My trip to the Riverlands Wetland area was definitely a success, even just based on the finds I shared in Part 1.  But believe it or not, it got even better!  Shooting birds is usually my prime focus – and a lot of fun – but I’ve often wished for more chances to shoot mammals.  The problem with mammals is that they are even more skittish and even more restricted to the twilight periods.  But every now and then you get lucky:

This is an American Mink, but don’t let his cuteness deceive you – moments before he tried to sneak up on a nesting goose, with an aim to make her eggs his breakfast.  It was a failed attempt: the goose raised a all hell, which brought her mate rushing to her side.  Alert and clearly pissed, the Mink made a strategic withdrawal across the canal.  I was lucky enough to watch it all and simply dropped into spray-and-pray mode, knowing that as he moved through the undergrowth it would take 10 shots to get one where he was in focus.

It was a good call.  Out of all the shots I took only one was sharp, but unfortunately had a branch running across his body and right over his face and one eye.  It ruined the shot and, normally, that would have been the end.  But I’m feeling a bit more confident in my Photoshop skills these days, thanks to the Layers book I recently finished reading, so I put some new techniques to work and was surprised to find that I was able to do a respectable job of cleaning him up.

This is the original shot.  It took a lot of careful, small-brush healing, a bit of Content-Aware Fill, and the duplication and reversal of the good eye to replace the one that was covered (a trick that I picked up from another Photoshop book that I’ve just started).  Is it a professional retouching job?  No.  I’m not that good.  I’m not sure you could even make a decent print from it.  But for web use, it’s pretty darn good – and a hell of a lot better than the original.

When the sun made a short appearance later in the day it brought the turtles out to bask on logs.  I’ve always liked turtles, but shooting them is devilishly tricky, since you’re once more battling the brush to get a clear shot.  Even worse, the turtles are very aware of your presence and, more often than not, you hear the plunk of them sliding into the water long before you’ve even seen them.  This guy, a smallish Painted Turtle, posed for a half-dozen shots before spooking.  His reflection in the water makes the shot.

A final stroke of luck – I left the wetlands area and ran a mile down the road to the Riverlands park for about an hour in the late morning.  The park area is plainly people-oriented, with pavilions and playgrounds, all laid out between a man-made “lake” and a series of corn fields.  But the wildlife doesn’t care too much about the distinction, or the increased human traffic, and since the park and wetlands are connected, the critters move back and forth.

Amid dozens of noisy male Red-winged Blackbirds – more than enough to bake into a pie – I got to watch this Osprey wheel overhead.  An incredible raptor, and my closest look at one yet, he disregarded my many pleas to drop in for a close pass or, even better, drop and pluck a fish from the water.  But I got the shot, in good light against the only blue-ish sky of the day, so I’m not complaining.

Shooting info: Canon 7D + 300L f/4 IS + 1.4x TC, ISO 320-400, f/7.1, Av Mode

Brent Pennington is a freelance photographer and the driving force behind The Roving Photographer. When he\’s not working with portraiture or promotional clients, he’s usually in the field, hiking, or kayaking in pursuit of nature and wildlife shots.

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