Daniel Dietrich: Blog http://www.danieldietrichphotography.com/blog en-us (C) Daniel Dietrich (Daniel Dietrich) Mon, 06 Mar 2017 04:47:00 GMT Mon, 06 Mar 2017 04:47:00 GMT http://www.danieldietrichphotography.com/img/s7/v156/u577332137-o1072255764-50.jpg Daniel Dietrich: Blog http://www.danieldietrichphotography.com/blog 96 120 Poor Journalism Putting our Wildlife at Risk http://www.danieldietrichphotography.com/blog/2016/12/poor-journalism-putting-our-wildlife-at-risk Coyote Pounce I wonder when the San Francisco Chronicle will finally stop allowing misguided, inaccurate and unscientific journalism to reach its audience. His latest article follows others in the recent past where the author, Tom Stienstra, vilifies mountain lions and coyotes as pet dog and cat killers.

In his most recent article, “Night vision camera catches coyote stalking house cat”, he captures an image of a house cat on a trail cam near his cabin. Some time later (I am sure at least many hours or else he would have jumped on the opportunity to say “seconds later” or “minutes later”) he captures an image of a coyote. THIS is his evidence that a coyote is stalking a house cat.

Days later he captures another image of a coyote, saying, “The coyote scampered left to right, its nose to the snow, following the [house cat’s] footprints, trail and scent of the house cat.”

I am amazed at the detailed behavioral conclusions he was able to confidently gain from a blurry night time trail camera image.

Then he talks of a Fish and Wildlife report on depredation permit killings of 83 mountain lions. He says that 52% of these mountain lions had cats or dogs in their stomachs. This is COMPLETELY false. I have seen this very report. There is not ONE SINGLE mention of cats or dogs in the entire report. It states domestic animals, which includes cattle, sheep, pigs, and every other non-wild animal on the planet. Falsely saying the contents were cats and dogs is convenient for his agenda and wildly inaccurate.

Lastly in the article, he states he walked a 5 mile radius and saw no daytime rabbits, one squirrel and lots of coyote tracks, making him wonder what the coyote were eating. Based on the tone of his article, I can only guess his conclusion was that because he didn’t see any animals on his walk, coyotes must be feasting on pet cats and dogs. Very scientific.

It is this type of journalism that puts our native wildlife at risk. It spreads fear based on emotion. And when this emotional fear reaches the desk of policy makers, it only means bad things for our wildlife.

Here is the link to the article. I hate sharing it but it is important for us to all see and share our displeasure with this type of writing.
http://www.sfchronicle.com/outdoors/article/In-the-night-coyote-stalks-house-cat-10802376.php#photo-12064886

For those interested in the previous article the author wrote titled, "Study finds mountain lions are feasting on house pets" in which 'house pets', dogs or cats are never mentioned in the study, here is the link to that story:
http://www.sfgate.com/outdoors/article/Study-finds-mountain-lions-are-feasting-on-house-6829205.php

And here is the actual report from Fish and Wildlife that makes no mention to house pets, dogs or cats in its entirity.
http://sfwildlife.com/2015_Mountain_Lion_DP_Report.pdf

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(Daniel Dietrich) Tom Stienstra coyote journalism mountain lion responsibility san francisco chronicle wildlife http://www.danieldietrichphotography.com/blog/2016/12/poor-journalism-putting-our-wildlife-at-risk Fri, 23 Dec 2016 02:57:49 GMT
Speed Literally Kills http://www.danieldietrichphotography.com/blog/2016/8/speed-literally-kills This blog post doesn't have any photos associated with it. The photos I would include would make this story much sadder than it already is.  We all hate seeing dead animals on the side of the road. But those feelings go from sadness to rage when you see an animal killed by a reckless driver.

Sunrise. My favorite time to be in the park; a park that has 10 million people within striking distance of it and sees 2.5 million visitors a year. Yet every sunrise I am out there alone. I can go anywhere, to any lookout, to any of my favorite animal viewing locations and be alone. On this particular morning I set off with my cameras at the ready, sipping my piping hot coffee on the drive in. Within 30 seconds of turning onto Sir Francis Drake Blvd, the main artery into the park, I am being tailgated by a car that I recognize. I step on the gas slightly to reach the speed limit of 35 MPH and continue my drive. The tailgater does the same, keeping the same tiny distance from the back of my car.

When I reach a reasonable place to take my right tires onto the shoulder, the car rockets by me as if to tell me to take my Sunday morning drive somewhere else. It's not the first time this has happened to me in the park. In fact, it happens often. I always wonder what the hurry could possibly be entering a National Park.

I take the next few curves at 20 MPH, driving by a feeding great blue heron and a great white egret on the side of Drakes Estero. As I round the next corner I see the tailgater in the distance, continuing their race to the finish line. Then 100 yards in front of me, I see a dead animal in the road. It is a sight I see too often, but I understand that this is part of the world we live in. Typically when I encounter a scene like this, I pull over and remove the carcass from the road to prevent any other animals that would feed on it from becoming victims themselves. I do so here.

As I get out of my car, I see it is a coyote pup. This isn't an animal victim I see often and my heart sinks. As I get closer to the carcass, I see the fresh wound in its head pumping blood onto the road. I watch the blood puddle grow and then begin its river toward the shoulder. My eyes well up with tears.

I pulled the coyote pup from the road and laid her well off the shoulder. I couldn't help but look back up the road wondering if my tailgater friend, now well out of sight, has made it to their destination on time.

This is the third coyote pup that has been killed by drivers in the last 2 weeks alone. Last month there was a badger killed by a car. Last year I watched an elk with a broken back trying to drag itself from passing cars. All of these deaths are preventable. Please. Slow down.

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(Daniel Dietrich) animals coyote point reyes road kill speed speeding wildlife http://www.danieldietrichphotography.com/blog/2016/8/speed-literally-kills Tue, 09 Aug 2016 14:53:35 GMT
A man with patience vs men not giving a s*it http://www.danieldietrichphotography.com/blog/2016/5/patience-vs-not-giving-a-s-it

This week I witnessed one of the most disrespectful displays of wildlife ‘photography’ to date. While the baiting of owls is high on my list, at least some of the photographers who I know that bait still care about wildlife. The gentlemen I saw on this day don’t even deserve to have cameras.

I went to a great horned owl nest twice last week. The first time I found a gentleman there with a pretty basic setup. He was just standing there, camera pointed at the nest, waiting patiently. He was set up in a place I would have chosen myself if he was not there. I set up nearby. We caught eyes and exchanged a pleasant hello. He had been there for 4 hours. He had been there the day before. And the day before. And the SIX years prior watching this nest. A patient, passionate and kind gentleman who put the animals first.

During our chat, 4 men with 600mm lenses and geared out to the max came crashing into the scene. They set up with the quietness of a freight train. The first whistled loudly at the sleeping owlets. The second began an aggressive hoot to wake them up. The third clapped his hands wildly. The fourth set up literally at the base of the tree and was shooting nearly straight up at them.

They shot for literally 5 minutes and left as abruptly as they arrived.

I sat there literally jaw dropped. I was absolutely astonished. I couldn’t believe these ‘photographers’ could care so little for the subjects they were photographing, let alone the photographer who had been standing there for 4 hours.

What will it take for us to finally respect the animals we share this earth with? These are small examples of our disrespect when compared with the massive environmental issues that are literally wiping out our wildlife worldwide.  But why can’t we at least as individuals do our part to protect this amazing gift we have in our natural world?

 

 
 
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(Daniel Dietrich) Alberta Wildlife alberta great horned owl owlet photography wildlife http://www.danieldietrichphotography.com/blog/2016/5/patience-vs-not-giving-a-s-it Wed, 04 May 2016 02:14:11 GMT
Death of an Osprey http://www.danieldietrichphotography.com/blog/2016/4/death-of-an-osprey I visit Point Reyes National Seashore nearly every day. Many of my trips into the park are with visitors who want to see the amazing diversity of wildlife this place has to offer. On days I am not with visitors, I visit on my own. I visit so often because I have a connection with this National Seashore that is hard to explain. I've seen hundreds of bobcats. Do I NEED to see one more? Yes. Every time I see one, it brings me the same feeling as when I saw my very first. It reminds me how lucky I am to live here. It reinforces that the happiest things in my life come from what I see, not what I buy.

