Posts tagged “Wildlife

Hide and Seek with a Young Raccoon (Five Photographs)

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At a certain point in the summer a family of raccoons took over a tree. They are not there every time I pass but when they are it’s a bit of a show (I posted one waving at me in a earlier post). The raccoons are certainly curious and after hiding they will come out to gaze back at you, they do not seem much disturbed by us, secure as they are in their tree house. The chiaroscuro light has an effect on color. Dealing with the color-cast was an interesting exercise in avoiding desaturation. I have become more tolerant of noise, given that without high ISOs I would never get shots like this.





The Smiling Frog (Three Photographs)

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Many years ago I was visiting a film set for a dog food commercial. The Director pointed to one of the dogs then turned to the handler and asked, “Can you get it to smile?” I found this funny and got some dark looks for my laughing. Of course the handler had others dogs and they found one that suited the director. In photography I have noticed that anthropomorphism is one of those things that has impact, the more people can ascribe a human emotion or expression to the animal, the more they seem to like it (with the exception I suppose of angry grizzlies).



Red Squirrel (Two Photographs)

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You can’t resist these squirrels when they stop and stare. There is a rule in photography based I believe in part on science, that the eye goes to the brightest spot in a photograph. Now either I have broken the rule or the little creature lit up the scene. This is why I tend to look at rules as warnings and guidelines and not fixed in the mantra of photography.

Red Squirrel-2

Sometimes (Two Photographs)

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Sometimes, just sometimes you see the unimaginable. I was told that the baby raccoons were back in a favorite tree and went to investigate. Usually they are sleeping high up, but this time they were active and lower. What I did not expect was for one to wave at me.


There are other things in the forest…


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Some days are better than others…


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A great day in photography usually means shooting one great photograph, if not more, that comes out better than you imagined.

There are other great days that get you to that point. While the photographs may not be stellar, they can achieve a goal. After a couple of months struggling through winter or other challenges to get any photographs, you can get a little stale.

Stale in the sense that you don’t easily anticipate things that would help you get the shot you want, let alone well exposed and focused. This is where getting out when you can to practice comes in. Now this gives no guarantee of great shots down the road, but it will help.

Its like reflexes, you need to think about what your settings need to be so when something happens you can react quickly.

Getting back into a rhythm where choices about ISO, f stop, shutter speed, autofocus mode, exposure mode, and lens are routine is Step 1.

Step 2 is focusing on your technique to get sharp/focused photographs.

Step 3 is finding your eye for composition.

It is not an incremental, linear or balanced equation. Step 1 and 2 are technical, the less you have to think about them the more you can focus on Step 3 which is where the magic happens.

So when people tell you the secret is to take more photographs, they do not mean take anything, they mean take enough pictures to be able to get the technical to be instinctive and give you the time and space to be creative in deciding on subject and composition.

And yes there will be times when none of it works and fumbling is the rule of the day. But sooner or later the technology and technique gets comfortable and you can focus more on what counts, crafting photographs – light, composition, perspective, the conversation.

A Keen Eye


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Any Monday Morning


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Cocky not Angry Bird


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Frogs on a Log


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Some Views on Photography as a Conversation


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Photography involves many kinds of dialogue, the most important conversation is the one with a living entity at the other end of your lens.

When photographing animals, birds, insects etc. our subjects often notice us. Sometimes they flee and sometimes they stick around. While we should not ignore our tendency to ascribe human emotions to animals (anthropomorphism), it remains true that we often have the attention of our subject. The dialogue may be complicated by the lack of sophisticated communication, nonetheless something is being communicated.

At its best there is a common curiosity. Try as we might to avoid disturbing our subjects we probably do so more than we would wish to. Hence the need to move slowly, ensure our subject is comfortable and avoid any appearance of wanting actual contact.

At a distance any creature acts naturally and capturing them untainted by communication is an option. With large and dangerous animals this may be the only option. However, you might like to experiment and make your own determination of how much more impact a conversation can have. That is not to say birds in flight, mass migrations and may other events also have impact, but a connection electrifies a photograph.

The picture above is of a juvenile Muskrat that looked up only a few times as he mowed his/her way through the foliage.

Three’s Company


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This photograph is one of series of nine photographs.

You can view the rest at Rakmil Photography

Feel free to browse my other galleries!

Photography is a two way conversation?


