WARNING: Not for Sensetive Viewers

After capturing a beautiful proposal at White Point Gardens, I had a few extra minutes. So I decided to stay and photograph the famous Black-crowned Night Herons. I wish I hadn’t!!!
 
During each hot and humid Charleston summer, the live oaks in White Point Gardens (also known as Battery Park) become the nesting grounds for Black-crowned Night Herons. Seemingly unafraid of the public, they start acting like they own the place, making them easy to approach and photograph. Even though the park is said to be haunted, the night herons don’t seem to mind. In fact they nest in the very trees that the pirate Stede Bonnet and his men were hanged from!
 
In all my years photographing wildlife, I’ve only ever witnessed one other occasion so brutal and violent. While I was wandering around, a major disturbance began unfolding overhead. A mother decided to reject one of her chicks. Ejecting it out of the nest, pecking it to near death in the branches, and then pushing it out of the tree…the poor chick plunging to certain death below. The mother then returned to tend to it’s other chicks as if nothing had happened.
 
Why do birds reject babies? The main reason is to enhance the survival probability of her other chicks. It’s believed that the mother senses something is wrong in the development of that chick. Or they realize they don’t have the resources to raise all of their young successfully. Eliminating one mouth to feed is their only solution.
 
Knowing this doesn’t make it any easier to witness such a seemingly violent act. But such are the laws of nature! Fortunately, I was able to ease the conflict in my soul by photographing a few other herons peacefully preening as the sun began to fade.
 
(Nikon Z9 + FTZII + 500mm PF)

Wildlife Workshop with Kiawah Island Photo Club

This week I had the great pleasure of working with the Kiawah Island Photo Club as their instructor during a private Wildlife Workshop that was held at the Center for Birds of Prey!

Under the care of Stephen Schabel (Director of Education), we had a fantastic time learning about these amazing hawks, falcons, kites, storks, kestrels, vultures, and owls. It was very rewarding for me, helping everyone figure out the best settings and techniques to capture these beautiful creatures. But the most amazing part was seeing the wonder and awe on the participant’s faces as they experienced these majestic birds up close and personal!

After a fun day together, we all set our cameras down and enjoyed an insightful behind-the-scenes tour of the operating rooms and rehabilitation facility.

Many thanks to Kimberly and Gordon from the Kiawah Island Photo Club, as well as Mandy, Stephen, and Katie from the Center for Birds of Prey for organizing this fabulous program!!!

Sunrise on Bulls Island

Sunrise at the boneyard beach on Bulls Island turned out to be meh. But Jamie Clark and I salvaged it with a fun impromptu modeling shoot for her beautiful daughter, Katie! Many thanks to my friends and amazing photogrpahers Kim McManus, Mary Wessner, and Cary McDonald for making it a fun morning. And a HUGE shout out to #coastalexpeditions for this incredible opportunity. This is the second-to-last sunrise expedition the company will be offering to Bulls Island. I feel lucky to have been able to experience this protected barrier island’s wild majesty one last time!

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GoPro MAX 360 Review

In this video, I’ll be playing with the brand new GoPro Hero MAX 360 camera! I wanted to ask the question, is this possibly the best motovlogging setup ever? With the ability to mount the camera in one place on the motorcycle, but be able to choose any angle of view within 360-degrees, it just might be! However, is the exported resolution of 1080p worth the sacrifice? And is the added complexity of editing 360 video worth the headache? Check it out and let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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Wildlife Photography Workshop at Center for Birds of Prey

This past weekend, I had the honor of leading the second annual Wildlife Photography Workshop at the Center for Birds of Prey: http://www.thecenterforbirdsofprey.org/visit/special_events/instructor-led-photography-workshop/.

We had an AMAZING time photographing these amazing creatures, learning new techniques, acquiring new skills to use in the field, and simply having a BLAST!!!

Many thanks to Kara, Natalie, and the rest of the team for all their hard work and preparation in pulling this event off! And a huge shout out to all the wonderful attendees!!!

