Personal Time

For the last 6 years, these last few weeks leading up to the 4th of July weekend have been crazy for me! But not this year. Instead of trying to get ready for the Rockport Center for the Arts Art Festival, I'm doing other things...

Don't get me wrong. I'm still busy...but not busy preparing art and unpacking display tents. And you know what? I'm feeling so good NOT doing that!

I am still finishing up my final portfolio for the Wildlife In Focus contest. I'm taking my time and making sure I have everything just right. I haven't the slightest idea of what the judges will think, but I really feel good about some of the images. We'll see...

This Little Blue Heron appears to know how to relax and take care of himself/herself. Preening is important for birds in order to keep their feathers clean and straight. I watched this one preen for over 30 minutes. Afterwards there were a few yawns and this heron flew off to hunt. But it did rest for a while.

Maybe theres a life lesson here...

Little Blue Heron  Refugio County, TX

The Good Life

I'm feeling good!

 Finally I seem to have control over both my personal and professional schedule once again. Yep... this does feel good!

It does still seem odd not to be driving out to the River Ranch every day. I do love that place... and I'll miss seeing it so often. But having all of this discretionary time is great. 

OK... short and sweet today. I have things I want to do...

Reddish Egret   Aransas County, TX

From Fear To Respect

One of the side benefits of competing in the Wildlife In Focus competition is being forced to get out of your personal and professional comfort zones. Normally I NEVER place myself in situations where I'm no longer at the top of the food chain. But nature photography sometimes takes you there...

I didn't grow up being around alligators...not that many of us did. Once I started spending a lot of time on the River Ranch in Refugio County, TX, that quickly changed. There are a lot of ponds and even a resaca of the Mission River on this 3000 acre ranch. And yes...every one of them hold "gators". I see these magnificent animals every time I'm on the ranch. I've reached the point where I can spot just their eyes and snout poking out of the water. 

It's when I'm walking around the perimeter of these waters that the hair sticks up on my neck. Maybe I've seen too many videos of big gators bursting out of the water grabbing some unsuspecting thirsty prey. The gators usually win those encounters.

But I'm better now that I've been exposed. Intuitively I know that the chance of me getting grabbed are low. NOT nonexistent... just low. My fear has ebbed a bit and I now have a healthy respect for these reptiles. Now snakes...thats a whole different story!

River Ranch  Refugio County, Tx

 

The Last Rodeo

OK! I'm done. The shooting window in the 2017 Wildlife In Focus photography contest has closed. Thank God...

Committing 5 months of your life to a single photography project is difficult in a lot of ways. Your "real life" gets in the way many of those days. Dealing with that reality is challenging. It's like walking a tight-rope...or maybe even a gang plank. Yes... "that is important but so is this", is a mantra I found myself mumbling over and over.

You learn a lot about yourself when you literally spend hours and hours alone trying to fill some, any, or all of the 59 different categories. Many of them are subjects that hold little if any interest for me professionally. If you think trying to be both creative and innovative photographing a lizard or a fly is easy...give it a try. 

This was my 3rd time doing the Wildlife In Focus... and it's probably my last rodeo. Thats not a slam on the contest, it's actually more about me and how I want to live my personal and professional life. I'm not a generalist with my art. I like shooting certain genres of photography...specifically landscapes/seascapes and birds. Thats when I feel the creative juices flowing. I feel inspired...

So now I have a little less than a month to finish up. More culling out the "bad" and processing the "good" images. Fortunately...I love editing photos. Unfortunately...the rules are pretty restrictive on what can be done during editing. I don't understand this...but it's the way it is. 

I'm so glad I did this again...and I'm so glad it's over!

 

River Ranch   Refugio County, TX

A Great Day

Meet my new best friend. I spent almost an hour yesterday morning with this spectacular Greater Roadrunner... and it was magical!

I observed a pair of roadrunners working the Oil Field Road within a minute of driving onto the River Ranch. They were probably 100 yards ahead of me on this gravel road. I continued slowly towards them for a few minutes... stopped my Jeep... and started to call them. This guy immediately returned my calls and raced towards me. I got out of the Jeep and started shooting.

For the next 45-60 minutes I made over 1000 clicks of this bird. He/she did the things I've always dreamed of in a roadrunner image. Suffice it to say I was able to upgrade my roadrunner category images for the 2017 Wildlife In Focus.

Here's a portrait of my star performer. I'll be so glad when I can show more from this experience!

