…morning light is magic…

Posts tagged “Great Egret

Blowing in the Wind

Got very excited when planning for my first trip this year to the High Island TX rookery a couple of weeks ago with a weather forecast including high winds. High winds + great egret breeding plumage = some great photo op’s. This photo is close to what I previsualized before getting to the rookery based on past experience.

No real clean shots without branches so had to make the best of a challenging situation. Usually pick out a couple of specific birds and keep my focus on them waiting for some good action. Took a bunch of photos of this lovely lady with several bursts when the wind picked up to get various feather positions.

For white birds, always expose for the highlights,  which helps to darken the rest of the scene.  Instead of bringing up the shadows in Photoshop, decided to keep the exposure as captured in the camera.  Increased color saturation a little and sharpened.  Helped to keep the photo a little dark and moody to relay the sense of it being cold and windy, which it was that morning.

1/2500 sec @ F9, ISO 800, evaluative metering, -2/3 exposure compensation, 500mm from tripod

4873_High Island_02212020-3-1


Made Audubon Top 100

A good day….

My day was made yesterday when receiving an e-mail from the Audubon Director of Photography that confirmed that I made it into the top 100 for the 2019 Audubon photo contest.  Love those e-mails!

Audubon contacted me back in mid-May requesting a raw file to confirm the photo wasn’t manipulated beyond the contest rules.  Hoped that I made the top 100 but you never know.  Had a similar experience last year with a request for my raw file but did not make it to the top 100.

Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II mounted on tripod with Wimberley II gimbal head

1/1600 sec @ F8, ISO 400, evaluative metering, +1/3 exposure compensation

TimTimmis_greategrets_amateur-2


Great Egret in Flight

Headed back to High Island yesterday to get some more photos from the rookery for an upcoming presentation that I’m doing for Houston Audubon on April 7.

https://houstonaudubon.org/programs/adults/flight-in-focus.html

Had the platform all to myself, which was great and worth taking 1/2 day off of work.  Challenging to get flight shots from that location so moved down to the second platform and the flight opportunities were amazing.  Great egrets and spoonbills were flying back and forth from the rookery island to the trees on the south side of the pond.  They would occasionally bank right towards me like this great egret.

1/1600 sec @ F5.6, ISO 800, evaluative metering, aperture priority

Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II mounted on tripod with Wimberley II gimbal head

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Great Egret Mating Dance Silhouette

It’s always fun to watch and photograph great egrets in mating season when they put on a display of their breeding plumage.  Caught this mating dance at High Island’s rookery at sunrise.

Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II lens mounted on tripod with Wimberley II gimbal head.

1/60 sec @ F4, ISO 3200, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, aperture priority

0349_High Island_02242019-2


Back-lit Great Egrets

Finally, some sunshine in SE Texas.  This day was a little to windy for Bolivar Flats and my gut was telling me to head to High Island to see if there was any activity yet.

Got up at 3:15 a.m. and make it there well before sunrise.  One of the challenges at the rookery at sunrise is the mosquitos, which can take swarming to a new level.  In preparation for the skeeters, bought a mosquito net to fit over my had, which worked wonders.  Best $10 ever spent at REI.

https://www.rei.com/product/780999/sea-to-summit-head-net

Got to the last platform in complete darkness so it was difficult to tell if there were very many birds present yet.  Could hear the pig-like grunting from some cormorants, which always show up first.  Once the pre-dawn light started falling over the area, finally could tell that there were enough great egrets to make it a worthwhile trip.  Before the sun came up, several more great egrets came to the rookery and started displaying their breeding plumage.  Didn’t take long for the courtship’s to begin.  Only a few minutes were required for them to arrive, find a match, mate and then take off to find sticks to build a nest.

I always go to the rookery at sunrise to get back-lit photos.  Exposing for the brightest areas of the birds with the sun coming through their feathers can make for some amazing photo opportunities.

This is a photo of a pair of great egrets that I watched after the sun came up.  One would take off to find sticks and then arrive with great fanfare and pass of the stick to their mate for nest-building.  Felt great to get back in my element.

Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F5 IS II lens on tripod with Wimberley II gimbal head

1/1600 sec @ F8, ISO 400, evaluative metering, +1/3 exposure compensation, aperture priority

3879_High Island_02242019-2


Reddish Egret vs. Great White Egret

While taking photos of a Reddish Egret fishing, a Great Egret flew in to challenge the Reddish for the best fishing spot.  The Great Egret won this confrontation.

