Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Yosemite NatPark

Happy Holidays and 
All the Best for 2014!

Since I am leaving for a long trip to the end of the World - Antarctica - my holiday greetings come to you early this year.  I have dedicated my last blog entry for the year 2013 to the wonderful Yosemite National Park and have pulled together a lot of my images taken over the years of visiting there.  I have combined still images with timelapse video and I hope you will enjoy the journey.

As the year comes to an end, I want to thank all of you who have supported and encouraged me to pursue my passion of photography.  2013 has been a year of change as I have left my scientific career behind and am dedicating my time to being behind the camera, learning new techniques in my timelapse and video photography.  I have been fortunate to travel quite a bit internationally to South America, Patagonia and the Magellan Strait, as well domestically with road trips to Montana and Glacier National Park in early summer and to Utah and the national parks there in the Fall.

My yearly volunteering brought me to Kanab Utah.  The Best Friends Animal Society is a wonderful place to lend a hand and I certainly fell in love with all the wonderful cats that I took care of during my time there.  You can read my story about my time there in this link. My latest photo book "So Much Love" was conceived during my volunteering there and can be purchased here.

         So much love - Best Friend Animal Society        
               So much love - Best Friend Animal Society      
     Working with animals is inspirational.  This book was conceived during my volunteer work at Best Friends Society, the largest domestic animals sanctuary in the US and combines wonderful cat portraits with Wisdom Quotes for meditative reading.  Parts of the proceeds will benefit the Best Friends…    
             Find out more on MagCloud          

While at home I have enjoyed teaching photography through a variety of photo workshops. I have enjoyed meeting new photographers and sharing my knowledge.  However, I find it most satisfying when I get the feedback that my participants have learned new techniques and insights, and tell me that they will incorporate these new skills into their photography practice.  Thank you all!!
As 2014 approaches, pl check out my new photo workshops listings here.

My personal focus in my photography practice has been on night photography.  I took several astro landscape photography workshops with terrific teachers - Brad Goldpaint, Steven Christenson and Jon Fuller - and have gained confidence to capture the night sky and the milky way - this is truly my new nightlife.  Two recent blog entries showed more of my night photography:  City Lights and Mare Island Naval Shipyard at night.

Crater Lake under the Milky Way

I  hope your year was successful in all your endeavors!

For now, I am wishing you a Happy Holiday Season and all the best for the coming New Year!

Stay healthy and be well!  I hope to see you all sometimes during 2014!

Til then, Meggi


2014 New Photography Workshops:

Under the Stars        --  Astro-Landscape Night Photography, Big Sur Coast
                                     February 28, 2014
Above the  Clouds   --  Astro-Landscape Night Photography, Fremont Peak Park
                                     May 24, 2014

Sonoma Hot Air Balloon Classic  --  Colorful & Unique Photo Opportunity with Tutorial in Timelapse                                                                    Photography
                                      June 13-15, 2014

Sunday, November 24, 2013

City Lights-San Francisco

Fun with Fisheye 16mm lens

The Waterfront

It promised to be a clear night - so I made a dash up to the city.
With minimum camera gear to be free to walk around, the light little 16mm Fisheye Lens proved just to be right for some fun.

But see for yourself:

The Ferry Building

The Embarcadero Center with Holiday Lights

Last but not least, I am adding an image from a full  moon night some time ago.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!

Til next time,

Please send me your comments to

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Mare Island Naval Shipyard

Mare Island Naval Shipyard - National Historic Landmark

The History:

The Mare Island Naval Shipyard (MINSY) was the first United States Navy base established on the Pacific Ocean.[4] It is located 25 miles northeast of San Francisco in Vallejo,California. The Napa River goes through the Mare Island Strait and separates the peninsula shipyard (Mare Island, California) from the main portion of the city of Vallejo. MINSY made a name for itself as the premier US West Coast submarine port as well as serving as the controlling force in San Francisco Bay Area shipbuilding efforts during World War II.[5] The base closed in 1996 and has gone through several redevelopment phases. It was registered as a California Historical Landmark in 1960,[2] and parts of it were declared a National Historic Landmark District in 1975.[3]

