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Steve Foss

Ya gotta dance in order to . . . well, you know!

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The timeless dance of the sharp-tailed grouse. Ken and I photographed 22 birds on a lek this morning.

It was a good day. smilesmile

All with the Canon 1D Mk3, Canon 300 f2.8, Canon 1.4 TC, iso from 1600 to 400, shutter speeds from 1/50 to 1/640, all at f4, tripod, Ai servo, center focus point, +1 exposure compensation.

Please excuse slight variations in color temp. I'm shooting a new camera in jpeg mode, and getting the color temp just right in changing light conditions without the RAW preview screen is an inexact science. I've got about 750 usable images, so these are only a quick skim off the top. I have some of birds fighting and flying and many others (as Ken does too, I'm sure). We hope you enjoy. God knows we did! gringrin

Of course, on the way down on Sunday we got pictures of eagles, sandhill cranes, pelicans wheeling, killdeers and quite a few others, but heck, that's another thread. Not to mention hours more work. smilesmile

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Great shots, Steve! It was a good day. I've never watched sharpies dance before, so it was a doubly entertaining way to spend a Monday. Would also like to thank my friend Tom and wife Jan for their hospitality!

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Mine taken with a Canon Mark II, 500mm f/4, 400 ISO f/4 and various shutter speeds, ec +2/3

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Ahhh, sweet work, buddy. Yours totally pop!

Feels good when nature presents strong challenges to a well thought-out plan and the plan wins. The snow turned out to be quite a bonus, and the wind stayed where it was supposed to until it was supposed to. smilesmilesmile

What's up next? Muskoxen in the Thomsen River Delta? I'm in, but you gotta line that one up. I bet Tom would help. Heck, he'd do more than help! Tom and Jan, a big thank you! Soft beds and fresh Muffins at 4 a.m. don't suck! gringrin

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I am not looking for an exact location, but where did you guys find them?

About a 35 minute drive south and west from Duluth. smilesmilesmile

Ken, stone sheep? You kidding me? C'mon man, its muskoxen or bust! gringrin

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Great stuff guys! Steve, cloudy conditions or shade and AWB I know on the Mark IIN gives you temp variations, you think it looks like the same situation on the Mark III?

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Great stuff guys! Steve, cloudy conditions or shade and AWB I know on the Mark IIN gives you temp variations, you think it looks like the same situation on the Mark III?

It doesn't matter to me in here. If I'm matching a series of images for a client I'll get real anal about color temp, but this ain't that. It's just friends posting for friends. smilesmile

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Wow, don't misunderstand me Steve, I am just asking if you find that to be true with the Mark III, I've never shot with one.

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Debbie,

Just got an email from buddy Tom who's mom (lives in MacGregor) watched 18 of 'em dancing next to her car this morning. Sorry, don't know exactly where, but within a short distance of town.

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Wow, don't misunderstand me Steve, I am just asking if you find that to be true with the Mark III, I've never shot with one.

Dan, I don't think I misunderstood you. I didn't think you were making a big deal about it, and I wasn't either. Cool? I mean, those smiley faces I use mean I'm smiling. confused

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You guys got a few keepers there. I shot from the blind in Cloquet last year, not too shabby of a location.

Hey Dan, if you ever want to shoot these closer to home let me know.

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Those have awesome colors!

Ken,do you find the 500L a handfull or manageable? I test drove the 800L on Sat. and was impressed with the reach and focusing speed but the length was a little clumsy. It moved well on the Wimberley,but handholding while panning was awkward feeling. How do you like panning the 500?

I almost have the wife convinced. wink

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You guys got a few keepers there. I shot from the blind in Cloquet last year, not too shabby of a location.

It's OK. Nothing special. The grass it pretty tall for photogs, even though they say it's been mown, and the setting is nothing at all compared with the blinds from which I watched leks with 40 sharp-tails in N.D. They set up this Cloquet area blind 150 feet away from the lek, which doesn't suit photographers at all (the DNR tech I talked to said they have no interest in satisfying photographers), but we picked her up and moved her within 40 feet and the grouse were dancing right in front of us, just like they always did from 20 feet in N.D.

