My First Granddaughter
Had a very exciting Memorial Day weekend with the birth of our first grandchild on Monday. Congratulations to Heather & Jack and welcome to the world Charlotte Maeve Cochran! Heather was due on Saturday and started to go into labor on Sunday, so well timed.
One interesting fact is that both Heather and Charlotte were born on Memorial Day. Also, to confirm, yes, I’ve already purchased my first Grandpa T-shirt.
Used my new baby lenses, 50mm 1.2 and 100mm F2.8, for these photos. Will be getting lots of practice with taking baby photos.
Barred Owl in Flight
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Amazing Bald Eagle
It takes 5 years before a bald eagle’s head becomes totally white, but I prefer the colors of the juvi eagles from a photography perspective.
We came across this bald eagle sitting in a tree along the water’s edge and immediately recognized that this one was special. The colors on his back were amazing. He could have cared less that we were floating by in a boat, so he just hung out on his branch, watching the waters for his next meal.
Couple of juvi bald eagles taken on a recent trip to Florida. Spent some quality time with Facebook friend, Dick Vautrinot, on his boat. Had to decide whether to spend a couple of days at Disney or take bird photos. It was a no-brainer and a very good choice. Lots of eagles, osprey, bard owls and anhinga.
1/1250 sec @ F9, ISO 2500, evaluative metering, +1 2/3 exposure compensation, 420mm (R3 + 100-500 +1.4X), handheld on moving boat
Willet Feeding in the Fog
Made a scouting trip to Bolivar Flats on the Texas Gulf coast yesterday in preparation for leading four field trips for Galveston’s FeatherFest in April. It was extremely foggy and could only see a couple of car lengths in front of my car while driving on the beach. The guy following me almost crashed into the barricade.
The fog finally cleared some but then rolled in a couple of times. I’m a major fan of shooting in the fog under the right conditions when the sun pops out, which was the case on this trip.
It was high tide with lots of birds along the shoreline and in a couple of tidal pools. Captured this willet feeding in one of the pools right in front of me while I was lying is some real nasty stuff with my ground pod.
1/3200 @ F10, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1/3 exposure compensation, 700mm (R3 + 100-500 + 1.4X) mounted on Skimmer ground pod with video head
Spider Web in the Fog
Not much animal action yesterday at Anahuac NWR, so set my focus on dew covered spider webs. It was a very foggy morning, which always makes for some great photo op’s with the spider webs being covered with small water droplets. The barbed wire also adds interest to the photo. The sun started to pop through just before the fog lifted.
Used negative exposure compensation to darken the scene and make the spider web pop. Converted to B&W in NIK.
1/8000 sec @ F10, ISO 2500, evaluative metering, -2/3 exposure compensation, 700mm (R3 + 100-500 + 1.4x), handheld
Reflections on 2022
My golden doodle contributed to the inspiration of this post with her reflection in my entryway, which was taken with my new RF 50mm 1.2 lens. You may wonder why someone focused on wildlife photography needs a 50mm lens. Well, I’ve read that it makes a good portrait lens, more on that later.
2022 ended up being a great year from a personal, professional and photography perspective.
On of the highlights from this year included taking the dive into mirrorless photography in March with getting a Canon R3. I’m loving the features in mirrorless cameras and haven’t touched my 1DX III since picking up my R3. I’m really glad that I didn’t wait for the R1 to come out.
Took a couple of amazing trips to Yellowstone in January and Alaska in June. This was my 4th trip to Yellowstone in winter and it likely won’t be my last as it’s such an amazing place. Got my dream shot on this trip of a black wolf staring at me with his yellow eyes.
Made my second trip to Alaska for coastal brown bear photography, which is my latest obsession. The bears were amazing, although we didn’t see the cubs like last year. However, made up for that with my first attempts at taking video with my new camera. Got some amazing slow-motion video of bears opening clams with their claws. Video adds another dimension to the storytelling of my wildlife photography, and it has been very exciting to add it to my portfolio.