The Navy purchased the original 956 acres (387 ha) of MINSY in 1853 and commenced shipbuilding operations on September 16, 1854 under the command of then-CommanderDavid Farragut, who would later gain fame during the U.S. Civil War Battle of Mobile Bay, when he gave the order, "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!" MINSY served as a major Pacific Ocean repair station during the late 19th century, handling American as well as Japanese and Russian vessels in the course of duty.

During World War II, base facilities included a hospital, ammunition depot, paint and rubber testing laboratories, and schools for firefighters, opticians, and anti-submarine attack during World War II.[12]   MINSY reached peak capacity for shipbuilding, repair, overhaul, and maintenance of many different kinds of seagoing vessels including both surface combatants and submarines. Up to 50,000 workers were employed.[13] Mare Island even received Royal Navy cruisers and destroyers and four Soviet Navy subs for service.[5] Following the War, MINSY was considered to be one of the primary stations for construction and maintenance of the Navy's Pacific fleet of submarines, having built seventeen submarines and four submarine tenders by the end of hostilities.

Today, the Mare Island Navy Shipyard is mainly abandoned and its old buildings, cranes and ship dock structures offer a beautiful subject for photography.  However, my first visit on Mare Island a while ago during daytime was a bit disappointing since I mainly saw the grim and blight.  But, yesterday I had the opportunity to join a group of nocturnal photographers who knew where to find interesting corners.  Under the illumination of a full moon, the remnants of a foregone time became alive.

But see for yourself:

Til next time,

PS.:  I'd love to hear your comments, pl email me at

Monday, October 28, 2013

Best Friends Sanctuary-Book

New Book - just published!

Best Friends Society is the largest domestic animals sanctuary in the US. In September as part of my annual volunteer activity, I spent time at Best Friends helping to take care of the 'unwanted'. Best Friends is a no kill sanctuary that takes in animals from animal shelters around the country and will take care of them and give them a forever home if they are not adopted. It was an inspirational and healing time for me to work with so many dedicated people to give love to those who need it. Since I mainly worked with cats, I have prepared this book to capture wonderful cat portraits and captured some of the wisdom that I experienced. Part of the book proceeds will benefit Best Friends Society. Please take a look! The book might make a wonderful gift for the holidays for you or a friend.

          So much love - Best Friend Society       

                      So much love - Best Friend Society                 

          By Meggi Raeder                   
          44 pages, published 10/28/2013        
        Working with animals is inspirational.  This book was conceived during my volunteer work at Best Friends Society, the largest domestic animals sanctuary in the US and combines wonderful cat portraits with Wisdom Quotes for meditative reading.  Parts of the proceeds will benefit the Best Friends Society in Utah.     
                  Find out more on MagCloud             

I hope you enjoyed my new book!
Til next time, 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Best Friends Sanctuary, Utah

Caring for the Unwanted – Volunteering at Best Friends, Utah

It’s been a while since I visited your inbox with new stories and images.  I just returned from a longer road trip that took me to Utah and Arizona where I visited National Parks – Bryce Canyon and Zion – and Navajo Nation Tribal Areas in Monument Valley and Canyon de Chelly (see map below).  Any of you who have been in Utah and/or Arizona will agree that the area is blessed with beautiful landscape, high desert with its starkness and awesome red rock formations.  As I work through my images I will share more of that part of my journey in a future blog.

Best Friends Society Headquarters in Angel Canyon, Kanab, Utah

However, this whole trip actually originated by my yearly goal to volunteer some of my time for a good animal cause.  I have been a supporter of the biggest domestic animal sanctuary in the US:  Best Friend Society, in Kanab Utah, since I visited them almost 10 years ago.  Established almost 30 years ago, Best Friends pioneered the ‘no-kill’ movement.  At the time, more than 17 million homeless pets were dying each year in shelters.  Today that number has dropped to around 4 million which is a tremendous progress.  But Best Friend is not stopping there and is promoting ‘trap-spay/neuter-release programs in communities all around the country while also supporting local community organizations in their efforts to establish ‘no-kill’ shelters. 

