Blog - Jack Dean

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Jack Dean III Nature Photography

Raising Chickens

As Amanda and I get older we have become more interested in self sustainability and how our ancestors before us provided for themselves. Last year we made a decision to get five hens so we could harvest our own eggs. With the help of my dad we made a nice coop and pen for them to be safe from the predators that may venture into our yard. Once Amanda's friends at her work found out that we were doing this they offered to start buying eggs from her so they could have fresh eggs for themselves. Needless to say with only five hens we started having a problem having enough eggs for our own needs, so we decided to get six chicks to raise and add to our flock.

We made a trip to Tractor Supply to see the different chicks they had for sale. Since we started with five White Plymouth Rock hens we thought it would be nice to get a couple more different breeds so we could learn more about them. We decided to get three Rhode Island Reds and three Australorps. Once we decided what breeds to get we then had to get the supplies so we could raise them in our basement. We got one large plastic tote to raise them in, one bag of premium pine shavings for their bedding, feed made special for chicks, a feeder, a waterer, a heat lamp to keep them warm, and a small coop for when they got old enough to release to keep them separated from the other hens for awhile. We also used some scrap chicken wire to clamp to the top of the tote. These birds grow very fast so this is a must or they would be jumping out of the tote and not get the food, water, and heat they need to stay alive at their young age.

Tractor Supply also provides a pamphlet and a paper that tells you everything you need to know about raising chicks.

This has been a fun and awarding experience. We have learned so much about birds and their behavior.

Written March 11th 2018

Rhode Island Red And Astralorp Chicks

My American Kestrel Experience

I guess it all started sometime in November of 2016. I was browsing the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources website when I came across a page written by Kate Slankard (Heyden). She is a nongame avian biologist that works for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife. The article was about barn owls in Kentucky and the efforts being made to monitor them in the state. I thought I would do my part and build a couple of nest boxes to try to help with the cause. Click here if you are interested in reading that article.

My next step was to figure out what type of nest box to build. After researching several types of nest boxes for barn owls I decided on a plan that Steve Simmons came up with. He was a shop teacher that sold nest boxes that students made. Doing this he was able to come up with money for scholarships and help bird ecology in a big way. The big bonus of using this plan was that I was able to make two nest boxes with one sheet of plywood. Click here if you are interested in learning about him and the plans I used to make this nest box.

Once I decided what type of nest box to make I made a trip to Home Depot and bought the materials and tools I needed to complete the project. I am by no means a carpenter but I was able to cut out and assemble two nest boxes in one weekend by myself. I spent another weekend digging out holes, placing the poles in concrete, and fastening them to a fence so they would stand sturdy. I made sure each nest box was about twenty feet in the air and placed in a location suitable for an owl to hunt. I put them about a quarter of mile apart and both of them are located close to watering holes and pasture for livestock. It will take about three people to stand one of these up, they are quite heavy.

Once I had the nest boxes mounted I used a Bushnell Nature View Camera to monitor them. Within two weeks of setting them up both nest boxes were occupied by two separate pair of American Kestrels.

How I Photographed Them

I used a Canon 7d mark ii, Canon ef 600mm f/4 is lens, a Gitzo tripod, and a Wimberley WH-200 gimbal head. I took a position 50 yards away from the nest box. It is important to keep your distance from a wild subject so that you can record natural behavior. If they are worried about you being to close they will most likely just fly away from you. This would be bad for the chicks in the nest box and the photographer. I spent one year photographing them and the longer I spent with them the more comfortable they became with me. On one occasion the female flew to a position within 20 yards of me and perched while she ate a mouse. It is also a good idea to have the sun behind you and shining toward the direction you are shooting in. This will allow for faster shutter speeds and more detail in the photograph.

My Observations And What I Learned

In the beginning the male would bring food to the female. I am guessing this is normal courtship behavior.

The female seemed to be the boss of the two. Like most raptors she was slightly larger than the male.

They fed on small birds, mice, moles, and insects. Every other time I would watch them they were either eating a mouse or a mole. According to The Cornell Lab of Ornithology they can see ultraviolet light, allowing them to see urine trails left by small mammals.

When you are a bird that eats other birds it is hard to make friends. Any medium sized bird such as robins, blue jays, and grackles were constantly mobbing them and trying to chase them away.

They are North America's most common falcon but their numbers have declined by 50% from 1966 to 2015 according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. I am going to take an educated guess and say that their numbers are in decline because there isn't enough suitable nesting sites. Simply because of how fast they occupied the nest boxes that I put up.

Scope Of The Project

Even though I didn't attract the barn owl I was hoping for, completing this project provided Amanda and I hours of entertainment and the satisfaction of giving two bird families a home to live in. It was totally worth the small amount of money and time that we invested. I am looking forward to see what the future holds for these two nest boxes.

