Joe and Mary Ann McDonald's

Wildlife Photography

July 2007

A Pallid Bat shot at Bill Forbes' bat shoot in southwestern
New Mexico in mid-June. See below for more info.

Question of the Month

What did I do on my summer vacation?

Bald Eagle State Forest is only a few miles from our home, and we had several chances
this year to take our groups up to the forest to photograph the mountain streams, the
forest, and the plant life there. We only wish we had more time to do so ourselves.


There's a point to this question, and that is, there is a lot of photographic subject matter available right around home. As you may know (and look at our Gold Schedule for our trip dates if you don't!) we do a lot of traveling, so we're not home much, and when we are we often find it difficult to have any time to shoot -- office work and our photography classes and photo shop classes keep us very busy.
The question is also misleading, because Mary and I almost never take any sort of vacation, anywhere, so what we did on our summer vacation is a moot point. But during our time at home, and on some short trips we did to Arizona and to Florida, I captured some pretty neat shots. You can, too, and that's my point -- you won't take all of your best images when you're traveling to exotic locales. You'll make great images on short trips too, or around your home, if you simply take the time. The following portfolio will illustrate this.

My friend Steve Berkowitz has constantly asked me to join him on spectacular shoots around his home, and NOT doing so I've missed
some really, really great stuff. This year, lured by several emails where Steve sent me his latest spectacular fox den photos, I managed a day
only a few days after we had returned from our 6 weeks in Arizona, where we taught our Arizona D-CNPC and conducted our
Arizona High-Speed Flash Photography HUMMINGBIRD Shoots. It was a terrific day that I enjoyed immensely. Thanks, Steve!

Insects are always about, and whenever I had a chance I took a few minutes to shoot whatever I could. By using
my depth of field preview button I noticed that the cattail background was too sharp and busy, so I opened up the
aperture to soften the background on the mating crane fly shot. The deer fly and crab spider eating the fly shots
were taken with a 180 macro and a macro twin-light system.

Mary and I actually took one vacation, visiting our wonderful friends
Joe and Carolyn Hooper in Florida.We did a whirl-wind trip of only four days
-- spending much of a fifth at the Atlanta airport - the horror of air travel these days.
I knew I wouldn't have much time to shoot so I carried a minimum amount of gear,
but that included my macro twin light system, and Joe's 180 macro and Carolyn's tripod -
which I used to shoot this wonderful Golden Silk Orbweaver Spider (see this month's Tip).

We had a great time, and actually felt like we had a vacation (despite the shooting),
so yes, we did vacation this summer!
Thanks, Joe and Carolyn, for a great time!



Summer is a busy time for insects and for turtles. Only days after we returned home from Arizona I shot this pair of
box turtles, with the male encountering an uncooperative female. Eventually, however, patience or nastiness, whatever, paid off.

A great friend of mine, Sam Maglione, visited for a few days, giving me the excuse to take some time out of the office
to shoot local landscapes, like this Amish field harvested for barley or oats. On our Digital Complete Natuer Photo Courses
we speed at least one dawn morning at a local lake for landscapes and macro, and another morning in the local mountains
for forest, stream, fog, and other scenes.

One of the highlights for everyone on our Digital Complete Nature Photo Courses, our Flash Course (the Advanced D-CNPC)
and the Adobe Lightroom Course, was the opportunity to photograph a rattlesnake (or many species) in our studio setting, giving
students shots that would be virtually unattainable any other way. It was tremendously exciting for them, and for me, on off days
between classes, I had the chance to do some shooting too.

In mid-June, I joined Bill Forbes for a special Bat Shoot he was conducting, and several folks that normally travel with Mary and I joined me in
this interesting shoot where we photographed four species of bats in flight, including the pallid bats seen here. The bird is a lesser nighthawk - not a bat!

Because our bat photography obviously took place at night, we had the days free to explore the Chirachua Mountains of
southeastern Arizona. Many, many years ago (almost thirty, come to think of it), I had found and photographed one of
Arizona's rarest rattlesnakes, the Twin-spotted. This year, on an afternoon search, we found four, and were able to
photograph two of these in the field. Twin-spotted rattlesnakes often eat lizards, and we saw and filmed several,
including this female Yarrow's spiny lizard.

In preparation for our Advanced Flash Course, and for some private hummingbird shooting time booked by
one of our participants, I had set up a ruby-throated hummingbird feeder on one of our porches. Using high-speed
flashes, the students in the Advanced course, and me, too, before the class began, obtained some great shots of
ruby-throated hummingbirds. Wasps would periodically visit the feeders, too, and I caught a very sharp image
of a wasp as it flew in to the feeder with the hummingbird flash rig.



Previous Questions of the Month

Digital Questions

What is our initial Digital Workflow?
What is our Digital Workflow in the Lab?
 How do I keep track of Digital Files?
Is Shooting in the RAW format worthwhile?
What is the Difference?
How can you capture a sharp image and angel hair on a windy day? 
Can you match the Histograms?
How do we meter White?

 Is the Mark II the ultimate wildlife digital camera?
What is DEC? 
 Wildlife Models - Is there anything new to shoot?

Do You Need a Big Printer?
Can a Wimberley Head be used with small lenses?
 What is Reality? Adobe's powerful LIGHTROOM Program
Why must you have at least 2 digital backups?
 Is Digital Manipulation - a benign alternative to interacting in the natural world?
 Film or Digital? - Why you should shoot film!
 Does the Visibledust cleaning system really work?

Camera Techniques

Which Macro Lens is for You?
What is the Most Important thing you can do before a Workshop?
How many Flashes do you need to effectively illuminate hummingbirds?
What is the best shutter speed for panning running mammals?

Is there an easy way to level a camera for panorama shots?
Is the New Wimberley head worth having?
Is an L-Shaped Camera Bracket worth the Money? You bet it is!
Using Zoom lenses with tele-converters and extension tubes -- can you use both together?

Are Image Stabilization Lenses Worth the Money?
What the heck is the Scheimpflug Law?
What is the Best Composition?
Should you have a depth of field Preview button on your camera?

 How do you determine distances?
Hyperfocal Distance
Apertures for Macro


Flash and Tele-flash Techniques
What is the best flash for closeup and macro photography?
What is the most versatile remote release camera firing system?
How do you shoot high-speed action images?
How did I shoot the gliding Sugar Glider?
How did I photograph that flying wasp?
What the heck is a Plamp?


Why is Yellowstone the best for wildlife photography in the US?
Is a Trip to Antarctica Worth it?
What is the best season to do a photo safari in East Africa?

What is the Big Lie? The truth about Kenya's Tourism--it is SAFE!
Which Mountain Park is better for wildlife - Denali or Torres del Paine?
What are our Five Favorite Shooting Locales?

How can you attract insectivorous birds to your feeding stations and bait sites? 
How do you make things happen in wildlife photography?

What is the best Car Window Mount?
How can you save your shoulders?
How can you reduce contrast and the effect of wind for flower and macro photography?
How can you reduce contrast and the effect of wind for flower and macro photography?
What is the best Game Caller?

How Easy is Whale Photography?
How Easy is Whale Photography?

Why Can't You Feed A Bear?
What is our Favorite bird-shooting location?



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