Learning animal behavior and biology

As I delve more into wildlife photography, I have learned that one of the important aspects of this type of photography is studying and learning animal behavior.  This can be done through books, online articles, or even better, sitting and observing the wildlife in the field over time.  The past several days of photographing has given me more insight into bird behavior, and I expect to learn even more from Artie and from observation over the next year.

One of the difficult skills of bird photography that I am working on is capturing birds in flight with their wings spread and feathers visible.  When birds take off from a perch, they often defecate prior to flight.  This gives me and other photographers a forewarning and allows us to get the camera ready for action. In the shot below, I saw exactly that and could prepare.

Osprey juvenile ready for flight 9501

Image: Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500mm at 300mm, f/6.3, 1/1000 sec, ISO 1600, hand-held

Fortunately, morning time is when ospreys also fish for their morning meal.  I’ve heard and seen the splash as they dive into the lake for a fish, but I have yet to capture it with the camera.  Yesterday we were lucky enough to see one flying overhead, carrying a large fish to its nest.

Osprey juvenile flight with fish 9456

Image: Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500mm at 200mm, f/6.3, 1/1000 sec, ISO 1250, hand-held

Artie stressed the importance of photographing the osprey with the fish as soon as possible after capture since these birds bite off the fish’s head quickly after landing.  As you can see below, I was a bit late in the meal for this shot.  🙂

Osprey juvenile flight with fish 9548

Image: Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500mm at 390mm, f/6.3, 1/1250 sec, ISO 1600, hand-held

As promised, here are a few images of the sandhill crane tending to her nest.  The few times I observed the crane off its nest were early in the morning just as the sun rose and when its mate arrived.

Sandhill crane and eggs 9055

Image: Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500mm at 200mm, f/6.3, 1/800 sec, ISO 500, on tripod

Since the crane did not switch places with its mate on this occasion, it nestled back down on the eggs, giving us 2-3 minutes of time to photograph these beauties.  Prior to sitting down, however, it tended to the eggs by turning them over.

Sandhill crane and eggs 9072

Image: Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500mm at 200mm, f/6.3, 1/800 sec, ISO 500, on tripod

As the crane settles into its nest, it often rests its head on its body while keeping a watchful eye on its surroundings.  The lines and curves of the bird’s body make for great up-close shots.

Sandhill crane 8023

 Image: Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500mm at 500mm, f/13, 1/500 sec, ISO 2000, hand-held

Week one of my Year with Artie is almost over.  It has been filled with a great introduction to bird photography at Lake Weohyakapka in Indian Lake Estates.  Tomorrow, we will set off on a great European adventure for the next 6 weeks. I will try to post as often as I can when I have internet access to share what we are seeing.  It might be some rough iPhone shots, but I will be going to parts of Europe that most of us will never see…above the Arctic circle!

Take care,

Amy

To learn more advanced tips on bird photography, please visit Artie’s blog:  Birds As Art Blog

All about the ospreys

We were back to cloudy skies this morning in Florida, and while our sandhill crane was still sitting faithfully on its nest, we decided to capture some images of juvenile and adult ospreys.  They build their nests on several perches and trees high above the ground along Lake Weohyakapka.  In the mornings, they are active, calling out and flying in and out of their nests.

Osprey juveniles on nest 9370 bw

Image: Nikon D500, Nikon 200-500mm at 370mm, f/6.3, 1/1250 sec, ISO 800, hand-held, converted to black and white

The juveniles have more white on the tips of their feathers, and in the above image, all three were juveniles. Because the sky was a cloudy grey and we wanted to capture the details in the feathers while pointing the camera at the sky, we had to select settings to correctly expose for the bird.  This made the sky whiter but allowed us to see details in the dark feathers underneath the wings.  Artie’s starting settings were f/6.3, 1/1250 sec with ISO 800.  This worked well for the juvenile osprey sitting on the perch as shown below.

Osprey juvenile on perch 9381

Image: Nikon D500, Nikon 200-500mm at 380mm, f/6.3, 1/1250 sec, ISO 800, hand-held

When the ambient light decreased and the bird took off in flight, I needed more light for the image, so I slowed down the shutter speed slightly to capture the detail in the dark feathers on the underside of the wings.  While the tips of the wings were slightly blurred, the eyes and head were sharp, exactly as I had hoped.