You want something done right . . . .

MM, for what it's worth, I don't own that 500 but have shot it many times over the last three years, both as loan/rental and CPS arrangements. I don't know what Ken has to say about it, but for my money it's the best combination of IQ and portability in the Canon supertele line. Doesn't hurt to have a strong left detoid musculature if you are right-handed, but at eight pounds it's really no problem for some.

Just my opinion. Rock on!

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MM, It's managable. I didn't know how far we'd be from the grouse when we went out to the blind. I had my 300 f/2.8 on one body and a 1.4 TC in my pocket. Carried the 500 out just in case. As it was, I'm glad I had the 500. It's the first real shoot I've used it on and I was very happy with it. Only problem was the tripod I brought out was a light ball head and I couldn't trust it to sit by itself much. Kept one or two hands on it most of the shoot and it worked really well. I also used it hand held later in the day and wouldn't want to spend a lot of time doing it, but could swing and follow on a harrier pretty well.

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I had no idea that the sharpies had so much color. The purple on the neck and the yellow eyebrows are surprising. The tails all fluffed up remind me of those decorations made out of tissue paper that you open up into wedding bells or Christmas bulbs. smile

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Here is the Sharp-tailed Grouse lek locations in Tamarack Minnesota.

From I-35:

-take Hwy. 210 west from I-35 to the town of Tamarack.

-take CR 16 south for about 1/4 mile and the grouse are dancing either on the west or east side of CR 16

Also if you take CR 16 south. CR 16 will bend to the west and then bend to the south. At the crook of the road there is a dirt road that heads west. Take the dirt road and drive for nearly 2 miles and there is another lek coming to a farm house on the south side of the road.

Also if you take CR 16 north of Hwy 210 and drive thru Tamarack you will come to Kestrel Rd. Take Kestrel for a mile or so and there is another lek spot on the west side of the road. There is a house with some large spruce trees in front of the house. Look from Kestrel Rd on the south side of the home and the far west side of the home for the grouse.

In Sax-Zim Bog:

There is a lek with about 20 birds along Poplar Rd one mile south of Arkola Rd. You can view the grouse from Poplar Rd by look west. There is a small building that looks like a old out house and the grouse dance either behind the structure or in front of it. This is private property and you need permission to enter the field.

The other lek is along CR 29 about 1 1/2 miles north of CR 133. there is white modular home with horses and a lot of buildings around the home. On the northside of the home is a field that is over grown ( its use to me hayed every summer but its not over grown ) anyway the grouse lek is on the far east side of the field and you will need a spotting scope to view them. The grouse could of moved over to the Dart Rd on the east side of CR 29 as there is some fields over there as well.

There are also some Grouse leks in Moose Lake, MN but I do not have the directions for them but could get them from a birder if anyone needs directions.

There is also a blind for the public in Palo, MN just south of Aurora, MN and you can find the directions by asking the DNR.

There are also blinds for ST Grouse in Crex Meadows, WI and again you can reserve the blind by contacting the Crex Meadows Wildlife Refuge folks.

Leks are no secret but again the McGregor and the Sax Zim Bog leks are on private property but can be viewed from a distance from public roads. Just ask the landowner for permission and I am sure they will not have a problem with people setting up a portable blind to photograph them. IF you do get permission set the blind up in the afternoon not in lek area but just outside of the lek area. ( look for droppings to get a gauge of the lek circle ) then place the blind on the other ring of the lek. Enter the blind an hour before sunrise and wait for the birds to call and begin to dance!

Love the photos I seen so far!

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Ken - As part of a photo retreat weekend, I'm going out with a group Sunday AM to some blinds already set up in a farmer's field. I did this last year and had never seen anything so cool, so I'm going back again.

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