Dagwood, You Charmer

So, the action in the backyard is starting to pick up quite a bit.  I've noticed over the last few days a lot of new, migratory birds stopping by the feeders.  Also, I'm still waiting any day now for the bluebird eggs to hatch.  In the meantime, Blondie and Dagwood are packing in the calories in preparation.

I've been putting out live mealworms for them and they are tearing those things up.  It's also been giving me some pretty good photo ops.

Here's a shot of Dagwood giving Blondie a little gift of love.  Personally, I would never want a worm for a gift, but hey, we are all different.

A bit of a tip here.  When I was out shooting yesterday the sun was moving in and out of the clouds causing the light to differ from one shot to the next.  If you find yourself in a similar situation try using Auto ISO.  In my Sony A6300 I can set a minimum shutter speed for auto ISO.  So I told my camera that when I'm using Auto ISO not to let the shutter speed get below 1/500th second.  Then I have my aperture set in aperture priority mode.  As the light changes the camera quickly calculates and adjusts the ISO (much quicker than I can) to keep that 1/500th shutter speed based on my selected aperture .  It saves a lot of missed shots from constantly having to change the ISO.

Image made with Sony A6300, LA-EA3 Adapter, Tamron 150-600mm Lenes, Sirui tripod and PH-20 Gimbal Head.

Aperture Priority at F/6.3, 1/500th second shutter speed, ISO 2000, Exposure Compensation +0.7



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.


Macro Monday

I spent a little time over the weekend making a few macro images.  I picked up a few of these Gerbera Daisies at the local supermarket and brought to the dining room table. 

ISO 100, 90mm, F/16 @ 1.6 seconds

I made this image, like I mentioned before, on my dining room table.  I use what little available window light I have, then I add light myself with a little on-camera LED video light that I just hold in my hand and places exactly where I want the light.

This image was made with my Sony A7R II, Metabones Lens Adapter and Tamron 90mm Macro Lens.  All this gear was resting atop my Sirui W-2204 Tripod and K-20 Ballhead.

Red-Winged Blackbird

Generally, I have quite a few of these red-winged blackbirds at the feeders but it is usually later in the year.  This year I have a few early birds (pun intended).

ISO 3200, 300mm, F/5.6 @ 1/500th second

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

This guy isn't in his full blown, springtime plumage, but shooting him under a nice, overcast light allowed for the colors he does have to "pop" a little more than normal.  It also allowed me to over expose this image by about 1 full stop, according to the camera's meter, to get more detail in the blacks without blowing out any of the highlight areas.  Typically when you have a dark subject against a light background you will need to shoot at about +1 on the camera meter to get any detail in your subject, if you are using evaluative metering, which is what I use 90% of the time I'm shooting.

This image was made with my Sony A77 II and Tamron 150-600mm Lens.  All resting a top my Sirui tripod and PH-20 Gimbal Head.

Male Goldfinch

I spent some time with the backyard birds again this weekend.  I'm always adjusting feeders, food, props, etc. to either attract new birds, or get birds in the best possible light.

I am super thankful I have a ton of Goldfinches at the feeders this year.  For whatever reason, I've not had them in the past.

ISO 1600, 420mm, F/6.3 @ 1/1600th

This is one of the male goldfinches.  I may literally have a dozen or more of them at my feeders and/or logs at any given time.  They are always pretty active, so chances are they will end up in a good light spot.  This was taken in early morning, golden light.

Image made with my Sony A77 II and Tamron 150-600mm Lens.  Combo supported by my Sirui tripod and PH-20 Gimbal Head.

Yellow-Rumped Warbler

The other day I had several of these Yellow-Rumped Warblers at the feeders.  While I have my blind setup just a few feet away from where I want the birds to land, I also have a background that allows me to capture a few "environmental" type shots.

ISO 3200, 600mm, F/6.3 @ 1/400th second

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

While I could wait for this bird to hopefully come to one of the logs I have setup by the feeders to get a full frame shot of the bird only, I like to sometimes include a shot that shows you the bird's surroundings.  

The area behind my bird setup is full of these tall grasses.  The smaller birds tend to bounce from grass to grass all the time.  I am usually never quick enough to get a photo of them, however.  This day this little warbler sat on this piece of grass for a few seconds.  As I was taking images and watching through my viewfinder the wind picked up and knocked him to the ground.

This image was made with my Sony A77 II and Tamron 150-600mm Lens.  All mounted on my Sirui Tripod and PH-20 gimbal head.

