Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Daily Book of Photography

I am blessed to be co-author of The Daily Book of Photography, published by Walter Foster Publishing. The book is a hard cover collection of 365 readings that teach, inspire and entertain.
During the winter of 2009-2010, I received the assignment of writing 32 short articles under the category of nature and landscape photography. One of my photographs was used to illustrate each of my articles.

The way the book is laid out, every tenth page is one of my stories and it’s accompanying photograph. You’ll be impressed by the biographies of the authors - I’m undoubtedly the least qualified of everyone involved. I’m truly honored to have my work included in this book.

The Daily Book of Photography is available for sale at a number of online stores. The base price is $22.95. I have a limited number of books available for sale at $19.99. Shipping and handling is extra. If you live close to me, we can work out delivery.

You can contact me at

Text is copyright Bill Diller 2010

Monday, September 27, 2010

Collision Course



By Bill Diller

As I watched the deer approach the windshield, sideways, at a very high rate of speed, I only had time for a quick, "Uh oh!" I must have hit the brakes hard because there were black marks on the road and the eight pointer ended up in the ditch approximately forty feet from where I stopped. In the midst of the turmoil of those few seconds I don’t remember touching the brakes at all. But the evidence is there, so I must have.

The morning started like most of my Saturday mornings at that point in my life. Up at 2:30 a.m., leave the house at 3:15 a.m., and hope the papers were on time.

Delivering newspapers for a living was usually boring, the principle variables being the weather and traffic. But I love to drive and had a motor route, for one paper or another, for nearly thirty years. My routes were generally over 100 miles a day, and half of that was morning delivery.

At that time of day you saw some interesting things: Like the Holstein cow standing crossways on M-142 between Pinnebog Rd. and Elkton at 4:00 a.m.; or the young man walking barefoot down M-25 near Bay Port at 5:15 a.m., who stopped me and asked for a ride because a coyote had been stalking him all the way from Rose Island; or noticing broken windows in various stores along the route, at least three that I can remember, and having to call the police and give a report; or being gang mooned on Sand Point one Fourth of July - while driving on Crescent Beach Rd. at 3:00 a.m. I saw, how should I put this?, six or seven bare, white human posteriors reflecting my high beams, I hit the gas, they scattered; or driving into a ten-foot high snow drift in a blizzard trying to be a good paperboy - my truck ended up resting on its frame with the wheels more than a foot off the road; or, well, you get the idea.

Another thing you saw a lot of early in the morning was deer. Lots of deer! I counted, and on more than one morning I saw deer, either on or near the road, at over twenty different spots along the route. So the possibility of hitting one was a constant threat.

Early in the summer of 1986 my aunt and uncle were involved in a freak car-deer accident just outside of Bay Port which left my aunt blinded. Her condition comes to mind every time I see a deer on or near the road. I try not to dwell on it, but the thought is there.

Sometimes, when I'd been behind the wheel for a while, the windshield took on the likeness of a movie screen. The world rushed by at fifty-five miles per hour and everything was viewed at a distance. Unless it was snowing or raining nothing came close to the windshield. So when something suddenly appeared close up you noticed it immediately. If it was a leaf, or a small bird, it was usually nothing to worry about. When something larger approached your windshield at fifty-five miles per hour, you took notice. I noticed a deer! Coming at me sideways!  The eight-point buck, wasn’t really going sideways, he was going south, at a full gallop and in mid-leap. I was going west. And since I was going faster than he was, from my perspective, he was coming at me sideways, about two feet off the ground.

When you’re traveling in a vehicle at highway speeds your expectation is to continue at a smooth rate as you traverse space. However, when something as large as this deer approaches quickly, you realize that your smooth commute is about to be interrupted.

My "Uh, oh" was quickly followed by an abrupt change in forward momentum. The impact was harsh and sudden, and numerous thoughts went through my mind.

Uppermost, on a continual basis, is my relationship with God, through Jesus Christ. I try to live my life in accordance with God’s will. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t always succeed in doing His will, but it is always on my mind. Hence, I don’t believe in coincidence. When something unavoidable happens, it’s God’s will. That was my first thought.

