White-crowned Sparrow

Ron Niebrugge Anza-Borrego, California, Photos, Travel 1 Comment



Think I just met the world’s smartest White-crowned Sparrow!

We had a red ant colony at our last campsite, and as you probably know, these little guys are impressive to watch as they are able to haul relatively large loads of food on their backs, and carry them long distances back to their holes.  Well one particular White-crowned Sparrow figured this out and would just stand near the opening to the colony and pick the bits of food off the backs of the unsuspecting ants!  He did it over and over.  Sometimes it would get the ant too, they most not taste too good as the sparrow would quickly spit it out, and then pick up just the piece of food.

It was entertaining to watch, and fascinating to see such a small animal develop a learned behavior.  Unfortunately I didn’t capture any images of the interaction, this is a White-crowned Sparrow in camp last night.

Anza-Borrego Wildflower Update 2015

Ron Niebrugge Anza-Borrego, California, Photos, Travel 2 Comments

Coyote Canyon, February 13, 2015.

Coyote Canyon, February 13, 2015.

Update:  Here are the latest conditions for Anza-Borrego wildflowers along with the latest hot spots.

A steady dose of 80 degree temps is really speeding up the wildflower bloom.  A week earlier, this was just a bunch of green plants.  Now, there is a fair amount of blooming Sand Verbena, along with a number of other species.  So far, it looks to be a pretty good year for Sand Verbena and Desert Lily, and maybe not as good for other photographer favorites like Desert Gold and Brittlebush, although it is still early.

Anza-Borrego Wildflower Outlook

Ron Niebrugge Anza-Borrego, California, Photos 2 Comments

Desert Lily from last night in Anaz-Borrego Desert State Park, California.

Desert Lily from last night in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California.

I have two bits of good news regarding the desert wildflower bloom in Anza-Borrego.  First, not only are there lots of wildflower plants popping up all around – some areas are really green, but there are actually a few wildflowers already blooming as you can see from this desert lily photographed yesterday.  I have also seen patches of sand verbena as well.

But, there are very promising looking areas, I think in a few weeks it could be a good year – maybe not a great year, but certainly much better then the last three.  Maybe it is because the plant is easy to recognize, but I’m seeing lots of desert lilies in particular – one of my favorite desert wildflowers.

On top of that, it rained most of the night late last week, so that will only help, that is as long as things don’t get too hot.  The forecast is for highs in the uppers 70’s, low 80’s for the next week, as long as we avoid the 90’s I think we are ok.

What is the other good news?  The lack of Sahara Mustard!  Articles in the local newspaper speculated last year that three years of drought should have killed off the seed bank of this highly invasive species, and so far, that seems to be true!

I have been spending at least a month here for a number of years each winter so I have a pretty good feel for the wildflowers, but if you don’t believe me, here are some other opinions:

Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association wildflower outlook.

Anza-Borrego Bloom Report

Desert USA

Even the Park Ranger who I obtain my workshop permit from thought it could be the best year in many years – baring a hot spell.

So fingers are crossed, I’ll keep posting updates here.  I still think the best bloom won’t be for a few more weeks and will go well into March.  The upcoming warm weather might speed things up a bit, in fact, the Swainson’s Hawks have already begun their migration through the area – the earliest this has ever been recorded.



Anza-Borrego Photography Workshop

Ron Niebrugge Anza-Borrego, California, Photos, Travel Leave a Comment

Chuparosa wildflowers and Indian Head mountain, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California.

Chuparosa wildflowers and Indian Head mountain, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California.

We have decided to add an additional  weekend photography workshop in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in Southern California this Spring.

I have been teaching a couple of workshops a year each winter for many years now.  There is lots to see and do there with and without the desert wildflowers, although the flowers are always a bonus!  Hopefully this year we will have some wildflowers.  Late last summer, Anza-Borrego was about the only area in California that received a good rainfall – as did much of Nevada and Arizona.  Since then, a few more storms have dumped rain in the area leaving me some reason to have optimism.

