Untamed Images Blog

    Adventures in Nature Photography

    With very little prompting, this group of girls from the Indonesian village of Sangeang were ready to strike a pose for the camera.

    Canon EOS 5D Mark II, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM at 88 mm, 1/800 sec at f/5.6, ISO 400

    Anyone familiar with my work knows that I rarely photograph people. Not because I have anything specific against the idea, rather I just prefer to focus on nature and wildlife. However, on a recent trip to Komodo National Park in Indonesia, I had the opportunity to visit a nearby village called Sangeang where the locals are known for their boat building skills. Seeing them crafting large wooden vessels (called Phinisi) by hand, was an interesting experience.

    But the children who followed us around like groupies were, for me, the highlight of our brief visit. Though I am certain they have had foreigners strolling their narrow streets many times before, we were still sufficiently novel that we were accompanied by our newfound entourage everywhere we went. One group of girls in particular were a delight — changing their demeanor from one moment to the next to reflect shyness, inquisitiveness, boldness, boredom, and ease. To my surprise, every time I lifted my camera to take a picture, they suddenly froze, and then stared down the lens in amazingly photogenic fashion. They enjoyed seeing their likenesses when I showed them the pictures I was taking on my camera’s LCD.

    As our group returned to the beach and prepared to board the dinghies, the setting sun hung low on the horizon and everything was bathed in a warm golden light. The girls bunched together for a few final photos and I was fortunate to capture the image shown above. If you look closely at their faces, you’ll see a range of expressions which perfectly capture the way the girls acted around us: sweet, confident, reserved, tough and enthusiastic.

    Grebes in Love

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    I spent the last two mornings at Coyote Lake County Park east of Gilroy, CA with the goal of photographing Western Grebes (and/or their close cousins, Clark’s Grebes) engaging in their fascinating courtship behavior. The grebes did not disappoint as you can see in the following pictures. One post on the “South Bay Birds” mailing list described this viewing opportunity as one that occurs about once a decade, or perhaps only once a generation within Santa Clara County!

    Two Western Grebes (Aechmophorus occidentalis) engage in a courtship ritual known as "rushing", where they race across the water in synchrony.

    Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, EF500mm f/4L IS USM at 500 mm, 1/1000 sec at f/4, ISO 1600

    Read the entire post…

    A male wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) gobbles vociferously to announce his presence to prospective mates in Cupertino's Rancho San Antonio County Park.

    Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, EF300mm f/2.8L IS USM at 300 mm, 1/1250 sec at f/3.5, ISO 400

    The wild turkeys at Rancho San Antonio County Park have definitely detected the arrival of spring. Last week when I was at the park, I could not help noticing a flock of turkeys in a field near the parking lot. At least six males were courting at least as many females, trumpeting forth their loud gobbles and showing off their fanned tails. I was at the park to go hiking and, alas, did not have my camera with me.

    The following morning I returned to the same spot hoping to re-find the turkey flock. While the flock was nowhere to be seen, there was one lone tom turkey who put on an excellent show. He was gobbling and showing off his breeding plumage with gusto, apparently not phased by the fact that no other turkeys were in the vicinity at the time. He did not seem to mind the attention he was receiving from the paparazzi (me) and proudly continued his performance, providing me the opportunity to capture the photographs shown in this post.

    Don’t forget you can see a larger version of any image in this post by clicking on it. By using the left/right arrow keys on your keyboard you can navigate to the previous/next image within the post. Similarly, you can navigate to the previous/next image by clicking on the left/right edges of the enlarged image. Click in the center of the enlarged image (or press the ESC key) to return to the original blog post.

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    Be My Valentine!

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    A drake Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula) performs a courtship display known as the "head-throw-kick" with the aim of attracting a female.

    Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, EF500mm f/4L IS USM +1.4x at 700 mm, 1/3200 sec at f/5.6, ISO 400

    After reading Tom Grey’s post to the South Bay Birds mailing list on Saturday in which he reported seeing Common Goldeneyes exhibiting courtship display behavior at Shoreline Lake in Mountain View, CA, I decided to try my luck this morning to see if I might be fortunate enough to photograph this phenomenon. It took some patience, but eventually I was able to photograph two of the drakes (male ducks) showing off for the nearby hens over the course of several hours. The photo shown above is my favorite from the four courtship displays I witnessed.