When I felt the impact, I was utterly disoriented. One second a deer was approaching my windshield, sideways, at fifty-five miles an hour. The next fraction of a second was a mass of confusion. There was a horrendous sound of metal meeting flesh, followed by a blaring, ringing intrusion of noise. This was accompanied by a `whooshing’ sound and a cloud of hot, acrid air. It smelled like a mixture of gunpowder and burning rubber. I thought the engine was on fire! I looked toward the engine for flames, but all I saw was gray.

My immediate thought was of my aunt. She has lived with her affliction for many years since the deer came through her windshield and I thought this deer had come through mine. I couldn’t see a thing! I was surprised because I always thought that when you go blind, all you see is black. I didn’t see black, I saw gray.

My next thought was, `I don’t hurt’. Except for my right thumb, which had struck the dash or steering wheel, I felt no pain at all. I heard no breaking glass and felt no impact other than my thumb. This led me to suspect that the deer had not come through the windshield. If that was true, why couldn’t I see? And what was that noise, and that horrendous odor, and the smoke?

All of a sudden I noticed a strip of white light appear at the top of my vision. Is this how you come back from blindness? A little strip of white light?

The white light continued to increase and became the road ahead of me. I was right, the deer had not come through the windshield - it was still in one piece.

About that time I noticed a small canvas balloon getting smaller in front of me. The air bag, of course! I felt like an idiot, I’d never even thought about it being there. I’m elated that it was. I am now a staunch advocate of air bags.

Looking to my right I realized the passengers air bag was deployed also. Why? Then it dawned on me that the car would have no way of knowing that the only thing on that seat were newspapers and a cellular phone.

The accident happened at the apex of a hill and visibility was limited. I was sitting in the westbound lane and through the windshield I could see there were no flames coming from under the hood, which was buckled. The engine felt all right, I couldn’t hear it because of the clamor, and the power steering still worked, so I pulled over to the shoulder of Kinde Rd. and shut off the motor.

The problem of my potential blindness was solved, but there was still the odor, the smoke and the cacophonous noise.

I figured the noise was a warning buzzer of some kind so I took the key from the ignition. It didn’t help. That noise was irritating, keeping me from thinking clearly. And the smoke, and stink of burning . . . something. I didn’t know what was burning, but that was irritating, too.

It dawned on me that if I got away from the noise I might be able to think better. I opened the door and, surprise, the smoke started going outside. With it went some of the stench. Well, that helped a little. But there was still that shrieking racket!

After walking about ten yards from the car I suddenly realized the noise was the horn. It was stuck on and showed no signs of giving out. My irrational thought to that was, I bet it’s really irritating to the hunter who chased that deer in front of my car.

I found the cellular phone on the floor of the passenger’s side, thrown there on impact, along with all the newspapers. Again I said `thank you’ for the air bags. I called my sister and arranged to be picked up, and then called 911.

About a minute later my father called to make sure I was all right. That cellular phone was a comfort, both to me and my family. Emergencies like this were the major reason we got one. I’m glad I had it.

It was just a matter of waiting now. But that blasted, infernal racket from the horn was driving me nuts. I poked and pushed around the steering wheel and finally got the horn to stop. Thank God! What a racket!

The deer had landed in the ditch and crawled about ten feet into a field on the south side of the road, approximately forty feet from where the car was parked. I went to find it, and as I was standing over the deer the horn started blowing again. Extreme irritation!

Tired of listening to the din I attempted to lift the hood. It was buckled and wouldn’t budge. I felt around the steering wheel again and couldn’t get the blasted horn to quit. I burned my thumb in the process, the same one that hit the dash. In frustration I kicked the steering wheel and, Hallelujah, silence.

After a few minutes the State Police showed up, then my sister, then a wrecker. Then life began to return to normal.

All in all it was an experience I don’t hope to repeat. I’m grateful to God for giving me the faith to not be discouraged by events such as this, and thankful I wasn’t inured.

I got my buck and didn’t even have to buy a hunting license. And it only cost $4,000!

I do have a suggestion for the auto makers: Look into a way to deploy the air bags without all that smoke and odor. It’s disorienting, and if someone were injured and unable to open a door or window they would have to breathe it until help arrived. I was only subjected to it for a few seconds and it left my throat raw. And, please, find a way so the horn doesn’t stick on when the air bags go off!


