Susan Seubert Photographer: Learning by Observing

Four American Robin Chicks in their nest outside our kitchen window

Four American Robin Chicks in their nest outside our kitchen window

For the first time, I’ve had the pleasure and privilege to watch a robin build a nest, incubate eggs and have a successful hatch just outside of our kitchen window.  The American Robin is one of the most common birds found in urban settings and will often nest near, or on, homes throughout North America.  I’ve learned a lot about the behavior of Turdus migratorius by observing, and photographing, them almost daily since the babies hatched around the beginning of this month.

American Robin, nesting in a camellia bush in Portland, Oregon with 4 chicks

American Robin, nesting in a camellia bush in Portland, Oregon feeding her chicks blueberries

I read that the the incubation ranges from 12 to 14 days, which was spot on for this mother of 4.  Now we are eagerly waiting for the babies to fledge, as it appears that they are very crowded in their nest and their wing feathers look like they are well developed.

With so many chicks in one tiny nest, I wondered how the nest stays so clean.  It turns out that in addition to feeding the babies worms and berries, the robin also “changes the babies’ diapers” by removing the waste directly from the bottoms of the chicks.  This may not be the most appetizing topic, but I was amazed at how efficient the bird is at keeping house.  Below are some photos from the last week.  I built a “blind” in the kitchen in order to keep our peering eyes mostly hidden so as not to disturb the nestlings.  There was plenty of glare which the blind reduced, but it was still challenging photographing through dirty glass.  All of these pictures were made with the Canon 7D Mark II which has a beautiful sensor and a fabulous frame rate, which is what allowed me to capture such a fast and intimate moment.  The RAW files were processed using Adobe Lightroom.

The Kitchen Window Blind: Baby Robins in their nest in a Camellia bush

The Kitchen Window Blind: Robin chicks in their nest in a Camellia bush

It has been an illuminating experience to watch how quickly these cute little birds grow and I will certainly miss them when they leave the nest.

A mother American Robin removing the excrement from the bottom of one of her chicks

An American Robin removing the excrement from the bottom of one of the chicks

A mother American Robin removing the excrement from the bottom of one of her chicks

An American Robin removing the excrement from the bottom of one of the chicks

A mother American Robin removing the excrement from the bottom of one of her chicks

An American Robin removing the excrement from the bottom of one of the chicks

A mother American Robin removing the excrement from the bottom of one of her chicks

An American Robin removing the excrement from the bottom of one of the chicks

A mother American Robin removing the excrement from the bottom of one of her chicks

An American Robin removing the excrement from the bottom of one of the chicks

A mother American Robin removing the excrement from the bottom of one of her chicks

An American Robin removing the excrement from the bottom of one of the chicks

A mother American Robin removing the excrement from the bottom of one of her chicks

An American Robin removing the excrement from the bottom of one of the chicks

A mother American Robin removing the excrement from the bottom of one of her chicks

An American Robin removing the excrement from the bottom of one of the chicks

 

Update on June 13, 2015

This morning, three out of the four nestlings fledged!  There is still one in the nest and it looks very ready to leave.  It’s preening and standing up to stretch its legs.  What a wonderful experience this has been.

Update on June 13, 2015

The last robin fledged this evening.  Sniff.

The last to fledge

The last to fledge

 

Susan Seubert Photography in 2014 : An Amazing Year, in Pictures

From the North Pole to the sands of Hawaii, my cameras and I saw many incredible places.

Here are some of the highlights.

My year began in Birmingham for National Geographic Traveler for a story about the history of Civil Rights in the city, but from a traveler’s perspective. The assignment took me to the Civil Rights Museum and the inside of the 16th Street Baptist Church, both sobering experiences.  Birmingham also has a fabulous food scene from down home BBQ to some seriously delicious high-end Southern Cuisine.  The lively arts scene was a surprise, complete with small music venues and vegan restaurants.

The Wales Window at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama

The Wales Window at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama

The Bottletree restaurant, which offers vegan cuisine, and music venue located in the Avondale district of Birmingham, Alabama.

The Bottletree restaurant, which offers vegan cuisine, and music venue located in the Avondale district of Birmingham, Alabama.

The next great assignment came from the Smithsonian Magazine : photographing the Von Trapp children who have made Portland, Oregon their hometown. We spent time climbing trees and jumping on rooftops with umbrellas to get some wonderful images of these multi-talented youngsters.