The park is always changing. Elephant seals share our beaches. Whales migrate through our backyard. Elegant terns feed their babies here. But there is one animal whose return to Point Reyes each year I look forward to more than any other, the Osprey. Their return marks a new season. They create a spark for me. Their hunting style, their call, their dedication, their persistence all make them one of my favorite birds to photograph. 

There is a pretty famous osprey nest in Point Reyes. It is on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard just as you enter the park. It sits on top of a massive dead tree. The nest is huge from its many years of use, each season getting a remodel from the returning birds. I look at it on every trip into and out of the park. It starts and ends each trip for me. I have spent dozens of hours sitting on the hillside across the street from it, watching and photographing the action each year it is used. It isn't used every year, but late February of this year, the pair of osprey chose the nest and settled in. 

For weeks they brought in sticks to shore up the nest. They brought in lichen to fill in the gaps. The pair copulated on the nest frequently. The male would fly in fish to feed his mate regularly. They were well on their way to a successful nesting season.

But in the blink of an eye, everything changed. On my way out of the park one evening, there was a huge vacancy in the sky as I dropped down Ottingers Hill. At first, I couldn't figure it out. My mind was seemingly playing tricks on me. How did I miss the nest? I pulled a U-turn and went back up the hill. On the way back down, reality set in. The nest was gone.

I parked on the side of the road and looked up. The pair of Osprey were sitting in a nearby tree chirping (crying?). Where was the nest? There was only one explanation, the wind blew it down. Right? I walked into the woods and couldn't believe my eyes. The tree laid in chainsawed pieces on the ground, the osprey nest scattered down the hillside.

I was furious. Two osprey sat in a tree above me vocalizing over the scene that laid below them. What could have possibly be going through THEIR minds?

I spent the better part of a week searching for answers. I called US Fish and Wildlife Services, US Division of Wildlife, PG&E, and the many friends I thought would be interested in what happened. After all the redirects, form emails, links to PG&Es commitment to wildlife, I finally got my answer.

PG&E dropped the tree, with the osprey nest and their eggs still in it.

PG&E told me they did not have a specific permit for the removal of this tree, but did so under their general use permit. They sited the emergency situations this general permit covered. Their example, "If a nest is on fire on the top of a utility pole." They also told me they had a biological monitor on site, who suspected there WERE eggs in the nest. Yet they cut it down anyway.

This tree withstood 2 MAJOR storms this spring. Dozens of trees came down in these storms. This one did not. Why, PG&E? Why? The osprey were in South America for 6 months prior to their return. Why did you wait for the osprey pair to return, build their nest, and lay their eggs before destroying their home? Even if this was legal (though I content it is a major violation of the migratory bird act), how can you consciously, morally and ethically make this decision? I am beyond nauseated at this decision.

The case is now under investigation through the US F&WS. While politics as usual may likely be the outcome as it is in so many cases of gross violations like this, I hold out hope that the person in charge of the investigation will make a strong statement on the behalf of wildlife.

 

UPDATE: Those that are interested can contact USF&WS at the address, phone or email below. Those that would like to contact PG&E can do so at the contact information on their website. For everyone who is upset as I am at this event, perhaps our comments can be firm but constructive. Perhaps we can ask PG&E to fund a new osprey site with a camera so the community can watch a new nest be built, or some similar positive act in our calls/emails to them.

US Fish and Wildlife Service
Migratory Bird Permit Office
2800 Cottage Way, Room W-2606
Sacramento, CA 95825

916-414-6464
lawenforcement@fws.gov

PG&E
http://www.pge.com/en/about/environment/pge/stewardship/birds/index.page

CA Dept of Fish and Wildlife hotline:

888-334-2258

UPDATE 4/12/16: 

Thank you to all who have showed their support and have commented. Sorry I can't reply directly to them all, but I have read each and every one of them and those with suggestions I have taken seriously. Thank you.

I had a call with PG&E today. They are in favor of erecting a new nest platform. The park (Point Reyes National Seashore), the Golden Gate Bird Observatory and others will be involved in the process. We will discuss a suitable location and logistics of doing so. I am suggesting that they include a camera on the platform so the community can watch the progress of any birds that will use it.

I spoke with USFWS as well. They will continue their investigation as to whether or not the law was broken. In my mind, it is clear. An egg was destroyed when a tree was taken down during active nesting in a non-emergency situation. I am not sure how it can be seen any differently. We'll see how the investigation goes and I will keep everyone posted.

Thank you again for your support. 

Daniel

 

 

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(Daniel Dietrich) PG&E Point Reyes National Seashore active nest eggs migration nesting osprey point reyes power safari tomales bay wildlife http://www.danieldietrichphotography.com/blog/2016/4/death-of-an-osprey Sat, 09 Apr 2016 19:42:16 GMT
Supplemental Feeding? Professional Hides? Ethical Baiting? Come on! http://www.danieldietrichphotography.com/blog/2016/2/supplemental-feeding-professional-hides-ethical-baiting-come-on Great Grey OwlImage captured without the use of bait, lures or calls.

The more time I spend in the world of professional wildlife photography, the more I am wowed. There is some serious talent out there. But at the same time, I find reason to be very disappointed in the actions of many 'professionals'. I chose this field first and foremost for my love of nature. It has been a part of my existence for as long as I can remember. Summers spent in campgrounds flipping rocks looking for crayfish and salamanders, counting birds on trips, who in the family could find the first animal on any given road trip. And of course the all the nature magazines and TV shows, most notably National Geographic and Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom. The images and footage was breathtaking. It made me want to see these things with my own eyes.

As I have blogged about in the past, I have found that so many of the amazing images we see today are setups. They are shot under controlled situations with trained animals. They are shot with bait, where the photographer puts out live mice or a dead deer to lure in owls and wolves. Today, as the great bait debate continues, a new vocabulary is being used. Not surprisingly, it is being used by those that bait. They call it 'Supplemental Feeding'. And the locations they are shooting from are 'Professional Hides'.

Let's look at Supplemental Feeding first. There is no doubt animals have it hard these days. We've cut down their forests, we've paved their grasslands, we've filled in their wetlands. I am the first person who wants animals to endure as little hardship as possible. But feeding them for photography does not help. Photographers will hide behind the term 'Supplemental Feeding' to justify their baiting of the animal for photography. They say they are feeding a starving animal. They say they've found dead owls that they could have saved with some supplemental feeding.

I'd like to understand how many photographers have the skill to look at an owl in a tree and make the determination that the animal is starving. After making this amazing visual determination they can then place a mouse out in the snow to feed the owl, and photograph it as it swoops in for the rodent. How kind of them. If they determine one is NOT starving, do they carry on to the next owl to similarly evaluate its health before deciding to bait and photograph it?

I'd also like to know if their supplemental feeding only on the occasions where convenient for their photography is the right amount of feeding to ensure their safety and survival. If they were so concerned, wouldn't they be feeding it a consistent amount of food on a consistent schedule? It is funny how the feeding only seems to coincide with their photography schedule and perfect light.

Professional Hides. They are indeed hides, but I question the use of the word professional. This is where hides are placed in a set location and bait is laid out in a field or on a tree in an effort to lure the animals close enough to the hide for photography. The catch here is, the bait is often the sacrificed life of an animal such as a deer. I have also heard of sugar snacks for bears, rodents for raptors, and even the use of dog food. 

While the hides may conceal the photographers from the animals, the end result is still habituation. These animals fall into a specific pattern of behavior, drawing them to the same location week after week. While these hides are typically on private land, the animal's patterns can easily be ascertained and hunters, trappers or others with ulterior motives can easily take the animal the second they step off the private land.