Text copyright 2010 Bill Diller

Friday, September 24, 2010

Babies in Nature

Hunting and fishing are popular pastimes for many, and observing nature first hand is an excellent way to ensure success. Watching those who have become experts is another way to increase your chances of bagging a bird in flight or landing a trout.

While hunters and fishermen are doing their best to take home a trophy or fill the frying pan, wild animals are doing their best to remain healthy and free. Soon after birth they begin learning how to get along in their environment. They also have mentors - their parents.

Although the young of some species are virtually left on their own, others receive care, protection and instruction from their parents. Canada geese and Mute swans maintain a family unit until the goslings can care for themselves, and mother foxes and ground hogs stick fairly close to their babies.

It’s interesting to see the young of a species as they get used to their new world. You soon realize that youngsters at play are youngsters at play, no matter what the species.

Playing develops muscles and coordination, and trains them in using their natural instincts for self-preservation. Besides, they’re naturally cute.

Everything baby animals learn as they mature serves a purpose later in life. A young fox or ground hog’s predisposition to disappear into a nearby hole, although a natural instinct, is enhanced by observing how mom responds to a perceived danger. In the same way, goslings or cygnets respond by swimming away or taking flight, as soon as they are able, when trouble approaches. Why? Because that’s what mom and dad do!

Babies in nature are more than cute, cuddly creatures. It’s up to you to determine how to defeat the inherited instincts and learned behavior that they develop. Remember, as you’re watching that cagy old fisherman and knowledgeable hunter use their skills, baby animals are watching and learning, too.


Note; Text and photos copyright Bill Diller 2010

Monday, September 13, 2010

Jury Duty

Part 1 - Jury Selection.

It’s part of our civic responsibility, I know, but when the letter came my first reaction was, ‘Oh great, jury duty.’ This was the third time I’d received the letter. On two previous occasions I had a built-in excuse ─ I was doing double duty as a live-in care giver for an MS patient and working a seven-day a week job. I simply called, explained my situation, and was taken off their roster for that session. Neither of those excuses applied now. Guess it was time to do my civic duty.

My presence was requested in Circuit Court in Bad Axe at 8:45 a.m. on a Wednesday morning. When I arrived the parking lot at the Court House was nearly full. I found a spot, then asked for directions to the court room. As I entered, I was surprised to find about fifty people already seated. A lady I know recognized me and smiled. I nodded back and found a seat.

It was very quite, with only a few people conversing in hushed tones. A dozen or so people arrived after me, and as I glanced over my shoulder I saw some of them standing.

A woman and a man were seated at a table near the gallery. I found out later this was the prosecutor and a State Police detective.

A little before 9:00 a.m. the court clerk entered and took roll call of the prospective jurors. There were three or four people not in attendance. I hoped they had a good excuse.

Soon afterward two women entered ─ the defendant and her lawyer. They took seats at one of the vacant tables.

Promptly at 9:00 a.m. the judge entered. He began by welcoming everyone, and asked the people sitting to make room for those who were standing because we were going to be there for a while. The judge explained what was going to happen over the course of the next few days . . . that the trial was going to last at least a day and a half, and possibly longer.

He explained the process of jury selection. Since this was a criminal case, twelve jurors would be seated. All our names were entered into a drum. The clerk would spin the drum and pull out a name. That person was to leave the gallery and take a seat in the jury box.

Before the selection process began the judge read off a list of names of possible witnesses, and asked us to try and remember them.

The clerk began spinning the drum and calling names. Mine was the second one called. Great! I can’t win the lottery, but I won a seat on the jury. Well, at least the chairs looked more comfortable than the wooden benches in the gallery.

As more names were called the people left the gallery and filled the vacant seats. I was surprised. I knew two of them.

At this point the judge addressed us. He said he would be asking questions, and depending on our answers we would either stay seated or be dismissed and another person would take our place. I think we were all hoping to be dismissed.

One of the first things the judge asked was if anyone on the jury panel knew any of the people who were potential witnesses, the lawyers, or anyone else involved in the case. I raised my hand, along with a number of other people.

