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How to Get Your Big Lens On The Plane

I have used a Lowe Pro Road Runner AW to haul my 600 mm lens through airports for over 10 years, along with a ThinkTank Urban Disguise 70 shoulder bag for my laptop and extra lenses. Airlines have been cracking down on carry-on size and weights so here’s how I’m getting around their scrutiny.

The Lowe Pro Road Runner AW bag is much larger than the Thinktank Glass Limo.

 

If you ditch the big and bulky lens hood that comes with the 600 mm lens and use the LensCoat TravelHood instead, everything will fit into this bag. It doesn’t attract as much attention as a big roller bag and shoulder bag. The only downside is you have to carry the bag instead of rolling it. But, as I travel to bird photography locations on smaller airlines I don’t have to worry about being asked to check my bag.

 

The Thinktank Glass Limo with a 600 mm f/4 lens, a Canon 5D Mark III, a Canon 7D Mark II, a 17 – 40 mm zoom lens, four extra batteries, a 1.4 Extender, a Circular Warming Polarizer, and to the right is the LensCoat TravelHood.

I recently upgraded my should bag to the Thinktank Urban Disguise 60 which is just as large as my older Urban Disguise 70, but the 60 has a place for my 13 inch MacBook Pro. I put any extra lenses I need like the 70 to 200 and the 100 to 400 mm lenses in the shoulder bag depending on which lens I decide to take.  Lately, I’ve been taking three lenses with me, the 600 mm f/4, the 100 to 400 mm zoom and the  17 to 40 mm zoom.  These three lenses are my standard setup.   For my recent San Diego Workshop, I used the  70 to 200 m zoom for flight photography and left the 100 to 400 at home.  This strategy worked because the birds-in-flight opportunities and the Brown Pelicans at La Jolla allow a close approach.

I’m also trying to carry less gear around, I don’t feel like I have to carry everything anymore.  I don’t take five or six lenses to a locaton, I take the three I’ll most likely use or in some cases I’ll only take one or two lenses.  Travel lighter, go furthert  etc.

Hope this helps you in your travels.

 

 

Fall Color Before the Storm

Tonight the first of three storms is moving into Western Washington, so I got out for a quick trip to my local city park (Gene Coulon Park in Renton) for an hour. I could have photographed the Canada Geese that hang out there but went for the fall colors instead.  The geese will be there all winter the fall color will only be there a few more hours, the next sunny day we have there will only be bare branches at the park.

 

Fall color at Gene Coulon Park

The road to the boat launch at Gene Coulon Park.

 

More fall color at Gene Coulon Park.

More fall color at Gene Coulon Park.

If you live in the Pacific Northwest and can, get outside today, it’s gonna be a wet rest of the week.

Enjoy

Tim

 

 

 

How to Manage the Sun’s Angle of Light For The Best Bird Photograph

It’s all about where the light is coming from. For bird photographers, there are three possibilities; the light can be from in front of us and behind the bird thus backlighting the bird, the light can come from one of the sides of the bird giving us side-lighting, and the light can come from behind us and thus lighting up the bird without shadows.  If there are “rules” kinda like the “Rule of Thirds,” then Pointing Your Shadow at the bird has become one of the rules of bird photography.  And as a general “rule” or best practice, it’s almost always going to give you a good photograph.  But like the Rule of Thirds, there are other compositions and directions of light that will work and sometimes work better and create a stunning image.  Backlighting or creating a bird silhouette at sunset can be very dramatic, side-lighting can show more character, etc.

 

Sandhill Crane taking flight in morning light. 1/1600 of a second, f/9, ISO 640 witht eh Canon 5D Mark III and a 600 mm f/4 lens with a 1.4 Extender.

Sandhill Crane was taking flight in early morning light. 1/1600 of a second, f/9, ISO 640 with the Canon 5D Mark III and a 600 mm f/4 lens with a 1.4 Extender.

In this image, the Sandhill Crane is fully lit up with some soft morning light.  There are no harsh shadows because the sun is behind me over my left shoulder.

 

Created at 1/500 of a second, f/8 and ISO 800 witht eh Canon 5D Mark III and the 600 mm f/4 lens.

Created at 1/500 of a second, f/8 and ISO 800 with the Canon 5D Mark III and the 600 mm f/4 lens.

In this image at the same pond, different day, the crane has flown a little past me, and you can begin to see the shadows on its back. The sun is still coming from behind me and over my left shoulder, but where I’m standing in relation to the crane isn’t as optimal as the prior image.  In this photo, I need to move to the left to get a little more in front of the crane.  And that’s the big secret; we need to move around and put ourselves in the right position in relationship to the sun and the bird.  And since birds fly into the wind, if the sun and the wind are at your back, well, that’s a perfect combination.  So each morning at Bosque del Apache, where these images were created, we always try to place ourselves in the right spot in relation to the sun, the wind and the birds.

 

Enjoy & Thanks

Tim

 

3 Quick Tips to Improve Your Bird Photography

#1 Get Outside Early

The number one thing you can do to improve your bird photography is to make/create your images within two hours after sunrise. The light is the best then, soft and warm yellow tones and the birds are their most active.  If you can’t make it outside that early, you could shoot the two hours before sunset, the birds won’t be as active, and the light will be a little more orange or red tones. Light in photography is so important that this one simple thing can turn a good photograph into a stunning photograph.

 

A Curved-billed Thrasher at 6:21 AM.

A Curved-billed Thrasher at 6:21 AM. 1/320 of a second, f/5.6 at ISO 400 Canon 5D Mark III and the 600 mm f/4 lens with a 1.4 Extender. The sun is just starting to light up the Thrasher.

 

#2 Push The ISO

I don’t like Luminance noise or graininess in my images.  But, if I have to I’ll push the ISO up because a grainy image is better then no image and a sharp image is better than a blurry image.  So a sharp grainy image is better than no image too. Also, if you print an image or you post it online, the noise is never as bad as it looks at 100% in Lightroom or Photoshop. Can you tell this was at 3200 ISO?

Male Mountian Bluebird about to jump inot ht enest box and feed a few chicks. ISO 3200

Male Wextern Bluebird about to jump into the nest box and feed a few chicks. 1/1250 of a second, f/7.1 at ISO 3200, Canon 7D Mark II with the 600 mm f/4 lens and a 1.4 Extender.

 

#3 Get Eye Level

The Point of View is so important, getting eye level makes it easier for the people to connect with the image, you can also manage the background by moving up or down and right or left.

The ground level view of a Mountian Plover.

The ground level view of a Mountain Plover. 1/160 of a second, f/5.6 and ISO 500 Canon 5D Mark III and the 600 mm f/4 lens. I was eye level, but I should have pushed the ISO up some to get a faster Shutter Speed.

 

These seem like very easy simple tips, but it’s sometimes difficult to get up early enough, it’s hard to change the ISO when you know you’re adding noise, and it can be hard to lay down on the ground to get eye level.  But the results speak for themselves.  Practice these this weekend if you have a chance, and let me know how it goes.

 

Enjoy!          Thanks As Always        Tim

 

Give the Bird Room to Move Into The Frame

I like to shoot tight. I do this because it’s the kind of image I like, a close shot of a bird with lots of detail. If I can show a different behavior or characteristic to the viewers, I feel like I’ve been successful in the image. Part of why I photograph birds is to show the world how beautiful they are and to show how each bird is unique. But sometimes I miss a shot because I’m focused too tight on the bird, and it moves too much or decides to fly away. I end up with clipped wings or cut the feet off, or have the beak of the bill right up to the edge of the frame, etc.

Here's what I think of a a "normal" shot. 840 mm, the 600 mm lens and a 1.4 Extender.

