Willet Feeding in the Fog
Made a scouting trip to Bolivar Flats on the Texas Gulf coast yesterday in preparation for leading four field trips for Galveston’s FeatherFest in April. It was extremely foggy and could only see a couple of car lengths in front of my car while driving on the beach. The guy following me almost crashed into the barricade.
The fog finally cleared some but then rolled in a couple of times. I’m a major fan of shooting in the fog under the right conditions when the sun pops out, which was the case on this trip.
It was high tide with lots of birds along the shoreline and in a couple of tidal pools. Captured this willet feeding in one of the pools right in front of me while I was lying is some real nasty stuff with my ground pod.
1/3200 @ F10, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1/3 exposure compensation, 700mm (R3 + 100-500 + 1.4X) mounted on Skimmer ground pod with video head
Audubon Top 100 X 2
Honored again this year to make the Top 100 in Audubon’s photo contest with these two photos. Must have been slacking off since I had 4 in the top 100 last year. Congratulations to everyone that won and made the top 100.
First photo is a black skimmer coming in for a landing at Bolivar Flats. I love the unique wing position on this photo as it was one that I’ve never seen before.
This photo is an American avocet riding the surf at Bolivar Flats. Love the water swirling around her neck, which looks like she is getting ready to turn into a Disney princess.
Riding the Wave @ Galveston’s FeatherFest
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 gliding along after sunrise on Texas gulf coast this morning. Sunrise was amazing with the cloud formations and red light. The sun eventually popped out of the clouds providing some good light. Ended up leaving when the sun went behind the clouds as I’m not a fan of flat light.
1/2000 sec @ F9, ISO 3200, evaluative metering, -2/3 exposure compensation, 700mm from Skimmer ground pod, minor cropping
Taken with Canon 1DX III, Canon 500mm F4 IS II with 1.4X III teleconverter mounted on Skimmer ground pod with Wimberley II gimbal head
Water Explosion Frozen in Time
Reddish egret diving for fish in a tidal pond at Bolivar Flats Audubon Shorebird Sanctuary. While heading back to my car after a successful early morning taking shorebird photos, found this reddish egret that was catching some small fish in a separate small tidal pool. Got some very cool splash shots but didn’t like the background so converted this one to B&W and cropped in on the splash.
1/1250 @ F10, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +2/3 exposure compensation, 700mm from ground pod
Great Blue Sunrise
Had one of those great mornings along the Texas Gulf Coast recently when the stars aligned. One big star and a great blue heron.
Visualized this shot when spotting this great blue heron while walking on the beach when it was still dark out. Had to guess where to lay down based on the light peeking through on the horizon. Only had to shift my position slightly when seeing the sun start to pop to keep him in the sunrise. He stayed in one spot while I got off several shots.
While wishing that the skimmers weren’t in front of him, they blasted off and left me with a challenge – do I keep my focus on the GBH or do I try to take photos of the skimmers. I stuck with the heron and eventually all of the skimmers were gone. He then looked up into the sky and I’ll save that photo for a photo contest.
Taken with Canon 1DX Mark III and 500mm F4 IS II with 1.4X III teleconverter mounted on skimmer ground pod with a Wimberley II gimbal head.
1/640 sec @ F11, ISO 3200, evaluative metering, +2/3 exposure compensation, 700mm
White Morph Reddish Egret
Spent some quality time last week at Bolivar Flats Audubon Shorebird Sanctuary on the Texas gulf coast. Found several reddish egrets at sunrise with this white morph really standing out from the rest. Right place at the right time for some great action and beautiful light.
This was about 1/2 hour after sunrise. Had to cranked up the exposure compensation to get the proper exposure. Having 16 frames/sec from my new 1DX III comes in real handy in these situations with being able to capture the action as it happens. The focusing ability of this camera is just off of the charts.
Taken with Canon 1DX mark III, Canon 500mm F4 IS II with 1.4X III teleconverter mounted on a Skimmer ground pod with Wimberley II gimbal head.
All photos at: 1/2000 sec @ F5.6, ISO 2500, evaluative metering, +2 exposure compensation, 700mm from ground pod, minor cropping
Took a couple of vacation days this past week and headed to the Gulf coast for some quality social distancing at Bolivar Flats Audubon Shorebird Sanctuary. Was well worth the time and effort.
Saw these 3 brown pelicans flying close to each other at a distance and started tracking them with my camera. Got about 80 shots of them just waiting for this photo when they were side by side, coming right at me with their wings outstretched.
Pre-visualized this shot as I’ve gotten some similar pelican photos probably 10 years ago and have been waiting to recreate it ever since. Was very pleased on how this one turned out.
Taken with Canon 1DX mark III, Canon 500mm F4 IS II and 1.4X III telconverter, mounted on Skimmer ground pod with Wimberley II gimbal head.