The judge interviewed each of us individually, asking who we knew, and in what context. One of the potential jurors was associated with the defendant, and was promptly dismissed. Others were dismissed for various reasons, such as having a prejudice against insurance companies, or animosity toward one of the potential witnesses. A few were dismissed because the said they may tend to be partial toward a witness.

As each juror was dismissed, another name was drawn from the drum, and someone else would take the long walk to the jury box. During this process they called someone else I know. It gave me a good feeling knowing I would be seeing some familiar faces over the course of the next couple of days.

As each new juror took their seat, the judge asked them the same questions. Now I understood why he wanted everyone seated for their comfort . . . this was a long, grueling process.

When he was satisfied that he’d seated twelve people that could and would perform their civic duty to his satisfaction, he asked one final question ─ Did anyone have any reason they felt they couldn’t serve conscientiously? One man raised his hand and said he didn’t believe in the system. He was dismissed and another person called. The questioning process was repeated. This person was accepted by the judge, and we were turned over to the lawyers.

In a process called voir dire (pronounced vwar deer) the prosecution and defense attorneys were allowed to ask a series of questions to determine whether or not they thought each juror was acceptable. They were trying to establish our personal prejudices, and determine whether or not it would affect what they were trying to accomplish ─ for the prosecution it meant proving their case, for the defense it meant trying to demonstrate reasonable doubt as to the defendant’s guilt.

After the prosecutor and defense lawyer finished their questioning, the judge explained to the jury that each attorney would be allowed to dismiss any juror, for one of two reasons ─ for ‘cause,’ which meant they felt there was some legal reason to do so, or by means of a peremptory challenge, which means they felt the juror didn’t suit them. They didn’t need to give a reason.

Neither attorney used ‘cause’ dismissal, but the prosecution used a peremptory challenge on one juror. Another name was called, a woman took the vacated seat, and the questioning process was repeated.

A light-hearted moment occurred when the judge completed his series of questions by asking the woman if there was any reason she couldn’t serve on this jury. She replied resignedly and matter-of-factly, ‘Can’t think of a one.’ Everyone laughed, and they had their jury.

The judge dismissed the remaining jury candidates, then addressed the twelve of us sitting in our comfortable chairs. He told us we would be retiring to the jury room for about ten minutes, then the trial would begin. He gave instructions that we were not to discuss the case with each other, or with anyone else, until deliberations began.

As we filed out of the courtroom, I glanced at the clock. It was almost 10:30 a.m. The process had taken an hour and a half.

Part 2 - The Trial

In the jury room we all congratulated each other on our success on being selected as jurors. Well, in a perfect world that’s what would have happened. As it was, we discussed places we’d rather be, and things we’d rather be doing. I expressed my concern that I wouldn’t be able to keep my mind from wandering while listening to the lawyers and witnesses. Others concurred. Some placed calls to let people know they’d be busy for a few days.

When the ten minutes were up, the clerk led us back into the courtroom and the trial began with the prosecutor giving her opening statement. She stated the burden of proof was on the State and they would prove their case via expert witness testimony, and by means of a great deal of circumstantial evidence.

This was a moral dilemma for me because I believe circumstances can be misleading. I’d always thought that if I was ever on a jury I’d need convincing proof before I could send someone to prison, and here I was in the position of being asked to judge not based wholly on facts, but on ‘reasonable inference.’ I wasn’t looking forward to the next few days.

When the prosecutor was finished, the defense attorney chose to save her opening statement for later. So the prosecution’s case began in earnest.

The trial concerned suspected arson and insurance fraud. Among the first witnesses called by the prosecution were the chief of the responding fire department, the Sheriff’s Deputy in charge of the initial investigation and people working in the vicinity who discovered the fire.

The prosecutor’s job was to try and make the jury realize that the defendant had intentionally set the fire, and then compounded the crime by filing a false insurance claim.

As each witness was questioned, the defense attorney occasionally objected. The judge would say ‘sustained’ or ‘over ruled,’ meaning the objection was accepted or rejected. If it was sustained, we were told to disregard that particular statement. Right, like I could remember what part of what I’d just heard I was not supposed to remember. You can’t un ring a bell.

