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Posts tagged “Galveston FeatherFest

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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Ground Level Bird Photography Field Trip #1 – Galveston FeatherFest 2017

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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…that they got wet and dirty.  Mission accomplished.

Aperture priority, 1/1250 sec @ F9, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, 700mm

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Galveston FeatherFest 2016

FeatherFest in Galveston, TX was held this past week and it was a great success.  This was my fourth year being a photography event leader with four classroom workshops and three field trips this year.  Had lots of fun and got to meet some great people with several repeat photographers from previous years.  Thanks to everyone that participated.  Special thanks to Scott, Julie Ann, Barbara, the liaisons and all of the volunteers. They made the leaders days go very smooth.

The weather didn’t fully cooperate but the birds sure did.  I was amazed at how well the field trips went with the cloudy and sometimes extremely windy weather.  I’m hoping that everyone on the field trips had a good time and got some great photos.  Can’t wait to do it again next year but my ‘ol body needs a little rest first.

Shore Bird field trip on Friday

On Friday, we had a great time with photographing shore birds on Galveston Island.  Since it was cloudy when we got to the jetty on East Beach at sunrise, I encouraged the group to take blurred photos.  The usual flock of black skimmers launched for us several times, providing lots of practice for birds in flight and blurred photos, some of which are shown below.

We stopped at the east end of the island to see a few boring Avocets, some other shore birds and a cooperative Reddish Egret, which is always a good time.

We then headed to 19th St. pier to check out the Pelicans near the fishing boats.  There were lots of photo op’s of the pelicans and a lone Black Crowned Night Heron.  The colors of the Brown Pelicans were amazing but I ended up converting the photo below to B&W based on the texture of their perch and their wings.

Taken with Canon 1DX with Canon 100-400 II, handheld

Black Skimmers:  Shutter priority, 1/10 sec @ F 16, ISO 400, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation

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Black Skimmers:  Shutter priority, 1/10 sec @ F 16, ISO 400, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation

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Willet:  Aperture priority, 1/500 sec @ F5.6, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, + 1 2/3 exposure

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Brown Pelicans:  Aperture priority, 1/1000 sec @ F9, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +2/3 exposure compensation.  Converted to B&W using NIK Silver Effects Pro (which is now free!!)

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Ground Level Photography field trip on Saturday

On Saturday, it was off to Bolivar Flats for some good old fashion down and dirty bird photography using ground pods.  Even though it was supposed to be low tide, the high winds from the south drove the surf to near the shore line.  However, there was a flock of Avocets right next to the parking area and we enjoyed some great photo op’s.  After about an hour, we got up (thankfully from my body’s perspective) and went down the shoreline to another group of Avocets and Royal Terns.  We laid down but there was a ridge of seaweed blocking the view of the birds.  We were cutting off the legs of the birds in our photos.  With no other good option, we practiced doing some belly crawling to try to get on a higher section of sand adjacent to the water, with limited success.

The shooting wasn’t ideal so we headed back to our original location as there were no other birds in sight down the shoreline.  Unfortunately, the Avocets spooked and flew away before we could get into position.  I instructed the group to lay down and wait for them to come back as it was a good location, considering the conditions.  The Avocets didn’t come back but a Reddish Egret ended up landed right in front of us.  It was very sweet.  He put on a very good show for us, although he was too close for me at times at 700mm, which is a good problem to have.

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

American Avocet:  1/640 sec @ F9, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +2/3 exposure compensation

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Reddish Egret:  Aperture priority, 1/1000 sec @ F7.1, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, + 1 2/3 exposure compensation

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Reddish Egret:  Aperture priority, 1/500 sec @ F11, ISO 2500, evaluative metering, + 1 2/3 exposure compensation; full frame shot

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Reddish Egret:  Aperture priority, 1/640 sec @ F11, ISO 2500, evaluative metering, + 1 2/3 exposure compensation

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Ground Level Photography field trip on Sunday

It was obvious going into the weekend that Sunday was going to be challenging with the weather forecast of storms all day.  Got up at 3:30 a.m. to check the radar with no rain in the Galveston area, which was very good news.  However, it was raining off and on during on my drive to Galveston.  Made the 6:00 a.m. ferry and met the group on the Bolivar side.  I was hoping for the best based on Saturday’s outing but it was very windy (20 to 30 mph), which is usually a kiss of death at Bolivar Flats for birds being along the shoreline.

The first challenge hit when we turned onto the road to the beach and found that it was flooded.  Put my boots on and walked the road with Kevin and confirmed that there was only a few inches of water on the road.  We found the second challenge when we got to the beach and found that the beach was flooded and we couldn’t make it to the “flats”.  What could have been a major bust turned out to be a great outing with finding a couple of Oystercatchers, several Avocets and a Reddish Egret along the shoreline near the entrance to the beach.