Greater Roadrunner  Refugio County, TX

Counting Down

Yes I am counting down the days until this is over! In just 10 days I will have a whole bunch of free time on my hands...

The 2017 Wildlife In Focus shooting window closes on Monday June 12. I've been at this pretty consistently since January 15. I've made some good images (in my humble opinion), I've enjoyed the fellowship of seeing my friend Wade Grassedonio (he shares his beautiful ranch with me for this competition), and I've become a better technical photographer. Good... good... good!

I'd like to think that my final portfolio of 100 of the VERY best images I've made the last 5 months will be competitive. But... It doesn't matter what I think. In a month or so I'll submit those 100 images and leave my fate in the hand of 3 judges. Maybe some of them will catch their eye... and then again... maybe not.

I wish I could say we'll know soon, but thats not the truth. Even though the judging will be completed the first week of August, I'll have almost 3 months to just wait. I'm optimistic this year. I've always been optimistic... even in those years I didn't do so well. Maybe this year...

 

 

 

Not Much Longer

I'm ready to move on...

I have less than 30 days to complete the 2017 Wildlife In Focus photography contest. Yes... On June 15th the contest officially closes. All of the images have to have been taken between January 15th and June 15th. I will have until July 10th to select, process, and submit my final portfolio of 100 images. And then it's over. It falls into the hands of the judges to decide. Thank God...

I feel very restricted as an artist shooting this contest. There are rules that I feel are just archaic... and they prevent many of the good images being submitted from being great. The processing rules were changed this year to allow minimal post-processing. But still... file size restrictions and the inability to remove distracting elements from the file frustrate me. Maybe it's just me feeling tired of all of this!

Please don't get me wrong. This is my 3rd time doing this. No one forced me to compete. It's just a huge time commitment to do this for 5 months. I'll be so happy to complete my portfolio, submit my final 100, and wait until October to see how I did. And that wait is a whole different story...

Yes...I am ready to move on...

Killdeer   Aransas County, TX

Still Alive

35 days left... but who's counting!

Honestly, I'll be glad when June 15 gets here. This 2017 version of the Wildlife In Focus has been tough on me. When it's is over, I can honestly say that I gave it my best. I'm pretty pleased with the images I have to-date. But what I think doesn't matter a bit.

This is my 3rd time competing in this biennial competition. I don't have a great track record in this contest. Sure... I have images that have made the book every time. It's the overall body of my final portfolio... and how the judges perceived it... that troubles me. Will this year be different? I hope so. 

Since January 15, 2017 this contest has more or less taken over my life. I spend hours and hours trying to photograph a lot of subjects that frankly don't interest me. Yes... getting out of my comfort zone probably makes me a better shooter. But I can't wait until I can go back to my normal routine... whatever normal is!

So when I submit my portfolio of 100 of the very best images I produced in the last 5 months, I'll be optimistic. My head will be held high regardless of how my photos impact the judges. All I can do is my very best...and I have done that.

"Morning Stroll"  Refugio County, TX

 

 

What's Up With This?

I don't get it. I wish I knew what was happening...

Wade Grassedonio... owner of the River Ranch, fellow competitor, and dear friend... and I were talking yesterday about birds. Go figure! But seriously, we're just not seeing some of the avian species that have ALWAYS been on the ranch. I'm talking pretty common birds...nothing even close to exotic.

Interestingly enough, we both feel we are doing well to date in the 2017 Wildlife In Focus photography contest. We're seeing birds...lots of birds. Just not some of the species that are usually EASY to get LOTS of images. Not this year. 

It does appear a lot of things are happening later this year. We've created calendars of when we  can expect certain species to be prevalent on the ranch. These data cover probably the last six years. It's just not working out right now. Maybe today...

OK...This competition is about a LOT more than just birds. I'm planning to keep at it... take what the good Lord gives me... and just do the very best I can. 

We'll see...

Male Red-winged Blackbird  Refugio County, TX

It's Time!

I have about 45 days left in the 2017 Wildlife In Focus. It's time to get real serious...

My categories are filling nicely. Remember... I have to submit a portfolio of 100 images. These 100 images can be in any/all of the 59 different categories. Also... no more than 3 images per category. Sounds easy? Not really...

Some of the categories "species specific"... like "Jays" or "Deer". Some are a collection of different species. For instance, there's an "All Other Birds" category thats just a catch all of many species. Same with "All Other Mammals" and "All Other Reptiles & Amphibians". It's awkward...