Here’s what I think of as a “normal” shot. 840 mm, the 600 mm lens and a 1.4 Extender.

Over the years I end up with lots of clipped wings, feetless birds and birds flying into a wall (the edge of the frame) but lately, I’ve been working on how to not clip the wings or feet and give the bird some room.

If the bird is facing left, then put the bird in the lower right corner of the viewfinder. Switch your Autofocus Mode to matrix or the mode with the most active sensor points. Place the lowest right-hand sensor point on the bird. This gives the bird room to move into the frame and up into the frame.

I took the 1.4 Extender off and am now shoot with just the 600 mm lens and placed the focus points on the eagle.

I took the 1.4 Extender off and am now shooting with just the 600 mm lens and placed the focus points on the eagle.

Sometimes I can do this by taking off the 1.4 Extender; sometimes I just don’t get as close, or even backup, and sometimes with the 100 to 400 zoom I just back off of 400 mm to 300 mm or less.

 

The eagle is starting to take off, so I how down the shutter release and send a burst of three or four shots off.

The eagle is starting to take off, so I hold down the shutter release and send a burst of three or four shots off.

 

Here's the bird fulling filling the frame nicely, with its wings wide open taking flight.

Here’s the bird filling the frame nicely, with its wings wide open taking flight.

Last weekend, when I was on my photo shoot on the Washington Coast, I was practicing this and came up with the working title for this post, Give The Bird Room to Move Into The frame. That triggered a memory of John Mayall’s 1969 Room to Move song on The Turning Point Album. So, I’m listening to Room to Move while I’m writing about room to move. Listening to good music is just another way to be more creative.

 

Enjoy   Thanks   Tim

It’s about PoV and Getting Eye Level!

Most photos of birds are either from above the bird looking down on them (like ducks or shorebirds) or from underneath the birds looking up at them (such as an eagle or gull flying by).  If we were taking a portrait of a family member, we wouldn’t stand above them or below them. We’d want to shoot eye level, to see who they are, to see their character, to understand the features of their face.  Aren’t people’s faces and eyes the first thing we look at? We want to see if they’re following what we’re saying and to see who they are, etc.  If we make a connection to other people by looking at their faces and eyes, won’t our bird images be better if we do this too?

In some ways, shooting eye level shows we are trying to meet them at their level, in their environment, and on their terms.  We’re looking for their character too, and we’re looking to make a connection.  It’s possible to get eye level and make this connection in different ways.  For this image, I was standing on the bank of a river and climbed down about five feet, so I’d be pretty much eye level with the landing Osprey.  The Osprey nests near where I live are up on 40 and 50-foot poles, or on top of cell phone towers, so I also traveled across the state from Seattle to Cusick, Washington because I heard the Osprey nests there were at eye level.  I also had the tripod at normal height since I was able to move up and down the bank to adjust my Point of View.

A juvenile Osprey is strecting and practicing flaping its wings.

Osprey 1/400 of a second f/11 and ISO 400, Canon 1D Mark II and  600 mm lens.

 

With water birds or shorebirds the most common way to get eye level is by lying on the shore or sand. Creating an interesting Point of View means working the subject to understand how best to create an image of it. The Western Sandpiper image was created at Ocean Shores during the spring migration of shorebirds.  I was laying on the sand with waders on slowly crawling towards the birds.  I got as low as I possibly could!  By wearing waders when it’s wet I can keep dry, and mud boots and Gortex rain pants help if the grass is wet or I’m shooting in a muddy habitat.  If you can’t lay down on the sand or shore, sit or kneel behind your tripod, just by getting as low as you can you’ll create a better image.

Western Sandpiper - 1/1600 of a second at f/8 ISO 640 Canon 5D Mark III withthe 600 mm lens and a 1.4 Extender using a Ground Pod.

Western Sandpiper – 1/1600 of a second at f/8 ISO 640 Canon 5D Mark III with the 600 mm lens and a 1.4 Extender using a Ground Pod.

 

If the photographer doesn’t make the connection with the bird, how can the viewer?

Ansel Adams said, “There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer.”

I understand this better now that I know – as the photographer my connection to the bird will be the connection the viewer has or my connection will help the viewer connect with the bird.  The day I created the Snow Goose image, I was looking for a different kind of image, I laid down in the road and shot into a flock of Snow Geese. When I started, I was just taking images of the rounded and curved forms, and patterns.  But when this Snow Goose opened its eye I knew I had my image.

Snow Goose - 1/320 of a second, f/9 at ISO 200 Canon 7D at 600mm with the 1.4 Extender

Snow Goose – 1/320 of a second, f/9 at ISO 200 Canon 7D at 600 mm with the 1.4 Extender

 

But, Point of View is only one of theses “connection” elements an image needs to have. Humans also make the connection to birds through the sparkle, gleam or highlight in the eye, thus making the bird look alive and not dull or dead with a flat black eye. A successful image will have both, a sparkle and an interesting Point of View.

While photographing this Mountain Plover, the tripod was lowered about 2/3 of the way to the ground, so the camera is about two feet above the bird.  There’s a slight downward angle present in the image, even from the lens being just a couple feet higher than the Mountain Plover.  Sometimes to get the feet of the bird in the frame or to get the whole reflection of the bird in the frame it will be necessary to shoot from a slightly higher than eye level position.

Mountain Plover - 1/160 of a second at f/5.6 and ISO 500. Canon 5D Mark III 600mm lens and CTO gel and 580 EXII flash.

Mountain Plover – 1/160 of a second at f/5.6 and ISO 500. Canon 5D Mark III 600mm lens and CTO gel and 580 EXII flash.

 

This Snowy Plover image was made with the camera on the tripod but with the tripod legs fully splayed open and resting on the ground.  The soft blurriness on the bottom of the bird is a small rise in the sand.  This softening creates an element of mystery and maybe even movement in the image as it appears it could be moving sand.  By being a bit higher in Mountain Plover image above the soft blurriness was avoided.  Both work, it’s a matter of personal preference and what you’re trying to say in the image.

Snowy Plover - 1/80 of a second, f/5.6 at ISO 640, Canon 5D mark III, 600 mm lens and 1.4 Extender, with the CTO gel and falsh Extender on the Canon 580 EX II.

Snowy Plover – 1/80 of a second, f/5.6 at ISO 640, Canon 5D Mark III, 600 mm lens and 1.4 Extender, with the CTO gel and Flash Extender on the Canon 580 EX II flash.

 

I think it’s our job as the photographer to make sure that the connection between people and wildlife happens.  That this just creates a more wonderful, intimate image is a bonus

A note on equipment and use.

I have a tripod that doesn’t have a center column.  Center column tripods don’t allow for the tripod to sit all the way flat on the ground and keep the camera up a foot or two off the ground.

  • I shorten the tripod legs first; then I spread them out wider to get the camera closer to the ground.
  • It’s difficult to push an opened legged tripod on the ground, so when I know I’ll be crawling (like for shorebirds) I use a Ground Pod and mount my camera and lens to it.  The Ground Pod requires a tripod head so; sometimes I’ll use the taller Wimberley gimbal head, and  if I want to get super low, I’ll use a ball head.
  • If I’m on the ground, most of the time I stay behind the camera to reduce what the birds see. But sometimes I’ll kneel to the side of the camera and tripod.
  • I often use a C Angle Viewfinder.  This is a right-angle viewfinder that fits on the back of the camera so I can have the camera lower in I need to kneel and can’t lay down.

 

Enjoy             Thanks         Tim

 

Creating Light on a Dark Winter Day

Earlier this week I went to Newport, Oregon to photograph a Mountain Plover. The weather forecast was for 10 to 25% chance of rain, but I knew if I was creative I could get a reasonably good image, as long as it didn’t rain too much.