Although the sun was reflecting off of the water, had use positive exposure compensation to get lighted up the birds.  It blew out the water but it still works.

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

Aperture priority, 1/3200 sec @ F9, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, 700mm

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Aperture priority, 1/3200 sec @ F9, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, 700mm

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Wing Span

Got to practice some flight shots at Dayton, TX while waiting for the Kites to show up.  Found that I was in the flight path of several Great Egrets.  Took my camera off the tripod to get these shots.

Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II with 1.4X III teleconverter, handheld

1/1600 sec @ F10, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +2/3 exposure compensation

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1/2500 sec @ F10, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +2/3 exposure compensation

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Love in the Air

Made my first trip to High Island’s rookery last Monday and the birds are out in force.  Lots of activity with mating dances in full breeding plumage.  Some Great Egrets sitting on eggs already. Caught this Great Egret mating shot before the sun came up.  Not enough light to get sharp photos so went into blur mode.

Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II mounted on tripod with Wimberley II gimbal head.

1/13 sec @ F4, ISO 5000, evaluative metering 082_High Island_03232015-2


My 2014 Favorites

As 2014 comes to a close, I wanted to share some of my favorite photos from this year.  It was challenging for me to get out and shoot on a routine basis but ended up with some photos that made it worth while.

Highlights in 2014 included seeing the Sand Hill Crane migration in Nebraska, leading successful workshops and field trips at Galveston’s FeatherFest, getting published again and finally upgrading to a pro series camera.  Now that I have all of the tools, just need some more trigger time to further develop my skills.

Thanks to everyone around the world that checked out my blog and especially to those who left some comments along the way.  Appreciate your support.  Looking forward to more wildlife photography in 2015.

Great Egret from High Island’s rookery

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Sandhill Crane from Nebraska

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White Morph Reddish Egret from Bolivar Flats

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American Oystercatcher from Texas City Dike

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Reddish Egret from Bolivar Flats

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American Avocet from Bolivar Flats

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Graphic of where people were from that visited my blog in 2014

Blog Hits 2014

 


First Outing with Canon 1DX

After waiting for Canon to come out with a high-end crop sensor camera, finally decided it was time to upgrade from my 7D to a 1DX.  I fought it for quite a while as full frame wasn’t on my radar due to losing the 1.6 crop factor of my 7D.  With bird photography being my niche, being focal length limited can be a challenge. A recent trip to Nebraska convinced me that it was time to upgrade with missing some good shots while not being able to crank up the ISO enough to get higher shutter speeds.  My 7D is a great camera but it gets noisy above ISO 400.

This was my first trip to High Island this year.  Each season is a little different at the rookery with this year not being as good as previous years, IMO, with increased growth of the vegetation on the island covering up some of the best perching locations.

Besides the changing landscape, trying out a new camera was also challenging,  especially when showing up in the dark about 45 min before the sun came up.  Will need lots of practice with this puppy to get used to the button locations.  Luckily the buttons to change focus points and ISO settings are similar to the 7D.

The ability to crank up the ISO to get higher shutter speeds was very sweet.  Took most of my photos at ISO 1600, which look very similar to my 7D at ISO 400.  I’ll post more later comparing the 7D to the 1DX after I get some more trigger time with the new camera.

Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II with 1.4x III teleconverter mounted on Gitzo tripod with Wimberley II gimbal head

Great Egret preening:  aperture priority, 1/2000 sec @ F11, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, -1/3 exposure compensation

0304_High Island_05022014-3

 


Intimidation

This Great Egret was all bristled up while chasing off another egret from its nesting area.  The breeding plumage can not only be used for attracting a mate, but also to intimidate an unwanted visitor.  Some back-lit action from High Island’s rookery earlier this year.

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

1/1600 sec @ F8, ISO 400, spot metering

High Island_33503162013-2


Love Birds

“He’s  just not into you” doesn’t apply in this case.  Love was is the air for both of these Great Egrets  during mating season at High Island’s rookery.  Used spot metering on these white bird to get the proper  exposure which helped to darken the background.  It’s always my goal to get a heart shape formed between the two birds necks.  Got close on this one.