This is an image of a female Red-winged Blackbird. Blackbirds fall into that ubiquitous "All Other Birds" category that includes Pelicans, Cormorants, Grackles, Terns, and many other species. Honestly, I have many files to pick from in this category. Are they better than this Red-winged Blackbird? I hope so. 

It's also time to start picking my portfolio images and get them processed. At this stage I don't know how I feel about my portfolio. I'd like to think It will be competitive. But who knows? We'll see this fall...

Female Red-winged Blackbird  Refugio County, TX

 

 

Some Days Chickens...

Some days feathers!

I really had a good day shooting yesterday. I believe I have keepers in 5 or 6 categories out of yesterday's production. It's certainly not like that every day...

Like all of the other competitors in the 2017 Wildlife In Focus contest, I'm out there trying to shoot my "you know what" off. This is an extremely competitive event. Trying to come up with 100 REALLY good images over a 5 month period sounds easy. Trust me... it's not! 

So why does it happen some days and not on others? I usually do the same thing every day. I pull through the gate at the River Ranch and then take a lap or two around the ranch to look for opportunities.  That takes me 45 minutes or so. Then I move on to my planned day's schedule. Sometimes I don't see anything...and some days I just stay busy shooting from my Jeep.  I wish I knew...

Less than 2 months left! I can do this...

Cattle Egret  Refugio County, TX

Hard To Harder

I'm not sure which is more difficult. Making the images in the field...or sitting at my computer trying to decide what to include in the contest portfolio. Both are challenging...

I'm not there yet with either of these tasks. Theres still almost 2 more months of shooting in the 2017 Wildlife In Focus photography contest. I'm feeling pretty good about some of the files I've already made. It's premature, but I think that I'll have competitive images in more categories this time. You never know! I'm just going to keep working until June 15 and try to do the very best I can.

This Redhead drake...in my humble opinion...is a beauty. The very first light of a glorious sunrise really has this guy "lit up". I like this image a LOT, but it's just not the quality I feel I need for the contest. Another problem was that his girlfriend was behind him...and out of focus. I had to remove her from the frame...a no-no in this contest. 

I'll keep this image. I might even decide to print it one day. Fortunately, I have literally hundreds of other files in the "Waterfowl" category to chose from for the contest. I will have 3 competitive entries, but as of right now...I don't know which ones to pick.

Redhead Drake    Refugio County, TX

Full Contact Photography

Last Friday and Saturday were a blur. I'm referring to the experience. Hopefully not the quality of the photographs I made...

I had a friend...Angela McCain...come down to Rockport to shoot with me at the River Ranch. Angela is a very talented photographer whose style of work pleases me. In addition to just spending some quality time together, I wanted Angela to see the ranch and offer some advice on set-ups, subjects, etc. for the Wildlife In Focus contest. 

We had two very full days shooting...and it was good! I feel I probably made more than 6 or 7 "keepers" for my contest portfolio. The timing of her visit was perfect. With less than 2 months remaining in the contest, I felt like I was getting a little complacent and a bit burned out.

Shooting  this contest is a grinder. I needed a lift...and I got it last weekend. I'm fully motivated and inspired to make the sprint for the June 15 finish Sometimes it's good just to have someone different drive around and assess opportunities. I'm pumped...

Sunday morning we took a "busman's holiday" and shot off the ranch. No pressure...no expectations. It was great to shoot in Rockport and Aransas Pass just for FUN! Here's a portrait of a Reddish Egret foraging for his breakfast...

Reddish Egret  Aransas Pass, TX

Tent For Sale

Well I did it! I let the deadline pass, and honestly, I'm relieved...

For the first time in five years I won't be exhibiting at the Rockport Center For The Arts 4th of July Art Festival. This is a wonderful show, and I'm so proud to have been juried in for the last five years. Being accepted for the Art Festival is difficult. Many artists apply, but only about 125 get picked. It's special...

This was a very hard decision for me. It was so flattering to have thousands of patrons coming by on Saturday and Sunday looking at my art. And I always did well. Every year my sales grew over the previous year. But...

It started feeling way too much like work! Every year that I displayed seemed more challenging than the previous year. Throw in the usual 4th of July scorching temperatures here on the Coastal Bend...it's a killer! The cramped space and heat finally did me in. The Art Festival is so important to the Rockport Center for the Arts. The RCA means the world to me, and I'll find another way to help support this great event. 

So now for the first time in a long time, I'll have a somewhat normal 4th of July! I'm not sure I'll know how to act...

