photography

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.

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.

I'm Not An Artist

Like the title says, I'm not an artist.  

I've never considered myself to be an artist.  I've never painted anything (but I did watch Bob Ross).  I've never sketched anything.  I'm horrible with sidewalk chalk.  I've never even seen a pottery wheel.  Hell, I can't even draw a straight line with an old school, number 2 pencil.  You want to know what I consider myself?  A regular, overweight guy in his 40's from Alabama.  Well, there's nothing too special about that, you say.  You are right.  I'm just that.  

I do not delve deep into my connection with the arts to explain a photo I took, or justify why it is fabulous.  I don't include some strange quote, that the person being quoted probably doesn't even understand, with an image to help you connect to it.  I do not have any magical connection with the rock, or stream, or mountains.  I am not responsible for creating any kind of "magic" light at sunrise or sunset.  I simply put myself in a place at those times and what happens happens.  It's always great to see another one, I'll tell you that.  I am only hoping to create an image I like, and hopefully others will, too.

Despite being from an IT background, when it comes to cameras, I'm about as technical as an animal...you can pick the animal.  I think they are pretty much all on a level playing field technologically.  If you've ever heard one of my talks, or been to a class, you've probably heard words like "dumaflachy" or "do-dad".  If you got real lucky you may have even heard "dohickey".  

I first picked up a "real" camera about 10 years ago.  It was, at that point, I immersed myself in every piece of literature, every video (we still had these weird DVD things back then), every piece of online content I could find concerning photography.   I could care less about the super technicals...or the mechanicals.  I just wanted to know the basics of exposure and what creative controls I had.  I quickly learned about the exposure triangle, I learned how things like your aperture selection could help you tell a story.  I learned how shutter speed effects an image and can give it different feelings.  I also learned that there is usually more than one way to get somewhere, you just have to find the way that works the best for you.  I skipped the parts about learning how many millimeters the opening is at aperture F/8 of a certain lens (yes, I've been asked that).  I also skipped the parts about the processes of sensor production.   I simply wanted to take a nice photo and know how to repeat that process.  If you are new to this, my advice to you is do not get caught up in the technicals.  It will frustrate you, unless you are an engineer.  If you are an engineer, then dive deep into the technicals.  The point is knowing how many millimeters the opening is at F/8 on your lens is never going to help you.  Ever.

I am very grateful to photography.  It has allowed me to see and appreciate many things in this world I never knew existed.  When I was growing up, my family never went on vacation to The Grand Canyon or Mount Rushmore.  Our "vacations" were to the Dairy Queen and then we continued onto Guntersville Lake.  They lasted the afternoon and then we were back home.  I never knew a world outside of the state I lived in.  Photography has allowed me to see phenomenal scenes all across this great country of ours.  It's allowed me to make some great friends, too.  Seeing these things makes me want my children to see them.  I want them to know how things outside of Huntsville, AL look and feel.

The whole point of this post was just to tell you how incredibly ordinary I am and I'll not try to be somebody that I am not.  I wanted to capture good sports shots of my son when he was growing up, so I bought a camera.  Next I learned how to operate it, which some may argue I still haven't learned.  Then I wanted to shoot waterfalls, and wildlife, and mountains, and flowers, and birds....

If this average, overweight, forty-something, donut loving, nontechnical ginger can figure this whole thing out....So.  Can.  You.  Don't be discouraged or intimidated.  Don't be afraid to take a short class, or workshop (with anyone...not just me, although that would be kinda great).

I guess I should share an image now, right?

Aperture-priority, 4 sec, f/16, ISO 100, Compensation: -1/3, 24 mm

This is an image I went back and re-processed from Portland Head Light in Portland, ME.  If you hover over the image with your mouse, you will see my camera settings, or metadata, for this shot.  I always try to include this information for a few reasons.  First, if I don't then it's the first question I get asked.  Second, was part of my initial learning process.  Many people will tell you that metadata is pointless because you would need to be in that exact same light and conditions in order for you to be able to use it and recreate the image.  I could not agree with that more, however, when I was first learning, I would look at this information and see what the shutter speed was and what effect it had on the image.  I would look at the aperture someone choose and see how it effected depth of field.  So, even though I knew I would most likely never be in those exact same conditions or light, I was still using the metadata to learn about photography.  Hopefully, my sharing this information helps you learn a little, too.

Image made with my Canon 5D III and Tamron SP 24-70mm F/2.8 Di VC USD (A007) Lens.  My equipment was steadied by my Sirui W-2204 waterproof, carbon fiber tripod and K-20 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!

More Backyard Bluebirds

I've been spending a lot of time in the backyard photographing the birds lately.  This time of year things start to pick up again at the feeders.  I'm glad to see activity picking up.  Everyone knows how much I enjoy the bluebirds, so I never pass up a chance to photograph them.

Aperture-priority, 1/800 sec, f/5.6, ISO 3200, Compensation: +1, 300 mm

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

Whenever it's a bright, overcast day outside that type of light allows me to shoot all day in the backyard...and if I am able to, I certainly will.  This image was taken on just a day.  It was taken about 8:30ish in the morning, so I had to raise my ISO to 3200 in order to get a decent shutter speed.  Luckily, the Nikon D500 had no trouble with noise at ISO 3200!

I typically don't like taking photos of a bird's backside, however I am OK with it as long as I can still make eye contact.  The eye is the most important part in any kind of wildlife photography.  You need to see the eye and it needs to be sharp!  The impact of the photo is increased even more if you are able to photograph your subject at it's eye level.  Sometimes that means getting down low and maybe even dirty.  But it's all worth it for the shot ;)

Image made with my Nikon D500, Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens and 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.

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.

 

Photographing In The Snow

While out in the tetons on our photography workshop, it snowed.  Then it snowed some more.  After that, it snowed a little more.  Over about a two and a half day period it snowed over 30".  So, we got our fair share of photographing while it was snowing.  If you didn't mind standing outside and getting snowed on, there were a lot of photographic opportunities to be had.  Wildlife was the biggest of those opportunities.

You encounter a few problems when photographing in the falling snow.  Depending upon the amount of snow falling in between you and your subject it can cause your autofocus system to get confused. It can also create a layer of "haze" between you and your subject.  The first one you can deal with in a few ways.  You can just use your autofocus system and hope it is smart enough to figure it out, which might cause you some lost shots, or you can simply switch to manual focus.  The problem with autofocus is it's going to, sooner or later, decide to focus on falling snow instead of your subject.  There is almost a guarantee this will happen when your subject is doing something super interesting, or has moved to a nicer background ;)  The second problem..haze.  It can't really be fixed, but can be helped out a bit by using the "dehaze" slider in Adobe Lightroom CC.  This slider is pretty much magic and can knock down that haze in your image by a great deal.

Aperture-priority, 1/1,250 sec, f/8, ISO 800, Compensation: +1, 150 mm

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

This is one of the moose that came to hang out with us at the ranch.  There were three of them.  They showed up everyday.  Usually, when the ranch fed the horses, the moose showed up there to "share" breakfast with them.

This image was made using my Nikon D500 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens.