AL

Alabama Jubilee

Every weekend before Memorial Day is the Alabama Jubilee in Decatur, AL, which is not very far from where I live.  The Alabama Jubilee has many things to offer, but the biggest draw, for me, is always the hot air balloons.  They average about 60 balloons each year for the balloon events.  They offer many different balloon events, but the most popular is the "Hare and Hound" Race.  During the race one balloon designated as the "hare" will launch first.  Then a signal is given to the other balloons that they are allowed to inflate and launch.  Once in the air they try to follow the "hare".  After a time the "hare" will land and put-out a large fabric 'X' on which the following balloons will try to drop a bean-bag marker onto the center.  Whoever is closest wins.

I have been going to this event for 6 or 7 years now and many times the weather will keep the balloons from flying.  This year the weather was very iffy.  It had rained a ton the night before and it was pretty cloudy, and very wet Saturday morning.   The low clouds cause the postpone of the launch by an hour or so.  When they finally announced the race was on, many pilots still choose not to fly because of the weather conditions.  The balloons that did not fly still inflated and put on a show for the crowd.

Every year talking with photographers before the event, there are always a few things that come up.  First is the old "I didn't know which lens to bring"  and then, for those that have been there before, it's the "I hope I can get something different than before". 

The first is an easy choice for me.  Instead of trying to switch lenses back and forth, of carry multiple bodies around, I simply choose the Tamron 18-400mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC HLD with my Nikon D500.  Using this lens gives me the ability to shoot wide and long in a simple twist of the lens barrel and saves me from fumbling around with multiple lenses or bodies.  

The second topic of discussion about finding something different was a bit easier to deal with this year, too.  The low clouds were fantastic because once the balloons launched into the clouds, it looked as if they were simply disappearing.  Another thing were the rain puddles left over from the night before.  They made for a lot of soggy feet, but the trade off was some pretty great reflections of the balloons.  So, for those photographers that got up and gambled on the weather, they were rewarded with conditions you don't normally get for this event.

This image is one where the balloons looked as if they are simply disappearing into the clouds.  I really liked these images simply because it was something I had not seen or photographed at this event.  It was a very nice treat!

Equipment list: Nikon D500 and Tamron 18-400 F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC HLD

EXIF Info: Aperture-priority, 1/250 sec, f/8, ISO 400, Compensation: +1

1818 Farms

Every now and then Huntsville surprises you with something pretty cool.  Such was this case this past Saturday.  While my wife and I were driving home from the hardware store with items purchased to knock things off of my to do list, she showed me her phone and said "Have you these 1818 Farms people?".  To which I replied, "What is that?".

What it is is something really cool.  1818 Farms has a traveling cut flower shop ran out of the bed of a very cool, restored, 1965 F100 Ford Pickup Truck, effectively known as The Flower Truck.  This past Saturday, they were having the flower truck in downtown Huntsville.  We had to rush home, drop off our hardware store goods and rush downtown to see them before they left for the day.  I'm glad we did!

It's no secret that I tend to buy flowers from my local grocery store for macro photography.  Sometimes you have to end up buying an entire bouquet for one really good looking flower.  What I love about 1818 Farm's flower truck is they sell you one stem of any particular flower.  Oh, and every one of them looked amazing!  I ended up buying 5 or so different varieties. 

One of the flowers I bought that I thought was super cool was the Thistle.  I have never looked at Thistle like this before.  I always just thought of it as a nuisance weed.  The Thistle they had on the flower truck looked so good!  There was no way I wasn't getting one.  

So after I completed the items on my to do list.  I set in on doing some macro work.  I placed the Thistle in my Wimberly Clamp on my dining room table, setup my camera on my tripod and used a small handheld LED light to light my subject.  This is my typical setup for what I call "Dining Room Macro".

Aperture-priority, 0.4 sec, f/16, ISO 200, Compensation: +2/3, 90mm Macro

Here's one of the images I was able to capture.  I used my Nikon D850 with Tamron 90mm Macro Lens.  I had my camera supported by my Sirui W-2204 Tripod.  