All photos are of wild American Kestrels. I did not use bait or calls to capture any of these photos.



Cades Cove

Cades Cove is located in The Great Smoky National Park near Townsend, Tennessee. It is a popular destination because of its well preserved homesteads of the early settlers and the abundant wildlife in the park. There is an eleven mile loop that you can drive, bicycle, or hike to witness all of the natural beauties located there for yourself. The gates normally open about ten minutes after sunrise and close shortly after sunset. During peak visitation periods it stays pretty crowded so I would suggest getting there an hour early to wait for the gates to open so you can be one of the first through the gates. On a normal day I would guess that it would take about two hours to complete the loop in a car. During peak visitation periods it could easily take twice that amount of time to get through it.

I stayed in the Cades Cove campground in my Jeep. I normally sleep in my Jeep because it saves time setting up tents and I know it will not leak if it rains. The campground was pretty nice and my only complaint was that they had no showers there. If you stay there and are in need of a shower there is a place called Wonderland RV Park near Wears Valley where you can shower for a fee of five dollars. I will now write about my encounters with the animals there. I will not discuss the photos of the landscapes because I feel they are pretty self explanatory.

Black Bear

As we were driving the loop we noticed a lot of photographers on the side of the road. I was excited because I had a feeling they were photographing a bear and this was my main goal for the trip. Park rangers were already on the scene and they did an excellent job of making sure everyone stayed at least 50 yards away from the animal. I got to watch the bear for about five minutes while it was using its claws to dig in the dirt and peel bark off of fallen trees in search of bugs to eat. I was able to get a few shots off before he wondered back into the woods.

Coyote

This was another brief encounter. As soon as it sensed us in the area it went running into the woods for cover. It made one stop to check us out before disappearing and this is when I was able to get a few shots off.

American Crow

This bird was eating grubs and had no fear of me. It came pretty close to me and I am guessing I took about 600 shots of it. I was able to get some great portraits. Its always fun when an animal cooperates with the photographer.

Eastern Meadowlark

At sunset there was quite a few of these flying from one side of a field to the other. I am guessing they were searching for a place to roost for the night.

Eastern Phoebe

This bird briefly showed itself. It was there just for a couple of seconds and was very skittish.

Wild Turkey

I watched a couple of Toms strutting their stuff for all of the hens to see. Wild turkeys are always fun to watch.

White-tailed Deer

I had two encounters with some nice bucks. A six pointer chasing about four does and an eight pointer running through the field by itself. It was a sure sign that the rut had begun and the fittest were looking to make sure their genes were past down to the next generation.


American Crow 1

American Crow 1

Start Planning Your Trip To Witness A Sandhill Crane Migration

Sandhill Cranes spend their winter months in southern parts of the U.S and northern parts of Mexico. They congregate there in large groups of tens of thousands of birds and on a yearly basis they migrate north back to their breeding grounds, some of them flying north all the way to Alaska.

Sandhill Cranes are monogamous and they use courtship dancing displays to help them pick a partner or to maintain a mated pair's bond. People travel from all over to witness these charismatic birds for themselves and if you haven't done so yet I would highly recommend you put it on your bucket list. I can not explain in words what it is like to hear thousands of them making their trumpeting calls and dancing around trying to impress their mate.

Places I Have Photographed Sandhill Cranes

Barren River Lake

Goose Pond

I have created links to the places above. If you wish to visit their websites just click on them. I do know that Barren River Lake is hosting tours to view them January 20th, 21st, and 27th of 2018. I am a big supporter of public lands so when ever possible I always try to use their campsites or lodges and I suggest that you do too.

How To Find Sandhill Cranes

Animals have a mind of their own. Just because they were in a certain place at a certain time last year does not mean they will be in the same place and time this year. I suggest using eBird to monitor sightings.

eBird is a tool sponsored by The Cornell Lab Of Ornithology. It works by allowing everyday people to report bird sightings so that scientists can gain a better understanding of bird migrations. You can visit this sight and see when and where reported bird sightings have been noted.

From my experience sandhill cranes like open fields and marshy areas located near corn fields. They use the corn to replenish their energy so they can make the trip back home to their breeding grounds.

Photographing Sandhill Cranes

By using a long lens you can increase your chances of documenting their natural behavior and decrease the chances of flushing them away. I use the Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 or the Canon EF 600mm f/4 IS I attached to my Canon 7dII that has a crop sensor which also increases my focal length by 1.6 times. When making observations of a subject the last thing you want to do is frighten them away because you got too close. For this reason I would also suggest watching or photographing them from your vehicle or a blind if possible. It just makes animals feel safer when they don't know you are there or if they think you are in an enclosed area.