Osprey juvenile in flight 9340

Image: Nikon D500, Nikon 200-500mm at 250mm, f/6.3, 1/1000 sec, ISO 800, hand-held

We keep hoping that the eggs of the sandhill crane nest will hatch before we leave for Europe on Monday, but it is highly unlikely.  The next two days will be filled with packing and last minute planning as we begin a tour around Europe: Finland, Norway, Scotland and England.  I hope to post some images of the sandhill crane eggs that I took the past couple days before we leave for our first adventure!  Enjoy!

Sunny days and blue waters

The past two days in Florida have left us excited as we had some nice morning light for photographing the sandhill cranes at Lake Weohyakapka. I had been told that the previous 10 days had been cloudy and rainy in this region but that the rain was needed due to a drought. Since the nesting crane was comfortable with us, we were able to get close enough to work on headshots without disturbing or distressing it.

Sandhill crane and nest 8698

Image: Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500mm at 290 mm, f/6.3, 1/1250 sec at ISO 400, hand-held

As I begin to learn more about bird photography, many considerations swirl in my mind as Artie calls out advice and suggestions. For these sunny conditions, Artie advised using ISO 400 and an aperture of f/6.3 with a starting shutter speed around 1/1600. I adjusted from there, trying to make sure that the “whites were not blown out,” as photographers like to say.  For those new to the photography world, this means that I needed to capture enough light to get the details in the white feathers of the birds’s head without allowing too much light into the camera’s sensor that takes away our ability to see the details of the individual feathers.

Sandhill crane adult 8785

Image: Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500mm at 480 mm, f/5.6, 1/2000 sec at ISO 400, hand-held

We also discussed head angle, an important feature in bird photography.  When taking an image using a long lens that gives us a close up shot of the bird’s head, the depth of field becomes less.  That means it is more difficult to get the whole bird in focus from front to back. Because of this, head angle becomes critical to get the eye and beak in focus.  If we focus on the eye, we want the beak turned just a degree or two towards us so the tip of the beak is in the same plane as the eye.  This allows for an image with sharp focus on the eye as well as the beak, a very pleasing result.

Sandhill crane juvenile 8516

Image: Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500mm at 210 mm, f/11, 1/500 sec at ISO 1000, hand-held

To learn more about bird photography in greater detail than I can provide at this point, please visit Artie’s blog, Birds As Art Blog, where he gives great daily tips on his images.

Now on to our infamous patient…

I have returned to the basics with Artie, teaching him how to breath differently to help relax his autonomic nervous system.  It has been 6 weeks since I last treated him, so he had tightened up quite a bit after undergoing a procedure and dealing with a few health issues.  Because of this, his body was in a “protective mode” and his muscles had been taught to guard.  He was unaware of this, other than feeling “tight all over” and pain in his certain joints with movement.  We can all relate to how our body feels when we are in the “fight or flight” mode and our body tenses up all over.  Now imagine that your body is in that state all the time and that becomes your new norm.  That is how I found Artie on Tuesday.  After a couple sessions of going through some breathing techniques plus my hands-on treatment to reposition his ribcage and pelvis, he had significant relief.  Yesterday and today, we got him back to something that gives him almost as much joy as photographing birds.  Below is a man whose left shoulder MRI 6 weeks ago showed a full thickness  rotator cuff tear with 3.2 cm retraction and a biceps pulley injury.

IMG_0558

Image: iPhone 7 Plus, hand-held by Amy Novotny

He told me, “when I got into the water, I almost cried because I thought I might never be able to swim again.”  Sometimes, alternative healthcare techniques can do wonders to help get rid of pain and restore motion and function.  He wasn’t the only one about to cry when seeing this.  🙂

-Amy

 

 

No Rest for the Weary

I made it well and safely to Indian Lake Estates, Florida after an uneventful flight last night and was invited to go photograph a sandhill crane nest early this morning. Of course I jumped at the chance to go see these beautiful birds nesting despite a couple hours of sleep. What I didn’t expect was how close you can get to them without disturbing them or making them uncomfortable. I watched Artie carefully and followed suit as he took his time inching closer while watching the crane’s behavior. Never once was the crane startled or in distress. IMG_0533 2.jpg

Image: Arthur Morris setting up to begin photographing a sandhill crane on its nest in Indian Lake Estates, Florida, iPhone 7 Plus, by Amy Novotny

We photographed it for over an hour, capturing various behaviors of preening, nest building and sleeping. Occasionally other shore birds flew overhead and Artie called out the species of each of them, helping me become more familiar with my new subjects. I also got to test out my new wading gear as I was calf deep in water within minutes. One of my former patients gave me these amazing merino wool neoprene waterproof socks that are my new favorite clothing item! thumbnail

Image: Amy photographing a sandhill crane on its nest, taken by Arthur Morris

Never once were my feet cold, a huge feat for me if you know me well. When the other member of the mating pair arrived, the nesting crane stood up and we got a peek at the two beautiful eggs!  The crane walked around a bit before turning the eggs and sitting back down on them. It was a spectacular morning to say the least. What a great way to hit the ground running…

Sandhill crane

Image: Sandhill crane nesting over 2 eggs.  Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500mm at 200mm, f/5.6, 1/800 sec, ISO 1000, hand-held

The Adventure Begins…

 

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Little did I know that on Christmas Day of 2017, I would get a gift that would change my life forever. I was sitting on the couch at my dad’s house after our holiday meal, checking emails on my phone, as I periodically do throughout the day. We were celebrating our first Christmas with my baby niece, Alexa, and I got an email from my dear friend Muriel. She shared with me that the world renowned bird photographer, Arthur Morris, had asked her how she had avoided knee replacement surgery and she mentioned my name. He wanted to speak with me to see if I could help him.  Without hesitation, I gave her permission to give him my contact info. Shortly thereafter, I received an email from my future patient, friend and boss. He was eager to speak with me so I wrote to him and within minutes, we were chatting on the phone about how I use breathing and balloons to take away pain in the body. I’m always hesitant explaining what I do to new people because it’s often labeled as too alternative, even though I can explain the science behind it. Artie was very open to alternative healthcare practices, especially if it helped him avoid the dreaded scalpel. He explained that he had some upcoming trips and wanted to come visit in March. I readily agreed that I would be happy to help him and sent him the clinic info where I practiced physical therapy. By the next day, he had decided to change his plans and come at the beginning of January for 8 sessions, 3 during the first week and 5 the next. I expressed to him that if he wanted to get better, he had to follow my directions exactly. He agreed and showed up a week later. 

When I met Artie in person in my clinic, I couldn’t help but smile. Here before me was an older gentleman with a slightly bent posture walking on his toes in SOCKS!  He had his laptop bag and was excited to tell me about the water birds he saw and photographed that morning at the Water Ranch at Gilbert Riparian Preserve. My ultimate passion is photography so I readily listened.  He paused for a second to explain the lack of shoes and how he didn’t want to track mud into the clinic— very respectful. I proceeded to treat him for an hour over the next 3 days and Muriel arranged for the two of us to join Artie photographing at the preserve on Sunday. I was beyond excited to photograph with such a legend. Ever the teacher, Artie called out settings based on the light of each scene and I tried to keep up. Having become a volunteer for AHPS just two years prior and having helped with photo 101 as my first photography lesson in January 2016, I was a bit overwhelmed by what Artie was saying. Most of it went over my head but I knew basic settings of aperture, shutter speed and ISO. The day was spectacular.  Artie was already feeling a change in his body and questioned me if it was the treatment. He was afraid that the relief he was feeling was a coincidence. I told him it was the treatment. He continued to improve during the next 5 days of treatment and left feeling like a new person. His knee pain was minimal and fleeting, his low back pain resolved, his hip pain decreased to allow him to sit twice as long and he was beginning to squat again. He had trips for the next two months but decided to come back to AZ in March. 

When March showed up, Artie brought his good friend Anita with him. On day 1 in the clinic, he teased that he and Anita were going to hire me to treat them for a year and travel with them. Jokingly, I said “Yes, let’s go!”  He said he was serious and I smiled, hoping there was one bit of truth in his words but knowing deep down that it was impossible. I joined Artie and Anita that following weekend for some more photography at the Riparian Preserve. Artie mentioned again that he would like to hire me but didn’t think it would work out because it was too expensive. I didn’t push it, but I let him know that I was interested. He told me that he was going to Antarctica and the Falkland Islands and didn’t think there was an opening on those trips, let alone the prohibitive costs of taking me along. I treated them for 5 more days, and at the end, I asked Artie if my joining him was possible. He said “Absolutely not, too expensive.”  I understood completely and that dream left my mind. Artie left that day feeling better than he had in 30 years, his words exactly. He could walk with a heel strike, sit with his knees together comfortably, move without knee pain, move his shoulders without pain and sit for 30 minutes without issue. He returned home that next day happy and eager to resume his life. 

Later that Saturday evening, I received a phone called from Artie that set everything in motion.  He had gone for a swim in his pool when he arrived home, and when he got out of the pool, he walked into his house wet and left some wet clothes on the floor. He slipped on the water and fell hard on his left shoulder. He heard a pop and had immediate pain. He said he tried lifting his arm overhead initially and could do it but didn’t try again due to pain. I gave him instructions to ice it but to keep it gently moving because I knew it was going to stiffen up and he would begin to guard his arm protectively. The next two weeks were filled with daily emails, phone calls and FaceTime chats as he had various tests and recommendations from all his healthcare friends. He didn’t have a fracture but a tear was possible, especially after seeing a bruise in his lower biceps. I didn’t think he had a full thickness rotator cuff tear because he could lift his arm just above 90 degrees and resist pressure applied in a downward fashion. I suspected biceps tendon involvement but I also knew that he was not moving his shoulder correctly because of a protective response so I couldn’t be sure of a tear or what type, especially since I couldn’t test him in person. At one point, I kiddingly sent him an email that he should just hire me as he had initially suggested. He responded in agreement and called shortly thereafter to say that it was impossible. Later that morning, I got an email from him that was addressed to Cheesemans Ecological Safaris asking if there was an opening for a female for the Emperor Penguin trip to Antarctica. I was shocked. He was seriously looking into it! We talked over that week and he decided a couple days later to come out to Arizona for a week to have me take a look at his shoulder and work on it. He got notice that Cheesemans had an opening for a female to Antarctica, but he could not get me into the Falklands trip in December/January. That would mean 3 weeks without my services, but he was still interested in coming up with a plan to hire me. I didn’t really think it would work out. 

Artie arrived at the beginning of April and scheduled an MRI for the day after his arrival. When I saw Artie for his first treatment, I knew it was going to be hard. His protective response was so strong and his fear of further damage or injury to his shoulder was high. He wasn’t sleeping due to pain at night but at least he could photograph. At the end of the week, I received the results of his MRI which reported a full thickness rotator cuff tear with a 3.2 cm supraspinatus tendon retraction and biceps tendon pulley tear. We were both devastated and he quickly decided to have surgery. He thought about where he would have it and decided it would be best to go back to Florida for it. I mentioned that he was moving better than what would be expected if the MRI was correct and that I had rehabbed people back to full motion with MRI reports like this. He called his physician friend Dr. Cliff Oliver, who strongly advised against surgery. I explained the recovery after surgery in an abduction brace for at least 6 weeks and Artie decided with Cliff’s advise to forgo surgery and use conservative measures. When I was done with my shift, we met to discuss his thoughts. We went over my typical monthly expenses and he offered to hire me for a year to travel with him and Anita and stay in his home to treat him daily to keep him as pain free as possible. I would need to rent out my house and move to Florida within 5 weeks. He would pay my basic living expenses and I would get to join him photographing daily and on all his trips. That day, he got a cancellation for the Falkland Islands trip, so that was part of the deal too. When he finally gave me an offer, I saw my hand shoot out and shake his hand even before I had a chance to process it all. He is a man of the hand shake. It was said and done. He was ecstatic.  I was terrified, in shock, excited and nervous. We went out to celebrate and I was still in shock. I checked with a friend to see if she could rent out my house and all the stars aligned…she said Yes!   The weekend was filled with figuring out how to draw up contracts and getting them signed as well as treating Artie and photographing with him. The icing on the cake was two days later when Artie prepared to leave for Florida. I had just finished working on him for an hour and when he stood up, he showed me he could reach fully overhead with his elbow straight…a feat that shouldn’t be possible based on the MRI results. 

The next several weeks were filled with preparations and saying goodbyes. I didn’t realize the extent of love and care I had from so many people, patients and friends.  Despite the excitement, I couldn’t help but feel sadness knowing that my life was changing forever. I would miss my friends and the life I had carved out, but I knew that I had been stagnating and was looking for a change. This was it and I had to jump. 

And so begins my Year with Artie….

 

Blog coming soon! Stay tuned!

Hello All!

I will begin a new journey in May 2018 and will detail my adventures here in this blog. It will contain my thoughts, impressions, and most importantly, some photography tips that I learn and can pass on to you.  Please feel free to make comments, ask questions or send me messages as I would love for this to be as interactive as possible

Take care,

Amy