This doesn't even take into account the lives of the animals being killed to use for bait.

Wildlife has a hard enough time surviving in today's resource stripping world. Why would we only make it harder on them trying to satisfy our own selfish motives? We can say we are helping starving animals. We can say we are acting in the animals best interest. We can say our hides keep the animals from being habituated. But in the end, these terms and actions only satisfy our own greed. Supplemental feeding, professional hides and 'ethical baiting' have no place in the world of Nature Photography. 

Barn Owl in FlightImage captured without the use of bait, lures or calls. ]]>
(Daniel Dietrich) bait baiting hides hunting owls photography safaris shot the wildlife wolf wolves http://www.danieldietrichphotography.com/blog/2016/2/supplemental-feeding-professional-hides-ethical-baiting-come-on Fri, 12 Feb 2016 21:56:14 GMT
One-Upmanship http://www.danieldietrichphotography.com/blog/2015/12/one-upmanship Barn Owl in FlightA barn owl flies through a pine forest in Point Reyes National Seashore.

It's natural. You see an amazing shot of a wild animal doing something unique. You are wowed. You think about that shot and how you would be able to get something similar. But in today's photography world, things are different. It is more competitive. Capturing what someone else has just captured is not enough. It has to be better. Why?

Social media has obviously changed things in a big way. We chase likes, comments and shares. We chase retweets and page views. It is an indicator of our 'success'. Social media has put a currency on those measurements, and we have to be bigger, better, faster to reach those higher levels.

But it is not just social media. The big nature companies, their magazines, newspapers, websites and photo contests have created a whole new demand for one-upmanship. And photographers are responding in a way that puts wildlife in danger. What was once creativity is now yielding to compromised ethics. What was once patience is now yielding to the 'how do we get the shot quickly and move on." What was once wild is now captive.

Those that know me know I am opposed to feeding wildlife for photography. But it is the way many photographers are responding to meet this increased pressure and demand by those that publish these images. Photographers are purchasing pet store mice and throwing them to owls to get their shots. It is so successful that "Snowy Owl Workshops" are popping up all over the world. A guide buys dozens of mice, takes a half dozen photographers who pay thousands of dollars for the workshop out into the field, they throw the mice out to the owls and the photographers get the money shot of an owl grabbing the prey. The market is now SO saturated with these images, that the once EPIC scene caught on film by a patient photographer is now a dime a dozen. Most of these images you see now are baited. It is a rare photo of an owl flying at you that is captured through patience and persistence. 

A recent "Wolf Photography Workshop" just popped up. In the description of the workshop it talks about how amazed you will be when you watch the wolf approach the deer. My assumption is if you are in a blind for a workshop and a wolf approaches a deer, it is a dead deer that was placed there by the workshop leaders. So now we are killing deer and putting it in a field so we can get a picture of a wolf?

This is just the tip of the iceberg. It isn't bad enough we chum the water to draw in great whites for photography. Now boats pull rubber seals along the top of the water to get sharks to breach while chasing them. I've heard cases of feral cats and bunnies being tied to trees and injured to bring in animals for photography. The list goes on and on.

So how does this play out for the next generation of photographers? I am very fearful for them. Right now, the pressure on them is enormous. They see the images taken by today's professionals and feel they have to do one better. They have to be more creative than the unethical photographer. Perhaps that barrier to entry is too high for the ethical photographer. Perhaps we will loose out on a generation of photograhers who truly care, who are patient and persistent, who really want to capture nature as it unfolds without influence. The next generation of photographers may only be after one-upmanship and will do whatever it takes to make it.

My hope is there is a reversal of this trend. My hope is the next generation of photographers are rewarded for their ethical choices. My desire is for the big magazines to stop rewarding the unethical photographer by not considering printing images they capture using bait. My hope is that photo contests disqualify entries that are have been captured using unethical means. And my hope is that the public becomes more aware and educated on this topic. This way we can stop wowing, liking, sharing and retweeting images we know have been captured in a way that puts our wildlife in danger.

 

 

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(Daniel Dietrich) baiting ethics photography point reyes safari wildlife workshop http://www.danieldietrichphotography.com/blog/2015/12/one-upmanship Mon, 07 Dec 2015 18:59:54 GMT
Death and a Bobcat http://www.danieldietrichphotography.com/blog/2015/10/death-and-a-bobcat Sometimes strange things happen. Like this morning. 

My wife's father passed away last week after a tough battle with cancer. We were all there in Missouri for his last days, something everyone will be so thankful to have had as the healing process begins.

I flew back home late last night. I struggled north on 101 and through the craziness that is driving in San Francisco. I finally hit the redwood trees of Samual P. Taylor State Park. That is when my healing began. There is something about this place I get to call home. The redwoods, the ocean, the animals, all of it. How lucky I am.

Then, the strange thing happened. I went to bed at 1am, hoping for a late morning sleep. I was up at 6:30am. In my car in the dark, heading into the National Seashore. Why, I don't know. I needed sleep more than seeing another bobcat. But there I was. 10 minutes later I found myself parked below the tree I told my wife I wanted my ashes to be spread under when I passed. A place I have sat 50 times, probably more. I looked up at the tree and staring back at me was a bobcat.

Chills ran down my spine and my hair stood up. My normal reaction is to get my camera ready. But I never reached for it. I just sat there staring at it. It staring at me. Who knows how much time passed. Maybe 15 minutes. Maybe more. But I felt a calm come over me. So much so that I closed my eyes. My thoughts turned to day dreams. And when I opened my eyes, he was gone.

I sat for 15 more minutes. Thinking. I felt good. I felt happy. I felt home. 

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(Daniel Dietrich) bobcat point reyes national seashore safari http://www.danieldietrichphotography.com/blog/2015/10/death-and-a-bobcat Wed, 28 Oct 2015 04:43:42 GMT
"Do I REALLY need you?" http://www.danieldietrichphotography.com/blog/2015/9/do-i-really-need-you
 

I recently received a phone call from a possible safari guest. She asked me my new favorite question: "Do I REEEEALLY need you to see bobcats in the park?"
 


 

I appreciate the direct approach. Let's not beat around the bush. Let's just put it out there and get on with things. While it may be a rather direct question to ask a guide, I take no offence to it. In fact, I think it provides me with an opportunity.
 


 

I am truly lucky. As much as I love spending time in nature alone shooting wildlife, I am equally excited to take people out to do the same. There is an incredible thrill in helping people see their first ever bobcat. Their excitement only heightens the already adrenaline pumping experience for me. I truly feel the same excitement each time I see one as I did seeing my very first. It is an experience you never forget. I am so lucky I am able to experience that feeling most days I go out on safari.
 


 

But do you really NEED me? The answer is...I don't know. That is a really hard question to answer. I suppose it depends on how badly you want to see one. Bobcats are scattered throughout the park. They are there to be found. Perhaps the question is best answered with a question. "Can YOU find them?"
 


 

I don't think I have ever seen a bobcat simply cross the road in front of me. Nearly every time I find a bobcat, I am specifically looking for one. They rarely just 'show up'. I stop at places I have seen them in the past. I watch from hillsides I know have lots of gophers in them. I wait in places I know they den. It takes time, it takes patience, and it takes knowledge. I've been watching bobcats frequently for several years now. And I see them about 75% of the time I spend a day in the park.
 


 

So the decision to hire a guide or not is truly up to you. If you put the time in, if you are patient, if you learn their habitat and habits, I am sure you'd have luck in finding them. That is exactly how I got to the place I am today. From the images in this post, you can see it isn't always easy.
 

While there are never any guarantees in spotting wildlife, a little experience can go a long way.
 


 


 

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(Daniel Dietrich) animals guides photography safari wildilfe http://www.danieldietrichphotography.com/blog/2015/9/do-i-really-need-you Tue, 15 Sep 2015 04:42:43 GMT
Free Photos - Just Ask http://www.danieldietrichphotography.com/blog/2015/8/free-photos---just-ask Point Reyes BobcatUnique behavior like this bobcat on a fence post drives requests for its usage.
 

