…morning light is magic…

Posts tagged “Avocets

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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Avocet Silhouette

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

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High Hopes Dashed…Activated Plan B

After a tiring work week, it was a challenge to drag my old carcass out of bed early on Saturday.  However, calm winds in Galveston coaxed me out of bed at 4:00 a.m. and I headed to the gulf coast.  The last two trips have been less than stellar with the tide being too low, which spreads out the birds with Avocets nowhere to be found.  Had high hopes on the way to Galveston with seeing the distant water vapor from Texas City plant stacks going straight up with no wind.  The clouds were a gorgeous pre-dawn red color as the ferry approached Bolivar.  All promising signs.

Geared up in my waders and headed out across the flats as the sun started to break over the gulf.  That sight in itself made the trip worthwhile.  Found a flock of Avocets nearby.  Walked slowly towards them and laid down in order to not spook them.  Started belly crawling to get closer when some birds to my left took off.  Looked behind me and saw two wade fisherman walking along the shoreline, which is not a good sign for getting good bird photos.  As anticipated, they ignored what I was doing and walked out into the water and headed straight towards the Avocets, per the photo below.  Needless to say, my Avocet high hopes for the day were dashed.

With my prime targets flying away, had to come up with a plan B.  After looking around at my options, decided to move closer to the water line and wait it out, hoping that the birds would return.  No Avocets but the Willets and a Yellowlegs cooperated for me.  Frustration turned into some decent shots and incentive to go back again another day.  A slow morning at Bolivar is 100 times better than sitting at home.

On the way back to the car, got a chance to talk to a couple of other bird photographers, which is always a good time.

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

My original target – flock of American Avocets

Aperture priority, 1/1250 sec @ F5.6, ISO 800, evaluative metering, + 1/3 exposure compensation

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My two new best friends…

Aperture priority, 1/1600 sec @ F5.6, ISO 800, evaluative metering, + 1/3 exposure compensation

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Willets with some nice crossed beak action

Aperture priority, 1/1000 sec @ F5.6, ISO 800, evaluative metering, + 2/3 exposure compensation

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Yellowlegs checking me out with some direct eye contact

Aperture priority, 1/1000 sec @ F5.6, ISO 800, evaluative metering, + 1 exposure compensation

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End of 2015 = Peregrine Falcon + Avocets

2015 ended on a high note with my last trip this year to Bolivar Flats in Texas.  The sun hasn’t been out much lately in this part of Texas so it was time to shoot in cloudy conditions.  It was great weather to be lying on the wet sandbars at 44 deg F (with waders on of course).  The Avocets were out in mass with several hundred of them hanging out off shore near sandbars.  Found a decent location and ended up crawling closer to a flock of Avocets.  Several more came in to land, which provided some action shots.

Just before getting up to leave, all of the birds took off, which usually means that a raptor is in the area.  Turned to my right and saw that a Peregrine Falcon had landed on a sandbar.  I’ve never seen one land that far from the shoreline before.  Didn’t think that he was going to stick around long so I stayed in place focusing on him while anticipating some lift-off and flight shots.  He obliged soon after and it was a great way to end this outing.

Also it was nice to meet Hal on this trip, a follower of this blog.

Have a great new year everyone!!

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, 1/1600 sec @ F5.6, ISO 1600 + 1 1/3 exposure compensation, 700mm

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Aperture priority, 1/800 sec @ F5.6, ISO 2500, + 1 exposure compensation, 700mm

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Aperture priority, 1/2000 sec @ F5.6, ISO 1600 + 1 1/3 exposure compensation, 700mm

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Avocets with New 7D II

Made a trip back to Bolivar Flats last weekend working as a guide, which gave me a chance to try out my new Canon 7D mark II camera.

From a guide perspective, it turned out to be a good trip with Newton.  It was very low tide and we found a large flock of Avocets not too far off shore before sunrise.  Got some decent shots and moved on to several other locations shooting Willets, Long Billed Curlews, Marbled Godwits, a Yellowlegs and several smaller shorebirds.  Ended up working our way around the bend and found a Reddish Egret and then a flock of Avocets worked their way towards us, as I predicted.  What appeared to be a lucky guess was actually an accurate prediction based on several similar encounters at that location.  Ended up being a very good morning.

From a testing out the new camera perspective, it was also a good outing.  I’m a little too spoiled with my 1DX but the new 7D II worked well.  It’s obviously not as good with high ISO as the 1DX but it’s much improved over my old 7D.   Looks like it will be a good back-up camera.  It’s also very light compared to the 1DX.

