Elk Lake is just one of those places - - - special enough to draw in talent, natural enough to entice the every-day guy (or gal). This means we rub shoulders with all types - and we like it that way!
Like most, Ron Bielefeld arrived at Elk Lake without fanfare. Just a guy on family vacation with a super large lens practically glued to his side. By the time they left, I knew Ron for what he is: a knowledgeable biologist and skilled bird photographer in one! Thus when Ron expressed interest in conducting photography classes at Elk Lake Resort, I was more delighted than surprised.
The first test of any teacher is their own work. The photos which follow show Ron has the photographer's 'eye'. Perhaps of greater value (and vastly important to those seeking a skilled teacher), Ron's images have recently been honored in two of the most prestigious nature photography competitions. While the two photos which follow were not taken in Montana, they show the quality of Ron's work.
Receiving a Highly Honored recognition in the annual Windland Smith Rice Competition put on by Natureâ€™s Best Photography is a marked distinction. Being highly honored means Ron placed in the top 50 of around 30,000 images submitted from around the world. Thus his image will be featured in the Natureâ€™s Best Photo magazine, on their website, included in a slide presentation to be displayed at the Smithsonian Institution, and printed and displayed at the National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institute. What an honor!
Placing in the top 10 in the North American Nature Photographers Association annual competition is also a high honor. Competing against nearly 10,000 entries an image which scores in the top 250 is considered spectacular. However, every competitor's goal is to be in the top 10. Ron's image is due to be printed huge in front of their magazine, featured on their website, and framed and honored at their annual banquet - certainly another noteable achievement.
Yet, the trait most commonly lacking, even among skilled photographers, is the ability to transfer expertise and skill to others. While William Kleinfelder is no amateur, he would be the first to tell you Ron has helped him to greatly enhance his skills (highlighted in this earlier post).
However, Ron's scientific background may be his best asset. His autobiography is impressive. "I hold B.S. and M.S. degrees in Wildlife Ecology and Biology and have worked as a professional wildlife biologist for 3 states over the past 20+ years. All of my photographs are of wild birds and none were baited in to get them close enough to photograph. To me, part of photographing nature is capturing it as it occurs "naturally," as if I were not there"
Thus, when Ron offered some photos from his recent visit to the Centennial Valley for posting, I asked if I could showcase his skills. He complied. Thus I invite you to sit back and enjoy some amazing photography while tasting what Ron has to offer in knowledge and skills.
Ron says, "I love dynamic images and have a special passion for capturing birds in flight." During an afternoon conversation Ron said he realized true skill requires a distinct focus. Obviously not one to stick to the easy path, Ron chose a medium most avoid as too difficult - birds on the wing.
A common sight, sparrows are often considered the 'back-step fowl'. Like miniature chickens they gather at our door. Yet one would be amiss to dismiss the White-Crowned Sparrow as ordinary. The Cornell Lab of Orinthology says "A young male White-crowned Sparrow learns the basics of the song it will sing as an adult during the first two or three months of its life. . .Males on the edge of two dialects may be bilingual and able to sing both dialects." Amazing!
Crisp photos are a challenge, even when shooting a static landscape. The odds against a decent photograph climb dramatically when the subject is in motion. Birds are common companions but they are quick and illusive. Ron agrees. "Getting tack sharp images of birds in flight is the most difficult aspect of avian photography." Yet he says, "I can definitely arm you with the methods needed. . ."
Trumpeter Swans were, for many years, the heart and soul of Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. The Refuge was a key player in the fight to bring them back from near extinction. Now that their numbers have returned to solid ground, the Refuge has broadened its focus. Yet, the Trumpeter remains an important focus. I am sure its unique grace, beauty, and size are one reason.
With a 10 foot wing span, a body length reaching 5 1/2 feet, and weights exceeding 35 pounds, the Trumpeter Swan reigns undisputed as the largest existing waterfowl species on earth and the heaviest bird native to North America. How are they so graceful?
Does the idea of capturing clear images of wildlife interacting within their natural habitat appeal to you? While this all may seem terribly complicated, Ron prefers to keep things simple. He promises not to throw technical terms your way unless that is your wish.
He will show you simple techniques to increase your reactions increasing the number of images captured. Better yet, he can show you how to ditch the extra "gear and become a lean and mean shooting machine."
Hopefully next time I will have more glorious images and more interesting photography and scientific tidbits.
Lady of the Lake