Mallard drake in flight at sunset, Montana.
This shot is of a Horned Lark I took yesterday in central Montana. Photographing these little guys was a good lesson for me in continuing to be persistent. I was watching flocks in the hundreds hoping they would land close to me. Some did at times, but getting into position and making everything align was challenging. In addition it was -10 and my evening light was fading. After spending a good hour failing to get a shot I wanted, I resisted the temptation of moving on to salvage something with the last bit of the day’s light. Instead I committed the rest of the evening to the Larks, regardless if I got anything or not. Fortunately just as the sun was setting I had some move in close and was able to get a few decent shots showing them on the snow with warm light. Sometimes just siting instead of running around impatiently can yield positive results.
Canon 1DX 500mm f4L IS +1.4X. F11 1/4000 ISO1600
Last week there were thousands of Bohemian Waxwings putting on quite a show along the Gardner River in Yellowstone National Park. Here I’ve used a 2X on my 500mm giving me a 1000mm of reach to crop in on a few that were landing on a juniper bush. I’ve also used a little slower shutter speed to show some movement in their wings.
Canon 1DX 500mm f4L IS, 2Xtc f13 1/350 ISO800
I realized this yesterday as memories brought back all the early October days I’ve spent here photographing fall colors and the migrating wildlife.
This year like others, is just plain awesome. Colors are turning, nights are damn cold, and the wildlife has begun to ready for winter with some stopping over on their annual migration.
Thousands of Red-winged blackbirds are feeding in the fields right now readying for a return to warmer climates south, creating massive flocks that rise up out of the fields.
In between looking for grizzlies and photographing fall colors, I would stop and photograph them as they made their way around the valley. If you look real hard in the flocks you can also see a yellow-headed blackbird or two playing “Where’s Waldo” in the flock.
Canon 5D MarkIII, 500mm f4L IS, 1.4xtc, ISO 800 F11 1/500
This is a flock of Pelicans flying over the Jefferson River in Montana. I took this yesterday morning as I was driving along the river.
Probably not the best idea to be photographing and driving, but I couldn’t resist as it was such a cool site to see them lifting off and following the river at sunrise. They followed along next to me for miles, such a perfect morning.
Things here a starting to pick up with the spring bird migration in Montana. This week as of today there are 10,000 snow geese at Freezeout Lake and about 150 Swans. Around central Montana, ice is melting off quickly and much warmer temperatures this week. Mid 50’s, woo hoo!
Made it out a couple days ago around Helena to see what was happening and found a fair number of Pintails out and a few Swans. This next week should be really picking up and I suspect in the next couple weeks, hopefully Freezeout Lake should be prime for Snow Geese and Swans.
If you’re wondering where I might have been lately, don’t worry I haven’t fallen of the face of the earth just yet. Although this time of year it certainly can seem that way. As always I tend to be playing a lot of catch-up right now. Cataloging last year’s images, editing, and tying up a lot of loose ends left over from the busy schedule of travel and assignments.
In addition, if you happen to live in Montana in January and February, you’re probably aware that the photo ops may be a wee bit less inspiring than just about any other time during the year. So really I’ve just been hiding out, editing my rear-end off and haven’t been shooting all that much this last month. Not that it’s a bad thing, but usually if I go more than a week or so without shooting I start getting a bit antsy.
So in-between editing images these last couple weeks, I’ve been sneaking out to the Missouri River just down the road from my house for some brief moments of reprieve. And a good thing too! The last couple of weeks I’ve stumbled across some awesome flocks of Bohemian Waxwings that have been hanging out down by the river. One of the flocks must have been at least a thousand or so and there have been intermittent smaller groups of anywhere from 100-500. Very cool stuff. Intermixed I’ve also found some Cedar Waxwings as well. Not bad stuff for mid January and February in Montana.
This time of year my I think my wife humors me as I start getting all giddy like a little kid waiting for the spring bird photography to begin. I begin planning all my new locations I’m going to try, endlessly browsing the web looking at bird blinds & camo, dusting off all the gear from last… can hardly wait!
And starting next month things will be really picking up toward the middle of March with the larger migrations, especially the snow geese, up at Freezeout Lake. If you haven’t seen the thousands of snow geese that stop over at Freezeout Lake near Choteau, Montana, it’s definitely a must. Usually the last few weeks of March.
So in the meantime, I will be finishing up my editing and heading out soon for my favorite time in early spring in Montana. Actually I should probably say extended winter, but we’ll pretend it’s spring!
Sandhill Cranes, Montana. Canon 7D, 500mmf4IS, 1.4xII. ISO 800 f8 1/1500.
This image of the Sandhill Cranes at sunset was a memorable one and one where persistence pays off. I had found myself uncomfortably positioned for the last five or six hours somewhat entangled in a large sagebrush waiting for the Sandhill’s to show up. After sitting there with my legs asleep for the last couple hours I decided to give it just a few more minutes before throwing in the towel. Good thing I decided to persevere, for a few minutes later three cranes came strutting out in front of me as the sun was getting close to setting. Two of the cranes chased each other around for a bit and put on some dramatic scenes in the evening light.
I was rewarded that evening with the satisfaction of working hard for an image and having it pay off as well as being reminded that persistence certainly pays in the world of photography.
Montana Migration – Images by Jason Savage
Yikes! I Hadn’t realized how long it’s been since my last post. I better get on the ball here! This last month I have been running around trying to get whatever bit of winter photography I could in. It’s been a somewhat challenging year here in Montana as snowfall has been very sporadic, with some areas really not getting much of anything. While other isolated areas did OK. For landscape photography it’s certainly been a challenge.
Right now we are switching gears and this time of year can be a very frustrating one if you’re a landscape photographer. Winter has lost it’s chill but spring really hasn’t arrived so we’re kind of just hanging in this limbo until about the end of April. Fortunately for us photographers in Montana there is a bit of a reprieve and that is the annual spring bird migration that is currently underway in the state.
Over the last few year’s I have really delevoped a love for bird photography and the challenges it presents. And I certainly enjoy being out there, especially during this time of year.
These last couple of weeks I have had the pleasure of photographing Tundra and Trumpeter swans not too far from my home here in Helena. They are truly some beautiful birds and a very awesome one to photograph. In the next couple of weeks I will be traveling up to Freezeout Lake Wildlife Management area to photograph more of the migratory birds including the Snow Geese.
If you haven’t been to Freezout yet it’s definitely one of the best trips in early spring to take around the state. There is a hotline number 406-467-2626 that provides updates on the bird numbers, making planning your trip easier.
Hopefully I should have some more stuff to share in the next week or so. Enjoy!
Here’s a few images from the end of April. This last month has sure been a much colder one than usual and on the last day we had six inches of new snow arrive. Thankfully May has warmed up and things are really starting to green around the state. Lots of great wildlife photography right now, especially bird photography. Here’s to a much warmer spring and lots of good shooting!