Second Beach Sunset 1

Northwest Washington Second Beach sunset as low tide 1

It has been a while since I have been out taking pictures. So, in early May I decided to get in my car and drive to the Olympic Peninsula. The weather forecast was not very promising but this was a window when I did not have my kids and I NEEDED to go out and photograph. I was not expecting to come away with anything, it was more about practicing my trade. On this trip the tide was particularly low and I was able to get out to Second Beach at La Push and get into the rocks. Originally, I had no intention of going to the beach so I came ill prepared in that I only brought sneakers and one pair of pants fot the whole my trip so I was not willing to get down and dirty as I normally would (no waders, no boots, no flashlight…).

In this entry and the two to follow I will post three images I captured over 2 sunsets. I have shared these with a few friends and there seems to be no consensus on which one people like better. I am looking forward to seeing which one(s) people like and why. For me each has at least one significant technical flaw, but you can probably figure that out for yourself.

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Flying Albatross Portrait

Flying Albatross Portrait

These Albatross were flying right past me at 40+ miles per hour. This shot was taked at 200mm at 1/3200 of a second exposure. Anything below 1/2500 was too slow to freeze the frame. This image is right out of the camera.

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Black-browed Albatross of Steeple Jason

flying back-browed albatross on Steeple Jason Island, Falklands

Steeple Jason, an island in the Falklands is home to some 200,000 pairs of Black-browed Albatross. The wingspan of the Black-browed Albatross can reach almost 8 feet. To get to this colony you have to walk through a quarter mile of very dense 8-foot high pollinating tussock grass. As I was entering the grass a Striated Caracara, a bird of prey similar in size to a hawk, swooped down and nicked the top of my head with it’s talons. These birds nest nearby to raise their chicks. Fortunately, there was little blood and I kept on going even though I was initially a bit stunned. The Albatross are flying by, at close range, at 30–40 mph. To really freeze the frame I needed to be at 1/1250 of second or greater with f13 to get all the birds mostly in focus. I probably shot more pictures at this spot than anywhere else on the trip hoping to capture an elusive image of multiple birds lying over the colony in a pleasing composition.

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Magellanic penguins in blowing wind, Carcass Island, Falkands

Magellanic penguins in blowing wind, Carcass Island, Falkands

While in the Falklands we visited Carcass Island home to a colony of South American Magellanic penguins(Spheniscus magellanicus). This species of penguins are not found (yet) further south in South Georgia or Antarctica. The scene was tropical, the sun was out, the temperature a balmy 50 degrees though there was quite a bit of wind. The penguins would bask in the sun and sea and then head over the sand dunes to their nests. In this picture I captured two penguins on the top of a sand dune looking out to sea. The wind was wipping and the sand was flying. I tried to capture the the essence of the wind in the motion of the sand. This is image was taken at 1/320 second with a 200-400mm with a 1.x teleconverter.

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Rockhopper Penguin Feeding it’s Chicks

Rockhopper Penguin Feeding it's Chicks

Of course, the reason why rockhopper colonies exist is to mate and produce offspring. Eggs, typically two, are laid in November, hatched in December and brood in January. In lean years the chick born second may not live unless the first one is eaten by a Skua or dies naturally. In this photo one of the adult Rockhoppers prepares to feed it’s two healthy chicks. Since the mid 80’s the Rockhopper population in the Falkland Islands has diminished by roughly 85% from over 2,500,000 pairs to around 300,000. One reason is believed to be the dramatic increase in commercial fishing in the area and the reduction of squid and certain kinds of fish.

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Southern Rockhopper Penguin Portrait — New Island, Falklands

Southern Rockhopper Penguin Portrait -- New Island, Falklands

The Rockhopper penguins are so named because they prefer to hop from rock to rock rather than slide on their bellies. They are known for there crested plumage which gives them character. According to Wikipedia there are approximately 1 million pairs of Southern Rockhoppers, two thirds of which live on the Falkland Islands. This one was kind enough to look me in the eye

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Black-Browed Albatross pair Courting – New Island, Falkands

Courting behavior of Black-browed Albatross, New Island, Falklands beaks touching

On our very first day, first thing in the morning, we landed at New Island and took a small hike to an Black-Browed Albatross (Thalassarche melanophrys) colony. The summer is the nesting season for the albatross and occurs on steep slopes or on cliffs. The colony had several hundred pair, most tending to their hatchlings. Others, those that did not produce an egg or juveniles, will practice courting rituals. This particular pair are displaying several courting characteristics: touching beaks, facing each other and fanning of the tail feathers.

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Flying Rockhopper penguins of New Island, Falklands

 

On our first landing of the trip we encountered a rookery of Southern Rockhopper Penguins (Eudyptes chrysocome).  Breeding Rockhopper partners, like most penguins, take turns watching/protecting the egg/chick and going out to sea to clean and get food for both themselves and the growing chick.  The breeding colony tends to consolidate on craggy cliffs or in tussock grass away from the sea and there is usually some kind of “highway” the penguins take to get to the sea and back.

Getting in and out of the sea can be a harrowing experience, at least it seems that way to me.  In many places intense surf crashes against the rocks and around the kelp beds throwing the penguins to and fro. Penguins are hardy birds and appear to take these regular beatings in stride.  At times they seem to pop straight up and land on the rocks, other times they look like they are flying.

Above and below are two pictures of Rockhopper penguins returning from the sea. Which one do you like more?

Rockhopper penguins sailing through surf. New Island, Falklands

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