Start planning your trip now and with the proper research and a little bit of luck you will get to see thousands of these magnificent birds in one place. 

Remember there is no substitute for time spent in the field. :)

Sandhill Crane Courtship Dance #1

Sandhill Crane Courtship Dance #1

Taken near Linton, Indiana.

Trail Cam Footage Of A Red Fox

This is a small section of footage from one of my trail cams. This was taken December 6th of 2017 in Pendleton County Kentucky at about 2:00 a.m. in the morning.

This was taken with a Bushnell NatureView Cam and I used a dead rabbit that was hit on the road in front of my house as bait.  I would never kill an animal for the purpose of photographing another animal. Trail cams are a great way to monitor an area while you are away and they have a minimal amount of impact on wildlife.

Our First Adventure To Photograph A Wild Snowy Owl.

As long as I can remember I have always wanted to see a snowy owl in the wild. Snowy owls spend the majority of their time in the tundra of North America. During the winter months they will migrate south to northern parts of the United States in search of more suitable habitats for hunting their prey. Knowing this I began doing some research on snowy owl sightings near me. The closest place that I could find that was having sightings on a regular basis was Cleveland, Ohio.

Between Amanda's and my work schedules we were able to come up with a plan that would allow us one day to search for and photograph this beautiful bird of prey. We then booked a hotel room close to the area and took off on our 4.5 hour journey to Cleveland. I would like to say when planning a trip like this there are no guarantees that you will see what you came to see, but I did know that I was never going to see a snowy owl if I didn't take that chance.

We arrived at Wendy Park just before dawn and began our search. We saw a large flock of Red-breasted Mergansers, different species of gulls, a frozen Lake Erie, lighthouses, and ships breaking ice so that barges could make their way through the water to their destinations, but no snowy owls. We were starting to think that maybe this was not going to be the trip we would see the great snowy owl. We decided to take a break and eat some lunch. Maybe we would have better luck when we came back.

When we came back from lunch we saw a group of about three people standing by a fence looking and pointing so we decided to see what the fuss was about. Sure enough they had spotted the snowy owl. We watched the owl for a little over four hours on the dock and in that time the bird only moved about ten feet. It spent the majority of its time napping on the dock in a very cold environment. I am guessing it probably had a pretty big meal in the morning.

In the time we spent watching this beautiful bird I am guessing well over a hundred people came through to see the owl for themselves. Most people only stayed for about ten minutes because the cold air was so extreme. Everyone was well behave from what I saw, giving the snowy owl plenty of room, a distance of about 50- 75 yards, so not to disturb it. This is very important because of the extreme temperatures these animals live in and the long journeys they make, they need all of the energy they can muster just to stay alive.

All of the photos below were taken January 31st 2017 between Edgewater Beach and Wendy Park in Cleveland, Ohio. If you have any questions or comments feel free to do so on my Facebook page on the post linking you to this blog post and I would be happy to hear them and answer them if I can.

Remember there is no substitute for time spent in the field. :)


Edgewater Beach.

Edgewater Beach.

Photographing Nature In Your Own Backyard

It's very important to have places that are close to where you live to photograph. With that being said what could possibly be closer than your own yard? Photographing in my own yard doesn't cost me a thing to travel to and there are plenty of great photo opportunities if you are just willing to do a bit of work and open your eyes to what most people over look everyday.

Animals, just like us need food, water, and shelter to live. I have three bird bathes, about ten bird houses, and I also set up bird feeders from time to time. It's also a great idea to plant native plants that will attract animals. Birds and Blooms magazine is a great source of information on what plants will attract certain birds and butterflies to your yard.

If you set up feeders, bathes, and houses like I do please be sure to clean them when they aren't being used on a regular basis to help prevent the transmission of diseases to the animals.


Eastern Chipmunk

Driving Country Roads

Driving country roads is one of my favorite things to do and my home in Pendleton County Kentucky offers plenty of these to take advantage of.

Driving country roads allows you to cover a large area of space to seek photographic opportunities. You never know what will be around the next curve and I have found many great surprises along the way.

I have found that being inside a vehicle makes for a great blind while photographing animals. Animals just feel safer when you are in an enclosed area and will be more likely to go on about their normal activities when they don't feel threatened by your presence.

When driving country roads be sure to be safe. Don't block traffic and always look for a safe place to park. Always get permission from the land owner before you park or drive onto private property.


Laurel Falls

Laurel Falls is located in The Great Smoky Mountains. From the trailhead to the falls it is 1.3 miles and is paved from the beginning to the end. For that reason the hike is very easy and if you are new to hiking it would make a great place for your first hike.


