Frigid winter scenery in Box Elder County, Utah
There have been days & days of cloudy weather since our Christmas snow storm which has caused me to photograph mostly close to home at my local pond when sucker holes have opened up and let the sun shine through.
Yesterday was supposed to be mostly sunny but bitter cold so my friend Ron and me headed north hoping to find some raptors. As we headed north on I-15 the temps began to drop, now when we left Salt Lake City the temps were already in the single digits but then they dropped below freezing and continued to fall. At 8:41 am at the Corrine exit on I-15 the temperature was -14°F and in the few miles it took to get to the bridge over the Bear River just before Corrine it dropped to -22°F.
Box Elder County at -22°F
It was frigid! But the sun was shining and there wasn’t even the slightest breeze. The scenery was gorgeous and the snow blanketed the ground and the Promontory Mountain Range to the west. I love this view during all seasons of the year but the starkness during the winter is remarkable.
I counted nine Golden Eagles, more than a dozen Rough-legged Hawks, several Red-tailed Hawks, one Peregrine Falcon, pheasants, Mule Deer, a small covey of Gray Partridges, a few Chukars, kestrels and Horned Larks. I even photographed a Rough-legged Hawk with prey so close it filled my frame. So we saw plenty of birds.
Rough-legged Hawk on a snow-covered hill
I took a couple hundred images of the birds I saw yesterday. But when I focused on the first hawk I knew I was having problems with focusing, the focus slipped in and out, it did that with every bird I photographed yesterday. Shooting from inside a vehicle during the winter and extremely cold temps helps to keep the photographer warmer than they would be standing outside but it can also cause problems because heat can come up from under the vehicle and cause problems with focusing. There wasn’t even the slightest breeze yesterday to push the heat waves away.
Every single image I took yesterday was way softer than they would have been had it not been for those heat waves coming up the side of the pickup. To say I was disappointed is putting it lightly. I had frame filling images of Golden Eagles in trees and in flight, all soft. The close up Rough-legged Hawk on prey, all soft. Red-tails in flight, all soft.
This is just one of the many frustrations that can plague bird photographers, bird photography isn’t easy. There are plenty of sites on line that also state that heat waves can be problematic with longer lenses.
And if you step outside of the mobile blind the birds fly off immediately the majority of the time, besides I don’t like making them expend the energy to fly away when the temps are so cold and they are struggling to stay alive.
I included just this one image of a Rough-legged Hawk on a snowy hill because I thought seeing it in this setting was lovely but I had to sharpen it far more in post processing than I ever like to do.
But the scenery was wonderful and it felt marvelous to see the sun shining again. Even though I didn’t get the images I hoped for it was still a great morning.
Life is good.