1/800 sec @ F5.6, ISO 3200, evaluative metering, aperture priority, + 2 exposure compensation, 700mm from ground pod
Audubon Top 100
Honored to make the top 100 in Audubon’s 2020 photo contest again this year. Entered several photos but only got one to make it. Always appreciate Audubon’s support with my bird photography. Can’t wait until next year.
White morph reddish egret from Bolivar Flats Audubon Shorebird Sanctuary on the Texas gulf coast. This shot was taken last July and was a great time. He was almost too close, which is always 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.
Paying attention to bird behavior really paid off on Friday morning. Was taking photos of a reddish egret when he started looking up in the air. Reddish egrets don’t usually pay attention to other birds in the sky unless it’s another reddish egret. This one kept glancing to the sky which peaked my couriosity so I decided to look up from my prone position and got a fantastic surprise when this magnificent frigatebird was right above me.
Decided to quickly take my camera off of the ground pod and rolled onto my back and started shooting straight up in the air. The wet sand in my hair was a new experience but well worth it. She was almost too close as I was clipping wings off of the frame. Got a few shots from that position but it was too difficult to control my 500mm lens so rolled over and sat up to shoot. Didn’t want to stand up and potentially spook her. She kept circling me and I wondered if she was checking me out, which I confirmed was the case after looking at the photos on the computer.
Magnificent frigatebirds are huge with a 7 ft wingspan and a forked tail. Have seen them at the east end of Galveston Island and while in my car on the ferry several years ago but never at the flats. Getting that close was a major bucket list event for me. Was thinking about frigatebirds a few weeks ago while on the ferry and envisioned having a close-up encounter. I need to start dreaming about birds more often…
My Photo in Audubon Annual Report
One of my pelican photos made the inside cover of the 2019 Audubon Annual Report recently. The Photography Director from Audubon contacted me in Feb about using this photo that they found on my website. Was very pleased that they reached out to me but also someone concerned that I did not recognize this photo. Had to dig through my website to find it. Next problem was to find the RAW file to reprocess a high resolution photo as it was taken back in 2011. Started digging through my current attached hard drives with no luck. Had to search the house for all of my external hard drives and finally found it on nearly the last hard drive.
This experience led me to revamp my storage and back-up method for all of my photos. Now have all of my photos on a centralized device and backed up in multiple ways/locations. More on that later.
I always get excited when seeing shorebirds take a bath as they almost always jump up and flap their wings to dry off. Usually a good chance for a great photo op.
Took these shots a couple of weeks ago at Bolivar Flats Audubon shorebird sanctuary along the Texas gulf coast. Cranked the ISO up to 3200 to get a decent shutter speed to freeze the action.
Taken with Canon 1DX III and Canon 500mm F4 IS II with 1.4X III teleconverter mounted on Skimmer ground pod with Wimberley II gimbal head
1/2500 sec @ F8, ISO 3200, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation
1/2000 sec @ F8, ISO 3200, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation
Reddish Egret in Flight
Hope that everyone out there is well and staying safe. It’s a very strange/surreal world that we are currently living in. I have been working from home for awhile now so nothing new there, just less travel these days. My day job work has actually picked up lately with more projects so that’s a good thing. Have been spending my off-hours backing up my photos and entering some photo contests. I’ll post more later about my updated back-up strategy that I’ve just completed implementing.
Since almost all of my favorite areas for wildlife photography around Houston are shut down, I’ll dig up some of my photos from my newly archived storage unit.
Here is a reddish egret in flight from last year’s July 4.
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 – handheld
Great Blue Heron Golden Silhouette
My first trip to Bolivar Flats along the Texas gulf coast in 2020 was magical. One of the rare times when the Gulf of Mexico was very calm and the pre-dawn light was amazing. Caught this great blue heron coming in for a landing and was able to get some decent shots with very slow shutter speeds @ 1/100 & 1/80 sec. Had to crank my ISO up to 6400 and use 1 2/3 exposure compensation as it was before the sun came up. Wish that I would have used ISO 10,000.
Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II with 1.4X III teleconverter mounted on Skimmer ground pod with Wilberley II gimbal head
1/100 sec @ F5.6, ISO 6400, evaluative metering, + 1 2/3 exposure compensation, from ground pod
1/80 sec @ F5.6, ISO 6400, evaluative metering, + 1 2/3 exposure compensation, from ground pod
Bolivar Flats Trip
Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Hope that you have a great day and get plenty of food to eat.
Had a great couple of days taking shorebird photos this week at Bolivar Flats on the Texas gulf coast. Went with Lisa and Catherine on Sunday and by myself on Monday with sunshine and low winds.
On Sunday, we found a good spot to lay down with our ground pods and a huge flock of avocets made their way in our direction. Was able to turn to my left to get some back-lit shots, which if always my goal with bird photography.
1/2500 sec @ F8, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +2/3 exposure compensation
We moved locations and the avocets were walking right in front of us. They were so close that I couldn’t get some of them in the frame. A very good problem to have. This is one of the main advantages of using a ground pod as the birds don’t recognize you as a person when you are laying down. They will walk right up to you.