I am not the first photographer to write about this. Nor will I be the last. Many call it an 'issue'. I'm not sure what to call it. But it is a growing event happening more and more frequently. Photographers are being asked if they will donate their work for free. Should they? There are widely varying opinions on this subject. Here's mine.
 

Several years ago, I left a very good paying career to purse photography. I did so willingly. I did so feeling confident I could find my niche. I truly felt my life would be enriched, more fulfilling and more meaningful if I focused my efforts on wildlife and conservation. And it has been. I live in one of the most amazing places in the country, Point Reyes National Seashore. I spend my days searching for and photographing the wonderful animals and scenery that surround my home.
 

But it isn't easy to earn a living doing so. I'll spare you the long list. Let's just say, diapers are a large percentage of my bottom line.
 

When I started this new career, it was immediate. As soon as I began capturing unique moments in the park, the requests started coming in. As I established myself in this profession and in this area, I was asked by many, many organizations, companies and individuals if I would donate images to their causes. The most common sentence to follow was, "We'll totally give you credit for your image." I was torn. I was torn between trying to 'do good', and trying to earn money to even BE IN this profession.
 

I learned rather quickly that a decent income from taking pictures and selling them was not it. I started Point Reyes Safaris, a wildlife viewing and photographic safari company which takes small groups of people into the National Park to view and photograph wildlife. Within weeks of launching, I was being asked if I would donate safaris to various organizations for their fund raising efforts.
 

 
 

Many photographers are very insulted at the request to donate images or services. I don't get too upset by it. But I agree with many of them on their reasons why. Images are not free to us. We invest a significant amount of time, money and energy into a skill that allows us to create that image. Just because an image was taken a year ago and is backed up in the cloud, doesn't all of the sudden make it a free item. And giving credit for the use of an image is NEVER compensation for the work that went into creating it. Would it seem funny if I had an amazing set of pictures and asked an author to write a book surrounding the images for which I'd give him credit? Is it appropriate to ask a painter to paint me a picture for free and I'll tell everyone who comes in my home they painted it? Of course not.
 

Here is a great live case study. This is likely my most 'successful' image to date. I took this image in Alaska a couple years ago on a trip with my brother. I paid for a plane ticket to Anchorage, then another plane ticket to Lake Clark. Then accommodations, food, rental car, the list goes on. Combine this with the thousands and thousands of dollars I've spent on my equipment. I returned home with this amazing image, "Waving Bear". It has gone viral since posting it. 150K likes in one day on Instagram. It was on Yahoo's homepage. Yet I have been asked to donate the image more times than the number of sales it has produced, all parties saying they would provide me with 'exposure' as my compensation. As it sits now, there are 35 PAGES (not 35 sites) on Google that are illegally using my and my brother's image of this bear. This image doesn't need exposure. It needs sales (and a good lawyer).
 

Perhaps it doesn't bother me as much as it may be hypocritical. I recently asked an optics company if they were interested in sponsoring my safari company. I have many photographers and birders join me on safari and ask me which binocular brand I use and like best. Hypocritical?  I've purchased several of their products for my existing business. So I don't feel it is necessarily a freebie ask. Perhaps it is an opportunity for a company to gain exposure. Maybe not. But I did ask. And those that ask me may feel the same.
 

So I struggle with this topic. I want to support good organizations. And I do. I've shared 1000s of images with organizations I feel very connected to. I've donated my time to photograph events for organizations I feel fight worthy causes. But there has to be a limit. When I do receive a request from an organization I have no relationship with, no contacts at, have had no prior conversations with, it does feel funny that the initial conversations has them asking for a free $500 safari. My suggestion to these organizations is to establish some relationship with the photographer. Find a mutually beneficial foundation to put your ask upon. Maybe you can offer access to a place this photographer wouldn't get otherwise. Maybe you can pay to publish some of their work in your magazine. If there is a budget for a project, perhaps you can offer some monetary compensation no matter how small.
 

I want to make this my final career. I want to help organizations raise visibility for their causes. And I want organizations to use the images they feel best advances them. You will always have access to free photos. You can always license very cheap photos from stock websites. But if you find an image from a photographer that you find exceptional, that you find moving, that you find would benefit your organization, consider purchasing it. Consider some offer that the photographer will find as rewarding as you find the value of that image for your organization. Most importantly, consider 'photo credit' as a very bad place to start.
 

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(Daniel Dietrich) causes conservation free photos non-profit photography http://www.danieldietrichphotography.com/blog/2015/8/free-photos---just-ask Thu, 13 Aug 2015 00:48:16 GMT
Baiting In Your National Park http://www.danieldietrichphotography.com/blog/2015/6/baiting-in-your-national-park Well, it finally happened. While I knew otherwise, I hoped this was something that happened within a known group of unethical photographers. I hoped it was unique to a few specific locations. I wished it was contained to a few places and a few people. But it isn't. I knew it wasn't. I had just really hoped. Last week, in Point Reyes National Seashore, I found two gentlemen using what I believe to be dead rodents to lure in birds of prey for photography.

Baiting of animals for photography isn't anything new. It has been going on for decades. I was sad to learn that some of my favorite wildlife shows in the 70s, where I watched my favorite animals chase down their meals, were setups. But today it is at its peak. More and more animal photos that you see in photo contest, on magazine covers and in galleries, are of animals that were teased, lured and baited into the scene you are admiring.

Last week I was watching peregrine falcons dance in the sky. The fledglings had only been out of the nest for a couple weeks, but their acrobatics and skill in the air was as if they had been flying a lifetime. They chased each other, their parents and anything that came within a half mile of them. It was a thrilling evening.


 

Upon walking back to my car, I noticed 2 gentlemen standing on the side of the trail. They had their cameras fixed into the grass off trail. I wondered what they were shooting. So I took my long lens to my face to get a closer look. One moved into the bushes and retrieved something. I snapped a photo, clearly seeing something in his hand. He moved it to a rock that seemed to have more clearing around it than its previous location.

I watched for a short while, then continued walking down the trail. When they noticed me, the gentleman quickly retrieved what he had placed on the rock and slid it into his pocket, shielding it as he noticed I was watching him through my camera. When I reached the 2 gentlemen, I spoke in a very gentle, non-confrontational tone, and simply said, "I am not sure if you know, but it is illegal to bait animals in the park. I don't work for the park, nor am I in any way trying to lecture you. I am only speaking as one photographer to another, just letting you know."

My comment was met with, "Don't you worry about us and what we are doing." My response was calm again, "Well, I did see you retrieve what looked like a dead rodent. So if you are baiting animals in this National Park, I do worry about what you are doing."

After a short conversation, they were happy to see me move on my way. The entire walk back to my car, I was totally bummed. A perfect evening with peregrine falcons was tainted by the thing in my profession I hate the most. Baiting.

I have blogged about this topic before. So I don't reiterate a previous blog post on this topic, you can check out the reasons I hate it so much here. I've also discussed this topic with Bay Nature and Mother Nature Network. You can read those articles on ethics in photography here and here.

When I got home, I imported the pictures to my computer. While not perfectly clear, I have every reason to believe my gut instinct. The 2 gentlemen had their cameras fixed on one specific location. They moved an object to a more clear area and refocused their cameras on the new spot. The gentleman is holding the item palm up on the end of his fingers. His quick retrieval of the item and sly concealing of it after seeing me gave him a guilty look. Their demeanor and 'mind our own business' attitude adds to the list.

 

There is only one reason that people bait. Greed. Their own selfish desires far outweigh any love they have of nature. They put animals at risk of disease, of their young being killed, of habituating them with humans, and of changing their natural behaviors, well below their personal greed. It makes me sick to be lumped in with these people who call themselves 'Nature' Photographers.