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Spring Duck


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A Pursuit of the Insect World


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My interest in macro photography has led me to me to meet a number of entomologists and seize an opportunity to visit the Canadian National Collection (CNC) of Insects, Arachnids and Nematodes (the latter is an amazing national treasure started in 1883 it has more than 16 million specimens).

In an earlier post I mentioned a number of sources that help me identify what I see, but more importantly I am on the path to knowing where to look for various insects and spiders. (Just to illustrate how ignorant I was I had no idea that spiders were not insects, and bees are related to ants.)

Many books on butterflies give examples of the kinds of bushes or plants that a given type of butterfly will find attractive. It is not always the case for other insects and local knowledge seems the key, hence my searching out and meeting entomologists and other nature types. They can help you discover, for example, that tiny (8mm) ambush bugs, like goldenrod and what damage they can do to you (painful but harmless injections etc.)

Most modern macro/micro lenses are only going to get you a life size shot which fill the frame with your subject, at its closest focus point. In other words the longer the lens the farther you are from your subject at your maximum magnification, which is a good thing if the insect is not pleased. You can shorten the focus distance and improve your magnification with extension tubes. I use a 105mm lens with Kenko extension tubes. As far as insects go you are probably as close as you want to be!

Strange things happen in macro photography, your depth of field becomes minuscule even at F11, and as you step down past F11, you can soften the photo by an optical phenomenon called diffraction. Secondly, light is at a premium and you will need some form of artificial light. In an early post I suggested where to go to learn about these things (especially how to create the tools yourself – an entomologist I know uses a pop bottle and some paper to focus his flash).

Photographing insects in the wild is challenging but fun and if you are lucky you get to meet interesting people like entomologists

Morals and the Photography of Animals (not a rant about Zoos)

Please note this article contains five photographs. To see more of my work please visit: 


The first picture was taken at the London Zoo in the 70’s. The enclosure was built in the ‘30s at the time it was considered humane. When I shot the picture it was on its way to being replaced. Our idea of humane treatment of animals has changed dramatically.


Some years later I was in Portugal and as usual could not resist visiting the local Zoo. The conditions were awful, as this photograph illustrates.


Next is a game park close to Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania. The park had no gate, no fences; the animals seemed to know they were safe where they were. I understand this park may be facing some challenges, but is still functioning today much as it was when I was there in the ‘80’s.


The fourth picture is from a series I did at Camp Omega in the ‘90s. Its a very large park, the animals are well treated and for the most part are in enclosures that mimic their natural habitat, but much larger than what would be possible in an urban zoo.


This is a Great Horned Owl in captivity exhibited at a photographic show by a raptor protection society sanctioned by the Government.

I also wanted to point to this blog entry about something going on near where I live.  I have had the good fortune of happening upon owls in the bush when no one else was around and without baiting them managed to take a few pictures. Unfortunately the shots do not do justice to the great bird.

My point is that you have choices in the circumstances under which you shoot animals and its worth thinking about.

Animal Portraits


I have posted some”new photos” that have not appeared on WordPress.   I hope you will take time to visit them. Animal Portraits

The Lepidopterist


Note: I have moved my photo galleries to Smugmug ( and I would welcome visits and comments.

One of the things I am enjoying about photography is the people you meet.

When I was out shooting my series on the Painted Lady butterflies:

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I came across a butterfly expert (my first Lepidopterist) identifiable by her net and notebook. The scene was almost Victorian and given the days I had spent in that garden figuring out the best way to take pictures of butterflies, I could not resist speaking to her.

It turns out she writes erudite articles on butterflies for scientific journals and was looking for some uncommon varieties of butterflies. I was, she told me, shooting one of the most common of breeds. At this time they were in greater than average number due to our record warm summer. It was her study technique that was intriguing. She caught the butterfly and took it to her car where the air conditioner was on high, thus cooling and slowing the butterfly down to the point where it could be studied without fear of it flying off. When she was done she would roll down the window and with the butterfly in her palm, let it warm up and fly off.

Noting that I was taking photos of butterflies and waiting for them to alight in interesting places she pointed out that they were addicted to salt and when they land on the ground between the flowers it’s hard to distract them as they pull salt from the sandy earth. She also pointed out that that is why a steady, but sweaty palm, will attract butterflies.

My rule is to take pictures of insects and animals in their natural state in the wild and I know from experience it’s frustrating. But is also nice to know as much as possible about the behavior of what it is you intend to photograph.  Her advice was vastly more useful than the earliest advice I had on shooting butterflies, which was to find a bush and wait for the beast.