THE GREAT OUTDOORS: Incoming geese inspire a photo challenge | Lifestyles


It is no secret that I’m addicted to nature photography, which I practice on an almost daily basis regardless of weather conditions. In fact bad conditions sometime produce some neat images. I love “shooting” sunrises; they usually are the thing that gets me going in the morning. With sunrises, or sunsets, the secret to getting good ones is to be out there before they occur. Sometimes the best sky color is before the sun rises or after it sets, and you need to be in a good position before that happens. After sunrise, I head to a likely wildlife scene.

Lately I have been sitting along the Feeder Road off Route 77 near a marsh where geese and ducks come to rest in the morning. No hunting is allowed on this marsh, so many of the waterfowl naturally pick it for a safe haven. This was my favorite spot last week as I aimed to get good flight shots of geese coming in. Lighting and wind need to be from the right angle, and the birds are fast, so you have to be on the ball. It is very satisfying to catch that goose image, tack sharp, as he cups and drops into the marsh.

I used to do a lot of waterfowl hunting and the incoming geese always seemed to be the most exciting to watch. That’s still true today as I hunt them with my camera. Their distance calling tunes me in to their arrival and even when they are about to take off. I take way too many pictures of them in flight, but that’s necessary to catch the birds’ most flattering positions, which involves how the light is hitting them, their wing positions and their angle to the camera.

One shot I’m always trying to capture is their flying upside-down (yes, you read that right!). Sometimes when a flock is coming in to land they come in from a high altitude and are in a hurry to get to their chosen landing spot. To do this they “slip” sideways as they drop from the sky, and even flip over on their backs, which cuts wind resistance and helps them drop more quickly. Now, this maneuver takes only a split second, and they do it individually, not as a group. Thus it can be very difficult to catch this move. The best way is to just click away as you see birds in the flock doing this and hope you catch one upside-down.

When the birds are ready to leave the marsh, their body positioning and type of call usually prompt me to get ready. I try to catch them both flying and running on the water as they get airborne. Again, it is a matter of taking a lot of shots to catch it just right.

A lot of other things went on as I waited for various groups of geese to arrive. One morning a pair of trumpeter swans flew over me from a side that I don’t eyeball that much, and by the time I saw them I could only get angling-away images, not very flattering to the swans. A few mornings later, now peeking at the southeast side of my position more often, I caught the pair coming towards me. Getting ready, I kept focusing on them as they approached, and hit the “trigger” a number of times as they passed low and right in front of me. Each time I did, the thought “got it” clicked in my mind, and the end result was about six great, tack-sharp, well-exposed and flattering shots. As they continued on their way I took a deep breath — I often hold my breath as I shoot, probably a habit from my long range woodchuck hunting days that gave me a more accurate shot. A quick review of the shots proved I hit the nail right on the head, and my day was made even if the geese and ducks didn’t cooperate.

Other creatures often show themselves while I’m waiting out a particular set up like this. A mink will scramble in front of me, never giving a good shot because it is so quick in its sudden appearance and disappearance. Then there’s the great blue heron that has not flown south yet, offering some close “fishing” poses to me. Although not as plentiful as the incoming geese in this marsh, some mallards, pintails, teal and an occasional wood duck come in, elevating the excitement for me.

When the geese do start arriving there seems to be numerous groups coming in, one after another, which keeps me on the ball and breathless as I concentrate on various groups, trying to pick ones with good background, or doing quick maneuvers and coming in at the right angles.

Nature’s creatures are not the only things that keep me entertained while I’m in this area. The seasonal road is traveled by both vehicles and hikers looking to see nature or photograph it, and sometimes it’s pretty funny watching the wildlife outmaneuver these people. I can often predict what’s going to happen. Someone stops quickly and jumps out of their vehicle, camera in hand for a picture, only to find the creature has disappeared. Or, they walk or drive by never seeing the wildlife right off the road, because they don’t know how to look for it.

Nature photography can be addictive but that is OK because it makes you more appreciative of what’s out there.

I have a list of folks to whom I send my nature images. If you’re interested in seeing what I see, send me your email address and a request and I’ll add you to the list.

Doug Domedion, outdoorsman and nature photographer, resides in Medina. Contact him at 585-798-4022 or woodduck2020@yahoo.com.

Frederick photographer Brodie Ledford featured in national competition | Arts & entertainment


Brodie Ledford says it was a Christmas gift he’d bought for his wife that led to his career in photography.

