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Baby Gators etc.......

Discussion in 'Nature' started by Phocal, May 24, 2016.

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  1. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    It has been awhile since I last created a thread. Kind of took a break from photography as I explored the art scene here in Houston during FotoFest. Well, I got out to my favorite gator photography park last Saturday and had a great time.

    I will start with this photograph of a Raccoon taking a poop because it makes me laugh. It was early, it was dark, the camera was not setup properly (had not even turned it on to check things out yet), and a really slow shutter speed but I got the shot.

    EM1 w/ ZD 150mm ƒ2.0 + EC-14 (420mm) - ISO 3200, 1/100 @ ƒ2.8
    27151184481_b22ed33b4e_h.
    Poop Break
    by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    Watching a gator walk towards you thru the camera is rather interesting because you cannot really judge just how close he has gotten.

    EM1 w/ ZD 150mm ƒ2.0 + EC-20 (600mm) - ISO 1600, 1/320 @ ƒ5.6
    27123478932_ebf5ff74a4_h.
    Ambling
    by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    This next shot was made a lot easier because @faithblinded@faithblinded had just sent me a skimmer pod that he designed and printed on his 3D printer. First I want to thank him for printing me one and saving me from buying that overpriced piece of plastic. I really love shooting wildlife from the lowest perspective I possible can and this little piece of plastic is going to make crawling up to animals and photographing them so much easier.

    EM1 w/ ZD 150mm ƒ2.0 + EC-20 (600mm) - ISO 800, 1/500 @ ƒ5.6
    27151198111_e46daf16d5_h.
    Careful
    by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    I was shooting the above gator when my friend warned me that another one was crawling up behind me. This gator crawled down the bank and slipped into the water about 10 feet from me. He was close enough (as is typical for most of my gator shots) that I had to remove the TC to get a full head shot.

    EM1 w/ ZD 150mm ƒ2.0 (300mm) - ISO 160, 1/640 @ ƒ2.0
    27151177671_589d02302a_h.
    Slowly
    by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    As promised here come the baby gators. I have known about this group of baby gators for most of the year. The problem is the mommy gator has kept them farther out in the swamp to protect them from all the people walking by (she builds her nest along the trail that goes to the Observatory so it sees a lot of traffic). Well, it is now breeding season so she has left them on their own while she builds a new nest and finds a daddy gator for her next batch of young. Female gators tend to build their nest in the same area (if not the exact same spot) every year. These babies were born late August or early September of last year and are about 8 inches long (gators grow about 1 foot a year until around 8 or 9 years old then their growth slows down). Once the female has her nest built and eggs laid she will let her previous year young stay around until the following breeding season (this provides them with protection for another year, but after that they are big enough to eat her hatch so she will chase them away). Gators lay 50-100 eggs with only 1-3 of those surviving until adulthood. These babies don't seem to mind the traffic (they put up some fencing to keep people from messing with them) and seemed more interested in getting some sun and catching small bugs that happen to come by.

    EM1 w/ ZD 150mm ƒ2.0 + EC-20 (600mm) - ISO 500, 1/640 @ ƒ5.6
    27151180681_68ef38c47c_h.
    Relax
    by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    EM1 w/ ZD 150mm ƒ2.0 + EC-20 (600mm) - ISO 200, 1/500 @ ƒ5.6
    27123436022_5e81babe33_h.
    Little Hunter
    by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    This next baby was so close I had to backup a bit so the lens could focus

    EM1 w/ ZD 150mm ƒ2.0 + EC-20 (600mm) - ISO 320, 1/500 @ ƒ5.6
    27123442932_cec2ce0a35_h.
    Hi
    by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    EM1 w/ ZD 150mm ƒ2.0 + EC-20 (600mm) - ISO 320, 1/500 @ ƒ5.6
    27123449912_5abe8e4366_h.
    Hello
    by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    After leaving those babies (there were about 15 of them in the general area) I found this lone young gator on the other side of the lake. This one was born in August September of 2014 and was about 14 inches or so. He was about halfway down the bank that was at about a 45 degree angle, made crawling up on him uncomfortable and I kept sliding into the water.

    EM1 w/ ZD 150mm ƒ2.0 + EC-20 (600mm) - ISO 640, 1/500 @ ƒ5.6
    27151173051_6147024ed4_h.
    Smile
    by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    This next one was taken from the same position as the above but after I removed the EC-20. I wanted to crawl closer for full head shot but a park volunteer came by and we had a small disagreement about what I was doing. Rather then let things get out of control I just walked away. I now have the park rules printed in my bag as well as a PDF on my phone for the next time. He was insisting that the park rule was no closer then 30 feet to gators, which would make going down most of the trails impossible. Anyways, I am now prepared for the next encounter with a park volunteer (they are not nearly as knowledgeable about rules and animals as the actual rangers). FYI, I never break any laws or rules while photographing wild animals and I increase my distance if any animals seem stressed or agitated by me.

