…morning light is magic…

Author Archive

Blurred Avocet

When the light doesn’t cooperate, there are always blurred shots to be taken.  American avocet in a blur from Bolivar Flats during one of my Galveston FeatherFest workshops that I led this year.

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.

1/125 sec @ F5.6, ISO 3200, evaluative metering, + 2 2/3 exposure compensation, aperture priority, 700mm

0271_Bolivar Flats04132019-2


American Avocets

Mentioned to my FeatherFest group before we hit the beach on Saturday morning that one of my target birds for this field trip was avocets. Score!

Low tide turned into high tide with the winds from the south due to the storm system. The high tide drove all of the birds near the shoreline and luckily most of them were along the beach facing south before you go around the bend. We started with a small group of avocets and worked our way down the beach until we hit the jackpot with thousands of them that just kept flying into the same area.

The legs have it in this full frame shot from my ground pod with only cropping to pano format. If you look close, had some light rain going on at this time. Also a photo bomber flying in.

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

1/200 sec @ F 5.6, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, aperture priority, 700mm

1740_Bolivar Flats04132019-2


Galveston FeatherFest 2019

Just finished up leading workshops and field trips for Galveston’s FeatherFest.  Had a great time as always.  Thanks to everyone that showed up and participated.

Here are some of the group photos.

Shorebird Photography from East Beach, Friday April 12, 2019

2711_Galveston TX04122019

Ground Pod Photography from Bolivar Flats, Saturday April 13, 2019

1898_Bolivar Flats041320191915_Bolivar Flats04132019

Ground Pod Photography from Bolivar Flats, Saturday April 13, 2019

1392_Bolivar Flats_04142019

1423_Bolivar Flats_04142019


Brown Pelican in Golden Light

Caught this brown pelican doing a fly-by while in the prone position with my ground pod.  Got a nice series of shots with this one being one of my favorites with the wing position just off of the water.  The calm water and reflection helped as well.

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

1/500 sec @ F5.6, ISO 400, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, aperture priority

1038_Bolivar Flats_01052019-2


Great Egret in Flight

Headed back to High Island yesterday to get some more photos from the rookery for an upcoming presentation that I’m doing for Houston Audubon on April 7.

https://houstonaudubon.org/programs/adults/flight-in-focus.html

Had the platform all to myself, which was great and worth taking 1/2 day off of work.  Challenging to get flight shots from that location so moved down to the second platform and the flight opportunities were amazing.  Great egrets and spoonbills were flying back and forth from the rookery island to the trees on the south side of the pond.  They would occasionally bank right towards me like this great egret.

1/1600 sec @ F5.6, ISO 800, evaluative metering, aperture priority

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

2668_High Island_03222019-2

 

 


Great Egret Mating Dance Silhouette

It’s always fun to watch and photograph great egrets in mating season when they put on a display of their breeding plumage.  Caught this mating dance at High Island’s rookery at sunrise.

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

1/60 sec @ F4, ISO 3200, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, aperture priority

0349_High Island_02242019-2


Back-lit Great Egrets

Finally, some sunshine in SE Texas.  This day was a little to windy for Bolivar Flats and my gut was telling me to head to High Island to see if there was any activity yet.

Got up at 3:15 a.m. and make it there well before sunrise.  One of the challenges at the rookery at sunrise is the mosquitos, which can take swarming to a new level.  In preparation for the skeeters, bought a mosquito net to fit over my had, which worked wonders.  Best $10 ever spent at REI.

https://www.rei.com/product/780999/sea-to-summit-head-net

Got to the last platform in complete darkness so it was difficult to tell if there were very many birds present yet.  Could hear the pig-like grunting from some cormorants, which always show up first.  Once the pre-dawn light started falling over the area, finally could tell that there were enough great egrets to make it a worthwhile trip.  Before the sun came up, several more great egrets came to the rookery and started displaying their breeding plumage.  Didn’t take long for the courtship’s to begin.  Only a few minutes were required for them to arrive, find a match, mate and then take off to find sticks to build a nest.

I always go to the rookery at sunrise to get back-lit photos.  Exposing for the brightest areas of the birds with the sun coming through their feathers can make for some amazing photo opportunities.

This is a photo of a pair of great egrets that I watched after the sun came up.  One would take off to find sticks and then arrive with great fanfare and pass of the stick to their mate for nest-building.  Felt great to get back in my element.

Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F5 IS II lens on tripod with Wimberley II gimbal head

1/1600 sec @ F8, ISO 400, evaluative metering, +1/3 exposure compensation, aperture priority

3879_High Island_02242019-2


Long-Tailed Weasel from Yellowstone

We were lucky enough to find a long-tailed weasel.  He was across the river on a hill and was very difficult to spot.  I couldn’t find him after he was spotted.  Had to try to find his black tail bounding across the snow.  Cute little critter but a very vicious carnivore with sharp teeth and claws.

Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II lens, handheld

1/800 sec @ F6.3, ISO 1600, spot metering off the snow +2 tops, manual mode

1506_Yellowstone_01272019-2


Yellowstone Coyote – Head Shots

To cap off my coyote encounter at Yellowstone, the coyote almost face-planted while nearing the top of the hill. The snow must have gotten deeper or the hill was steeper causing him to almost fall into the snow. He was able to maintain his laser focus on what he was looking at and didn’t miss a beat.

Minor cropping off of the left side of the frame on these head shots.

Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm lens, handheld while sitting in a snowbank.

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

 

1293_Yellowstone_01272019-2

 

1294_Yellowstone_01272019-2

 

1295_Yellowstone_01272019-2


Yellowstone Coyote Full Frame

Here is a full frame shot of the Yellowstone coyote as he went around me after jumping up the hill.  Was a very good day.

Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II, handheld while sitting in a snowbank.

1/1600 sec @ F8, ISO 400, manual mode

 

1287_Yellowstone_01272019-2


Yellowstone Coyote Among the Cattails

Yellowstone coyote on his way to the small creek before he ran up the hill.  Full framed shot without any cropping.  Saw this composition coming as he got near the cattails.  Used back-focus button to get him in focus and then recomposed to put him in the lower left corner with the cattails in the top of the frame.

Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II, handheld

1/3200 sec @ F8, ISO 800, manual mode

0987_Yellowstone_01272019-2


Once-in-a-Lifetime at Yellowstone

Our second coyote encounter on Day 1 at Yellowstone was incredible.  One of our workshop leaders spotted a coyote crossing the river at a distance.  We got out of the snow coach and walked down the road to try to get a better view of him.  He got up on the bank and made his way to our right in the snow, catching some food along the way.

0788_Yellowstone_01272019-2

Three of us went with Jared further upstream and waited for him to come to us.  While sitting in a snowbank, got some cool shots of the coyote working his way along a small winding creek at the bottom of our hill.  Was very happy to get those shots and expected him to continue along his way at the base of this hill.

1183_Yellowstone_01272019-2

All of a sudden, he took off and ran/jumped up the hill directly towards us.  Luckily didn’t have my tripod or would have missed some of the shots as I had to lean back and to my left to shoot as a small tree got in the way.

He bounded up the hill while glancing from left to right with making direct eye contact with me several times.  He would blast up out of the snow, which created a cool ring of snow around him.  As he got closer, began to wonder if he was going to run right into me so I briefly lifted my head up to see how close that he was getting and he veered off to my left, leaving me with some full frame shots as he went by.

1257_Yellowstone_01272019-2

1258_Yellowstone_01272019-2

1259_Yellowstone_01272019-2

He kept going up the hill while almost face-planting into the snow allowing for a couple of cool head shots.  At the top of the hill, he looked back at us and then went down the road like nothing happened.  He left us with the thought “What just happened and did we capture it?”  Downloading my photos revealed that I got 37 out of 40 photos in the sequence in focus when he ran up the hill in about 75 seconds.  Have a 12 frames/sec camera really paid off.

I keep having these once-in-a-lifetime photography experiences in Yellowstone, which will ensure that I keep going back.  Thanks again Jared and Doug.  One of my favorite Yellowstone encounters ever.

All photos were taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II lens, handheld

Manual mode, 1/1600 sec @ F8, ISO 400, 500mm


Yellowstone Coyote Mousing

Just got back from another trip to Yellowstone with Jared Lloyd and Doug Gardner. This was my third year in a row but had to grab a cancellation spot to make it. Was another awesome trip with meeting some great people and critters.

Although the park was somewhat slow for animal activity based on the last couple of years, we had some outstanding photo opportunities. The area finally got some snow right before we arrived. Coldest temperature was –22 deg F but much warmer than that for most days.

