Olympic Light Photography

I haven’t posted anything in quite awhile.  I’ve been lazy, I know.  But, I have been working on changing the name of my website an photo business. Changing it to something which is more about what I enjoy…landscape and nature photography.  I will still keep the same EFH Photography site which will focus on portraits and events like weddings.  The new site will be mostly landscape and wildlife, with a section on travel photography.

The new website will be Olympic Light Photogrphy.  The link will be Olympiclightphoto.com or olympic.

So please visit me soon.  It is not up and running yet, but my plan is to have it working by this summer or shortly afterwards.

Kind regards,

Eric Heinitz

 

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American Bittern Dance – March 30, 2012

A few days ago during a visit to Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, I sat and watch an American Bitter catch and eat a vole.

American Bittern

American Bittern

That act in itself is not all that amazing, but what was interesting is the reaction this bittern made after eating the rodent.

The American Bittern caught the vole and fumbled around with it briefly in its beak while it maneuvered into a position where it could eventually swallow it.  The bittern even dropped the vole once but was able to catch it again immediately.  Eventually, the bittern tossed the vole into the air, caught it and swallowed it whole, while the vole was still alive.

As the bittern swallowed the vole I could see it wiggling and struggling as it made its way down the throat.  Shortly afterwards, the American Bittern appeared to stagger briefly, then it spread its wings and stretched its neck and shuttered several times like when something gives us the shivers.  With its wings still spread and neck still outstretched the bittern pranced around a bit before settling down.

I don’t have a lot of experience watching American Bittern’s, but I have never seen a bittern act in this fashion.  I called several of my bird watching friends who have spent many more hours watching American Bittern’s and no one has seen one act like this before either.

Now, it may be a very natural action for a bittern to stretch and move in this manner and I have just not had the fortune to see it before.  But I can’t help wonder if this bittern should have killed the vole before it swallowed.  The vole may very well have been swimming around in the stomach for a bit before eventually dying in the digestive system.  Nature can be quite cruel at times…

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Snowy Owl Sighting at Nisqually – 05 February 2012

It was a good day for a kayak trip this Sunday afternoon in February.  The sun was shining and the weather was warm.  The water at Nisqually was glassy smooth.  It was ideal conditions.  Plus, it was Super Bowl Sunday so no one else was out on the water…even better.

For the past couple weeks I have heard about the Snowy Owls at Damon Point State Park near Ocean Shores, WA and have planned a trip there to see and photograph the owls myself.  I had also heard there was a snowy owl sighting at Nisqually recently. So those were my two options, owl watching at Ocean Shores with hundreds of other photographers or go kayaking and searching for the snowy owl at Nisqually with no one else to get in the way.  Easy choice…

I launched at the boat ramp at the Nisqually Nature Center along with my friend John (who uses a Gig-Bob instead of a kayak as his water platform).  A couple who were just getting off the water told us they spotted 17 bald eagles up the Nisqually River and suggested we check it out.  They did not see a snowy owl.  Based on their report, it was looking like good potential for wildlife photography.

We paddled across to the refuge area and immediately encountered a large flock of Dunlins which were not concerned with our presence at all.  DunlinsHoping we could coax then into flying for good photo shot we hung nearby (within 20 feet) and waited, but they had no interest in taking off.  After waiting for an appreciable time we decided to cut across the delta and head up the Nisqually River in search of the bald eagles and hopefully a snowy owl.  Lots of birds in the area including a kingfisher which was hanging out in the snags, but never flew close enough for any good photos.  A Harrier flew by a few times, again too far off for really good shots.  I don’t need to mention the hundreds of gulls hanging around.

As we headed up one of the sloughs toward the Nisqually River, I saw a white birdSnowy Owl peaking over snag perched on a large snag.  Thinking initially that it was a gull, I paddled closer and finally got a good enough look at it through the binoculars.  It was too large for a gull and had the outline of a snowy owl.  The question now was could we get close enough for a positive identification and hopefully some good photos.

We paddled across a small sand bar into a slough which headed in the direction of the owl. Although the time was close to slack water, there was still a good current through the slough coming from the Nisqually River.

Snowy Owl on Stump in Nisqually NWR

The current would mean we would have good water and not get stranded in the shallows, but it would also mean getting a photo would be more of a challenge because we won’t be able to remain stationary in one place.