"The Fog" Fulton, TX

Time To Focus

Sorry for the bad pun! But with just a little over 2 months left in the 2017 Wildlife In Focus contest, I really need to keep pushing...

I think I'm in pretty good shape. I took some time this morning to review all my images by category. Out of the 59 different categories, I have keepers in 28 of them. On the surface that might not sound great, but I'm ok with it. Overall, I have about 70 images to date that will probably get submitted in my final portfolio of 100. Of course I'd like to "upgrade" some of those before June 15th. Could be better...could be worse!

I'm enjoying shooting the contest this time. I hope that the experience I've gained in the previous two WIF competitions will continue to pay off for me. The ranch has changed quite a bit over the last few years. The availability of water is also a game changer. Subjects have many different opportunities to find water all over the 3000 acres. In past years of drought, they'd have to come to our small ponds at the blinds to drink. Not this time...

As much as I'm enjoying this, I'll be glad when it's over. Maybe it's just me getting older, but some days it feels like a job driving the 40 minutes or so out to the ranch. But as soon as I open that ranch gate, my heart gets lifted. I feel excited. I wait to make sure the gate closes securely...and then It starts. I always wonder what will come my way on this day...

"Spoonies" Rockport, TX

Color? What Color?

I like black and white photography. I like making black and white images, and i like viewing the black and white images of others. So there...

Of course I make many more images in color than b&w. Why? Lots of reasons...but the main one is that most people prefer color. Take landscapes for example. If you read the comments for a typical landscape image on Facebook or most other social media sites , the prevailing comment is "Wow...what great color!"...or something similar. Nothing really about the composition, the story, or the technical nuances of the image. 

Here's my theory. People spend more time studying a b&w photograph. I think the reason is because their visual senses haven't been overstimulated by a blast of color. Instead of leaning BACK and saying "wow". they lean INTO the photograph looking for detail. They allow themselves the pleasure of contemplation. Hmmm...thats a crazy thought!

OK...having said all of that, I'll continue making 90% of my images in color. Why? Because they sell.. Nothing wrong with that! But when I want to spend a little more time processing a special file...I always think first of b&w. But then, thats just me...

 

"Estes Bay B&W"

Just For Fun

I did something this morning that I haven't done in a LONG time! I used to do it everyday...but I can't anymore...

This morning I was working in my studio at zero dark thirty am, and took a look out the window. I saw some magnificent clouds stacked up on the eastern horizon out over Estes Flats. I just knew that this sunrise was going to be one I didn't want to miss. 

I jumped in my Jeep and made the 4 minute drive to one of my favorite spots in the Islands of Rockport. I quickly got my gear set up and started to enjoy my roadie cup of coffee. It didn't take long...

I was shooting for FUN again. I've been so engrossed with the Wildlife In Focus contest and a bunch of commercial shoots that I just haven't had time to shoot for me. It was a blast...

 

"Estes Flats #4"

Why

Just because! Thats why...

I'm not feeling any pressure with the contest this time. Maybe thats why I'm enjoying it so much more...

I guess I've figured it out. I can only do my very best. That includes putting in as much time as possible shooting, being better organized, managing my time better, and picking the right images to submit to the judges.

Once I turn in my final portfolio of 100 images, it's over for me. I can send all my gear back to Canon Professional Services for cleaning and inspection. I can finally get my Jeep clean...and have it stay clean for longer than a day! 

Then it's in THEIR hands! They get to make all of the choices.This used to bother me. It doesn't any more. I've learned "how it works"! The judges view all of the photos anonymously, no names...just a number. Sounds pretty fair to me...

I used to take their decisions personally. I was happy when it went my way, and unbelieving when it didn't. How arrogant was I? 

All I can do is my very best...

 

"Why" Refugio County, TX

 

 

A Fresh Start

Not only do I have a new website, but I'm going to restart my journal afresh. I've decided not to port over my previous Wordpress blog/journal. After all...there wasn't really any potential Pulitzer prize winning content there! 

So I ask myself whats a photographer doing journaling? And I think I have several good reasons for doing this. I write basically for both me and my health. Journaling makes me think and it makes me feel good. I'm all about feeling good..especially mentally! 

I see myself as a creative person. I use my photography skills to tell stories visually. I try to deliver a fine-art product through photography. Journaling is just another creative outlet for me. I get to see things many other never see. This is a way for me to continue the story...to embellish it...and to make it real. 

This new website should make it much more convenient to keep fresh. I promise I'll do my best...SEF

"Concentration"