Thursday, October 23, 2014


Partial solar eclipses aren't spectacular events. I'm sure a lot of folks didn't even know why it was a bit darker than usual in the late afternoon.

If nothing else, I took this as a rehearsal for the total solar eclipse that will cross the US three years from now. I have a Coronado solar telescope, but I've never taken a decent photo through it, so my best setup for solar photos is a telescope with a neutral density filter and an SLR. These telescope images are not flipped, so north is at the bottom. Note the large sunspot. Click on an image to get into the slide show.

Partial Solar eclipse
Eclipse starting

Partial Solar eclipse

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Trailcam time again

I've gotten into a six-month cycle of April and October for checking my trail camera in Wind Cave National Park. I was eager to see the images this time since there were multiple cameras deployed for the first time. Alas, the cameras didn't capture any usable images past mid-August.

The problem with the two primary cameras, the Reconyx and the new Moultrie, was I followed a hint I read somewhere and set them just a couple feet off the ground. This probably would be fine if I was able to check the cameras every few weeks, but grass grew up in front of them as they sat there for six months. Both cameras took tens of thousands of images of wind-blown grass before the memory card filled up (Reconyx) or the batteries gave out (Moultrie). As for the old Bushnell, it got a few elk shots, but the batteries only last about a month and the image quality leaves a lot to be desired (which is why I've bought two cameras since).

I reset the Reconyx and the Bushnell, but there were some problems with the Moultrie. First, when I came up on it I was surprised to see that the cable lock securing it to the tree was loose. Hmmmm. Second, my key chains did not have the key to open the case, so I couldn't get to the memory card. Third, there was a bit of schmutz on the lens that wasn't easily removed. It was necessary to take the Moultrie home with me to get to the memory card and clean the lens. While reviewing the images it got before the batteries ran out, I discovered why the cable lock was loose. An elk had chewed on it and somehow managed to undo it. See below! I have to say my faith in Master Python cable locks has been shaken. The jostling turned the camera by about 20 degrees, so most of the Moultrie images are tilted. The Moultrie has new batteries and a clean lens, so now I'm trying to decide whether to drive out to the Black Hills in a few weeks to re-deploy it. By the way, this is the second time an elk has tried to eat my trail camera. Several years ago, one chewed up a solar panel connection on my old Bushnell.

Despite these trevails, I got some interesting images of elk, coyotes, and even a turkey. I have created an October 2014 gallery which also includes SLR shots of an elk, a bighorn ewe, Devil's Tower, and (for something completely different) a partial eclipse of the sun. Click on an image to get into the slide show.

Elk chewing on cable lock


Monday, June 23, 2014

The Windshield and the Oriole

Long story short, I'm getting my windshield replaced tomorrow so I headed down to Newton Hills State Park today to get some use out of my state park sticker. I was looking for woodpeckers but the best images I got were of a new species to my photo albums, a Baltimore Oriole. I also saw a little fox observing me from a distance. The images have been added to my generic South Dakota album which has different photos from the past 10 years or so. Click on the first image to launch the slideshow starting with the most recent seven images.


Scrawny fox

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Trailcam check

I did a six-month trailcam check and found some decent snow shots of the elk. In the same area, I deployed two more cameras (a new Moultrie and an old Bushnell), so we'll see what happens with those. I also ran into a coyote hunting near the road.

Framed elk


Sunday, March 02, 2014


I know it's generally cold in South Dakota during the winter, but a high of 0 on March 2 is just wrong. That's Jan. 2 stuff. Despite this, I headed out with my camera today because one of the local TV stations reported a gathering of eagles along the Big Sioux River. There is a dead-end road next to the river I wanted to go down because I thought it would give the best chance of seeing something. However, it turned out to be a steep road, and the previous night's snow wasn't cleared. I waited for a small SUV to make its way up the hill before I attempted to go down. It looked like the SUV hit some slick spots on the way up. It made it, but with the memory of getting stuck near Ft. Randall Dam three years ago, I decided to wait until later in the week before attempting it.

The news story said the eagles were following waterfowl, so my backup plan was to head to a location where I know the ducks and geese hang out in winter, Arrowhead Park just east of town. The pond near the parking area was completely frozen over. But the other pond had a small flock of geese and ducks huddled around a patch of open water. Some ducks landed in my vicinity and it looked as though they wanted to get some warmth from the sidewalk and other open ground. I got a few shots of them, but there were no eagles to be seen. Even though the car was only 1/8th of a mile away, the wind was directly in my face and it was really, really cold. I'm sure frostbite would have ensued if I had faced into the wind for more than the couple of minutes it took to make the walk.