Millani - with her striking blue eyes!

In the effort to ‘save them all’, Best Friends takes in from shelters around the country those animals that are , in Angel Canyon – beautiful red rock country!  Here, ~1700 domestic animals have found sanctuary, are cared for, are healed from neglected and abusive situations under the care of wonderful staff supported by an army of volunteers.  The large clinic with its veterinary staff is skilled to deal with those animals that need medical treatment.  When I first visited Best Friends, the tour guide drove us around in a jeep to the horse pastures, pig heaven, the bunny house, Parrot Gardens, Dog Town where we were greeted by happy noisy dogs of all sizes, to Cat Village with its very spacious indoor/outdoor facilities with lots of cat trees and rafters for the shy cats who liked to be let alone.  Overlooking Angel Canyon, Angles Rest Cemetery is a quiet place where those who passed away find solitude with each grave marked with the name of the animal that found its resting place here.

You might remember having heard about Best Friends during and after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans 5 years ago.  Best Friends’ army of volunteers answered the call for help and established a temporary shelter for the animals left behind in the flooded area.  In the end, Best Friends were able to reunite over 80% of the animals with their owners and took in the remaining animals with the goal of finding them good forever homes.

Again, after the super storm Sandy last year, Best Friends supported the rescue efforts for the domestic animals there. 

Over the years, I heard of other stories about Best Friends that strengthened my resolve to spend some time there.  And on September 11, I started bright and early for the volunteer orientation, safety training, and pinned my volunteer batch on my shirt and drove to Cat Village to roll up my sleeves and help wherever help was needed.  Yes, the sanctuary is so large that one has to drive from the main building to the various locations where the animals are, as well as to the central cafeteria for a healthy vegetarian lunch.  This eliminates the drive to town – Kanab – since Best Friends is nestled in the canyon about 15 miles north of Kanab.  Although I love all animals, I had decided to spend my time in Cat Village where ~500 cats are house in several specifically designed houses which allow the cats to be inside – the winters can be cold at 5000 ft elevation – or outside in large patio enclosures.  Each house has dedicated staff supported by volunteers to care for about 60-70 cats.  The cats are roomed in several indoor/outdoor enclosures with about 17-20 living together.  The enclosures have cat trees, scratch boards, toys, lots of warm soft resting pillows, and rafters under the ceiling for cats that are shy or need some more alone time.

As a volunteer, I spend my mornings assigned to a room with 15-17 cats to do the daily cleaning.  I was impressed that with so many cats and of course litter boxes, the place smelled fresh and clean, and I learned the tricks how this is accomplished:  all pillows and cloth surfaces were brushed daily with a water-Downy solution – or sometimes with lavender – and being washed once a week.  All solid surfaces received a wiping with OdoBan and with fresh litter and mopping the floors, my cats enjoyed a beautiful clean home.

To coax the shyer cats down from their rafters, I handed out treats freely.  Helping socializing the shyer cats was on the schedule for the afternoon since Best Friends’ goal is to adopt the animals to forever homes.  If you ever have visited shelters, it is always the more socialized friendly animals that find homes more easily than the shyer ones.  During the afternoons, I also packed my small camera to see what I could capture.  

