Long Ear Owl

A “lifer” in birding is a bird you have not seen in your life. Today I was lucky due to a couple tips to get a Long Ear Owl in Arlington Texas. The Owl had been sitting in some heavy brush since this morning. So what the heck loaded up the gear and drove 55 minutes and found the owl. I really hope he/she stays around and I can get back over and get a clear full body shot. While I am not really a birder, I would call myself more of a raptor. I only need to photograph a Saw Whet Owl and a Great Grey Owl to have all the owls of North America.

It was really nice to get back into the field and experience the chase again.

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Life is good and I am blessed.

Kent 

Great Smokey Mountains National Park 2018

Finally got back to my sister’s mountains.  It had been 4 years since I had been back to one of my happy places.  Three years ago a bought into a time share marketing event that included 4 days and 3 nights in Gatlinburg for $159, and a $150 visa gift card.  Decided it would be a cheap way to get back to the mountains and Sharon agreed to go.  We had 2 years to go.  Had a date scheduled towards the end of the second year, something came up and we couldn’t go.  I called to cancel they agreed to extended for one additional year.  Long story short, we ended up going last week and the last possible week in the 3 year window.  I hadn’t been during full fall colors, and that was the plan.

I knew my time in woods and well off the roads would be very limited with Sharon, and the small time I actually had free.

We left for the mountains a day early and drove half way, then got up next morning and drove to my sister’s and niece’s places.  They both are in new homes.  Lots of catching up and niece hosted a very nice dinner and a big double deck euchre game broke out. 

We got up next morning and finished the last 4 hours into Pigeon Forge.  Check in time was 4PM, but got there at 11:45.  They allowed me to pick up the check in packaged, a quick bit to eat and headed to my happy place.  Cade’s Cove!  The 45 minute drive up the winding twisty roads was more than Sharon could handle, and was feeling pretty bad by the time we arrived at the cove.

We stopped at the bathrooms, and the little store for an ice cream to share and FINALLY hit the cove.  Most of the loop I told all my sister’s stories coupled with this is where I saw my first bear, or here is which my Jesus Tree photo was captured.

In a light rain / drizzle, I didn’t expect to see much, but were able to see lots of deer and turkeys.  when we were getting close to the half way point, nearing Abrahams creek we found the tree line where one of my best sellers was taken.  I have searched my blog several times for my GSMNP 2013 photos, but that was before I started this blog.  So I decided to work a few into this post.

So just in front of the tree line where the above photo was taken in spring of 2013, I found my first decent sized whitetail buck.  As soon as I pulled over and broke out the big glass instant deer jam.  Big glass, brings big crowds.  I felt bad for giving his resting place away, as after I took my photo there were several camera phones headed into the flied.  Not a great capture but I like the purple hue of the grass he is hiding in.Sharon still not feeling great only checked out a couple of the building / cabins.  Traffic was bad for a Thursday and the loop took about an hour.  We had just a little usable light left and Sharon said I could start another loop and use Spark’s lane.

When we got to the creek / forge on Sparks Lane I was showing her the hole where my screech owl photo was taken.  Then I looked at the smaller hole above and there was a smaller brown screech owl, just barely had it’s head out.  Reached into the back seat to get gear for a photo, and he retreated back into the hole.  I back up and sat until dark and he didn’t ever come back out.   I am guessing that the owl we saw was a direct descendant of my 2013 Red Morph Eastern Screech Owl shown below.

We left Cade’s Cove in the dark, and Sharon laid her seat back and closed her eyes all the way down. We had a very nice dinner, cruised the parkway and did a little shopping, then back to the hotel for bed.

Friday morning I was up early and Sharon still not feeling great decided to sleep in so off I flew to Roaring Motor Fork.  I was the first vehicle around the loop, it was a decent rain and still dark when I started up.  I didn’t get very far up when I ran across my first down tree. I worked on it for a good 5 minutes inching it over when I saw headlights coming.  It was a park maintenance guy who had a battery powered chain saw.  We got that cleaned up in no time.The ranger thanked me, and asked me if I had seen any wild life.  I told him nothing worth photographing and that I was interested in bears, river otter, and bobcats.  He told me where a bear was and has been for the past 5 days.  On the back side of the loop I saw a smoke phase or leucistic turkey.  no good place to stop and raining harder so no photo proof.

The place of 10,000 drips was really flowing so I made a short video to capture the sound.

