One new photograph, almost every day of the year



It doesn’t take much to hide a 13-lined ground squirrel.  A small rock and a few blades of grass seem adequate for this tiny critter to disappear, revealing only his wary eye to watch for predators.

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2018—Bird Box #20

One of the roads in Custer State Park has a barbed wire fence that has nesting boxes affixed to some of the wooden posts.  Each box is identified by a number.  BB 20 was inhabited by a pair of tree swallows.  One of the swallows peeks out as we watched from the road.  I took this photograph the first morning in the park.  It was the only time during the four days that we had any sun and this was one of the few birds I had an opportunity to photograph there.   When I was there two years ago,  Western Meadowlarks, Mountain Bluebirds, and Red-winged Blackbirds were frequent visitors to this fence, perching obligingly on the posts and singing for us.  The cooler and foggier conditions seem to have kept the birds away.

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2018—Mama Bison and Calf in the Fog

The fog in Custer State Park, SD persisted throughout our time there.   This mother bison and her calf were across the road up on a ridge, probably less than 100 feet from us.  And the dense mist hung in the air between our lenses and our subjects.  It was quite a challenge to make successful photographs under these conditions.  One thing that helped was to increase exposure compensation both to bring out the subjects and at the same time, still show the fog.

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2018—Defiant Upland Sandpiper

With one foot on the far side of the Open To [blank] sign, this Upland Sandpiper seems to be defying the message which illustrates yet another use for duct tape: obliterating unwanted words on signs.

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2018—Grazing in the Fog

Most of the four days I spent in Custer State Park in South Dakota were foggy.   The fog hung low to the ground and thickened throughout the day.  Visibility was often less than 50 to 75 feet which made photography a challenge.  Sometimes, our subjects disappeared in the mist.

Most of my photographs of grazing bison, like this one, show them shrouded in fog.

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2018—Ben Franklin’s Preference?

Founding Father Benjamin Franklin didn’t propose the Wild Turkey over the Bald Eagle as the official symbol on the Great Seal of the newly formed United States of America as is commonly thought.  He did, however, according to the Franklin Institute,  write in a letter to his daughter that he thought the eagle on the seal looked more like a turkey.  He stated that he saw the bald eagle as a “Bird of bad moral Character and one that does not get his Living honestly” whereas the turkey was “a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America…He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage.” Thus, a myth was born.

I can see how Franklin might have favored the wild turkey after photographing an agitated tom last week in Custer State Park in South Dakota.   But it has nothing to do with the moral character of the turkey over the eagle. It’s the tom’s ability to display our nation’s official red, white, and blue colors.  This tom, suspecting another male was in the area when his hen was nearby, was agitated and raced back and forth across the prairie grasses, searching for his competitor.

These six photographs show the color changes as the state of his agitation increased, then waned again.  First, he fanned his tail feathers while the colors on his wattle and head changed.   His wattle turned from brilliant red to a silvery white while the blue in his head intensified.

I took these shots from the vehicle using my Nikon D5 with the 300mm PF f/4 with 1.4 Teleconverter.

First, Mr. Tom is minding his own business trying to impress a hen nearby.

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Mr. Tom hears the gobble of another turkey.   Competition.  His feathers rouse.

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Within a few minutes, Mr. Tom has crossed the road in search of his nemesis, agitated and turning bluer in the face while his red wattle pales to a silvery white.

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He heads off in search of the competition.

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Back across the road, Mr. Tom climbs a small knoll then heads down the other side, still unable to find the the other male.

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Finally convinced he has no competition, he calms down and the skin on his head and wattle return to their normal colors.  Having had the courage to seek his rival, he can once again display his feathers for the hen, and return to his vain and silly self.

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2018—Wobbly Baby

There is something irresistible about baby animals.  Bison calves are no exception.  Here in Custer State Park in South Dakota, bison calves are dropping.  The calves are reddish brown, much lighter in color than the mature adults who are a dark, blackish brown.  This  adorable  week-old calf approached us unafraid on the road where we’d stopped one afternoon.   It seemed to be searching for its mother who at the time was no where in sight.  There were three bulls up a hillside nearby but they were ignoring the calf who wandered toward us as if to ask, “Where’s my mom?”  I knelt on one knee and turned my camera to vertical to get this shot as the little one looked directly at me and wobbled in my direction. The young calf, its umbilical cord still attached, eventually went back up the hillside and lay down near the bulls until finally, mom arrived.  I took this shot with the Nikon D5; 300mm PF lens; and 1.4x teleconverter.

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2018—Two Views of A Red Barn

I photographed quite a few red barns while I was in the Palouse in April.  This one was particularly lovely as the light from the sinking sun highlighted its face.  We first photographed it from across a road and field.  Then, we drove closer and photographed it from the fence line that surrounded the property, about where the boulders are in the first photograph.  For the first photograph, I used the 70-200mm lens at 200mm.   Because we were so much closer for the second, I used my 24-70mm lens at 58mm.

N.B.  This post’s for you, Big Bro!

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Once when I was a kid, I read a book that used the word “counterpane.”  Puzzled by the word, I looked it up in the dictionary where I discovered that a counterpane is a quilt or bed covering.   I do not recall the book’s title or even what its subject was,  but I do remember it had an illustration of a lumpy quilt on a bed viewed from the perspective of the person in the bed under the quilt.  This photograph from Steptoe Butte in the Palouse reminds me of that old illustration.  The rolling hills crisscrossed by evenly plowed rows bring to mind a plaid or checkered pattern.  Imagine laying in a bed, sheets tucked under your chin, looking across the rumpled, checkered counterpane toward your feet at the end of the bed.  I converted the photograph to black and white so it looks almost as if the “counterpane” is lit by moonlight though a window.


2018—Dusty Sunset

The views at sunset from Steptoe Butte in the Palouse are astonishing.  The uncluttered rolling hills seem to go on forever and the setting sun, reflecting off the clouds of dust, tinges everything in its path a hazy, fiery orange.  Clouds of dust rise from behind the closest ridge where a farmer  is plowing and the farmer’s barn, its metal roof aglow, sets in a valley beyond.


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