The first thing was to understand that Mountain Plovers usually don’t run away, they’ll squat or “hide,” so getting close by moving slowly, staying low, etc. wasn’t going to be an issue. Here’s what the day looked like. You can see the band of gray sky, and general overcast/dull light the day had to offer. You can also see that I used an off camera flash and Better Beamer Flash Extender. The Mountain Plover is just in front of the camera lens, sitting in the sand trying to stay out of the wind and conserving energy. The tripod has it’s legs fully splayed, so it rests on the ground. I got as low as I could for these shots.

 

Iphone photo at 1/400 of a second, f/22 and ISO 22 no flash.

iPhone photo at 1/400 of a second, f/22 and ISO 32 no flash.

 

Here’s one of the images I created with the off camera flash.

Mountain Plover at 1/125 of a second, f/5.6 adn ISO 5000 with the Canon 5D Mark III and a 600 mm lens.

Mountain Plover at 1/125 of a second, f/5.6 and ISO 500 with the Canon 5D Mark III and a 600 mm lens.

By getting low to the ground I was able to not only get close to the bird, but also I could eliminate the background gray sky. The Flash unit with the Better Beamer also had a 1/8 power CTO (color temperature orange) gel on it. You can see how to set this up in a previous blog posting. The CTO gel warms up the light from the flash, without the CTO gel the light would be a daylight (or blue tone) light. The CTO gel creates an overall warm feeling for the image. The image now looks like it’s from a warm beach in nice afternoon light, and doesn’t look like the drab winter day it was.

 

Mountain Plover 1/200 of a second at f/5.6 and ISO 640. Canon 5D Mark III and a 600 mm lens and a 1.4 Extender and a 25 mm Extension Tube.

Mountain Plover 1/200 of a second at f/5.6 and ISO 640. Canon 5D Mark III and a 600 mm lens and a 1.4 Extender and a 25 mm Extension Tube.

 

More tips on how to do this:

The flash unit was set to -1 or -2 stops for two reasons, one it’s a light colored bird which reflects more light (don’t blow out or overexpose the whites on the sides and belly) and the closer the flash is to the subject, the lower power needed to get an accurate exposure.

I then made adjustments in camera (Exposure Compensation).  I shoot in AV or Aperture Priority Mode, so I added or subtracted light as needed to get the Histogram I want. I like to get the exposure data into, or close to halfway into the fifth section of the Histogram (on the right) of my Canon cameras.

There were also a group of four Snowy Plovers around and here’s an image of one of them. For the Snowy Plovers, I had to adjust the amount of light, so the images were not over-exposed. I decreased by 1 or more stops – subtracting light with Exposure Compensation.

 

Snowy Plover, 1/200 of a second at f/5.6 and ISO 500. Canon 5D mark III with a 600 mm lens a 1.4 Extender and a 25 mm Extension Tube.

Snowy Plover, 1/200 of a second at f/5.6 and ISO 500. Canon 5D Mark III with a 600 mm lens a 1.4 Extender and a 25 mm Extension Tube.

 

By adding external light and a little creative flash gel, I could make some pleasing images of the Snowy and Mountain Plovers.  I got the idea of adding CTO gels to my bird photography images while reading a Joe McNally book.  He’s the master of off-camera flash; I just applied his techniques to photographing birds. The big lesson I guess is even though it might be winter and gray skies in the Pacific Northwest, it’s still possible to create and make beautiful images.

 

Enjoy   Thanks   Tim

How to Manage Light Throughout the Day

Three shooting locations and three different light situations, by managing the light, shadows, angle the light was striking the birds, it all works.  The beautiful warm light of early morning and late afternoon are best, but not always possible so let’s  figure out how to work with what we have.

 

Royal Tern on a foggy morning at Crown Point. 1/1250 of a second at f/4 and ISO 500, with the Canon 5D Mark III and a 600mm lens.

Royal Tern on a foggy morning at Crown Point. 1/1250 of a second at f/4 and ISO 500, with the Canon 5D Mark III and a 600 mm lens.

On foggy mornings it’s even more important to expose to the right and get the image as bright as possible without blowing out the highlights or overexposing.  Otherwise everything turns out dark gray.

 

Common Gallinule or as it was formally known as a Common Moorhen. 1/1600 of a second, f/5.6 at ISO witht e Canon 5D Mark III and a 600 mm lens with the 1.4 Extender.

Common Gallinule or as it was formally known as a Common Moorhen. 1/1600 of a second, f/5.6 at ISO with Canon 5D Mark III and a 600 mm lens with the 1.4 Extender.

Shooting at high noon with bright light and dark shadows equals contrast, it’s important to manage the shadows.  Since all the shadows are behind the bird – except for a little on the neck, this image works.  Yes, it would have been better to make this in the sweet morning light, but that wasn’t possible, so this is under the category of, “making the best of the given situation”.  Manage the light!

 

Whimbrel finding dinner on the rocks. 1/640 of a second at f/8 and ISO 800 with the Canon 5D Mark III and the 600 mm lens and a 1.4 Extender.

Whimbrel finding dinner on the rocks. 1/640 of a second at f/8 and ISO 800 with the Canon 5D Mark III and the 600 mm lens and a 1.4 Extender.

Okay, finally at the end of the day, some nice warm evening, magic hour light, and a Whimbrel that forgot its got a probing beak, not a short, sharp beak for eating barnacles.  I’ve never seen them eat like this, so it was a treat to watch them work the rocks. In this light, just keep the sun at your back,  and have fun.

Enjoy  Thanks   Tim

 

Expectations

As photographers do we just go out and photograph what’s there or do we expect to see certain birds in certain locations?  The habitat was right, the birds that I had photographed five times before in the same location were not there.  Why?  What changes, recent storms, climate change, who knows?  In the past two days, I have expected to see Lesser Scaup in one spot and Wood Ducks in another, and they just weren’t there.  There were consolation prizes, though, Redhead ducks and Surf Scoters in Glorietta Bay and Phainopepla, Red-tailed Hawk, and Northern Harrier at Santee Lakes.  Today I think I’ll just go out and see what I find!

Here are a couple of my favorite images from yesterday at Santee Lakes.

A wet Double-crested Cormorant.

A wet Double-crested Cormorant. 1/80 of a second (we were under a bridge) f/4.5 at ISO 250, with the 600 mm lens and the Canon 5D Mark III.

 

Winter plumage male Ruddy Duck. 1/320 of a second, f/7.1 ISO 400 Canon 5D Mark III the 600 mm lens and the 1.4 Extender, +1 Exposure Compensation.

Winter plumage male Ruddy Duck. 1/320 of a second, f/7.1 ISO 400 Canon 5D Mark III the 600 mm lens and the 1.4 Extender, +1 Exposure Compensation.

Enjoy    Thanks    Tim

It’s All About Habitat

14 species of shorebirds at the mouth of the San Diego River and then three more at the Tijuana Slough NWR! A 17 species shorebird day!

 

Long-billed Curlew scratching its face. Birds have to be contortionist to satisfy those itiches.

Long-billed Curlew was scratching its face. Birds have to be a contortionist to satisfy those itches.

We had the usual shorebirds at the San Diego River, plus this year we had Surfbird, Ruddy Turnstone, and Yellowlegs.  This is a great location for birders and bird photographers.  The birds allow for a close approach, the local dogs from the dog park scare them more than humans walking slowly and getting low and non-threatening.  Tech data: 1/1600 of a second, f/6.3 at ISO 250, with the Canon 5D Mark III and the 600 mm lens and a 1.4 Extender.

 

Marbled Godwit bathing.

Marbled Godwit bathing.