If you are purchasing an image of an amazing animal scene or voting for your favorite picture in a photo contest, be sure to ask the photographer if the image was obtained naturally without the photographer's influence. If you subscribe to magazines that promote or give prizes to images that were obtained through baiting, cancel them. I suspect everyone reading this blog post would be very unhappy if they learned the owl image they have hanging on their wall was obtained by a 'photographer' throwing it a mouse he purchased from a pet store.

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(Daniel Dietrich) Point Reyes baiting nature photography http://www.danieldietrichphotography.com/blog/2015/6/baiting-in-your-national-park Wed, 17 Jun 2015 15:00:00 GMT
Experimenting With Elk http://www.danieldietrichphotography.com/blog/2015/4/experimenting-with-elk Tule Elk grazing on historic D Ranch

The controversy surrounding the elk in Point Reyes National Seashore gets more and more heated every day. Just about every topic that relates to them is in debate. The height of the fences, the grass they eat, the diseases they don't carry, their relocation, the water they don't have access to...the list goes on and on. But as things seem to get more and more complicated, things have suddenly become very clear to me. It is time to stop experimenting with the park's elk. ​

Sunset BugleSunset Bugle

This sudden epiphany came to me a few weeks ago. I was out watching the herd of female elk at the historic D-Ranch. I simply couldn't understand what was going on. The entire herd was up. They were all very active. Half were running around in circles. Others were literally leaping off all 4 hooves at once. Females were boxing on their back legs. What the heck was going on!? Then I saw it. There was a brand new calf in the mix. It was the first born this year. 

The calf was running toward a dozen females. Then it darted back to its mother. 3 of the females ran at the baby and its mother. The baby darted out from her mother's safety and into an open field. It spun around and then chased the 3 females. They ran as if to let the calf chase them. Others joined in on the game. Others simply hopped up and down. What I was witnessing was a celebration. The entire herd of elk was celebrating the birth of this elk calf. It was something I had never witnessed before and my mind was blown. I was so mesmerized, I didn't even take a picture. It wasn't until the mom disappeared with her calf that I even took out my camera.

I now think about the 3 elk that were recently relocated to the Limantour herd. 2 swam the mouth of the estero and returned to D ranch in less than a week. The year old female is still there, hanging out right at the edge of the boundary. She probably wants to come back too. But we interfered. We took her from her family and placed her in a foreign place, with strangers, as an experiment. Was it her sister that was just born? We decided this experiment was more important than all else. She missed the entire celebration.

Elk SunriseElk Sunrise

I attended the workshops held by the park in Point Reyes Station last year. I spent 2 days listening to all the possible solutions to the 'elk problem'. What were the proposed solutions? Contraception. Culling. Have a public hunt. Relocation. More fences. WHAT??? Seriously? How did some of these even make the list? Where was the possible solution, Do Nothing!? Where was the solution, Stop hazing the elk? Where was the solution, most people want free roaming elk in the park, how do we move in that direction? Everything I heard was another experiment with the elk. Every 'solution' I heard was another invasive experiment on the park's elk. 

In the past few weeks, over 3 dozen elk have breached the fence keeping them on Tomales Point. The park hazed the elk back behind the fence and are repairing the fence where they got through to prevent them from repeating their offence. Any thoughts given to the fact that half the elk up there have died in the past 2 years from possibly dehydration or lack of nutrition? Any thoughts that the 3 dozen elk might be thirsty or hungry?

It is more clear to me now than it ever has been in the past. It is time we stop experimenting with the elk. This is a national park. The animals are meant to be protected, free roaming, and unhazed. It is time to let elk move freely through the park to find the nutrients and water they need to prosper and survive.

It is time to consider THE ELK, and not what we should do with them.

Sounding the HornSounding the Horn

 

 

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(Daniel Dietrich) Daniel Dietrich elk limantour photography pierce point point reyes tule wildlife http://www.danieldietrichphotography.com/blog/2015/4/experimenting-with-elk Wed, 29 Apr 2015 20:19:48 GMT
Seeing versus Watching http://www.danieldietrichphotography.com/blog/2015/4/seeing-versus-watching They call it Bird "Watching", not Bird "Seeing" for a reason.

A few nights ago, I ventured on my 25 minute walk to one of my favorite spots in the park to photograph birds. Amongst the sandpipers, red tailed hawks, turkey vultures, seagulls, and even a nearby oyster catcher there is a pair of peregrine falcons. They are magnificent to watch. They can reach speeds of 200mph as they stoop toward their prey. I have photographed this pair over the course of a few seasons and have become addicted to catching these speedsters in flight.

During this time of year, you are very likely to see these amazing birds as it is nesting season. With some patience and persistence, you may even witness one of the coolest behaviors of all birds of prey. The male falcon will consume half of a meal and when done, he will call to the female. They will often meet mid-air where the male will dangle the half eaten bird from its beak and the female will swoop in and take it from him. It is truly extraordinary to watch. I have only seen it twice in my life, but with patience and persistence, I feel anyone can witness the event.

As exciting as all this is, it is not the point of this blog post. More often than not, I seem to spend most of my time watching one or both of them simply perched on the cliffs. Last week's visit was a prime example. I did the 25 minute walk and found what I believe to be the male sitting on the cliff. I was excited as I had 2.5 hours of daylight left and hoped I may catch a glimpse of this action. But it didn't happen. And because it didn't happen, I learned so much about this animal that I did not previously know.

One great example of this new learning came from watching other birds pass by. Red tailed hawks, seagulls, and turkey vultures passed by regularly at different distances. I remember a previous trip when a turkey vulture flew along the cliff face. Its distance too close for the falcon's comfort, the falcon flew off the cliff face seemingly shot from a rifle. It closed the gap on the vulture in mere seconds. You could see the terror in the vultures movements. It rolled, flapped, and jolted like it had a feather stuck in a light socket as it flailed wildly to get away.

As I continued to watch this perched falcon last week, I could truly watch it decide if it should take off in defense of its territory. It seemed he had a different tolerance for each species that flew by. At times it seemed the trespasser was just inches from the 'safe zone'. Two more inches and it seemed it would have bombed it. I watched it pick up an oncoming bird from an amazing distance. Its head followed it in. If far enough away, he'd simply watch it fly by. Too close and it would crouch as if to burst into action. I watched it happen with about 15 birds. And each reaction was slightly different than the other.

No doubt, it launching from its perch would have made for the best photo opportunity. But I truly feel I learned something very valuable. On future trips to shoot these guys, I feel I'll know the distance to be EXTRA ready for action. And in the photographing falcon business, the smallest sliver of a second can be the difference between nailing it, and missing it.

So take the opportunity to "Watch" it. Don't just "See" it. Learn a behavior over just capturing a moment. Your deeper understanding of any animal will benefit you, anyone you share your new found information with, and likely the animal itself.

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(Daniel Dietrich) Daniel Dietrich animals peregrine peregrine falcon, photography point reyes safari wildlife http://www.danieldietrichphotography.com/blog/2015/4/seeing-versus-watching Fri, 03 Apr 2015 16:00:00 GMT
The Right Place at the Right Time http://www.danieldietrichphotography.com/blog/2015/3/the-right-place-at-the-right-time A photographer was invited to a new friend's house for dinner one evening. During some small talk before dinner, the photographer was showing his new friend a handful of images from his portfolio. After 10 minutes of ohhhing and ahhhing the host exclaimed, "Wow, you must have an amazing camera!"

Later during dinner, the husband of the cook proudly boasts of his wife's lasagna, and asks the photographer if he agrees. The photographer let's out a huge, "Mmmmmmmm! Incredible! Yes! Your wife must have an amazing oven."

A little light humor to help explain a photographer's 'Luck'. Do we ever say to the painter, "Wow, you must have an amazing paint brush!" or to the sculptor, "Wow, you must have an incredible chisel. Of course I am only joking around with this topic and am never offended when someone comments on an image I share, "Lucky shot!" or "Right place, right time!" It does however create an opportunity to share with people some of the effort, patience and persistence that might go into a single 'Lucky' shot.

