Nature

Immature Little Blue Heron

While visiting Jefferson Island near New Iberia, Louisiana we got to watch quite a few wading birds.  The most interesting looking one of those birds was this immature Little Blue Heron.  Little Blue Herons are entirely white until their second year.  As they molt the white feathers are replaced by the darker, blue-gray feathers you see in the adults.  We happened to catch this one in the middle of that stage.  

Aperture-priority, 1/1,000 sec, f/8, ISO 2800, Compensation: +1, 600 mm

This guy was quietly observing all the other birds as they fought for nesting territory. 

This image was made with my Nikon D500 and Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD.  My camera was being supported by my Sirui P-324S Monopod.

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.  

Roseate Spoonbill

The Roseate Spoonbill is always one of the most popular wading birds among photographers.  When it is in full, breeding plumage there is no question why, either.  The vibrant pinks of this bird really make it an eye catcher!

During my visit to New Iberia recently we made a trip to Jefferson Island.  Jefferson Island is along the entrance road to Rip Van Winkle Gardens.  The birds were really just starting to nest on the island.  There were several different birds on the island, too.  There were Cattle Egrets, Little Blue Herons, Snowy Egrets and Roseate Spoonbills.  

I tried to capture images as the birds were moving around collecting sticks and other materials for their new nests.

Aperture-priority, 1/1,000 sec, f/8, ISO 1400, Compensation: +1/3

On the day I captured this image it was heavy overcast lighting.  That works out great to see all the colors, contrast and details of the bird, you just have to remember to raise your ISO a bit to make sure your shutter speed doesn't drop too low that it may cause motion blur. 

This image was captured with my Nikon D500 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens resting atop my Sirui P-324S monopod.

Bighorn Sheep

During our winter workshop in Grand Teton National Park we visited the National Elk Refuge in Jackson Hole to search for some images of the Bighorn Sheep that frequent the area.  We had no idea what a treat we were in for!

I had been to the Elk Refuge looking for these sheep in the past.  Two or three times prior, in fact.  I had always seen the sheep when I went, but they were often several hundred yards away along the tops of ridge lines.  The day we took the workshop group it was much different.  They were feet from the road.   It was one of the most fun experiences I had during our stay there.

Several of the sheep were approaching cars to lick the salt from the tires and bumpers.  According to The US Fish and Wildlife Service, there is a major concern about the sheep licking the salt from vehicles.  They say that pneumonia is chronic throughout the herd of sheep that live on the refuge.  They go on to say that licking these shared surfaces increases the chance of further disease spread.  For those reasons they encourage visitors not to stop along the refuge road, but instead find a pullout and walk to within reasonable distance of the wildlife for photo opportunities.  

Fortunately, for us, the sheep were very close to the pullouts, so we didn't have to go far.  We kept a safe distance from them and got some amazing images!  This is a pretty majestic looking animal and I was super excited for our group!

 Aperture-priority, 1/500 sec, f/8, ISO 640, Exposure Compensation: +1, 600 mm

This is just one of many images I'm sure you will tire of seeing.  This is a good sized male.  He posed for several minutes and I was able to capture this shot of him looking "into the frame".  

Image was made with my Nikon D500 and Tamron 150-600mm Lens.  

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.

Smoky Mountains

Last week we held our Smoky Mountains Photography Workshop.  David and I arrived on Wednesday to get a little early shooting in.  We had plans to go to Roaring Fork on Thursday morning...promptly after a sop at The Log Cabin Pancake House, of course.  When we got to Roaring Fork, we realized we were in trouble.  I was getting out of the car every few hundred feet to move limbs and branches.  One time we came across a tree that was big enough we both had to get out and move it.  Then we started seeing the trees bend in half, it seemed.  The winds were howling.  We finally came to a tree blocking the road that was too big to move, so we had to turn around and go out the wrong way.  Once we got out, we notified the park service and by the time we had gotten to the Sugarlands Visitor Center, almost everything within the park was closed due to downed trees.  Our workshop started on Friday morning.  Everything was still closed in the park until late Friday afternoon, and then the only thing opened was Cades Cove and a small portion of the road to Tremont.  We photographed at Tremont Friday evening, then spent the next day and a half in the cove.  Our group was super, though!  They all had a wonderful time, despite our limitations and, from what I've seen, they all got some amazing images!

