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.

Bringing Home The Mealworms

If you follow me on Facebook, you'll see I posted a picture of the bluebird eggs hatching last week.  It was very exciting, because I really didn't know if they were going to hatch or not.  You can read the last blog post on that...

Well, since the eggs have hatched, feeding has picked up.  I took advantage of that yesterday and spent a little time trying to capture shots of Blondie and Dagwood flying in with food.  The babies are still too young to have their heads out of the box begging for food, but I think I still managed some pretty good shots.

Here is Dagwood bringing in food.  He spent most of the time hunting then delivering the food to Blondie, who stayed in the nest feeding babies.

Aperture Priority, F/8, ISO 800, 1/1600th second, 170mm

This is Blondie.  She only left the nest a few times to hunt.  She came out of the box a few times looking pretty rough.  Raising bluebird babies looked like a dirty job.

Aperture Priority, F/8, ISO 800, 1/1600th second, 320mm

These images were made with a Nikon D500 and Tamron 150-600mm Lens resting atop my Sirui tripod and PH-20 Gimbal Head.

I know you're sick of bluebirds...

...but I'm giving you another heavy dose today.  

These guys are just easy pickings right now and until spring REALLY springs into action, there isn't much else to shoot around my parts.  And...they are homesteading in my backyard, so it's hard not to shoot them right now.

Here we go...

All of these were from shot this morning in my backyard before any real light was available, so they were all shot with ISO 3200.  Let's start with Blondie.  Here she is atop one of the "posing" logs.  She had just finished having a mealworm breakfast from the buffet just below where she is standing now.

Here is another one of Blondie. You can see she is on the exact same "posing" log.  This was a little later when more light was available.

Thou shall not forget Dagwood.  You can see a theme here.  He's on the same "posing" log as Blondie was.  The reason they like this spot so much are for a few reasons.  It is a great go-between for them from food to the nesting box.  I also have mealworms in a hole in this log just beneath where they are standing so they hit that little hole frequently and bounce up here when they are finished.  Works out pretty well.

Here's Dagwood on a different log.  This is another "posing" log I have setup.  It is hollow in the top, so I put mealworms and sunflower seeds in there so the birds will land here for photos.

Notice the backgrounds on these photos.  They aren't happy accidents.  I have setup my logs and photo blind in such a way to give me these nice backgrounds.  The first few shots you see have a gold background because the background is this tall, golden yellow grass.  I have no idea what it is called, but it gets 3-4' tall and is just far enough away from the log that it just turns into a gold backdrop.  This will fade to green as the weeks move along.

The last image is from a log that is a little shorter than the other one.  So instead of having the gold background, it has a lot more green grass.  

The moral of this story is your background is SUPER important!  

When I was growing up I used to watch this TV Program called The Great Space Coaster.  There was this puppet character on there named Gary Gnu.  He would do a "news" show.  His tag line was always "No gnews is good gnews with Gary Gnu.".  That's how these backgrounds are when you are isolating birds.  If it isn't noticed, you've done a good job of selecting a background.

All of these images were made with my Sony A77 II and Tamron 150-600mm Lens.  All resting atop my Sirui tripod and PH-20 gimbal head.


Berry College Bluebirds

Over the weekend I got a chance to get away to Berry College in Rome, GA to check out the eagle's nest over there.  

This was a very bad day for me photographically speaking.  First, I was meeting a friend at Little River Falls to ride over to Rome, GA.  I got to the falls early in time to run down and take a few shots.  I got down there with my camera and tripod in perfect lighting only to realize that I had thrown my new lens adapter in the bag with no tripod plate on it, so I had no way to mount the camera to the tripod.  So, I tried my best handheld leaning against rails and rocks to stabilize my camera.  How did that work, you ask?  I have no idea, I accidentally deleted those images when I got back home.

When we got to Berry College, there was almost no action from the eagles the entire time I was there.  And when mom did fly from the nest to another branch I missed every single shot I tried to get of here.  The shots I did take of her perched I ended up deleting because there were branches across her face.