This was my very first image ever taken of a Great Blue Heron eating a gopher.

 

 

I had no idea heron's ate gophers. I thought they ate fish until I saw this happen. I was amazed. So I got my camera, and went to this particular place until I got this shot. And then I went back again. And again. And again. As I look at my shooting log right now, I see that I have visited this particular location over 50 times since that day.

This was the last image I took of a Great Blue Heron eating a gopher.

 

 

When I moved to the bay area in the early 90s, I had heard of people seeing bobcats at Rancho San Antonio and the Marin Headlands. I hiked those areas countless times. I of course wanted to see a bobcat, but my head swiveled at all the sights. I photographed birds, trees, the ocean, the golden gate bridge. And after each hike, I said, "Darn, no bobcats."

About three years ago, I made my mind up. I wasn't going to look for anything but bobcats on any hike in Point Reyes. I can't find a bobcat if I am looking in a tree for an owl. So that is all I did. This was one of my very first images of a bobcat in Point Reyes. Impressive, yes? It isn't on my website for sale, but if anyone wants an image of it, I can make it available. :)

 

 

This is the last image I captured of a bobcat.

 

 

My first coyote image.

 

 

My last.

 

 

Is there luck involved? Sure! Was I in the right place at the right time? Of COURSE! There is an element of luck and being in the right place at the right time involved in every shot I take. But I like to think that my luck is supplemented with a heavy dose of commitment, perseverance and patience.

 

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(Daniel Dietrich) Point Reyes Safaris animals bobcat coyote gopher great blue heron heron photography point reyes safari wildlife http://www.danieldietrichphotography.com/blog/2015/3/the-right-place-at-the-right-time Mon, 23 Mar 2015 16:00:00 GMT
"These Animals Know Me" http://www.danieldietrichphotography.com/blog/2015/2/these-animals-know-me Last Light on a BobcatLast Light on a Bobcat

People that see my frequent images of bobcats sometimes say to me, "The bobcats must really know you to be able to get these shots." While I understand why they might think that, it isn't true. There is no bobcat in the park that "knows" me. I never want an animal to get used to my presence. Any time we allow animals to become habituated to our presence, we put them at risk. The more habituated they become, the higher that risk.

It doesn't take much for an animal to become habituated. I once had a raven fly 2 feet from my car window for 2 miles as I drove. It saw something I was eating and wanted some. I stopped to take a photo and it landed right next to my car. I got back in, started driving again, and it followed me again for another mile. Do you think this guy was ever fed by humans?

Have you ever seen those adorable photos of red foxes nosing a photographer's lens? A cute photo opportunity, indeed. But there is nothing cute about a habituated fox. It is very likely this fox has been fed by humans and will end up in big trouble the next time it begs for food from the wrong person. 

We've all probably heard the saying 'a fed bear is a dead bear'. Many bears have been put down because humans have fed them so much that they completely lost their fear of people. This lack of fear then puts humans at risk. And it's the bear that ends up paying the consequences of our actions with its own life.

I have also heard of owls becoming habituated to people who use bait to photograph them. They actually recognize the car they drive. When they see the car, they fly to the nearest perch and wait for their free meal. Many habituated owls have been struck by vehicles due to this unfortunate habituation.

Concerning the bobcats I photograph, it is very rare that you simply roll up on a bobcat on the side of the road. While it happens occasionally, you can pretty much guarantee it will be off an running the second it sees you. Sometimes you see them a hundred yards away. Others you find even further away using binoculars. But in most situations, once a bobcat sees you, your next step towards it, its gone. There are of course exceptions to the rule. Some cats who live in high traffic areas can be more comfortable with people. But in general, the vast majority are very skittish.

Today's outing is a great example of how I photograph a bobcat. I was parked, scanning a hillside. After an hour of scanning I found one about 200 yards away. I watched it for several minutes to see what its intentions were. It started hunting. I watched it from the car until it crouched and focused on a target. I put a very large tree between me and the bobcat and quickly scooted up to it. Slowly peering from behind it I saw that I was directly behind the bobcat. It was uphill from me on a small plateau. I dropped to my belly and army crawled up to the next little ridge. I peered over...still behind it, still hadn't seen me.

I slipped my camera in front of my face and rested it on the little ridge. It was likely 10 minutes before I hit the shutter button for the first time. As it crawled toward its prey I finally shot. It was focused and didn't even look. It did it again. And again. 3 misses and it decided to move on, up and over the hill. I circled the hill and hid myself at a place I thought it may come out. It did. I got to watch it hunt and prowl for another 15 minutes.

The entire 30 minutes I was able to watch it, it never once saw me.

While this all went the way I wanted it to, it doesn't always happen like this. More often than not when the shutter is clicked, the bobcat will find me. If I am on my belly, and keep my face behind the camera, they will often just carry on. If I am standing, they typically hit the road quickly. That is why I like to shoot lying down when photographing bobcats. It gives me the best chance to have the longest shooting time with them. And I feel it has the least amount of impact on them.

So find the subject you love. Spend as much time with it as you can. Get to know its habits, get to know its movements, get to know the signals it puts out before it does something. But don't let it get to know you.

 

 

The below image of me was taken by fellow photographer and friend Carlos Porrata. It is of me capturing the image below that of a bobcat hunting in the brush in Point Reyes National Seashore. This bobcat never saw me during the time I was able to photograph him.

 

 

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(Daniel Dietrich) Daniel Dietrich bobcat photography point reyes safari wild wildlife http://www.danieldietrichphotography.com/blog/2015/2/these-animals-know-me Tue, 10 Feb 2015 21:49:15 GMT
Lessons in Shooting Bobcats http://www.danieldietrichphotography.com/blog/2015/1/bobcatmoment I was struck hard by my time in the field today. Something happened. Something clicked inside me. It wasn't like I got the shot of a lifetime, or that I saw some exotic animal that I had never seen before. But something became very clear to me. Something that really symbolizes why I chose this profession, who I am as a person, and what kind of photographer I want to be.

I got 4 hours of sleep last night. A 17-month old can cause that once in a while. My wife tagged me out around 9am and told me I should go get some rest. So I did. I grabbed my camera and headed out to the park. That is where I feel most at peace. That is where I regain my energy. That is where I am most rested.

I headed to a place I see bobcats often. After 3 years of studying their movements, their behaviors, and their patterns, I feel lucky to have a reasonable chance of seeing a bobcat on any given day. I was prepared to just sit, wait and watch. To my delight, I immediately spotted a bobcat in a patch of grass several hundred yards in front of me. It saw my car from this fair distance and bolted to a thick patch of brush. I stopped my car immediately. I waited. 20 minutes passed and I knew the cat was still watching me. So I continued to wait. It finally emerged from the brush and began prowling the open field in search of food. 

This is lesson one to all who want to photograph a bobcat in the wild. Our instinct when we see our subject is to jump out and get our shot before the moment is gone. I can relate. I did it with my first bobcat too. But years of experience now tell me differently. And this leads me to the moment of clarity I had this morning.

After the bobcat emerged from the bushes, for some reason, I did not have the urge to get my camera out. I just wanted to watch it. I wanted to learn more about it. I wanted to see it move in its natural environment, undisturbed by me. I wanted it to be free from any influence. It was magical. I watched it hunt. I watched its muscles twitch with anticipation as it decided when to pounce on a gopher. I watched it miss a meal and its reaction to doing so. I did it all without snapping a single frame.

It disappeared over a small ridge and I decided to take my camera out and see if I could see it on the other side. As I peeked over the ridge line, it came into view. It was patrolling the side of a hill. It was chest deep in the grass. It would disappear for brief moments, then reappear as rose up to scan its surroundings. I snapped a few images as it meandered this hillside. It still hadn't seen me.

It continued through the thick brush. I was able to get glimpses of it as it passed open windows. I saw it was heading in the direction of some open space. I decided to wrap well around its direction and sit on the other side of the field in hopes it would walk toward me. 10 minutes later I was rewarded. It came into view and wandered to within 50 feet of where I had laid down in the grass. It still hadn't seen me.