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

1/1250 sec @ F8, ISO 400, spot metering

High Island_23803162013-2


Nest Building Ritual

When the mate arrives back at the nest with a stick, the ritual begins with lots of squawking.  The stick is then transferred with an abundance of fanfare to the other egret.  They often both hang onto to the stick while placing it into the nest.  It’s quite the ceremony and interesting to watch and photograph.

I tend to keep my focus on one pair of birds that are in a good position with a decent background.  If you get lucky, they repeat the ritual time after time and allow for some great photo op’s.  This was one of those times.  One of my favorite shots from High Island so far this year.

Using manual exposure and exposing for the brightest spots on the white birds keeps the whites from blowing out, darkens the scene and resulted in the black background.

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

1/1250 sec @ F8, ISO 400, manual exposure, 500mm

High Island_04403022013-2


Backlit and Lovin’ It

I’m a major fan of backlit bird photos, especially from High Island’s rookery.  Sunrise is a very special time at the rookery.  The sun comes up in your face and provides some great backlit photo op’s.  This Great Egret was showing off it’s breeding plumage and backlit wings.

Taken with Canon 7D and Canon 500mm F4 IS II lens mounted on tripod with Wimberly II head

1/1600 sec @ F8, ISO 400, manaul exposure

High Island_27203162013-2

1/1600 sec @ F8, ISO 400, manaul exposure

High Island_27503162013-2


High Island Nest Building – Part II

Apparently only one stick is not enough to build a nest with, go figure.  Therefore, here are a few more sticks in transit.  The first photo is the same bird from the previous post as he was coming in for a landing.  All taken in manual mode to control the exposure on the white birds.  Stick transfer shots are next.

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

1/800 sec @ F8, ISO 400,  manual exposure

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1/1000 sec @ F9, ISO 400, manual exposure

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1/1250 sec @ F9, ISO 400, manual exposure

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High Island Nest Building – Part 1

The nesting activity has started early this year at High Island’s rookery.  It’ my favorite time when breeding plumage is on display along with the Great Egrets busy mating and building nests.  The rookery is filling up quickly with it being difficult to get isolated bird shots.

My keeper rate has gone up this year with my 500mm lens and using manual exposure more.  However, 500mm with a crop sensor camera is almost too close in some cases as I’ve clipped lots of wings on action shots.

Caught this Great Egret with wings spread flying back to the nest with a stick.  Unfortunately, the mosquitos have almost the same wing span. They are very nasty this year, at least around sunrise, so be prepared.

More to come…

 

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

1/800 sec @ F8, ISO 400, manual exposure at 500mm

High Island_96203022013-2


Great Egret Breeding Plumage

This great egret was showing off its breeding plumage at the High Island, TX rookery last weekend.  While preening, the plumage was is full display for everyone to see.  I’m thinking that she was showing off, just a little.  Worked for me.

Taken about an hour after sunrise with the light getting a little harsh but still usable.  Used spot metering on the bright backlit area of the plumage to properly expose the bright areas and darken the background.

Taken with Canon 7D and 100-400 lens mounted on tripod with Sidekick gimbal mount.

1/1250 sec @ F7.1, ISO 250, spot metering


Great Egret Mating Dance from High Island

Made another road trip yesterday to the High Island rookery.  Just can’t get enough except for the mosquitos.  They are very intense before the sun comes up.   Hosed myself down 5 times with bug spray and still got several bites.  Not for the faint of heart but worth the reward of seeing the morning light shine through the breeding plumage.

Tried shooting from the upper level on the last platform this time and liked it better than the lower platform.  On the upper platform you can get the distant trees in the background which allows for a dark background with the white birds.  Had better luck this day with some mating dance action.  This Great Egret spent about an hour strutting her stuff but didn’t have any takers except for a few photographers.  She flew away rejected and dissatisfied.  I left with a smile on my face and craving a cigarette for some odd reason…

Taken with Canon 7D and 100-400 lens on tripod with Sidekick gimbal mount.

