John Gill is a New Hampshire photographer who provides Duncraft with a lot of images for our catalog and our website. And frequently his photographs can be found on our catalog covers (see featured photo above). He recently wrote to us about a trip he made to North Carolina, where he landed some great shots of an Osprey and a Green Heron. Visit John C. Gill’s website at www.JohnGillPhoto.com to see great wildlife and landscape images of New Hampshire and around the country! The photo featured above is an Eastern Bluebird with photo by John C. Gill. Here is his accounting of his trip:
A recent trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina provided an opportunity to photograph two species that are found there. Actually they are also found in NH but the abundance of wetland habitat in coastal N.C. means they are more commonly seen there. Both species are masters at fishing but have a very different approach.
First the osprey. This very large bird of prey can be mistaken as an eagle by the non-birder, but its white underbelly easily gives it away as an osprey. Like the eagle, it builds a huge nest of twigs and branches. On the Outer Banks, many nesting poles with platforms have been placed on the landward side of the islands in Currituck Sound. A few of these nests are close enough to shore to provide photo opportunities with a telephoto lens. I consider it a privilege any time that I am given a chance to observe a wild animal for several hours. Although the nests are on the sound side, I noticed over several days that the osprey prefer to fish on the ocean side of the islands. They fly (often gliding) parallel to the shoreline about 50 to 100 feet above the water. Fish are the mainstay of their diet and after a successful dive on prey, the fish is carried with its head facing forward to decrease wind resistance. The young are fed by both parents but the female usually does more, while the male fishes. Because a fish provides so much nutrition, I noticed that it was usually one to two hours between flights back to the nest with a fish. The female would then spend one half to one hour pulling small pieces of fish apart with her hooked beak to feed piecemeal to the young.
Time spent with the osprey over 4 days: about 14 hours.
The next species is one of my favorites, the green heron. I like them because of their shy nature and their beautiful but subtle earth-tone plumage. The plumage can look drab in the shade, but when the sun hits it, it is elegant. Their method of fishing like most herons is one of quiet stalking. One may pass by without noticing a green heron because they stand so quietly in the water or on a branch. They will generally not tolerate a close approach however and will take flight. For this reason, I remained in my van to photograph the heron below, shooting out the window while resting the lens on the sill. If a bird is relatively near your vehicle, getting out is the worst thing you can do if you want pictures. Use the car as a blind. This heron usually fished in a small pond by the road each morning. He usually stayed there until the first person walked by and then it was over.
The importance of a slow quiet, approach cannot be overstated. In other words, if you want to photograph a heron, act like one. Time spent with the heron: about 4 hours.
Equipment used for all of the above. Canon EOS 50D digital body, Canon 500mm f4 lens, Canon 1.4 teleconverter.
Technique is just as important as equipment though. Telephoto lenses magnify all your mistakes as well as the subject and are much less forgiving than wide-angle lenses.
For the osprey, a sturdy tripod and remote shutter release cord were used so I wasn’t touching the camera during exposures. A stiff breeze can make these shots impossible.
The above images can be found on my website, which also has other recent additions: www.JohnGillPhoto.com
Lastly, the annual League of NH Craftsmen Fair at Mt. Sunapee Resort in NH starts this coming Saturday August 7th and runs through August 15th. This is hands-down the best craft fair in NH and possibly New England as the jury process is very strict. Ruth and I will be exhibiting in Tent 2 for the duration of the fair. Stop by and visit if you are there.
Reminder: there are no dogs (other than guide dogs) allowed in the fair or in parked cars. There is entertainment, demonstrations, and a food tent every day of the fair.
“Keep your love of nature, for that is the true way to understand art more and more.” Vincent Van Gogh
John Gill Photography