Tech data: 1/1600 of a second, f/6.3 at ISO 250 again with the 5D Mark III the 600 mm lens and the  1.4 Extender.

 

Little Blue Heron fishing.

Little Blue Heron fishing.

The light started to get harsh when we finally got close to the Little Blue Heron. Created at 1/800 of a second at f/5.6, ISO 400 and still using the 5D Mark III and the 600 mm lens with the 1.4 Extender.

 

Redhead

Redhead

In the afternoon before we went to the Tijuana NWR we stopped at a Glorietta Bay thinking we’d photograph Eared Grebes and Lesser Scaup.  They weren’t there, but we did find Surf Scoter and Redheads, a very nice consolation prize instead!  Captured at 1/640 of a second f/5.6 ISO 400 with the 600 mm and the 1.4 Extender.  I had to crop this too, so you can see they didn’t come in very close, but they’re beautiful birds!

 

Enjoy     Thanks As Always     Tim

Pelicans & Sea Lions – San Diego Photo Workshop

How to  shoot on a cloudy day.

 

Although it was a cloudy morning at teh La Jolla cliffs by shooting tight we were still able to get some great iamges of Brown Pelicans in breeding plumage.

Although it was a cloudy morning at the La Jolla cliffs by shooting tight we were still able to get some great images of Brown Pelicans in breeding plumage.

This image was shot and then cropped tight to eliminate the cloudy gray background.  1/800 of a second, f/5.6 at ISO 1600.  Created using the Canon 5D Mark III and a 600 mm lens.  I used the  5D Mark III because there is less digital or luminance noise at 1600 ISO.

 

Brandt's Cormorant with their white plumes are so cool. For the cormorants having a cloudy day helped get a more detailed shot of their plumage.

Brandt’s Cormorant with their white plumes are so cool. For the cormorants having a cloudy day helped get a more detailed shot of their plumage.

The cormorant image was created with the 5D Mark III as well at ISO 800 at 1/400 of a second at f/5.6.  Shooting at 1/400 of a second is a slow shutter speed for a 600 mm lens so I pressed my hand down over the  center of the lens to dampen any vibration.  This is often refered to as long-lens shooting technique.

 

Female Sea Lion at The Cove. We were able to get a little closer to them this year, the last couple of years there was a safety rope seperating people and sea lions.

Female Sea Lion at The Cove. We were able to get a little closer to them this year, the last couple of years there was a safety rope seperating people and sea lions.

I used the Canon 7D Mark II while shooting the sea lions, at ISO 400, this allowed me to move around them and get a nice background, without any other people in the image.  There were a few people who got a little too close and the sea lions let them know.  It’s nice to have a 100 to 400 mm zoom on a APS sensor camera with the extra reach of the conversion factor, so staying back and not pressuring the sea lion was possible.

 

Sea Lion pup taking a nap with a soft furry pillow.

Sea Lion pup taking a nap with a soft furry pillow.

Again it ws a day to shoot tight, and the soft difused light made for  some fine detail in the images.

Enjoy     Thanks     Tim

 

 

Snowy Plover – Directional versus Quality of Light

It was just after noon that I came across this Snowy Plover today.  So the light was not the typically sweet morning or later afternoon light that warms up an image, that I like.  But by putting the sun directly on the face and eye of the bird I was still able to get a workable image, without too much contrasting shadow below the main subject.

 

Taken at 12:28 PM on 1/17/16.

Taken at 12:28 PM on 1/17/16.

This image was created at 1/640 of a second, at f/7.1 and ISO 250.  With the handheld Canon EOS 7D Mark II and the EF 100-400 mm f/4.5 – 5.6 IS lens.

 

Enjoy  Thanks Tim

First Birds of 2016

I was up in the Skagit on January 2, 2016 and here are a few of the birds I was able to find.

 

Short-eared Owl at the  Leque Island Wildlife Area.

Short-eared Owl at the Leque Island Wildlife Area. Canon 5D Mark III, 600mm lens at 1/640 of a second, f/4 and ISO 500.

We pulled into the Wildlife Area on Leque Island and the first thing we saw was a Short-eared Owl on the side of the road.  It left the road and flew 40 feet or so into the cut corn field, so we got a few images right out of the car, then very slowly we got out of the car and spent about an hour taking pictures and waiting for the  sunlight to hit the bird.  A very cooperative bird, and a start to a very special day.

 

Song Sparrow inthe blackberries at the Fir Island Farm Reserve. 1/500 of a second, f/8 and ISO 250, with the  7D Mark II and a 100 to 400 zoom at 400 mm.

Song Sparrow in the blackberries at the Fir Island Farm Reserve. 1/500 of a second, f/8 and ISO 250, with the 7D Mark II and a 100 to 400 zoom at 400 mm.

There were Marsh Wrens, Spotted Towhees, and Song Sparrow in the blackberries, but it took some waiting around for them to pop-up and get out in the open.

 

Rough-legged Hawk near the West 90. 1/2000 of a second, f/5.4 at ISO 250 with the Canon 7D Mark II and  a 100 to 400 zoom at 40 mm.

Rough-legged Hawk near the West 90. 1/2000 of a second, f/5.4 at ISO 250 with the Canon 7D Mark II and a 100 to 400 zoom at 400 mm.

Rough-legged Hawks are one of my favorite birds, they only visit us in the winter months, but they’re such cool birds.  It doesn’t seem like there are as many of them as there was in the 1980’s when I first started going to the Skagit to see them, now each encounter is special.

 

Blurred landscape. 1/15 of a second at f/25 and ISO 100 7D Mark II and the  100 to 400 zoom at 400 mm.

Blurred landscape. 1/15 of a second at f/25 and ISO 100 7D Mark II and the 100 to 400 zoom at 400 mm.

We were at the Wylie Wildlife Area or Skagit Headquarters and there were no birds close enough to photograph.  So, when there are no birds, it’s time to play and by setting the aperature to f/25, shooting in Aperature Priority Mode slowed the shutter speed to 1/15 of a second.  Then with a little camera movement up, the dead trees in the slough became something besides trees that had been killed by opening the dike and letting the saltwater in.  We had to explain to another bird photogrpaher what we were doing, since he thought maybe we were seeing some birds he didn’t.

 

Trumpter Swan flying directly overhead.  1/1800 of a second, f/6.3 and ISO 400 with the Canon 7D Mark ii at 150 mm.

Trumpter Swan flying directly overhead. 1/800 of a second, f/6.3 and ISO 400 with the Canon 7D Mark II at 150 mm.

There were a couple of large mixed flocks of swans on both sides of Dry Creek Road and when they would decide the grass was greener on the other side they’d fly right over us.  These are such large birds, and often when we were facing the oppiste direction they were approaching from, we’d hear the noise from their wing beats first.

 

Tundra Swans 1/1000 of a second, f/8 at ISO 250 at 400 mm with the Canon 7D Mark II.

Tundra Swans 1/1000 of a second, f/8 at ISO 250 at 400 mm with the Canon 7D Mark II.

 

Here’s a group of Tundra Swans at our last stop on Fir Island.  It was a wonderful day, cold but sunny and we had some cool birds.  Hope the rest of 2016 is as productive for all of us.

Oregon Coast Workshop Report

The Oregon Coast is a fabulous place to create landscape images, with a little luck and some patience, it might all come together. the subjects are all there, it’s the light that is sometimes magical, and those are the times we want to shoot!

 

The first afternoon/evening session was at Siletz Bay and the Three Brothers this is a great place to start and dust off the camera gear and get start getting into the “landscape” mindset.

On Siletz Bay near Lincoln City the Three Brothers stand guard just off shore from where the Siletz River enters the bay.

