Took this photo during my first Galveston FeatherFest field trip to Bolivar Flats Audubon Shorebird Sanctuary on the Texas gulf coast. I led four trips to Bolivar Flats again this year in April with this one being challenging with the weather that morning. The wind was blowing at 25 – 30 mph with heavy surf for this area. If it wasn’t for FeatherFest, I typically would have stayed home in those conditions, which makes me wonder how many great photo ops that I’ve missed over the years by not going in adverse conditions. This outing was unique as only one participant, Peggy, showed up for this trip.
In this photo, a group of dunlins and one ruddy turnstone were hanging out on a batch of seaweed that was bobbing up and down with the waves. A small wave came in that made the first dunlin launch up into the air. This group would then feed off of the material that washed up on the mound of seaweed.
I finally made the dive into mirrorless cameras with a Canon R3, which I’ll provide some more information on in a future post.
Taken with Canon R3 with 500mm F4 IS II lens, 1.4X teleconverter mounted on Skimmer ground pod with Wimberley II gimbal head
1/1000 @ F11, ISO 4000, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation
American Avocet at Bolivar Flats Audubon Shorebird Sanctuary
When using a high shutter speed, sometimes the splash is more interesting than the shorebird. I always start shooting when their head starts going towards the water as you never know what you may capture. In this case, the frozen splash also shows a cool water drop.
As mentioned in my previous post about becoming “one with the flock”, my 1DXIII camera got wet from the salt water lapping at the bottom of my camera after the tide came in while I way laying on my stomach with shooting from my ground pod. After that outing, had some issues with my fully charged camera batteries being fully discharged before I took one shot with them. Would put another battery in and it worked fine.
Sent my camera to Canon to have them check it out. My salt water encounter ended up costing me a $1,200 repair bill. Canon described the issue as: “The bottom multi-controller on the back cover is stuck and will not move. At this time the PCB ASS’Y, MAIN W/LI BATT and COVER ASS’Y, BACK will be replaced.” Apparently, it got dunked a little more than I thought in the salt water.
Will it make me think twice about doing it again next time? Nope.
1/2000 @ F11, ISO 2000, evaluative metering, -1/3 exposure compensation, 700mm (500+1.4X) from ground pod, minor cropping
Sometimes the stars align (no wind, no waves, low tide) along the Gulf of Mexico and the waters are very calm at Bolivar Flats, which makes for some amazing conditions for shore bird photography. This happened on Friday when I took some vacation time to get back to Bolivar for the first time in 4 months.
Got very excited when driving onto the beach while seeing the calm water. This happens maybe once a year if you are lucky, from my experience. Pulled up to the parking area on the beach with nobody else in site and quickly geared up before the sun came up. It was 41 deg F and my neoprene waders felt nice and toasty.
Found a small group of American Avocets along the shoreline and laid down with my ground pod for some silhouette shots. Also had some photo op’s further out in the water with pelicans and black skimmers flying by. The sun popped up which led to some interesting photo op’s with the changing light.
Got up from my initial position and turned to my right just in time to see a peregrine falcon taking off from the beach. Wish that I had seen him earlier but he was very skittish and getting close to him would have been very challenging. Was able to get some flight shots as he flew by, which is always fun with hand holding a 500mm lens attached to a ground pod with a Wimberley gimbal head.
Moved offshore onto some sandbars to take photos of willets, long billed curlews, more avocets and hundreds of black skimmers that would periodically blast off and fill the sky. On the way back to my car, a reddish egret landed right behind me so got back down on the sand for some very close-up shots which was a great wrap up to a wonderful morning.
Needless to say, it was great to be back at Bolivar in perfect conditions.
Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II and 1.4X III mounted on a Skimmer ground pod with Wimberley II gimbal head.
1/1600 sec @ F8, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation
Finally made a trip back to Bolivar Flats to check out the shorebirds last weekend. It’s been several months since I’ve shot any bird photos there so it felt great to go back. The best time to shoot at Bolivar is at low tide when the sand bars are exposed, which hasn’t happened around sunrise for a very long time, including this trip. Decided to go anyway to see what I could get. Tons of people were there wade fishing and camping on the beach so conditions weren’t ideal. They also have the area beyond the beach at the vegetation roped off with signs to keep out so no luck with trying to find the falcons.
The day had its moments. Got there about 1/2 hour before sunrise and walked the full length of the beach before trying to take my first shot. My high intelligence level quickly alerted me to the fact that my battery was still in the charger at home. Luckily had a spare but it was in the car that was a few hundred yards away. Since it was about 10 minutes before sunrise at that point, I walked as fast as I could which did a number on my feet in the ‘ol rubber boots. Ended up getting two large blisters on my heels and ripped the skin off, joy. After about an hour of shooting, a group of 6 guys walked about 20 yds right in front of me in the water and scared all of the birds away. I just laid there and looked at them and they were oblivious. I just love people sometimes.
Ended up having to shoot from the beach the entire time with the tide being too high. Tried to take advantage of what I had to work with and took a combination of back and side lighting shots. Can’t wait until it’s winter with cooperative tides and no people around. It’s great out there when the temp’s in the 30’s.
Taken with Canon 7D and 100-400 lens on Skimmer ground pod