The Von Trapp children in Portland, Oregon

The Von Trapp children in Portland, Oregon

From there, it was off to Baja, where I taught photography on board the National Geographic Sea Bird.  We traveled throughout the Gulf of California experiencing all kinds of wildlife. Swimming with sea lions at Los Islotes, Orca whales bow riding at midnight under a full moon and huge flocks of elegant terns choosing their mates at Isla Rasita are just a few of the amazing encounters we had during our eight day voyage.  The wildlife experts on board kept our shutters flying.

Snorkeling with California Sea Lions at Los Islotes in Baja California Mexico

Snorkeling with California Sea Lions at Los Islotes in Baja California Mexico Photographed with a GoPro Camera

Elegant terns and other sea birds gathering on Isla Rasa, Baja California Mexico

Elegant terns and other sea birds gathering on Isla Rasita, Baja California Mexico

After a few loads of laundry and some face time with the kitties, it was off to Maui for the month of May, where I shot a story about Happiness for Prevention Magazine.  We had fun making smiley faces on trees in the lush, tropical forests.  We did street casting to choose our lovely models who expressed joy with their smiles and their feet. 🙂

A tree in the forest on Maui with a happy face made of natural materials.

A tree in the forest on Maui with a happy face made of natural materials.

pink flowers with a happy face in the grass with bare feet, Maui, Hawaii

pink flowers with a happy face in the grass with bare feet, Maui, Hawaii

From Maui, I flew directly to Quebec City for National Geographic Traveler where I spent ten days on assignment.  The European vibe and French speaking Vieux Quebec made me feel as though I had crossed two oceans.

Street scenes from Vieux Quebec, the only fortified city in North America north of Mexico, Quebec City, Canada. Rue Saint Louis lighting up at dusk

Street scenes from Vieux Quebec, the only fortified city in North America north of Mexico, Quebec City, Canada. Rue Saint Louis lighting up at dusk

Lower Vieux Quebec, also known as Quartier Petit Champlain, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada

Lower Vieux Quebec, also known as Quartier Petit Champlain, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada

In June, I headed to Svalbard to work as the Photography Expert for National Geographic Expeditions on board the Explorer, a beautiful ice breaker.  We sailed among the ice sheets, spotting polar bears and photographing the most incredible blues I’ve ever seen.  The landscape around the North Pole cannot be properly captured in pictures, but we all did our best.

A polar bear with her cub on the pack ice in Svalbard, Norway

A polar bear with her cub on the pack ice in Svalbard, Norway

Austfonna Ice Cap on Nordaustlandet, Svalbard, Norway

Austfonna Ice Cap on Nordaustlandet, Svalbard, Norway

Ice floating in Svalbard, Norway

Glacial Ice floating in Svalbard, Norway

Teaching photography has been a focus of 2014. In July, I taught a group of aspiring young photographers through National Geographic’s Student Expeditions program in San Francisco.  We explored Muir Woods, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the streets of San Francisco and magnificent Big Sur.  Later in the year I taught two one-day seminars in L.A. and Portland for National Geographic on “The Travel Assignment.”

Our group portrait with all of the National Geographic Student Expeditions at the Sutro Baths, San Francisco, CA

Our group portrait with all of the National Geographic Student Expeditions at the Sutro Baths, San Francisco, CA

Our dusk shoot at the Golden Gate Bridge with Student Expeditions where we experimented with light writing and a group portrait

Our dusk shoot at the Golden Gate Bridge with Student Expeditions where we experimented with light writing and a group portrait

After wrapping in San Francisco, I photographed for several days on beautiful Bainbridge Island in Washington.  The subject?  Chickens.  Chickens and their coops for Amber Lotus, a calendar and card company.  Keep your eyes peeled for the 2016 edition of City Chickens and Their Coops!

Chickens and their Coops Calendar coming out in 2016, but it's not too late to get your 2015 copy!

Chickens and their Coops Calendar coming out in 2016, but it’s not too late to get your 2015 copy!

It was off to Switzerland in September for two weeks covering 1000 miles of Swiss bliss.  Every village and mountain peak was as picturesque as one would expect from this iconic country.  One of the many highlights was visiting a small creamery in the Alps that makes Alpkäse, a traditional cheese made entirely by hand.  I also hiked around the mountains, explored the country by train, car and boat, and (how could I resist?) sampled lots of chocolate.