On Siletz Bay near Lincoln City the Three Brothers stand guard just off shore from where the Siletz River enters the bay.  1/50 of a second, f/20, ISO 100 at 195 mm with the Canon 5D Mark III and a 70 to 200 mm zoom.

 

The second day of the workshop was rainy and  foggy, I’m still working on those images trying to figure out if I want them to be black & white images or not.  So in the mean time I’ll just skip those.

I like to stop at Moolack beach just north of the Yaquina Head Lighthouse for the view of the lighthouse standing on the edge of the ocean.  Sometimes though the surprises are in the other direction.  By shooting looking north these bluffs look like the Napali Coast of Hawaii or someplace exotic like that.  The slow shutter speed caught some cars coming around the bend in the road as well.

 

Looking north up Moolack Beach.

Looking north up Moolack Beach.  A 2 second exposure, f/32, ISO 100 at 200 mm created with the Canon 5D Mark III and a 70 to 200 mm zoom.

 

I like this lighthouse because the land it sits on jets out into the Pacific, It looks and feels like a lighthouse should.  The location is dramatic, and often the clouds and lighting are too.

The Yaquina Head Lighthouse.

The Yaquina Head Lighthouse. 1/320 of a second, f/11, ISO 200 at 70 mm with the  Canon 5D Mark III and a 70 to 200 mm lens.

The weather was good so we went down to Cape Perpetua and Thor’s Well for a little excitement.

 

The water comes up through Thor's Well before it drains back in. The water blasting out of the hole is hwer photogrphaer's need to keep thier gear dry.

The water comes up through Thor’s Well before it drains back in. The water blasting out of the hole is were photographers need to make sure they keep their gear dry.  1/13 of a second, f/6.3 and ISO 100 at 17 mm.  Canon 5D Mark III and a 17 – 40 mm zoom.

 

The water draining back in Thor's Well is the standard image these days, but there's also something about the water blasting out that makes a pretty dynamic image as well.

The water draining back in Thor’s Well is the standard image these days, but there’s also something about the water blasting out that makes a pretty dynamic image as well. 1/15 of a second, f/6.3 and ISO 100 at 17 mm with the  Canon 5D Mark III and a 17 – 40 zoom.

 

The next morning from the hotel parking lot, I could see a few bright stars, so I knew it would be good at Pacific City.  Wow was it ever!

 

Pacific City, Haystack Rock and Cape Kiwanda on a fabulous morning of light.

Pacific City, Haystack Rock and Cape Kiwanda on a fabulous morning of light. A 4 second exposure, in-camera HDR, f/20, ISO 160 at 40 mm with the Canon 5D Mark III and a 17 to 40 mm zoom.

 

The beach at Pacific City just before sunrise.

The beach at Pacific City just before sunrise. 1.3 seconds at f/22 and ISO 100 at 40 mm with the  5D Mark III and the 17 to 40 zoom.

 

Haystack Rock and the golden sandstone of Cape Kiwanda at sunrise.

Haystack Rock and the golden sandstone of Cape Kiwanda at sunrise.  1/3 of a second, f/22 at ISO 100 and 34 mm with the  17 – 40 mm zoom lens and the Canon 5D Mark III.

 

Haystack Rock and the golden sandstone of Cape Kiwanda in full morning light.

Haystack Rock and the golden sandstone of Cape Kiwanda in full morning light. 1/18 of a second at f/22 and ISO 100 at 29 mm with the 5 D Mark III and a 17 – 40 mm zoom.

 

Often in late summer and early fall Common Murres can be found on beaches and rock jetties.  They molt or shed all of their primary feathers (flight feathers) at once so they can’t fly.  But because they also use their wings to fly underwater, when they don’t have their flight feathers they can’t swim and chase fish as well.  It’s as if, when they need food the most (growing feathers takes a lot of energy) it’s the most difficult for them to chase fish. My theory has always been that they come ashore to conserve energy and warm up.  Their body temperature is about 100 degrees and they can lose heat quickly in the cold Pacific waters. If you come across a Common Murre or any other bird it might not be injured or sick, it could just be resting waiting for the next high-tide to take it back into the  water.

A Common Murre beached.

A Common Murre beached. 1/250 of a second, f3.2 and ISO 200 at 195 mm with the Canon 7D Mark II and the 70 – 200 f/2.8 zoom lens.

 

Cape Kiwanda sandstone.

Cape Kiwanda sandstone. 1/10 of a second, f/32, ISO 100 with the Canon 7D Mark II and the 70 – 200 mm zoom at 70 mm.

 

Newport Bridge in teh afternoon on a scouting stop.

Newport Bridge in the afternoon on a scouting stop. 1/250 of a second at f/10 and ISO 100.  40 mm with the 5D mark III and the 17 to 40 mm zoom.

 

Newport Bridge way after sunset and a really long exposure.

Newport Bridge way after sunset and a long exposure.  86 second exposure at f/22 and ISO 100 at 40 mm with the  5D Mark III and the  17 – 40 mm zoom lens. The other piece of gear I needed, but didn’t have was a warm jacket!  A fishing boat is lighting up the side of the bridge and cars leave streaks of light on top, adds just a little more interesting light to the overall image.

 

It was a great week on the Oregon Coast we also stopped at the North Fork of the Yachats River Bridge, one of 50 remaining wooden covered birdges in Oregon, Seal Rocks, Agate Beach, hiked up to the top of Cape Kiwanda and hiked up part of the Cascade Head trail.

 

Enjoy!        Thanks          Tim

 

Celebrate National Wildlife Refuge Week – Grays Harbor NWR

The most important bird stop over site on the Pacific Coast outside of Alaska!  That’s how the American Bird Conservancy described Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge.  Huge flocks of migrating Dunlin and Western Sandpipers, smaller numbers of Short-billed Dowitchers, Red Knots, Semipalmated Plovers, Least Sandpipers, Black-bellied Plovers and other shorebirds, songbirds, water birds and raptors use this refuge.

 

 

Dunlin and Western Sandpipers from the Sandpiper Trail, Grays Harbor Hational Wildlife Refuge.

Dunlin and Western Sandpipers from the Sandpiper Trail, Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge.

 

Grays Harbor National Wildlife REfuge, Bowerman Basin from the Sandpiper Trail.

Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge, Bowerman Basin from the Sandpiper Trail in early morning light.

 

Birders on the Sandpiper Trail during spring migration when ten's of thousand of shorebirds can be see feeding in the refuge.

Birders on the Sandpiper Trail during spring migration when ten’s of thousand of shorebirds can be seen feeding in the refuge.

 

A Western Sandpiper in breeding plumage searching for vital food so it can refuel itself and continue the last leg of it's migration to the Arctic.

A Western Sandpiper in breeding plumage searching for vital food so it can refuel and continue the last leg of it’s migration to the Arctic breeding grounds.

 

Red Knots stop over in Grays Harbor to find fuel for their next leg of migration. Without the abundant food supply of the harbor many shorebirds will not have einough food to finsih their migration, or be under nourished and won't survive the first few weeks in the Arctic breeding grounds.

Red Knots stop over in Grays Harbor to find fuel for their next leg of migration. Without the abundant food supply of the harbor many shorebirds will not have enough food to finish their migration, or be under nourished and won’t survive the first few weeks in the Arctic breeding grounds.

 

A feeding Dunlin in breeding plumage raises its wings to keep its balance when a small wave comes in.

A feeding Dunlin in breeding plumage raises its wings to keep its balance when a small wave comes in.

 

Dunlin in flight.

Dunlin in flight.

 

Morning at Bowerman Basin

Morning at Bowerman Basin, Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge.

 

Shorebirds in flight as the tide moves in and closes the low-tide feeding session.