If you missed it this year, I hope you’ll join me next fall for #3. 🙂

Field Trip to Bulls Island

If you like birding, pristine hiking, beach combing, and a chance to get away from the mainland, then Bulls Island just might be for you!

On behalf of the Center for Birds of Prey, and in association with Coastal Expeditions, earlier this week I had the pleasure of photographing a fun field trip with a group of students from Cainhoy Elementary School. In spite of living in the Lowcountry, some of these kids had never seen the ocean. So, imagine the wonder and amazement in their eyes as we explored Bulls Island together, the crown jewel of the Cape Romain National Wildlife System!!!

Many thanks to Daniel at the Avian Conservation Center for getting me on this project, and Captain Nick from Coastal Expeditions who was our amazing tour guide for the day.

Photography Day at the Center for Birds of Prey

Last month I had the privilege of being a part of a limited number of photographers that were granted access to photograph some beautiful birds at the Center for Birds of Prey. What an INCREDIBLE experience it was to be up close and personal with these majestic creatures!!! This was not my first time. But it’s an experience that never gets old, and always holds new and exciting challenges!

This time, I went with a light-weight and portable setup. All images were shot on either a Nikon D850 or Nikon D500, using either a Nikkor 70-200 f2.8 VRII or a Nikkor 300 f4.0 PF VR lens. I didn’t use any tripods or monopods, just hand-held shots. I carried one camera on each hip using my dual Spyder Holster, which allowed me to quickly switch to the ideal focal length for the shot.

Later this fall I’ll be teaching another Wildlife Photography workshop at the center, where I’ll be sharing my tips, techniques, and settings for successfully capturing these gorgeous animals: http://www.thecenterforbirdsofprey.org/visit/special_events/instructor-led-photography-workshop/. I hope you’ll and come out to join me!

Many thanks to my good friend and fellow photographer, Ferris Kaplan, for the behind-the-scenes shots of me in action!

Charleston Center for Birds of Prey

Beautiful weather…beautiful birds…I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day at the Center for Birds of Prey!

I’ve been attending their Photography Day events for several years now. These events sell out fast, and never disappoint!

Most of these were shot with the new Nikkor 300mm f4 PF on either a Nikon D500 or a Nikon D4.

Kudos to the staff and volunteers at the Center for Birds of Prey for putting on such an AMAZING opportunity for us photographers to get up close and personal with these incredible creature.

The Kites of Allendale

Last week I managed to find a little time to go photograph a fun personal project!

I’ve heard of the amazing Kites of Allendale for several years, but never had a chance to get up there to photograph them. So I packed up the Nikon D500 and Nikkor 200-400 f4 VR…my favorite wildlife combo…and headed out on a road trip.

Allendale county is known to have huge fields of crops where tons of dragonflies and beetles congregate during the summer months. Swallow-tailed kites don’t normally come this far over. But during this time of year, they’ve discovered this bountiful feast-for-the-taking!  Here’s some info if you’re interested in seeing this majestic scene:  http://www.carolinabirdclub.org/sites/SC/allendale.html.

It’s a little late in the season. Normally July is the best time to catch them. But I managed to find a few swooping and soaring not far outside Allendale.  At first I just watched in awe as these expert flyers effortlessly circled and swirled overhead, periodically diving to grab a tasty handful, then climbing back into the wind to chow down. Eventually I grabbed the camera and enjoyed playing “target practice” with these fast-moving subjects.

It was a great challenge! I’m happy with what I got for as few kites as there were, and as short a window of time I had to work with. But my resolve to return next year during peak season has been doubled!!! 🙂

Annual Florida Birding Adventure

After completing my photographic coverage of a fantastic 3-day corporate event in Sarasota, I scheduled a few days off to visit some of my favorite avian hot spots!

Each spring, I plan an expedition through Florida to cover the incredible mating and breeding cycle of life. There are secret areas that are literally flooded with activity this time of year…making for exciting photographic oportunities!

Unfortunately, I had to be back in Charleston for another photo shoot after only a few days. I usually take a week to seek out and shoot this avian activity. But I still got a few keepers in spite of the shortened expedition. Here are some of my favorites! 🙂