Archive for the ‘Oklahoma’ Tag

Single-image Sunday: Annoyed   6 comments

Bet ya think I’m going to talk about being annoyed.  No, even when I am annoyed I’ll try never to subject anyone else to my reasons for being so.  They only make sense at the time anyway.  No, this image is all about this buffalo (otherwise known as a bison) being annoyed with me.  If you’re familiar with American bison, you know they once roamed over most of the central parts of North America.  And that now they’re confined mostly to a few national parks, Yellowstone chief among them.

So you may think this shot is from Yellowstone, or possibly nearby Grand Teton National Park.  You may even know about the buffalo herd at Wind Cave, South Dakota, and think he lives there.

None of the above!  The truth is that I got a surprise when I visited the southern part of Oklahoma recently.  I had seen on the map that there was a wildlife refuge called Wichita Mountains NWR.  I also saw on the web that there were a small number of buffalo there.  Since it was a quick trip, I didn’t expect to see many buffalo, let alone get close enough for a good shot.

Towards dusk I happened to glance off into the trees while driving by and saw this youngish bull.  I stopped and walked around behind him.  Approaching slowly and watchfully, I kept some small trees between he and I.

Annoyed: check out his underside.

Annoyed: check out his underside.

I’ve learned to be cautious around buffalo, but how cautious often depends.  At times you can walk right up to them, drawing no more than a casual glance.  I don’t set out wanting to get too close of course.  But on several occasions while hiking in Yellowstone, I’ve rounded a corner and been confronted with one of the massive beasts lounging in the grass beside the trail.  If it is not autumn, this is not usually a panic situation.

I got close enough to this one to get his attention.  He immediately let me know that I had gotten close enough, thank you.  He turned and took a couple steps in my direction, fixing me with a glare.  If that wasn’t enough, he began to urinate.  That was my clue to back away.  There is a rule of thumb with any large (or even not so large) male animal.  Almost anytime you see them urinating, you can be sure it’s to send a definite signal: stay back!

There are other fairly obvious signals that buffalo give you.  One is when they arch their tail up in the air.  I’ve seen bulls do that during mating season, just before charging another bull.  Another clue is when they throw their huge furry heads about.  If you come upon a buffalo with an arched tail, who’s throwing his head around and urinating at the same time, you should definitely not approach any closer.  And strongly consider retreating.

Many tourists have been injured, some even killed, by bison.  At Yellowstone especially, people often approach too closely in an attempt to get a good picture.  They ignore the obvious warning signals that the bison (I think kindly) is giving them.  When questioned by rangers, some of these people don’t realize that they are wild animals.  And they seem to believe they are slow and ponderous.

True, buffalo go about most of their lives in slow-motion.  But that’s deceiving.  I’ve seen them run very fast and jump 6-foot high fences.  That’s 1500 pounds launching itself over a high fence!  When they want to be, buffalo can be very athletic and very cantankerous – a potentially deadly combination.  It’s amazing to me that more people aren’t rammed and gored, given how many apparently unobservant tourists visit Yellowstone.

So if you plan to visit one of the parks with buffalo, remember the signals, especially if it’s the fall mating season.  Stay safe, and have a great week!

Friday Foto Talk: Learning Photography – Part II   11 comments

Mt Sneffels and its neighbors scrape the sky in southwest Colorado.

Mt Sneffels and its neighbors scrape the sky in southwest Colorado.

I’m thinking you may need a break from Halloween-themed posts and pictures.   This is the second of three parts on learning photography.  Last Friday’s post introduced the topic.

Using your learning time wisely is the reason for this short series about learning photography.  While those who are fairly new to photography may get the most out of it, even old hands know that the learning never stops.  The fact is that all of us, no matter how experienced, could benefit by stopping to think about how we’re going about learning.  It’s at least as important as what you learn.  So make sure to check out Part I.  There you’ll find Tips 1 through 5.

 

Tip 6

  • From the beginning, develop your own unique style.  It’s never too early to begin expressing your own unique take on things: your style.  That includes shooting the things you are passionate about, or at least have a strong interest in.  But don’t get carried away with a narrow focus too soon (see below).

Tip 7

  • Shoot a wide variety of subjects in a variety of lighting.  While learning the basics, do a lot of different kinds of shooting.  You may be most interested in shooting nature or landscapes, for example.  That’s fine, but don’t focus on it too much right away.  To learn about light, to explore the interaction between subject and photographer, to fully appreciate photography, I believe you need to shoot variety: buildings, people, still life, close-ups, indoors as well as out.  You get the idea.
A barn in the best color for a barn, near Ridgway, Colorado.

A barn in the best color for a barn, near Ridgway, Colorado.

