Caribou, Moose, Dall Sheep and Ptarmigan in Trees

Above: Mother moose sheds her winter coat, followed close by a  yearling, Denali National Park, May 2, 2014.

My last post was the scenery I encountered during a long and hilly 50-plus mile bike ride inside Denali National Park. There were multiple large mountain passes, hot temperatures and in my case more then 10 pounds of photo gear. 

I brought along my telephoto, predicting I would regret not taking it. While I probably could have done without, it certainly got me a few wildlife shots. 

Both to my relief and disappointment, there were no bears on this trip. Bears in Denali are common, and traveling solo I didn’t want to see one too close. 

These were far from the only instances I saw wildlife, most were too far away to do anything but acknowledge their presence. 

 

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iPhone roadtrip: Fairbanks to Whistler

I recently returned home from a road trip through Canada, south through Washington, Oregon and California, then north through Nevada, Utah, Montanan, Washington and Canada again.

Because of the quickness both in taking and sharing pictures I really embraced my camera phone on this trip. This is the first of likely a half-dozen posts chronicling the road trip from my iPhone.

All these were featured on my Instagram account, follow me @rwoodpix to see what other adventures I embark on this summer.

The first leg of the trip was roughly 2000 miles, from Fairbanks, Alaska, to Whistler, British Columbia, to do some snowboarding. This first post features shots from the road.

Bohemian Waxwings in Black And White

Hundreds of Bohemian Waxwings flocked in frigid 20 below fahrenheit. I arrived unexpectedly on the scene and realized time was short.

I took five frames. Luckily I was at a very fast shutter speed, so four are nice and crisp. While all four images are fairly similar, they’re stronger as a set. Flowing patterns of birds in flight mixed with minimal tree reference and high contrast make complicated scenes and challenging composition.

In the day of digital photography it’s a great feeling to take only five photos and truly enjoy four. 

Click on any image to view in carousel.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Eerie Spiders

Above: The much smaller wolf spider can be seen in the clasp of an orb weaver. 

The weekly photo challenge for Nov. 1 through Nov. 7 is eerie. Of course it was announced just one day after I posted about the Paris Catacombs, which would have fit the bill perfectly. Not uncommon for me to have great ideas ahead of their time. 

So for this challenge I’m heading to the archives. In 2010 I was slowly experimenting with digital – and often forgetting to make sure I was shooting RAW files.

I did have some extension tubes to attach to my old Canon Rebel XTi. Extension tubes increase macro capabilities by moving the lens farther away from the sensor. So when I saw a large orb-weaver spider killing a smaller wolf spider I ran to grab my camera.

Spiders are eerie enough when they aren’t cannibalizing other spiders.

Reservations for one.

Reservations for one.

Securing the pray for later consumption, July 11, 2010.

Securing the prey for later consumption, July 11, 2010.

Redpolls, robin egg, beehives and PRI.

My old theme had been giving me problems, hence the new appearance.

A very similar story to the subject of this post was on Public Radio International during my drive to UAF: Magpies as pests. The story about how magpies, cousins of the fascinating raven I love  to photograph, are often exterminated because of their aggressive nest-plundering habits. In defense of the magpie it was said other animals, raccoons, squirrels and deer probably steal more eggs. I’ve been unsuccessful finding the podcast, if I do I’ll post it.

In truth it’s just nature, the favorable location or easy meal will get taken.

I have three examples of similar subject matter today: First, a bird home overtaken by bees; second, former chickadee’s nest taken by redpolls; and finally, a scavenged North American Robin egg.

A beehive in a bird house at Creamers Field, late April, 2013.

A beehive in a bird house at Creamers Field, late April, 2013.

 

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Snow flies as a redpoll eyes its nest.

 

A redpoll warms the eggs, May 17, 2013.

A redpoll warms the eggs, May 17, 2013.

 

Three of the four light-light blue eggs in a rotting birch tree.

Three of the four light-light blue eggs in a rotting birch tree.

 

Bright blue and broken.

Bright blue and broken.

Orbital.

Orbital.

Rough-legged Hawk

It’s May 18, and it snowed in Fairbanks again today. Lovely fall weather we’re having. Such dramatic weather must be hard on wildlife. There has been some crazy bird spectacles, as reported by the Fairbanks News-Miner.

This included, to the best of my knowledge, a Rough-Legged Hawk hanging around Farmers Loop Rd. I got a few opportunities to photograph it, though nothing spectacular it was good practice in an area I have little experience.

A Rough-Legged Hawk hung around Farmers Loop Rd for a few days early in May, 2013.

A Rough-Legged Hawk hung around Farmers Loop Rd for a few days early in May, 2013.

RoughLeggedHawk

Bicycle Beat: Munching Moose and a May Day Sun Dog

“Bicycle Beat” is an idea I have wanted to start for some time. And until recently was hindered by winter. Bicycle Beat is my reporting from a bicycle. I have often felt bike riding is the ultimate way to capture great photos. Unlike driving, stopping and turning around is almost instantaneous, and it’s much easier to spot interesting subjects traveling 10 mph rather then 50. Consequently, also much faster then walking, greatly expanding the range of your photographic canvas. Also important is inconspicuous. You draw a lot more attention stopping a car then a bicycle.

I went for a very brief 3-mile bike ride last night and in the short time happened upon two photo-worthy subjects. It’s been a very testy spring in Fairbanks, with multiple inches of snow the last week of May. Greenhouses are opening despite unavailable exterior space. One of them is Plant Kingdom.

Mayday! A sundog is visible on May Day. A sundog is an atmospheric reaction when light deflects off ice crystals in the air, producing a halo effect. They are common to cold weather.

The snow and cold on May 1, producing a sundog, mixed with the open Plant Kingdom sign, is a significant juxtaposition.

MayDayBike

A sundog is frames the Plant Kingdom sign on May 1, 2013. It has been one of the coldest springs on record in Interior Alaska.

I slung my camera around my neck and hopped on my bike, only to travel another half-mile before finding another photo.

While I may have stopped a car to take the sundog picture, I never would have seen this young moose right off the bike path. Maybe 15 yards away, it would have been a great opportunity to get a wide-angle shot of a moose. Having a zoom lens however, my first instinct was to zoom in as close as possible. Probably 2 or 3 years old, I did make sure no mother moose was visible before shooting.

A moose munches off Farmers Loop Rd.

A moose munches off Farmers Loop Rd.