…morning light is magic…

Posts tagged “Texas

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

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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

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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

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Blurred Avocet

When the light doesn’t cooperate, there are always blurred shots to be taken.  American avocet in a blur from Bolivar Flats during one of my Galveston FeatherFest workshops that I led this 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.

1/125 sec @ F5.6, ISO 3200, evaluative metering, + 2 2/3 exposure compensation, aperture priority, 700mm

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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

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Short-eared Owl on Fire

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

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Coyote at Anahuac NWR

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

 

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Marbled Godwit

This Marbled Godwit walked very close to us at Bolivar Flats on the same day as we found the white morph reddish egret.  He kept probing the sand for food.

I like this shot as he is facing in my direction, the position of his feet, got some interesting lighting on his bill and the raised tail feathers, which isn’t typical from my experience.

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 @ F8, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation

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1/800 sec @ F8, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation

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Reddish Egret Pose

Finally made it back to Bolivar Flats yesterday after a long hiatus (since April).  Got invited to head to the flats by Lea, who contacted me back in May for some advice.  It was a good time and I needed the motivation to get back out there in this heat.  Feels-like temp when we arrived just before sunrise was 95 deg F.  Decided to not wear my waders or jacket and just get all wet/sandy, which happened as predicted.

There were lots of birds around including reddish egrets, pelicans, willets, long-billed curlews, marbled godwits.  Did not see any avocets.  We spotted 2 reddish egrets and 3 white morph reddish egrets in the area and took some time to photograph them and get closer to this one.  They weren’t very active but we had the opportunity to get some decent shots of them posing and preening.

Reddish egrets will puff out their feathers when they are trying to intimidate other birds.  Not sure what got this one excited but it made for nice looking hairdo.

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

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Reddish Egret Jump in B&W

 

This white morph reddish egret was practicing his jumping skills at Galveston’s FeatherFest in April.  This was shot #11 out of a series of 16 photos that he was in the air.

Colors were somewhat muted so I converted into B&W using NIK Silver Effects.

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

1/1250 sec @ F9, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation

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White Morph Reddish Egret Launching

Sunday’s visit to Bolivar Flats with my last field trip for this years Galveston’s FeatherFest.  Was a little worn out after 4 days but it was well worth the effort to take a couple of groups to Bolivar Flats.  It was a new experience for some of them and we had some great photo op’s on both trips.  We couldn’t get very close to the avocets on this trip but I did find a morph reddish egret.  Spotted him at a distance and maneuvered the group close to the water as he was fishing.  He worked his way back and forth in front of us making for some great photo op’s.

Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II and 1.4X III 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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White Tailed Hawk

Hope that everyone survived new years celebrations.  We did our usual Mexican restaurant for dinner and headed home before the crazies got on the road.

For my old friend Joe, here are a few shots of a White Tailed Hawk that I found on the road leading up to Anahuac NWR while guiding Stephen Bontempo around a few weeks ago.  These were taken out my car window.  Pulled up and had to quickly get ready to shoot.  He laughed before I got the first shot off but got several photos of him as he took off and flew away.  Good times…

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

1/1000 sec @ F8, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +2/3 exposure compensation

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1/1000 sec @ F8, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +2/3 exposure compensation

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1/2000 sec @ F8, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +2/3 exposure compensation

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1/1600 sec @ F8, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +2/3 exposure compensation

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Reddish Egret Fight

These two reddish egrets went toe to toe yesterday at Bolivar Flats along the gulf coast of Texas.  Had my ISO cranked up to 3200 while taking static shots of a couple of white morph reddish egrets when these two started fighting.  Should have increased to ISO to 6400 but didn’t have enough time to change any settings as the action happened very fast.  Lots of blurred action in this series but it was very fun to watch and photograph.  More to come…

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

1/20 sec @ F5.6, ISO 3200, evaluative metering, + 1 1/3 exposure compensation

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Black Skimmer’s Landing Gear

This black skimmer was doing a fly-by and actually skimming at Bolivar flats, which is a somewhat rare event in that location.  From my experience over the past several years, they usually just fly around looking for a place to land so this was a very nice change of pace.  Especially since this was during a guide trip that I was leading with three great guys from New Zealand, Canada and Indiana.

It’s always a challenge to capture these birds in flight while using a ground pod since your range of motion is limited while laying on the ground.  Added bonus was he briefly turned directly towards me.  Also like that his feet were hanging like landing gear coming down.

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 @ F10, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation

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All Puffed Up

This white morph reddish egret was all puffed up while strutting around Bolivar Flats.  There has been a record crop of white morph’s around this neck of the woods lately, which is very cool.

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

1/2000 sec @ F8, ISO 400, evaluative metering, no exposure compensation

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Reddish Egret Stalking

This reddish egret was stalking its prey just after sunrise.  He had his head on the down low while running towards the fish.  His legs lined up perfectly that it looks like he only has one leg with two feet attached to 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

1/125 sec @ F10, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +1 1/3 exposure compensation

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You Lookin at Me??