A Swiss cheese-maker working on a batch of Alpkäse by hand in the traditional manner in a giant copper kettle over a wood burning fire at their cheese-making hut above Wengen, Switzerland

A Swiss cheese-maker working on a batch of Alpkäse by hand in the traditional manner in a giant copper kettle over a wood burning fire at their cheese-making hut above Wengen, Switzerland

A Swiss cheese-maker working on a batch of Alpkäse by hand in the traditional manner in a giant copper kettle over a wood burning fire at their cheese-making hut above Wengen, Switzerland

A Swiss cheese-maker working on a batch of Alpkäse by hand in the traditional manner in a giant copper kettle over a wood burning fire at their cheese-making hut above Wengen, Switzerland

What could be better than this? Crete. I flew directly there from Switzerland and was met by my husband — and my fixer.  We proceeded to spend just over a week shooting the western half of the island.  The food, people, landscape and architecture were outstanding. That story has already hit the newsstands in the Netherlands for the Dutch edition of National Geographic Traveler.

Street scenes in Chania, Crete, Greece

Street scenes in Chania, Crete, Greece

Evening street performers in the village of Paleochora on the southern coast of Crete, Greece, Europe

Evening street performers in the village of Paleochora on the southern coast of Crete, Greece, Europe

After Crete it was off to another island, our home on Maui, where we spent October and November surfing, stand-up paddle-boarding and, of course, making more pictures.  This time the assignment was for me: to explore the underwater world with a Canon 7D and an SPL water housing.  I photographed turtle after turtle, had a few octopus encounters and enjoyed a beautiful moment with a very large spotted eagle ray.

A spotted eagle ray at the reef at Black Rock in Kaanapali, Maui

A spotted eagle ray at the reef at Black Rock in Kaanapali, Maui

A large, male Hawaiian green sea turtle swims peacefully over the reef at Kaanapali, Maui

A large, male Hawaiian green sea turtle swims peacefully over the reef at Kaanapali, Maui

Thank you to all of my clients for sending me on such remarkable journeys.

You’ve made 2014 marvelous!!!

 

Back Yard Barred Owl -or- Why We Live in Portland, Oregon

Portland, Oregon is an amazing place to live for so many reasons:  the food scene, the forward-thinking development, the great public transportation  but for me, our home is the reason we have firmly planted roots here in the Pacific Northwest.  Our house backs into the Marquam Green Space which is tangential to Forest Park, the largest in-city park in the United States.  If you can figure the maps, it’s possible to walk out our back door and join up with the Pacific Crest Trail.   The other great part is that literally steps, (with a little bush-whacking), from our back yard is the newly developed 4-T TrailTrail, Tram, Trolly, Train.  If you are a resident or visitor, this is one great urban hike and a fantastic way to tour the city for under 5 bucks.  Last year we began the process of becoming certified for Backyard Habitat, a joint program between the Audubon Society and the Columbia Land trust.  This program acts as a guide in transforming your property to a haven for urban flora and fauna.  Since our property butts up against the Marquam Green Space, it made sense to get on board.  We’ve removed the bulk of invasive plants and re-planted our back yard with native plant species.  Now the battle with bindweed, holly and ivy begins!  The great part is that we’ve already noticed an increase in the wildlife that visits us, including this Barred Owl who spent a good deal of time on a branch about 5 feet from my office window.  You can hear us whispering to the owl as it sits nearby…

Here is how difficult it was to photograph the owl 🙂

Wildlife photographer, in action!

In addition to the Barred Owls, we have regular avian visitors.  Tonight, while sitting outside having dinner, I noted the following species: Black-Headed Grosbeak, Spotted Towhee, Rufous Hummingbird, Anna’s Hummingbird, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Black Capped Chickadee, Steller’s Jay, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Lesser Goldfinch, Pine Siskin, Band-tailed Pigeon, House Finch, Red Shafted Northern Flicker, Downy Woodpecker, Song Sparrow, and to top it off, a mother/son pair of Hairy Woodpeckers.  Below is our regular summer set-up for dinner.  Bon appétit!

summer backyard dining

a steller’s jay joins us for supper

The video was shot with a Canon 5D Mark II and a Canon 70-200 f2.8 IS USM L series lens and edited in iMovie.  The stills were shot with a Canon 5D Mark II and a Canon 24-105 IS USM L series lens and edited in Adobe’s Lightroom software.