Drove down to the Rockport, TX area at the end of April to participate in a workshop with Hector Astorga. We spent two mornings visiting the Aransas NWR rookery by boat. We experienced very high winds and high surf but boat captain Kevin Sims did an excellent job as always. It was quite the roller coaster ride getting to the rookery with three foot waves bouncing the small flat-bottomed boat around in the dark before sunrise.
Once we arrived at the rookery, the waves reduced but the anchor wasn’t successful at keeping the boat still so Kevin put on his waders, jumped into the water and held onto the boat to keep it from moving around. He would then push the boat around manually when we needed to switch positions around the island. He definitely went above and beyond the call of duty on this trip
The rookery was filled with great blue herons and spoonbills, along with a few snowy egrets, reddish egrets, black crowned night herons, oystercatchers and terns. Most of the chicks were fairly large but were still actively being fed by their parents.
Caught this spoonbill coming in for a landing with his wings outstretched while positioned at the upper deck of the boat. With the wind/waves, it was challenging to keep the camera steady on my tripod. Took way too many photos but liked how this one turned out. Very minimal cropping on the right side. Had to crank up the ISO to 3200 to get a decent shutter speed.
Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II mounted on tripod with Wimberley II gimbal head
Aperture priority, 1/1000 sec @ F5.6, ISO 3200, evaluative metering, 500mm
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
Made another trip to Santa Clara Ranch in south Texas over the weekend. Had a great time, as always. Thanks Hector. Finally got to experience the raptor blind and it was awesome. With a somewhat slow start, the action picked up with Scott and I maxing out with 10 raptors at the same time with a couple of Harris Hawks and the rest being Caracara.
Started out using my 100-400 lens and later switched to the 500. Got several decent flight shots and wing spread photos when they came in to land. This juvenile Harris Hawk put on a good show.
I’d go back just for the raptors. Hope to make another trip next year.
Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 100-400mm II lens, mounted on tripod with Wimberley II gimbal head
Aperture priority, 1/5000 sec @ F5.6, ISO 3200, evaluative metering, 400mm
Spent two full days last weekend taking photos at the Wings Over Houston airshow. It was great weather, which brought out record crowds as they sold out the show on Sunday. Got to hang out with Christine and her father on Saturday, who is a former A4 pilot. The Blue Angels were awesome as always. With bright blue sky’s, blue jets and harsh sunlight, decided to try B&W for something different, which helped to bring out the details in the smoke trails with the higher contrast. Took lots of photos so more to come.
Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 100-400 lens, handheld
1/1250sec @ F10, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation
1/1000 sec @ F8, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation
Tales from the whales…the Monterey Bay, CA whale watching trip was awesome. The day started early with leaving the hotel in Morro Bay at 5:00 a.m. so that we could get to Monterey Bay in time to catch the boat. There were +/- 30 to 40 people on the boat along with a couple of dogs (?). More to come on the canines. It was a cloudy/foggy/hazy day which wasn’t a bad thing as the sun would have been pretty harsh for photography at mid day.
The best advice from our photographer guide, Bill, was that I shouldn’t take my 500mm lens as the whales would be too close. To be honest, I didn’t believe him but luckily took his advice and used my trusty 100-400mm lens. We sat at the back of the boat and headed out to sea towards the continental shelf where the whales like to feed. Killer whales had been seen in the area recently so we were hoping for the best but I wasn’t convinced that we would see anything. My previous whale watching experience was limited to on-shore spotting from Palos Verdes, CA which was always a bust.
On the upper deck of the boat where the captain was, they had a naturalist that would tell us where the action was happening and give some detailed information about the wildlife that we would see. They also had a dog up on the upper deck, which was a little strange in my opinion. During the trip off shore, the naturalist didn’t have much to talk about except a few birds flying around. The boat was bouncing around too much to try to get a decent shot so I stayed put in a seated position. Finally she spotted a whale off of the right side of the boat so everyone moved in that direction. I could see a whale with his head sticking straight up out of the water but wasn’t able to get in position quick enough and got a blurry shot, bummer. At least we had spotted one I thought. My hopes started to rise. It was a Humpback whale and we ended up spotting a few of them with 2 getting very close to the boat.
It was like roller derby when they would call out a whale sighting at different positions and everyone was quickly moving from side to side on the boat. It would have been fun to stand at the back of the boat with a wide angle lens and take pictures of all of the people trying to run back and forth on a bobbing boat. My 100-400 lens was small enough that it was fairly easy to manuever around with it. I would lean up against the railing with my body to try to stabilize myself while shooting. Had to grab the railing a few times as the boat was rocking pretty good. Talking my long lens would have been a major mistake. Thanks again Bill for the advice. A very smart man he is.
The whale watching boats communicate with each other to share whale locations and two other boats joined our hunt for the mighty humpback’s. At one point, the 3 boats were maybe 50 yds apart and we had 2 whales leisurely feeding in between us. It was an awesome experience. You could tell by their body position when their tails would be coming out of the water. Had to zoom out a few times as they were too close at 400m. My bird photography experience came in handy as and I ended up being fairly fast on the trigger to get action shots when they surfaced. Trying to get water spout shots was a challenge as by the time that you got your camera up to your eye, the action was over. Ended up using my camera like a big point and shoot and just would quickly point the camera in the direction of the spout, focus and shoot. Ended up getting a few decent shots using this highly scientific method.
Now the fun part of the trip. Once we slowed to a crawl while taking pictures of the whales, the boat was rocking back and forth big time and much more noticeable than when we were moving at higher speeds. Well, the motion of the ocean was not a good thing for some people in this case. We had several people “ralfing” off the sides of the boat. One guy got really good distance with some good ol’ fashion projectile vomiting but I wasn’t able to get a shot of it. Would have been a classic. I turned to the guy standing next to me and claimed that the sick guy was “chumming” for whales. Sorry, I just couldn’t resist. Luckily, none in our group got sick.
Now for the stupid part of the trip. One, highly intelligent young couple, brought their very large dog on the boat. Now that was a very bright idea. I ended up having a love/hate relationship with that dog. On the way off shore, the dog ended up leaning up against my leg while bracing himself to keep from falling over. I didn’t complain too much as he helped keep my one leg warm. The intelligence factor came into effect when the dog ended up dropping loads out of both ends before the trip was done. Thanks people.
Needless to say, I had a great time on this whale watching trip. Here are some of my whale tail shots. I’ll post some more shots later.
Taken with Canon 7D and Canon 100-400 lens, handheld
Here are the two Humpback Whales that came close to the boat
1/1600 sec @ F5.6, ISO 400, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, 400mm
This is a full frame shot without any cropping. Had to zoom out to get the tail in the frame.
1/800 sec @ F5.6, ISO 250, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, 285mm
A different angle showing the jagged edge of the tail, barnacles on the tail and a bird flying underneath it.
1/1000 sec @ F5.6, ISO 250, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, 400mm
This is my favorite photo from the trip.
1/1250 sec @ F5.6, ISO 400, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, 400mm
I always get excited from a photography perspective when it’s foggy out in the morning. My favorite go-to place for fog shots is Brazos Bend State Park in Texas. It was a particularly fogging morning on this outing. The spillway bridge was almost completely fogged in making for a cool photo-op. Broke out the 100-400 lens for hand carrying it around the park.
Taken with Canon 7D and Canon 100-400 lens, hand-held
1/640 sec @ F11, ISO 400, evaluative metering