But even without wildflowers, there is plenty to see and learn – let me know if you have any questions, otherwise follow the above link for more details.

Anza-Borrego Photo Workshop

Ron Niebrugge Anza-Borrego, California, Photos, Travel 2 Comments

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California.

The last two years have been very dry, but a heavy rain in August, a little rain last week, and possibly more this week give me hope for some wildflowers this year!  Although, even without wildflowers, there is still plenty to see and photograph.

I have been doing a couple weekend workshops a year in Anza-Borrego for many years.  This year I may only do one, and there are only two spots left, so if you are interested, give us a call or email.  Here are far more details:  http://www.wildnatureimages.com/Photo-Tours/Anza-Borrego-Photo-Workshop.htm

Update.  Well that was fast – minutes after posting this, the last two spots filled.  If you are still interested let us know – if we have enough interest, (and rain could do it) we will add a second weekend.  Unfortunately there was a large increase in my Park fees, so we need a few people to make it viable.  Thanks!

PBS Show on the mustard in Anza-Borrego

Ron Niebrugge Anza-Borrego, California, Photos, Travel Leave a Comment

My before and after images were used in this PBS show on the mustard invasion in Anza-Borrego.

It will be interesting to see what happens this year – especially if it is a wet El Nino year. There was speculation in the local paper last winter claiming that the mustard can not survive 3 years of drought, and last year, being the third extremely dry year in a row may have killed off the seeds. I hope!

I like to photograph a relatively unknown spot I call the cactus garden – I see they filmed much of this in my “secret” spot.  🙂

Here are more photos of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in Southern California.

LED Lights for Photography

Ron Niebrugge Anza-Borrego, California, Photos, Travel 2 Comments

Slot Canyon, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California.

Slot Canyon, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California.

I have had a number of people ask how I was lighting my night images like this statue, or this slot.

First, as a general technique, much like using camera flash – multiple light sources, off camera work best since you get shadows and depth.  Second, in order to see the stars, you really need very little light on your foreground.  If the foreground is too bright, then the shutter speed it too fast to really show most of the stars, so it really takes very little light.

So in my search for a LED panel, I had a few goals.  Battery powered was a must, preferably rechargeable.  I really wanted one that was dim-able so that I could control the intensity.   I was hoping it would have gels, since most lights need to be warmed, and barn doors to help direct the light would be a big plus.  Finally, I didn’t want to pay a fortune.  Since I live in Alaska, I wouldn’t need them in the Summer – these will sit in our RV and only used for Winter travels.

What I ended up with was  Yongnuo Professional LED Video Lightflash YN300      At $70, it was definitely inexpensive.  At 2,200 lumen, it is very bright!  In fact, I end up using it a the dimmest possible setting.  It takes readily available Sony video camera rechargeable batteries – you can find third party batteries and chargers also at Amazon.  A 5,800 mah battery lasts over 2 hours at the max power, and forever on the min power.  It has attachable gels, barn-doors, and handle and even a remote control.

I’m sure the much more expensive lights are built more rugged, but this light has worked fine even after the tripod it was attached to blew over in the wind.  So far, I would say for the price, it is a great value.

Now for additional lighting, after reading some positive reviews, I opted for this Coleman LED Lamp:   It has 4 separate removable panels giving me up to 4 more separate lights. I like using it in the lantern mode for setup, then pull of individual panels for supplemental lighting.  I do tape some warm gel material since they tend to be a bit cool for my taste.

The biggest drawback to the Coleman – even though the individual panels have a built in rechargeable batteries for when they are removed from the base – the base is powered through a bunch of D batteries.  I do wish it had a rechargeable that could be plugged in.  It isn’t dim-able either, so I vary the intensity my adjusting the distance.  But, other then that, it has worked great, it gives me lots of flexibility giving me 5 total lights.