Silhouette Cat by Cyrene Krey

Taking on New Challenges Seeking out Urban Wildlife

Most of my work in wildlife photography has me visiting preserves and other natural areas within a few hours of my residence. Sometimes I’m lucky enough to do wildlife photography in national forests several hours away or travel out of state altogether. I even spend quite a bit of time in my own backyard. However, until recently, I hadn’t attempted photographing urban wildlife.

I was challenged a while back to shoot cities at night. While I enjoy taking on new photography challenges, initially this one didn’t seem to be a fit for me. Urban wildlife is a topic that comes up frequently during discussions on wildlife management, but it still is something that usually isn’t at the forefront of people’s minds when thinking of wildlife.

But this challenge inspired me to try something new. Going into this challenge, I had no experience with shooting urban environments at night, and certainly not while keeping an eye out for wildlife. This made it the perfect project to tackle to practice new techniques and expand my skills.

Buzzing Bugs by Cyrene Krey
The first signs of wildlife were the bugs gathering around various light sources. Buzzing around the faint light, they looked almost magical (that is, until you remembered they’re bugs ;p). It was a good opportunity though to practice different exposures and settings. Low-light conditions can be difficult to work with; having a subject that remained in the same location for an extended period gave me time to properly experiment.

On my first night out, I spent much of the time walking along the sidewalk near the street. Despite it being a small town, it was still a Saturday night, so there were several people out. I tried to avoid the most heavily utilized areas, but I still managed to run across a few people. I have to once again apologize to the poor gentleman I startled.

While I’m out photographing wildlife, I’m frequently on my own. I don’t have anyone to talk to and I’m used to being quiet and still for long periods of time so as to avoid disturbing the animals. When I’m in public, I try to turn this off, but I still manage to stay fairly quiet. This is a habit I’ve had since I was a teenager, out exploring different wooded areas near my house, so it’s fairly ingrained at this point.

While walking along the sidewalk, I saw a man texting on his phone and did my best to try to be a little more noticeable to avoid startling him but failed. As I walked past him, he jumped and said, “Wow, you’re quiet,” sounding quite surprised. I laughed and apologized, explaining my mission.

But it was a great encounter. He worked at a local hydro-plant and was able to share with me some very useful information regarding sightings he’d had of coyotes, foxes, deer, turkeys, and raccoons in the area. It was a spot I hadn’t really known about or considered visiting, but thanks to running into him it was something I quickly added to my list.

Although I didn’t have any of the sightings he described on my first night out, I could see why the area would be frequented by the local urban wildlife. It was slightly off the beaten path, close to a water source, and had a lot of both natural and human made shelter available while still remaining very close to human sources of food, such as dumpsters.

Old Fire Hydrant by Cyrene Krey
Plant growth along a fence-line, in the progress of taking over an old fire hydrant, suggests a lack of regular human activity that would appeal to wildlife.

So despite scaring the local human life, I was able to get some great tips on where to search for (and hopefully not scare) the local wildlife. He wished me well in my hunt and requested that I try to avoid scaring anyone else while I was out. I promised I would do my best and continued on.

Silhouette Cat by Cyrene Krey
While I didn’t see a lot of animal life on my excursion, I did repeatedly run into this local resident enjoying a night on the town. However, he wasn’t overly fond of having his picture taken and tended not to sit still for very long. It was good practice in quickly catching a shot of an uncooperative subject in low-light.
Stop to Smell the Flowers by Cyrene Krey
I left my new friend to go explore the small town. When I caught up with him again, he was sniffing the flowers outside a store before finding the dish they’d apparently left out for him. He was uneasy as I photographed him while he ate, so I made sure to keep my distance to give him some peace. Once he’d had his fill, he took off and so did I.

While I wasn’t able to photograph the wildlife I was searching for, I was able to practice my skills and obtain some useful information. I also heard a coyote call nearby, as well as ducks, and saw several other signs that there was indeed plenty of urban wildlife in the area. The next time I’m able to go out, I’ll have that information and experience to guide me.

Please visit my website as www.cyrenekrey.com for more images from this excursion and like my Facebook page for even more fun photos!

