My 25 Favorite Images of 2014

The end of 2014 has come quickly and it’s time to pick my favorite shots.  A slew of bobcat safaris and an extended trip out to Bosque del Apache NWR in New Mexico and to Laredo in South Texas have made the month of December fly by.  This has been a tremendous year for me as a photographer.  I’ve had great experiences in the field – thanks to many of you who have both participated in the photo safaris and directed me towards some great wildlife locations!  I know that while many of you shooting next to me have the same images – photography is a shared experience from which we all benefit.

93 Safari days
144 Bobcat encounters on 19 bobcat safaris (7.6 bobcats per safari)
140 Black Bear encounters in Sequoia NP
45,000 miles driven (383,000 on my 4Runner now)
27 New bird species added to my stock library
28 Magazine photo credits (2 Covers: Outdoor California, Yosemite Visitor’s Guide)

Here are my favorite images from 2014, with a short description of each.  I hope you enjoy viewing these as much as I did taking them.

#1BisonA brief moment that I anticipated coming.  This calf bison was moving up the other side of its mother when it crossed, protectively, underneath her chin and glanced out.  So many times before I had envisioned this image without the calf following through … always so close to crossing under – but this time the calf did, and mom struck a stern pose.  Two seconds later it was over but I had my shot.
Spring Yellowstone Safari – June.

#2BlackBear-5The black bear sow and her cub were moving around this old sequoia log with this large burned out window when I thought there was a chance she would go in.  I moved up closer and got into position if she did.  I was practically screaming at her (with my mouth closed, of course) to go in when she hesitated, turned around, and walked into the dark interior.  I dialed in -1 eV of compensation to offset the dark interior and waited for her to reappear.  After twenty seconds she moved back out to the window and posed for me … I guess mental screaming worked.
Sequoia Bear Safari – August.

#3BRP_1262-webAll I can say is I was lucky … again.  This bobcat was isolated in a meadow, hunting squirrels, away from heavy cover and decided on its own to go up the nearest oak tree.  Thank you.  The Italian safari group I was guiding followed me over the barbed wire fence, waded across a shallow creek, and got the point-blank bobcat shoot of their lives for fifteen precious minutes.
Italian Photo Tour Bobcat Safari – October.

#4
D71_9248-web
Summer Tanagers are just plain difficult to photograph, and getting a male and a female to sit and talk back and forth was just amazing.  I had played my Summer Tanager call from my Sibley (full version) App, linked to a louder blue-tooth speaker – and the male answered immediately.  Then the female (yellow) moved up through the cottonwood and began to scold the male (red) … at least it appeared that way.  I can only imagine the conversation … “you will stay right here!”
Morongo Valley Bird Safari – April.

#5
SandhillCranes-2I was lucky enough to shoot Bosque del Apache NWR in New Mexico twice this year, once in early January and then again here in December.  Bosque is a target rich environment where you have to control your desire to just hold the shutter release button down with the motordrive set to scream speed!  Afternoon light and a partially disc’d cornfield provided the perfect backdrop for these Sandhill Cranes to come gliding into.  Your skills at panning are really perfected here.
Bosque del Apache NWR Safari – January.

6.
AllensHummer-3I love this male Allen’s Hummingbird image because it is so clean, and close.  I shot a bunch of images as it scanned left, then right, trying to get the gorget feathers glowing just right in the overcast light.  Incredible detail and color make this image pop.  Personal Safari with my friend Dave Collins.
Sepulveda Basin Bird Safari – March.

7.
SJKitFox-3Another friend of mine, Allen Round – a ret’d game warden from Wyoming, has put me on location for this den of endangered San Joaquin Kit Foxes for the past three years.  The difference this year is the parents were around, especially the vixen.  Laying down on my stomach in the dirt I got this image, hand-held (a rarity for me) of the vixen just moments after the sun rose, and between her chores of cleaning and tending to each of her three kits.  Photographed east of Bakersfield.
Custom Kit Fox Safari – June.

 8.
D71_6931-webI was headed over to Cambria in the early morning to do a Photo Walk along Moonstone Beach when, as I turned north onto Highway 1 from Highway 46, this hunting male bobcat came into full view.  Like shadow boxers we moved back and forth through openings in the trees next to the road … there wasn’t a minute he didn’t know I was there.  But while he caught a large vole, which I got images of, this is the image I have liked so much.  It is just a classic bobcat “I’ve been seen” belly crawling away pose.
Lucky Bobcat Encounter – April.