After returning from Alaska in June, spent some quality time taking photos and videos at Bolivar Flats, on the Texas gulf coast. Quickly found that it was a little more challenging to take video of fast-moving birds than the slower moving bears. However, I’m very pleased with the results. Have been collecting some of my favorite bird videos to enter into the 2023 Audubon photo contest, so be on the lookout for them.
In total, made 50 trips to local areas around Houston for wildlife photography. Can’t wait to see what photo ops 2023 will bring.
The major highlight for 2022, and the reason to get a 50mm lens, is that my daughter is pregnant!! We are thrilled for Heather and Jack with their baby due in May. Next year will involve lots of baby photo shoots with some outfits already being purchased for Christmas gifts this year.
Happy New Year everyone!! 2023 is going to be amazing! Hopefully will have time for some wildlife photography. Already have two major trips planned with hopefully a third one as well. More on those later.
Bald Eagle at Anahuac NWR
Couldn’t resist heading out to take photos this morning with sun finally coming out while I’m on vacation. It was a little chilly in Texas at Anahuac NWR with 18 deg temperature and windchill at 0 deg F. Geared up with some of my winter Yellowstone clothing and got there about 1 hour before sunrise.
Some of the birds around Shoveler’s Pond were hunkered down but the raptors were out in full force as they still have to eat. Saw a juvi bald eagle flying at a distance, took a few photos and followed him towards the woodlot. Rounded a corner and spooked 2 other juvi bald eagles that were sitting on the fence line. Didn’t see them until they took off.
Captured this one as he was looking up while playing with the other eagle. They were too close to get a decent shot of both of them in the frame together.
1/8000 sec @ F5.6, ISO 3200, evaluative metering, 700mm (R3 + 500F4 + 1.4X), handheld out my car window
Broke one of my golden rules yesterday at Bolivar Flats on the Texas gulf coast: have your camera ready at all times when driving off the beach. Saw this male northern harrier sitting on a fence post along the road and my camera was in the trunk. There was a good reason for that as I couldn’t get the lens off of my fluid head. Went past the harrier, stopped, took my camera off my 500F4 and put it on my 100-500, and headed back to the gray ghost.
He was very cooperative and let me get several photos before he flew away. Luckily for me, he landed on the other side of the road, which allowed for more photos and some video in better light. He was finally spooked when another car came down the road.
The not so fun part of this encounter was that I was getting eaten alive by mosquitos. Didn’t have bug spray on as there were no mosquitos on the beach, but they were very intense along the grassy area leaving the beach. Had taken my jacket off so plenty of exposed skin for the feeding frenzy that took place in my car. As they say, everything is bigger in Texas, including the mosquitos. One of those times that you just grin and bear it as it’s always worth a little blood letting for a good photo op.
1/1600 sec @ F7.1, ISO 1000, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, 500mm (R3 + 100-500), minor cropping off left side.
Audubon Top 100 X 2
Honored again this year to make the Top 100 in Audubon’s photo contest with these two photos. Must have been slacking off since I had 4 in the top 100 last year. Congratulations to everyone that won and made the top 100.
First photo is a black skimmer coming in for a landing at Bolivar Flats. I love the unique wing position on this photo as it was one that I’ve never seen before.
This photo is an American avocet riding the surf at Bolivar Flats. Love the water swirling around her neck, which looks like she is getting ready to turn into a Disney princess.
Riding the Wave @ Galveston’s FeatherFest
Took this photo during my first Galveston FeatherFest field trip to Bolivar Flats Audubon Shorebird Sanctuary on the Texas gulf coast. I led four trips to Bolivar Flats again this year in April with this one being challenging with the weather that morning. The wind was blowing at 25 – 30 mph with heavy surf for this area. If it wasn’t for FeatherFest, I typically would have stayed home in those conditions, which makes me wonder how many great photo ops that I’ve missed over the years by not going in adverse conditions. This outing was unique as only one participant, Peggy, showed up for this trip.
In this photo, a group of dunlins and one ruddy turnstone were hanging out on a batch of seaweed that was bobbing up and down with the waves. A small wave came in that made the first dunlin launch up into the air. This group would then feed off of the material that washed up on the mound of seaweed.
I finally made the dive into mirrorless cameras with a Canon R3, which I’ll provide some more information on in a future post.