The parade of witnesses continued throughout the day, with a break for lunch. At one point an objection was made by the defense attorney. Both lawyers were asked to approach the judge’s bench. They talked for a few minutes and both attorneys returned to their seats. The judge addressed the jury and said we were to go back to the jury room while they discussed some legal issues.

As we entered the jury room comments were made along the lines of, ‘It’s not like Law & Order, that gets over in an hour,’ and ‘I’ve seen this on TV.’ and ‘I wonder what we’re not allowed to hear?’

After a brief period of time we returned to the courtroom.

Witness after witness was called, questioned and turned over to the defense attorney who then tried to disprove everything the prosecution had just tried to prove. It was a fascinating process, but tedious.

About 5:30 p.m. a witness was dismissed and the judge said that rather than hear another witness he was calling an end to the day’s proceedings. We were to be back in the jury room at 9:00 a.m. on Thursday. Since the trial was moving slower than anticipated we should make plans to be available on Friday.

Thursday morning arrived bright, sunshiny and warm. A perfect day to be outside. But not for us. We’d be in an air-conditioned courtroom listening to testimony.

It was captivating watching the attorneys spar as they attempted to get their point of view across. We were shown reports, photographs, displays, drawings of the house that was burned, and subjected to expert testimony from insurance and police investigators who tried to convince us the fire was deliberately set. The prosecutor guided them through their investigation, and to the State’s conclusion that the fire was arson, and therefore the subsequent insurance claim was fraudulent. The defense attorney attempted to punch holes in their testimony, and give us viable reasons why her client wasn’t responsible for the fire.

The day progressed with a few breaks. During the long afternoon of testimony the judge declared a ten minute break between witnesses. Those chairs, which had looked so comfortable the previous day, were becoming hard to sit in for any length of time without squirming, a fact which I’m sure the judge noticed.

A little before 6:00 p.m. the prosecution rested its case. The judge dismissed us for the day, and we were told to be in the jury room at 9:00 a.m. on Friday. He also said the trial was still moving slowly, and we should begin making plans to be available the following Tuesday. Oh, great! Like I needed to be thinking about it all weekend.

Friday morning was a carbon copy of the previous day, except the defense was now presenting their point of view. Following the testimony of a few friends and acquaintances, an expert witness took the stand for the defense. He verified most of the prosecution expert’s opinions, except one vital point . . . he said the fire should be ruled undetermined instead of human origin.

The last witness of the day, and the last witness for the defense was the defendant. She broke down a couple of times under questioning. Her life was opened up for all to see. She admitted to some embarrassing unrelated mistakes, but maintained her innocence throughout the ordeal.

By the time her testimony was finished the judge called a break for the day. We were to return at 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday.

It was a long weekend. I’m sure it was worse for the defendant.

Nine o’clock on Tuesday saw all twelve members of the jury anxiously awaiting the start of proceedings. We were led into the courtroom where we heard final arguments from both sides, and then received our instructions.

Part 3 - Deliberations

A little after 10:00 a.m. we were sent into the jury room. We were both relieved to finally be able to talk about the case, and apprehensive about where to begin. Someone said the first thing we needed to do was select a jury foreman, a job no one wanted. Some kind soul nominated me. I really didn’t want to, but in the interest of getting to the issue at hand, I agreed.

Never having done this before, I had no idea where or how to begin, so I suggested we should take a vote and see where we stood.

The way the indictments were written we all agreed that if the defendant was not guilty on count one, deliberately starting the fire, she couldn’t be guilty of count two, insurance fraud. We each took a slip of paper and wrote ‘yes’ for guilty or ‘no’ for not guilty.

The count was eight to four for a guilty verdict.

Since I was one of the ‘no’s’ I figured we might be in for a long day. I was convinced the prosecution hadn’t provided me with enough information to say with an absolute certainty that she was guilty. With the burden of proof on the prosecution, and going by the instructions we’d received, that meant I was going to have to stick with not guilty.

Fortunately I wasn’t alone. Three other people were extremely strong advocates of a not guilty verdict. There were a number of others who voiced strong guilty opinions. A few were wavering. We talked back and forth, and each side made some valid points, but by noon we were getting nowhere. We were still split, with no verdict in sight.

We continued to discuss the matter over lunch, with no discernable progress. Fortunately the entire matter was done without animosity. We simply voiced our opinions, and gave our reasons.