Shorebirds in flight – as the tide moves in and closes the low-tide feeding session.

 

Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge and the huge population of shorebirds and their food is threaten by oil development.  Any oil spill could contaminate, or kill off part of the food supply to these global migrants.  Stopover sites like Grays Harbor are critical for the survival of our migrating shorebirds, some of them will only stop at three or four locations to refuel while migrating.  Any degradation of the food supply will dimish their chances of getting to their breeding grounds, surviving the first few weeks on the breeding grounds, or successfully breeding.  Shorebird numbers are already declining – why would we want that trend to continue by making survival harder for them?

Here’s a way to take action to protect the Grays Harbor Shorebirds or learn more about this issue. (This takes you to a National Audubon site, sponsored by the Washington State Audubon as well.)

Shorebirds are my favorite family of birds, and Grays Harbor is where I go to photograph them.  It just doesn’t make any sense to me that we would put an oil transfer station next to one of the world’s most important and vital stopover sites for migrating shorebirds.

 

Thanks    Tim

 

 

 

Celebrate National Wildlife Refuge Week – Bosque del Apache NWR

Bosque del Apache NWR is on every bird photographers top ten list of refuges to visit and revisit if they’ve been there or heard about it!  The abundance of cranes, snow geese, raptors and songbirds combined with dramatic, fabulous light is unmatched in North America.  It has been described as the mecca for bird photographers and around Thanksgiving Weekend each year just after the annual Festival of the Cranes the place can feel a little crowded and well let’s just say not a very wild, natural place.  Go a few weeks later though and it will be a very different experience. Here’s a collection of some of my favorite images from over the years of visiting the refuge.

 

Sandhill Cranes leaving corn fields for their evening roosting ponds.

Sandhill Cranes leaving the corn fields headed to their evening roosting ponds.

 

A fmaily of cranes getting ready to leave the roosting ponds and head to the corn fields for the day.

A family of cranes getting ready to leave the roosting ponds and head to the corn fields for the day.

 

Two Sandhill Cranes flying to the corn fields in morning light.

Two Sandhill Cranes flying to the corn fields in morning light.

 

Snow Goose blastoff which can sound like a freight train is about to run over you.

Snow Goose blastoff which can sound like a freight train is about to run over you.

 

When the cranes leave the roosting ponds each morning there are some great flight photography opportunities.

When the cranes leave the roosting ponds each morning there are some great flight photography opportunities.

 

A Road Runner dashes along one fo the many dikes in the refuge.

A Road Runner dashes along one of the many dikes in the refuge.

 

Each year at Bosque something unexcepted will happen. This Western Screech Owl was in a nest just off teh auto tour route and was very cooperative, and photogenic.

Each year at Bosque something unexcepted will happen. This Western Screech Owl was in a nest just off the auto tour route and was very cooperative, and photogenic.

 

Great-tailed Grackles leave their roosting tree when a pair of Bald Eagles decide to land in it.

Great-tailed Grackles leave their roosting tree when a pair of Bald Eagles decide to land in it. It looks like it could be Africa, but it’s just another fantastic sunrise at Bosque!

 

More images of Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge can be found here.

Photography Workshop information can be found here.

My interview by Outdoor Photographer magazine can be found here.

 

Enjoy!    Thanks     Tim

National Wildlife Refuge Week — Benton Lake NWR

Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Montana has about 200 species of birds, but it’s the breeding habitat for Marbled Godwits, Long-billed Curlews, and Upland Sandpipers that got me to go there the first time in 2008.  I also discovered birds I hadn’t seen before; Sharp-tailed Grouse, Lark Bunting, and Common Terns.  This is a wonderful place to visit in June for the breeding shorebirds but it’s also, I hear, great in the spring when the Sharp-tailed Grouse are displaying.

 

Just outside the refuge Upland Sandpipers can be found on the fence posts in the morning hours.

Just outside the refuge Upland Sandpipers can be found on the fence posts in the morning hours.

 

I went to Benton Lakes NWR the first time to find, see and photograph Upland Sandpipers (I have a thing for shorebirds).  Each morning as I drove to the refuge I’d find some, but they were often accompanied by Short-eared Owls.  Sitting on the fence posts there would be three or four Upland Sandpipers then a Short-eared Owl, the pattern repeated over and over again as  I drove past the fence posts.   The wide open short-grass prairie doesn’t have many perches so these fence posts are often the only perches around.

 

Early morning light on a Short-eared Owl.

Early morning light on a Short-eared Owl.

The auto-tour loop on the refuge offers many opporutinites to see breeding birds and in mid June the chicks are tall enough to get above the  short-grass.

Breeding plumage Marbled Godwit.

Breeding plumage Marbled Godwit.

 

Marbled Godwit chick hiding in the short-grass prairie.

Marbled Godwit chick unable to hide any longer in the short-grass prairie.

 

The long bill of the Long-billed Curlew.

The long bill of the Long-billed Curlew.

 

A Sharp-tailed Grouse walking along the side of the road.

A Sharp-tailed Grouse walking along the side of the road.

 

An unexpected surprise, a Lark Bunting.

An unexpected surprise, a Lark Bunting.

 

Female Northern Shoveler and lamellae, a comb like edge of the  bill used to sift plankton and  aquatic insects through.

Female Northern Shoveler and lamellae, a comb like sturcture at the edge of the bill used to shift plankton and aquatic insects.

 

Located just outside of Great Falls, Montanta Benton Lake National Wildlfie Refuge was established in 1929 to enhance and protect a closed-basin of cattail and bulrush marsh surrounded by short-grass prairie.  Several hundred thousand migrating birds, ducks, geese, swans, shorebirds, and song birds depend on this refuge.

 

Enjoy our National Wildlife Refuges!   Thanks   Tim





Celebrate our National Wildlife Refuges — Malheur NWR

It’s National Wildlife Refuge Week, let’s celebrate!

My all time favorite National Wildlife Refuge is Malheur NWR.  I first went there around 2000 armed with a 300 mm lens and a 2x Extender with a Canon film camera.  I had heard there were Sandhill Cranes there, so I went there for a week in mid September looking for newly arrived cranes.  I think I heard a few, but I discovered so much more.  The abundance of birds, the wide open landscape, the room to breathe, just the freedom of the West, so prevalent in the High Desert of Eastern Oregon.  Here are just a few of the birds that can be found at Malheur, and a few landscape iamges as well.

A Sandhill Crane pauses during feeding to checkout the surroundings.

A Sandhill Crane pauses during feeding to checkout the surroundings.

 

From near the Refuge Headquarters a full moon rises over the landscape.

From near the Refuge Headquarters a full moon rises over the landscape.

 

Lake Malheur from The Narrows at sunset.

Malheur Lake from The Narrows at sunset.

 

When there’s water at Malheur the birding and the bird photography is fantastic.  Didn’t Roger Tory Peterson himself describe this a a birding place not to be missed!

 

A Black-necked Stilt chick foraging by the side of the road in a "wet" year.

A Black-necked Stilt chick foraging by the side of the road in a “wet” year.

 

An American Bittern by the side of the road in one of the years where tehre wre birds everywhere.

An American Bittern by the side of the road in one of the years when there were birds everywhere.

 

One of my all time favoirte birds becasue of the way they sit side-ways and the sound they make when they dive through the eveing air.

One of my all time favorite birds because they sit side-ways and the sound they make when they dive through the evening air.

 

Sunset on the high desert near Malheur Lake.

Sunset on the high desert near Malheur Lake.

 

White-faced Ibis flyinig near sunset.

White-faced Ibis flying in the late afternoon.

 

In the spring, a huge variety of songbirds migrate thorugh the refuge, and migrate traps like the Malheur NWR Headquarters site arrtact them.

