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My Favorite Shots of 2017

December 28 2017

2017 has been a pretty good year for me from a photography standpoint. My work has been displayed in 3 different galleries since July with more dates scheduled for 2018 and 2019 already. I also entered 4 contests and won three 1st place awards including sweeping the Wildlife divisions at both Mingo National Wildlife Refuge and Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge. I am going into 2018 with the goal of blogging more about my adventures and experiences which should be more balanced between landscape, wildlife, railroad, night and maybe even some storms if i have the time. But for now, here's a list of my favorite photos taken in each month of 2017.

Ring-billed Gull at Crab Orchard NWR

This shot wasn't even supposed to be a shot. In early January on a dreary day me and my wife decided to go shopping in Carbondale and eat lunch at Golden Corral, but when we made it to town the power was out at the restauraunt and the nearby stores so i was granted permission to make a quick run to Crab Orchard while we waited. Upon arrival i found these Ring-billed Gulls swooping around watching a group of American Coots pluck fish from the water, and then trying to steal it from them. The process repeated itself over and over allowing me to get this shot and the dreary weather actually helped create a neat color tone to the photo in my opinion.

A friendly heads up from a fellow photographer had tipped me off to an area where some Barred Owl's had been hanging out not too far from my house. Despite the steady rain i decided to go looking for them that Saturday morning and this was the result. The shot was taken on a beanbag aimed out my car window from the top of a levee. I had the car turned off to help steady the 600mm lens and help reduce the heat passing in front of the lens from the warm car. The levee helped me get an eye level shot that would have otherwise been impossible to do.

In March we had a very brief snow, in fact i think it was on the ground for all of 6 hours if memory serves me. I made sure to be out early and drove out into the county looking for landscape photos. I had received permission from the owner of this property just the weekend before. The only problem i faced is that in my excitement for snow the prior night i forgot to charge my camera. By the time i had even arrived at this spot my battery light was flashing red which meant it only had minutes left to live. I made sure to leave it shut off while i was setting up the tripod and composing the scene and turned it on only when i was ready to shoot. I was able to get several frames off before the camera died, prematurely ending my morning. These are the kind of shots that you smile all the way home from. They are also the same shots that you worry yourself to death over the entire way home. Unfortunately the overwhelming success of this image caused a bit of strife for the property owner and i was asked not to take any more photos there. I never plan any photo i take with the intentions of making money, I do what i do for the love of the craft and nothing else. Somtimes i do make a few bucks ($30 on this image to be exact) but my work is purely for the love of being creative and capturing moments like this one.

One of my favorite parts of Spring is the beautiful plumages that many birds sport during breeding season. This Cattle Egret is no exception with it's pink bill and crest. These birds are a fairly boring member of the Heron family and have earned the nickname "Cow Bird" by spending good portions of their time following cattle around pastures and eating the bugs they sir up as they move.


I found this shot while driving the backroads of Mississippi County in May. A good chunk of a Dickcissel's diet comes from eating insects and even leftover seeds that they find in fields. In this photo the bird is peering over the field looking for dinner. Sunset was happening at the same time off to my right side which produced some even lighting on the bird.

Sweat Bee

June was a frustrating month. While doing some yard work. both me and my wife ended up with poison ivy which was bad enough. After several days of being too misserable to care, i decided to go out and take some photos at a local conservation area. I brought home this photo of a Sweat Bee pollenating a Coreopsis and a solid case of Chiggers. If you've never combined Chiggers and Poison Ivy, please don't start in 2018. It sucked, but hey i got the shot!

A few years ago, the East Prairie Chamber of Commerce began a theme of decorating Bicycles and placing them around town during the Sweet Corn Festival and 4th of July activities. I was unable to find an appealing photo last year that included a bike, but thankfully someone placed this one just perfectly this year. In the background, fireworks from the Main Street party fill the sky with color while the crowd takes in the event. The local Chamber of Commerce picked up a framed copy of this photo which is pretty cool.

Great Egret

I feel about Shorebirds the way most people feel about Eagles. There is just something cool about watching them tip-toe through shallow water hunting for their next meal. This photo was taken at Mingo NWR in August as a group of Egret's did just that. Not a good day to be this fish, but a great day to be me.

Our family vacation took us to the Smoky Mountains this year. Never having been to the area before the only place i knew of was Cade's Cove so i made sure to set a morning aside just to visit. The last day of vacation i awoke at 4am and drove the slow and windy road towards Townsend, arriving almost an hour before sunrise. To my suprise, there were already 7 cars lined up at the gate in front of me. I was able to speak to a few photographers and locals about hotspots for Bears which was my main goal that morning but was unable to get a decent quality shot. About halfway through the loop i found this massive grazing Buck, still covered in blood from rubbing off his velvet. I used my hoody to keep water off of my lens the best i could while propping on a fence post to capture the shot.

I enjoy Reptiles and Amphibians but they don't get near as much of my time as Birds usually. This day in October i went hiking with my cousin at Lake Typwappity in Chaffee. Near the back of the trail we spotted a tiny movement in front of us. After scanning there it was, a quarter-sized tree frog likely hoping we wouldn't notice his presence. The species is either a Gray or Cope's Gray Tree Frog which is very hard to discern in the field.

Going into this winter i knew i wanted to put more emphasis on Waterfowl, particularly Wood Ducks. I've made a few attempts already but still no love from the Wood Ducks. This Mallard Duck is my best attempt so far and was photographed at Horseshoe Lake in Southern Illinois.

Bald Eagle

Delaney Lake is 15 minutes from my house and during the winter it offers a solid option for viewing Egles without the crowds that bigger places tend to draw. On this morning i spent 2 hours staked out on the lake side looking for Kingfishers. This Juvenile and a few adult Eagles swooped around several times but never got close enough for a decent photo and never dove for a fish. After packing up for the morning i made a pass through east end of the lake and there sat this beautiful creature. Other local photographers had mentioned how cooperative this particular Bird was and i would definitely agree as i watched from my car for nearly 30 minutes before it flew off.

Thanks for reading and i hope you have a safe and happy 2018!

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