…morning light is magic…

Birds

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

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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

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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

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

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

 

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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

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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

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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

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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

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Reddish Egret Jump in B&W

 

This white morph reddish egret was practicing his jumping skills at Galveston’s FeatherFest in April.  This was shot #11 out of a series of 16 photos that he was in the air.

Colors were somewhat muted so I converted into B&W using NIK Silver Effects.

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

1/1250 sec @ F9, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation

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White Morph Reddish Egret Launching

Sunday’s visit to Bolivar Flats with my last field trip for this years Galveston’s FeatherFest.  Was a little worn out after 4 days but it was well worth the effort to take a couple of groups to Bolivar Flats.  It was a new experience for some of them and we had some great photo op’s on both trips.  We couldn’t get very close to the avocets on this trip but I did find a morph reddish egret.  Spotted him at a distance and maneuvered the group close to the water as he was fishing.  He worked his way back and forth in front of us making for some great photo op’s.

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

Aperture priority, 1/3200 sec @ F9, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, 700mm

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Ground Level Photography from Galveston’s FeatherFest

Here are the group photos from Saturday’s Ground Level Photography field trip at Bolivar Flats.  Had a great time with lots of laughs from this group.

The morning started out ominous with very high winds, close to 30 mph, and high surf.  Wasn’t sure that we would see any birds until we got further down the shoreline.  Found an estimated 3,000 American Avocets huddled together within shooting distance.  You can see some of the remaining Avocets behind the group in the photos below.  Lots of belly crawling involved.  Turned out to be a very productive morning.

Participants can copy full size photos from my website:

https://www.timtimmis.com/Wildlife/Galveston-FeatherFest-2018/

 

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Galveston FeatherFest 2018

As another year at Galveston’s FeatherFest comes to a close, thanks go out to everyone who participated this year. Special thanks to JulieAnn Brown, Executive Director from Galveston Island Nature Tourism Council, and her flock of 200 volunteers that make the event possible every year.

Had a great time leading three field trips and three classroom workshops again this year. This was year #6 for me as a leader and can’t wait to do it again.

Extremely high winds on Friday and Saturday mornings provided some challenges but the birds and rain cooperated. We had a flock of black skimmers and beautiful sunrise at East Beach on Friday, a few thousand avocets in breeding plumage on Saturday morning at Bolivar Flats and a white morph reddish egret dancing away right in front of us this morning.

Here are some group photos from today’s Ground Level Bird Photography field trip to Bolivar Flats. They received the full ground pod treatment including laying in some prime-time muck. Thanks again Chris for helping out again this year.
I’ll post more photos later as time permits.

For the participants that would like a full size copy, I’ve posted them on my website that you can copy from:

https://www.timtimmis.com/Wildlife/Galveston-FeatherFest-2018/

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Reddish Egret Dancing

While getting prepared for leading workshops at Galveston’s FeatherFest again this year, went back over some photos from last years event and found this one taken at Bolivar Flats.  This reddish egret was dancing around and put on a great show for my group.

Wasn’t sure why the two birds were hanging out together until observing interesting behavior a few weeks later when a pelican kept stealing fish from a reddish egret.  Whatever works for getting breakfast.

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

1/2500 sec @ F5.6, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation

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Brown Pelicans in a Blur

I’ve been in a major creative funk lately with it being several weeks since I’ve gone out to take wildlife photos.  Life gets in the way sometimes with business travel,  some dental issues, lots to do around the house and getting a new computer.  I’ve been working on a blog post about my journey to find a new computer and will share that later.  Also the weather in SE Texas hasn’t been cooperating on weekends for the last 8 weeks or so.

Decided to go to the Texas City Dike a couple of weeks ago to create some abstract wildlife photos with some slow shutter speeds.  Made it to the dike before sunrise and waited until I could focus on brown pelicans that were diving for fish.

Used shutter priority to slow the action down while creating some interesting blurs.  It’s fun but challenging to try this technique.  You won’t get the same photo twice as each shot is dependent on how fast you are panning with the bird and what the bird is doing, which is part of the fun.  Went back the following weekend to crank it down even further to 1/10 sec.

Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II with 1.4X III teleconverter, handheld out my car window

Shutter priority, 1/15 sec @ F5.6, ISO 3200, evaluative metering, +2 exposure compensation

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Shutter priority, 1/20 sec @ F11, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1 1/3 exposure compensation

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Shutter priority, 1/20 sec @ F8, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +1 1/3 exposure compensation

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Whooping Crane

Spent this past weekend in Rockport, TX trying to find Whooping Crane at Aransas NWR via a boat with Kevin Sims.  Had a great time as always.  Thanks again Scott for the invite.

Saturday with very foggy and had to start late and tried to wait out the fog.  No luck with that strategy, so Kevin worked the shoreline.  We found three whooping cranes that were looking for crabs in a small pond close to the shoreline.  We got very luck as they worked their way towards us and ended up walking out of the pond and got very close.  Ended up having to taking off my 1.4X teleconverter as I was only getting head shots.  A great problem to have when shooting whooping cranes.

Got this stare down from the juvenile crane.  They stuck around for about 1/2 hour and then walked away.  Was a great experience.

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

1/500 sec @ F9, ISO 1600, spot metering, +2/3 exposure compensation

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