Once down, off to find the bear.  Wasn’t hard to find the bear jam and all the people pointing cameras.  He was a young 2 year old that was feeding in a hickory nut tree. Back to the hotel to check on Sharon and get some breakfast.  She was up, dressed and feeling much better.  Ate some breakfast and we were off to explore the parkway shops. Then off to check on the bear.  I was really hoping he would be down out of the tree so Sharon could see him.  When I got to the tree, the traffic was backed up forever and knew he was still in the area.  As soon as we found a safe pull off to park we starting walking towards the front of the stopped cars.  He was on the ground and he wanted to get back to his nut tree but cars and people were in his way.  I sat up to photograph him when some idiot went into the woods and cut off his escape route.  That turned him straight towards me and Sharon.  The bear stopped just before I was ready to start making some noise and waving my tripod around.  Perfect photo op a full frame black bear photo that made eye contact with Miss Sharon. On the way back we stopped at the famous sign to get our picture taken.  I was still packing the big glass when another couple agreed to take out photo if I would take theirs.Then we headed back Roaring Motor Fork.  Showed Sharon the cabins, saw the leucistic turkey again, too much traffic to stop for photos.  Showed her the tree I hit back in 2012 when we found all the morel mushrooms.  He favorite part was the babbling creek that runs down the entire backside of the loop.  I am not a landscape photographer, but did take a tripod and a wide angle lens, so I setup in the rain to try my hand at a cascade photo.  I thought it turned out pretty good and one of Sharon’s favorite from the trip.That night we ate at Huck Finn’s and had some really good catfish.

I knew Saturday would be the worse traffic by far so we headed up and over the mountain to Cherokee.  Sharon liked the North Carolina side of the better than the Tennesse side.  Mostly due to the more open rolling vista and meadows.  The leaves were turning more on the NC side.  Stopped at Oconaluftee visitor center and talked to the rangers about if the Elk were still coming out every evening right behind the center. Sharon was disappointed to hear no, that the heard had broke up after rut and were back in the woods.  We headed into Cherokee for lunch and more shopping.  Sharon really enjoyed the Indian shops.  Then it was time to head over through Maggie Valley and into Cataloochee Valley.  I took the road slow and steady and she did much better with her car sickness.  It was worth it as soon as we entered the valley the dominate bull elk was out right along the side of the road with 30-35 cows and 2 small spike bucks. Had to put the big rig away and get my second body paired with the 100-400 to fit a full body shot in.  He was tired and didn’t do much, he just laid down and never bugled.  He was a royal buck 6 X 6.  I wondered if it was the same 6X6 I saw in the same meadow in 2014 shown below.Looped the interstate around back to Pigeon Forge and ate at Farm Kitchen.

2,269 miles, 4 states (TX, AR, TN, NC), $62 in lottery tickets across all 4 states. Made it home in 13.5 hours straight through; tired, and not a millionaire. 

In case you missed the other GSMNP blog post here are some links.
http://kentjarrett.com/gsmnp2013/
http://kentjarrett.com/gsmnp2014/
http://kentjarrett.com/elk-of-cataloochee-valley-gsmnp/

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Life is good and I am blessed.

Kent

Alcatraz

I have been to San Francisco 6 or 7 times and never had or took the time to visit Alcatraz.  This trip I had a small window on Monday.  So, I walked down to Pier 33 with fingers crossed hoping I would be able to get on a boat from a stand by line in case somebody didn’t show up.  They were sold out and they quit using the stand by line.  The lady stated they sell out 2 to 3 weeks in advance but that they still have a few tickets for Wednesday afternoon.  What the heck, bought a ticket for the Wednesday 3:50 boat.They start lining people up 30 minutes before they let you board the boats.  They check your ticket three different times before you finally get to board.  One of the other guys I was traveling with did the tour on Sunday and he was telling me all about the plant life and the succulents that grow on Alcatraz.  I always thought San Fran is cold and rainy but there were cactus and succulents everywhere.   Finally time to board and the tours were running three boats that day.  I would guess each boat took 300 people at $38.50 a head every 30 minutes.  That is a lot of money.  Alcatraz is part of the Golden Gate Bridge National Park.It was a little foggy but could still see the Golden Gate Bridge on the ride out. Alcatraz Island started as a lighthouse for the San Francisco Bay.  Then a military outpost, then the famous prison, now a historical national park. One of the guard towers One of the park rangers giving the do’s and don’ts and where to get your audio tour headsets.One of the original cannons from the military fort. Part of the old mission style fort. The buildings are showing their age from the weather and salt air.  It looks like they had started to repaint the cell block and stopped. The walk up the hill was not bad, but is comprised of a set of switch back ramps.  There is a tram for the handicapped and people who could not make the trek.  The tour starts in the cell block building.   The tour starts where the new prisoners would begin, in the showers and then to processing to get their clothes and bedding.   The tour is narrated by four previous correctional officers and inmates.   The incoming inmates were then paraded nude down “Broadway.” The cells were super small.  7 foot by 9 foot by 7foot. If inmates were on good behavior they got time in the yard.  Some of the more famous inmates, include  Al Capone and the Bird Man. Cell block D was for the worst of the worse and also contained the six cells where all light could be shutout.  “The Hole” The prison library, Guns and Keys were never allowed in the cell block.  They were kept on either end of the block called the Gun Gallery.  In 1946 inmates distracted a guard and over powered him, and one inmate climbed the gun gallery to the top and used a homemade bar spreader made in the local machine shop to spread the bars, and over took the guard with keys and a gun.  They held the prison for 3 days.  The photo below in from the explosion of hand grenades that were dropped by the army.  Several inmates and 3 guards died during these 3 days. C/D street There were only 4 visitation booths. Guard uniform, the inmates called them red ties. Great view of San Francisco from the warden house end of the island. The Golden Gate Bridge from the other end of the island.The lighthouse The Administration Building What is left of the Warden’s house.  Only 4 different men served as warden at Alcatraz.I didn’t take any DSLR equipment on this trip . Everything was shot and documented with my new iPhone XS Max.  I am impressed with the portrait settings as used in this selfie.The escape.  Two adjoining cells used spoons from the kitchen to tunnel through the concrete.They have opened up a panel in the wall to show the space in between the cells where the inmates climbed the pipes to get out.Not all tours every day do the “Sounds of the Slammer”.  I was lucky enough to get to be there during this demo.