Ended up getting the new camera as I recently experience problems with my 1DX.  Made a trip during the week of Thankgiving and found that my 1DX wouldn’t focus on my 500mm lens.   Experienced issues with the contacts as the mounts were bent up from a previous crash/burn from my kitchen table.  Got my lens repaired from a local repair shop in Houston but have to send my camera to Canon as they wouldn’t sell him (or me) a replacement ring mount.  Took my old 7D to the Santa Clara ranch a few weeks ago as a back-up but would have had major issues with the low light levels.  That convinced me that that I needed a newer back-up camera and getting $500 off during black Friday week also helped my cause.

These photos were taken with Canon 7D II with Canon 500mm F4 IS II mounted on Skimmer ground pod with Wimberley II gimbal head.

Aperture priority, 1/1250 sec @ F5, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, 500mm

This photo was a little dull due to being taken before sunrise so I increased the exposure in Photoshop to make it more of a “high key” image which worked better.

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Aperture priority, 1/3200 sec @ F5, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, 500mm

Taken after the sun came up

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Incoming Avocets

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

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Shifting Positions

Getting close to a flock of feeding Avocets is always exciting but the photo op’s can be limited if there isn’t any action besides the feeding.  You can only take so many photos of birds with their heads in the water.  They feed by moving their long curved beaks back and forth to stir up the bugs and crustaceans.  The good thing about a flock of feeding Avocets is that there is a constant shifting of positions as the birds move for better access to the food.  Focused on these birds as they were landing, just after sunrise.

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

1/640 sec @ F8, ISO 4000, evaluative metering, +1 1/3 exposure compensation

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Leggy Reflection

This group of Avocets were showing off their legs and reflections at Bolivar Flats.

Taken with Canon 7D and Canon 500mm F4 IS II with 1.4x III teleconverter mounted on Skimmer ground pod with Wimberley II head

1/1000 sec @ F9, ISO 400, evaluative metering, -2/3 exposure compensation, 700mm

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Published in Texas Highways Magazine

Finally got published in Texas Highways magazine (travel magazine) with help from Kathy Adams Clark, Houston based nature photographer/owner of KAC Productions.  I’ve joined KAC Productions as a contributing nature photographer with Kathy marketing some of my photos.  Didn’t take long to get published so I’m looking forward to a successful working relationship with KAC.  Since I don’t have the time to do much self marketing, this opportunity is ideal for my situation.

Here is my photo that’s in the April issue.  American Avocets from Bolivar Flats, full framed photo without cropping.

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Strutting Avocets

These Avocets were strutting their stuff along the gulf coast.  Used negative exposure compensation to keep the white highlights from blowing out after checking for “blinkies”, i.e. flashing highlights.

Taken with Canon 7D and Canon 500mm F4 IS II with 1.4x III teleconverter mounted on Skimmer ground pod with Wimberley II gimbal head

1/640 sec @ F11, ISO 400, evaluative metering, -1/3 exposure compensation

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1/640 sec @ F11, ISO 400, evaluative metering, -1/3 exposure compensation

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Avocets in Flight Silhouette

The Gulf of Mexico was very calm last Sat. at Bolivar Flats.  It’s a rare occurence that I only see once or twice per year.  Makes for some great pre-dawn photo op’s of birds in flight with the nice orange glow before the sun comes up.  Took this hand-held shot while standing about knee-deep in the Gulf while waiting for the birds to fly by.  The slow shutter speed helped to blur their wings.

Taken with Canon 7D and Canon 500mm F4 IS II leans with 1.4X III teleconverter, hand-held

1/13 sec @ F5.6, ISO 500, +2/3 exposure compensation, 700mm

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Avocets in Flight at Sunrise

It can be challenging to get flight shots while laying down with a ground pod.  It’s difficult to keep panning with the birds for any distance since your range of motion is limited in that position.  This group of Avocets from Bolivar were flying near a sand bar with the Gulf of Mexico in the background.  Close to a full frame shot.

Taken with Canon 7D and Canon 500mm F4 IS II lens and 1.4x III teleconverter mounted on Skimmer ground pod with Wimberley II gimbal head

1/800 sec @ F5.6, ISO 500,  evaluative metering, +2/3 exposure compensation

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Landing Difficulty

Sometimes life can make it hard to find a good spot to land.  Same is true in the animal kingdom.

Taken with Canon 7D and Canon 500mm F4 IS II lens with 1.4x III teleconverter mounted on Skimmer ground pod and Wimberley II gimbal head

1/640 sec @ F 5.6, ISO 400, spot metering, 700mm

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Avocet Close Ups

Here’s what happens when Avocets get too close.  These are full frame shots from Bolivar Flats.  Good times were had by all…me and a few hundred of my bird friends.

Taken with Canon 7D and Canon 500mm F4 IS II with 1.4x III mounted on Skimmer ground pod with Wimberley II gimbal head

1/640 @ F10, evaluative metering, ISO 250, 700mm

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1/800 @ F10, evaluative metering, -1/3 exposure compensation, ISO 250, 700mm

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Three in a Row

Was doing a little wading in the Gulf of Mexico to get this shot at Bolivar, TX.  These Avocets flew between me and the shoreline and I was able to capture them in flight as they were lined up.  Hand held shot while carrying the ground pod.