Tip 8

  • Personal life can intrude.  Your loved ones will think you just took up a hobby.  But they’ll soon realize it’s much more than that!  As with the two points above, you’ll need to strike another balance here.  Depending on how busy your personal life is, you may need to drop some things, if possible, in order to accommodate the extra demands.  You should be having fun shooting, and that’s not possible if you’re stressed because you have too much on your plate.  That said, your family and work will, as always, be more important.  Be patient.  It may take more time than if you were single with a non-demanding job.  But don’t worry, you’ll still get there.
A prairie dog keeps watch   over his town on the Oklahoma prairie.

A prairie dog keeps watch over his town on the Oklahoma prairie.

Tip 9

  • During your formative period, you should almost completely ignore the images of others.  Period.  You have all the influences you need stored in memory.  You don’t need it now.  Constant comparison to others will likely harm your ability to develop your own style.  Are there exceptions to this rule?  I believe in exceptions to most rules.  But be very selective.  You might visit a gallery, or pick up a book by a seriously great photographer.  But your focus, for at least a year and probably two, should be on shooting and learning, not sharing your images or looking at too much of other shooters.

* This applies especially to the internet.  Facebook in particular can be quite poisonous to a new photographer in my opinion.  If you go online go for a blog post or article purely focused on learning skills.  Later on, after you’ve established a style and know yourself as a photographer, you can start sharing more widely.  It’s only at that point that you’ll continue to learn by viewing (with a critical eye) the images of others.

For some reason I really love rosehips.

For some reason I really love rosehips.

Tip 10

  • Be a harsh self-critic.  This is another thing you need to do right from the beginning.  When you’re selecting images to work on at the computer, try to select only the best.  This is something we all struggle with, especially in the beginning.  Don’t stress that it’s so tough to judge which of your images are good and which aren’t.  Time will make you a better judge of your own pictures.  It will become a little easier as your pictures get better.  Still, you need to be very demanding and only spend time with your best work.

* But you may well ask: “Don’t I need to look at a bunch of pictures online to learn what’s good and what’s not?”  No.  No you don’t.  I can’t emphasize this too strongly.  Scrolling through tons of images on Facebook or 500 px merely teaches you what is popular, not necessarily what is good.  Believe it or not, you already know a strong image from a weak one.  Besides, it is only helpful (especially while learning) to know what makes a good image for you at your particular point of development.  That said, at some time in your learning process, it’s probably a good idea to learn how to critique images.  Later on, you can join a critique forum.

Tip 11

  •  Be calm, relaxed and observant while shooting.  I’ve hit on this point in prior posts.  When I’m around other photographers, I sometimes notice they miss things, seemingly because they’re rushing through the process for no good reason.  And I’m not immune.  I often need to remind myself to keep a calm mind.  I’m naturally observant, at least in nature.  But I’m also habitually late for things, including sunset.  I’ve had to learn that this is no excuse for feeling stressed when I do arrive.

* All of this is directly related to observation.  And that strongly influences how many good shots you’ll get. It’s not just creativity as a whole that suffers from stress.  Your observational abilities also go down when you allow stress to creep in.  Granted, sometimes you need to go pretty fast if the light is changing quickly or you’re working with a skittish subject.  But you can always keep a calm and receptive attitude, no matter what the shooting situation.

Dramatic skies and a thinly forested ridgeline combine with nice light in this picture in the Colorado Rockies

Dramatic skies and a thinly forested ridge-line combine with nice light in this picture in the Colorado Rockies

Tip 12

  • Have fun!  Everything you do in photography, as with life, will turn out better if you make it fun.  There’s something I’ve always found strange.  Even though I greatly appreciate all complements on my pictures, I’m always confused when people say “nice work”.  If this were work to me I wouldn’t be doing it!  A lot easier said than done, you say?  You’re right!  For example, I know from personal experience that it’s hard not to beat yourself up when you miss a great shot.  At those times I try to remember that there is always a next time.  It is so important to maintain perspective.  Don’t take photography too seriously.  And please, no matter how good you eventually get, don’t take yourself as a photographer too seriously.  Have fun!

 

Stay tuned next week for the last post in this series.  Have a great weekend!

The sun sets over the Cimarron River.

The sun sets over the Cimarron River.

I’m Alive!   15 comments

Grass waves in the breeze of dusk in the prairie of western Oklahoma.

I’m not one to apologize for not posting in a long time, but I have to admit to feeling a little guilty just the same.  I took a break that was supposed to be just August and maybe part of September.  It has stretched for longer than I expected.  Guess I just needed to recharge my batteries.

I’m on my second photo trip during that time, and I’ve also been working a lot.  I spent the first couple weeks of September in Yellowstone, Grand Tetons and Rocky Mtn. National Parks.  Now I’m in SW Colorado and very excited about the upcoming lunar eclipse.