We geared up and got down and dirty with our ground pods.  Always leery of getting too close and spooking the birds, I kept the group back a ways to start.  We then ended up belly crawling closer pushing our ground pods along in the sand.  I could tell that Kevin was really getting into it as he ended up in the water ahead of the rest of the group.  We eventually caught up with him and enjoyed some good shooting.

Then the third challenge hit when someone pulled up in a car with two kids and walked very close to the Reddish Egret to collect shells along the beach.  Some people have no clue.  The Terns scattered but luckily, the egret didn’t fly away.  I’ve learned over the years to not get too angry at clueless people but to take advantage of the situation.  Seeing that the Egret was more interesting in feeding than people, I got the group up and we shifted to be closer/more in line with where the egret was feeding.  It was a very good move as we were able to get very close to him and he ended up walking right by us at one point.

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

American Avocets:  1/640 sec @ F9, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation

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Reddish Egret:  Aperture priority, 1/1000 sec @ F11, ISO 2500, evaluative metering, + 1 1/3 exposure compensation

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Reddish Egret:  Aperture priority, 1/800 sec @ F11, ISO 2500, evaluative metering, + 1 1/3 exposure compensation.  Full frame shot with being cropped to vertical format.

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FeatherFest “Birds Eye View” Field Trip to Bolivar Flats

Took a group of willing photographers from Galveston’s FeatherFest to Bolivar Flats on Friday morning for some down and dirty action while taking photos of shorebirds on my “Birds Eye View” field trip.  Several members of the group had never been to Bolivar before so it was going to be a treat if the weather and birds cooperated.  The weather forecast was bleak up until the morning of the shoot.  Instead of forecasted thunderstorms, we were met with clouds, waves, light winds, temps in the low 70’s (deg F) and very high humidity.  Along with lots of gnats.  It didn’t look very promising when we turned onto the beach as there were waves and no sandbars or birds in sight until we got to the parking area.   Spotted some birds further down the shoreline so my hopes were raised.

We started out at the first small sandbar sticking out from the shoreline to practice the technique of getting down low and eye level with the birds.  There were several ground pods being used in the group along with a few tripods.  There were a few Willets, Terns and Sanderlings in that area but nothing overly exciting.  Spent a few minutes there and moved on down the beach to try to get close to a group of Black Skimmers.

Aperture priority, 1/400 sec @ F 5.6, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation

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There were lots of  Skimmers hanging out at our next stop.  We got as close as I felt that we could without spooking them and ended up with some good photo op’s of the Skimmers taking off and landing back at the same location.

Aperture priority, 1/3200 sec @ F 5.6, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation

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Further down the beach, I spotted a Reddish Egret standing near the shoreline.  We made him our next objective and got into position, hoping for some fishing action.  He then just basically stood there on one foot looking around and occasionally squawking.  After a while, I mentioned to the group that we could stay and wait for him to move or go back to the Skimmers.  He then quickly took off and headed back up the beach past the Skimmers.  My initial reaction was that he took off because I stated talking.  However, he ended up flying off to confront a White Morph Reddish Egret.  Reddish Egrets are very territorial and don’t like company when feeding.

Aperture priority, 1/500 sec @ F 9, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +2 exposure compensation

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We got up and heading back up the beach towards the Reddish Egrets.  The White Morph was dancing around fishing so I focused on getting close to him.  We ended up with some great photo op’s as he was very close to shore and catching lots of fish.  Some of the group stayed with the other Reddish Egret and had a similar experience.

Aperture priority, 1/1250 sec @ F 11, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation

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It turned out to be a great morning at Bolivar despite the cloudy weather.  The group had a good time and hope that they got some great photos.  Didn’t get them quite wet or dirty enough but they got a good taste of the possibilities at Bolivar Flats.  Thanks to everyone who signed up for this trip and to Chris for helping me out.  I’m looking forward to next year already.

Also, special thanks to Julie Anne Brown and her team of volunteers for all of their hard work to pull off another very successful FeatherFest.  They do all of the hard work and I get to take people to play in the sand.

Aperture priority, 1/1000 sec @ F 11, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation

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Galveston’s FeatherFest this Week

Galveston’s FeatherFest annual birding event will be taking place this week.  This will be my 4th year leading some of the field trips and workshops.  Had a great time last year and am looking forward to it again this year.

They have over 100 activities this year and there is still room in some of the photography events, especially on Thursday, so I encourage you to check it out.

http://www.galvestonfeatherfest.com/


Galveston’s FeatherFest “Photographing Shorebirds” Field Trip

My second field trip that I led during Galveston’s FeatherFest this year was “Photographing Shorebirds at East Beach” on Galveston Island.  East Beach has been closed due to the recent oil spill near the Texas City dike.  Had received special permission to scout of the area the day before the trip to see how close that we could park the bus from the jetty.  Luckily, they fully opened the road and the beach on the day of field trip.  The beach looked great with no evidence of the oil spill.  Congrat’s to everyone that helped with the beach clean-up.  Job well done.

