"Lying in Wait" - An American Alligator Peering Through Foliage at Water's Edge, Everglades National Park, Florida

I feel like a fantastic Euro-fotog posting this image. Wildlife Photographer of the Year, here I come! Seriously though, isn't it interesting how common this technique of shooting through foliage to create dreamlike blurry-edged wildlife portraits is among the European photography community, and how it doesn't seem to be utilized nearly as much elsewhere (like here in the United States)? By the way, please don't take that the wrong way. I admire those guys. I admire the hell out of them. It's an inspiring, beautiful, and artful technique. Here is my humble contribution.

"Lying in Wait" - An American alligator peers through foliage at water's edge. Everglades National Park, Florida.

About the image: By using a relatively long 400mm lens with low depth of field I attempted to create some kind of primal fear within the viewer as if the alligator were hunting them. I quite like gators, so it doesn't really work on me, but then I like snakes too. Weird, I know. Anyways, I carefully selected an aperture of f/10 here to keep the foliage out of focus, while trying to get as much depth of field as possible so that at least some of the snout was reasonably in focus. If I had shot this image at f/5.6., the nose would have been much softer. Unacceptable soft. Additionally, the foliage would have been more uniformly green without the subtle changes in tone that is made possible here by bringing them in focus just a touch with a slightly smaller aperture.  

Techs: Canon 7D, Canon 400 f/5.6. 1/50th second, f/10, ISO 800. Tripod.

"A New Chapter" - Light Shines Vividly Through Morning Fog, Adirondack Park, New York

This is an image that I've sat on for 2 years. I've always enjoyed looking at the RAW file and remembering that morning. The warmth and intensity of the sun blasting through the morning fog, the way the dew and spiderwebs lit up like little gemstones hidden among the forest, the smell of damp spruce and marshland. Moments like these are so simple, so common in nature, and so completely necessary to experience. I hope that I never take these moments for granted!

"A New Chapter" - Light shines vividly through morning fog in Adirondack Park, New York.

About the image: This image seems straight forward, but there is a bit going on behind the scenes. I took note of the prominent tree tops and ensured that they appeared evenly spaced, while also not coming too close to the edges of the frame where they would have given the image a truncated appearance. I also ensured that the beams of light through the fog started in the top right and shone down diagonally to the left. For the exposure, I made sure to not let the highlights of the leaves clip and blow out, and let the shadow fall wherever it wanted. I increased the contrast slightly during post processing, but otherwise did little to the image.

Techs: Canon 50D, Canon 70-200 f/4 @ 135mm. 1/40 second, f/13, ISO 100. Polarizer. Tripod.

"More Than Ghosts" - Morning Sun Reflected in the Ausable River, Adirondack Park, New York

In a way, this image is a ghost still lingering from a distant trip to the Adirondacks 2 years ago. Like a lost loved one, it will always remain with me. This was a journey of hardship and growth. Just outside Saratoga Springs at highway speed, my vehicle was struck by a tractor trailer. As I veered off the road, time stood still. I watched every bit of glass break around me like an oddly peaceful silent movie. My car rolled twice and finally came to rest. Gathering my senses, I crawled out and realized that my body was still in tact. I guess you could say that I was lucky. Determined to continue, I asked the police officer to drop me off at the local Enterprise to rent a vehicle and continue my trip. It would have been easy to go home. Hell, it would have made sense to go home. Sense, however, was the last thing I had or desired after surviving that ordeal. I wanted to live life to my fullest possibility. I wanted to connect to nature in my raw emotional state. I took nothing for granted. I grew as a photographer, and became a more patient and grateful human. In the end, I am happy that I was able to live through such an experience. It truly changed my perspective.

"More Than Ghosts" - Morning sun reflected in the Ausable River. Adirondack Park, New York.

Techs: Canon 50D, 70-200 f/4 @ 70mm. 1.3 seconds, f/16, ISO 200. Polarizer. Tripod.

"Weary Eyes, Opened Wide" - Sunrise overlooking the High Peaks of the Adirondacks, New York

"One last cast". That's what my uncle Bruce would say when we were out fishing on his boat. That one sentence symbolized his passion for fishing as well as a desire to always keep trying. Sometimes, we would make 20 "last casts". And guess what? During those last casts, we sometimes even caught a fish! Trying just that let us achieve our goal. In photography, too, pushing just a little harder or staying right up until you need to leave is always worthwhile. When I created this image, I had already spent a week in the Adirondacks and to be completely honest, I was exhausted! I was contemplating leaving the night before, but decided to stick around for one for morning. Boy, am I glad that I did. While overlooking this lovely stream meandering through a marsh, leading eventually towards the High Peaks themselves, the sky lit up with gorgeous rays of warm light. Next time you are out on a trip and want to call it quits, try to remember this lesson for yourselves. It isn't always easy, but it's always worth it. Make one last cast.

"Weary Eyes, Opened Wide" - Sunrise over a marsh overlooking the High Peaks. Adirondack Park, New York.

Techs: Canon 50D, Canon 10-22 @ 19mm. 1 second, f/11, ISO 100. Polarizer. Tripod.