    Since today is February 12th, I can only assume that these males don’t want to find themselves dateless on Valentine’s Day!

    IMPORTANT NOTE: You can see a larger version of posted images on this blog by clicking on the image. Click on the larger image (or press the ESC key) to return to the original blog post. At this date, it does not yet work on older posts.

    Coyote Sneak Attack

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    A coyote launches a surprise attack on some unsuspecting rodent.

    Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, EF500mm f/4L IS USM at 500 mm, 1/2000 sec at f/4, ISO 800

    Tuesday morning I awoke early and drove to Morgan Hill to see if I could find and photograph the ferruginous hawk that has been so cooperative recently for other local bird photographers. Eventually I was able to find the hawk and get some pictures of it, but my favorite images of the day were of a coyote that was hunting in a field just off Richmond Avenue. Read the entire post…

    Autumn Black Oaks

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    The changing leaves of the black oak trees in Yosemite create a rich palette of yellows, golds, and greens which, along with contrasting dark trunks, present a host of stunning photo opportunities.

    Canon 5D Mk II, 70-200mm f/2.8L at 123mm, 1/10 sec at f/5.6, ISO 400

    One of my favorite images from autumn 2012, this picture captures the unsung beauty of Yosemite. It’s not always about waterfalls and granite monoliths. This photograph was captured in the early morning, before any direct sunlight had made its way into the Valley, from a vantage point within El Capitan Meadow.

    A bobcat launches a sneak attack on its prey in Yosemite National Park's Cook's Meadow.

    Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, EF500mm f/4L IS USM at 500 mm, 1/800 sec at f/4, ISO 1600

    This bobcat was one of the highlights of my trip with Alison to Yosemite back in November. We first spotted it boldly coming up the path towards us early one morning in Cook’s Meadow. I was scouting landscape photographs with a wide angle lens on my camera, but upon seeing the bobcat, I sprinted back to our van to get my long lens. Read the entire post…

    Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM at 70 mm, 1/640 sec at f/5.6, ISO 1600

    I have just added a new gallery to my website featuring more than two dozen images of mountain gorillas that I took in Rwanda this past August. You can see the gallery by clicking on the following link: Gorillas Gallery.

    The image above is included in the new gallery and is one of my favorites. These two young gorillas entertained me and my fellow trekkers as they tussled with one another in a prolonged wrestling match. I’m afraid the expressions on their faces make it look like their interaction was a violent one, but it was in fact just good-natured play that they both seemed to enjoy thoroughly.

    Black oak trees bordering Cook's Meadow in Yosemite National Park exhibit their golden fall colors on a crisp November morning.

    Canon EOS 5D Mark II, EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM at 27 mm, 1/100 sec at f/16, ISO 200

    A large dose of credit goes to my wife, Alison, for inspiring me to capture this image. As I was following a cooperative bobcat around Cook’s Meadow with my long lens, Alison wandered among the nearby oak trees featuring beautiful golden leaves. She took a quick grab shot on her iPhone of a composition similar to that of the above image and I was very intrigued when she showed it to me. A few minutes later the bobcat disappeared into the undergrowth for a nap, so I swapped out my 500mm lens for a wide angle zoom and set about reconstructing the iPhone image as I remembered it. After waiting a while for the skies to clear of the seemingly ever-present contrails, I fine-tuned the positioning of the camera to obtain a starburst effect from the sun, and I was able to create an image that conveyed the feeling of standing within this dazzling grove.

    Stay tuned for a blog post featuring the aforementioned bobcat in the near future.

    This adult male mountain gorilla (known as a silverback) sat calmly while I photographed him from close range.

    Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM +1.4x at 160 mm, 1/100 sec at f/4, ISO 800

    Little did I know at the time that this gorilla, which was literally the first individual of dozens I would see over four days of trekking in Rwanda, would become one of my favorite subjects of the entire trip. He sat quietly even as one of the guides removed some obstructing vines that draped across his chest. When he wasn’t feasting on handfuls of vegetation, he would pause, and gaze at me and my fellow trekkers with those piercing eyes. It still gives me chills when I think about those moments of connection with this most sentient of creatures.

    This encounter took place in Rwanda’s Parc National des Volcans. The individual gorilla pictured here is one of four silverbacks belonging to the Kwitonda family.