The landscape of Cades Cove did change a bit.  There were several downed trees and limbs.  The iconic image of Sparks Lane will never be the same.  One of the trees had some massive branches that came down and virtually looks like it's half of what it used to be.

I guess because of having to deal with all of those issues (either that or as my late birthday present), mother nature rewarded us Sunday Morning with a morning full of beautiful foggy scenes.  The fog seemed to last forever and we were able to capture several different subjects in it.  One of my favorite scenes from the fog was this fence line, that I'm certain I've never noticed before.  We were parked along Sparks Lane looking for different shots, since "the shot" was not very appealing anymore, and we found this fence line off the road...and it just looked great in the fog.

Aperture-priority, 0.5 sec, f/16, ISO 100, 31mm

When I composed this scene, I knew I wanted to have a solid anchor for the foreground.  I also knew I wanted to use a fence post for that.  I picked out a nice one, placed it in the scene where I wanted and let the fence line and fog do the rest.

Image made with my Canon 5D Mk IV and Tamron 24-70mm Lens.  I stabilized my gear with a Sirui W-2204 Tripod and Sirui K-20X Ballhead.

Dad's Role

During the week last week the backyard bluebirds really started working hard on building their nest.  They had been house shopping for quite a while before they finally decided.  Their indecisiveness was a blessing in disguise due to the fact that if they had picked a week earlier they might have been in trouble.  We had very warm temperatures followed by a week of mostly freezing temps.  If they had  moved in and laid eggs a week earlier they might have lost the eggs due to the cold.  Luckily for all, they are picky.

I spend a lot of time watching these birds.  Easily double the time I spend photographing them, possibly more.  I've been noticing during nest building that dad never really brings in any nesting material.  It appears that mom is doing all the hard work.  So I spent some time watching dad to see what his whole role was during this process.  Dad's first role was to be a watchbird.  He was always at, or near, the house watching for invading birds.  He sat on this one tree stump that is about 10 feet away from the house constantly watching and attacking anything that came near the house.  Mostly running off House Sparrows and other birds that were brave enough to investigate the situation.

Aperture-priority, 1/500 sec, f/6.3, ISO 800, Compensation: +2/3, 600 mm

Another role dad played was making sure mom didn't burn off too many calories during all of her nest building activities.  Many times mom would go to the ground in search of the perfect piece of straw and dad would follow her with a mouth full of mealworms.  He would then offer her the mealworms.  He did this over and over.  On the ground, at the tree stump and on top of the birdhouse.

Aperture-priority, 1/400 sec, f/6.3, ISO 1600, Compensation: +2/3, 500mm

Although dad didn't "look" busy and it looked like mom was doing all the hard work, dad was doing his part, too.  Heck, he might even do the dishes later.

These images were made with my Nikon D500 and Tamron SP 150-600mm Di VC USD G2 Lens.  The camera was mounted on my Sirui Tripod and PH-20 Gimbal Head.

Female Eastern Bluebird

I love my backyard bluebirds.  All of them.  However, I think the females tend to photograph better than the males.  I have no idea why...I just usually like the images of the females better.

This image of a female Eastern Bluebird was taken on an early, overcast morning.  As I've mentioned many times before, that's my favorite kind of light to shoot these birds in.  I did have to kick my ISO up to 3200 for this image.  I did that in order to get a higher shutter speed in order to freeze any action and ensure a sharp image.

I have my backyard bird blind setup about 8 feet from the posing trees.  Doing so allows me to fill the frame with these small birds at 400mm or less.  I am continualy amazed at how sharp this Tamron 150-600mm G2 lens is!  You could count the feathers on this thing if you wanted to!

Aperture-priority, 1/1,250 sec, f/6, ISO 3200, Compensation: +1, 350 mm

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

I have a video of my backyard birding setup planned, pleas be patient as I work through that.  I plan to share everything from how I setup feeders, posing trees, birdhouses, blind, tripod....everything.

This image was made using my Nikon D500, Tamron 150-600mm Lens, Sirui Tripod and PH-20 GImbal Head.

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.