You lookin at me?  Better not be.  My boys behind me will come after you.

Made another trip to Bolivar Flats over the Memorial Day weekend while guiding three clients for two days.  They were at the end of a 3 week trip across south Texas with the Galveston area their last stop.  Thanks again to Kent, Bill and Ian for allowing me to show you around this part of Texas.  Had a great time and got to see lots of birds.

Made two stops to Bolivar Flats and found some avocets, reddish egrets and lots of snowy egrets.  Had several opportunities for some interaction shots which are always fun.  One was a little weird with an avocet trying to mate with an inanimate object.  More on that later.

While focusing on a avocet, saw two snowy egrets walking behind him.  Switched my attention to the background and visualized this shot coming as they crossed behind him.  The avocet cooperated by staring at me while getting some scratching action in.  Made for a cool shot.

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

1/1250 sec @ F10, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation

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Spoonbill Wingspan

Drove down to the Rockport, TX area at the end of April to participate in a workshop with Hector Astorga.  We spent two mornings visiting the Aransas NWR rookery by boat.  We experienced very high winds and high surf but boat captain Kevin Sims did an excellent job as always.  It was quite the roller coaster ride getting to the rookery with three foot waves bouncing the small flat-bottomed boat around in the dark before sunrise.

Once we arrived at the rookery, the waves reduced but the anchor wasn’t successful at keeping the boat still so Kevin put on his waders, jumped into the water and held onto the boat to keep it from moving around.  He would then push the boat around manually when we needed to switch positions around the island.  He definitely went above and beyond the call of duty on this trip

The rookery was filled with great blue herons and spoonbills, along with a few snowy egrets, reddish egrets, black crowned night herons, oystercatchers and terns.  Most of the chicks were fairly large but were still actively being fed by their parents.

Caught this spoonbill coming in for a landing with his wings outstretched while positioned at the upper deck of the boat.  With the wind/waves, it was challenging to keep the camera steady on my tripod.  Took way too many photos but liked how this one turned out.  Very minimal cropping on the right side.  Had to crank up the ISO to 3200 to get a decent shutter speed.

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

Aperture priority, 1/1000 sec @ F5.6, ISO 3200, evaluative metering, 500mm

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Pelican Stealing White Morph’s Fish

Here are some photos of the brown pelican scaring the white morph reddish egret in order to steal his fish.  He surprised me as well and they were too close at 700mm and ended up clipping the pelican’s wings in the first shot.  You can see the fish drop in the second photo with the pelican getting ready to enjoy his spoils in the last shot.

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 @ F11, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1/3 exposure compensation

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1/1600 sec @ F11, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1/3 exposure compensation

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1/1600 sec @ F11, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1/3 exposure compensation

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White Morph Reddish Egret

On this recent trip to Bolivar Flats in Texas, the reddish egrets were out in force, including two white morph’s.  I was guiding Bruno from San Diego, who hadn’t seen a white morph before so it was great timing.  They danced around right in front of us and both ended up catching some very large fish and had a close encounter with a brown pelican.  More photos to come.

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

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1/2000 sec @ F11, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1/3 exposure compensation

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Brown Pelican as a Fishbowl

Found this Brown Pelican fishing off of the Texas City dike.  It’s fun to watch them dive into the water and then to see what they come up with.  He was getting harassed by a laughing gull that would stand on his head waiting for him to come up with fish to steal.

Got this shot after the gull flew off with a fish.  The back-lighting helps with showing off the veins in his beak.  This little fish didn’t have a chance but popped up to get his picture taken.

Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II lens with 1.4X III teleconverter, handheld out my car window

Aperture priority, 1/2000 sec @ F8, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +1/3 exposure compensation, 700mm

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Juvenile Caracara in Flight

Hope that everyone had a great Christmas yesterday.  Didn’t feel like that time of year in the Houston area with mid 70’s deg F temperatures and very humid.  Looking forward to some cold weather in January.

Here are some more Caracara shots from my last trip to Santa Clara ranch.  They were taken at the raptor blind as the birds were coming in to perch.

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

Aperture priority, 1/3200 sec @ F8, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, 500mm

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Aperture priority, 1/3200 sec @ F8, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, 500mm

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Aperture priority, 1/3200 sec @ F8, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, 500mm 697_santa-clara_11202016-2

 


Caracara Head Tilt

It’s always very cool to see how far Caracaras can bend their head back.  There are times that it’s a challenge to move my head side to side, let alone try this one.  Very flexible raptor.

Used negative exposure compensation to keep from blowing out the whites in his neck.

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

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

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Green Jay vs. Bee

This Green Jay was distracted by a bee doing a fly-by, which made for an interesting photo.

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

Aperture priority, 1/800 sec @ F8, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +1/3 exposure compensation, 500mm

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