9. 
AllensHummingbirdAnother male Allen’s Hummingbird, this time in flight hovering near a feeder.  I never get tired of shooting these brilliantly colored and feathered little birds.  Friends Steve and Debra Cummings have allowed me to bring photo groups to their Avocado Ranch to shoot the dozens and dozens of hummers that call their bushes and trees home.  Long lenses, short lenses, flash, no flash, tripod, or no tripod – it is exciting and I love this no-flash image.
Hummingbird Safari – March.

10.
Bobcat-9
This large male bobcat hunts across a maze of squirrel holes looking for its next meal.  This image has become one of my favorite bobcat images because it shows the tomcat in its preferred habitat.  Taken on the first nice day following several days of storms, I set a new personal record of 13 bobcat encounters in one day, photographing 11 of them.
Bobcat Safari – November.

11.
PacificWavesI took this image on the Moonstone Beach photo walk, just up the coast a few miles near the Piedras Blancas Lighthouse.  I love to get out on a bluff sticking out in the ocean so the waves have to go by me, allowing me to shoot inside the curl as it passes by.  This isn’t a big wave, just an ideal curl that my 500mm lens captured perfectly.  You never know what subject will present itself on a safari.
Moonstone Beach Photo Walk – April.

12.
BlackBear-3What a story this cub could tell.  On a bear safari to Sequoia we encountered a black sow and two cubs.  When a nearby male bear approached and charged at the cub, who ran up this broken pine tree, the sow took off after the male.  I got no sharp images of that, but the cub stayed at the top (about 20 feet up) of the tree for a bit before climbing down and rejoining its mother and sibling.
Sequoia Bear Safari – August.

13.
BlackBear-6This is the same cinnamon black bear as the sow shown in image #10.  I love this image because its showing behavior I had never seen before from a bear.  The sow, with the cubs nearby but out of frame, stood up against this pine stump and began to tear into it – the early morning light highlighting it perfectly.  The smell of termites or ants was just too irresistible for her to pass up.  The sows claws were the right tool to penetrate deep into the stump in seconds.
Sequoia Bear Safari – August.

14.
BRP_5995-webI’ve added thousands of bobcat images to my stock library this year.  This has been the year of the bobcat (and black bear!) for me, that’s for sure.  This big male bobcat tree’d itself with it’s California Ground Squirrel lunch firmly in its jaws.  As my safari group jumped the fence and maneuvered for position around the oak tree, the cat took its time eating the squirrel – a moment we all captured in great detail on the backroads near Pinnacles National Park.
Bobcat Safari – December.

15.
BRP_6772-webGiant sequoias are a difficult subject to photograph.  The trees climb so high that to capture it all removes it from the forest.  I was fortunate to shoot this image on an overcast day where the lush greens of spring dominated the foreground, and the tree trunks just rose out of the image.  The light colored spots in the lower middle of the image are dogwood blossoms.
Sequoia Spring Safari – May.

16.
BRP_4626-webI’ve seen Harris Hawks before I shot this image, but I never had a image that showed as much feather detail and energy as this landing image does.  The overcast light helped evenly light the hawk, instead of the usual blue sky shadows.  I have to thank my friend Butch Ramirez in Laredo, TX for guiding my safari group to some great photography locations in his area, including on his own ranch.
Texas Wildlife Safari – December.

17.
BRP_3593-webThere are times when you are at the right place, at the right time, armed with the right photo equipment to capture stunning images.  This shot, just north of Silverton, CO was one of those amazing moments.  We had already spent hours driving forest backroads shooting everything we saw when, heading to Ouray for lunch, this colorful scene opened up before us, right off the highway.  An amazing mountain of autumn aspens, blue sky, and puffy clouds.
SW Colorado Safari – September.

18.
BlackBear-9
This little black bear cub game me one more look as it’s family of bears headed up the paved trail and eventually into the forest at Crescent Meadows.  This cub stopped to watch me again and again – never getting too far behind mom.  The image was shot early in the morning before the sun began to angle through the trees.
Sequoia Bear Safari – July.

