Posts Tagged ‘common loons’

The following is a series of images I created over a 5 minute time frame of a Common Loon on Horseshoe Lake near Parry Sound, Ontario. It was early morning as I paddled my canoe along shoreline of a quiet bay.  A large Snapping Turtle surfaced beside the canoe to check me out before slowly retreating back to the bottom of the lake. Next I saw a Common Loon was nearby, but I was not in a good position to photograph it, so I slowly paddled my way around for a better shooting angle. The loon had dove, but resurfaced nearby with a large rock bass in its bill. Over the next 5 minutes the loon appeared to play with the fish before swallowing it. I created countless images of the action and below are my favorite ones from the series.

Please do remember to click on each to see the larger, sharper version.

Common Loon with Rock Bass

Common Loon with Rock Bass

Common Loon Diving for Rock Bass After Dropping it

Common Loon diving for Rock Bass after dropping it

Common Loon Grabbing Rock Bass

Common Loon grabbing Rock Bass

Common Loon with a Firm Grasp of the Rock Bass

Common Loon with a firm grasp of the Rock Bass

Common Loon with the now dead Rock Bass

Common Loon with the now dead Rock Bass

Common Loon after swallowing the Rock Bass

Common Loon after swallowing the Rock Bass

Common Loon content after a hearty breakfast

Common Loon content after a hearty breakfast

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I have just return from several days up near Parry Sound, Ontario at the family cottage on Horseshoe Lake where I spent much of time getting to know my new Nikon D800 and swimming in the lake with my daughter, who is now able, with floaties, to swim quite some distance out from the dock.

I will do a more in-depth look at the D800 in a future post, but first wanted to share these images of the Common Loon family that reside in our bay on the lake. They have two chicks and both seem to be doing very well, diving on their own and both have very healthy appetites. Last year one chick had perished but hopefully this year’s brood will survive. The first two images in this post were photographed from the canoe, using the handheld Nikon 80-400mm VR lens with an ISO setting of 800 and the last image was captured with an ISO setting of 1250. I did not need any additional focal length to create images of these loons on this particular day, but when I did need extra focal length I could easily select the 1.5 crop mode on the D800 and immediately convert the 80-400mm lens to a 120-600mm lens.

Please remember to click on each photo to view a much larger version.

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I have put together a collection of my favorite images of 2011. This year, however, I am doing two top tens. One for my Fractalius renditions and the other for a mix of my landscape and wildlife photographs.


Gray Treefrog Singing

Old Woman Bay on Lake Superior

Sunrise on small lake along the Seguin Trail, Parry Sound, Ontario

Ice on Lake Ontario at sunset, Toronto, Ontario

Balls Falls on the Niagara Escarpment, Ontario

Common Loon with chick, Horseshoe Lake, Ontario

Katherine Cove on Lake Superior

Hoarfrost on tree near Thornton, Ontario

Daybreak on Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba

Melanistic/Genetic variant of Green Heron

As it would turn out the above image of the green heron is considered to be the first record for such abbarent plumage for green herons.


Bracken Fern

American Toad

Winter Sugar Maples at dusk

Black-capped Chickadee


Common Loon


Ruby-throated Hummingbird


Gray Treefrog

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White Admiral Butterfly

Yesterday afternoon while I was out playing in the backyard with my daughter and our dog Koko I found a newly emerged White Admiral butterfly. Newly emerged butterflies make perfect subjects as their wings are in pristine condition and they are unable to fly. I gently nudged this one onto my finger and placed it on the rudbeckia blossom in the garden, grabbed my camera a shot many photos. After reviewing the images today, this one stood out as one of my favorites of the day. I also thought that this image would make a lovely base image for my favorite filter for creative effect – Fractalius. Below you will see the Fractalius version as well as a few other photographs that I have applied this filter too.

White Admiral Fractalius

Green Frog Fractalius

Great Horned Owl (captive) Fractalius

Common Loon Fractalius

Atlantic Phase Brown Pelican Fractalius (Cayo Largo, Cuba)

