It’s both surprises and fascinates me to see how nature can be guided by mathematical principles. These principles not only shape the logical structure of mathematics, they extend to the natural and artistic worlds as well. The Golden Spiral, a concept guided by Fibonacci numbers, and their relative ratios helps define classical definitions of beauty and proportion. Walking through Antelope Community Park yesterday on the way home from my daily outing, I was struck by the beauty of some spring wildflowers scattered along the trail. These fiddleheads exhibit the proportion of the Golden Spiral and the golden flowers emerging from the spiral help to accentuate it.
One snowy morning in Yellowstone National Park last January, we encountered a small herd of Bison just as they began to wake up. As they began to stir and move around, the wind picked up and blew the snow sideways. This Bison cow was looking for dried grasses to munch to start her day.
My visit to Yellowstone National Park in January was all about the Coyotes and close encounters with them. We photographed them on each of our five days in the park and on several days we had multiple opportunities and prolonged encounters with them. Their winter coats were thick and beautiful. They were confident as they strode across snowy meadows and down snow covered roadways sometimes having to maneuver through rows of snow mobilers parked and gawking and the occasional photographers like us. We were always respectful of their space and kept perfectly still when circumstances forced the Coyotes to approach more closely than they would have wished which allowed us to get shots like this one, taken with my Nikon D6 and Nikkor 500mm PF lens.
Chickadees are tiny, adorable balls of fluff. This Black-capped Chickadee is holding a seed, gleaned from a feeder at Sax-Zim Bog, between its feet. The bare branch its perched on is just a short distance from the feeder and it allows the small bird to eat its treasure in peace but keeps it close enough to the feeder that it can return easily to glean more.
Pine Grosbeaks are large, colorful finches. This female, with its russet head and and rump and white wingbars makes quite a striking presence on a spruce branch. Now, the perfect perch would have been a pine branch but since spruce and pine are both conifers, this is actually quite the perfect perch for this bird, photographed at Sax-Zim Bog in Minnesota last month.
This yellow freesia looks stunning rendered in Nikon Z’s creative Graphite picture control. I am fascinated by which colors pop and which colors recede with this creative picture control. I’m looking forward to trying this on other colors as more spring flowers emerge. Red seems to darken intensely and some yellows darken, like a Meyer lemon I experimented on was darker, unlike this bright yellow freesia. It seems to depend on how pure the yellow is or if it has tinges of red. This is a single, 15 second exposure at f/32 in natural light, taken with my Nikon Z6II and Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 micro lens.
Today is the first day of spring and I welcome spring with open arms. It rained yesterday so I plucked a sprig of freesia, my favorite spring flower, and photographed it and its raindrops with the Nikon Z6II and my 105mm macro lens using the #18 Graphite picture control setting. This is a pure white freesia which lent itself perfectly to the Graphite picture control. It creates subtle shading in the veins of the petals and the raindrops. This shot is similar to the “Flowers of the Pandemic” photographs that I have taken over the past year, but instead of focus stacking several images together and using flash in a darkened room, I took a single 13 second exposure at f/40 using natural window light.
Male Evening Grosbeaks are such striking birds. With their bright yellow and black feathers they stand out from their surroundings, especially in winter in a leafless aspen grove in Sax-Zim Bog.
Bobo, my Red-lored Amazon, is covered in feathers of brilliant greens, reds, yellows, and blues. Normally I photograph her in color. But when I recently saw an image of a bird taken with Nikon’s creative Picture Control setting #18, Graphite, for Z mirrorless cameras, I knew I had to try it on my #1 test model. Over the years she has become acclimated to camera lenses pointed at her and I test cameras and lenses on her because she is readily available for such duty. What I love about this setting is that the background disappeared into darkness even though there was considerable light in the room. The other fascinating thing to me is that her brilliant red forehead turned almost black and her white eye ring and yellow cheek blended together. This image is straight out of the camera. I opened it in Nikon’s NX Studio and saved it. If I were to open it in Adobe Camera Raw, I would need to apply a preset to return the image to what I captured in the camera, something I will have to create. I love the effect that this creative picture control has on the image. It is very dramatic and I have already tried it on flowers and even delicata squash. But, so far, my favorite results are Bobo peering out from the opening of her cage.
The Canada Jays at Sax-Zim Bog are deceptively adorable. In this photograph, the jay looks small. Canada jays are not small. They are the size of the California Scrub Jay, over 11 inches and just as gregarious and just as aggressive. But their sweet faces and shorter beaks make them appear less belligerent and more endearing. Don’t get me wrong. Scrub Jays are my favorite bird. If I lived near Canada Jay territory, I’m sure they’d quickly become one of my favorite birds, too. I certainly enjoyed photographing them last month.
