Welcome to 2018!

Happy New Year!

Baby Skunk in Backyard by Cyrene Krey
A group of small skunks making my backyard home was one of the highlights of my 2017 summer!

Now that we’re into 2018, I’m finally getting a chance to catch my breath and reflect over everything I did in 2017.

The past two years have had so much going on, that they’ve blurred together in my mind a bit. I was completely focused on getting my Master’s degree. That single ambition led to the feeling that the last couple years have just blended into one. Obviously that isn’t how it works though, so focusing on 2017 is the goal today!

Green Foliage by Cyrene Krey
Green foliage against a bright sky always makes for a pretty photo. And it makes me wish I was somewhere tropical! Working towards that goal was a focus of 2017 and will continue into 2018.

The year ended with a huge accomplishment. I finished my Master’s degree in biology! After spending so long in school, on one degree or another, it’s been kind of surreal to not have to worry about that anymore. A few people have asked if I plan on going for a PhD and the answer is an anti-climactic “maybe.” While I would like to, it doesn’t currently fit into my plans or what I can realistically afford to do at the moment. In a few years though, I plan on looking into it.

Underwater Creek Bed by Cyrene Krey
One new thing in 2017 was underwater photography! I purchased an underwater camera and began experimenting with that. While I wasn’t able to do much more than check out local streams and creeks, I plan on doing a lot more with this in 2018 and I can’t wait!

For now, I’m exploring different career opportunities and I’m going to see where I end up! But of course, photography will always be a part of whatever I do.

One of the new areas I’m exploring is photojournalism. I was able to learn a little more about this during the trip to Standing Rock in late 2016. However, I hadn’t at the time given it much thought. But since that trip, it’s been on my mind a bit. I decided to really try it out and see how I felt about it with a mini-vacation during my last semester at school.

I needed a bit of a nature break and there was this really interesting place I was dying to visit: Snake Road!

Net Neutrality Protester by Cyrene Krey
As an activist, I’ve attended many protests and marches. It’s been a new experience though to attend strictly as an observer. It’s provided me with a new perspective and appreciation for these activities.

This is a road in the Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois that is closed twice a year to protect reptile migrations. I’ll have more posts about it coming up (with more information on other places you can read all about this trip ;D). But for now, let me just say that it was awesome and I highly recommend visiting!

While I was expecting a fun trip, I didn’t expect it to go as well as it did. I ran into a few problems and my plans had to change, but I was able to make everything work out. I met some really great people, saw some incredible animals, and came away with a few great shots and an interesting story. It was a trip that made me want to do more of this kind of work.

Frog Monitor Sign by Cyrene Krey
My academic and professional career weren’t the only things I focused on in 2017. I also added to my volunteer work by becoming a frog call monitor for the local forest preserve district.

I have a few ideas for some interesting upcoming projects related to this, but more on that will have to wait until later 😉

For 2018, my plan is to continue focusing on what I began in 2017. I’ll of course be continuing with my volunteer work, because that’s just too much fun to give up! But I’ll also be looking for ways to expand my experience and try out new and exciting photography projects.

So I hope everyone has an exciting, fun, and safe 2018!

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Katydid by Cyrene Krey

Backyard Wildlife Photography

A lot of times when I talk to people about doing wildlife photography, they immediately think of photographing exotic animals in hard to get to locations all around the world. And while that’s certainly true for some photographers, I spend my time much closer to home. In fact, I spend most of my time at home in my own backyard. I love traveling and exploring new areas, but the fact is that it can sometimes be cost or time prohibitive to do that. And that’s true for a lot of people. So I thought I’d talk a little bit about photographing backyard wildlife, wherever your backyard may be.

