Yesterday I posted my favorite landscape/travel photos of 2019 (click here to see them). Today I’m posting my wildlife shots, since I felt the page would have gotten too long if I included both.
My Outlook This Past Year
I changed up my shooting philosophy this year a bit, when I comes to wildlife. I decided I wasn’t going to worry about perfection. With just general walking around wildlife photography, I decided to stop worrying about cutting off a wing here and there. Or if there was a bright spot in the background, or if the photo wouldn’t print perfectly sharp at 40×60 inches.
Instead, I started concentrating more on the moment. Using my camera to get a more intimate view of the wildlife and hopefully capture them doing something interesting, that we simply can’t see without the camera/lens.
Not all of the photos are like this by the way. There are some that are just tack sharp portraits of animals and I could print them as large as I want. Sometimes… BIG and SHARP is just plain fun to look at. But some of them wouldn’t be able to be shared at anything larger than internet size, which is fine because that’s what I do with most of my wildlife photos anyway. It’s not like I’m going to flood my house with photos of birds or monkeys all over the wall.
Are Likes Worth It?
I also have a new goal for 2020. See, I don’t share many of my wildlife photos on my social media pages and I’m going to change that. You know why? Wildlife just doesn’t get the traction that landscapes get on most platforms. It gets a little disheartening sometimes because I think (in general) we often judge ourselves by like count.
But something changed recently and I have to say I really like it. Instagram is rolling out a feature where you don’t see likes anymore. It’s been a very public thing, so just do a quick search and you’ll find lots of discussion.
Well, in the last quarter of 2019, I was one of those accounts they chose to start with (unknown to me). What’s that mean? It means I no longer see like counts on other people’s photos – and it’s hidden on my photos, unless I choose to look further.
If it’s my own photo, in my own feed, I see the left side of the image below. I can indeed tap on it and see the like count if I choose (middle image). But it’s not staring at me every time I look at a photo. If it’s the general public feed (photo by John Weatherby Photography), all I see is the right side of the image below. Even if I tap on it, since it’s not my photo, I can’t see the number of likes a photo has. So whether you got a million likes, or 8 likes, your photo’s (in my feed) all look the same. I have no idea how many people liked it.
Personally, I love it. I learned a LONG time ago that chasing the social media game and likes, and follower count was futile. They all change over time, people move on. And all of that energy you spent chasing it was wasted, because now everyone is on to something else.
Now I simply just don’t care. I share away, and that’s it 🙂 It’s actually very refreshing!
I’m a Sony Artisan of Imagery so all of my gear is Sony based. But my wildlife setup changed quite a bit this year. I started with only the Sony a7R iii. Then I got the a9 in March. Then I got the a7R iv in September. So I’ve used all three cameras to shoot. (Read more about my thoughts on the a7R iv here).
I also started the year with the 100-400mm and the 400mm f/2.8 lens. Then, last summer, Sony announced what has become my absolute favorite – the 200-600mm lens. So the photos you see were taken with all 3.
I occasionally use a tripod. Many of the backyard bird stuff you see was on a tripod. But more for just the stability of not holding the camera while I wait (I’m often out there for 2 hours at a time). The ball-head is mostly loose and I’m just using the tripod to help support. Anything “in flight” was handheld and everything in Costa Rica (except the tree frog) was hand held.
Here Goes… My 2019 Wildlife Favorites…
Finally, here are my favorite wildlife photos of 2019 in no particular order except the first shot below.
Squirrel Monkeys in Costa Rica – This rang in as my favorite shot. With the little one leaning on the mom, I think you can see why. There’s another one below it where I like how the baby is barely visible peeking through. There, and all monkey photos here were shot from the ground looking up in the trees near Puerto Jiménez in Costa Rica.
(NOTE: Click on any photo to see it larger)
Osprey Portraits and Flight Shots – Here’s a few Osprey portrait and flight shots that made my favorites. This has become one of my favorite birds to photograph. If you looked at my Sparks Lake photos from yesterday, after sunrise, the Ospreys came out so it was a double whammy. I got to shoot an amazing location at sunrise and hang around for a couple hours and photograph the Ospreys as well.
It’s amazing to watch them hunt. They are so laser focussed and always have a watchful eye on the water below. And you get to see so many little nuances about them through the camera, that you don’t see with the naked eye.
Hawks in Costa Rica – These photos were taken while walking the grounds of the place we stay at in Costa Rica during my workshops. It’s not a wildlife sanctuary or anything like that. It is the rainforest and wildlife like this (and more) appear right outside our rooms.
A couple of them have some wings cut off, but as I wrote above… I simply don’t care 🙂
I love the look on the hawks face as he took off toward me (below).
Tree Frog, Costa Rica – This is a tree frog in Costa Rica. This was a staged photo, and as I look at tree frogs and have actually seen them in the wild, I realize that almost all photos we see of them are staged. Frogs typically don’t like to just sit there with a big lens in their face. They jump away. And they’re super small so they’re not easy to find. So when you see shots like this and wonder how the heck they got them – I’d guess that more times than not, the photo was staged.
Also, the frog was not in captivity. It was found and placed on this flower shortly before this, and released right after.
Backyard Birds – These are a few of the small songbirds in my backyard. I have a feeder set up, but I don’t care to have photos of them on the feeders so I set up a few branches around for them to land on. I have to say, photographing these little guys is one of the most challenging things I’ve done in photography.
As for the birds, I think the cardinals always get all the glory because they’re bright red (well, the males at least), but these little Tufted Titmouse birds have actually become my favorite of the song birds.
Howler Monkeys, Costa Rica – The howlers are a bit easier to photography as they don’t tend to move as much as the little squirrel monkeys do. But they’re also really hard to photograph because they’re so dark and often up in trees with bright sky behind them. Probably some of the hardest photos to edit too. If the baby in the first photo looks dark, it was. I didn’t even know it was there until I looked on the computer. So I deliberately left it a little darker than the adult.
Spider Monkey, Costa Rica – This one cracked me up. Just laying around while my friend pics the bugs or whatever off me 🙂 I think I even heard him say… “Hey… is that a Sony camera you got there!?”
Shorebirds in Clearwater, FL – You’ll often find me roaming the beach in Clearwater / Sand Key FL photographing the shore birds – most likely on the ground down low getting sandy and wet. Getting in close is really interesting to see their mannerisms and watch them while they hunt.
More Birds in Costa Rica – Here’s a few more I liked from Costa Rica. I don’t make it a habit to post photos of a birds back. That’s always one of the cardinal rules of bird photography, and it’ll get this one instantly thrown away in a competition. But… the way he’s turned is interesting to me, you can see the catchlight in his eye and razor sharp beak, and I just liked the composition – so I’m posting it.
I also don’t post photos of birds on feeders. I’m not opposed to using feeders to lure them in, but I want them in a more natural setting (which means placing branches or figuring out which ones they’ll land on). But in the second photo I liked the movement, as she shook her tail.
And the third… well, I just love the look. Kind of like “Hey… whachu doin’ down there”.
Okay… That’s Really It This Time
Thanks for swinging by for my 2-day “Best of 2019” posts. It’s the first time I’ve separated them out and I think it worked better this way.
That officially wraps up my best photos of last year. But don’t go away just yet. Later this week I’m going to post an editing video of my best photos so you can see where each one started and ended up. I’ve never done that before but I think it’ll be a good learning experience.
Thanks and have a good one!