19.
BRP_4725-webThis image takes me back to my beginnings as a wildlife photographer, back to the 1980’s when I was doing image submissions to big-game magazines – and chasing bull elk like this.  There is something primal about an elk bugle, a challenge to all bulls willing to battle for breeding rights, reverberating around the mountains – answered within moments by other bulls.
Autumn Yellowstone Wildlife Safari – October.

20.
ZereneFritillaryWhen I lived in St. George, UT back in the late 1980’s I spent a lot of time honing my butterfly photography skills.  Over the years I’ve shot nearly a hundred different species (of the 850 found in North America) and had an article published that I titled “Jewels on the Wind”.  This Zerene Fritillary shot in Sequoia National Park combines great color, sharp spotted eyes, and an active tongue as it sips nectar among the bright yellow California Coneflowers.
Bears and Butterflies Safari – July.

21.
CaliforniaHarebell I stumbled upon these tiny flowers, California Harebells, while I was photographing much larger lupines on the Crescent Meadows road in Sequoia NP, in between bear encounters.  The delicate flowers have a soft purple/blue color and, of course, are found in moist areas of the forest close to the ground where the light is very low.  While I’m a believer in tripods this image was handheld.
Bears and Butterflies Safari – July.

22.
CommonYellowsthroat-2I added several dozen new birds to my stock library this year, including this beautiful Common Yellowthroat doing a balancing act in the brush.  Small bird photography is tough and aggravating – with countless near misses and many almost successful stalks.  It seems like successful images like this are few and far between, and only come after many hours of chasing them.
Sepulveda Basin Bird Safari – March.

23.
BlackBear-10I got a toothy smile from this black bear as he stripped berries off this raspberry bush in Sequoia National Park.  The bears don’t want to wait for the berries to get fully ripe, maybe thinking other critters would come along and eat them first.  We were very close to this bear – but he was calm and hungry, and unconcerned with us or our cameras.
Bears and Butterflies Safari – July.

24.
BRP_2678-webAnother image from south Texas.  This huge whitetail buck, by far the biggest I’ve ever photographed, appeared before dawn for just a few minutes, wandering among does and other bucks about a hundred yards away, before heading back into the thick mesquite brush.  At ISO 3200 and a slow shutter-speed of 1/80 second, I shot a lot of frames to get a few sharp ones.  The noise of the motordrive kept him from getting closer.
Texas Wildlife Safari – December.

25.
Lazuli Bunting-2A male Lazuli Bunting stops to rest for a few seconds in some wild mustard plants.  These birds seem to have an unlimited amount of energy – flitting from one bush to another, one perch to another.  This trip into the hills between Ventura and Ojai proved to be a “blue” bird safari – with Lazuli Buntings, Blue Grosbeaks, and Western Bluebirds – among the many species we photographed that day.
Custom Songbird Safari – May.

I hope you enjoyed my Best of 2014 images.  I look forward to 2015 and the adventures it will bring in the field.

One nice thing about photography is that you only get better as your experiences grow.  You shoot a little quicker, compose a little better, practice better processing skills and techniques, improve your equipment, learn new locations, learn more about your subjects  – and just become a better photographer.

And lastly, thanks to everyone who took a day or more to shoot with me, I’m a better photographer for our adventures together.

Regards,

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About brentrpaull

Professional Photographer
This entry was posted in Photo Safaris, Stories from the Field and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to My 25 Favorite Images of 2014

  1. Susan Manley says:

    I enjoyed viewing your 2014 collection. Certainly one to be proud of. Looking forward to joining you for another bobcat adventure. Happy New Year!

  2. Bob Mc Rae says:

    Nice collection here Brent. You really do have some beautiful images.

  3. James Meaders says:

    You do really good work. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Marissa Todd says:

    It’s always such a pleasure to view your photos Brent. Thank you for sharing! I was moved by every one of them. They are perfection!
    Looking forward to another Central Coast safari.

  5. vnsankar123 says:

    Just beautiful pictures… Hoping to join you on a Bobcat trip in 2015! Btw, we were in the Pinnacles area over the weekend and detoured through Coalinga on the way out to look for wildlife. Couldn’t see any Bobcats though, perhaps due to the very cold weather…
    Just wondering if you had a good trip on the 29th. Thanks!

    • brentrpaull says:

      This will make you sick …. but we had a new record 15 bobcat encounters today, beating the old record (2 months old) of 13. The safaris are a long day of hard looking, but we see a lot of cats. Finished 2014 with 152 bobcats.

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