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Posts Tagged ‘geese’

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 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.”)

geese_flying_cropped_blog

© 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?

goose_flying_11Nov_blog

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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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.

goslings_rain1_bloggosling_wet_blog

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I really like to show contrasts, like the difference in the expressions and body positions of these two Canada Geese.

What prompted the one on the right to get so vocal and in the face of the other? Is this the kind of taunting that I see so often in professional sports? Is it some kind of marital misunderstanding? Is the one on the right playing the role of a drill sergeant dealing with a recruit?

Whatever the cause, one I know for sure—at close range the honking was earsplittingly loud. I can only imagine the goose on the right reprising the line from a television commercial for a phone company, “Can you hear me now?”

now_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Most of the time I like to focus on individual birds, but in this case I think I prefer this panoramic-style shot of Canada Geese coming in for a landing on a snow-covered field. The expansive white backdrop allows us to see better the different body and wing positions of the geese (and I recommend clicking on the photo to see the details).

The snow is now gone from Northern Virginia, a victim of warmer temperatures and heavy rains. For many readers, snow is much more an everyday reality of the winter, but it’s rare enough here that it has a special beauty (as long as I don’t have to drive to work in it, in which case I tend to forget its beauty and view more as a nuisance).

landing_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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This past weekend I spent some more time watching migrating geese and and attempting to photograph them in flight. Often the geese flew in large formations, though sometimes they would arrive and depart in pairs. As I looked overt my photos, though, my favorite photos of the day feature geese trios.

I love shots like these in which it’s fun to compare the positions of the different birds, and the degree to which they are synchronizing or varying their body positions and wing movements. Each of these photos seems to form a mini-progression within itself, as though they were made up of multiple exposures of a single bird.

goose triogoose trio 2

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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A couple of days ago I featured a photo of Canada Geese coming in for an early morning water landing in a posting I called Photo Finish. So many people made positive comments about the photo that it prompted me to take another look at the other photos from that morning. I played around with one of them and decided to post the result.

The overall effect in this image is similar to the previous photo, but in this one you can see some reflections in the water. Tonally, it has more brown in it.  It’s a bit muddy in appearance, but it still conveys the sense of motion of the geese in flight and the panning stripped away all of the excess details in the background. I recommend that you click on the image to get a higher resolution view.

Coming in for a landing

Coming in for a landing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Do you ever find yourself really liking some of your photos that are full of technical flaws?

As a non-professional, I have had more than my fair share of blurry images, missed subjects, out-of-kilter compositions, and poor exposures. Many of them are deleted as soon as I view them on the back of the camera. Sometimes, though, the mistakes yield such interesting results that I can’t bear to delete them.

I arrived at the beaver lodge at my local marshland before the sun had fully risen one morning this past weekend, hoping to see the beavers in action. I had my camera set on ISO 400 and it was wide open at F4, with the mode set for aperture priority. I hadn’t yet set up my tripod, which I was hoping to use, because I anticipated relatively slow shutter speeds.

All of the sudden I hear the sound of geese approaching and it quickly became clear that they were coming in for a landing in the beaver pond. Without really thinking, I panned the camera and started shooting as I tried to follow the geese as they approached the water. Most of the photos were totally unusable. There was so little light that my camera chose a shutter speed of 1/6 of a second. Even with image stabilization, that’s too slow for handheld photos.

There was one image, however, that I really liked. The head of one goose is relatively in focus and another goose is visible (although out of focus) in the foreground. The background is blurred from my panning action. Somehow it reminds me of the photos they used to show of the finishes of races in which photos had to be developed to determine who crossed the finish line first. In this case, the geese seem to be leaning forward towards an invisible finish line in the same way that sprinters do.

Clearly this is not a great (or even good) photo, but I like it, and maybe others will find it interesting too.

Photo finish

Photo finish

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The light was sinking lower in the sky late this afternoon when I took this photo of two Canada geese (Branta canadensis) in the still waters of a little pond. The light was beautiful, as are the reflection of various parts of the scene in the water. If you click on the photo, you can see a higher resolution view of the scene. To use the term of a fellow blogger, Steve Schwartzman, I consider this photo to be a “semi-landscape.”

Geese in late afternoon light

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Did you ever wonder what happens if an aircraft’s radar and radio go bad? Yesterday I saw what happens when the emergency network is activated and escorts are sent out to accompany the aircraft to its final destination. In a cost-cutting measure, fighter jets are no longer dispatched, but these geese do have significant experience in long-distance flying and especially flying in formation.

Emergency escorts

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Here’s one last photo of the geese from last weekend, possibly my favorite shot. I like the fact that it shows geese in action—the geese look like they are having a race across the water, though I think they had just landed and were slowing down. The colorful fall foliage and its reflection in the water add interest too. Somehow the picture works well for me as an autumn landscape. (Be sure to click on it to see a higher resolution view.)

Geese racing in the fall

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Last week I encountered Canada geese twice. The first time was when a few migrating ones made a brief stop at a local marsh. The second time was at a suburban pond where the geese seem to be semi-permanent residents. I had a great time observing and photographing the geese in the latter venue and have a couple of photos this morning of geese dipping their heads into the water. I couldn’t tell for sure if they were grabbing for  plants underwater, drinking, or doing something else. Often they would submerge just their heads and blow bubbles in the water and then, as in the second photo, just let the water dribble out of their mouths.

Synchronized swimming geese

Dripping, dipping goose

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It looked like it was bath time for the Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) in a local pond and they seemed to be having fun playing in the water (and occasionally stopping to groom themselves). The geese were exuberantly beating the water with their wings, creating giant clouds of water droplets. It reminded me of trying to give a bath to a two year old child, who splashes almost as much—the only thing missing was the yellow rubber duck. Some of the geese would then rise up in the water a bit and flap their wings, presumably to dry them, and then get soaked all over again. Perhaps they were following the instructions on the shampoo bottle, “Lather, rinse, and repeat.”

I managed to get a couple of fun shots in which the goose’s head is in focus, but the wings are a blur—I think the effect is kind of cool.

Splish, splash, I was taking a bath

Ruffling some feathers

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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While I was watching migrating geese at a local marsh yesterday, one of them suddenly stretched out its wings. There was another goose right behind the one with outstretched wings and I wanted to warn him by crying out, “Duck, goose!” Instead I instinctively pressed the shutter release and got this photo. The image makes me laugh when I look at the face of the crouching goose, who does not appear to be too happy with his fellow traveler.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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