Monday, June 27, 2011

Watkins Glen-A walk through the Gorge

This week, the blog entry is going to depart from my favorite subjects-wildlife and is going to focus on some scenics of a gorge and waterfalls. Joan and I had to make a trip to Elmira, New York to pick up parts from heat treating on Friday.  It was a beautiful summer day with light rain and peek a boo sunshine. Watkins Glen is only about 1/2 hour from Elmira, so we decided to take a detour home through Watkins Glen and visit the State Park there and walk through the Glen.  It had been years since we had been there.

I took the Canon 1D MK IV with 24-105 f4 lens and Joan took the Nikon D300 with 18-200 lens.  We packed along the Gitzo tripod with Really Right Stuff ball head mounted.  I learned from a very good mentor (Mark Picard) long ago-do not waste your time and efforts shooting hand held.  I was amazed at how many "photographers" I saw in the Glen with very expensive DSLR cameras and NO tripod.  Even when the sun is completely out, the Glen is shaded  so shutter speeds are slow.  There is a mist in the Glen from the waterfalls which makes for a great way to get very naturally saturated images.  I set the ISO to 200 and most of the shots had an f stop of f13.

The path winds along through gorge and has nicely laid stonework for the path as well as walls.

There are a couple of tunnels that are had hewn from the rock cliffs and one has a spiral staircase cut into the rocks and you emerge and pass behind one of the larger waterfalls.

The scenery is beautiful and it is a wonder to see how the water has cut its pathway through the rocks.

Until Next Time!

Jim Borden

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Close Encounters of the Bear Kind

This past weekend Joan and I spent in Blackwell Pa which is in the center of Pennsylvania's Grand Canyon. Jim Jr and Joyce and Joan's mother and my mother joined us for the weekend.  The mountainous area between Blackwell and English Center Pa is rich in scenery and wildlife.  It is a very good area to find Black Bears in the wild.  On Thursday evening Jim Jr, Joyce and I saw a number of deer and we had the fortune of having two black bears fairly close to us.   The sow and cub did not seem frightened by our presence and we were able to take a number of photographs before they ambled off through the Laurel (which was in full bloom and was beautiful-a good subject for a future post).

Friday night was still good for bears as we saw 7 different bears but all of them were skittish and did not present photo opportunities.  Saturday evening started the same way.  We saw a sow and cub about 60 yards into a swampy, open area, but they were busy tearing apart a log and it was a dark area so we did not get pictures of them, but still enjoyed them.  We then saw a lone yearling cub that was rather "frisky" and was frolicking in the woods.  About an hour later we saw a mother bear and three cubs in the lawn of a camp and it appeared they had been fed by the camp owner and we decided not to photograph them. 
We were about ready to head back to the cabin in Blackwell when I spotted a sow with two yearling cubs in the laurel.   I "woofed" lightly at the cubs to get them to stand and "momma" decided she needed to check us out.  The PA DCNR fences in large areas of Pa State Forest Land after it has been clear cut to keep the animals out so that the forest can fully develop.  Well, this sow and cubs were on the "wrong side" of the fence and I was wondering how they got there.  Momma came directly to a tree that the fence was nailed to and promptly climbed the tree and came over the fence and down on our side.  She them proceeded right directly toward Joan and I.  We decided to stay calm and still.  She came within two to three feet of both us and them ambled along our vehicle looking in the windows and checking out our mothers and then she went up the fence line and found another tree and climbed back into the clear cut forest and continued eating with her cubs.

The following picture is full frame (no cropping) taken with the 600 Canon lens on a 1D Mark IV at about 40 feet.  The picture after it is with a Canon 7D and a 300 f2.8-once again full frame at about 15 feet.  
Canon 1D MKIV; Canon 600 f4 @ F8 1/60 ISO500

Canon 7D; Canon 300 f2.8 @ F10 1/50 ISO640

Joan was shooting her D300 with 80-400 Nikon on it and she was able to get some shots as well.
Nikon D300; Nikon 80-400 @400mm  f8 1/200 ISO500

Nikon D300; Nikon 80-400 @170mm  f8 1/100 ISO500

It was an exciting time!!  Our mothers talked about it all the way back to the cabin and then over breakfast the next morning. Certainly a memorable weekend. Just so I do not get any lectures-I have been around LOTS of bears my entire life and I highly respect them and have learned what to watch for with their behavior.  This one was simply looking for hand-outs.  We had just had some peanuts and pepperoni and I am sure she smelled. My concern is that folks have been hand feeding (or close to that) these wild bear sin that area and it makes them bold and approachable--a dangerous combination!

A parting shot of one of the cubs:
Canon 1D MKIV; Canon 600 f4@f9 1/500 ISO800

Until next time!

Jim Borden

Monday, June 6, 2011

Fawns and Coyotes

Canon MK 1D; Canon 600 f4 @f7.1 1/125 ISO500

We have fawns in our back yard, yet those farther away are better to photograph-right?  In my case, being a workaholic, I find it difficult to photograph the fawns in my backyard (literally) because I feel guilty being that close to our business and not being in there working.  So on Friday, Joan and I traveled to Shenandoah National Park and visited the Big Meadow area along the Skyline Drive.  The deer there are "wild" in that they are free roaming-but they are more acclimated to humans than the deer around our area. The weekend was bittersweet.  I have found that many of the photographers visiting that area have a different cultural base and set of values than I do when it comes to observing and photographing wildlife. I was appalled at some of the behaviors I witnessed there by "photographers".   We saw a number of individuals that had no clue on how to act around deer.  They treated them as though they were zoo animals and directly approached them.  We even witnessed individuals chasing does and fawns trying to get good pictures.  But alas, I digress on the soap box. 

We observed about a dozen different fawns in the Big Meadow area and we were able to get some very good images of the does and fawns on Friday evening, Saturday morning, Saturday evening and again Sunday Morning.
Canon MK 1D; Canon 600 f4 with 1.4 TC @f9 1/500 ISO500
Canon MK 1D; Canon 600 f4 @f5 1/160 ISO500 EC+.67
Canon MK 1D; Canon 600 f4 @f5 1/500 ISO800
Canon MK 1D; Canon 600 f4 @f5 1/200 ISO500
Canon 7D; Canon 70-200 f4 @70mm F9 1/250 ISO400
Sunday morning was windy and cool and the deer were very skittish.  The does were keeping close track of the fawns.  After a couple of photographers chased a couple of does and fawns around, the does deposited the fawns in the bushes and left the Meadow.  Then suddenly all the does hid their fawns and began running from the Meadow.  Soon Joan spotted what the problem was-a very healthy looking Coyote was crossing the Meadow and coming directly at us. It was hunting and it came to within 20 feet of us and stopped, sniffed around and went past a fawn about 30 yards in front of us and proceeded to a hiding spot for another fawn and killed it and ate it.  When it had finished that one, it found another one and killed it. It left that one lay.

Until Next Time

Jim Borden