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.  

Bluebirds

I finally got to spend some time with the birds in the backyard again last week.  It's been a while since I've seen very many birds in the backyard, much less got to photograph any.

If you've followed me for any amount of time you know my favorite backyard birds are The Eastern Bluebirds.  Although they are my favorite, I do enjoy attracting new, and different, birds to the backyard, too.  Most people do not realize how much time and effort go into getting these bird photographs.  It's more than just putting food out.  I easily spend three times as much time watching the birds vs. photographing them.  I spend a lot of time learning their behaviors, seeing which direction the fly in from, learning their flight pattern so I can know what bird it is before I "see" it, learning which perch or tree is their favorite and other things.  This doesn't include placing feed for different species and setting up different trees and branches that will photograph better.  In short, it's a lot of work...but the rewards are pretty great!

Aperture-priority, 1/250 sec, f/6.3, ISO 360, Compensation: +2/3, 500 mm

Image made with my Nikon D500 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens supported on Sirui N-3204X Tripod and PH-20 Gimbal Head.

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.

First Bluebirds of 2017

I've seen the bluebirds around the backyard this year, but this is the first time I've had the chance to photograph them.  They are already starting to protect the bluebird house and all looks good for them moving in soon.

Aperture-priority, 1/160 sec, f/5.6, ISO 1600, Compensation: +1, 300 mm

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

Here is the male having one of the mealworms from the feeder that is tucked inside that hollow log he is on.  Having the feeder, which is just the bottom of a water bottle I cut out and screwed inside this log, allows the birds to come where I want them to be, while still looking like a natural scene.

Luck played a bit of a part in this image.  This image was taken just a few moments before sunset on an overcast day, so light was getting pretty low.  Because of that, even at my widest aperture and an ISO of 1600 I was only able to get a shutter speed of 1/160th.  Getting a sharp image at 1/160th required a few things...first, I needed to be on a tripod, which I was, and secondly, the subject needed to sit perfectly still, which he did.  That's where luck comes in.  If this bird had moved in the slightest, the image would not have been sharp at 1/160th.  

Often times, I read comments from people that think their lens or camera has an issue when they are shooting a longer lens, like this 150-600mm lens, because their image isn't as sharp as they would like.  Most of the time the problem is more so with not using proper technique or paying attention to your camera settings.  Like I mentioned above, at 1/160th of a second if this bird moved a tiny bit the image would not be sharp.  That would have nothing to do with the lens or camera, but my shutter speed.  I did not really want to raise my ISO any higher, because I wanted as clean an image as possible.  I was aware of that when I was shooting and was banking on a little luck, which I got.

Image made with my Nikon D500, Tamron 150-600mm Gs Lens, Sirui Tripod and Gimbal Head.

Overcast Days In The Bird Blind

Yesterday was a great day to be in the backyard bird blind.  It was a bright overcast much of the day, which meant I could shoot all day long in great light.  So, I did just that.  I would shoot an hour or so then go inside for a few hours, then go back out again.  I don't get a lot of days when the light is good all day, so I take advantage when I can.

Often times when I am out traveling and shooting, I hear people say things like "I don't shoot between the hours of 10 and 2.".  I think that is a ridiculous statement.  I shoot when the light is good, period.  I don't care what the clock says.  

I had a ton of different birds show up at the feeders yesterday, but I was really excited to see these goldfinches show up by the dozens and dozens.  It's the first time I've seen them at the feeders this year.  Everyone of them took their time to pose for the camera, too.

Aperture-priority, 1/320 sec, f/6.3, ISO 3200, Compensation: +1, 500 mm

These goldfinches showed up to eat sunflowers, but when I noticed so many of them I also put out some thistle seed for them.  They tore up the thistle seed, too!

Although it isn't quite time for these birds to be in their mating plumage, I still think they are gorgeous birds.  Even in their "drab" winter dress ;)

This image was taken about 7:45 am, so the light was still fairly dark at this point.  I normally like to shoot these birds at about F/8, but I had to open up to F/6.3 to get more light to the sensor.  I also had to bump my ISO to 3200 to get a shutter speed that would even come close to working out.

I made this image using my Nikon D500, Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens, Sirui Trpod and Gimbal Head.

 

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.