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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Pro Winter Hot Spots

Top locations for you to get your best shots this winter

Labels: Locations
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3 Location: Piedras Blancas, California
Photographer: Cathy & Gordon Illg
About 20 minutes north of San Simeon, Piedras Blancas has become an important elephant seal rookery. The first elephant seal came ashore here in the early '90s, and the first pup was born on this beach a few years later. More than 3,500 elephant seal pups will enter the world at Piedras Blancas this winter, mostly in January and February. You can access the areas via a boardwalk to several hundred yards of shoreline crowded with elephant seals.

Elephant seal bulls usually display and posture a great deal before fighting, so photographers often have time to get into position before the fight occurs. One bull usually retreats quickly, often before a blow has been struck. Many times photographers get in position for nonexistent or very short fights. As with any wildlife behavior image, there was some luck involved in taking this one because we hardly had to move at all, as these two bulls began throwing their weight around, and they went at it for several minutes. When they took their fight into the surf, though, that was when it truly became exciting. Both of us were shooting, one wide with a 100-400mm zoom and the other tight with a 500mm. We decided we liked the tight version better because it was more unusual. How often do you get to look down the throat of an elephant seal?

Canon EOS-1D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm ƒ/4L IS II USM
See more of Cathy and Gordon Illg's photography at www.advenphoto.com.

4 Location: Yosemite National Park, California
Photographer: Gary Hart
I can't imagine any sight on Earth more breathtaking than Yosemite with fresh snow. Given its relatively warm temperatures and frequent sunshine, photographing Yosemite Valley blanketed with fresh snow requires being there during the storm. Yosemite's storms clear from west to east, so I usually hang out at Tunnel View during the storm's most intense periods, when most of Yosemite's recognizable features are obscured by clouds. As the clouds part to reveal a winter wonderland, that's the perfect position to capture the classic Yosemite clearing storm images made popular by Ansel Adams, Galen Rowell and many others. With the snowmelt clock ticking, I usually leave Tunnel View even before the show there is over and make a mad dash to as many of the other Yosemite Valley spots as I can. Moving from west to east, I target popular locations like Valley View, El Capitan Bridge, Cathedral Beach and Cook's Meadow, plus a number of unnamed spots along the Merced River.

Canon EOS-1DS, Canon EF 17-40mm ƒ/4L USM
See more of Gary Hart's photography at www.garyhartphotography.com.

5 Location: White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
Photographer: Justin Black
While White Sands can look snowy anytime of year, the white stuff is gypsum, not ice crystals. Visitation slows to a trickle in winter, which means the dunes are blown clean of footprints. This is a photographer's playground where careful design and minimalism rule composition. Don't count on balmy temperatures, though. The dunes sit at the bottom of a basin, and temperatures can be downright frigid first thing in the morning.

Nikon D800E, PC-E Nikkor 24mm ƒ/3.5D ED tilt-shift, Really Right Stuff TVC-24L tripod and BH-55 ballhead
See more of Justin Black's photography at visionarywild.com.

6 Location: Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Reserve, New Mexico
Photographer: Russ Burden
Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Reserve, located in New Mexico along the Rio Grande River, is unrivaled for its bird photography. Sandhill cranes appear in the thousands and snow geese are measured in the tens of thousands. The birds flock to the refuge from November through February. The best photography occurs from mid-November through mid-January. Each morning and evening, the skies erupt, as both species fly from ponds to feeding areas and back again. Many species of ducks frequent the area, along with eagles, hawks, owls, herons and egrets. If you're lucky, the rare whooping crane will be present. The flight photography opportunities are off the charts. In that the birds fly in and out at each sunrise and sunset, it simply doesn't get any better. Bosque del Apache is a must-visit in the winter if you love to photograph birds.

Nikon D200, AF-S DX Nikkor 18-200mm ƒ/3.5-5.6G ED VR II
See more of Russ Burden's photography at www.russburdenphotography.com.


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