Abstract Leaf in Water
Not everything you photograph has to represent exactly what you see. This is an abstract photo of a leaf in a blue bowl filled with rain water, dirt, and bugs. Although I took some clearer images of this leaf, I loved the soft abstract feeling of the photo. Don’t be afraid to get artistic. Blurry, out-of-focus images can have a beautiful, serene quality can that be quite pleasing. If you see something that isn’t quite what you want, but you love the texture or the colors, turn it into something abstract and have fun with it!
Robin with Food by Cyrene Krey
If you have trees in your yard, you’ll have birds. I happen to have a lot of trees so I have quite a few birds. But even if you just have one, they’ll visit and if you keep watching, you can end up with some neat photos. If there isn’t a lot of large trees in your yard, you can attract birds by adding bird houses, bird feeders, and bird baths to your yard or porch. If you place it close enough to a window, you can even sit inside your house and get photos of wildlife in your yard without ever stepping foot out your front door (though I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t want to go outside! :D).
Katydid by Cyrene Krey
Make sure to go small! Insects, flowers, leaves, even grass can make some really compelling photos because most people don’t look at their surroundings in that much detail up close (and, depending on how close you get, can’t without a magnifying glass). You’ll be surprised by what you see if you focus on the little things.
Red Berry
Have fun and don’t be intimidated! Everyone has their own style and interests. Find something that draws you in and explore with some new ways of looking at it. Bugs, grass, leaves, birds, raccoons, puddles…whatever it is that you want to explore, go for it and have fun! 🙂

In other news…I’ve fully revamped my website. Check it out at cyrenekrey.com! I also have a Facebook page and I’d love it if you liked my page 🙂

Simply Spring: The Butterfly Exhibit at Nicholas Conservatory

I recently visited Nicholas Conservatory again because they had yet another awesome exhibit. This one was all about butterflies! And just like the lorikeet exhibit, visitors can get up close and personal with all the beautiful butterflies.The exhibit will be open through May 15, so if you’ll be in the Rockford, IL area, I strongly suggest you stop by the conservatory to check it out!

Monarch Caterpillar by Cyrene Krey
When you first walk in, against one of the walls is a small glass enclosure with beautiful monarch caterpillars. This is when monarchs do almost all of their growing. Because of this, they don’t do much else besides eat. But it works out nicely for us because we end up with beautiful butterflies at the end of their growth cycle!
Owl Butterfly by Cyrene Krey
Owl butterflies are found in Central America and use their unique design to disguise themselves as birds of prey. This helps prevent them from becoming food for someone else!
Butterfly by Cyrene Krey
This guy hung out with us the entire time we were visiting with the butterflies! He was quite the social butterfly ;D
Julia Longwing Butterfly by Cyrene Krey
A Julia Longwing butterfly perching on a flower for a quick snack. These guys are also found in Central America, not something those of us in the Midwest U.S. get to see unless we happen to live near a great conservatory that has awesome butterfly exhibits!
Glasswing Butterfly by Cyrene Krey
This is a Glasswing and was probably my favorite of the trip. It’s easy to see how these guys got their name, those wings are amazing!
Julia Longwing Butterfly by Cyrene Krey
We also got to see a mating dance!
Koi Pond by Cyrene Krey
There’s so much to take in at Nicholas Conservatory. After checking out the butterflies, we walked around the gardens and took in all the sights. It was a pretty chilly day outside when we went, so being in the tropical gardens was a nice escape.
Flowers by Cyrene Krey
Check out what you have in your own area. Visiting a conservatory is a great way to experience nature differently. I don’t get to visit tropical locations all that often, so having a mini-one just a short drive away from me is fantastic.

As with all the photos I take at similar events, I won’t ever sell prints of these images. However I encourage you to use them non-commercially for awareness and educational purposes. If you do use any of the images, do not alter them in any way and credit both myself (“Photo (c) Cyrene Krey”) and Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens (“Photo taken at Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens in Rockford, IL”). Thanks!

References

Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens

University of Minnesota

Updated Website! (finally ;p)

I know I said I’d get these updates done a while ago (quite a while ago), but I seriously underestimated how busy I would be with school. But I guess that’s what happens when you’re busy graduating a year early. Yup, you heard that right…a year early…and I’m done! I now have a Bachelors of Science in Environmental Science with a concentration in Fish and Wildlife Management. I couldn’t be happier! Now that I’m done with school (at least until grad school), I’ve been getting things caught up. Including my website. If you haven’t seen it yet, be sure to go check out Wildlife by Cyrene! It’s got a brand new background, but the same simple to navigate layout.

I’ve also updated the galleries. You can go and check out some of what I think are my best photos of 2015. Everything in the galleries on the site is also available for sale. I keep my prices really low because I want everyone to be able to afford beautiful wildlife art. All of my galleries are available for a limited time only though, so be sure to check them out soon.