In the spring, a huge variety of songbirds migrate through the refuge, and migrant traps like the Malheur NWR Headquarters offer them a chance to get  food, water and to rest.

 

I love the way Western Meadow Larks sining along the side of the road as I approach the refuge make me smile.

Western Meadow Larks singing along the side of the road on the way to the  refuge always make me smile.

Our National Wildlife Refuge system protects and preserves land and animals.  It’s one of the things that makes America a great place.  I encourage everyone to visit a National Wildlife Refuge and for a few minutes just stop and listen.  You’ll hear the natural world, birds, insects, and lots of  other animals.  Then plan to go out and experience a sunrise or a sunset at a Refuge, when the sun breaks the horizon it’s usually magical.

 

More images from Malheur National Wildlife Refuge can be seen here .

If you’d like to join me on one of my photography workshops to Malheur Natioanl Wildlife Refuge, more information can be found here.

 

Many thanks to Sue from A Sense of Wonder for giving me the idea that I need to post about Wildlife Refuges this week.

Enjoy!        Thanks As Always          Tim

 

 

 

New Images added to Photography Workshop Galleries

I finally have a chance to add new images from 2015 to these workshop galleries.  It’s been a fun year, and with the fall weather, I have a little more time indoors to get caught up on a few things like this.  I saw and was able to photograph some incredible birds this year, the ones that stand out the most was the Long-eared Owl that spent a fair amount of time in Stanwood the Black Skimmers from San Diego last winter.

A Red-tailed Hawk preens on a wire on the Skagit Flats.

A Red-tailed Hawk preens on a wire on the Skagit Flats.

Here’s the link to the Gallery for the Winter Birds of the Skagit & Samish Flats, a great place for raptor photography in the winter months.  Bald Eagles, Red-tailed and Rough-legged Hawks, Peregrine Falcons, Short-eared and sometimes Long-eared Owls, thousands of Snow Geese and a lot of other possbilities.

 

 

A breeding plumage Brown Pelican preens while resting on the cliffs in La Jolla, San Diego County.

A breeding plumage Brown Pelican preens while resting on the cliffs in La Jolla, San Diego County.

San Diego County has one of the highest possbile species list for birders and bird photographers.  In the winter months, breeding plumage Brown Pelicans, Double Crested and Brandt’s Cormorants are spectacular.  But, there are a lot of ohter birds we photograph there, like Little Blue Herons.  Here’s the link to the Birds of San Diego County Photography Workshop Gallery.

 

 

A male Gila Woodpecker searches for food in SE Arizona, near Green Valley.

A male Gila Woodpecker searches for food in SE Arizona, near Green Valley.

SE Arizona in the spring has fantastic birds and in early May, the Sonoran Desert birds are unique and fun to photograph.  Here’s the photo gallery for the Sonoran Desert Birds – SE Arizona Photography Workshop.

 

Enjoy the images!         Thanks as Always         Tim

 

 

 

What’s in the FRAME?

Framing a photograph is deciding what to include and what to exclude.  It’s the process of determining what we want to say in our images.  Traditionally photographers did this by deciding what lens to use and how close to get to the subject, in a way cropping manually.  Today we can think about the frame and the story or message in the image while we make the image and in post-production where we have the ability to crop much more then in the traditional film days.  Each of these steps is important to the process because it gives us two chances to think about the image and our message.

 

 

Photographer at Seal Rocks during an October sunset.

Photographer at Seal Rocks during an October sunset. 1-second shutter speed, f/8 and ISO 100, at 29 mm.

The beach, the sky, the sunset colored clouds, the waves and the photographer all combine to tell this simple story of a photographer creating images on the beach at sunset.  A normal view would be at around 50 mm of lens, choosing a wider angle lens let me include all of the rocks and a fair bit of sky and sand.  I wanted the photographer to be a smaller element than the rocks and wanted to show some vastness and openness to the landscape.

 

 

Backlit waves at Seal Rocks on the Oregon Coast.

Backlit waves at Seal Rocks on the Oregon Coast. 1/100 of a second, f/8, ISO 100 at 400 mm.

With the use of a telephone lens and some cropping in post-production, the little pop of backlit wave is silhouetted against the larger rocks at Seal Rocks beach adding drama and an element suspense.  The scale of the image is also changed, and there’s no way to know how high the rocks are or how big the waves are.  The 400 mm telephoto lens choice also compressed the image, so the waves and rocks all look closer to each other, this compression is referred to as a flattening of the image.  In this image I’m isolating the element of the wave splash, choosing what I want the view to see and experience.

 

 

 1/10 of a second, f/16 at ISO 100 and 160 mm

1/20 of a second, f/16 at ISO 100 and 160 mm

Stepping back a little and zooming out to 160 mm, more rocks, waves and some beach added to the image create a different feel to the beach location.  There is now a layering of the waves in the image with some coming straight towards the viewer and some cutting across in front of the viewer.  There’s a sense of walking on the beach in this image.

 

 

A slow shutter spedd blurs the evening waves.

A slow shutter speed blurs the evening waves. An 8-second exposure, f/22 at ISO 100 and 40 mm.

By slowing the shutter speed and thus blurring the water a calmer more peaceful or even reflective image is created, the power of the ocean waves isn’t felt or doesn’t threaten the viewer. Cropping to a panoramic type image also adds to the sense of a larger landscape, pushing the waves and the rocks further away from the viewer.

 

 

The setting sun reflects on wet sand.

The setting sun reflects on wet sand. 1/200 of a second, f/20 and ISO 200 at 40 mm.

By darkening the corners with a vignette, the center of the frame is lighter, and the eye is naturally drawn there.  A vignette can add focus to the main message in any image.  In a cluttered image, adding a vignette can focus the eye on the part of the image that tells the story best. The vignette in this image brings the eye to the bottom center of the frame and then draws it to the setting sun on the horizon.

Photography is more than taking an image; it’s telling a story, having the viewer experience something, a feeling or thought – this connection is really what we’re after.  It’s important at some point in the process before creating an image, while making the image, or in the post-processing of putting the finishing touches on an image to ask, “What am I trying to say here?”, “What do I want the viewer to feel or think?”

 

I’ll be back on the Oregon Coast October 18th through 21st teaching a landscape photography workshop; more information can be found here.  There’s still a couple of openings if you’re interested.

 

Enjoy!      Thanks       Tim

September 2015 Newsletter

I just sent out my September  2015 Newsletter if you aren’t on the emailing address list just click on the link.

 

Seal Rocks at sunset.

Seal Rocks at sunset.

 

Thanks   Enjoy!   Tim

 

Lesser Sand Plover

These images were taken yesterday on August 16th at Ocean Shores, WA. On the outer coast near the Quinault Casino.  This was a field trip sponsored by the Seattle Audubon, and there were nine of us on the trip.  Later the bird was seen by two other birders see — eBird for those details.

We accessed the beach from the entrance point by the Best Western Hotel and drove north.  We saw the usual Western Sandpipers, Semipalmated Plovers and Sanderlings but it was low tide the birds were scattered and not bunched up so we had low numbers and small groupings of birds.  After driving as far as we legally could we turned around and were headed south back to the Best Western beach access point thinking about the North Jetty as the next stop.  I don’t know why I stopped the car to look at this small group of shorebirds, but the day before on the shorebird field trip for the Fall Shorebird Class I taught for Eastside Audubon we found a Ruddy Turnstone on the beach with a few Western Sandpipers and Semipalmated Plovers.  What happened next though must have looked like pandemonium on the beach as I jumped out of my car and ran back to Blair’s car to ask him to get the scope out, he was already out of his car grabing his camera.  We both had left our car doors open and cars running as we very quickly realized what we were seeing.  I bet the field trip participants wondered what the heck they’d gotten themselves into as both drivers had jumped out of their cars.  Blair and I both called out Lesser Sand Plover, although I think the first thing I said was the old name Mongolian Plover.  After awhile we settled down and got the other field trip participants on the bird, but still in shock/surprise that we’d located a bird that hadn’t been seen in Washington since 2013, we made sure everyone got good looks, four of five of us had cameras and got pictures, and I’m not sure I stopped smiling and saying WOW, for a couple of hours.  Yep, 24 hours later, WOW!