    EM1 w/ ZD 150mm ƒ2.0 (300mm) - ISO 200, 1/2000 @ ƒ2.0
    27151194871_b4565e1169_h.
    Cheese
    by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    I will finish with a Cottontail Rabbit I found that was blind in his left eye, which helped with getting close to him.

    EM1 w/ ZD 150mm ƒ2.0 (300mm) - ISO 200, 1/640 @ ƒ2.0
    27123469872_58e73f6a33_h.
    Bunny
    by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    If anyone is curious, all but the first two photographs were processed using the Velvia 50 preset from VSCO in LR. I loved shooting Velvia in my film days and while not a perfect replication of Velvia it is pretty close. I love the saturated look it provides and love the way it renders green, so I tend to use this preset (with lots of modifications) a lot.

    Also, if you click thru to my Flickr account I have uploaded full resolution photographs for your viewing pleasure.
     
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  2. faithblinded

    faithblinded Mu-43 Top Veteran

    929
    Nov 25, 2014
    Cleveland, OH
    Ken
    You know you are most welcome mate! I think this is my new favorite stalking gator shot of yours. You were so close to the water level, that the DoF creates a really stark dropoff between the gator and the creamy green oof foreground/bgrnd. I love that. And well, you know I love those baby gators. Nice interesting tidbits I didn't know about their growth rates and ages. Droppin knowledge up in here!
     
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  3. Hypilein

    Hypilein Mu-43 Veteran

    292
    Mar 18, 2015
    Lovely shots as always. I really appreciate the comment you provide with your photos instead of just dumping them all in one thread.
     
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  4. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    Thanks and that skimmer is what made this photograph possible. Before I would have been supporting with my elbows on the ground which gives a higher (small but it is noticeable) perspective or I would have been trying to hold the camera with the LCD flipped up and trying to keep steady and frame the shot and find the gator and well it is just a pain in the ass. The skimmer just made everything so much easier, not sure how I ever got along without one as much as I like getting that low perspective.

    This photo is also a good way to that the increased DoF form µ4/3 is not always a bad thing, I shot this at ƒ5.6 but really think ƒ4.0 would have been better. At ƒ4.0 I would have still gotten the eyes in focus from front to back, but any less then that and I would not have. Look at the next shot which was at ƒ2.0 and you see a much smaller area in focus and I think it was about perfect for that shot. There are times when shooting with just the 150/2 (no TC) that I am stopping down to ƒ4.0 to get enough in focus when looking at a gator at any angle other then 90 degrees.

    I know a lot of people think I am crazy or just plain stupid with the things I do to get my gator photos. I have been around them all my life and have read a lot of scientific studies about them. One advantage from when I was in school was I had access to databases full of PhD Dissertations and Master Thesis's and read everyone I could find about gators. I have a lot of knowledge about their behavior and lots of real world experience to go along with it. Yes, they are wild animals and apex predators that are unpredictable so something could always happen, but I am careful and really don't take any unnecessary risk.

    My real fear and the most likely thing to happen is a gator crawling across me. I am always in camo and stay very still when laying on the ground watching an animal or waiting for that frog to pop up, so the chances of a gator crawling out of the swamp or across land (especially now with the 2 foot high weed growth) and seeing me are pretty slim. I can stay really calm in high stress and life threatening situations, but I am not sure if I could remain still and not jump out of my skin when a gator walks up behind me and starts walking down my legs. Oh....... did I mention you will not hear it coming? That one Saturday that walked across a trail, thru 2 foot high weeds, down a 45 degree bank, and then slid into the water never made so much as a noise. I have had a number of gators come up within 5 feet of me a number of times now, and each time scares the living shit out of me. So, when you hear about a photographer in Texas getting eaten by a gator you will know how I went :boohoo:
     
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  5. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    Thanks and I am glad you like what I write also. I like writing and while a picture can say a 1000 words, sometimes words with the picture are so much better.
     
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  6. TwoWheels

    TwoWheels Mu-43 Top Veteran

    679
    May 28, 2014
    British Columbia
    Evan
    Excellent post and photos as usual. It's been about 22 years since I lived in the area and visited that park and I still miss it. I've never seen a better place to photograph herons, egrets, turtles and gators. Great raccoon shot as well!
     
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  7. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    Thank you. It is a great park for photography with a lot of different types of birds to photograph.
     
  8. Harvey Melvin Richards

    Harvey Melvin Richards Photo Posting Junkie

    Feb 15, 2014
    Southwest Utah
    Stunning photos Phocal. I would like to know more about the skimmer pod.