I also now have the photos up from my eagle observation trip last year. So those are now all available for viewing and purchase. There are more photos on my site than I included in my blog post, so you’ll definitely want to take a look.

I also added a gallery from my Earth Day nature walk. Again, there are extra photos on the website that you won’t see in my blog post. All of the photos are available for purchase for a limited time. Or you can just go look at them too without buying anything 🙂

And the final gallery I included was for my brown pelican photos. These were taken during my four day trip to Florida last spring.

Each of these albums with be replaced periodically, so go check them out now while they’re still available. Over the next couple of months, I’ll be replacing them with some of my lifetime favorites and the photos from my trip to Devil’s Lake. Be on the lookout for that!

Since this is a photography blog, I can’t very well leave you without some pretty pictures to look at! Here are some shots I took last month for a project I’m working on (more information on that later). Enjoy!

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A leaf covered in recent snowfall. (c) Cyrene Krey
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Snow filled forest. (c) Cyrene Krey
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Reflections and snowfall. (c) Cyrene Krey
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A prairie in snow.
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A prairie tree. (c) Cyrene Krey
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Fall leaves covered in recent snowfall.
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Prairie plant covered in snow. (c) Cyrene Krey

Turkey Vultures at Devil’s Lake State Park

On Monday, October 26th my husband and I drove up to Devil’s Lake State Park in Wisconsin to so some hiking. We both had different expectations and goals going up there. He didn’t think he’d enjoy hiking around for several hours but was still looking forward to getting some exercise and fresh air. I was excited for several hours of hiking and wildlife watching but concerned that I wouldn’t be able to stay as long because he wasn’t as much of an outdoor enthusiast. It ended up working out perfectly though and he enjoyed himself more than he thought he would, so we were able to hike for a few hours.

I decided to visit because I wanted to see the turkey vultures gather before they began heading south. Turkey vultures aren’t a species that are really thought of as migrators, but northern birds do go a little bit south in the winter (Cornell University, n.d.). One of the areas they tend to gather is Devil’s Lake State Park in Baraboo, Wisconsin.

We saw several as we drove into the Baraboo area circling in the skies above us. But for the first half of our hike once we were at the park, didn’t see any. I was concerned we weren’t going to spot any when one flew right in front of the cliff we were standing on. I quickly pulled out my camera and waited for him to circle again, thrilled to see one of my favorite bird species so close. When he disappeared from view, I figured that would be it. Until I glanced down at the rocks below us and saw two small groups of them hanging out. (Interesting sidenote: I counted a total of 13 vultures on the cliffs and realized later that it was a full moon that day :p)

How many vultures do you count?
How many vultures do you count?
They are sometimes mistaken for eagles or hawks, but turkey vultures can be identified by their raised wings and the uneven circles as they soar (Cornell University, n.d.).
They are sometimes mistaken for eagles or hawks, but turkey vultures can be identified by their raised wings and the uneven circles they fly in as they soar (Cornell University, n.d.).
This guy was watching me while I was watching him! :)
This guy was watching me while I was watching him! 🙂
Turkey vultures serve a valuable purpose in ecosystems as scavengers. Without scavengers, carcasses are left to rot and can pose health dangers to humans and wildlife.
Turkey vultures serve a valuable purpose in ecosystems as scavengers. Without scavengers, carcasses are left to rot and can pose health dangers to humans and wildlife.
Although not a technically "perfect" shot, it's one of my favorites of the day. They are some of the most beautiful birds in flight.
Although not a technically “perfect” shot, it’s one of my favorites of the day. They are some of the most beautiful birds in flight.

The vultures weren’t the only spectacular sights that day! We had beautiful views of the last little bit of fall colors all throughout our hike. Everything from within the woods to the stunning sights from the tops of the cliffs, nothing disappointed!

Beautiful Baraboo as seen from the cliffs in Devil's Lake State Park. (c) Cyrene Krey
Beautiful Baraboo as seen from the cliffs in Devil’s Lake State Park. (c) Cyrene Krey
The last of the fall colors. (c) Cyrene Krey
The last of the fall colors. (c) Cyrene Krey

Be sure to get out and enjoy the little remaining fall colors while you still can! They’re fading fast and winter will soon be upon us. While I’m looking forward to lovely snowy days, I will miss the bright orange and yellow hues of autumn, the last incredible shows of migrating birds, and an excuse to eat leftover Halloween candy! 😀

References

Cornell University. (n.d.). Turkey Vulture.