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While away last week I was able to get some time to photograph the family of Common Loons on Horseshoe lake. On one particular evening, about an hour or so before sunset they were feeding over a large weed-bed off a shore-fen that is a two minute canoe paddle from the cottage. I would get in position and then lay down in the canoe so that I would have the lowest shooting angle possible. Often the adults would surface, after a dive, beside the canoe to close for my lens to focus. When the chicks reach this size they are able to dive for themselves and there tends to be greater distance between the birds, however, once the adults surface the youngsters usually head straight over to see if they are going to be fed. I was quite happy to capture this image. The image above is the optimized version though. It required a ton of work to get it to this point. Below you will see the original capture. To optimize this image I evicted the out-of-focus adult in the background. If the birds head was visible I may have left it in the composition, but did not like it as it was. Next was to adjust the composition without cropping the file. As a result, I lower the birds in the frame and gave the image a slight clock-wise rotation. You will notice that the bill of the adult bird in the original capture contains a lot of bill-shine from the sun reflecting off the shiny surface of the bill. To correct this I zoomed to roughly 800% and slowly removed the bill-shine. Another thing that bothered me about the original file were the catch-lights in the eyes of the birds that was caused by the sun’s low angle reflecting across the water – again I worked on the image large to render more pleasing catch-lights. For me the final step, and the most interesting part, to perfecting this image was correcting the adult loon’s broken upper bill. The tip was broken presumably from hitting rocks on the bottom while chasing a fish. To correct this I simply selected the tip of the bottom bill and flipped it around to place on the top bill and then made the necessary adjustments to blend it in. After performing this extensive work on the image I believe that I have not changed the integrity of the image, but rather made it more pleasing and potentially more salable. However, I could never consider entering into a photography contest. To learn how to perform this type of clean-up and other various tips and techniques be sure to check out the link to Arthur Morris’ blog in the sidebar and while there check out the BAA Store for instructional tutorials / eBooks.

Why was the broken bill so interesting. Well, I remembered that I had photographed a Common Loon from the dock many years ago that had a broken upper bill. I searched through my Loon collection and found the image. I assume that this is the same bird as I have heard that Loons will return to the same lake year after year. This distinguishable feature proves it. I first photographed the Loon with the broken bill in May 2006 and again in July 2011.

Below you will see the original Common Loon with chick image and two large crops that clearly show the broken upper bill of the adult loon taken five years apart.

Common Loon with Chick – original capture

Common Loon – broken bill July 2011

Common Loon – broken bill May 2006

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A Common Loon image from the archives that I applied the Photoshop plugin Fractalius for creative effect. I chose the ‘Glow 100’ preset as a starting point and immediately saw the potential to create an outline of the bird and then mask back in the red eye for a touch of color. I have been slacking off on posting some of my more recent Fractalius work, but promise to post some soon.

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Common Loon on man-made nesting raft

During last weekend’s outing with Common Loons I had hoped to photograph the pair that already have two chicks, but they weren’t to be found. They did show up, right off the cottage dock, the day after I had to head back home. There are a few man-made nesting rafts on the lake and I was surprised to see one loon still incubating eggs on one of these rafts. I decided to canoe over to the bay where this raft was early in the morning for a few images. I only planned to spend a brief amount of time at the raft and use a long lens so that my presence would not disturb the nesting loon. Above is the shot that illustrates the man-made raft and a couple of additional, more natural looking images below of the adult on the nest. I am already looking forward to my next trip up to the cottage as there will be two pairs of Loons with chicks on the lake.

Common Loon on nest

Common Loon

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Below you will see a burst of images that captures the typical behavior of Common Loons when they perform a wing flap . These images were captured last weekend on Horseshoe Lake near Parry Sound, Ontario. Every single time I have observed them doing this they seem to follow the same routine. They sink a little lower in the water and slowly spread their wings, rise higher in the water to flap their wings and then they give their head a shake prior to settling back onto the water’s surface. This all happens rather quickly. In about 2 seconds. As I observed this loon sink into the water slightly, I prepared for a wing flap and readied myself for a burst of images. As the wing flap began I pressed the shutter for about 2 seconds shooting roughly 10 frames. My camera is slow by today’s standard and only shoots 5 frames per second, but it was all that was needed to capture this sequence of images. When observing the critters that I like to photograph I always try to learn the little subtle movements that are a prelude to typical behaviors such as this.


Hope you like the images.

Preparing for the wing flap

The wing-flap

The headshake

Settling back down after the wing-flap

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I thought I would share an update on the Common Loons with two babies that I wrote about a few weeks earlier. I am very pleased to report that both chicks have survived. There are lots of snapping turtles in Horseshoe Lake, which is located near Parry Sound, Ontario, and I feared that one of the chicks would fall prey to them. They have not and are doing well. They are diving now to feed themselves, but like most babies still want mom and dad to feed them too. It is very difficult to try and get both parents and juveniles in the same photograph as they tend to spread out quite a bit when feeding. Below are two additional photos of one juvenile and one of the juveniles with one of the parents. Hope you like the photographs.

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