Laurel Falls

Finding A Larger Audience For Your Photos

I recently had someone message me asking how they could gain a larger audience for their photos. Since this is a  topic that could take some time to discuss and is probably something more of my followers would like to know I decided to make a blog entry about it and write about my thoughts on the subject.

1. Make sure you are producing quality photos.

Within knowledge lies the keys to unlocking secrets and that is the best way to make sure you are producing quality photos. Join a critique group. I am a member of birdphotographers.net and I learned a lot about what it takes to make a good photo there. By the way this site is not just for bird photographers. They also have forums for photographers with other interest there. I am also a member of NANPA. They are a great organization that gives photographers the tools they need to become better educated on good photography techniques, ethics, and they are paving the way to help make copyright issues much easier to deal with. You can also find a photographer that you like and see if they give workshops. This can be a bit pricy, but you can learn in one day what could have taken you years to learn on your own. The main thing to remember in this topic is that if you are not producing quality photos people will not give you a second look or tell their friends about what they saw and where they can see it.

2. Photo sharing sites.

Photo sharing sites are a great way to have your photos viewed by more people. When posting to these sites make sure you are putting the proper keywords into the photo. Keywords are digitally embedded into the photo and they are how people find them when doing a search in that site. I have used: Flickr, Viewbug, Outdoor Photographer, Facebook, Instagram, 500px, Shutterbug, and National Geographic Your Shot.  Keep in mind the internet can be a bad thing. While I have had some good experiences through these sites, I have also had some bad ones too. People will ask you if they can use your photos free. By the way never let people use your photos for free. If it's not worth paying for then it's not worth publishing in my opinion. This is a completely different topic and is something that I plan on writing about later. If people can through the site they will also copy and use the photo without your permission. I guess they don't know or care that they are actually stealing from photographers. Not all sites are created equal. Some disable the right click function so people can not copy a photo without the photographers consent.

3. Entering photography contest.

Winning a photography contest that takes entries on a national or world wide level would be a sure way to get some big time exposure. I do not compete in many contests anymore because I have learned that in most cases it's really just a ploy for an organization to make money or find a way to use your photos for free. So I suggest that if you decide to go this route to make sure it is an organization that you want to donate to and/or that it is big enough to give you the exposure that you are looking for.

4. Submitting photos and stories to magazines and newspapers.

This is my favorite because if they want to use your photos you will get paid for it. You will need to brush up on your knowledge of license agreements and develop some kind of a business relationship with an editor before doing this.

5. Selling prints at an art fair.

From my experience you will probably have more people looking than buying when doing this but it will help to get your name out. So the bigger the fair the better you will most likely do.

I did not go into great detail on subjects 4 and 5. I believe these are subjects that require a blog entry of their own and I plan on doing this sometime in the future.

Please keep in mind that exposure does not pay the bills and I believe it is more important to have a story worth telling than to have a mass following. That's what I think people really want.





Ramsey Cascades

Ramsey Cascades is the tallest waterfall located within The Great Smoky National Park. From top to bottom the fall drops about 100 feet. From the trailhead to the falls it is about a four mile trip one way and an elevation gain of over 2000 feet. With that being said this trail is considered somewhat strenuous. I am not in the best shape but after stopping a few times to rest on the way up and down. I was able to make it without too much difficulty. There is a creek that follows the trail and you will have to cross several times. The bridges are basically just trees cut and laid across the creek with a railing. Some of them are about twenty feet from the bridge to the ground so you have problems with height this may cause you some issues. Black Bears are abundant in the Smoky Mountains so I would advise bringing bear spray, making plenty of noise while hiking, and do not throw any food down on the trail. Bears can harm humans and the last thing we want is to have them associate us with food. This was a difficult hike but it was well worth the work. I am so glad I got to see this beautiful sight with my own two eyes.


Ramsey Cascades

The Orionid Meteor Shower

The Orionid meteor shower usually occurs towards the end of October and can be visible through the first week of November. During its peak you may be able to view 15 - 30 meteors an hour streaking through the sky. It is named because they appear to come from the constellation Orion, but can also be viewed over a large portion of the sky. It is also the result of debris breaking away from Halley's comet and is best viewed during the predawn hours, from midnight to about an hour before sunrise.

The photo below was taken right around midnight at A.J. Jolly Park in Campbell County Kentucky on October 20th 2017.


My Bald-faced Hornet Story

About a week ago I was notified by a neighbor that they had a hornet's nest in their yard and they wanted to know if I wanted to check it out. I was excited about the opportunity to photograph a hornet's nest and document their behavior. A few days later I finally had a couple of days off from my day job and the lighting conditions were suitable for photography so I made my way to check out the nest. When I got there to my surprise they had already sprayed the nest to kill the hornets. I can't say that I blame them for doing so as the nest was pretty close to their house and was in an area that could of put my neighbors at risk of being stung.

