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
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
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
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.
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
Got very excited when the Anahuac short-eared owl flew towards the sun giving me a chance to play in the light with back-lit photos. Was heavily cropped but still fun to see and take photos.
Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II with 1.4X III teleconverter mounted on tripod with Wimberley II gimbal head
1/2000 sec @ F5.6, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, 700mm
Had a most excellent adventure with a coyote yesterday at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge in Texas. I arrived at Anahuac around 6:30 a.m. and headed to Frozen Point to try to find the short-eared owl. With the cloudy conditions, it was very dark before sunrise and couldn’t spot any activity.
Drove back towards Shoveler’s Pond and saw a couple of trucks tracking something along the canal. Found my buddy Doug in full camo pointing out where a coyote was working the opposite bank of the canal. Luckily, he started coming back towards us and we started shooting away. He eventually got back to the main road and I backed my car up and followed him for a short distance until he started hunting in the grass along site the road. It was very cool to see him jump up and down like a mousing fox.
Got a couple of decent head shots and he then came up with his prey, a field rat. He brought it out on the road and ended up playing with it like a puppy would play with a toy right in front of my car. Tried to take photos of him out my car window but my car wasn’t in the best position with my side mirror kept getting in my way and it was challenging to shoot over it. Didn’t want to spook him by opening my car door initially. Stopped taking still photos a couple of times and took video with my iPhone. I’ll post one of those later. Eventually opened my door to get an unobstructed view of him.
Parents always tell their kids not to play with their food, but this coyote was a master at it. He would pick up the rat and throw it around and then try to intimidate it by baring its teeth as he stood above it. He eventually ate the rat and then started staring at something to my right, which ended up being Doug laying down near the right side of my car. He slowly started to stalk Doug and then Doug showed up next to me.
Here is one of my favorite shots. Don’t worry Doug, I would have repositioned myself to get the shot if he wanted to play with you.
With the low light, had to use full open aperture and sacrificed depth of field to get the shot. Initially was using ISO 6400 but backed off to 3200 for this photo.
1/125 sec @ F 5.6, ISO 3200, evaluative metering, + 2/3 exposure compensation, aperture priority, 700mm