Taken with Canon R3 with 500mm F4 IS II lens, 1.4X teleconverter mounted on Skimmer ground pod with Wimberley II gimbal head
1/1000 @ F11, ISO 4000, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation
American avocet gliding along after sunrise on Texas gulf coast this morning. Sunrise was amazing with the cloud formations and red light. The sun eventually popped out of the clouds providing some good light. Ended up leaving when the sun went behind the clouds as I’m not a fan of flat light.
1/2000 sec @ F9, ISO 3200, evaluative metering, -2/3 exposure compensation, 700mm from Skimmer ground pod, minor cropping
Taken with Canon 1DX III, Canon 500mm F4 IS II with 1.4X III teleconverter mounted on Skimmer ground pod with Wimberley II gimbal head
Water Explosion Frozen in Time
Reddish egret diving for fish in a tidal pond at Bolivar Flats Audubon Shorebird Sanctuary. While heading back to my car after a successful early morning taking shorebird photos, found this reddish egret that was catching some small fish in a separate small tidal pool. Got some very cool splash shots but didn’t like the background so converted this one to B&W and cropped in on the splash.
1/1250 @ F10, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +2/3 exposure compensation, 700mm from ground pod
Grand Slam in 2021 Audubon Top 100
Four of my photos made the top 100 this year in Audubon’s 2021 photo contest. Although 2020 was a very challenging year from a pandemic perspective, it challenged me to get out an shoot more with over 60 local field trips, which paid off in the Audubon contest.
Great egret in silhouette through her breeding plumage from High Island TX rookery
White moph reddish egret spreading its wings just after landing at Bolivar Flats Audubon Shorebird Sanctuary last summer.
Two lesser yellowlegs running in unison at Bolivar Flats Audubon Shorebird Sanctuary.
American avocets at Bolivar Flats Audubon Shorebird Sanctuary.
My wish list for Alaska included seeing some bald eagles, if possible. Never in my wildest dreams would have imagined that I would be getting full frame eagle shots from my ground pod as this one landed on the mudflats right in front of me!
Absolutely blew my mind, which didn’t take much at that point as my mind had already been blown by 3 days of bear photography.
He wasn’t interested in us at all as he had bears on his mind. More to this story coming later…
1/2000 sec @ F11, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +1/3 exposure compensation, 500mm from ground pod
Lift off which was a challenge to keep him in the frame as he was so close.
Bear fly-by but he will return
Happy 4th of July
Happy 4th of July! Here is a recent photo of a bald eagle, symbol of freedom in the US, that I took in Alaska a few weeks ago. There is a very interesting story behind this eagle and my favorite pair of bears that I’ll share later.
1/6400 sec @ F11, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, -2/3 exposure compensation, 500mm from ground pod
Drop in a Splash – Expensive Outing
American Avocet at Bolivar Flats Audubon Shorebird Sanctuary
When using a high shutter speed, sometimes the splash is more interesting than the shorebird. I always start shooting when their head starts going towards the water as you never know what you may capture. In this case, the frozen splash also shows a cool water drop.
As mentioned in my previous post about becoming “one with the flock”, my 1DXIII camera got wet from the salt water lapping at the bottom of my camera after the tide came in while I way laying on my stomach with shooting from my ground pod. After that outing, had some issues with my fully charged camera batteries being fully discharged before I took one shot with them. Would put another battery in and it worked fine.
Sent my camera to Canon to have them check it out. My salt water encounter ended up costing me a $1,200 repair bill. Canon described the issue as: “The bottom multi-controller on the back cover is stuck and will not move. At this time the PCB ASS’Y, MAIN W/LI BATT and COVER ASS’Y, BACK will be replaced.” Apparently, it got dunked a little more than I thought in the salt water.
Will it make me think twice about doing it again next time? Nope.
1/2000 @ F11, ISO 2000, evaluative metering, -1/3 exposure compensation, 700mm (500+1.4X) from ground pod, minor cropping
#1 Whooping Crane Photo on Google
You never know what my happen to your photos when submitting them to Audubon for their annual photo contest. You get the option to let them use any of your photos in their publications, which was the case for this 2017 whooping crane photo from near Rockport, TX with Kevin Sims. It got published in Audubon’s Whooping Crane Field Guide, which led to lots of views and before I knew it, #1 on Google. Very nice surprise several months ago.