1/2500 sec @ F10, ISO 800, evaluative metering, no exposure compensation
Also got this shot that I really like of a dowitcher as he fed in front of us. It pays to watch all of the birds as the small ones can provide some great photo op’s.
1/1600 sec @ F6.3, ISO 800, evaluative metering, + 1 1/3 exposure compensation
A highlight on this trip was this lone black-necked stilt that was walking amongst the hundred of avocets. It was a challenge to get him isolated from the rest of the birds but was able to get a few shots. Love their long legs, tux looking feathers and red eyes.
1/2000 sec @ F10, ISO 800, evaluative metering, no exposure compensation
Caracara in Flight
Got buzzed by this Caracara while walking back to my car along the shoreline at Bolivar Flats on the Texas Gulf Coast last weekend. Picked up my camera with the ground pod/gimbal head still attached and started shooting away. Had to eventually take the camera off so that it was lighter to handhold.
It’s fun to see the migrating raptors back in SE Texas. Lots of photo op’s this time of year.
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.
1/4000 sec @ F 5.6, ISO 800, evaluative metering, + 1 2/3 exposure compensation
Reddish Egret Scores!
This reddish egret scored after going after this fish. This is why I’m always telling my classes at FeatherFest to start shooting when their head starts to go down towards the water as you never know what they may come up with and it happens very fast. Had to crank up the ISO to get a decent shutter speed on this one.
1/1000 sec @ F7.1, ISO 3200, evaluative metering, +2 exposure compensation
White Morph Reddish Egret
Spent some quality time on July 4th at Bolivar Flats along the Gulf Coast taking photos of reddish egrets at high tide. They weren’t as active as my previous trip but they finally came out to play as we were ending our morning trip. I’m not a major fan of taking photos at the beach with cloudy skies but it was still fun.
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
1/1600 sec @ F7.1, ISO 1600, +2 exposure compensation
Reddish Egret – Wings Up
Reddish Egret raising his wings while fishing. They are the best egret at catching fish in my opinion. Always fun to watch them dance around.
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 @ F9, ISO 800, evaluative metering, + 1 2/3 exposure compensation
Back to Bolivar Flats
Made my first trip to Bolivar Flats along the Gulf Coast since April and it was epic. Saw on Jim Strough’s post that there were lots of reddish egrets in the area and that was enough to convince me to get back out there.
With high tide, there weren’t any exposed sandbars off shore, which concentrated the birds along the shoreline. Luckily for me, they were accessible and not out of reach around the corner or just near the jetty, which can also happen.
When driving on the beach to get to the parking area, it become very evident that I was going to be sharing the beach with several wade fisherman. Total of 10 trucks plus my car. Most of the fisherman were already out in the water with a few still getting ready. Knew from experience that bird photography and wade fishing don’t exactly mix so I decided to hang back and let the fisherman walk past me. On cue, one of them walked right through the flock of birds that were in my sights and scattered them in all directions. This gave me an opening to get to the spot that I wanted to lay down while the birds returned.
Had 16 reddish egrets to choose from including 9 red and 7 white morph’s. The highlight was when the tide started to come in. I was shooting away and saw the water getting closer so had to keep pushing myself backwards up the beach. Looked up and saw 12 reddish egrets moving in with the tide and they were all converging on my location. Wish that I would have had a wide-angle lens or my iPhone as it would have made a great video.
Ended up leaving early when thunder started rumbling in the distance. Didn’t want to leave but decided that it wasn’t a good idea to be walking on the beach in a thunderstorm while carrying a hunk of metal. A great morning that will need to be recreated, very soon.
1/640 sec @ F9, ISO 800, evaluative metering, + 1 2/3 exposure compensation
Sliver of Sunrise
Took this shot at the Texas City dike on Sunday morning. There was a small gap in the clouds as the sun started to come up. Started to go negative on exposure compensation as the sun started to pop. Really like how this one turned out.
Used my back-up 7D II as my 1DX is at Canon getting the shutter replaced after over 420,000 photos. My back-up camera works better than my original 7D but it doesn’t compare to my 1DX at high ISO capability plus it feels so small without a battery grip. Works well for a back-up but can’t wait until my 1DX returns.
Taken with Canon 7D II with Canon 500mm F4 IS II and 1.4XIII teleconverter, handheld out my car window
1/8000 sec @ F5.6, ISO 100, evaluative metering, – 2/3 exposure compensation
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
One of my 2018 Favorites
Happy new years everyone! Hope that everyone had a great 2018 and is having a safe new years eve celebration. Have a wonderful 2019!
Here is one of my favorite photos of 2018, an American Avocet from Bolivar Flats. It’s a challenge to get one of these birds isolated from the flock and this one did not disappoint. Sometimes before they take off, they will stretch out their wings and dip their head. This one did it right in front of me with a slight turn of his head and then looked right at me. Loved it.
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
1/1250 sec @ F9, ISO 800, evaluative metering, + 2/3 exposure compensation, 700mm, aperture priority