It fixated on a dirt mound being pushed up by a gopher. Unfortunately, it couldn't have been in a worse position for shooting it. It was behind a huge clump of grass. But luck was on my side. When it pounced on the gopher hole, it leaped into the open and into a clear window where I could shoot. I snapped away.

This was the first time it saw me, 30 minutes after I had first seen it. I was THRILLED to have captured this image of the bobcat. My heart was racing. But I couldn't help but feel a twinge of guilt. I felt I had disrupted a pure moment in nature. I felt a tad bit selfish.

I am not trying to paint me some extraordinary person. I am not perfect. Far from it. I have gotten too close to more than one bobcat. I've caused birds to fly from their perches. If I wanted to be perfect, I would never even get my camera out of its bag or leave my car.

But I do pride myself on my ethics. Many photographers use live bait to lure animals in to photograph them. They use means that trick and manipulate animals to perform unnaturally for their selfish gains. An example of this is photographers buying mice from pet stores, locating owls, throwing the mice into the open field, and taking pictures of the owl flying from its perch to grab the bait. Film crews drag fake, rubber sea lions behind boats to film great white sharks breaching thinking they are grabbing a meal. The list goes on and on. It highlights the selfish nature of photographers who are just 'Getting the Shot'. The unsuspecting audience ohhs and ahhs over the images, having no idea the manipulation and poor ethics behind the images.

To me, wildlife photography is about capturing a moment in nature as it unfolds as if I wasn't there. It is more the story behind the image than the actual image itself. It is about respect for the subject you are shooting. And it is about sharing that moment, that NATURAL moment in nature, with others who may not be able to see such an event themselves.

That is why I do this. That is what nature photography is to me. That is the photographer I want to be.

If you are interested in joining me on safari, please visit www.pointreyessafaris.com.

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(Daniel Dietrich) Daniel Dietrich baiting bobcat camera canon cats ethics photography point reyes wild wildlife http://www.danieldietrichphotography.com/blog/2015/1/bobcatmoment Fri, 09 Jan 2015 07:08:59 GMT
Where is 'AWAY' anyway? http://www.danieldietrichphotography.com/blog/2014/12/where-is-away-anyway
I was out shooting a couple of months ago when I crossed paths with a lovely woman throwing a tennis ball into Laguanitas Creek for her dog. The dog went wild with excitement, diving off the bank in pursuit of the bobbing ball. It would swim out, grab it, bring it back to the shore and give it a good solid chew before asking, "Do it again! Do it again!"

After a dozen or so tosses, the ball finally broke open and the ball looked defeated. The woman scooped it up again and said, "Not sure this one will make it back" and gave it another hoist into the creek. The dog repeated his graceful dive, and just before reaching the ball, it sank. The dog was feverishly looking for it when the woman said, "Oops. It went away."

Well, where is 'AWAY'? So often our answer to the question of what to do with things we don't want anymore is, "Throw it away." Yesterday walking to the mouth of the Drakes Estero from Drakes Beach, I saw a tennis ball on the beach. It reminded me of this story and a line that ran through my head, I've found 'AWAY'.

The view from Drakes Beach to the Estero is amazing. Insane rock cliffs glisten in the sunlight, guarding this pristine stretch of beach where you can see Elephant Seals, Harbor Seals, Stellar Sea Lions, Pelicans, Harriers, Great Horned Owls, and a bizzilion other animals of land and sea. But yesterday was hardly the beautiful walk that I have had on this beach many times.

The outgoing high tide left the beach a resting place for a mile of trash. Everything from cigarette lighters, to starbucks cups, plastic water bottles to shoes. There were oven mitts, rope, buoys, clothes, balloons, and truckloads of plastic parts of all sizes. And then there were the tennis balls. There must have been 20 of them on this stretch of beach.

My mind relaxed when I hit the estero and its miraculous beauty. I photographed a dozen different animals and watched the sun disappear over the pacific. My walk home was in the near dark, which helped me avoid being frustrated again by the mounds of trash.

I returned to the parking lot just in time to see a woman from San Rafael dumping out two large bags of beach trash into the can. She came to count wildlife for her organization and ended up spending her time cleaning the beach of its plastic load. She would need a dozen people for a week to do it any justice. But she wasn't deterred and went on collecting the trash despite the enormous task.

With all the recent press on the great pacific garbage patch, and the debris from the Japan tsunami, I hope we can all do our part to help our oceans heal. I hope we can consider the end to single plastic water bottle use. I hope we can all understand where 'AWAY' is and consider the impact our collective tennis balls are having on our environment.

 

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(Daniel Dietrich) Daniel Dietrich Drakes Beach Drakes Estero beach garbage photography plastic tennis ball trash wildlife http://www.danieldietrichphotography.com/blog/2014/12/where-is-away-anyway Thu, 11 Dec 2014 17:33:07 GMT
If I only had your camera! http://www.danieldietrichphotography.com/blog/2014/11/if-i-only-had-your-camera I don’t know who said it, but I can’t agree with them more. “The best camera is the one in your hand.”

Nearly 23 years ago, I was 1 semester away from graduating from college. I had taken 7 semesters of technology classes. I was armed and dangerous for the real world. But something inside of me said I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready for 9 to 5. I wasn’t ready for suits and ties. Something was seriously wrong. And then it hit me.

I called the registrar and told him I wasn’t going to be at school for my last semester. He was shocked. My parents were furious. I cashed my last student loan check, bought a ticket to Australia and headed to the airport.

Shot with a 6 Megapixel Camera

I didn’t know what I was doing. But something told me I had to travel. I had to see something beyond the ocean before I committed to a lifetime of technology. And I wanted a photo of a Koala Bear to hang in my cubical.

Lucky me! Duty Free was on my way to the gate. I bought the camera like I was buying a scone at Starbucks and headed for the gate. Strange was my casual nature, as the camera was more expensive than my car. But why not? I had a wad of cash from the bank who thought I was at school. And my plane was boarding.

It was a low end camera. Nothing special. It had a green mode, a running guy mode, a face mode, and a bunch of other stuff I knew nothing about. But I was wild with excitement. I took rolls and rolls of film during my 6 months in Australia (on a 3 month visa, but that’s another blog post). And I came home with a bag of film canisters that I couldn’t develop for months because I had 45 cents to my name when I landed in the US.

The entire time I was there, I noticed the long lenses. I saw guys shooting koalas and kangaroos and thought their shots would blow mine away. I’d say to them, “Man you must be getting some SICK shots! All I have is this junkie little thing.”

Now I’ve got the big lens and the professional body. And I hear my words from 23 years ago all the time. “Wow. Awesome camera. I wish I could get the shots you get with that setup.”

Laughing SealLaughing Seal

We all would love to have the next best thing. But in photography, you CAN get that shot…with the camera in your hand. While the gear is important, it isn't everything. It is the photographer that takes the shot, not the camera. It is getting up early. It is staying out late. It is reading light. It is finding your subject. It is positioning yourself just right before pushing the shutter release. It is all those things FIRST. Then it is about the camera.

I met a gentleman at a street fair who's work was amazing. I particularly loved one image of a dog in a colorful window. I asked him, "Nikon? Canon?" thinking D810 or 5DMarkIII. His reply, "This is my best selling image. Canon - ELPH point and shoot."

Some of my best images have come with a 'lesser' camera. The sea otter with her baby and the crabeater seal in this post were both taken with a 6MP camera.

Just last week, a very good friend of mine had an accident with his camera. As he was contemplating what to do, he dusted off a 6MP camera from a storage bin and put it on his 300mm lens. The last time he had seen a badger was 25 years ago. Just yesterday he nailed this shot.  What do you think? Down right amazing! And with a 6MP camera.