My first trip with Jared was the year of the fox, last year was the year of the wolves and this trip was the year of the coyote with some great bighorns thrown in.

This day 1 encounter featured a coyote that went mousing fairly close to us. He was successful and moved on. Thought that we were lucky to see this until the next coyote sighting, which was off the charts spectacular. More on that later.

Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II

Manual exposure, 1/2000 sec @ F4, ISO 1000, spot metering off of the snow + 2 stops

0058_Yellowstone_01272019-3


Short-eared Owl on Fire

Got very excited when the Anahuac short-eared owl flew towards the sun giving me a chance to play in the light with back-lit photos.  Was heavily cropped but still fun to see and take photos.

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

1/2000 sec @ F5.6, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, 700mm

0730_anahuac nwr_01202019-2


Short-eared Owl

There have been lots of posts on Facebook about some short-eared owls hanging out at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge in SE Texas.  Made a trip over there recently to check them out.  Took a couple of trips to finally find them and it was a blast.  Ended up spending about 1 1/2 hours watching them fly back and forth hunting over a large area.  Most of the photos were at a long distance  away but they did make a few close passes, which were very exciting.

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

1/2000 sec @ F6.3, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation

 

3538_anahuac nwr_01132019-2


One of my 2018 Favorites

Happy new years everyone!  Hope that everyone had a great 2018 and is having a safe new years eve celebration.  Have a wonderful 2019!

Here is one of my favorite photos of 2018, an American Avocet from Bolivar Flats.  It’s a challenge to get one of these birds isolated from the flock and this one did not disappoint.  Sometimes before they take off, they will stretch out their wings and dip their head.  This one did it right in front of me with a slight turn of his head and then looked right at me.  Loved it.

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

1/1250 sec @ F9, ISO 800, evaluative metering, + 2/3 exposure compensation, 700mm, aperture priority

0100_Bolivar_Flats_11242018-2


Coyote at Anahuac NWR

Had a most excellent adventure with a coyote yesterday at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge in Texas. I arrived at Anahuac around 6:30 a.m. and headed to Frozen Point to try to find the short-eared owl. With the cloudy conditions, it was very dark before sunrise and couldn’t spot any activity.

Drove back towards Shoveler’s Pond and saw a couple of trucks tracking something along the canal. Found my buddy Doug in full camo pointing out where a coyote was working the opposite bank of the canal. Luckily, he started coming back towards us and we started shooting away. He eventually got back to the main road and I backed my car up and followed him for a short distance until he started hunting in the grass along site the road. It was very cool to see him jump up and down like a mousing fox.

Got a couple of decent head shots and he then came up with his prey, a field rat. He brought it out on the road and ended up playing with it like a puppy would play with a toy right in front of my car. Tried to take photos of him out my car window but my car wasn’t in the best position with my side mirror kept getting in my way and it was challenging to shoot over it. Didn’t want to spook him by opening my car door initially. Stopped taking still photos a couple of times and took video with my iPhone. I’ll post one of those later. Eventually opened my door to get an unobstructed view of him.

Parents always tell their kids not to play with their food, but this coyote was a master at it. He would pick up the rat and throw it around and then try to intimidate it by baring its teeth as he stood above it. He eventually ate the rat and then started staring at something to my right, which ended up being Doug laying down near the right side of my car. He slowly started to stalk Doug and then Doug showed up next to me.

Here is one of my favorite shots. Don’t worry Doug, I would have repositioned myself to get the shot if he wanted to play with you.

With the low light, had to use full open aperture and sacrificed depth of field to get the shot. Initially was using ISO 6400 but backed off to 3200 for this photo.

1/125 sec @ F 5.6, ISO 3200, evaluative metering, + 2/3 exposure compensation, aperture priority, 700mm

 

0983_Anahuac_NWR12292018-2


Merry Christmas!

Happy holidays and Merry Christmas everyone!  Hope that everyone is going to have a great time with family and friends over this holiday season.  Stay safe!

This is an iPhone photo from my last trip to Yellowstone in January.

Merry Christmas-2


Black Skimmer Blast-off

While taking photos from my ground pod at Bolivar Flats, several hundred black skimmers were hanging out near the jetty.  It was difficult to see what kind of birds were there until you hear them “barking”.  They eventually lifted off and formed a cloud of skimmers, which is always cool to 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

1/800 sec @ F9, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation

3220_Bolivar_Flats11162018-2


Back to the Gulf

Sometimes the stars align (no wind, no waves, low tide) along the Gulf of Mexico and the waters are very calm at Bolivar Flats, which makes for some amazing conditions for shore bird photography. This happened on Friday when I took some vacation time to get back to Bolivar for the first time in 4 months.