More from the Madison County Nature Trail

This is a follow up post from yesterday's image from The Madison County Nature Trail.  The park is a very popular place in the fall, when the colors are great.  This means it gets photographed a lot.  When I am in a situation like that, I try to look for different and unique perspectives and compositions.

Aperture-priority, 1/40 sec, f/8, ISO 640, Compensation: -2/3, 76 mm

This was taken from very close to the same spot yesterday's image was made.  I stepped a little to the right, got lower and included the foreground foliage with the bridge in the background.  I choose an aperture that would give me a depth of field that would make the foliage stand out from the background.

Image made with my Canon 5D IV and Tamron 28-300mm Lens.  Gear supported by my Sirui Tripod and Ballhead.

Madison County Nature Trail

So, I've been trying my best to chase fall color around for the past few weeks.  I think the best I found was this past weekend, near my house.  There is a very nice area near my house called The Madison County Nature Trail, or some call it The Green Mountain Nature Trail.  The colors there were amazing this past weekend!  Word spread quickly, though and I think every photographer in the area made the trek there.  There were tons of people and photographers when I showed up.  A lot of photographers doing family portraits and other families just enjoying the colors and nice weather.

Aperture-priority, 1/40 sec, f/8, ISO 800, 86 mm

I was there to photograph the colors, and boy were they there!  This little covered bridge is a popular spot in the park.  You will often encounter people having their portraits made around this bridge.  It also makes for a great reflection...especially with these colors.

A few things I like to do when photographing fall colors is to use a circular polarizer and under exposure just a touch.  Using a circular polarizer will not only remove any glare off of foliage but also enhance the colors a bit.  Also, under exposing the image by 1/3 - 2/3 stop will also help to make the colors pop a little more.  It's a good idea to check your histogram to make sure you aren't getting too dark, or losing a lot of shadow detail.  It also never hurts to find a good spot with a reflection!

This image was made using my Canon 5D IV and Tamron 28-300mm Lens.  My gear was supported by my Sirui Tripod and Ballhead.

More From the Female Osprey

On Sunday morning our workshop group got the opportunity to photograph both mom and dad osprey eating a fish.  

Dad brought his fish to the nest to eat.  Mom was none too happy about this.  She screamed and squawked at him the entire time he ate, until he finally left the nest with the fish.  I think she was more upset that he brought the fish to the nest than she was that he wasn't sharing.  At one point while dad was eating at the nest, a mighty brave, little kestrel came swooping in trying to steal some of dad's meal.

After dad left the nest, mom went out and got a fish of her own.  She began eating it within the cover of some trees instead of at the nest.  This worked out great for the group.  The trees were much lower to the ground allowing a much better perspective for photographing her.

Aperture-priority, 1/1,600 sec, f/8, ISO 800, Compensation: +1 2/3, 600 mm

It was very cloudy and the light was not great, so I had to increase my exposure compensation for this by 1 2/3 rds.  Shooting a dark subject on a bright background always throws your camera meter into fits, so you need to adjust your settings to compensate for this.  

This image was made with my Nikon D500 and Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 Lens mounted onto my Sirui P-324S monopod and L-20S Monopod Head.

Mobile, AL Birding Workshop

This past weekend was our birding photography workshop in Mobile, AL.  It went really well!  We were hosted Friday night by Calagaz Photo in Mobile, where David and I both gave presentations then Calagaz offered some super specials to the 6o+ in attendance.

Saturday and Sunday morning we held our field sessions of the workshop.  Due to weather and blustery winds, the bird activity started out a bit slow.  However, thanks to the nesting osprey in the area, we got plenty of chances to photograph stationary birds and birds in flight.

We made some great new friends and had a great time!

On Friday morning, while we were out scouting locations for the workshop, we got the opportunity to photograph some osprey that were busy nest building.  

Aperture-priority, 1/2,000 sec, f/6.3, ISO 400, Compensation: +2/3, 600mm

This is the female osprey bringing in a few sticks to accommodate the nest.  She and her mate spent about 45 minutes non stop adding to the nest this particular morning.  She would leave and get a stick, and upon her return, he'd then leave and go get a stick.