So which camera is better? The one my friend used that you can buy for $40 on Ebay right now? Or the fancy one on the end of the 600mm lens that didn’t get the badger shot? DSC_1432DSC_1432

 

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(Daniel Dietrich) Daniel Dietrich best camera blog camera canon gear nikon photography wildlife http://www.danieldietrichphotography.com/blog/2014/11/if-i-only-had-your-camera Wed, 26 Nov 2014 16:38:18 GMT
Trash Talk - Elk Style http://www.danieldietrichphotography.com/blog/2014/11/trash-talk---elk-style While out shooting the elk recently, I noticed something glistening around one of the bull elk's antlers. I focused in on him with my long lens, and was disturbed to see a very large amount of barbed wire wrapped around his antlers. I watched him as he rubbed his antlers against a fence post, in what looked like an effort to free himself from the tangle. Several times the barbs on the wire would catch on the fence wire and he'd pull free from the snag. It seemed it would have been all too easy for the bull to have wrapped his wires around the fence wire or pole and could have forced a tangle of which he could not pull himself free. No doubt if this wasn't seen by anyone, he could easily die from lack of water and food.

This is a growing problem that needs to be addressed in the park. In the short time I've lived in Inverness, I've seen multiple occasions where abandoned barbed wire, boat rope or bailing twine has been wrapped in the antlers of an elk. And I've learned it has happened several times in the past. 

At a time when politics are at their highest concerning the elk in the park, we need no additional fuel for the fire. But when an animal dies a slow and painful death due to a preventable circumstance, there need be no sides, no politics, and no finger pointing. There needs to be compassion for a living creature and a solution to a preventable problem.

This in fact has happened in the past. Photographer Jim Coda generously shared this image with me to use in my blog post. The image is of an elk that had a similar problem to the noted bull above. It had gotten barbed wire wrapped around its head and antlers. In an attempt to free itself, it tightened the wire enough that it prevent him from opening his mouth to feed. You can see in the image, the wire actually dug its way well into the jaw bone, no doubt from the elk's best efforts to open its mouth. What a horrible and sad death caused by a problem so easily preventable.

Jim has blogged extensively on the fence issue in the park, which you can read more about on his blog here.

Here is another example of an elk picking up our trash in his antlers. I watched this elk for months with this buoy wrapped around its antlers. In this shot, I panicked at the though of this rope getting wrapped around the bull elk it was sparring with. Luckily if it did on this occasion, I could have called it in. But if this happened away from any roads, the likely outcome of this sparring session would have been two dead elk.

So how do we solve the issue? To me it is simple. Stop littering. I have seen PILES of abandoned barbed wire in the park. I often see bailing twine in fields and on the road. I feel confident in saying there is a standard, rule or law in place that states how we handle trash in the park. If it is the responsibility of the park to ensure there are no scraps of barbed wire on the ground, it seems fair to ask that the fence lines be inspected and the abandoned wire picked up. If it is the responsibility of the ranchers, then I would expect the rules to be followed and citations issued if there are violations to these rules. Either way, the animals we share this land with deserve better than this.

 

 

 

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(Daniel Dietrich) antlers barbed barbed wire bull elk fence fencing point reyes point reyes national seashore tule tule elk wire http://www.danieldietrichphotography.com/blog/2014/11/trash-talk---elk-style Tue, 04 Nov 2014 04:12:35 GMT
The Unbaited Owl http://www.danieldietrichphotography.com/blog/2014/10/theunbaitedowl When I decided to pursue nature photography full time, one of the things I really looked forward to was connecting with the many like minded photographers who strived to capture nature in its pure and undisturbed form. I feel very fortunate to have done so. I've met photographers who sit for days or weeks in a blind, or sit in freezing temperatures, just to capture one fleeting moment in nature. Those photographers are the kind that I want to be associated with. To me, the story behind the image is far more important than the image itself. Yes, a technically perfect image is the goal. But without a story, the image is worthless to me.

I never realized, though, there was another side to "nature" photography. Owls are one of my favorite animals to photograph in nature. They are graceful, powerful and so incredibly beautiful. The images I saw from other professionals made me salivate for the same. Powerful Great Grey Owls flying right at me. Snowy Owls staring at my camera as they flew to grab a mouse from a snow covered meadow. I wanted this image so badly. So I set out for it.

The opportunity to capture an image of an owl in flight is limited. Owls hunt mostly at night. Your best opportunity to photograph them are very early morning or last light. So that's what I did. I went out morning after morning before sunrise and then again for the few hours before sunset. I watched. I listened. I learned. Lichen PerchLichen Perch

I learned that this could take a LOOOOONG time. Even after finding them, no owls flew at me. No owls were grabbing mice in front of me. I had to settle for images of owls tucked in trees, or if lucky out on a fence post. Don't get me wrong, I was incredibly happy photographing them. But I had more work to do to get 'the shot'. How did these photographers get these images???

The answer became clear with a little research. I was shocked to learn that professional photographers were heading to the local pet store and purchasing mice to bait the owls. They would take the mice out into a field, call the owl in, remove the mice, dangle them so the owl would get excited, throw the mouse out onto the ground and shoot away as it flew in to grab it. I couldn't believe it. How could a professional even consider this??

The FlightThe Flight This disturbed me on so many levels. It is:

  • not at all capturing nature as it unfolds naturally
  • completely deceiving to fans who think the images were captured as they happened in nature
  • putting the owl at risk (habituation, proximity to people/cars, diet, disease) 

The list goes on and on as to why this is wrong in so many ways.

I soon after found myself in many debates on the topic with many amateur and professional photographers. It all seemed to boil down to one simple reason. Selfishness. These photographers want an image to sell. They have a client to satisfy. They want to just see it happen at the moment they choose. They don't have the patience, or consideration for the owl (or mouse) to watch an event like this unfold naturally. Many of them said it simply wasn't possible to capture an image like this without doing so. I thought otherwise.

It took me many pre-sunrise mornings. It took me many late evenings. It took me to many locations, even multiple countries. But I achieved one of my first goals as a professional photographer. I captured my first images of wild, non-baited owls, in flight directly toward me, hunting, and eating rodents captured in their natural setting.

Last week I traveled to Calgary, Alberta. A friend who lives there told me about an area where Great Grey Owls are seen hunting along county roads. The thought of capturing one of these majestic animals in flight continued to be just a dream. But a new opportunity now laid just in front of me.

The first owl I saw was very late in the evening, barely enough light for shooting. But in watching the owl hunt, I quickly learned his pattern. He would sit on a fence post and listen. After many minutes of diligent listening, if nothing was seen or heard, he would fly a half dozen posts down and repeat the process. If a meal was heard or seen, the owl would perform a huge upward leap from the post, it would hover over the prey, then drop down with a powerful flap of its huge wings and pummel into the grass with its talons outstretched. I thought, with the right light, and good positioning, I can get this shot.

The week was a series of emotional swings. Some mornings/evenings I'd see the owls hunting feverishly, but in no light to capture an image. Other days I'd spend 12 hours looking in every tree in the forest and on every fence post on the road. And I'd see nothing. 

Finally I hit it. Early evening toward the end of my trip, a Great Grey Owl was out hunting in early evening light. It was perfect. I watched him to see what direction he was patrolling the fence line. He flew west, right into the setting sun. Perfect! I put on my long lens and headed 50 yards away from the perched owl. We both waited. He listened and scanned for rodents in the grass. I fixed my lens on him and shook madly in anticipation. He flew.

I knew immediately after I hit the shutter release that I had captured the moment I had tried to obtain for over a year. I had my first wild, non-baited owl in flight directly at me. The rest of the evening produced several other opportunities for images. I missed many. I captured several. But most importantly, I had the story to go along with my image...one you don't get from baiting.

Update:

Please enjoy a few new photos I have been able to capture in the years since the story above.

 

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(Daniel Dietrich) alberta bait baiting great grey lures owl wild wildlife http://www.danieldietrichphotography.com/blog/2014/10/theunbaitedowl Thu, 09 Oct 2014 17:21:13 GMT