Devil’s Lake State Park Visitor Guide.

Oldies but Goodies

I didn’t get out to do much photography this month because of how busy I’ve been with school, so I’m just going to share some photos that are a couple years old (or older!). Enjoy! 🙂

Indiana Sunset by Cyrene Krey
Indiana Sunset by Cyrene Krey
Abstract Patterns in Stone by Cyrene Krey
Abstract Patterns in Stone by Cyrene Krey
Reflections by Cyrene Krey
Reflections by Cyrene Krey
Ruins by Cyrene Krey
Ruins by Cyrene Krey
The Office by Cyrene Krey
The Office by Cyrene Krey
Finch by Cyrene Krey
Finch by Cyrene Krey

Bald Eagles at Starved Rock

This past Saturday, February 7th, my husband and I took a trip to Starved Rock State Park near Utica, Illinois to see some eagles. It was a chilly day, but not as chilly as I was hoping. The Starved Rock website mentions that on colder days, when the water is frozen elsewhere, the eagles will often congregate around the dam for fish. Although admittedly, the weather being less cold meant we could be out in it longer.

Dam at Starved Rock Park

The eagles migrate to the area beginning in December and stay until the weather starts warming up around March, although January seems to be the most recommended time to go see them. My original plan was to go earlier to go see them, unfortunately that didn’t work out with my schedule.

Starved Rock is a big park and quite popular. On the day we went, it was exceptionally busy. I generally prefer it a little more isolated when I’m out in nature and exploring wildlife, but it is nice to see so many people excited to see eagles. Many, like myself, trying out this little adventure for the first time.

Couple Walking Along River

Starved Rock State Park: Eagle Watching lists several tips for viewing bald eagles. We were only able to see a couple of them and there were a few rowdy individuals that certainly didn’t make the experience as enjoyable as I would have liked. Although the eagles were too far away to get some great shots (and stayed away thanks to the overzealous fans), I did still manage to walk away with some beautiful shots of the area.

Bridge

The ideal times to see the eagles, according to the park, are early morning and just before sunset. We arrived about an hour before the sun started setting and headed back to our car just as it started going down. That’s a great time for photography if you want to avoid harsh midday sunlight. As we were about to leave, a little mist settled on a few particular areas and really enhanced the mood of the area.

Tree in Mist
(c) Cyrene Krey

While the eagles weren’t plentiful that day, there still was other wildlife to appreciate. It’s important to keep in mind anytime you’re interested in exploring wildlife that animals don’t act on our schedule. They aren’t performers for our amusement. It’s great to appreciate them, but remember that even if the animal you want to see isn’t around, there are plenty of others to notice.

Seagulls

They had a bat house up too! I was really excited to see this. My husband and I will be putting up our first bat house this spring (I’ll be sure to write a post about that when it happens).

Bat House

On the way out, we got this interesting little surprise… A mosquito. While it wasn’t quite freezing outside, it still seemed much too cold (and much too early in the year) for this little guy to be hanging around. The photo isn’t the nicest. I didn’t bring the right lens with me since I wasn’t exactly expecting to be taking pictures of tiny little bugs while the ground was still covered in snow 🙂

Mosquito In Winter

Although there weren’t many eagles, we did still get to see them. There were two hanging around while we were there and while they were a little far away for a closeup, that didn’t deter me. So here’s my final image for the post:

Bald Eagle

If you get the chance to try your hand at eagle viewing, I recommend taking advantage of that opportunity. Please be respectful of others who are there, not just other humans but the animals too. It can be distressing for them to have people shouting at them, even from a distance. Appreciate nature and wildlife… at the rate things are going, you might not get too many more chances to enjoy it.

These photos and more will be available for purchase on my website around summertime. I know it’s a bit of a delay, but I’ll need time to go through the couple hundred photos I took and get them uploaded and I’m in school full time. Besides it’s better to see these sights in person, so go visit a local park in the meantime! 🙂