Taken with Canon 7D and 100-400 lens

1/1250 sec @ F5.6, partial metering, + 2/3 exposure compensation, ISO 400


2012 Start from Bolivar

Made my first trip to Bolivar in 2012 last weekend and the new year is looking good so far.

Got there before the sun came up and it was partly cloudy with very little wind and very calm water.  I really wanted to wade out into the Gulf with the calm water but heard something that would be blocking my way.  Got out of the car and immediately could tell that there were lots of Avocets near by as I could hear them but couldn’t seen them.  Once it started to lighted up, found several hundred of them right in front of me along a sand bar just beyond the barricade posts.  Walked along the posts to try to hide my approach and then slowly walked to the shore line and laid down.  That is where I got the first shot of the Great Blue Heron in silhouette.  Didn’t stay in that location very long as all I was going to get was a line of Avocets.  My goal was to somehow work my way around them to get some non-silhouette shots.

Moved to the west and then slowly walked out into the water to the first sandbar to get closer to them and get a better angle.  Stayed there for a while and then got up and moved further out to the next sandbar between two groups of Avocets while trying not to spook them.  Made it and was able to lay down again and wait for them to come to me, which they eventually did.  Patience pays in bird photography.  Got some of the last almost full frame shots from that position.  Haven’t got my dream Avocet shot yet but the year has just started…

All taken with Canon 7D and 100-400 lens with Skimmer ground pod


Thanksgiving Avocets

Started celebrating Thanksgiving early this year by heading to Bolivar about 4:45 a.m. before the rest of the family rolled out of bed.  The stars were almost completely aligned for this trip except for the sun, which didn’t come out.  Low tide and a flock of cooperative Avocets made for a great morning.  My goal was to head to my favorite spot for some golden light photos but with no sun and a flock of Avocets near by, a change of plans was in order.  The Avocets were about 50 yds off shore feeding next to a sandbar which was still under water by a few inches.  Waded out in their direction and got down on my knees to take some initial test shots.  Didn’t like what I was getting with being too high and the fact that the birds wouldn’t get close to me unless I was in the prone position.  Debated on what to do next as the water was still covering the sand bar.  Decided to get wet and laid down in the water in their path as they made their way towards me.  My ground pod, which looks like a heavy-duty frisbee, immediately filled up with salt water but the level stayed below my ballhead, except when a few rogue waves came in.

The Avocets would feed and then walk up on the sand bar and then circle back into the water for more feeding.  With the lack of sun, I had to crank up the ISO to 1600 for some shots and still had fairly slow shutter speeds so these came out a little soft.  Having morning sun would have made all of the difference in the world but you have to take what you can get.

Didn’t try using fill flash initially just in case they got spooked by it.  When I did try it, the flash wouldn’t work, of course.  I’ve been known to not charge or leave the batteries at home but not this time.  Had to take the flash off and put it back on the camera to get it to function, which was a little tricky while laying in water and trying not to let the birds see me.  They eventually got very close to me and I had to zoom out to keep them in the frame.  Most of these shots are close to full frame with only being cropped for pano’s.

When I stood up, it took a few minutes for my coat to drain from the sleeves before I could pick up my camera to keep it from getting covered in salt water.   A little messy but well worth the effort and clean-up.

Taken with Canon 7D and 100-400 lens mounted on Skimmer ground pod.

1/160 sec @ F5.6, ISO 1600, spot metering, +1 exposure compensation, no flash

1/160 sec @ F5.6, ISO 1600, spot metering, +1 exposure compensation, no flash

1/200 sec @ F5.6, ISO 1600, spot metering, +1 exposure compensation, no flash

1/200 sec @ F5.6, ISO 1600, spot metering, +1 exposure compensation, no flash

1/200 sec @ F5.6, ISO 1600, spot metering, +1 exposure compensation, no flash

1/250 sec @ F5.6, ISO 1600, spot metering, +1 exposure compensation, no flash

1/200 sec @ F5.6, ISO 500, spot metering, no flash

1/500 sec @ F5.6, ISO 1600, spot metering, no flash

1/320 sec @ F5.6, ISO 400, spot metering, +2/3 exposure compensation, no flash


Avocets Landing in Golden Light

Here is a group of Avocets coming in for a landing showing some golden light on their wings.  Taken shortly after sunrise at Bolivar Flats.  I was crawling towards a group of Avocets at the end of a sandbar when several small groups would fly in and land near the other group.  I could see the golden light reflecting of their wings and took bursts of shots when they would bank just before landing.

Taken with Canon 7D and 100-400 lens on skimmer ground pod

1/400 sec @ F5.6, ISO 500, spot metering + 2/3 exposure compensation