    Sent from my iPad using Mu-43 mobile app
     
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  9. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    Thanks Harvey.

    Here are some photographs of the skimmer pod that @faithblinded@faithblinded printed for me.

    This is how I used it on Saturday
    26622252674_733ec6aa85_h.
    Skimmer Pod 01
    by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    Here it is with my EM1 and ZD 150mm ƒ2.0 and my gimbal
    27194872036_4b2d11d304_h.
    Skimmer Pod 02
    by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    This shows the connection between the skimmer pod and gimbal
    27194871636_f9f87ca3fe_h.
    Skimmer Pod 03
    by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    Top view of just the skimmer pod
    27194871296_84463e6384_h.
    Skimmer Pod 04
    by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    Bottom view of just the skimmer pod
    27194871036_cc3aa241bd_h.
    Skimmer Pod 05
    by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    Here is a shot of me using it to photograph the baby gators. The baby gator I said I had to move back some because I was to close for the lens to focus was right beside that first wood post on the fence. That fenced section is actually a bridge and there is water under it but before the bridge (where the orange fencing material is that they put up to keep people from getting to close to the gators) is a small strip of land that separates the walkway from the swamp.

    27131987552_158b813943_h.
    Gator Bait 29
    by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr
     
    Last edited: May 24, 2016
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  10. Harvey Melvin Richards

    Harvey Melvin Richards Photo Posting Junkie

    Feb 15, 2014
    Southwest Utah
    That is sort of what I was envisioning. I'm sure it's real light, especially compared to the rest of the gear.
     
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  11. faithblinded

    faithblinded Mu-43 Top Veteran

    929
    Nov 25, 2014
    Cleveland, OH
    Ken
    Here's a link to my skimmer design on thingiverse. It's free for anyone with a printer, or access to a printer, to make one.
    Ground Level "Tripod" / Skimmer by faithblinded
     
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  12. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    The skimmer pod weighs 151 grams and with the ball head attached it weighs in at 453 grams, so it is pretty light. I prefer the ball head over my gimbal because I don't have to remove the ball head to stash it in my bag, the gimbal I would have to remove it. If I was heading to the beach to shoot birds on the flats during low tide I would probably use the gimbal. Walking around the park the ball head is easier and much lighter to pack around.
     
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  13. hazwing

    hazwing Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 25, 2012
    Australia
    Great gator stuff, as usual :2thumbs:
     
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  14. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    Thank you
     
  15. oly18

    oly18 Mu-43 Regular

    47
    Oct 21, 2011
    Excellent post. Love how sharp the 150mm f/2 is even with the EC-20 attached.

    And thanks for sharing your skimmer design faithblinded. Tempted to try it.
     
  16. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    Thank you for featuring my thread @barry13@barry13, it is greatly appreciated.
     
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  17. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    Thank you. The 150mm ƒ2.0 is an amazing lens that is just so versatile because it maintains excellent IQ with either of the TC's attached. I have these small neoprene pouches that I attach to the D-rings on my backpacks shoulder straps that hold the TC's. It takes me less then 15 seconds to swamp/add/remove the TC's and I have found this setup to work very well.

    I have wanted a skimmer pod for sometime now but just could not see paying $100 for the original. My brother runs his own welding business and I was going to have him cut piece of stainless steel to drop into a frisbee after he welded a nut on the bottom side for me to thread a bolt thru to make my own, but getting him to do something for me is next to impossible (he is constantly busy so I understand non-paid work is last priority). After @faithblinded@faithblinded built his 3D printer I told him he needed to print us skimmers and you can see the results above. It worked perfectly and I see it getting a lot of use, I almost always shoot while laying down on the ground because I love that perspective. Now I can easily get a very low perspective and be comfortable while shooting.
     
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  18. mattia

    mattia Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 3, 2012
    The Netherlands
    Really, really nice shots, as usual! It's your fault I own the little tuna and both teleconverters, you know. Now, if I only I was better at stalking animals, and had things more exciting than birds around my local area (no gators in the north of the Netherlands, oddly...herons, ducks and an occasional rabbit, mostly).
     
  19. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    Thanks and you are welcome, it's an amazing lens. To get better at stalking just practice, I grew up hunting and stalking animals so it's 2nd nature now. I try to never disturb an animal (it's foolish to think they are not aware of you being there, although at times it is possible under the right conditions), I even feel bad if I spook them when trying to get away after getting my photos.
     
  20. rfortson

    rfortson Mu-43 Veteran

    At least I can say I saw your photos then. :) Great photos, by the way. I wouldn't be that close, and I know lots of professionals that wouldn't, either, but I sure like your photos. Make your last one count. :)