I used my Nikon D500 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 lens all weekend attached to my Sirui monopod.  The Tamron G2 did so well at locking on focus and never losing it!

Merlin

While down in Mobile, AL scouting for our upcoming birding workshop, David Akoubian and I ran across this Merlin.  As we were driving down the road, we saw this bird sitting in the top of a tree and thought it was a hawk.  We turned around, came back and got a closer look through the lens.  We knew it wasn't a hawk at that point, but we were unsure what it was for certain still.  Whenever you are with a bird nerd, like David, and he doesn't know what kind of bird it is, it is a bit of an exciting moment.  You know if David can't ID the bird instantly it must be something special.

This Merlin had just finished a meal when we found her.  She was pretty content to sit on that tree snag and pose for us.  So, while I was just taking pictures David was doing the bird nerd thing and taking pictures from the front, sides and back to properly ID the bird.  Sure enough when we got back in the car, we used our phones to ID the bird as a female Merlin.  I can tell David was doing a happy dance on the inside.

Aperture-priority, 1/640 sec, f/8, ISO 200, Compensation: +1 1/3, 600 mm

Hover over the image to view camera settings.  Click the image to view it larger.

Although this bird sat and posed for us for several minutes, I think the shots I liked the most were the ones where it appears she is looking directly into the camera.

This image was made using my Nikon D500, Tamron 150-600mm G2 lens and Sirui P-424S Monopod.

Moving In

More bluebird images.  

This first image is Blondie moving her stuff in.  Dagwood wasn't much of a help during this "moving in" process.  He did bring a cricket afterwards, though.  You can see that in the second image.

ISO 6400, 600mm, F/6.3 @ 1/1600th second

ISO 6400, 500mm, F/6.3 @ 1/800th second

As always you can click the image to view it larger and hover over it to view the camera settings.

Images were made with my Sony A7R II, LA-EA3 Adapter, Tamron 150-600mm Lens and Sirui Tripod and PH-20 Gimbal Head.

Low ISO of 6400

I come from the school where a high ISO is 800.  Those days are long gone in these times of modern camera sensors and processors.

While I was at The Old Shelby Hotel last weekend I took the Sony A7S out.  Everyone knows how good it is at high ISOs but I still have a hard time believing it even after shooting with it for a year.

ISO 6400, 24mm, F/8.0 @ 1/125th second

Hover over the image to see camera settings used.  Click the image to view it larger.

Here's an image shot at ISO 6400.  In my mind, that's still insane.  In the Sony A7S' mind, it's just getting started.  I could've shot at even higher ISOs but I didn't need to with the available light.  I'm always impressed with how little noise there is in this camera for the ISO numbers it is shot at.

ISO 6400, 24mm, F/8.0 @ 1/60th second

Hover over the image to see camera settings used.  Click the image to view it larger.

Another image shot at ISO 6400.  This is child's play for the A7S.  It still amazes me.  Oh, another good thing a low noise monster like this is good for is astro photography.  I'll be taking it out west later this year to hopefully capture some milky way shots with it.

These images were made with my Sony A7S, LA-EA3 adapter and Tamron 24-70mm Lens.  Because of this camera's insane ability at high ISOs, there were handheld.

 

More From the Hotel

Here's another shot from the Old Shelby Hotel.  This is looking down the hall as soon as you walk in the front door. 

Here I simply got my tripod in a really low angle, almost to ground level, and used a super wide angle lens to take in the whole scene.

ISO 100, 17mm, F/11 @ 6 bracketed shutter speeds

Hover over the image to see the camera settings used.  Click the image to view it larger.

This image was processed exactly the same as yesterday's image, only this time I used a different preset within On1 Effects to get started.  This time I used a preset called "Just Enough Darkness".  I've found that preset gives a great starting point for creating a great mood in these types of shots.

Image made with my Sony A7R II, Metabones Adapter and Tamron 15-30mm Lens.  All mounted on my Sirui W-2204 Tripod and K-20 Ballhead.