When I left the sanctuary to continue my trip it was with a heavy heart.  The cats of Morgaine House where I spent my volunteer time had all in their own way been wonderful.  Shy Brooklyn would come down from her rafter to be petted and when I called and brought her her special food.  Kixie let me pet her after I read to her on her first day at the sanctuary – she missed her home.  Lilith, a young beautiful tortoise cat, who had a congenital disorder that hinders her to walk well, used to sit on my lap in the afternoon purring up a storm.  Squirrel, true to her name, climbed all over me and loved to end up on my shoulder.  Xena with her beautiful white face loved to be petted but not held.  If they could talk, what stories would they tell us?  Some are still grieving the loss of their person;  some are healing from situation that were not beneficial to them – animals that came from hoarding situations, had never had enough to eat, had been mistreated.  The hope is
that they learn to trust humans again, that the loving environment at Best Friends shows them that their misfortune is over and that maybe they will find ‘their person’ and a loving home.  As of this writing, some of the cats from Morgaine House have been adopted:  Lilith and Xena and young Buttercup all found caring
people that adopted them – Bon Voyage and a happy life with lots of love!!

In the end I was sad to leave but happy to have had the opportunity to work with such dedicated people - who even walk those cats that need physical therapy on a leash!  Most of the staff comes to Best Friends after visiting and maybe answering a desire to get off the fast pace life.  Life in Kanab is rural at a slower pace.  But I can see the rewards working for an organization that is truly dedicated to those who don’t have a voice; an organization trying to find solutions at the core of the problems:  increase spay and neuter programs, stop puppy mills, abolish breed discrimination, proceed with the ‘no kill’ mission in shelters countrywide, better regulations for Internet pet traffic, and others.  I left hopeful that these problems can be overcome and that the world can become a better place for the animals.  As for me, I think I might very well be back – Best Friends and Angel Canyon might be calling me – let’s see how my journey will continue.

Til next time

Friday, August 23, 2013

American Wild Horses - Good News

American Wild Horses - 
149 unbranded horses saved from slaughter!

Following a brutal round up by BLM, the American Wild Horses Preservation organization and other supporting organizations worked hard to save the horses from slaughter and worked towards their rescue.

August 23, 2013:  News from the American Wild Horses Preservation:
It's been a long and difficult week, but I have good news to share. The 149 unbranded horses in limbo at the Fallon Livestock Auction in Nevada have been saved!
In fact, our friend Terri Farley just sent this photo in from the stockyard where the rescue is underway right now:
You'll recall that these horses were rounded up by the Fort McDermitt Paiute Shoshone tribe earlier this month with the blessing of our federal government.
As a result of our lawsuit against the federal government, a judge last Friday issued an injunction temporarily blocking their sale at the auction. The sale continued with the auction of branded horses, about half of whom were sadly purchased by kill buyers.
On Wednesday, the same judge lifted the order, clearing the way for the horses to be sold to the highest bidder. Clearly, we disagree with the verdict and with the actions of the federal government, which was complicit in making these horses available to kill buyers.
Following the ruling, we did everything we could to save the 149 horses from slaughter. I’m happy to report that, after an amazing collaborative effort, these horses are safe. 
Our coalition partner The Cloud Foundation, secured the involvement of Victoria McCullough and the Triumph Project of Wellington Florida. Florida State Senator Joe Abruzzo, negotiated with the tribe on Ms. McCullough’s behalf to purchase all the horses for rescue.
Stepping up to take the horses were Ellie Phipps Price (Dunston Wines), Madeleine Pickens (Saving America’s Mustangs), Liberty for Horses, Nevada Horse Power, and Return to Freedom.
AWHPC has played a key role in coordinating this monumental rescue. It has been a true team effort and we are touched and grateful for the outpouring of support and concern.
Our work is not yet over, though. Many the rescued horses are in need of permanent homes. And, we of course want to make sure this situation never happens again.
If you can offer a home for one of these horses, please email or just reply to this email.
If you would like to donate to help feed and care for these horses, Return to Freedom has started a fund dedicated to this rescue.
The outpouring of support and concern over the fate of these horses have demonstrated the strength of Americans’ opposition to horse slaughter and support for wild horses. In memory of the more than 150,000 horses who are sent to slaughter every year, please join us in continuing this fight! 
Thank you to all have supported this amazing rescue effort. `
- Suzanne & the AWHPC Team

American Wild Horse Preservation

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Photographing the 4rth Dimension: Time

The sky over Russian Ridge during the Perseid Meteor Shower on August 12, 2013
[Timelapse Animation of ~180 images during the midnight hours.]

