Archive for the ‘animals’ Tag

Who   8 comments


A neighbor in our community let us know that he had a Great Horned Owl nesting in one of his pine trees. Since he knew the mother’s behavior, it seemed like an excellent opportunity to photograph this rather rare bird.

In order not to startle her out of the nest, we had to climb a ladder along the side of the house, up to the roof, and carefully peer over the peak. Setting up a tripod there was rather challenging. I looked through the lens at 300mm, and… no bird.

My neighbor told me that she never spends more than about 5 minutes out of the nest, so I waited. Sure enough, she came back to the area in a short while. As she flew from tree to tree, she was constantly badgered by other birds, with jays, crows, and mockingbirds all making a racket.

She eventually flew into the nest, settled down, and proceeded to have a staring contest with the human on the roof. (She won handily.)

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The Guardian   3 comments

The Guardian

If looks could kill.

While kayaking along the Silver River in Florida, we encountered our first group of wild monkeys, the backstory of which you can learn in Shelter from the Storm.

The monkeys weren’t hard to spot. The mother and child seen in “Shelter…” were sitting on a cypress stump near the water. Just on the other side of the large cypress tree, this alpha male was standing guard against the onslaught of other members of the troop. Just behind him, in the woods, there was a cacophony of howling and screeching as monkeys chased each other through the trees. It seemed more serious than just play. I don’t know what the problem was, but there was clearly upset in the tribe deeper in the woods.

Meanwhile, the male’s attention was drawn to a number of colorful boats approaching from the river. Threats all around.

He kept a careful watch on the mother and child. If a rambunctious member of the troop got too close, he’d climb up on a flexible downed tree, bouncing up and down while grunting his warnings. The other monkeys seemed to respect that, and kept their distance.

As did we. This guy gave me a look, so I backed… away… slowly…


Handheld from the kayak, ISO400, f/6.3, 1/250s, 210mm

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So I’ll Follow the Sun   4 comments

So I'll Follow the Sun

Despite being on the road in Florida for almost two weeks, the winter weather dictated that we would get only one kayak paddle trip. Fortunately, the Silver River was loaded with wildlife of all sorts.

Passing by one of the many downed trees along the way, we spotted a primordial procession of turtles leaves the water, seeking the warmth of the sunshine. Given that we were bundled up against the cold north wind, it seemed like a good idea.


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Redneck Topiary   6 comments

A forest line covered in kudzu, in rural North Carolina

Redneck Topiary -- © 2011 Rob Hanson Photography, All Rights Reserved

The other day, we were cruising around some back roads when we ran into this stunning display of ‘Redneck Topiary.’ Can you spot the pretty elephant?

Let’s see: Soybeans in the foreground, oak forest in the background, and everything along the edge is covered in kudzu. Kudzu, a vine plant imported from the Far East, has been called, “The Vine That Ate The South.” Sure, it probably seemed like a good idea at the time, but killing or controlling the overgrowth is nearly impossible. If you stand still for about an hour, the vines would likely wrap around your ankles.


For those following the story of Grace, she dropped her bunny seeds into the den in the hay bale a few days ago. I’ll have to check to see how long the little ones den up before they come out for their final feeding.  Grace tends to call them out of the nest for one last home-cooked meal before sending them out on their own. It’s always a delight to watch the kids foray out for their first trip into the big world. It’s both comical and chaotic.


And a special thanks to all my friends who gave my HDR Processing Techniques tutorial a bump last week. The response has been incredible, with many new views and countless new subscribers to my YouTube channel. Consider that the hour-long video is absolutely free and contains a few tips and tricks that many have found useful, I just wanted to get the word out about its presence, and you all came through for me.  Many, many thanks!

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Family Snapshot   7 comments

Two adults and a foal, the wild ponies of Shackleford Banks, Cape Lookout, North Carolina

Family Snapshot

I was going to lead off today with a different image from our kayak trip to Cape Lookout, but the wild ponies of Shackleford Banks keep calling to me today.