1/640 sec @ F5.6, – 1/3 exposure compensation, ISO 400

1/1000 sec @ F5.6, spot metering, – 1/3 exposure compensation, ISO 400


Backlit Great Egret from High Island

It felt fantastic this morning to get the chance again to take photos at High Island’s rookery.  It was like going home again.  It’s a long drive but well worth it.  Got there about 45 minutes before the sun came up and had to use a flash light to walk down the trail.  Used to fumble my way in the dark but stopped doing that after finding a gator on the trail a few years ago.  Got set up and had a blast taking blurred flight shots in the pre-dawn hour.  At sunrise, the sun comes up in your face which I love as you can get a chance to play in the light and get great opportunities for some unique backlit photos.  Below is one of my favorites from today.

Stats for the day:  3 hours of driving, 2 hours of shooting, too many mosquitos to count, 3316 photos taken, 900 photos saved, photos processed = 1 (so far)

Taken with Canon 7D and 100-400 on tripod with Sidekick gimbal mount

1/800 sec @ F5.6, partial metering, -2/3 exposure compensation, ISO 250, no flash


Nest Building at High Island

Made another trip to the High Island on 4/17.  Hardly no one around and very few skeeters so it was a nice change of pace.  I was hoping to get some decent back-lit shots at sunrise but the birds weren’t cooperating except for a couple on the manmade platforms, which make such a lovely perch in the photos.  I was going to leave early but decided to stick around.  The action got better as the light got worse but it was still all good.  There were one pair of Great Egrets that were putting on a good nest building show.  One was sitting on the eggs when the other would fly to the ground to pick up what you would think was the largest stick in the world with all of the fanfare when he got back to the nest.  This guy wasn’t finding much from a size perspective but it seemed to be all for show anyway.  They did this several times in a row and I spent about 1/2 hr focused only on them.

Since my 7D is in the shop getting repaired, these were taken with the ‘ol 40D and my 100-400 lens.  I usually use aperature priority but decided to switch to manual mode this time for last half of the morning.  Worked very well as the sun got higher in the sky and the lighting changes were less intense than right at sunrise.

1/100 sec at F5.6, ISO 500, spot metering, aperture priority.   The red dots is the sun poking through the trees.

1/1250 sec at F5.6, ISO 250, -1/3 exp comp, spot metering, aperture priority

1/800 sec at F6.3, ISO 200, manual mode

1/800 sec at F6.3, ISO 200, manual mode

1/1000 sec at F6.3, ISO 200, manual mode

1/1000 sec at F6.3, ISO 200, manual mode

1/800 sec at F6.3, ISO 200, manual mode

1/800 sec at F7.1, ISO 200, manual mode


Great Egrets in a Fog

I’m a big fan of foggy weather.  I love it when the sun comes poking though the fog early in the morning.  That was not to be on this outing to High Island rookery in late March.  Lots of fog with lots of clouds.  Tried to make the best of it with some Great Egret shots.  Another nice to have at High Island is a little wind so that the breeding plumage feathers get some movement and definition.  It also gives them a “beatnik” look, IMO.  Although, I may just be having a flashback from the 60’s…

All taken with Canon 7D and 100-400 lens on tripod, no flash.

1/320 sec @ F5,6, ISO 250, spot metering, +1 exp compensation

1/400 sec @ F5,6, ISO 400, spot metering, +1 exp compensation

1/320 sec @ F5,6, ISO 320, spot metering, +1 exp compensation

1/400 sec @ F5,6, ISO 320, spot metering, +1 exp compensation

1/500 sec @ F5,6, ISO 320, spot metering, +1 exp compensation

1/640 sec @ F5,6, ISO 320, spot metering, +1 exp compensation


Nesting Ritual at High Island

The rookery at High Island is my favorite place to go this time of year.  Lots of Great Egrets, Spoonbills, Snowy Egrets and a few others right in front of you.  The best place around to get up close and personal with the birds.  I usually get there way too early before the sun comes up and have to use a flashlight along the trail to get to the platforms.  I didn’t used to use a flashlight until I found an alligator on the trail one year.  I love the back lighting that you can get in the morning.  The sun comes up in your face but the lighting can be magic.  Just have to put up with a few thousand mosquitos at that time of day.

The Great Egrets are fun to watch when they build their nests.  They make quite the scene when one finds a stick and brings it back to the nest.  Lots of squawking ensues and you would have thought that he brought back a gold plated stick, but no, just a stick.

All taken with Canon 7D on tripod.

1/640 sec @F5.6, ISO 400, spot metering, + 1/3 exp compensation

1/250 sec @F5.6, ISO 400, spot metering, + 2/3 exp compensation