"Silent Chorus" - Great blue heron alone in fog, Great Falls National Park, Virginia

It's funny how our tastes and tendencies change as we mature. I would have never posted the following image as a younger photographer. As time has passed, however, I've become more confident in what I like and am perfectly willing to present an image to the public whether I think they will like it or not. Why wouldn't I have posted this image? Because the heron is looking out of the frame. The #1 rule of "proper" wildlife photography is to have the subject looking into the frame. It just works better for the composition. Everything feels right, harmonious, and natural. Well, rules are meant to be broken as they say, and I find that the heron looking out of the frame here creates some tension in an otherwise perfectly peaceful and calm scene. Are you afraid to post images when you aren't sure if they will be received well? Comment and let me know!

"Silent Chorus" - Great blue heron alone in fog, Great Falls National Park, Virginia.

Techs: Canon 7D, Canon 70-200 f/4 @ 200mm. 0.4 seconds, f/14, ISO 100. Polarizer. Tripod.

"Delicate Dance" - Great Blue Heron Fishing Below a Set of Cascades, Great Falls National Park, Virginia

I'm continuing to go through my Great Falls images from this year's great blue heron season. Not quite sure how this one got by me at first, as I love the flow of the water as well as the feeling of power it presents. The water level in the Potomac River was just right for this one. Not so powerful to prevent the heron from fishing there, and not so weak as to be boring within my image. The little rivulet of water on the right side is an added bonus of the perfect water level as it helps to balance the composition quite a bit. As another point to consider ... when photographing wildlife within a grand landscape, always think about the pose of the animal. I had to wait until this heron crooked his neck just right to satisfy my desire for the best photograph possible from this situation. If I hadn't paid attention, the heron may have appeared to be only an afterthought, hunched over and failing to gain the attention it deserves!

"Delicate Dance" - Great blue heron fishing below a set of large cascades, Great Falls National Park, Virginia.

Techs: Canon 7D, Canon 400 f/5.6. 0.4 seconds, f/16, ISO 100. Polarizer. Tripod.

"Adrift" - Great Blue Heron Among Towering Rocks and Walls of Water, Great Falls National Park, Virginia

Is it bad to constantly fall back on themes we've done before? Is my Great Falls portfolio a gimmick that I've stuck with for so long? A small bird. A big landscape. I don't know, but I'm so happy with the look of this image. Welcome to the mind of this particular artist. Adrift in a sea of thoughts.

"Adrift" - A small bird in a big landscape. Great Falls National Park, Virginia.

Techs: Canon 7D, Canon 400 f/5.6. 1/5th second, f/13, ISO 100. Polarizer. Tripod.

"Landing Formation" - Great blue heron landing over rapids, Great Falls National Park, Virginia

It's funny, after years of creating images of great blue herons surrounded by water blurring by in a surreal landscape, I finally went to Great Falls with the intention of capturing the behavior of the herons. I truly believe there is a lifetime of possibilities when it comes to capturing herons in different locations with different compositions using my signature slow shutter speed technique, so I never had the desire to try to capture different types of photographs of them. Despite that fact, I had a ton of fun trying to get images of the herons fighting, fishing, and flying. I'll definitely be trying for some more images like this. It's good to change things up every once in a while!

"Landing Formation" - Great blue heron coming in for a landing over the rapids of the Potomac River in Great Falls National Park, Virginia.

Techs: Canon 7D, Canon 400 f/5.6. 1/3200, f/5.6., ISO 800.

"Losing Control" - Great blue heron among wild high water, Great Falls National Park, Virginia

The great blue herons are still as active as ever and really putting on a wonderful show at Great Falls Park. "Losing Control" is perhaps the image I'm most proud of so far this season. I just love the way the water looks truly menacing and overbearing compared to the diminutive heron. And yet, they seem so completely comfortable in this habitat! The morning air was full of mist as high winds whipped up spray and sent it flying hundreds of feet. That hazy thick atmosphere contributed even further to the depiction of powerful water.

Here's a little tip for photographers ... I took dozens of photographs of this exact scene for two reasons. First, taking many images insures that you will come out with at least one where the heron is sharp and detailed. Second, the water is constantly pulsing and changing shape. Out of all of the frames I captured, this one was a clear winner because of it's smooth and powerful looking flow, which just plain worked with the composition. So remember, always take a bunch of frames when photographing any scene with water in it!  

"Losing Control" - A great blue heron standing next to wild whitewater, Great Falls National Park, Virginia.

Techs: Canon 7D, Canon 70-200 f/4 @ 184mm. 0.5 seconds, f/16, ISO 100. Polarizer. Tripod.

"Ghostly Echoes" - Great blue heron fishing, Great Falls National Park, Virginia

I've been chillin' at Great Falls National Park over the past week. Hard. The great blue herons have returned in abundance and are really putting on an amazing show. They line up along the shore of the Potomac River and test their luck at plucking various species of fish like shad and bullhead out of the churning whitewater. I know it's easy for them, but as a human onlooker, the line between life and death here seems so startlingly thin. One slip and it's over!

In this image, I utilized one of my favorite techniques of leaving the heron small within the grand landscape. I also chose to use a relatively long shutter speed to blur the water while the heron stood perfectly still.

"Ghostly Echoes" - Great blue heron fishing along the Potomac River, Great Falls National Park, Virginia.

Techs: Canon 7D, Canon 400 f/5.6. 0.4 seconds, f/16, ISO 100. Tripod. Polarizer.