Just a few feet away from the male featured in Bad Hair Day, were these two adults keeping a close watch over the young’n. They never let her stray too far from the herd, and usually kept her positioned between adults.

I’m not sure what it is that draws us so much to babies, whether it’s ponies, puppies, people, or elephants. Is it just the cuteness factor? A sense of innocence and wonder? Perhaps there’s a certain freshness and playfulness to them, but I can never seem to get enough. I snapped quite a number of frames of this group and the foal as they walked toward and along the beach, disappearing into the sand dunes.

Hand-held single frame from Nikon D7000 with Nikkor 70-300mm lens at 300mm, ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/500s

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Topaz InFocus: When Pelicans Drink Red Bull   1 comment

A pelican splashes furiously in the waters off Cape Lookout, Harkers Island, North Carolina

Is it coincidence then that Red Bull’s slogan is, “It gives you wings?”

As the sun sets over the waters near Cape Lookout, NC, hundreds of pelicans converge on a small island we’ve come to know as ‘Bird Island’, although I don’t know if it has an official name. The pelicans take this time to socialize, bathe their wings (which is what this guy is doing), and burp fish.

Get splashed by viewing this larger. Click the image to open it in a new window.


A few elements were used to draw out this picture, taken from a single exposure. Nik’s Color Efex Pro was used to provide the warmth of the splashing water, along with a slight vignette on the background. The real star of this, though, was the new Topaz InFocus plug-in for Photoshop, which helped to sharpen up the background pelicans. After addressing those guys in a separate layer, another tweak with Topaz InFocus provided the water splashes with a real punch that reminds me of welding sparks.

You can find out more about Topaz InFocus on a recent blog entry, here.

An oft-asked question seems to be, “How does Topaz InFocus differ from Topaz Detail?” Ashley Robinson from Topaz Labs answers that question:

“InFocus is a new sharpening plug-in that offers users a comprehensive solution for reducing image blur, restoring image clarity and sharpening image detail. InFocus uses advanced deconvolution technology that actually reverses image blur, unlike most other sharpening solutions that only increase the perception of sharpness. In addition, the micro-contrast detail enhancement in InFocus can subtlety enhance fine details. InFocus can be used as a pre-processing sharpener, if you are trying to rescue a somewhat blurry or motion blurred image, or a post-processing sharpener, if your goal is to refine and add definition to your image.
Topaz InFocus also includes a convenient blur estimation tool to help contend with complex and unknown blur types.

“Topaz Detail, on the other hand, is a detail enhancement plug-in, designed to bring out image detail using micro and macro adjustments. It allows for intricate and selective detail enhancement allowing users to bring out varying levels of image detail – without creating halos or edge artifacts. Topaz Detail is going to render more natural looking enhancements with more precision and more options for making those detailed adjustments. In addition to selectively enhancing small, medium and large image detail, users can also selectively remove detail as well.”

I was recently asked by a reader whether or not Topaz InFocus would have a place in my workflow. Absolutely, or I wouldn’t be recommending it here. Plus, at the introductory price of $29 or so, it’s a great deal (enter the code “supersharp” on checkout.)  The best part about the plug-in is that if all or part of your image is just a touch out of focus, InFocus can bring it back nicely, and if it’s not going to work on an image, you’ll know it right away. I have found that InFocus is a bit ‘touchy’, as it is very easy to push the detail recovery over the edge, creating large artifacts, only some of which can be addressed by the InFocus “Suppress Artifacts” slider. I think that part of this comes from an old habit of “slammin’ sliders” all the way to one side or the other to see where a filter takes us (think: Photomatix Pro), but the sliders on Topaz products tend to be much more sensitive to small changes. Once you have experienced this difference, you learn to control things more carefully. Then, you store those changes as a preset.

As Ashley writes above, Topaz Detail is a feature-rich and intricate program for making detailed adjustments; Topaz InFocus provides a method for cleaning up blur either before or after further processing.

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