As we approached the snag with the white bird, I was able to get a good look at it through the binoculars and confirmed it was a snowy owl.  As we paddled closer, the owl stood still watching us.  We slowed our approach so not to spook the bird and cautiously we were able to get within probably 50 feet.  We sat on the water and watched for a while.Eventually the owl hopped to a different stump allowing an even better view and photos and we never had to get out of our boats.  I stayed in the area for about 30 minutes watching and hoping he would fly or do something but just stand there.  He did do a slight dance where he moved his whole body in a sort of circular motion, then tilting to one side then the other.  I grabbed some photos but didn’t think about using the video function on my camera to capture this dance.  But then, I’m not a video photographer and prefer to stay with still images.

As the day got later and the sun lower, we left the owl and headed back.  A good day on the water and I was rewarded with several good shots of a snowy owl, a bird I’ve seen before have not been fortunate enough to photography, until now.

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Trip to Sunriver, OR (day 1) – 20 October 2011

Last October, I was invited down to Sunriver to visit with a friend and spend three days hiking and canoeing all for the purpose of photography.  We would spend these days practicing photography, trying new styles, experimenting with different techniques, and just learning and having fun.  Oh, and hopefully get some great photos in the process.

I arrived late in the early evening and after eating a quick snack we decided to head out for two evening photo opportunities.  The first was to visit the Sunriver Nature Center and Observatory.  The sky was completely clear and the lack of city lights really allowed the stars to litter the sky.  The planetarium had six different telescopes set up, each looking at a different star, planet or nebula.

Photo borrowed from Sunriver Observatory website

There was a quick “night sky” tour by one of the volunteers and then we went back to looking at Saturn and three of its moons, a nebula which I can’t remember the name of and a comet (again I can’t remember the name).  It was cold (all but one of the telescopes were outside) but we had a lot of fun and it was worth the time.

20" RC OGS in Dome - photo from Observatory website

One thing we learned was there would be a meteor shower over the next couple days and the best time to see it would be early morning.  We added that to our list of photo events.

After the planetarium, we were going to visit a nearby controlled burn to see if there were any unique photo opportunities with the flames at night.  While there were small fires burning, nothing stood out and the smoke was a little too thick to hang around too long.  So we called it a night and headed back to the house to plan tomorrow’s trips.

We got up at 5:00 am and headed out to place John knew of where we should be able to catch the morning sunrise.  We had to hike up the trail in the dark with our camera gear and tripods.  Our goal was to capture the first light in the sky.

Early morning light captured by clouds, (30 sec, f7.1, ISO 250)

I learned a few things about sunrises on this trip.  I was surprised at the colors the camera would see that we cannot.  Taking a time exposure photo of a dark sky for a few seconds revealed an amazing blue color, which you just don’t see with your eye. At first I thought the blue in the sky was too much, not realistic.  But after watching enough sunrises and sunsets I have come to realize that for a very short time, the sky actually does take on some intense blues.  The camera will capture these easily even though your eyes still see dark.  With the photo above of the first light on the clouds, the sky was actually dark from where I was standing, but a 30 second exposure certainly brightened the sky.

Clouds at Sunrise (15 sec, f 5.6, ISO 250)

We never did get a really spectacular sunrise this morning, just the red and orange reflections off the clouds.  We headed down the mountain and then drove to another trail which took us to a view of Broken Top.  The light was good and the sky still clear.  The clouds rolling in gave Broken Top an illusion of a volcano steaming.

Broken Top with Clouds (1/500 at f/10, ISO 250)

We headed back down and returned to Sunriver.  After a late breakfast, we loaded up the canoe and headed off to Sparks Lake.  Of the lakes we visited during this trip, Sparks Lake was my favorite.  The unique setting of the lake and its breathtaking view of Mt. Bachelor really made this lake enjoyable for canoeing.

Mt Bachelor from Sparks Lake

The sky clouded over in the afternoon which ruined our hopes for photos with bright blues skies and mountains reflecting in glassy smooth waters, but the clouds did add a more dramatic sky to our photos and it turned out to be an alright day.  Hopefully we’ll get clear skies during our next two days.

Common Goldeneye on Sparks Lake

 

Lots of ducks were on the lake, the two seen the most were goldeneyes and mergansers.  There were mallards as well, but I’ve grown tired of taking photos of mallards.  It’s kind of like taking pictures of seagulls…

Goldeneye Taking to Flight

 

 

Wildlife is fun to photograph, especially birds if you can catch them in flight.  I was able to get a few shots of the goldeneye and the merganser taking off after our canoe moved into their comfort zone.

