Yes, more bluebirds

I know what you're thinking.  However, Saturday morning, the bluebirds and I had an extraordinary time.

See, I checked the bluebird box last week and they had quite a nest built up inside the box.  I figured I had just missed all the photographic opportunities of them building the nest.  I was pretty bummed about that, because I think those can be some of the best images.  I guess I was living right, or someone knew how bummed I was because Saturday morning, they added a few finishing touches to the nest that allowed me to get some great shots.

ISO 6400, 600mm, F/6.3 @ 1/1250th second

The light was not the best so I knew I was going to be shooting at higher ISOs.  This made me go with the Sony A7R II for my body choice.  I probably ended up missing a lot of shots because it is so much slower than the A77 II I normally use in terms of FPS, but I also might not have gotten these shots at all due to the A77 II not being able to do as well with higher ISOs.  

This was one of my favorite images of the morning.  Blondie is bringing in a little extra padding for the nest.  

I was able to capture this image with my Sony A7R II, LA-EA3 Adapter and Tamron 150-600mm Lens.  I had this setup mounted to my Sirui tripod and PH-20 GImbal Head.  The PH-20 ended up being a vital piece of this setup.  For these in flight shots, I just pre-focused on the area in front of the house, then locked the PH-20 down.  I knew this head wouldn't be slipping.  I knew once I locked it down , it wasn't moving.  So, after I pre-focused and locked the head down, I would just wait for her to come in and fire away.

 Some skill, some good timing and some good luck...

Command, this is bluebird...

So the action has picked up over the last few days at the bluebird box in my backyard.  The eggs hatched about 10 days ago, so mom and dad are both feeding pretty heavily now.

I've setup my trusty bird blind about 10 feet from the box and I sit in there early in the mornings and capture them doing acrobatics while they bring in the food.

ISO 1250, 280mm, F/5.6 @ 1/1600th second

Here the male bluebird is returning with a cricket.  I swear he looks like a rocket when he returns to the nest.  I'm not sure how he even stops in time without crashing!

I made this image with my Sony A77ii and Tamron 150-600mm Lens.

You'll notice the ISO was higher than I normally like here, but I had to bump it up to get a fast enough shutter speed to capture this pose.  I did apply a bit of noise reduction in Lightroom.

Starling Box

So, a few days ago I posted an image to Facebook (You should probably follow me there if you aren't already) of one of the starlings that had invaded my bluebird box delivering food to the newly hatched babies.

My good friend, fellow workshop instructor and Tamron Image Master, David Akoubian tells me "Your photo sucks!".  Well, that's what he normally says, because we rib each other pretty good.  Actually he said something like "I wonder how it would look if you had even more of a side angle?".

Well, this morning, I had the chance to get that angle David had suggested.  I sent him the image via email and he said to me "This shot is the best thing I've ever seen!".  Ok, he actually said "You suck!", which means the same.

Here is the shot of the starling coming back to the box with some worms...from even more of a side angle.

ISO 1600, 300mm, F/6.3 @ 1/4000th second

I was sitting in my "bird blind" for this shot.  That is a hunting blind that is typically used for hunting turkey that I purchased at a local sporting goods store and is fat friendly...meaning I actually have a bit of room in there.  

I knew I would need a blazing fast shutter for this shot, so I kept my ISO "high"...hey 1600 is high for me.  Once I got my lens focal length set, I manually focused on the area where the bird would be then left the lens in manual focus.  I was shooting in aperture priority at F/6.3, which gave me a shutter of 1/4000th.  Now it was just a matter of me getting lucky.

The starlings were coming from behind the box with food, so they would have to bank around and come in from the front.  I would basically just hold the shutter button down and let it fire off 10-12 frames as soon as they started to bank.  Out of those 10-12, I might get one where the bird was fully in frame.  I had about 3 tries at this...and on one of them I got lucky.

Image captured with my Sony A77ii and Tamron 150-600mm Lens.  Both mounted to a Vanguard Photo US Alta Pro 283CT tripod.

Dealing with the "wrong" light

As I was headed up to teach a workshop in The Great Smoky Mountains, I decided to make a few pit stops along the way.  One of those was over to Berry College in Rome, GA.  To shoot the eagles, you ask?  Nope, to shoot the bluebirds that have babies in a box right next to the eagle's nest area.

Now, ideally you would want to photograph this in the afternoon.  Because the sun comes up right behind this bluebird box.  Well, often times, like in my situation this particular morning, we do not have a choice of being at a certain location during the best light.  So, we have to deal with it.

How did I deal with it?  First, I knew I had to use my exposure compensation to over expose the bird by 1.5 stops.  I had to do this because of the strong back lighting.  If I had shot this bird at what my camera metered, there wouldn't have been much detail in the bird at all.  Next, I tried to position myself at an angle where the back lighting was less severe.  So, I was always paying attention to the sun and background through my viewfinder and moving my feet accordingly.  I did have a limitation because of a fence, so I tried to make lemonade out of lemons, as they say.

ISO 800, 360mm, F/5.6 @ 1/160th second

For this shot I used my Sony A77ii and Tamron 150-600mm Lens.  I was able to shoot at a bit of a slower shutter speed because of the fact that I had my camera and lens mounted to my Vanguard Alta Pro 283CT Tripod.