Photographing the 4rth Dimension: Time

The art of painting and photography has captured the 3-dimensional that we inhabit in a 2-dimensional way.  Historically, the early paintings and up about to the renaissance were often ‘flat’ due to lack of special differentiation.  It was the Dutch Masters and others of that period in the 17th century that introduced the mastery of special perspective, working with depth of space, shadow and light to bring out the special orientation and perspective.

In photography, depth of field, line-work and other tools bring out the spacial dimensions beautifully. 

But it is possible to bring the element of time into photography?  You might say of course since the invention of movies and videos we have captured time beautifully.  But can it be captured in a still frame?

Loop-di-loop over the City by the Bay - Helocopter and airplane traffic depicted over time

In the past 2 years during my exploration of the night sky, the stars and the Milky Way, I have pondered this question.  I often am out at night and set up my camera to take images of the stars in consecutive frames over 1-3 hours.  As the earth rotates on its axis intersecting with Polaris, the North Star, it appears that the stars are moving but obviously it is “us” that is moving. Now, by combining the many images that are captured into one still image, I am actually capturing the 4rth dimension: Time in a 2-dimensional space.

Remember Copernicus (~1533) and Galileo Galilei (~1570) from your history lessons?  Both postulated heliocentrism and earth rotation – observations that at the time were deemed to be heresy by the church who believed that the earth was the center of the Universe.  [Heliocentrism, or heliocentricism,[1] is the astronomical model in which the Earth and planets revolve around a relatively stationary Sun at the center of the Solar System. Ref: Wikepedia]

SkyArt - Startrails around Polaris and airplanes reflecting in the Duck Pond

When planning to photograph the night sky, the Bay Area is unfortunately not a good place to point the camera towards the sky since the light pollution from the many cities.  Have you looked towards the sky at night?  Not many stars are visible.  Moreover, there is a lot of air traffic overhead and the 'trails' of airplanes crisscross the sky.  However, when you travel to remote areas were the surroundings are dark (no light pollution) there are millions of star in the sky.  If you have traveled to the Sierra or hiked in the back country, you might have marveled at the beauty overhead while laying in your sleeping bag.  I am no longer backpacking but I can reach ‘dark sky’ areas by driving away from the cities and I do enjoy being out at night under the canopy of stars.

Tranquility over Lake Tahoe

The following images were taken over the last year or so during my travel to many different locations:

The Southern Sky over Torre del Paines, Chile

Last light and the marine (fog) layer over the Pacific at Pescadero

 Moonlight over Half Dome, Yosemite

Double Arch with light painting at Arches National Park, Utah

Starry Skyover Golden Gate - 
Less stars are visible but even with the light pollution of San Francisco 
one can capture the beauty of the sky.
This image was published by daily Newsletter in June, 2013

Airplane traffic out of San Francisco Airport

I hope you enjoyed my exploration of the night sky.

Til next time, 

Friday, July 26, 2013

'It's Raining Stars' - Published today

It's Raining Stars
Science News - Great Photos - Sky Alerts Newsletter is published daily and is a great source to all kind of information about the sky, the stars, meteors, constellations and more, and I have learned a lot from reading it daily.

Today (July 26, 2013),, published one of my latest astro photography images as the Image of the Day 
The following description accompanied the image:
'Living in the San Francisco Bay Are with its light pollution, it is getting harder and harder to find ‘dark sky’ to capture the night sky and the Milky Way. Last Tuesday, I drove south and camped on one of the coastal mountain tops with view to the east for the Milky Way and the west towards the Pacific. Around midnight, I captured the western view with the ~70% moon illuminating the meadow and woodlands. Rotation around Polaris was an extra bonus.
Nikon D700 with Nikkor 14-24mm lens, Monfrotto Tripod and Right Stuff Ball Head, Intervelometer.'
Thank you, Deborah Byrd and, for selecting my image for today's Image of the Day!