Common Merganser

 

 

This day was a good start to the trip.  A late dinner, and then to bed because we plan on getting up at 3:00 am to try to catch the meteor shower.  More to follow…

Regards, Eric

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Washington Ice Storm – 19 January 2012

The last couple of days, Western Washington was hit by a snow storm which was followed by freezing rain creating an ice storm.  All the trees and streets were coated in ice.  As the ice continued to build up on the trees, branches started to snap and fall, knocking down power lines and blocking roads.  According to the State Patrol more the 700 vehicle accidents were reported in the first 12 hours of the storm (people in the NW do not know how to drive in the snow).  Power in the Northwest was knocked out in several locations in the South Sound area leaving more than 300,000 customers without power.  The power companies estimate it may take several days to weeks to get all the power restored.

Snow glazed with ice covers cars left in a parking lot.

Where I live, 25 miles west of Olympia, we were lucky.  Our power did go out, but not until late in the afternoon on Thursday and it was restored within three hours.  The roads however were still covered in ice and snow and vehicles were finding it difficult to move about.  A neighbor got his car stuck as he tried to drive into his driveway.  The snow was deeper than the clearance on his small car.  I have the same problem and with a 100 yard long driveway, it is not easy dig a pathway to drive down.  So I just don’t drive anywhere, I stay home or walk.

On Friday the weather had warmed above freezing and it was raining so the snow was melting rapidly.  The weather service has now issued flood alerts for most of the area as the rivers start to swell from the increased snow melt.  I’ve talked to a few friends who tell me the power is still out in most of Olympia.

Despite all the disruptions, damage and accidents caused by these rare NW winter storms, I find them fascinating, beautiful, and in a way calming.  The snow and ice often forces us to stay at home, spend time with family and friends, and slow our lives down.  The power outages make us turn off our TV’s and read a book or play games.  We often get so wrapped up in our schedules and responsibilities that we sometimes forget to live and enjoy life around us.

Palm trees in my yard drooping under the weight of snow and ice.

If the weather prevents us from going to work, then stay home.  Don’t take chances and head out simply because you believe you have to be somewhere.  No one has to be somewhere.  You’ll make it in just maybe not today…and the world will keep on turning.

I have worked in the emergency response field for nearly 30 years and have had to respond to many different types of emergencies.  I realize that some of us have to go out into the worse weather for any number of reasons.  But what I have found is those who have to be out in bad weather generally know what they are doing and are safe.  It’s those who don’t have to be out but think they do for whatever reason usually cause the problems.  Those that don’t prepare or plan seem to be the ones who get into trouble.

Stay home and enjoy the storms, don’t fret them.  Slow down and enjoy life and all that is around us, be safe.   Think of severe weather as a message from Mother Natures that not only does she often have the last say, but we should stop and look at what we have and enjoy the moment, even if it is a little unpleasant.

=efh=

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Hummingbirds – 16 May 2011

We have several hummingbird feeders at our house and in the springtime when the hummers start to return to this area, they are buzzing around like flies.  I will fill my three feeders up once day and as soon as I return home from work, the feeders are empty again.

Despite the numbers, I have spent many hours trying to get good printable photos of these little guys.  It is not easy since they buzz in and out so quick.  When I stand outside by the feeders, the hummingbirds don’t come around.  As soon as I walk inside, they start to come by again.  However, as soon as I move back outside, they take off.  I have tried setting my camera on a tripod and leaving it there, and that still does not help.  Plus you need a fast shutter speed (which means good light) or a flash to really capture them.

Today, I decided to use patience to try and photograph the hummers.  I chose a location near one of the feeders where I was partially behind a post.  Using an 85mm lens, I prefocused on an area and then stood still and waited for a hummingbird to fly into the cameras view.  It took me a while but paid off.  I finally was able to get several good photos of a Rufous Hummingbird as it visited the feeder.

 

Next, I will try and capture the hummingbird feeding from a flower rather than a feeder.  That will be a challenge and I will probably have to figure out a different technique.

 

 

 

Regards,  Eric

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At Home – 16 January 2012

We had snow today, enough to keep us at home.  On top of that, I’m nursing a back injury so it turned out to be a good day to stay inside and get caught up on things, despite the fact I was hoping to get out and take some photos of the snow scenes.  One of those “things” I needed to catch up on was to update this BLOG.  I fell behind several months ago and just have not had the time or the drive to get caught up.  I just get further behind…not that it mattered, this is only my personal Blog just for myself.  But still…

For anyone who does read this blog, some of these later entries will be out of order as far as a timeline is concerned.  But that is not what is important.  What matters is that I did get my thoughts and photos posted.

Enjoy,

=efh=

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