Galveston FeatherFest 2021
Had a great time again this year leading field trips for Galveston’s FeatherFest. Very glad that we could have the field trips this year as last year had to be cancelled due to Covid-19. We reduced the size of the groups this year for social distancing but it turned out great. Actually like the smaller groups better from an interaction perspective at Bolivar.
The weather did not cooperate with day 1 trip to Bolivar Flats being cancelled with high surf. Had everyone cancel ahead of time except one participant that was driving from Winnie. She called me as I was waiting at the Galveston side of the ferry and the highway along the Bolivar peninsula was getting flooded and had debris on the road. Safety first so I cancelled that trip. Had another day with very high winds that turned out very well. I’ll post some of my bird photos later.
Here are some cell phone group shots from 2021 FeatherFest at Bolivar Flats and the east end of Galveston Island.
Snowy Egret with Backlighting
Always love to take back-lit photos at High Island TX rookery and captured this one on Friday
Focused on the snowy’s on this trip as they were in abundance compared to my last visit. Way too many people at the rookery. Got there well before the sun came up and had the last platform by myself. By the time the sun came up, I was sharing the platform with 16 other people. So much for social distancing.
Should have known better than to go on Good Friday but the weather was too good to pass up a sunny morning and some back-lit images.
1/1600 @ F8, ISO 800, evaluative metering, -2/3 exposure compensation, 500mm from tripod.
Playing with the Sun
My favorite part of wildlife photography is playing with the light. In this case, I was playing with the sun.
This is a great egret at High Island TX rookery. Got there well before sunrise and was taking silhouette photos before the sun came up. Kept track of where the sun was going to rise to optimize my chances of playing with the sun and one of the egrets. This one cooperated while standing in some branches. She moved to the right and displayed her breeding plumage just at the right time.
Taken with Canon 1DX III with 500mm F4 IS II mounted on tripod with Wimberley II gimbal head.
1/3200 sec @ F8, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +1/3 exposure compensation, 500mm
1/8000 sec @ F8, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, -1 exposure compensation, 500mm
1/8000 sec @ F8, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, no exposure compensation, 500mm
One With the Flock
Have to share some details and photos about my unique adventure on Sunday (3/7/21) at Bolivar Flats Audubon Shorebird Sanctuary on the Texas gulf coast in search of American Avocets. Needless to say, I found just a few.
While walking along the beach as the sun came up, there were a couple of flocks of avocets off shore but they wouldn’t have been worth the effort to photograph so decided to keep going to see what was around the corner. Found a group of white pelicans with some avocets feeding around them. Took the first photo with handholding my rig with ground pod/Wimberley head attached while deciding where to lay down.
The avocets were working their way to my right but couldn’t get upstream without spooking them so decided to lay down in the opposite direction in anticipation that they would eventually move that way. Laid down at the water’s edge of a sandbar and focused on flight shots as more and more avocets were coming in to join what soon became a feeding frenzy.
The enlarging flock eventually reversed course and headed in my direction. During that time, the tide was starting to come in and my sandbar ended up under water and I felt water getting into my waders. At 53 deg F air temp, 15 to 20 mph winds and 59 deg water temperature, it got really cold really fast. Tried to back up a few feet to find dry ground but looked behind me and there was no sandbar in site for over 50 ft.
With a flock of several hundred avocets heading my way, had to make the decision to get up to save my frozen body parts or grin and bare it. As my ground pod filled with water, figured that it couldn’t get much worse so stayed put as the flock was nearly upon me. When avocets feed, they put their head in the water and use their long bills to rake across the sand to find invertebrates. They just kept feeding and getting closer and closer.
Eventually they were within 20 ft of me and just moved around me and kept feeding. Was very cool to be surrounded 360 deg. by one of my favorite birds. Don’t know if it helped but I was in full camo with the hood of my sweatshirt pulled over my head. One of the major advantages of photography using a ground pod is that the birds don’t recognize you as a person.
