I recently found out about the #VantagePoint project by Light.co. Light.co is developing the L16, a compact camera that uses 16 lenses to shoot photos simultaneously, then blends them into one image of DSLR quality. The #VantagePoint projects aims to finds out more about photographers’ favorite places to shoot and their favorite photos from those locations.
While I love to visit many places, my favorite is the Farmington Bay Wildlife Refuge in Farmington, Utah. My trips out there, often two or three times a week, over the past ten years have yielded a number of prize-winning photographs of both wildlife and landscapes; plus any number of wildlife photographs that have helped to educate friends and family.
Wildlife photography in the refuge is different than many other types of photography. The birds and animals are conditioned to not fear a vehicle but will immediately flee when a person presents themselves. So we photographers go to great lengths to get the best vantage point to capture the shot. Often this will mean parking and waiting, sometimes for hours, for the raptors or herons or geese to present themselves in a way that I want to photograph.
Patience is a big requirement for this type of photography. However, while waiting, there is so much that the refuge will teach you if you are willing to look and listen. You learn that Great Blue Herons, normally seen hunting fish or frogs in shallow water, will hunt field mice and voles in a field when the ice is too thick - or just for a change sometimes. You learn that the Northern Harriers often fly the same routes while hunting, so you can position yourself to get the picture you want more easily.
You also learn that the wildlife can be anywhere and often you do not see them until they move. I've taken photos of a Great Blue Heron only to see later that there were three more herons hiding in the brush behind it! Or the young (first year) herons that will fly right up to your vehicle out of curiosity!
Farmington Bay Wildlife Refuge is managed by the State of Utah with considerable assistance from the various duck and goose hunters that enjoy the hunting there. Airboats are common during hunting season and the wildlife soon become acclimated to them and their noise. The hunters help refresh the raised nests, raise money to put in bathrooms and do various other chores to assist the set workers. All in all it seems to be a great partnership.
While my favorite place was easy to pick, picking a favorite shot from the thousands of shots was hard. I finally chose this one of a female Northern Harrier. To me, she represents the spirit of the refuge - fierce, independent, beautiful, and wild. Sometimes it is hard to imagine these wild beings just a short distance from a heavily traveled freeway and lots of housing.
She was captured using my Nikon D50 (now traded in for a Nikon D7200) using the Nikkor 70 - 300mm f4.5-5.6 at 300mm, ISO 200, f5.6 at 1/1250 sec.