Being a photographer you must learn to make the best of what you have to work with, so I photographed the nest and collected about twenty of the dead hornets off of the ground to take to my studio.

After doing some research I am 95% certain that this was a bald-faced hornets nest and here are some interesting facts I learned about them.

1. They are not true hornets. They are actually more closely related to the yellow jacket.

2. The queens are the only member of the colony that can survive the winter and they make a new nest every year.

3.A colony will consist of 100 - 400 workers.

4.Their nest are made of wood chewed up and mixed with the hornet's saliva.

5.They usually make their nest in trees anywhere from 4 - 60 feet off the ground and their nest have been known to reach up to 3 feet long.

6. They are considered a beneficial insect because they feed mostly on populations of unwanted insects and they do pollinate flowers when they are searching for nectar.

The macro photo below is the result of using a black backdrop, a Gitzo tripod, a canon 5d mark ii camera, a canon 100mm f/2.8 macro lens, two clamp lights that are commonly used by mechanics, a Giotto mh 1302 ballhead, and a dead hornet on a needle taped to a flash stand. I took seven photos with different focus points and combined them in  Photoshop CC. 

Bald-faced Hornet

Bald-faced Hornet's Nest

The St. James Court Art Show

The St. James Court Art Show was founded in 1957 and is located in Louisville, Kentucky. There are over 700 vendors selling quality artwork and it draws in a crowd of over 100,000 people from across the country to buy original art from the artist themselves. You will see just about every type  of artwork you can imagine: photography, pottery, jewelry, glassworks, clothing, paintings, furniture, and much more. St. James Court is also the site of the largest collection of Victorian style homes in the United States which provides the perfect atmosphere for this event. Out of all of the art shows in this wonderful country of ours The St. James Court Art Show has been ranked #1 by Sunshine Artist Magazine in the past and it's right here in Kentucky.

The artist that participate in this event must provide their work to a jury which is judged to insure that their work meets the standard of quality. The artist pays jury and booth fees and that money ensures that people attending the event can do so free of charge and that money is also pooled together to award scholarships. So make your plans now  to attend The St. James Court Art Show next year during the first weekend in October and support these great artist.

Hammock Camping And The Gear I Use

When backcountry camping you will often find yourself hiking miles into the wilderness and you will find that less is more in terms of what you bring with you. Hammock camping offers a lightweight solution that will allow you more room for the essentials and is much more comfortable than sleeping on the ground. Below is a photo of the gear and a description of each of the items.

My Hammock Camping Gear In Its Packed Up Form

The Profly XL Rain Tarp made by Eagles Nest Outfitters.

This is the largest tarp made by ENO and is great for keeping the rain and sun off of you while backcountry camping. The unfolded dimensions are 13 feet by 9 feet and 2 inches. The stuffed dimensions are 10.5 inches by 5 inches and weighs in at 28 ounces. This tarp does not come with stakes, so you will need to purchase them separately. This is the largest bag in the photo above.


The Reactor Hammock made by Eagles Nest Outfitters.

This hammock is rated to safely support up to 400 pounds and will comfortably fit both Amanda and I in it while sleeping. The unpacked dimensions are 9 feet by 5 feet and 6 inches. Its packed dimensions are 7 inches by 5 inches and weighs in at 27 ounces. This is the medium sized bag in the photo above.


The Atlas Straps made by Eagles Nest Outfitters.

These straps are rated to safely support up to 400 pounds. They are 9 feet long with multiple adjustment points which makes it fairly easy to find trees to use them on. This is the smallest item in the photo above and weighs in at 11 ounces.


I have used this set up while backcountry camping in Red River Gorge, while section hiking The Appalachian Trail, and even in my own backyard. I am looking forward to having more chances to put this great set up to more uses, it's just a matter of coming up with the time.


The photos below were taken in my backyard for demonstration purposes.


The Canon EF 600mm f/4 IS I Lens

This lens is my most recent purchase and I bought it used on ebay. There is a newer version of this lens out now but unfortunately is out of my price range for the time being. Even though it is not the most recent version I still paid more for this lens than I did for both of my vehicles combined.

Since wild animals are my primary subject it is essential to have a lens with this focal length in order to photograph them in their natural environment on their own terms. It allows them to feel safe since I am photographing them from a distance and allows me to record their natural behavior in the wild. This gives me a since of accomplishment that I could never get if I was photographing captive animals or animals that have been lured from their natural environment by using bait or calls.