Til next time,

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Hummingbird Photography-PhotoTips

Photographing Hummingbirds
plus Photo Tips for Fast Action Photography

A Day of Fun and Learning

-         Hummingbird Photography Workshops by Judy Bingman and Meggi Raeder

As the sun rose, it promised to be a clear and warm day in the Santa Cruz Mountains.  As we were getting ready filling up all hummingbird feeders, the tiny birds were right there to get their breakfast.  It is so amazing how they buzz around the feeders, sharing each one with many other of their ‘relatives’.  Different from my garden in Palo Alto, where I often have one dominant male that might not want to share ‘his’ feeder with anyone else.

In Judy’s garden in the Santa Cruz Mountains, there are about 10+ feeders in various locations among the red hot pokers (also known as Torch Lily, Kniphofia/Red Hot Poker Lilies), lantana, and other flowering, nectar-carrying plants that all attract hummingbirds.

By 8am, our group of 6 photographers participating in the workshop arrived and set up their cameras and lenses to get ready for a day of fun and learning.   To get everyone started, we first discussed some of the behaviors of these tiny flying ‘machines’.   Weighing approximately 0.1 ounce and being the tiniest birds, they are strong and enduring during their migration from the northern areas to the southern hemisphere where they over-winter.  Amazingly, hummingbirds beat their wings at a rate of 40-80 per second and they can fly up to 30 miles per hour.  Some hummingbird species cross the Gulf of Mexico on their migration route to Florida without being able to land [in contrast to the shorebirds that can always rest on the water].  Their heart beat is very fast at 500-1200 beats per minute to create the energy – yet at night when they rest perched on trees or nests, it drops to ~50 beats to conserve energy.  Due to all of this energy consumption, they need to feed continuously on nectar or insects (protein source) that they catch in flight. 

The most striking features of hummingbirds are their iridescent plumage, particularly on the neck.  There are New World most of which are found in the tropics.  In all of North America, about 112 species have been observed, with 26 in Mexico, 17 in the USA and Canada.  In California, about 12 species have been reported and in the Bayarea the Anna and Allen Hummingbird are the most seen in our local backyards, with an occasional Rufus passing by.  In the Santa Cruz Mountains, the hummingbirds have been seen all winter if there is a food source.  With feeders provided, one might see the birds all year round.
about 340 species of hummingbirds in the

Observation, Practice and Patience

As in all wildlife photography, before setting up the equipment and starting photographing, it is very important to observe and learn the behavior and movement of the subjects to be able to anticipate what actions they will take.  For our hummingbirds, we studied their approach to the feeders to be able to capture them on and off the feeders.  By knowing that the birds will approach the feeder usually from 1 or 2 directions, and once landed often will go on and off the feeder several times, it is possible to capture their different body postures including the interesting tail flaring when they interact with other birds on or near the feeder.

A Day of Fun and Learning

After everyone was set up, quiet descended over the garden as we all were concentrating on the hummingbirds.  Participants migrated from one feeder to the next with different angles to the sun and backdrops to try different overall compositions.  In the afternoon heat, we all gathered on the shaded porch and photographed from there escaping the hot afternoon sun.
Without fail, during the day everyone captured the fascinating tiny hummingbirds and it is rewarding to see the outcome at the end of the workshop.  Here are some images from the workshops participants using varying tele lenses to capture these tiny birds: 

 Image by Susan

Image by Chris

Image by Jan - competition at the feeder

Image by Susan, titled: Hello there

 Image by Susan

Susan, who had attended a previous hummingbird workshop and who came back after renting a longer tele lens and equipment, was among the most dedicated and her perseverance sure paid off for her.  At home, Susan has a garden with native plants, and she photographs the birds and bees right from her desk where she writes poetry and novels for young reader.

