feeling of movement in the background.

goose_pan_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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So many factors have to work together perfectly to get good shots of a bird in flight—the lighting has to be right, the exposure needs to be correct, the shutter speed needs to be fast enough to stop the motion, and, most critically perhaps, the camera has to focus properly on the moving subject. Of course, it helps also to be able to capture the wings in an interesting position and to have a background that is not distracting.

I have been working on taking photos of birds in flight, especially Canada Geese, but it has been rare for me to get all (or even most) of the variables to fall into place at the same time. However, in late December I took a series of shots of a Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) that turned out really well. The background was the sky, which some folks don’t find to be very interesting, but at least the goose was not obscured by branches. Click on the photos to see them in higher resolution—I was thrilled that I even managed to get a catchlight in the visible eye.

The challenge for me will be to repeat this success with smaller birds that fly faster and less predictably.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Some birds (and some people I know) really like to make an entrance. This Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) made a big splashy arrival in the marsh that seemed to be intended to catch the attention of the spectators already there.

They did not seem to be impressed.

spectators_blog

Click on the photo to see a higher resolution view.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Like a sprinter, this Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) seems to be lunging forward toward a finish line, pushing hard to be the first to break that invisible tape.

leaning_blog

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How do you capture speed? Sometimes I will pan the camera and track the moving subject, as I did yesterday with the flying Canada Goose (Branta canadensis). Usually the background is a little blurry, but this time the background became abstract, almost like a painting, an effect that I really like.

What happened? Generally, I shoot in aperture priority mode and I had my camera set on f/5.6, as wide open as I could get at the far end of my telephoto zoom. The weather was cold and gray with the threat of precipitation—it eventually rained for hours—so I set my ISO to 500. It turned out that I would have needed a much higher ISO to stop the motion completely, for my camera provided me with a shutter speed of only 1/60 of a second. That is why there is some motion blur in the wings.

goose_pan_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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How often have you been told (or read) that you need to fill the frame with your primary subject? If you photograph wildlife as I do, you know that it is rare that you have the opportunity to “fill the frame,” especially when your subject is moving.

I was a little shocked when I first looked at this image of a Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)—not only had I filled the frame, but I had managed to compose it pretty well. Yes, this is an uncropped image of a flying goose. I was awfully lucky to get this shot and I know that several of the images in the burst I took featured cutoff bodies or heads.

Now if I could just get a raptor to fly by this closely…

goose_fill_frame_blog

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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.”)

geese_flying_cropped_blog

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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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Sometimes I don’t want to freeze motion entirely in the way that I did in a photo of a Canada Goose landing in the water that I posted earlier today.

Here is another shot of a Canada Goose in which I panned the camera, helping to blur the background, and the slower shutter speed left a certain amount of motion blur in the wings, helping to enhance the impression of speed. My camera was in aperture-priority mode and the shutter speed dropped when the goose that I was tracking flew against the darker background of the trees.

I really like the overall feel of the image, the sense that the goose is straining to slow down as it prepares for landing, but is still moving forward at a fast speed. Is the image “tack sharp?” No, it’s not, but I am happy that it is not—it’s a creative choice. Check out a recent posting entitled “Chasing the tack sharp mirage” by Lyle Krahn, one of my favorite photographers, for a provocative  discussion about this topic.

goose_flying_blog

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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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I am not sure what the other Canada Goose said or did, but this goose was clearly an angry bird yesterday. He seemed to put his whole body into the expression of his strong feelings, from the tip of this tongue to the tip of his tail.

Do they have a goose in the game Angry Birds?  If not, perhaps they should.

goose_tongue_blog

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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.

goose_pair_blog

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.

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