I quickly found out that working at this focal length it is imperative that you understand all of the functions on the lens, when to use them, and to use proper photography techniques while in the field. I can say that after some practice I can now get a sharp image with this lens with a shutter speed of 1/50 of a second while hand holding it. This lens is big, awkward to carry, and heavy so hand holding it while shooting at 1/50 of a second is not a situation that I would put myself in on purpose. 

This lens has quickly become the most used lens in my arsenal. It was worth every penny and every sacrifice I paid for it.



The Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM Lens

This was my forth Canon L series lens and I bought this lens new from B&H Photo. I made this purchase before attending a workshop which I new I would need a mid range telephoto lens that I did not have at the time. This lens does not have image stabilization but Canon does now make a newer version of it that does have image stabilization.

I absolutely love using this as a walk around lens. It is very versatile and I can use it for anything from portrait photography to catching the action in sports  photography.

If you are looking for a mid range telephoto lens I would absolutely recommend it.

The Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS Lens

This was my third Canon L series lens and I bought this lens new from B&H Photo. It is also splash and dust resistant which means it can handle the types of environment that I photograph in.

I do not spend a lot of time doing macro photography so this lens does not get used nearly as much as my others. I bought this lens because I feel that I should be prepared to photograph anything interesting that comes across my path and I feel it is important to have a diverse portfolio. With that being said it has allowed me to break the monotony of photographing the same things day in and day out. It has allowed me to get some really cool close up photos of flowers and insects and even though I do not use it as often as my other lenses I am happy to have it in my arsenal.

This lens does have image stabilization and when doing macro photography this is really important, along with using a sturdy tripod, and using proper techniques.

I have no complaints about this lens and would recommend it to anyone interested in macro photography. Happy photographing and remember, there is no substitute for time spent in the field. :)


Houseboating Lake Cumberland

This trips adventurers were:

Captain Jack

Amanda The Navigator

Mikel The Fisherman

We arrived at Jamestown Marina at about 3:00 pm on a Monday. It took us about an hour to load our luggage onto the houseboat. Once we had our belongings on the boat an employee of the marina came to explain how everything on the boat worked. They then drove the houseboat to the open waters so we would not have to drive the houseboat within the tight quarters of the marina.

On the first day Amanda experienced some motion sickness, but once she started taking her Dramamine she was fine for the rest of the trip.

On the second night a storm came through. These houseboats are pretty big and have a lot of surface area to catch wind so I can not stress enough how important it is to make sure you are anchored correctly.

The rest of the trip went as planned. We drove to a different destination everyday and called it home for the night. On Thursday we had the boat back by 9:00 am where the employees of the marina boarded the boat and parked it in the marina.

This was a very fun trip and I would recommend anyone to try doing this at least once in their lives. Below is a video that I put together of our trip.

Houseboating Lake Cumberland

The Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM Lens

This was my second Canon L series lens and I bought this lens new from B&H Photo. It is splash and dust resistant making it ideal for carrying it with me while hiking or canoeing.

I decided to purchase this lens because animals were not always around and I wanted to start taking up landscape photography. Having this second lens kept me busy in the field when there were no animals around to photograph. I have also learned that the majority of people purchasing my work prefer landscapes over animals. Any time someone purchases my work it helps me out tremendously, not only financially but mentally also. So I always try to work some landscape photography in to keep my customers happy.

I would recommend this lens to anyone. It is a great walk around lens and can take the abuse of being in the field. Happy photographing and remember, there is no substitute for time spent in the field. :)

The Sunrise That Brought Tears To My Eyes

About one month ago I started having problems with my eyes. They were itching, burning, and so sensitive to light that just being in the light was blinding. With the cost of healthcare and pharmaceuticals being as high as they are now days, I do not go to the doctor unless I have to. The first thing that comes to my mind when I get sick is "What am I going to have to sacrifice to not be sick?"

I made an appointment to see my family doctor and when I saw him He asked me about my symptoms. After talking to him about my symptoms we concluded that allergies caused by pollen was the most likely culprit. He gave me a shot of steroids, prescribed me some Flownase, and told me to start taking Zyrtec on a daily basis. I could feel the steroids taking effect about two hours after the shot was given and it relieved about half of my pain. I took the Flownase and Zyrtec on a daily basis and I do believe they helped my symptoms from my allergies.

Three weeks go by and I am still having light sensitivity issues and I can only be in the sunlight if I am wearing sunglasses. I called my family doctor and he said that if I had seen my eye doctor  recently the next step would be to see an allergist. I had just seen my eye  doctor about three months prior to this and my eyes checked out to be healthy. I almost went ahead with making an appointment with an allergist but I thought that I should call my eye  doctor first. After talking to my eye doctor. they said they would like to see me before I schedule an appointment with an allergist.

