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.
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
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
Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Hope that you have a great day and get plenty of food to eat.
Had a great couple of days taking shorebird photos this week at Bolivar Flats on the Texas gulf coast. Went with Lisa and Catherine on Sunday and by myself on Monday with sunshine and low winds.
On Sunday, we found a good spot to lay down with our ground pods and a huge flock of avocets made their way in our direction. Was able to turn to my left to get some back-lit shots, which if always my goal with bird photography.
1/2500 sec @ F8, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +2/3 exposure compensation
We moved locations and the avocets were walking right in front of us. They were so close that I couldn’t get some of them in the frame. A very good problem to have. This is one of the main advantages of using a ground pod as the birds don’t recognize you as a person when you are laying down. They will walk right up to you.
1/2500 sec @ F10, ISO 800, evaluative metering, no exposure compensation
Also got this shot that I really like of a dowitcher as he fed in front of us. It pays to watch all of the birds as the small ones can provide some great photo op’s.
1/1600 sec @ F6.3, ISO 800, evaluative metering, + 1 1/3 exposure compensation
A highlight on this trip was this lone black-necked stilt that was walking amongst the hundred of avocets. It was a challenge to get him isolated from the rest of the birds but was able to get a few shots. Love their long legs, tux looking feathers and red eyes.
1/2000 sec @ F10, ISO 800, evaluative metering, no exposure compensation
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
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
You lookin at me? Better not be. My boys behind me will come after you.
Made another trip to Bolivar Flats over the Memorial Day weekend while guiding three clients for two days. They were at the end of a 3 week trip across south Texas with the Galveston area their last stop. Thanks again to Kent, Bill and Ian for allowing me to show you around this part of Texas. Had a great time and got to see lots of birds.
Made two stops to Bolivar Flats and found some avocets, reddish egrets and lots of snowy egrets. Had several opportunities for some interaction shots which are always fun. One was a little weird with an avocet trying to mate with an inanimate object. More on that later.
While focusing on a avocet, saw two snowy egrets walking behind him. Switched my attention to the background and visualized this shot coming as they crossed behind him. The avocet cooperated by staring at me while getting some scratching action in. Made for a cool shot.
Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II with 1.4x III teleconverter mounted on a Skimmer ground pod with Wimberley II gimbal head
1/1250 sec @ F10, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation
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
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
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
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
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
…that they got wet and dirty. Mission accomplished.
Aperture priority, 1/1250 sec @ F9, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, 700mm
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
Bathing birds can provide for some good photo op’s. With a high shutter speed, froze the action when he came up out of the water. Captured the water going over his head and body. Always a good time seeing these birds up close.
Taken with Canon 7D and Canon 500mm F4 IS II with 1.4X teleconverter mounted on Skimmer ground pod
manual exposure, 1/1600 sec @ F10, ISO 400, spot metering, 700mm
Time for an Avocet flight shot. It’s almost always a group shot with these birds as they travel in flocks.
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 1600, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation
Bolivar Flats along the Gulf of Mexico in SE Texas continues to amaze me. Made my second trip over the long holiday weekend yesterday and this one was special. My typical goals at Bolivar include trying to find and photograph Avocets and Reddish Egrets. All other birds are icing on the cake. It was a target rich environment and had the opportunity to have my cake with lots of icing on top.
In my FeatherFest workshops, I stress to the participants to keep your head on a swivel and look behind you as the best shot may be there. Took my own advice and it paid off big time on this outing.
All photos were 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. Very little cropping on most of these photos.
Got up at 3:30 a.m. and made it to Bolivar before the sun came up. Hiked along the beach to check out where the birds were located and saw this Great Blue Heron flying by. Picked up my rig, including the ground pod, and got a series of blurred flight shots. Got a nice blurred wing spread when he landed.
1/20 sec @ F16, ISO 1600, +2/3 exposure compensation, evaluative metering, handheld
Worked my way down the beach and saw a group of White Pelicans, Gulls and Avocets in the distance. Didn’t see a practical way to get close to them so headed to one of my favorite spots and settled on a small sandbar just off shore within reach of a Reddish Egret. Got a few shots of him dancing around when the tide came in and the sand bar went under water. Decided to stay put and laid in the water waiting for some more bird action. Patience paid off as I heard a group of three American Oystercatchers coming in for a landing near by. Got off my first shot as this one was landing and he gave me a very nice wing spread. They only hung around for a couple of minutes and took off.
1/640 sec @ F7.1, ISO 4000, +1 1/3 exposure compensation, evaluative metering
Looked behind me and saw a Reddish Egret dancing in the distance so headed back in that direction. Saw what I thought was a Snowy Egret and decided to lay down and get a few silhouette shots. Discovered that he was actually a White Morph Reddish Egret, which ended up providing some great shots over the next hour.
1/4000 sec @ F9, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation
Followed this White Morph back to near my original location when a Reddish Egret flew in and scared him off. After the Reddish Egret didn’t do anything but stand there, turned around to see that the White Morph had landed back in the area where I first spotted him. Moved my position again and ended up working his way back towards me. Got some of my best White Morph shots as he danced around. I’ll post some more shots of him later.
1/640 sec @ F11, ISO 800, +1 exposure compensation, evaluative metering
After the White Morph walked passed me, heard a familiar bird and looked behind me to see a single Avocet starting to feed along side a Yellow Legs and a Willet. The challenge at this point was to rotate around in the wet sand without spooking him. The Avocet kept moving back and forth and got close enough for some head shots. This one is uncropped.
1/400 sec @ F16, ISO 800, evaluative metering
A very good day indeed.
Took Friday off of work to properly break in my new camera at Bolivar Flats with a little sand and salt water. It was low tide at sunrise but most of the sandbars were covered in seaweed. Just as well since I forgot to take my rubber boots with me. The outing started out slow with some Willet shots at a distance but ended up great with getting head shots of Avocets and a Reddish Egret.
Relocated my position a couple of times and ended up with two options. Off to my left was a group of Brown Pelicans/Black Skimmers and off to my right was a Reddish Egret with a few Avocets near by. Not likely to get close to the Pelican’s without spooking them so I headed towards the Reddish Egret. Couldn’t get real close without my boots so ended up picking a spot upstream of the Egret and laid down with my ground pod hoping that the birds would come to me. I love it when a plan comes together. The Reddish Egret ended up going right by me and two of the Avocets walked right towards me. One ended up being too close to get a full body shot so I focused on the top half of this body. Minor cropping to reposition him in the frame gave me this shot.
Losing the crop factor from my 7D won’t be a big deal when the birds cooperate like this. Only minor adjustments in Photoshop with saturation/contrast for this photo. No sharpening was required in Photoshop. Something tells me that I’m going to like my 1DX/500mm combo.
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 @ F11, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation
My day job and non-cooperative weather has kept me away from photography lately so it’s time to dig into the archives. Found this Avocet that was coming into his breeding plumage at Bryan Beach, TX last summer.
Taken with Canon 7D and Canon 500mm F4 IS II lens mounted on Skimmer ground pod with Wimberley II head
1/500 sec @ F4, ISO 500, evaluative metering