The Time Has Come Today

I just haven't done much with my photography since finishing up the Wildlife In Focus contest. Honestly... the 2017 contest was a real grind on me. But i'm starting to feel like I'm ready to grab my gear and start shooting again. It's time...

So here is my plan. Wednesday morning I'll set up and see if I can get a decent sunrise. I'm not going far from home... maybe 500 yards as the proverbial crow flies. It's a great spot that I've used a lot over the years. It's nurturing...

I think I'm a better photographer now. We'll see on Wednesday...

 

 

I Tried...

I tried hard to work this handsome Redhead drake portrait into my final portfolio for the 2017 Wildlife In Focus contest, It didn't happen...

I've liked this image ever since the magical morning I made it. It was truly a "reverse perfect storm" scenario... great first light and no wind. I had crawled into this tiny blind and was laying on my stomach inches away from the water. I had to lay there for over an hour until dawn.

Getting into that blind in the dark scared me to death. My biggest fear was that a snake, or even an alligator, might have decided to bed down in there. We see both of these on this pond frequently. But there was no other way to be in place before the ducks started to move around at dawn.

I was rewarded that morning with over 2000 clicks of these beautiful ducks. It really was hard choosing only 3 for the contest. As much as I like this fellow, I believe the others are better. We'll see...

Redhead Drake  Refugio County, TX

Old Dog... New Trick?

Yes... You CAN teach an old dog a new trick! And this image is a good example.

I made the original version of this file over 5 years ago. Even though my editing skills were pretty basic at that time, I managed to sell "Enchanted Oaks" many times. Maybe my patrons were just being kind!

I took another look at this file several days ago and decided to completely reprocess it. The original had a bluish tint that I thought looked good. I color balanced and reset the white balance of the image and it looked much better.

There were also some distracting elements in the original that I just didn't have the expertise to remove. There's a chain linked fence in the trees that I didn't like. Now that I regularly use Photoshop in my workflow getting the fencing out of the frame was a snap. 

I like the newer iteration of "Enchanted Oaks" a lot better than the original. It was rewarding to take this old file and put some new life into it.

 

"Enchanted Oaks"  Rockport, TX

What To Do Now?

Of course I'm kidding! While I'm missing going out to the ranch every day... I have PLENTY of things to do here in and around Rockport.

I do have several ongoing commercial projects that I'll be able to dedicate more of my time to now that the Wildlife In Focus contest is over. I'm also spending some of this time reviewing some of the image files I've "collected" over the years. I've decided not to be an image "collector" any longer...

So what does THAT mean? That means I'm seriously culling out files I know I'll never use... want... or need EVER again. Most of them just live on external hard drives and take up storage space. This process also allows me to really get all of my "keepers" named properly and organized in places where I can immediately get to them. 

I'm also finding seasoned files that I'd like to try and reprocess. I LOVE editing photos. It's one of the things I like the best. As my editing skills have improved over the years, I find I can go back and put some new life in these old images.

This is an image of Cove Harbor Marina taken from the boardwalk. I gave it some love this morning and feel pleased with this new version. And yes... I culled a lot of similar files this morning!

Cove Harbor Marina  Aransas County, TX

 

 

Today Is THE Day!

This journey stated on January 15, 2017... and it's going to end some time mid-morning today! My final portfolio of 100 images for the Wildlife In Focus photography contest is ready for submission. My job is done...

And now we wait. These images won't even be seen by the judges until August. And the we wait again until October when the awards are announced. It's a long time to wait around...

Actually I'm not waiting around for anything. This contest is over for me. I've done everything I can do. Once I give them my files today, it's 100% out of my hands.

I'm moving on! I have projects I want to shoot...

Blue-winged Teal Drake  Refugio County, TX

This Feels Good!

OK... For the first time in 6 years, I didn't spend yesterday getting set up for the Rockport Center For The Arts Fourth of July Art Festival! And guess what? It DOES feel good...

Setting up and breaking down my display tents were always the hardest on me. And as I got older, it became more and more like hard work. It was the in-between of those two activities I loved. 

I always enjoyed having the patrons come by to look at my art. It was fun to watch people's reactions to my display. Normally I never get to meet my patrons. I sell my art in galleries I don't own. The gallery owner usually calls and says they have sold one of pieces and I never know the buyers. 

So today I'm going to be a patron myself. I'll go over to the Festival and casually walk around. I'm looking forward to talking with the artists and maybe even buying a piece of two! Much more fun...

Common Grackle   Refugio County, TX

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