The prison closed in 1963 due to rising cost.  It was costing more than $500 a day to house 1 inmate.

Several Indian tribes took Alcatraz in 1969 and held it for 19 months to protest how the Indians were treated and and how may treaties had been broken.  You can read more here at The Occupation of Alcatraz.

So my last post before this was almost 1 year ago.  I came close to not renewing my blog this year.  I made a promise to myself I would try to get back to doing more photography and posting more.  So time will tell.

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Life is good and I am blessed.

Kent

Sedona, Antelope Canyon, and Horseshoe Bend

The last 4 years Sharon and I have been going out to Phoenix to visit her sister and our dear friends the Vandermoon’s around her birthday.  This year I decided I wasn’t going to take my golf clubs and made this trip all about Sharon.  We spent day one hanging out with the Vandermoon’s and took a trip out to Tortilla Flats.  It was a very scenic drive and a nice lunch in a little saloon.  

Spent Saturday day 2 driving up to Sedona.  Beautiful drive and mountains around Sedona.  I could have spent several days hiking and exploring there, but we were on a quest to find unique Christmas gifts.  Spent five hours exploring almost every shop and had a nice wood fired pizza for a late lunch.  Headed up to Page Arizona for the night.

Sunday was my big day.  A photography tour to Antelope Canyon, which has been on my bucket list.  The tour guides take 4X4 trucks with the people in the back on benches.  Once we pulled in and started off road I understood why the truck.  They sand was deep in places and he would lock it into 4 wheel drive and just root through it. About a 20 minute ride from the tour operator to the canyon.  At first I thought Sharon was just being a good sport.  But about 10 minutes into the tour she was getting incredible shots with her iPhone.  The first 30 minutes in the canyon was super nice as we had the canyon to just us 5 photographers and Sharon.  Then the madness came and 250 to 300 people flooded in.  I messed up a couple camera settings about half way through and got frustrated.  

When we got to the other end of the canyon we went outside to regroup and let the crowds clear out.  One of the other Canon shooters had taken a night tour the night before and showed me the beauty of “Live View”.  I reset all of my settings and we headed back in with Live View and we shot the canyon rooms from the other angle. All in all, I am super happy with my results, but a little bummed.  The light beams only happen during the summer.   All the more reason to be going back in June to capture the light beams and also do the night tour while the Milkyway is over the canyon.  

We returned back to town a quick lunch and shedding a couple layers and we were off to find and document Horseshoe Bend.

Horseshoe Bend is a hike up about a 100 foot climb, then across a plateau.  Then a gentle slope down to the canyon’s rim.  After the first climb and Sharon’s looking the decent over, she almost decided to stay on a bench while I went on, due to her hip and knee.  After seeing an older couple I am guessing mid eighties to ninety, she declared what the heck.  Didn’t come this far to regret not going.

Once down at the rim, I quickly realized I was scared of heights.  There were kids just jumping across cracks and standing on one foot on the edge.  Made me sick to my stomach.  If figured if Sharon could mustard up the strength to hike back up I must over come this feeling to get the shot at all cost.  I started about 8 to 10 feet back and did the military style belly crawl out to the rim.  Once I got there my hands were shaking so bad I had to brace the camera on the rock to keep it from shaking and messing up the shot.  After taking a test photo I realized I wasn’t dead center and had a rock outcropping in the way.  Crawled back and moved over 30 feet and repeated the belly crawl once again.  Sharon was laughing so far I could hear her.  I am glad she was there with my phone to call 911, but instead she documented the crawl.So I over came my fear to get the money shot.  I hope after that build up my humble offering isn’t a let down.I felt amazing to be back in the field with a camera in my hand,  We both truly enjoyed this trip!

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Life is good and I am blessed.

Kent

 

 

Week 28 of 2017 52 Week Project

Week 28: Female hummingbird with two babies in nestA good friend and co-worker came to work very excited to inform me he had a hummingbird nest in his yard,  He found it while mowing and the mom was not happy with him mowing under her tree.  He kept me informed every day the babies hatched this week.  So I grabbed my gear and headed to his house.  Pretty easy to get decent photos of the babies in the nest but the mom would not come into the nest with me in the yard,  I ended up having to shoot this while sitting in my car at over 60 feet away. Thus this is a SUPER heavy crop.  I would guess over 80%.  I am always amazed at just how good my Canon gear is.  

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Life is good and I am blessed.

Kent