By early afternoon it was apparent we weren’t making much headway. We took a hand vote, and it came out six to six. One of the jurors said he thought that some people delayed raising their hands to see how others were going to vote, so we repeated the process by secret ballet. Again it came out six to six, but one immediately said she was wavering, and finally said guilty. It was now seven to five for a guilty verdict.

Everyone agreed they would stick with their opinion.

After discussing what course to take, we wrote a note to the judge telling him we were deadlocked, and asking for instructions. A short time later we were once again in the courtroom. The judge essentially told us we needed to stick with it, and come to a decision.

So it was back to the jury room where we spent a few minutes simply looking at one another and wondering what to do next. Someone suggested asking for displays and expert witness reports. They were delivered a little while later and we began going over some points we disagreed on, such as whether or not the defendant actually had time to do what she was accused of, and what a certain witness had said.

We asked for clarification, and a while later were led back into the courtroom where some testimony was read. Upon returning to the jury room we all agreed that the information wasn’t helpful. It was incomplete, and that had been a sticking point for me throughout the proceedings ─ there simply wasn’t enough information . . . too many unanswered questions.

The time line was again addressed, and we agreed more information was needed. At this point one of the people who had been a very strong advocate for a guilty verdict said he was beginning to understand what was meant by the burden of proof being on the prosecution, and that they hadn’t provided enough information to be certain. We all sort of looked at each other, and someone suggested taking a vote. It turned out ten for not guilty and two for guilty.

One lady said she was one of the yeses because she had doubts about the defendant’s guilt, but wasn’t sure if it was a reasonable doubt. Another juror asked her if she was 100% sure of the defendant’s guilt. She replied no, and he said that meant she had doubt, and if she wasn’t 100% sure, she should vote not guilty.

Immediately we took another secret ballot, and everyone held their breath. All twelve were ‘no’ votes.

We had a verdict.

The verdict form was filled out, and we called for the clerk. A few minutes later we were led into the courtroom for the final time. Since I was the foreman, I read the verdict.

Part 4 - The Verdict

Not guilty. On both counts.

The prosecutor asked that the juror be polled. Each member was asked individually if their decision was not guilty. Each said yes.

The judge told the defendant she was free to go. He thanked us for our service, and told us we were free to go. It was 4:30 p.m., six and a half stressful hours since deliberations began.

I’m sure the prosecution team was disappointed with the verdict. They’d undoubtedly spent countless hours preparing for the trial, and most likely believed the defendant was guilty as charged.

Throughout the trial it was apparent both lawyers had devoted a great deal of time, energy and thought to presenting their case. It wasn’t until I was on my way home that I realized how vigorously the defense lawyer had performed her job. It suddenly came to me that she had worked so hard because she truly believed in her client’s innocence.

So did I.


Note; Text copyright Bill Diller 2010

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Tree

Sometimes the most simple of subjects make the best photographs. Less is more, or to borrow (and butcher) a line from a Joyce Kilmer poem: I think that I shall never see a photograph as lovely as a tree.

As a general rule, trees are taken for granted. Used for building houses and boats, and burned to keep us warm. Reconstructed and used as writing material, and yes, as newsprint and photographic paper, a tree may become anything from a match or toothpick to a telephone pole. In a place where lofty forests once stood, there is something about a lone tree, standing as a sentinel against the elements. There may be practical reasons why some farmers leave a lone tree in the midst of their cultivated fields. It remains a mystery to most.

One such tree thrives in Western Huron County, between Pigeon and Caseville in Michigan’s ‘Thumb’ region. The tree has become a favorite subject to photograph. With sweeping branches, the tree presents a visage that is unique. Seen in all sorts of weather, the tree simply stands.

Whether covered with the green leaves of summer, or frost in winter, the tree stands. It may be barely visible on a foggy day, or lit by the failing rays of a setting sun, the tree remains rooted.

Surrounded year after year by corn and beans and sugar beets, the tree remains on guard, seemingly protecting the smaller plants from whatever should come. It may seem foolish to go on about a simple tree, but to again borrow (and again, butcher) Joyce Kilmer: Photographs are made by fools like me, but only God can make a tree.


Note:  Text and photos Copyright Bill Diller 2010

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Fearless Fawn

While traveling a country road near my home, just after noon on a warm June day, opportunity presented itself. My reason for being where I was appeared at the edge of a field. Wildlife!

On a small rise, just the other side of a ditch, two brown forms took shape, standing still as statues. A doe and her newborn fawn!

For years taking wildlife photos like the pros had been a dream. To capture publishable pictures of elusive wildlife is tough, and usually requires expensive, specialized equipment. Since I’m not independently wealthy, and have no real prospects of ever becoming rich, I’ve been forced to rely on what my meager income could provide.

From the time I became serious about photography I was determined to own the best cameras and lenses I could afford. After much study I determined that most nature photographers used 35mm cameras, and the majority used either Nikon or Canon gear. A lot of pros have switched to digital, but Nikon and Canon are still the brands of choice.  I've owned many cameras and lenses over the years.  On this particular day I was using a Nikon 35mm camera with a 70-210mm zoom lens.

In order to be prepared while driving, I keep my camera on the seat beside me, covered by a towel, as a means of dust control. Using aperture priority, I set the f-stop wide open, meaning the lowest number on the f stop dial. In this way I know that the camera will automatically set the shutter speed to the fastest possible setting for any given lighting conditions, a necessity for wildlife photography.

When I got to the spot where the mama and baby were, I slowed to a stop. The doe bounded off into the field, well out of camera range, but the fawn appeared fearless, and stayed put! It must have been mere hours old. Instead of following mama, it tried to hide behind a small group of weeds at the edge of the field.

I took a couple of shots, and the fawn looked like it was beginning to become nervous. I took a couple more shots and figured that would be it. Instead, the fawn came down the small hill and slipped into a dense patch of weeds in the ditch. At this point I was still sitting in the car, about fifteen feet away. I took a few more shots, and discovered I was out of film. I quickly reloaded, figuring the fawn would flee any second.

Armed with a fresh roll of film, I snapped a couple more frames while the fawn remained in the weeds. I got out of the car, figuring it would bolt, but again the fawn surprised me by crouching, trying to appear smaller. I slowly approached, periodically taking a shot.

My trusty 70-210 lens had a minimum focusing distance of around four feet. I actually approached until I was closer than the lens’ minimum limit, and had to back off. Knowing it wasn’t a good idea to keep the fawn separated from its mother too long, I took a few more shots and returned to my car.

After all was said and done, I took about thirty photos of that precious, innocent fawn, most of which turned out fairly well. The whole episode took less than five minutes. It was exciting, and satisfying to realize that, because I was prepared, I had succeeded in capturing quality images of one of nature’s wonders, a newborn fawn.

Note:  Text and photos are Copyright Bill Diller 2010

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

River Scenes

When the first European explorers journeyed to the Great Lakes region, the land was literally covered with trees. A dense, seemingly impenetrable forest greeted them as they moved inland.

Although the forest provided many of the raw materials the newcomers needed to begin their lives in the area, this same forest presented them with numerous problems. One major obstacle was travel. With the trees so densely packed, getting from one point to another was difficult.

Native Americans used game trails to move from one area to another, but the most expeditious method of travel was by waterway. Most of the travel was done on The Great Lakes and on larger rivers, but smaller rivers and streams presented the opportunity to reach more out of the way, less visited locales.

Imagine it’s the year 1775. You’re paddling your birchbark canoe along the shore of Lake Huron. You’re watching the shoreline, and notice the mouth of a small stream such as the Pigeon or Pinnebog River in what is now Huron County. It’s getting near dusk and you need to find a camp for the night. It could be spring and the trees have no leaves yet. Or it’s summer and the foliage is thick, and lushly green. Or, it may be autumn and the banks are wonderfully covered with numerous vivid colors. It could also be early winter and the banks are covered with snow, but the river isn’t frozen yet. You paddle upriver a mile or so and camp. You build a small fire, and after catching a few fish in the stream, you enjoy the peace and solitude as you eat your supper. Later, you lay out your bedroll and drift off to sleep, planning the next days travel.

When you wake in the morning, the sight that catches your eye could be similar to what you may see on a small stream in Huron County today.

