by Kelly Walkotten
I love to photograph wildlife and nature. I will plan my travels to fulfill that desire. National Parks are some of my favorite places. The scenery is uncluttered with power lines, buildings, cell towers, etc. The animals are somewhat used to people and are not so skittish. In the wild, oftentimes one must stake out a site where a specific animal is known to frequent, sitting for many hours, camouflaged, in hopes of the animal passing through. This takes a tremendous amount of planning, prior knowledge, numerous visits, and luck to capture the photograph. For me, the pursuit is the fun and the photographs are the reward.
The downfall is that this method is very time consuming. The chances of you seeing some of these animals is highly unlikely. Time and money constraints add to the challenge. There is a way capture the animals that you dream of. Animal preserves and non-hunting game farms provide that opportunity very nicely. There are many places located throughout the world. They can be researched out beforehand. I find word of mouth to be very helpful. I only seek out places where the animals are well cared for. I also look for opportunities to photograph the animals in natural settings which requires the facility to have large enclosed areas. Obviously, there is a cost for this. The fees that are paid to the facility help cover the costs of feed, staff, maintenance, and other expenses associated with the keeping of wildlife animals.
Workshops provide a great opportunity to capture images that you have dreamed of. A professional photographer (me) is at your side helping you with your camera settings and composition to help insure that you get the photograph. I also provide instruction in Photoshop and Lightroom during our down time so you get the most out of your image processing. I provide all of this at a lower cost than you would pay booking the facility on your own.
If you have not taken a photography workshop, I highly recommend you give it a try. It is a great way to capture images that you have dreamed of, and have the help available to insure that you are proud to later show your images.
Nudibranch Jewels of the Sea published in Photographic Society of America magazine "PSA Journal" March 2016
September and October is the rut (mating) season for the elk. It is worth going to Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) during the rut season to see it for yourself. I have found that RMNP offers some of the best, close up viewing in the United States. It is intense and can be viewed from the roadside.
Like many visitors to southern California, I head to the beach. It is not for surfing or sun bathing, it is the sea lions. La Jolla beach area attracts sea lions to the rocky shore. Winter is even better, it is cold in the midwest and it is pup season in La Jolla. These cute pups, with dog-like faces, long whiskers, with dark, upside down triangular noses. Seven pounds at birth, the fuzzy brown babies have such expressive eyes, I feel like I can see their souls through their eyes.
I had the privilege of observing a fox family for a few days in the early April. The mom made her den near Lake Michigan at the top of a hill, in a heavily populated area. They are an attractive animal with a rusty reddish body, white underpants, chin, and throat, and a long bushy tail with a white tip. They have prominent pointed ears. The backs of ears, lower legs, and feet are black. The distinguishing feature which sets them apart from all other fox species is the white-tipped tail. Their average height is 15-16” tall, 35-41” long and weigh between 8 and 15 pounds.
The Red Fox is very sensitive to low-frequency sounds, which sets it apart from most other mammals. The fox listens for underground noises such as digging, gnawing, and the rustling of small animals. When he detects these sounds, he will dig frantically into the ground or snow to capture the animal. He stalks its prey much like a cat, by moving in as close as possible, then running down the prey when it bolts. The Red Fox will continue hunting even if he is full, burying excess food under snow, leaves, or soft dirt. He appears to find his cache by memory and smell, although other animals sometimes find the cache first, before it is retrieved by the Red Fox. An adult fox usually does not retire into a den in the winter but will curl into a ball in the open and wrap its bushy tail around his nose and foot pads. At times he is blanketed by snow while in this position.
Diving is full of surprises, especially the Indo Pacific. New species of fish and marine life are being discovered on a regular basis in this underwater paradise. Even though divers come prepared to look for the many fish known to be in this area, finding them can sometimes be a difficult task. One of the most difficult fish to spot is the Ghost Pipe Fish. They are masters at camouflage, hiding among crinoids, plant life or mimicking sticks, sea grass, and other underwater vegetation, depending on the species. This ability to camouflage themselves in their underwater habitat, puts them on the list of creatures for whom divers search.
Ghost Pipefish are sexually dimorphic so the male and female are easily distinguishable. The male is about ½ the size of the female. During breeding season, the Ghost Pipe Fish will change their color and their shape to camouflage themselves even better.
Mandarin Fish, (Synchiropus splendidus), are found in Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Australia. I found these colorful jewels of the sea in the Northern Sulawesi diver’s paradise of Bunaken and the Lembeh Strait. These small fish (1 to 2 inches) are strikingly beautiful with their body designs of squiggles, swirls, dots, and stripes in bright colors of orange, green, blue, and yellow. Their name comes from the resemblance to the robes of Imperial Chinese officers known as mandarin. These beautiful fish are members of the dragonete family. Mandarin fish are dimorphic, which means they can accomplish the sexual and reproductive traits of either, if they lack mates of the opposite sex. The males typically have more orange color on their faces, and larger bodies, while the females have smaller dorsal fins. Even with their distinctive markings, mandarin fish are very difficult to locate in their native habitat.
I am a nature, wildlife and underwater photographer. I love to travel and capture the story.
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