She tells me:

“When I don't have a camera in my hand I am usually at the computer, working on poetry or my next novel for young people. And if I'm not there, I'm in my art studio working on my mixed-media pieces that usually combine my love of photography, dogs, and poetry. Nothing ever feels like work because I am always having so much fun. Breaks are strictly enforced by Zoey, my rescued white German Shepherd, with her frequent demands for walks, games of chase, and agility training.

You can find her work at these links:

Writing Website:
My Garden Blog:
Zoey's Dog Blog:

At the end of the day, we were all exhausted but happy.  It is impossible not to smile at these tiny birds, how they are strong, territorial, defending their food source and yet when there are many around, they do share.

Before closing, I would like to share some of the Photo Tips that I prepare for my workshops participants in a Quick Guide so they can take it home and refer to it next time out in the field.   These photo tips are broadly applicable to any fast action photography in nature or also in sports, dance and other settings that require quick and continuous shooting:

Photo Tips for Hummingbirds, birds and other wildlife
[Fast Action Photography]

During my photographic journey I have  photographed wildlife during the last 7 years  – from big game in Africa, polar bears in Canada, grizzlies and bald eagles in Alaska to the raptors, shorebirds and the tiniest of hummingbirds - there are certain settings on the camera that will serve as a starting point when capturing of wildlife.  Since the movement can never be anticipated for certain, it is important to set the camera to a fast shutter speed and shallow depth of field (large aperture).  But first, let’s look at the equipment.

Camera Equipment I use:
Nikon D7000 (Dx format) and D700 (Fx format)
Tele lenses:  Nikkor 70-200mm, Nikkor 70-300mm and Nikkor 200-400mm lens (my favorite)
1.4x Nikon Teleconverter
Wimberley tripod head
Monfrotto Tripod (sturdy!)
Nikon SB800 flash with Better Beamer Flash extension (for further reach)
Quantum External Battery (to accommodate continuous flashing during continuous shooting)
Nikon Cable Release

Camera Settings – as starting point:
Here are my starting settings that will be varied according to the light, the size and speed of the wildlife that I am photographing, and the environment:

Shutter speed:  1/1000 or faster
Aperture:  f/6.3 or 7.1 [shallow depth of field to blur the background.  Note: with larger animals, an increase in depth of field might be required, e.g. f/8 or 10]
ISO dialed up to achieve these settings:  typically between 640 and 1250
-- [note with the newer cameras, higher ISO settings are quit acceptable due to low noise]

Depending on the light situation, I will add an external flash with a Better Beamer [essentially a Fresnel lens to extend the reach of the flash light] to create some fill flash light specifically if the sunlight is harsh and if the sun illuminates the scene in such a way that the animals are shaded towards the camera. 

Important:  When using a flash, it is imperative to set the camera on manual exposure mode to achieve the above settings.  To achieve the right additional light from the flash, I use the flash exposure compensation to (mostly) soften the flash light ( “-“ exposure adjustment).

Practice and Patience

I have not always been a patient person, but wildlife photography has taught me that patience is a necessary ingredient when trying to capture subjects that cannot be directed to perform!  When out in the field, I always schedule extra time – sometimes several extra days – to increase the potential for good images.  Not only the animals might be shy and elusive, but the weather is an important factor. [We are fortunate in California of having very stable great weather during most of the year.  But this is not the case in other locations!]

As for practice, even after many years of focusing on wildlife, after a period of time, I notice that the hand-eye coordination can get ‘rusty’.  To practice at the beginning of the season, I have my tripod and camera/lens at my back door and enjoy the hummingbirds and finches/titmouse/chickadee and other small birds and squirrels that come to my feeders in my garden.  Since the angle of view is very narrow when using a long tele lens (400mm and longer), coming prepared with a good sense of where your lens is pointing to capture a flying birds increases the success rate of getting good images.

Til next time,

Go Out and Keep Shooting!       

 All images: Copyright M. Raeder-Photography unless otherwise specified.