Monday, February 1, 2016

Gambling with the bearded reedlings

Towards the end of January 2016 I decided it was time, after almost two months, to take my gear out again and try again with the bearded reedlings (or bearded tits).

There is an area, called Rietputten, where at least 20 couples of bearded tits are usually reported. Information at the natuurmonumenten site: Rietputten

I was there before, in a dark windy day in December, with no much luck, but this last day it was sunny and with almost no wind. So I started to walk in the mud to explore the area, hopeful to see some birds in a nice light.

The minutes and hours passed, without seeing any, the best light was turning into a mid-morning winter light (not that bad either) and no encounters. A little bit depressed I started looking for static subjects, at least to activate the shutter few times.

This morning made me think about nature photography, how it is similar to gambling. After hours of waiting, or even days, one good sharp photo must generate the same mental processes than a good hand during a poker game does, or a win at the roulette table. I guess, I'm not a gambler.

So.. after three hours of playing this game of walking in the mud, listening for reedlings calls, and exchanging some discouraged comments with other photographers, I was almost calling it a day. And then I got the couple of kings: a family of 3-4 bearded tits flew exactly in front of me, and started feeding. This did not last more than 1 minute and a half, but was enough to take tens of photos.

After it all ended, checking the camera for sharp photos and finding them, well.. I felt like I won some big money at the roulette.

I think that there are two components in wildilfe photography. One is the artistic one - the most important - that is showing interesting subject in good photos that represent the environment in an original and visually appealing way. The second is the gambling, the pleasure of being able to take nice pictures of difficult subjects. While the first is important for the consumers of the photos (readers of the blog, for example) the second is only for the photographer, but still...

One note about the Rietputten, in the winter, when it usually rains several times during a week, it can be very muddy: rubber boots highly recommended.

Thanks for reading. As usual comments and questions are welcome.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Off site: Dolomiti, marmots and landscapes

Hi all.

This is the first post I write about non Dutch locations. During a short holiday back in Italy I decided I should find some subjects to photograph, and fortunately I have enough connections among hikers and nature enthusiasts to get the right tips. The low hanging fruit this time were marmots.

Based on the information I had "Val Ombretta" was the more convenient place to go. It is around 90 minutes driving from Belluno (IT), plus less than one hour walking on an easy and extrmely safe muletrack. The only issue was that to be there early, I had to wake up 4:30am (+ 2,5 hours of driving and walking).

The small valley is between the south side of the Marmolada and the Fop mountain. It hosts an alpine cows farm (during summer of course) and a mountain shelter, in season with bar and restaurant, at the other end of the valley.

I went there twice, first time with a light backpack, only the 70-200 zoom lens.  This allowed me to scout the location without the urge of taking pictures. It also allowed me to take some nice landscape pictures as mist was unveiling Marmolada.

Mist and warm sunrise light are the prizes for who wakes up early in the morning to walk up a mountain, so little to do for so big reward.

The Val Ombretta valley is short and narrow, and very nice. There is a dry creek where probably the water flowing down the mountinas is collected during heavy rain. So, on the other side of this creek, there are marmots liars. With some precautions they can be approached, which allowed me - even with 200mm - to take some nice pictures.
So, after scouting for marmots I went back with the heavy weapons (the 500mm) and took some close-up of the marmots. 

Even though I honestly prefer to take photos from more distant and see more environment around the subject.

Marmots are very nice subjects, they are of course suspicious of everything that happens around their feeding zone, but with some skills and patience it is not impossible to get close enough to shoot nice photos (and there is a trick if you want to get really close). I even dare to say that shorter lens would bring home some nice photos as well.

Val Ombretta is highly recommended if it happens that you go to the Dolomites (Unesco heritage). after the shooting session it is possible to get some breakfast (I got yogurt) from the alpine farm, and walk down the path, back to the car at Malga Ciapela. At 9:30am I was in the car both days, needless to say that I met a lot of people walking uphill during my return, so.. being there early is imperative to avoid a busy valley, and nervous animals.

I have been told that at the end of the valley, there is another valley (Val Ombrettola) which could be a good spot for ibex. We will see next year, perhaps.

I took these photos on August 2015, all photos taken with Canon EOS 5D Mark II, Canon EF 70-200 F4L IS or Sigma 500mm F4.5 EX DG.

Please, contact me for any question or comment the article.
Thanks for reading.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Texel May 2015


 still too long between posts, and I am afraid this blog will never take off.

Anyway, I have been in Texel at the end of May, three days hoping for the same good weather I got in April, and more birds. Neither of the two, unfortunately. Weather was not bad, but I did not get the super light I was lucky enough to get in April. Three days: half sunrise and zero sunsets.

Texel is still the place to go for bird photography in the Netherlands, but the dynamics of the island changed in the past two years.