With another full class, we hit the beach near the jetty just before sunrise.  There were a few hundred Black Skimmers resting near the shoreline that made for some good photo op’s.  The sun finally popped over the clouds and give us some good silhouette opportunities.  Some local fisherman provided for some flight shots of the Skimmers at they spooked the birds several times.  I encouraged everyone to try some slow shutter speed shots as the birds were flying around.

The Gulf of Mexico was rough on the west side of the jetty with some heavy waves that would crash along the jetty, which made for some interesting photo op’s as a Willet was feeding along the top of the jetty.

Once the action started to lessen, decided to move on to plan B, which was the east end of the island, north of the jetty.  There were some shorebirds hanging out in some of the tidal pool areas.  Came across some Terns, Willets, Marbled Godwits and Avocets.  Tried to get close to the Avocets but they walked away to another group further towards the ship channel.  Wasn’t sure if we could get close to the main group but we gave it the old college try and it paid off.  We ended up walking down the trail and headed cross country and were able to get very close to the main group of Avocets.  One batch was feeding and the other was snoozing.  Some were in full breeding plumage with the darker feathers around their head.

After spending some time with the Avocets, made our way to plan C, which was where the shrimp boats come to dock behind the strand.  Last year, a shrimp boat came in right as we got there but no such luck this year.  We did get to see some Brown Pelicans and dolphins.

It turned out to be a successful outing and had a great time meeting another group of very nice photographers.  Thanks to everyone who attended.  Here are a few of my photos.

Taken with Canon 7D and Canon 500mm F4 IS II mounted on tripod with Wimberley II gimbal head

Shutter priority, 1/6 sec @ F25, ISO 400, +1 exposure compensation

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Aperture priority, 1/8000 sec @ F4, ISO 400, evaluative metering

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Shutter priority, 1/15 sec @ F32, ISO 200, +1 exposure compensation

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Aperture priority, 1/640 sec @ F11, ISO 400, evaluative metering, +1/3 exposure compensation

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Aperture priority, 1/1250 sec @ F4, ISO 400, evaluative metering

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Aperture priority, 1/800 sec @ F10, ISO 400, evaluative metering

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Galveston’s FeatherFest “Birds Eye View” Field Trip

Had a great time again this year leading workshops and field trips for Galveston’s FeatherFest.  Friday’s field trip was to Bolivar Flats, my home away from home in the world of bird photography, to work on low-level photography “at a bird’s-eye view”.  We had a full class as this trip sold out early.  We left at 6:00 a.m. and got to the flats about 7:00 a.m. and were met with low tide, wind and partly sunny sky’s with lots of clouds mixed in.  Made for some challenging lighting conditions with the sun popping in/out periodically.

We started by taking some silhouette shots of Willets and moved on to some Marbled Godwits and Terns.  Several groups of Brown Pelicans made for some good flight shots.  It was a target rich environment.  There were large flocks of Terns near the jetty that would launch periodically but we couldn’t see any Avocets.  Ended up scouting the area further down the shoreline to try to find some other photo op’s.  Still no Avocets but did spot a couple of American Oystercatchers.  However, they took off before the group could get there.

We did get a nice surprise when a Reddish Egret landed right in front of us and started dancing around while fishing.  He arrived right on time and was worth the price that I had to pay his agent 😉  He caught two fish with the last one being a good size catch.  Another Reddish Egret then showed up and they chased each other around and put on quite a show.  When it was time to leave, a few of the ladies didn’t want to go, which was a good sign that they were having a good time.

Ended up being a great outing with everyone getting an opportunity to see lots of shorebirds.  Had much better luck with the tide/number of birds compared to last year.  The participants got covered in sand/salt water as seen in the group photo.  Thanks to everyone that attended this year and to Phil for helping out.  I’m looking forward to doing it again next year.

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

Aperture priority, 1/1000 sec @ F5.6, ISO 400. evaluative metering, +2/3 exposure compensation, 500mm

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Aperture priority, 1/1000 sec @ F5.6, ISO 400. evaluative metering, +2/3 exposure compensation, 500mm

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Aperture priority, 1/1000 sec @ F5.6, ISO 400. evaluative metering, +2/3 exposure compensation, 500mm

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Aperture priority, 1/800 sec @ F5.6, ISO 400. evaluative metering, +2/3 exposure compensation, 500mm

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Aperture priority, 1/800 sec @ F7.1, ISO 400. evaluative metering, +2/3 exposure compensation, 500mm

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Aperture priority, 1/400 sec @ F11, ISO 400. evaluative metering, +2/3 exposure compensation, 500mm

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