I have posted five images to my catch-all South Dakota album, so if you click through this you will end up at Mt. Rushmore. Click on the image to start the slide show.


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Director's Cut: Eagles 2011

I don't know what I was thinking in February 2011 when I put together my annual Mississippi River eagle album. I posted seven images, only four of them of eagles, and said in this blog that I didn't get much. It's true I didn't get many flight shots except a few in Keokuk, mostly against gray skies. But upon further review, I got some really good roosting images, most of them above the road to the boat ramp (officially the Henderson Creek Day Use Area) near Lock & Dam 18, Gladstone, Illinois. When I bought my car in 2009, I got a sunroof so I could take photos of birds roosting in trees, specifically eagles roosting above that road. A car is a rolling photo blind, and the more openings to shoot through, the better.

When I went through my pictures again today, I selected 30, including only three of the seven previously posted. So this album includes 26 new images, including this fellow staring down through my sunroof.


There are a couple reasons why I'm going through my photos from 2009-2013. First, I was employed for much of that time and didn't always have time to go through my images thoroughly. Second, the laptops I used for most of my editing don't have the best screens. Now I'm using a large external monitor and I think my color and brightness adjustments are more accurate. Third, since camera resolutions and screen sizes have increased over time, I have increased my standard large photo size from 1024x768 to 1200x900.

Other recent Director's Cuts:

  • Western South Dakota, January 2011, nine new images mostly of bighorn sheep.
  • Eagles 2009, January 2009, seven new images, including a couple of fishing shots.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Big, big update


From August 2011 to August 2013, I was working in Chicago and was negligent in keeping my web site up to date even though I was still traveling and taking photos. Now that I'm back in retirement and not employed (most of the time), I finally got around to updating the site with more than 200 new photos as follows:

  • Chicago, 2011-13, created a new album (39 images) [Photos]
  • New York City, April-June 2012, two-month work assignment, added 16 images to the existing album. [Photos] [Blog Entry]
  • Chicago Air and Water Show including the Blue Angels, August 2012, new album (17 images). [Photos]
  • Around Mackinaw City and Mackinac Island, Michigan, including a butterfly house, August 2012, two new albums (28 images). [Photos] [Blog Entry]
  • Western South Dakota parks, October 2012, new album (25 images). [Photos] [Blog Entry]
  • Rare hawk at Squaw Creek NWR, December 2012, new album (7 images). [Photos] [Blog Entry]
  • Selected 2012 Photo of the Year, the rare hawk. [Blog Entry]
  • Iowa Eagles, January 2013, added four images to the existing album. [Photos] [Blog Entry]
  • Florida, January 2013, new album (20 images). [Photos] [Blog Entry]
  • Western South Dakota Parks, March 2013, new album (8 images). [Photos] [Blog Entry]
  • Montana and Yellowstone, June 2013, new album (17 images). [Photos] [Blog Entry]
  • Mackinaw City and Mackinac Island, Michigan, August 2013, new album. (7 images) [Photos]
  • A hawk in my yard, September 2013, new album (2 images). [Photos] [Blog Entry]
  • Wind Cave National Park Trailcam update, October 2013, new album (10 images). [Photos] [Blog Entry]
  • Arizona and New Mexico, October 2013, new album (15 images). [Photos] [Blog Entry]
  • Selected 2013 Photo of the Year, a yellow-crowned night heron from Florida. [Blog Entry]
  • My other web site has been updated to include all Mississippi River journeys.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Eagles hauling fish

Once more I headed to the Mississippi River to see the eagles fishing below the dams. The observation deck at Lock and Dam 18 near Burlington, IA was closed due to construction on the lock, but setting up on the road still gave a good view of many eagles passing overhead with big fish. Lock and Dam 19 near Keokuk, IA had a good number of eagles but a cold wind discouraged me from lingering there. The river was completely frozen over except for a small area under #18 and a larger stretch under #19, so the eagles were concentrated around those spots of open water. I got my best photos last year along the shore at Ft. Madison, but this year there was just solid ice. Click on the image for larger version.