Got very excited when driving onto the beach while seeing the calm water. This happens maybe once a year if you are lucky, from my experience. Pulled up to the parking area on the beach with nobody else in site and quickly geared up before the sun came up. It was 41 deg F and my neoprene waders felt nice and toasty.

Found a small group of American Avocets along the shoreline and laid down with my ground pod for some silhouette shots. Also had some photo op’s further out in the water with pelicans and black skimmers flying by. The sun popped up which led to some interesting photo op’s with the changing light.

Got up from my initial position and turned to my right just in time to see a peregrine falcon taking off from the beach. Wish that I had seen him earlier but he was very skittish and getting close to him would have been very challenging. Was able to get some flight shots as he flew by, which is always fun with hand holding a 500mm lens attached to a ground pod with a Wimberley gimbal head.

Moved offshore onto some sandbars to take photos of willets, long billed curlews, more avocets and hundreds of black skimmers that would periodically blast off and fill the sky. On the way back to my car, a reddish egret landed right behind me so got back down on the sand for some very close-up shots which was a great wrap up to a wonderful morning.

Needless to say, it was great to be back at Bolivar in perfect conditions.

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

1/1600 sec @ F8, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation

1084_Bolivar_Flats11162018-2


Veterans Day Salute

This post is dedicated to all veterans past and present.  Thank you for your sacrifices.

These are photos of the Blue Angels from 2018 Wings Over Houston airshow on Sunday Oct 21.

Taken with Canon 1DX with Canon 100-400 II lens, handheld

1/1600 sec @ F8, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +2/3 exposure compensation, aperture priority

0020_Wings_Over_Houston_10212018-2

1/2000 sec @ F8, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, aperture priority 

4385_Wings_Over_Houston_10212018-2

1/2500 sec @ F8, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, aperture priority 

4665_Wings_Over_Houston_10212018-2

1/2500 sec @ F8, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, aperture priority 

4754_Wings_Over_Houston_10212018-2

1/2000 sec @ F8, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, aperture priority 

4256_Wings_Over_Houston_10212018-2

1/2500 sec @ F8, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, aperture priority 

4297_Wings_Over_Houston_10212018-2

1/3200 sec @ F8, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, aperture priority, converted to B&W using NIK Silver Effects Pro

4043_Wings_Over_Houston_10212018-3

1/2500 sec @ F8, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, aperture priority

5283_Wings_Over_Houston_10212018-2


Marbled Godwit

This Marbled Godwit walked very close to us at Bolivar Flats on the same day as we found the white morph reddish egret.  He kept probing the sand for food.

I like this shot as he is facing in my direction, the position of his feet, got some interesting lighting on his bill and the raised tail feathers, which isn’t typical from my experience.

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.

1/640 sec @ F8, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation

0630_Bolivar Flats_07212018-2

1/800 sec @ F8, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation

0754_Bolivar Flats_07212018-2


Reddish Egret Pose

Finally made it back to Bolivar Flats yesterday after a long hiatus (since April).  Got invited to head to the flats by Lea, who contacted me back in May for some advice.  It was a good time and I needed the motivation to get back out there in this heat.  Feels-like temp when we arrived just before sunrise was 95 deg F.  Decided to not wear my waders or jacket and just get all wet/sandy, which happened as predicted.

There were lots of birds around including reddish egrets, pelicans, willets, long-billed curlews, marbled godwits.  Did not see any avocets.  We spotted 2 reddish egrets and 3 white morph reddish egrets in the area and took some time to photograph them and get closer to this one.  They weren’t very active but we had the opportunity to get some decent shots of them posing and preening.

Reddish egrets will puff out their feathers when they are trying to intimidate other birds.  Not sure what got this one excited but it made for nice looking hairdo.

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

0384_Bolivar Flats_07212018-2


Caught it!

Reddish egret are quite the fishing experts.  This white morph put on a great display of fishing prowess and ended up catching this fish and looked in my direction.

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.

1/1600 sec @ F9, ISO 1600, +1 exposure compensation

0702_Bolivar Flats_04222018-2