The night before I left on this trip, just after we finished up with the project, I went out to shoot at sunset.  I lucked out and found a pretty stretch of tall-grass prairie.  Very tall grass, the kind that reaches up to my chin, is something I’ve always loved.  With the light very nice, and the only sound some distant coyotes calling, it was a peaceful way to get ready for my trip to the southern Rockies.  I know sunsets are a bit cliche, but I’ll never believe they are overdone.

So I just wanted to let everyone know I haven’t dropped out.  I’m hitting the blogging trail again!  Hope everything is going well with all of you.  I can’t wait to get time and check out what you’ve been up to.  Have a great week!

Sunset in the tallgrass prairie.

Single-image Sunday: First Light   17 comments

This is the first sunrise with my new camera.  I finally ended the drought by recently buying a barely used Canon 6D.  I also bought a lens to go with it, a wide-angle zoom that Canon just came out with.  It’s the 16-35mm. f/4L.  I really haven’t used it much yet.  But I’m hoping it is a good landscape lens.  This image was shot with a different lens.

Often sunrise is so beautiful over the prairie near where I am right now.  The sky can be truly spectacular, even though the terrain is flat.  The light fog hanging in the low places was surprising.  The nights are so warm here at this time of year that fog rarely forms.  I imagine that will change later in the year.  But for now the early morning is wonderful.  It’s the only time of the day when the temperature is comfortable.

I had to scramble to shoot this right after waking up.  I like how it turned out, I’m pretty happy with the camera.  It does not focus as well as my 5D III did, but that camera has pro-level autofocus and this one doesn’t.  Usually not a problem with the kind of images I generally shoot, but with wildlife or candid shots of people I could see it being an issue.  Other than autofocus, plus the fact it is obviously not as well sealed against the weather, I can’t see many differences between the 6D and 5D III.  They both have full-frame sensors.

I hope you all are enjoying your summers.  I am taking a break from doing Friday Foto Talks in August.  I’ll get back to it, promise.  Now I’m off to explore this area.  I have a few days off, yippee!.  Thanks for looking.

First Light on the Prairie (and for me & my new camera)

First Light on the Prairie (and for me & my new camera)

 

 

Broken Dreams   10 comments

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I’ve been working on the southern Great Plains lately away from my beloved Oregon.  I don’t know why I miss home more now.  After all, I’ve been here in Oklahoma  for no longer than I’ve been away on my long photo safaris of the recent past.  But I do miss home.

That’s why I”m writing this post at the airport waiting for my flight.  I have about a week and a half off so I decided on the spur of the moment to cash in frequent flyer miles and fly back to the Northwest.  I need a break from the monotony of treeless plains and fields, from a river-less place that gets its water from an enormous underground store created by rains of the distant past.

The Ogallala Aquifer is one of the largest of its kind in the world and has supported the American bread basket for generations.  Now of course it’s being “mined”.  We’re steadily depleting it, forcing us to continuously lengthen our straws, drilling deeper and deeper for precious water.

I’m posting a few photos from an old farm that I passed on the long highway that runs the length of the Oklahoma panhandle.  This stretch of loneliness juts westward between Kansas and Colorado on the north, the bulk of Texas to the south.  It seems as if it takes forever to drive far enough west to leave Oklahoma, either continuing west to New Mexico or north into Colorado.  The highway never strays.  It points west like an arrow.

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It’s inevitable that you pass or parallel a few historic pathways.  One is the old Santa Fe Trail.  Kit Carson and countless others rode horses over this trail in that golden time of westward expansion in America.  But this series of photos speaks to a more recent time.  Although the farm was abandoned sometime in the 1960s judging from the vehicles left behind, it very likely was used in the decades before that.  Maybe even during the wet years before  the dust bowl swept through in the 1930s.

John Steinbeck’s novel The Grapes of Wrath documents the lives of those hard-working souls who left Oklahoma during the dust bowl and traveled to California in search of work.  These are the kind of people who built this country.  The story of westward expansion has fascinated me for a long time.  It was the first historical writing that I devoured while still quite young.  At least by choice; I don’t count anything I was forced to read in school.

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It was a warm late afternoon with very sparse traffic on the two-lane highway.  A few flies buzzed around the old buildings and automobiles.  The old windmill had been stripped long ago by relentless winds.  On that day the wind was calm.

Heeding the warming someone had painted on a door (see picture), I didn’t go into any of the buildings.  I just walked around shooting pictures, stopping to picture children playing in the yard, a weather-beaten woman hanging laundry.  A man bouncing to a stop in one of those old pickups, drunk on moonshine.

I wonder why they left?  Was it one of the droughts that routinely plague this region?  Too many failed crops of corn?  Did they just up and move to California one day?  Did they start over from zero?  I look and wonder.  Did they miss home?   Now it’s time for me to go home!

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