These are some photos I've taken of animals, here and there.

Clicking on the images will give a larger JPG file.

March 5, 2010 - Nesting Owl

(Click HERE to see more owl images from 2010.)

See below for more information on 'my' nearby owls. Last year a pair of owls raised three babies. I figured they might well be back to the same nest this year, and I was right. By March 5 I'd only seen one owl, and I assumed was a female sitting on eggs. (Turns out there are three chicks, and at least one was already hatched. She didn't seem too inclined to fly away when I approached the nest. Right now I'm leaving her mostly alone so she has some peace. I've not see the other half of the pair around either, which makes me a bit nervous when I'm close to the nest.

Here's a shot with the 80-400vr at 400mm.

Owl nesting in saguaro

April 7, 2010 - Owl on Saguaro

I've now been taking pictures of the owls for a year with my Nikon 80-400vr. I've been working at getting the sharpest images possible, and I've definitely improved my technique. (See the following section for past history). Today I didn't have very good lighting on the babies in the nest, but I got some of the sharpest images yet that I've taken with the 80-400vr. (You can even see a bee buzzing around just to the right of the owl). This image was taken handheld. Click on it for a larger version.

Owl on cactus

April 16, 2009 - One Owl

This shot was taken in the desert near the house with a new Nikon 80-400vr on a D300. I was walking around testing the lens when I came upon an owl. He let me get to a certain distance, then flew away. But not very far. He landed on a saguaro cactus and posed for me. Eventually he flew off, and landed in a small dead tree, so I got another picture of him as the sun went down. (Click picture for larger image).

Saguaro with owl

I moved closer... (Click picture for larger image).

Saguaro with owl 2

Here he is again on a dead tree. The light was fading, and I boosted ISO to 800. (Click picture for larger image.)

Owl on dead tree

April 18 - Two Owls

The weather was better (not windy), and I went back out in the desert again to play with the 80-400vr some more. As I was walking in the same area where I saw the owl before, suddenly he flew out of a cactus and perched (somewhat awkwardly) in the top of a palo verde tree. I got several shots of him there before he flew back to the same saguaro as the time before. This could be a giveaway of a nest nearby.

Here he is, with one wing draped over a branch. (Click for larger image.)

Owl on Palo Verde tree

I looked around and quickly found a large stick nest in the arms of a saguaro cactus. Figuring that it was spring, and the owl was sticking close to the nest for a reason, it would not surprise me if there was an egg or baby owl in the nest. I walked carefully closer and got some shots.

This is the baby owl, getting close to fledging. [Sorry about the dust spot, I'm still learning how to wet clean my sensor.] (Click picture for larger image).

Owl in nest

Be careful what you wish for....

The day wasn't done yet. As I walked away from the owl, I continued getting pictures of cacti, flowers, and the occasional bird, but I was thinking that I always wanted to see a real live rattlesnake - at a safe range, and in decent lighting to get a picture. In all the years I've lived in Arizona (since 1980), I have never just come upon one while walking in the desert. (More likely I just didn't *see* them.) And ... less than five minutes after that thought, I stopped to take a picture of a dove, and then happened to look down. Less than five feet from me was a coiled rattlesnake, nicely blending in with the ground! Though he wasn't all that big, he certainly got my attention. I circled around taking pictures with the 80-400vr, trying bracketing, different f-stops, and even flash. Then I got too close...

There is something about the sound of a rattlesnake rattling at you that kind of makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck. I've only heard it once before - it's kind of like a hose with running water more than a rattle - a sort of a hissing sound.

Rattler prepared to strike 1

Rattler prepared to strike 2

April 19 - Two owls.

Went out again to visit the owls. This time both adult owls were out of the nest. I got some good shots of the big one on a saguaro. The 80-400vr does very well in good light. Next time I may try using a monopod to see if I can coax any more sharpness out of the lens

It's pretty cool watching these magnificent birds. I wish I had a 500vr to use with them!.

Owl on saguaro

April 21 - Three owls!

Another visit to the owls, using a tripod on this trip. For the first time I saw two adults, and a baby out of the nest! I had been taking pictures of the adults, but did not see anything in the nest. As I got closer to the nest (and on the way home), I heard a strange clucking sound coming from a tree next to the nest. I looked up to see the baby owl, much to my surprise. I think the clucking was a scared/nervous sound, and it was answered by some hoots from one of the adults. The hooting was a lot closer than they had been a few seconds earlier, and I turned around to see one of the adults had halved the distance between me and where he/she had been sitting. I got the message - "no closer or you might see big claws, up close and personal". I took a couple of shots as best I could, but the baby owl was trying to hide behind branches, and I wasn't about to get closer. (There was no good viewing angle to him anyway).

Here's the baby peeking out from a tree. I was close enough that I had the lens zoomed back to under 300mm. (It definitely seems sharper, but then again, this was taken from the tripod).

Young owl in tree

April 23 - FIVE owls!