The 41-year-old Frederick native always loved video cameras and taking photos, but it wasn’t until he purchased a camera for his wife, Dara, a fine arts major in college with a focus on photography, that he became enamored with the art form.

For their Christmas together after she graduated college, Ledford “went out and bought her a brand new DSLR [digital] camera,” he said.

“The funny thing is, the second she opened it, I started playing with it,” he said during a phone interview. “And that camera then became mine. The rest, as they say, is history. That was nearly 17 years ago.”

Today, Ledford owns Brodie Ledford Studios in Frederick and was recently featured in a photography competition called Creator Series. Ledford was one of 10 photographers selected to be part of the 11-episode series, available to stream online.

In each episode, the photographers were challenged in various aspects of photography, from lighting to composition to posing — and they were given only 10 minutes to get the shot.

The web series, which can be viewed on YouTube, was judged by Canon Explorers of Light photographers: Sal Cincotta, an award-winning wedding and portrait photographer; Laretta Houston, who is known for shooting the Tyra Banks Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition; and Vanessa Joy, a renowned wedding photographer. The series was based in St. Louis, where Cincotta, the show’s producer and host, owns his studio.

Ledford entered the contest after seeing a promo for Creator Series at ShutterFest, a large photography conference. He admits he had reservations about entering a competition that would be broadcast worldwide. He considers himself a private person. But he decided to apply anyway.

After applying, Ledford was then interviewed. His portfolio and online presence also were reviewed before he got to the next round. Then he had a submit a 90-second video that explained “why us.” But after sending in the video, several weeks went by, and Ledford assumed he hadn’t been chosen.

“Then when I finally had lost all hope, I got an email saying ‘congratulations, you’re in,’” he recalled. “I was completely shocked, and I was excited and terrified all at the same time.”

He spent July shooting the series in St. Louis. It premiered online in August.

His biggest adjustment was learning how to use the Canon gear that was required for the series because, of course, it was sponsored by Canon.

Cincotta was each photographer’s assistant throughout the series.

“It’s a little bit intimidating because he’s absolutely fantastic,” Ledford said. “He’s one of those guys who expects the best because he is there as the best, and he’s known to be amazing.”

The photographers being allowed only 10 minutes to shoot their assignments for the day made it all the more challenging. Normally, setting up a studio shot can take up to an hour, Ledford said. “We basically had 10 minutes to pick the gear we wanted, set the shot up, talk to the model about what we were looking for, coach the model and then shoot it.”

Then, the photographers were asked to immediately hand over their memory cards.

It wasn’t until every photographer finished their shoot that the contestants could see the photos they’d shot and work on them further. They got 30 minutes to select and edit the images. But, Ledford said, realistically, by the time he would select his images, he would only have 15 minutes, on average, to edit.

“The images that were created are mind-blowing to me — that it was done in such a short period of time,” Ledford said. “That’s where the challenge was.”

The cards were given to the judges who then selected the best and the worst. Every week someone was sent home.

“My favorite competition was probably the reflections competition,” where a model was reflected in a mirror or window, for example, he said. “Because it was something that was outside of what I would normally do.”

The entire competition, he said, was challenging because it forced the photographers to try a type of photography they normally don’t do every day.

He said the series really showed that there’s more to photography than people realize.

“I think the biggest thing that is difficult for photographers is that people think that the cameras have a magic button because they don’t see the behind-the-scenes stuff,” he said. “People don’t see the editing process. They don’t see all the lighting. They don’t understand setting [the camera] on manual mode, not on auto mode.”

Ledford credits his wife for getting him into photography as a profession, and he dabbled in it while he held a full-time job as a store manager for Best Buy.

“My wife would take my photos, and she would make photo books for me and just keep, you know, pushing me and say, ‘Hey, look, it’s great stuff,’” he said.

He and his wife, who is also a photographer, cofounded Brodie Ledford Studios, and when someone asked if he did weddings, it became his first professional gig. After a while, his wife again encouraged him to take the leap full-time into his new passion.

“I walked away from that life, and I was able to do what I want to do now,” he said. “And it’s unbelievable.”

Ledford’s business is considered a luxury, service-based company, where he focuses on client relationships.

“There are a lot of people out there that take pictures, and there’s a huge difference between a picture taker and a professional photographer,” he said. “I really pride myself on the fact that we focus on the experience for the client, and our clients truly do become like friends and family.”