A warm sunny afternoon and a good meal create the perfect pairing for nap time. This White-breasted Nuthatch could barely keeps its eyes open a couple of weeks ago at Sax-Zim Bog as it rested on a tree trunk after foraging for sunflower seeds.
This Black-capped Chickadee was feasting on seeds from exploding cattails near one of the feeding stations at Sax-Zim Bog in Minnesota. This tiny bird was taking a break from the feeders and foraging for natural nutrients nearby. Cattails grow in the kind of marshy land that comprises most of Sax-Zim Bog. It’s easy to get an idea how tiny the chickadees are when you see this one clinging to a cattail’s seedpod. Tail and all, they’re about 5 inches.
Many birds are sexually dimorphic which means that males and females have very different plumage characteristics. An example is the Pine Grosbeak. Males stand out from their surroundings. They sport brilliant red feathers and dark wings with white wing bars. This distinguishes them from the less brilliant, though no less beautiful, female Pine Grosbeaks that tend to blend in more with their surroundings.
To me, the harbinger of spring is freesia. Years ago I planted some freesia corms in my front flower bed and without fail, freesia is the first flower to appear in my garden in spring. The heady aroma is my favorite floral fragrance and to me, it means spring is almost here. It rained on Wednesday and a few raindrops still clung to the blossoms even after I clipped them and placed them in a vial to photograph them. A power outage that lasted most of an hour Wednesday evening gave me a chance to photograph them in complete darkness so there were no light leaks. I’d already set up the three flashes I used so all I needed was a flashlight to guide me back up to where I’d set up the flowers and to focus.
I’m looking forward to spring when the flowers will start blooming profusely again and I will be able to sit on my patio waiting for birds to visit my feeders and fountains and photograph them. Once again I’ve been inspired by my friend Moose Peterson, a Nikon Ambassador, who last night gave a Nikon-sponsored Webinar at B and C Camera in Las Vegas, NV about backyard bird photography. Not only did I get some great tips and suggestions for improving my backyard bird photography, I was thrilled and honored that he used several of my images to illustrate the possibilities for a backyard bird photographer. Since Anna’s Hummingbirds are my favorite backyard birds to photograph, I wanted to revisit some of the images I took last year that were possible because I followed some of Moose’s backyard birding suggestions, like putting a correctly sized perch near one of the hummingbird feeders. I had previously determined that the background would be uncluttered and out of focus if I placed the perch in one of the flower pots near the feeder. All I needed to do was wait for the hummer to land on it. I was ready when he did.
Grosbeaks have large, conical beaks. This male Evening Grosbeak is a good example of that distinctive beak characteristic of Grosbeaks. As is the case in dimorphic birds, the male is more colorful and distinctly patterned than the female.
This female Pine Grosbeak matches perfectly with the muted grays and rusts that comprise the background near one of the feeding stations at Sax-Zim Bog in Minnesota. The color palette of the bird and of the background are almost identical. I find that fascinating. Despite the color match, the bird stands out from the background because I used the largest available f/stop to give me the narrowest depth of focus so that the background would be blurred and the subject in sharp focus.
According to The Cornell Lab’s “All About Birds,” Pine Grosbeaks live in northern climes, mostly in Canada. They will come to sunflower seed feeders in winter in the northern states which is where I saw them last week in Sax-Zim Bog in Minnesota. These birds are large finches that make most of the other birds at the feeders look tiny. When the feeders are empty or there are too many other birds, the Pine Grosbeaks will forage underneath for precious sunflower kernels pushed out of the feeders above them. Here a pair (these birds mate for life), the grayish female in the background, search the snow bank for edible sunflower seeds. The brilliant red male stands out from the white background.
American Red Squirrels were as frequent visitors to the Sax-Zim Bog feeders as were all the Boreal birds. Just as at as home bird feeders, these small rodents forage not only underneath the feeders but right on them as well, competing with the birds for the seeds and other goodies on display. There were quite a few of them at each feeding station and sometimes they would get into very vocal and sometimes physical squabbles. This little guy was taking a break from the feeders and posed charmingly for me on a nearby log.
Who doesn’t love peanut butter? And a graphic depiction of that classic of all classic combinations, the P.B. and J. that we all grew up eating, became a familiar sight at Minnesota’s Sax-Zim Bog last week with a slight modification to the “J.”. In Sax-Zim Bog the “J” was neither jam nor jelly but rather a Jay, a Canada Jay to be exact. All the birds seemed to love the generously slathered globs of peanut butter on logs and perches and specially crafted feeders. The temperatures were usually well below freezing so that peanut butter did not melt and the birds severed chunks of it with their beaks. They came back for more peanut butter over and over so apparently swallowing was not a problem for the birds. No milk needed to wash it down.