The wagejot is not the incredible photography site that it was, since avocets and terns do not nest anymore in the small shells-island few meters off the banks where it is possible to stay for photos. Avocets will still pass pretty close but not as frequently. Terns are nesting far away so basically there are none at photo-distance.

Nearby Wagejot there's another location which is interesting: Ottersaat. It's a nesting site for terns, mostly and avocets, the nests are not very close (interesting photos can be taken with a 700-900mm equivalent lens) but it's very nice to take in fly photos of terns, and also avocets. I spent few hours both mornings trying to do my best with flying birds.

Waalenburg is as always good locations for godwits.

In the south, this year a couple of bluethroats, male and female, nested very close to the road (Molkweg) so I spent half of my time in Texel, sitting in the area taking picture of them going back and forth to feed their offspring.

The south of the island is interesting also for flying spoonbills, who in the evening can be spot as they go back to their nests. Mind you, it's not like there are flocks of spoonbills flying back and forth over you :) But if you want to see and phograph them I would suggest to go there around 4pm and stay at least for a couple of hours, probably you will see two or three groups of spoonbills flying to their nests. There are two observation points, a little bit above-ground where it may be easier to see the birds. I personally took some photos while waiting for the bluethroat.

End of May is also a very good moment for the wild orchids, I have seen *a lot* of them while driving around De Staart for the godwits, unfortunately in protected areas. I found some nearby the road just south of the Airport, on the left side (going south). If you find them, please be very careful not to damage neither them nor the area around them.

As always, I had a lot of fun in Texel but a little more luck with the weather and the birds would have made it even better. Two years ago the situation was better, more birds and closer. Nature changes continuously, therefore it is foolish to think that animal habits would stay the same between years. But I hoped it, I must admit :-)

For my future trips there, I really want to go for a boat-trip to visit the seals colonies, during a low tide, again this year I was not lucky, the only trip feasible for me was sold out :(

As always, comments and questions are welcome.


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Godwits are back!

This is just an heads-up.
Bar-tailed godwits are back, and they have been back for a while now. From the end of March, I would say.
I met them in Texel, but - of course - the primary place for the Amsterdam-based photographers is the Arkenheem Polder meadows area just south of the Flevopolder in Gelderland. If you visit the area by car, please, make sure you are only using the car in the roads where it is allowed, if you need contact me for more information.
Godwits will not stay there forever, already after the end of May they'll move in other areas. I will follow them, for example in the Groene Jonker, as every year. But Arkenheem is worth a visit if you are around, for example for the photographers who travel to the Netherlands to visit Texel in these days, the polder could be a nice chance to fill-up the memory cards.

As usual, comments & questions are welcome.
Thanks for reading.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Scouting in Texel

It has been a while since I wrote a blog post. Winter passed with very little photography, due to lack of luck and lack of time to focus on photography.

Anyway, in the Easter week-end I spent two days in Texel, I am sure that every bird photography enthusiast knows this beautiful island. Texel is the biggest of the frisian islands, the most populated and the easiest to reach by ferry, only 20 minutes from Den Helder. And it is the bird photographer paradise of the Netherlands. 

It is famous for the avocets, spoonbills, singing birds, terns and other migratory birds and seals. The best period to visit the island, if you're looking for photos, is Second half of April, and end of May beginning of June. Being the beginning of April I did not go with the only objective of taking photos, but also to spend a couple of days walking on the beaches, and in the polders of the island. 

But, focusing on the birds, some considerations:
The Wagejot was already full of avocets very active and friendly as usual.
I could not see almost any tern on the island, not at the Wagejot neither in Den Helder where they usually go fishing.

No birds of prey either. This was strange, one thing is not being able to take good pictures of them, but two days on Texel without seeing any bird of prey.. it's weird. I really hope to see more next time.
The godwits are quite active already, but for them there are better places in the Netherlands, I hope I will be able to write a post in one month or so.
Not many singing birds, for the moment, the dunes were silent.
I've seen one spoonbill, but no photos taken.

I spent a couple of hours at the Wagejot at sunset and sunrise. And I had fun filling a 16GB memory card.

In a cloudy and almost rainy afternoon I walked on the dunes leaving the car on the Zanddijk mostly to walk on the dunes, but I had a chance to see some oystercatchers and sandpipers.
The evening I enjoyed some backlight at the Wagejot pond.

But I was already planning an early awake, not even really early since my hotel was 5 minutes from the Wagejot, and the sunrise was 7:08am, how convenient! Anyway, morning light is really beautiful at the Wagejot, if you go few days at Texel, make sure you'll spend at least one sunrise with clear sky there.

This was only an exploration/scouting trip, I will be back in Texel at the end of May, I really look forward to it, and I hope I will have more to write!

As usual comments and questions are welcome.

Thank you for reading.

All photos taken with Canon EOS 1D Mark IV and Sigma 500mm F4.5 EX DG with the teleconverter Kenko GDX pro 300 1.4.

More resources on Texel: