Urban Nature Photography – Keeping warm and getting the shot

"Canada Geese Feeding in Winter"

“Canada Geese Feeding in Winter”

You can almost feel the coldness of the Winter day when this was taken. The overall warmth of the antique look creates a nice contrast to the cold.

You don’t have to travel to far away places to create great nature photos. I call it Urban Nature because these photos were taken within about fifty miles of downtown Detroit in Southeast MI, USA.

Keep in mind the animals are wild. Please respect any animal you come across and never cause them any stress. Also remember to keep their safety in mind as well as your’s at all times. It’s more important to leave nature as you found it than to get the photo.

Edward N. Hines Parkway is a twenty mile long park winding through the Western suburbs of Detroit. It’s gorgeous year-round, but the winter snow is especially beautiful. While driving through Hines Park my wife Susan and I passed a snow-covered baseball diamond where Canada geese were eating what little grass they could find. Canada geese are normally migratory birds, but many of them are all year residents in the park. There had been a big snowfall during the day and the snow was still falling. Susan spotted the geese before I did and thought the scene would make a great photo. The snow was so bad we were the only ones on the road so I slowed down and made a u-turn to get back to the geese. The driveway entrance to the baseball area was almost blocked from the snow left behind by the plows. Luckily we were in a car that could handle the snow.

I stopped near the entrance so I wouldn’t scare the geese away. Knowing they would be wary of me getting out of the car and walking toward them I decided to create the photo from inside the car (it’s a lot warmer that way too). Your car can be one of the best blinds you have. Animals don’t realize people are in the car and tend to be more at ease if they can’t see you. I positioned the car to get the background just right. To minimize camera shake I turned the car off, but kept the key in the on position so I could raise and lower the window. I set the camera lens on the edge of the window to steady the shot and waited for the right moment. Although I was shooting with Ilford HP5 ISO 400 film, the light was pretty dim so I had to use a relatively slow shutter speed and wide aperture. This combination was great for creating this impressionist style photo.
"Great Blue Herons-The Handoff"

“Great Blue Herons-The Handoff”

This male heron just returned with another branch for his mate to use in their nest. We watched the herons go back and forth for almost an hour.

Southeast Michigan is home to thirteen Metroparks in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Washtenaw and Livingston counties. All the parks are within about a fifty minute or less drive of downtown Detroit. The nature study area in Kensington Metropark contains a heronry easily visible from the boardwalk that is part of the Wildwing hiking trail. Every Spring Great blue herons are busily fixing and preparing nests in the tree tops of an island a few hundred yards from the boardwalk. They’re constantly flying to other nearby trees, breaking off branches and bringing them back to the nests.

Next time you’re browsing through your favorite nature magazine and wishing you were there, don’t forget to look for places closer to home. Nature might just surprise you with what it has to offer right around the corner.

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