At this point, I became “one with the flock”, which was an amazing experience. I’ve had avocets all around me before but it was a handful, not a full flock. Got a couple of photos that may be photo contest worthy but would have loved this experience if I didn’t get any photos.
It was challenging to photograph them that close as I couldn’t shift my position without moving too much in fear of spooking them. Eventually switched to F16 for more depth of field but it didn’t help much at that distance. The white pelicans also joined the fray and flew about 10 ft over me with one landing very close. Slowly rotated my ground pod around to get a couple of shots of him.
Was so focused and in the zone that I didn’t realize my ground pod was floating in the water and had shifted so that the back end was down into the sand under the water with the front end up resting on the bottom of my 500mm lens. With my gimbal head adjustments being loose for shooting, it just floated up in the water. Pulled it back down and locked it into place for a few seconds to stabilize it when I realized that the salt water was lapping at the bottom of my camera. Shifted the camera up slightly to get it out of the water and then my lens raincoat was in the water.
Didn’t take a rocket scientist to say it was time to get up quickly, which was easier said than done with my waders/clothing full of water and my desire to not dunk my gear. Usually grab the base of my ground pod to help get up but in this case, didn’t want to move/splash my camera/lens so got up next to my gear as water poured out of my jacket. Slowly made my way back to my car while water was squishing in my wader boots. Water just poured out of my waders when taking them off. Removed my camera raincoat and put my camera in the passenger seat for the drive back to the ferry.
After getting on the ferry, noticed that there was water dripping out of my lens hood. Removed the hood and saw that the bottom part had been in the water. Took off the Lenscoat neoprene covers on my lens to dry it off. Took a couple of hours to clean up myself and my gear but was well worth it.
All photos were taken with Canon 1DXIII, Canon 500mm F4 IS II with 1.4X III, Skimmer ground pod (now a designated floaty) with Wimberley II gimbal head.
Bald Eagle from Anahuac NWR
Found this bald eagle at Anahuac NWR in Texas on 12/5/20. Was driving around a corner and spotted a very large bird sitting on a fence post. Initial thought that is was a turkey vulture as they are in abundance out there. Second thought was that it was too big for a vulture and then saw the white head. Bingo – bald eagle. Turned my car to the right to get an angle on him where I could take a photo out of my car window. The sun was right behind him getting higher in the sky resulting in a challenging exposure. Kept checking my histogram and was blowing out the sky at times which is not a major concern as the bird was my subject. Just wanted to make sure that I wasn’t blowing out the whites on his head.
Took several shots and was moving my car to get a better position what I heard another vehicle approaching on the dirt road. Pulled off of the road and then a pick-up truck came flying by. He had no clue that there was an eagle there and almost hit him when he spooked from his perch.
Ended up finding him a couple more times before I left but this was my best photo. Always very cool to see an eagle out at Anahuac. First time that I had one posing for me.
Found that he as a bad eye when reviewing my photos on the computer. His left eye is gray in color.
1/3200 @ F9, ISO 2500, evaluative metering, + 1 2/3 exposure compensation, 700mm, handheld out my car window
Great Blue Sunrise
Had one of those great mornings along the Texas Gulf Coast recently when the stars aligned. One big star and a great blue heron.
Visualized this shot when spotting this great blue heron while walking on the beach when it was still dark out. Had to guess where to lay down based on the light peeking through on the horizon. Only had to shift my position slightly when seeing the sun start to pop to keep him in the sunrise. He stayed in one spot while I got off several shots.
While wishing that the skimmers weren’t in front of him, they blasted off and left me with a challenge – do I keep my focus on the GBH or do I try to take photos of the skimmers. I stuck with the heron and eventually all of the skimmers were gone. He then looked up into the sky and I’ll save that photo for a photo contest.
Taken with Canon 1DX Mark III and 500mm F4 IS II with 1.4X III teleconverter mounted on skimmer ground pod with a Wimberley II gimbal head.
1/640 sec @ F11, ISO 3200, evaluative metering, +2/3 exposure compensation, 700mm