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Brown Pelicans in Missing Man Formation

These brown pelicans were flying in formation in a line when three of them broke off in what looks like the missing man formation.  Taken during my second trip to Galveston’s FeatherFest.

Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500MM F4 IS II mounted on Skimmer ground pod with Wimberley II gimbal head

1/1600 sec @ F5, ISO 400, evaluative metering, +1/3 exposure compensation

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Ground Level Bird Photography Field Trip #1 – Galveston FeatherFest 2017

Last Thursday through Sunday was a very busy time for me at Galveston’s Texas FeatherFest.  I led three classroom workshops and three field trips.  This was my 5th year being one of the photography leaders and it was a blast, as always.

My field trip on Saturday started off by catching the 6:00 a.m. Bolivar Ferry.  I met up with my group once we got off of the ferry and they followed me to Bolivar Flats.  It was going to be a sunny morning with low tide so I was hoping that the birds were going to be out.  Reports from the previous day indicated that the tide was abnormally low along the jetty without many birds in that area.  Upon pulling up to the parking area on the beach, I could see that there were some exposed sandbars and what looked like a flock of avocets, which was a major relief.  After we geared up, I gave everyone a quick lesson on how to try to try to keep their hands clean when lying down and getting up and we headed out.

There were two other photographers lying on the beach shooting the avocets so I decided to take my group out on the sandbar so that we weren’t looking into the sun all morning.  We walked through the water to the sandbar without incident, which wasn’t the case on Sunday.  More on that on my next post.

Ended up having the group lay down on the sandbar in a long row so that we wouldn’t be in each others line of fire for photography.  We had 8 participants along with myself and my liaison, who helps me keep track of everyone and gets us back to the headquarters on time.  I had the first person lay down near the water line at the north edge of the sandbar since the tide was supposed to be receding.  Well that theory didn’t work too well as the water level came up later and the first couple of people started getting wet so we had to shift the line to the right, which would have been an interesting video.

The flock of avocets kept walking back and forth across the area between the sandbars, which provided some decent photo op’s.  It’s always a challenge of trying to get one of the birds isolated from the flock.  Decided to get a little closer after a while so we practiced crawling on the sand while pushing our ground pods along.

After the action died down, I had the group rotate 180 deg. so that we could get some photos of willets that were in the water behind us.  Also, I had noticed several groups of avocets and brown pelicans flying by our sandbar and it finally hit me that we should turn around and get photos of them flying towards us.  That turned out to be a great decision as they birds kept coming our way for the rest of the field trip.

Thanks to Richard Howard for being my liaison and to everyone who came out to play in the wet sand with me.  I’m hoping that you had as much fun as I did and got some great photos from a different perspective that what you normally see.

Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II with 1.4X III teleconverter mounted on Skimmer ground pod with Wimberley II gimbal head.

This photo is of the flock of avocets that kept walking back and forth in front of us.

Aperture priority, 1/1250 sec @ F10, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +2/3 exposure compensation, 700mm

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Caught these two avocets that were isolated from the rest of the group.  I’m always looking for how two birds will interact of make an interesting photo together, such as their beaks crossing when coming close to each other, etc.  These two made a cool mirror image of each other.

Aperture priority, 1/1600 sec @ F10, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, -1/3 exposure compensation, 700mm

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After we turned around, several groups of avocets flew close to us.  This group was clustered together when I first spotted them and they then spread out as they got closer to us.  The ones on my far right were doing some very cool synchronized flying with common wing positions.

Aperture priority, 1/1600 sec @ F10, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1/3 exposure compensation, 700mm

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This is the same group 1 second later as they got a little closer.

Aperture priority, 1/1600 sec @ F10, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1/3 exposure compensation

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Here are the group photos so that I have evidence that yes, they actually laid down in the wet sand and…

Aperture priority, 1/1250 sec @ F9, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, 700mm

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…that they got wet and dirty.  Mission accomplished.

Aperture priority, 1/1250 sec @ F9, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, 700mm

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Willet Wars

On my last trip to Bolivar Flats, the willets were in fighting mode with breeding season in full swing.  While taking photos of avocets, the willets were squawking away and chasing each other around.  These two started going at it and were circling around after one grabbed the others neck.  He then lifted off trying to get away but the other one held on for a while.  He finally broke free and left the area.

Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II with 1.4X III teleconverter mounted on Skimmer ground pod with Wimberley II gimbal head.

Aperture priority, 1/1000 sec @F 7.1, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, + 1 1/3 exposure compensation

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Avocet Silhouette

About 3 minuets after the brown pelican sunrise photo per my last post, caught this group of American Avocets passing under the sunrise.  Made for a cool silhouette shot.

Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500MM F4 IS II with 1.4X III teleconverter mounted on Skimmer ground pod with Wimberley II gimbal head

Aperture priority, 1/8000 sec @ F5.6, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, -1/3 exposure compensation

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Pelican in Rising Sun

In preparation for my two field trips that I’m leading to Bolivar Flats during Galveston’s FeatherFest, made a scouting trip to the coast last Sunday.  My original goal was to scout out the area but will have to try that one again as I didn’t get past the parking area due to a flock of Avocets being right there before the sun came up.

Caught this brown pelican doing a fly-by as he passed near the sun.  Was able to see him coming as I’ve learned to shoot with both eyes open, which is one of the tips in one of my classroom workshops that weekend.

Very little cropping on this shot, which made it a little more challenging than normal for a flight shot off of a ground pod with the limited range of motion from side to side.

Here is a link to the FeatherFest website.  We have several great photography leaders with both classroom workshops and field trips.  This will be my 5th year leading my events.  As of a week ago, there were a few spots left on my trips so check them out if interested.

http://www.galvestonfeatherfest.com/

Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II with 1.4X III teleconverter mounted on Skimmer ground pod with Wimberley II gimbal head.

Aperture priority, 1/1600 sec @ F7.1, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation

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Bighorn Sheep

Another first for me was to see Bighorn Sheep in the wild on my Yellowstone trip.  We searched for a few days in the Lamar Valley looking for them with no luck.  On our next to last day, we found two of them just outside of town.  We parking along the highway and got several good looks from them.

One of my favorites was this face to face interaction.  Not the right time of year for head butting but it was cool to see.

Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II mounted on tripod with Wimberley II gimbal head.

Manual exposure, 1/1600 sec @ F8, ISO 400

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Manual exposure, 1/1600 sec @ F8, ISO 400

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Whooping Cranes

Made my first trip to the Rockport, TX area to see the Whooping Cranes a few weeks ago.  It’s been on my bucket list forever since I’ve lived in Texas but never made it there until now.  Thanks Scott for the invitation.

We took a boat tour with Kevin Sims and he got us very close to the cranes at the Aransas NWR.  He has a small flat-bottomed boat that he beaches on the shore to help keep it stable to shoot from with a tripod.  With the upper and lower decks, there are plenty of different perspectives to get.

http://texasbirdingphotos.net/

We went out for two mornings in a row but it was cloudy most of the time.  I’ll definitely be going back again next year.

Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500MM F4 IS II mounted on tripod with Wimberley gimbal head

1/2500 sec @ F11, ISO 800, evaluative metering, -2/3 exposure compensation

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1/1250 sec @ F10, ISO 400, evaluative metering

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