After seeing my eye doctor he told me that I had ulcers on my eyes. They were most likely caused by me rubbing my eyes so much because of my allergies, thus introducing a bacterial infection to my eyes. He prescribed me some daily contacts that I could throw away after every use so I wouldn't be reintroducing the infection back into my eyes and prescribed me some eye drops to help fight the infection and keep the swelling down.

The next morning while driving to my job at the factory I was able to watch the sunrise for the first time in three weeks without wearing sunglasses or experiencing pain. I was flooded with emotions as I watched the radiant orange glow of the sun slowly rise above the horizon. I could see the subtle tones of yellow and magenta bouncing around the clouds. I was ecstatic to finally see them again and I was frightened by the thought of not being able to see them again all at the same time. I wish I would have had time to photograph it, because it was so special to me, but I would have been late for work if I had done so.

Simple pleasures like watching the sun rise, taking time to admire a hard days work, and spending time with family and friends are what make going through life's hardships worthwhile. This is why "no one". I repeat "no one" should be denied healthcare because they can't afford a visit to a doctor, some extra contacts, some eye drops, or some allergy medications. Work hard and enjoy life while you can because you never know what tomorrow will bring.

I would like to give a special thanks to my eye doctors for all of your help. You have no idea how much I appreciate it. Drs. Loesch, Lameier, and Herron Located at Walmart in Alexandria, KY.

The Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM Lens

This was my first Canon L series lens. I bought it new from B&H Photo and I must say that it is still one of my favorites. I decided to buy this because every nature photographer that I was following, that was a Canon user, had this in their arsenal and because of its affordability.

It is lightweight making it easy to carry with me while hiking or canoeing. It has a wide open aperture of f/5.6. In my opinion this lets enough light through the lens to allow for fast enough shutter speeds in ideal lighting conditions. It does not have image stabilization. Of course I would love for it to have image stabilization and a wider aperture for those lower light conditions, but this would only add to the cost of the lens. Canon does make several lenses with this focal length that have a wider aperture and have image stabilization but the prices are significantly higher.

This is a prime lens meaning it only has one focal length. This has its pros and cons. I prefer prime lenses because I photograph mostly animals. With that being said most of the time I only have seconds to capture the moment and I normally wouldn't have time to change focal lengths in order to capture the action shots that I like. It also forces me to get creative from time to time with my compositions. There have been times I would have liked to be able to widen the focal length but you must learn to take the good with the bad. With landscapes I could always take multiple photos and stitch them together in Photoshop CC if I have to.

I would recommend this lens to anyone who is interested in photographing animals. Happy photographing and remember, there is no substitute for time spent in the field. :)

Learn To Take Advantange Of A Good Situation

If you read my last entry you already know that this female American Kestrel flew away from the male so she could eat in peace. What you don't know is that she flew to a tree that was about twenty feet from me. It's not everyday that a wild kestrel lands right next to you and eats a mole. Knowing this was one of those rare occasions when a wild animal was going to be cooperative with me I took as many photographs as I could being careful not to move and frighten her.  I took about 1500 photographs of this female eating a whole  mole piece by piece and of her cleaning herself up afterwards. This was my favorite photo of the bunch as I think it portrays pretty well how she felt after eating the whole mole by herself and knowing that she has been feeding two chicks nonstop for the last month and a half. It was almost as if she was posing for me.

Since I did like this photo so much I spent some extra time with it in Photoshop CC cloning out some branches that I felt were distracting from the bird.

Happy photographing everyone and remember there is no substitute for time spent in the field. :)

The Look Of Satisfaction

Using A Sequence Of Photos To Tell A Story

I apologize for my absence. I have been on assignment and I have just returned. Hopefully this entry will make up for my time away.


In my opinion a good photo is about good lighting, good composition, and it must tell a story. Sometimes using a single photo can be hard to make sure the person viewing the photo understands how things happened as they did. In cases like this we can use multiple photos to tell the story just as it happened. Like the example below.

Female Catches Mole

Male Wants Mole

Female Says Not Today

Female Flies Away

My Secondary Camera And The Importance Of Having It

My secondary camera is the Canon 5d Mark ii. I bought this used on ebay.

1. This has a 21.1 MP full-frame CMOS sensor. The 21.1 megapixels is more than enough for the kind of work I do. This has a full-frame sensor and performs very well using hi ISO in low light conditions.

2. It will shoot at 3.9 frames per second. This is great for subjects that will sit still such as landscapes and portraits.

3. Like my primary camera it also has a magnesium alloy body that is splash and dust resistant. Making it a very tough camera that can handle some abuse.

