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