Looking Glass Falls

Yet another roadside, North Carolina waterfall that I hit last week was Looking Glass Falls.

Looking Glass Falls is inside the Pisgah National Forest.  It is located right along the road with a staircase that leads you to the bottom of the falls.  This fall is located near Brevard, NC along U.S. Highway 276.  It is about a 60 foot fall.  This is a real nice fall, and one to hit if you have little to no time to spare and want to see an impressive fall.

ISO 50, 15mm, F/16 @ 1 second

I made this image with my Sony A7R II, Metabones Adapter and Tamron 15-30mm Lens.  My tripod of choice was the Sirui W-2204 and K-20x Ballhead.

Image was processed in Lightroom and On1's new Suite 10.  I loved the On1 Products before but now they are easier to use than ever before.

Another North Carolina Waterfall

When I started researching waterfalls I wanted to stop at on my trek across North Carolina, I knew this one was a must see after viewing a few images of it.

The one was a little tougher to track down though.  It seems several people have several different names for it.  I saw it listed as Cathedral Falls, I saw it listed as Shoal Creek Falls and I saw it listed as Bird Rock Falls.  Tracking it down was a little harder since it had several names.  Also, it was not visible from the road and it was on private property.  The property owner allows visitors to enjoy the waterfall as long as the park along the roadway and not on their property.

I basically found the GPS coordinates online for its location.  Once I got there, I parked the car, got out, walked a little, got back in the car, drive a little, made a lot of u turns, spotted the red building, parked along the road and followed the "private property enter at own risk" signs until I saw the falls.

ISO 50, 15mm, F/22 @ 1 second

I shot this with my Sony A7R II, Metabones Adapter and Tamron 15-30mm Lens.  I had all of this mounted atop the Sirui W-2204 tripod.  

This waterfall was a little tough to shoot, simply because if you wanted to include the entire red cabin, you had to include the sky, too.  Although the sky was a no nothing overcast sky, which was great for shooting the waterfall, it's not so great when it's part of the image.  I attempted to overcome that by using On1's new suite 10 to help process the image.  I was able to boost the colors of everything else and add a vignette to try and draw you away from the sky.  

I, myself, am not a fan of the included sky, but I am big enough fan of everything else that I can learn to live with it.

Smoky Mountain Cascade

Here is one of many images I shot along the Tremont area of The Great Smoky Mountains last week.  The color was good, the shooting was good and most of all it was a relaxing trip that relieved a lot of stress from the weeks before.

I know what you are asking me right now..."Did that leaf happen to fall perfectly on that rock in the foreground?".  Nope, I put it there.  I think it helped anchor the foreground and give you the feeling of Autumn much more than the plain rock without it.  Not only did I put it there, I probably even splashed water on it to give it more contrast.  Call me a cheater... ;)

ISO 100, 19mm, F/16 @ 2 seconds

I made this image with my Sony A7R II, Metaobnes Lens Adapter and Tamron 15-30mm Lens.  I also had my gigantic Fotodiox circular polarizer rig and my Sirui W-2204 Tripod.  

One of the things i really like about the Sirui W-2204 being waterproof is before Whenever I spent the day photographing water, I'd have to come home, extend my tripod and let it dry out in the garage...well those days are over with this thing.  Since no water ever gets in the leg sections that is no longer necessary.


Fog Lifting at Two Mile

Here's another shot from the infamous Two Mile Boat Launch in Apalachicola, FL.

This was taken just before sunrise as a layer of fog was lifting.  The fog created a nice ambiance to the scene.  The old shipwrecked, shrimp boat doesn't hurt either. ;)

There isn't much to this shot.  I made it using a borrowed Tamron 15-30mm Lens and a Novoflex lens adapter to adapt Nikon mount to Sony E mount.  I kept my ISO at a low 100.  Using this particular lens adapter, it has it's own apreture blades inside the adapter.  This means it doesnt report an aperture value back to the camera for EXIF...which also means I have no idea what my aperture was.  At 15mm, it really doesn't make a "ton" of difference, anyhow, but I'll guess F/8.  My shutter speed for this shot was 8 seconds.  I also used my Sirui W-2204 Tripod...I don't leave home without it.

ISO 100, 15mm, F/8-ish @ 8 seconds

I also processed this shot using a combination of Lightroom and On1 Perfect Effects.  I have become a huge fan of On1 over the last few years and I'm excited about their upcoming new release!