We still have the opportunity to view the river scene as it may have been viewed by the earliest European explorers. The next time you’re traveling from place to place, and cross the Pigeon or Pinnebog Rivers, or any of the other small streams in the county. Take the time to stop and look up and down stream. Image yourself as an explorer in 1775.

When viewed from the right perspective, the river scenery in Beautiful Huron County is nearly timeless.

Note:  Photos and text in this post are Copyright Bill Diller 2010

Monday, August 30, 2010

Drive By Photography

The automobile is an intricate part of modern American civilization. Many of us spend a great deal of time in one, driving either to and from work, or as part of our job. It’s also a major part of a hunting, boating or fishing trip, because you need a way to get to the blind or the lake.

If you pay attention you may reap an additional benefit from the drive; a great deal of wildlife can be seen from a slow-moving vehicle. A car, truck or minivan makes an ideal blind. Although wildlife probably associates your vehicle with human beings, they may not have an immediate fear, giving you the chance to approach fairly close.

Since various laws dictate no hunting from a vehicle, you may wonder what advantage there is to viewing wildlife from a vehicle. A lot of hunters use this opportunity to study wildlife through a telescope or binoculars. Another way to take advantage of your time behind the wheel of this movable blind is to carry a camera. If you’re observant, you may be able to take a few minutes out of your drive to capture quick, quality nature photographs.

Stopping on an Interstate highway or a busy two-lane paved road to snap a picture of a Canada goose is not recommended. However, Michigan is blessed with mile upon mile of little used paved and gravel roads, which offer great scenery and plenty of places to stop that pose no danger to you, or other traffic. Many of them provide an excellent chance to spot subjects worth capturing on film or a digital sensor, such as a pheasant crossing the road ahead of you.

If you love to see nature at work, and want to capture some of it with a camera, travel the back roads whenever possible. Spectacular wildlife sightings abound. When you came around that curve and saw those deer grazing in a bean field, did you think about getting them on film? Stop! It’s possible to get a nice photo in just a few minutes.

You don’t have to limit yourself to larger wildlife, either. While you’re stopped look for a bird perched on a nearby tree limb. Stop the vehicle a few yards down the road, and approach slowly. You may be rewarded with a frame-filling image.

Wildlife photography doesn’t have to be complicated. All the photographs which accompany this post were taken in just a few minutes’ time while stopped by the side of a road. The maximum amount of time spent on any one of these photos, from the time the subject was spotted until the trip was resumed, was about five minutes. Most were taken in much less time. The secret? Use your automobile as a blind, and be prepared.

If you see a flight of Canada geese soaring overhead while stopped at a stop sign with no traffic in sight, your camera does you no good in a camera bag. By the time you get it out of the bag and brush any dirt off the lens, those geese are a half-mile away. However, if your camera is on the seat beside you, covered with a cloth to keep any stray dirt away, you have a much better chance of getting that beautiful v-shaped flight on film.

Remember, the object here is quick, quality snapshots. If you have a manual camera, take a meter reading periodically, and set your shutter speed and f-stop accordingly. In this way you won’t have to check the reading when you stop, just focus and shoot.

Of course an automatic camera makes things easier. Set your camera to shutter priority, with whatever shutter speed you feel most comfortable with for quick shots. The higher the shutter speed, the less chance of camera shake, which will cause blurring. An even better way is to set the camera to aperture priority. With the aperture set wide open - the lowest number - the maximum amount of light will be allowed in, and the camera will fire at the highest possible speed to negate camera shake. While standard photography discipline states the use of a tripod is advisable, it’s usually not possible from inside a vehicle. The photos accompanying this post were all taken hand-held, from inside the vehicle.

When photographing from inside a vehicle, turn the ignition off whenever possible, to prevent vibration. Rest your left arm on the door, with your left hand supporting the lens, or use a bean bag or rolled up shirt on the door frame. Another method is to keep your left arm pressed against your side, resting against the seat back. Use the highest shutter speed possible, compose and shoot. When taking this type of photo, you may have to sacrifice some depth of field. Since wildlife is the objective, a telephoto lens is essential.

Travel by automobile is a necessity for most of us. Take advantage of the situation.
Drive-by photography can be rewarding.

Note; Text and photos are Copyright Bill Diller 2010