The only bright point of the day was this bluebird that stopped by the bluebird house for literally about 3 seconds.  This was the one shot I was ready for all day.  I'm ok with that, least I came away with one. ;)

ISO 800, 420mm, F/6.3 @ 1/320th second

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

If you are a regular reader you know I am a huge bluebird fan, so this being the only shot I really got all day was good with me.  This ole boy had a big, honkin' cricket, too.

This image was made with my Sony A77 II and Tamron 150-600mm Lens.  This was one of the rare occasions I was hand holding and not using a tripod.

Backyard Goldfinch

This past weekend I was able to get out in the backyard bird blind for a little photo time.

I am excited this year to have many birds I didn't have last year, and in good numbers, too.  One of the birds I have a lot of this winter are Goldfinches.  Goldfinches certainly aren't a rare bird or even rare to this area, but for whatever reason I didn't have any last year.  I am very excited to see them this year and I am hoping they stay around until spring when they get their breeding plumage.  They are much prettier then ;)

I was able to catch a one of the male goldfinches on a branch with a mouthful of flower.  Since this was taken on Valentine's Day, I can only assume he was delivering them to Mrs. Goldfinch.

ISO 3200, 460mm, F/6.3 @ 1/500th second

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

The light was really not great so I had to bump my ISO up a bit more than I like to get a high enough shutter speed to freeze any action.  Even though this bird is sitting on a branch and not flying, if he even moves his head a little at all and your shutter speed isn't fast enough it will be blurry.  From many experiences of missing shots because of a slow shutter speed, I'll tell you do not be afraid of higher ISOs.  The moral of the story here is it is better to have a sharp, noisy picture than a blurry one that is unusable.

This image was made with my Sony A77 II and Tamron 150-600mm Lens.  These were mounted on my Sirui Tripod and Ph-20 gimbal head.  This combination is great for bird photography of any kind.

Little Mrs. Bluebird

Taking a break today from Florida Birds and moving to my backyard birds.

This is an image of one of the female bluebirds that frequents my backyard.  I am fortunate enough to have several of them hanging around this winter.

I have changed the setup of the backyard birding area a bit this year.  Instead of having twigs and branches for "bird on a stick" type shots, I've basically "planted" a couple of dead logs in the ground near the feeders.  These logs act as a go between among the feeders and bluebird house.  I've also drilled a few holes into the logs and added different types of food and suet where I want the birds to land for photographs.  Then I sit inside a hunting blind that I've setup right at about the minimum focusing distance for my lens and wait for the birds.

On this trip, the female bluebird was just taking a break, or maybe waiting her turn at the next feeder...either way, she hung out on the top of this log for several minutes giving me several opportunities to make images.

ISO 640, 600mm, F/6.3 @ 1/320th second

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

This image was made with my Sony A77 II and Tamron 150-600mm Lens.  I also utilized a gimbal head here, the Sirui PH-20 Gimbal.  It really helps to move from bird to bird in the backyard very quickly.


Last week I thought I was dying of the flu.  Since I didn't haul my butt from the bed often, I didn't post either.

Now that I think my life is back under control, I am going to be posting some images again.  

This is an image I made a few weeks ago while on a trip to Berry College in Rome, GA to look for a pair of Bald Eagles that next there.  No, this isn't an eagle.  Yes, I did see an eagle.  Yes, I sat there for hours first.  However, early in the morning this little bluebird helped pass the time by flying in to pose for me on this birdhouse.  No one else was really interested in this guy.  I thought he was awesome!

I captured this guy with my Canon 7D and Tamron 150-600mm Lens on my Vanguard Alta Pro 283CT Tripod.  A great combo!

ISO 500, 483mm, F/6.3 @ 1/500th second

ISO 500, 483mm, F/6.3 @ 1/500th second

This little guy would fly in, pose for a few minutes, then leave.  He'd come back and do the same thing over and over most of the morning.  I tried to wait on a few things in my composition.  First, I wanted to capture as much blues a as I know, since he is a bluebird.  Secondly, I waited patiently before pushing the shutter until I was sure a catachlight was in his eye.  I think the catchlight in the eye really makes a huge difference in the final image.

One reminder:

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