Picture Perfect

I’m busily working on getting photos done from my Dakota Access Pipeline trip (more on that soon!) so for now, here are a few pretty photos from recent months 🙂

Spider with Lunch by Cyrene Krey
A cute little spider with a snack. Her and her friend were hanging around my deck all summer. I photographed them a few times. They’re hiding away now that the temperatures have gone down, but I hope to see them (or their offspring) next year!
Monarch Butterfly by Cyrene Krey
A beautiful monarch butterfly I saw while volunteering cleaning up trails for my local forest preserve district. I haven’t seen one of these beautiful little bugs in the wild since I was a little girl! If you want to see lots of interesting creepy crawlies and other critters, go clean up the trails near you! Good exercise, fresh air and sunlight, and helping wildlife…best of everything 🙂
Blanding's Turtle by Cyrene Krey
This is a Blanding’s turtle (Emydoidea blandingii), an endangered species in some states (and possibly being considered for federal status). I didn’t realize that I’d photographed an endangered animal until I was contacted by a natural resource manager from the area this photo was taken. It was very exciting. Want to know how you can help endangered animals in your area? Keep natural habitats clean of litter. Don’t get too close to wild animals. Plant native plants in your backyard to provide food and shelter for wildlife. Learn about endangered animals in your area and support initiatives that provide habitat and protection for wildlife.

25PERCENT

Beginning tomorrow I’m clearing out some of the less popular photos from my gallery at http://www.cyrenekrey.com. For the remainder of today (Saturday the 15th), you can still get 25% off everything in my gallery with the code 25PERCENT. This includes photos that I won’t be removing! As usual, a portion of everything I sell will be donated to support organizations which support wildlife!

Here are a few of the recent shots I’ve added that you can save 25% on:

Black and White Tree in Rain by Cyrene Krey
A rainy day at Nygren Wetland Preserve. (c) Cyrene Krey
White Bird in Wetlands by Cyrene Krey
A bird during takeoff. (c) Cyrene Krey
Perched Kingfisher with Prey by Cyrene Krey
Kingfisher with fish. (c) Cyrene Krey
White Birds and Blue Skies by Cyrene Krey
White birds and blue skies, all reflected in the water. (c) Cyrene Krey

Baby Bison!

I love visiting Nachusa Grasslands! It’s only about an hour away from me and they’ve introduced bison. The restored prairie habitat is beautiful and I never leave disappointed. I’ll be taking my first winter trip there once the snow starts, but I made sure to head out there during the warmer weather to see how all the bison were doing. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to spy quite a few little ones running around!

Baby Bison by Cyrene Krey

Bison Mom and Baby by Cyrene Krey
Mom kept a very close eye on me while I photographed her and her baby from a safe distance. It’s worth noting that I use a super telephoto lens. I’m able to get shots that look like I’m up close and personal with the animals, but I’m actually far enough to keep everyone safe. Don’t approach wildlife! It’s dangerous for them and for you.
Bison at Nachusa Grasslands by Cyrene Krey
These two playfully butted heads at the watering hole before entering the water together to cool their feet.

As a reminder, I’m on Facebook now. You can like my page for additional photos and stories. Plus, keep an eye out there for some special events I’ll have coming up!

All of the photos from this trip and more are already uploaded to my website for sale. I currently have a special going on which will be ending soon. Check out my Facebook page for details.

Birds Noisily Flocking in the Wetlands by Cyrene Krey

Nygren Wetland Preserve

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More of my photography can be seen on Facebook! Click the banner to like my page!

While it’s almost always better to visit a location for an extended period of time, sometimes I’m not able to stop and stay at a particular place for very long. It can feel disappointing to worry about missing out on incredible sights because I have to leave early, but it’s great motivation for going back! One such recent brief trip was to Nygren Wetland Preserve. I was only able to spend about fifteen minutes there on the observation deck overlooking some of the wetlands and go for a very short walk along one of the mowed trails. But I didn’t walk away empty-handed!

Birds Noisily Flocking in the Wetlands by Cyrene Krey
Photographers often discuss the supposed “golden hours,” which are the best times of the day to do outdoors photography. These times are right around sunset and sunrise. While not always feasible, it is always worth it, especially in wildlife photography. I went right around sunset, just as the birds were gathering in the wetlands for last minute snacks before heading off to roost for the night.
Bird Bad Hair Day by Cyrene Krey
I encountered this frazzled parent as I was being rushed back to my car. Clearly raising children isn’t an easy task…just look at the bad hair day this overworked parent is having! Robins are beautiful birds and can be seen all over the place. Glance out a window and you’re likely to find them in your own backyard.
Wiry Branches in Calm Water by Cyrene Krey
An important part of being a photographer is seeking out and accepting critiques of your work. In an online forum I participate in, another photographer suggested I turn one of my photos into a high contrast black and white, something I don’t frequently do. With this particular image, it was a fantastic suggestion. The stark contrast of the tree branches and water added a nice texture to the image it was lacking before, adding a lovely artistic element. Bonus points if you can spot the turtle and frog hiding on the branches!

I’m excited about the new direction my photography is taking. The reason I’ve been taking more frequent short trips is out is because I’m practicing with some new gear and it’s going great! There’s nothing quite like that new camera smell 😉

If you would love to stay up-to-date on my work, please head over to my Facebook page and give it a like! If you want to see one of my prints hanging on your wall, please visit my website at www.cyrenekrey.com to see what’s available for purchase. More from this visit is available for viewing and purchase on my website. On each and every print I sell, I donate a portion to support causes that support wildlife. Please check it out!

Also, be sure to support your own local restored habitats. If you live in northern Illinois, check out all that the Natural Land Institute is doing for our resident wildlife!

Mourning Dove Silhouette by Cyrene Krey

Less Literal, More Artistic

Wildlife photography doesn’t always have to be about an obvious, literal photograph of an animal or natural landscape. Sometimes it’s worth it to get creative in a different way. Sometimes I talk to people who don’t realize that wildlife photography (or photography in general) is as much of an art as any other. Photographers are artists too. Just like every other artist, we spend years honing our skills through practice and study. One perfect shot can take hours of preparation, days (or weeks, months, or years depending on the shot) of looking for (and getting to) the perfect location and waiting until everything is just right. It requires knowledge of more than just button-pushing to take a picture. Wildlife photographers have to know the terrain, the animals they’re photographing, lighting, the technical capabilities of their gear, and their own limitations. It’s hard work. And it’s a lot of fun. Sometimes I like to get away from the literal photos of bugs and birds and do something a little different.

Forest Preserve in Winter
For this shot, I wanted something a little harsher so I overexposed this winter scene. My goal was to capture the feel of cold and desolation, the harshness that still remained despite the melting snow. Overexposing caused more work for me post-processing, but it was worth it to get the feel I wanted.
Mourning Dove Silhouette by Cyrene Krey
A silhouette of a mourning dove in black and white is still fairly literal. It’s a nice mix of a more expected wildlife shot and something of a slightly different type of creativity. The sunlight wasn’t doing what I wanted it to and instead of settling for a mediocre bird photograph, I decided to do something a little more impactful and underexposed the dove to end up with just her silhouette. Changing the photo to grayscale also made it a little moodier. (c) Cyrene Krey
Purple Flowers Against Green
It’s pretty obvious this one isn’t intended to be a typical landscape shot :p Originally that’s exactly what I wanted though. I loved the purple of the flowers against the green background but none of the photos had the impact I was looking for. I decided to go crazy with the colors to get that impact and ended up loving the painting feel of the photo more than the other shots I’d taken of the same scene.
Abstract Water on Rocks by Cyrene Krey
I feel like this one should technically be considered a more literal photo because it really is just a shot into a creek. But the closeup of the rocks and the way the sunlight is playing off the water forms more abstract patterns than what you’d usually find in a nature photo. Even the small fish that I saw swimming around are just abstract blurs in the finished product. And I love it :p (c) Cyrene Krey

All of these photos were shot at Clayton Andrews Forest Preserve of the Winnebago County Forest Preserve District in northern Illinois. For more wildlife photography tips, read my blog post on backyard wildlife photography. To see some of these and other photos available for purchase, please visit my website at http://www.cyrenekrey.com. Also, I’m now on Facebook! Like me! 😀