A quick visit to the owls, trying out a monopod for the first time. I was unfortunately in a bit of a hurry, as I got a late start and the sun was getting low. And I had a big surprise as I walked up. Two owls together on a branch in front of the nest, and another one peeking out from the nest. AND they were all juveniles. After I realized that, I looked around and saw the two adults standing on a branch off to one side. I was so excited that I neglected to look at the camera settings, and for some reason I had the camera set to ISO 2000! I realized my mistake too late, and while I got some lower ISO pictures, they were in dim light and did not come out as well as the (very) high ISO ones. It's a shame, because the setting sun lighting was just perfect and I didn't need high ISO.

Here are the two juveniles out on a branch.

Two juvenile owls on branch

And here are the parents.

Parent owls

Here is what it looks like when you walk up to the nest. You can barely see a juvenile owl in the nest peeking out.

Owl on saguaro

April 25 - A Midday Visit

I decided to see what the owls were doing in the middle of the day. Previous trips have taken place between 5:30 and 7:00pm. This time I went out just after noon.

Probably shouldn't have bothered, because the lighting was pretty harsh. As an experiment, I tried adding flash to tame the shadows a bit. Not sure it helped any, though you can tell there was a flash because there was a little bit of redeye if you look really closely.

One juvenile was still in the nest, and I didn't see any other owls until I got pretty close to the nest. Suddenly an adult flew out of the tree next to the nest and landed on a saguaro in the distance. The lighting was bad on the chick, so I practiced on the adult instead. It was also very, very windy, and the feathers were blowing a lot in the wind.

This is probably the best shot I got today.

Owl on saguaro

April 26 - Three Babies Together

I took my usual walk to the owls in late afternoon. At first I only saw two owls hidden in a tree (perhaps sleeping), but when I got closer, an adult flew out and perched on a distant saguaro. So I concentrated on getting shots of one of the juveniles in the tree, as I didn't see anyone left in the nest. The one juvenile in the tree watched me, but seemed sleepy. Kept closed eyes, with the occasional peek at me.

So I decided to take some pictures of the adult. As I was setting up to take a few shots of him, I heard a commotion, and saw a smaller bird dive-bombing the big owl. Eventually the owl was driven to a lower branch, but the smaller bird kept trying to drive him off. I got a sequence of shots of this once, but haven't decided if the images are good enough to bother posting.

In the meantime, the other adult showed up behind me in another tree, backlit against the sun. While all this was going on, I must have spooked the baby owl in the tree, because he (she?) started clucking at me. As I turned back to him, he moved up a branch, behind the tree. I watched him go up, and found that he was now hiding behind the other two juveniles!

I tried pretty hard to get a good shot of the three juveniles together, but there were a lot of branches in the way, and no great position to get them out of the shot. This is the best I could do:

Three juvenile owls

May 4 - They're Still There

I've been busy in the last week and have not been able to go see the owls. Today I got another chance, so I headed over with tripod and camera. It looked like the area was empty as I walked up, but then two owls flew from one tree to another. I got some handheld shots, but I knew the tripod would provide better results. As I set up the tripod, another owl flew out of a dead tree, leaving just one behind.

I got a few images of the last owl before he too flew away. Here is the best of the bunch

Owl on branch

After that, I tried getting some Bird In Flight images, by slowly walking toward one or another owl until they flew off. The owls are very smart - they seem to have an uncanny knack of not flying off until you look down. When you look up, they've left one perch, and are in the air toward another.

But you can't simply walk through the desert without looking at where you are walking. Beside the obvious and ever-present problem - cactus, chiefly cholla - there is the possibility of walking on a rattlesnake.

Once again, I stopped to take a picture of an owl, and then looked down to see a rattlesnake within 6 feet. This one was, I think, prettier than the last. As usual, clicking on the image gives you a full-size version.

Rattlesnake in waiting

Some Other Stuff

I've tried to use several of my lenses at one time or another to capture Birds In Flight (BIF), but with very little success. People say that the 80-400vr doesn't auto-focus fast enough to be easily used for BIF. I can't even find the bird in the viewfinder, much less autofocus and track it! I thought I would try something easier, like a rabbit. I still have a lot to learn, and I have a new-found appreciation of those photographers who can get good shots of birds flying.

Here's my best attempt at a RIF (Rabbit In Flight) from one of my first outings with the new 80-400vr. And VR was on, to stabilize the image while panning...

Rabbit in Flight (RIF)

Older Stuff

From one of my first scuba dives, in Cancun in 2007. My wife Connie with a sea turtle. Taken with a little Canon SD630 point-n-shoot in a Canon dive housing about 35 feet down.

Connie with turtle

This shot was taken from a crowded boat on a river in Costa Rica with a Nikon D200 in October, 2007. This guy's job was to pilot a boat to a suitable riverbank, then hop in the water and entice a crocodile to follow him while teasing him with a dead chicken. He eventually got the crocodile up on shore, and fed the chicken to the crocodile by *dangling the chicken from his mouth*. Again, click on the picture for a larger version. Click here for a sequence of shots of this event Shots taken from a bobbing boat with D200 and the cheap Nikon 70-300g lens.

Crazy job