Reasons I feel it is important to have this as a secondary camera.

1. It gives me a backup camera incase something happens to my primary camera in the field.

2. It allows me to not have to change lenses in the field as much. I usually carry a wide angle lens on the canon 5d mark ii, since I use this camera to do mostly landscapes. On the canon 7d mark ii I will normally carry the longest lens that I can comfortably take with me, since I use this camera to mostly take photos of animals. Changing lenses outside allows for dirt and dust to get into the camera or lens which will reduce image quality.

3. It takes the same battery as my canon 7d mark ii. I have three batteries. One for each of my cameras and a spare. Being able to the swap batteries with my cameras is a huge benefit in my opinion.

4. Since I do not like shooting at ISO levels of more than a 1000 on the canon 7d mark ii it gives me another option to choose from when dealing with low light conditions.



Photographing The Licking River

My Primary Camera

     My primary camera is the Canon 7d mark II. I bought this new from B&H Photo for about $1400.

1.     It has a 20.2MP APS-C CMOS sensor. This is a crop sized sensor which has its pros and cons. The 20.2 megapixels is more than enough for the kind of work I do. It has a crop factor of 1.6 which means when I attach a lens it will extend my focal length. An example of this is when I put my 400mm lens on this camera it effectively gives me a focal length of 640mm.  When photographing wild animals having more focal length is usually much appreciated. However crop sized sensors do not perform as well as full framed sensors using hi ISO in low light conditions. With this being said I don't like using ISO higher than 1000 on this particular camera unless I have to.

2. It will shoot at 10 frames per second. This makes it easier to capture those great action shots.

3. It has a magnesium alloy body that is splash and dust resistant. It is a must that I have a camera that can handle the conditions that I photograph in.  I spend the majority of my time outside in the elements while hiking and canoeing and I must have a camera that can handle some abuse.

4. It has the ability to auto focus with the center focusing point at f/8. This allows for the use of teleconverters that will enable you to extend you focal length even more.

     With all of this being said, I think this is a great camera. Its speed and toughness make it great for wildlife photography in good lighting conditions. Sure I would like it to preform as well as a full frame sensor camera in low light conditions but that would probably double or even triple the price of the camera.  Happy shooting and remember there is no substitute for time spent in the field. :)

Photographing Kincaid Lake.

Tips On Photographing Birds In Flowering Trees

     It's that wonderful time of the year when the fruit bearing trees start showing off their beautiful spring blooms. They only stay in bloom for somewhere between two and four weeks depending on the type of tree and the weather, so you must not waste any time.

1.  I have learned that eastern bluebirds are naturally attracted to these blooms because they like to eat the insects that gather nectar from them.

2. I like to place bird feeders close to the trees in bloom to attract multiple species. You can't just put feeders up anywhere, so it's important to plant these types of trees in you own yard. If you choose to use feeders be sure to clean them regularly. Doing this helps to reduce the spreading of disease between birds.

3. Make sure the sun is behind you and your shadow is pointing in the direction you are photographing. This will allow for faster shutter speeds and allow you to capture more details in the photo. If your shadow is shorter than you it is a good indicator that the light may be too harsh for photographing. If you have no shadow at all it most likely means that there is not enough natural light for capturing the detail you want with a moving object.

4. Photographing animals at eye level is very important. I have found that using a step ladder helps me to accomplish this when doing this type of photography.

Have fun and happy shooting. :)

Making Use Of Your Highlight Indicator On Your Camera

     Most cameras now days come equipped with a highlight indicator. Read you owner's manual to learn how to turn it on. Once you get it turned on you can use it to see if you have any overexposed areas in the frame while viewing the image through the viewfinder. The flashing areas in black have been overexposed and will let you know if you need to make any adjustments in your settings. I like to have just a few small points flashing when I use this function. You can normally fix these in post processing. Be careful though. If you have too much area flashing it means that the image has been overexposed and the file will be damaged beyond repair. 

Some Simple Advice On Entering Photography Contests

     Entering photography contests is a great way to get people to notice your work. There are a lot of contests out there now and most of them help raise money for excellent causes. Not all photography contests are created equally though. Listed below are a couple of things to keep in mind when deciding what contest will be right for you and the submissions you make.

1. Make sure you carefully read the rules and regulations before submitting. I have seen some great work rejected from a contest because someone turned in a 5x7 print and the rules simply stated to turn in a 4x6 print. Make sure you submit the file exactly how they ask you to.

2. Make sure you understand if you are giving any of your rights away to the image by making submissions. I made this mistake once myself by entering a contest and checking a box that said they could use my images for other purposes. It's a horrible feeling when you are struggling financially and some one is selling calendars with your images for their own financial gain and not giving you a dime.