 

Lesser Sadn Plover found on the outer coast of Ocean Shores near teh  Quinault Casino on Aug. 16th, 2015.

Lesser Sand Plover found on the outer coast of Ocean Shores near the Quinault Casino on Aug. 16th, 2015.

 

Lesser Sand Plover-8128

 

Lesser Sand Plover-8188

 

Lesser Sand Plover feeding on a marine worm.

Lesser Sand Plover feeding on a marine worm.

 

Lesser Sand Plover with Semipalmated Plovers and Western Sandpiper

Lesser Sand Plover with Semipalmated Plovers and Western Sandpiper

 

Size comparison Lesser Sand Plover with Western Sandpipers and Semipalmated Plovers.

Size comparison Lesser Sand Plover with Western Sandpiper and Semipalmated Plovers.

 

Later in the day on the Oyhut Game Range we located what we first thought to be 17 Pacific Golden Plovers, but when they were flushed by a peregrine there were 22 or 23. I had counted 8 the day before with the Eastside Audubon Class. But, 20+ Pacific Golden Plovers was a high number for all of us.

There was also a pair of peregrine on the Game Range, and we watch one Peregrine Falcon snack on a shorebird.  It had landed pretty close to use and we had great views with our bins.  We couldn’t make out the band number but it had a right leg red band and a left leg green band.  It was pretty windy by then and even with scope views there was too much vibration to read the band number.

We watched the peregrine that had been snacking take off and fly about two feet off the ground and spit a group of flushed shorebirds.  Then the other peregrine from higher up dove on one of the groups.  It caught one of the small shorebirds and flew directly over head.  On any normal fieldtrip that would have been the highlight, watching a peregrine hunt then do a fly over at 20 feet. But on a day with a Lesser Sand Plover and  20+ Pacific Golden Plovers, it was exciting, but definitely not the highlight!

These images were taken around 11:45  AM in mid-day light with the Canon 7D Mark II and a 100-400 mm lens with a 1.4 Extender so the  effective focal lenght was 896 mm.  I had to do a lot of cropping on each image, we were not that close to the bird, and none of us wanted to flush it.

 

 

Enjoy      Get outside and Thanks!         Tim

 

 

Palouse Harvest Workshop Report & Images

Well, we had one 104 degree afternoon, some rain, a lotta sunshine, and I think we each took several thousand images. It was nice to have some clouds in the sky to breakup all that blue. While I love the Palouse in any season, I like the harvest time best.  I think it’s because I like the gold and yellow hues.  I used the 70 to 200 mm zoom as much as, if not more than the 17 to 40 mm wide angle zoom.  I like isolating the subject with the telephoto lens.  Like the image below where I was able to keep some telphone poles out of the image.

My first stop for the harvest workshop, a red barn and a harvester, blue sky and some clouds!  What more can you ask for.

My first stop for the harvest workshop, a red barn and a harvester, blue sky and some clouds! What more can you ask for.

 

I photographed this tree last year, and wanted to come back.  I'm glad I kept good notes last year!  This year with the clouds it looks so much more dramatic.

I photographed this tree last year, and wanted to come back. I’m glad I kept good notes last year! This year with the clouds it looks so much more dramatic.

 

I explore a new area of the Palouse everytime I'm there and with  4,000 square miles there's still a lot to discover.  This reminded my of Dorthy and maybe living in Kansas after the tornado took her to OZ.

I explore a new area of the Palouse everytime I’m there and with 4,000 square miles there’s still a lot to discover. This reminded me of Dorthy and maybe living in Kansas after the tornado took her to The Land of OZ.

 

This is my favorite image of the  Uniontown Wheel Fence.  I like the  spiky wheel, and I think the  whole fence looks better with  golden wheat behind it.

This is my favorite image of the Uniontown Wheel Fence. I like the spiky wheel, and I think the whole fence looks better with golden wheat behind it.

 

Steptpe Butte and the Baylor Road Tree after sunset.

Steptpe Butte and the Baylor Road Tree after sunset.

 

I got a chance to talk to one of th e owners in May, so it's special to see a farm still being worked by the 5th generation.

I got a chance to talk to one of the owners in May, so it’s special to see a farm still being worked, and kept in the family, now by the 5th generation.

 

It really did rain a few minutes later, but not very much, just a passing storm.

It really did rain a few minutes later, but not very much, just a passing storm.

 

Sunset from Steptoe Butte finally I got some  great light with clouds after  several visits.

Sunset from Steptoe Butte finally I got some great light with clouds after several visits.

 

Rain clouds giving out a  downpour in the  distance, just glad it wasn't on us.

Rain clouds and evening light.  Clouds giving out a downpour in the distance, just glad it wasn’t on us.

 

Gotta love a clear morning and beautiful light!

The next morning this is what we had!  Gotta love a clear morning and beautiful light!

 

My favorite truck inthe Palouse (so far).  I think I've been here four times now.

My favorite truck in the Palouse (so far). I think I’ve been here four or five times now.

 

This is the  full frame shot of the  Palouse 10 to 15 degrees off the sunset.  I know I wanted the center section for the final image.  I was using the 70 to 200 mm lens at 200mm, trying to isolate the rolling hills.

Here's a full frame view of the  sunset from near Kamiak Butte.

Here’s a full frame view of the sunset from near Kamiak Butte.

Here’s the  final image after cropping out some of the sky and all of the foreground.  To isolate the subject, either use a longer lens or you can crop in post processing later as I did here.  I use both techniques, but here I cropped because I wanted the the whole width of the hills.  I also took a four frame pano of this scene which woudl be a third way to isolate just the rolling hills in filtered evening light.

Here's teh cropped version that I knew I would get out of the image I took above.

Here’s the cropped version that I knew I would get out of the image I took above.

 

It was a great trip, plenty of photographic opportunities and  I think everyone had a great time. I’ll be leading another workshop next year the workshop dates will be July 25th through 29th with 4.5 days of photography, four sunrise/morning sessions and five afternoon/evening session.  We get up early and stay out pretty late so a break in the middle of the day offers a good chance to catchup on some missed sleep.

Enjoy!         Thanks         Tim

 

 

5 Tips to Improve your Photography

These first two have been around forever, but they are as useful now as they were in the old film days.  Carry your camera with you at all times; you can’t get the shot if you don’t have your camera with you is obvious.

And then there’s the, Stop to get the picture when you see it, it won’t be there later, the light will be different, the subject will have moved, etc.

 

The rest of these tips are based on an old Nike advertising campaign in the 1980’s – “You Won’t Know If You Don’t Go!” And it’s still true today.

An early morning image of Mount Rainier above the Kent Valley.

An early morning image of Mount Rainier above the Kent Valley.

 

Here’s the main new tip to live by: Get up early and stay out late: Get up before sunrise and stay out after the sun has set. (If you have to, need to, or just plain want to, nap in the middle of the day.)  The best, most dramatic, most colorful light is before the sun crests the horizon and half an hour after it’s set. Look to the west before the sunrise that’s where the color will be. When in doubt stay out later and get up earlier.

A late winter suset at Seaside Oregon, taken after the sun has gone down.

A late winter sunset at Seaside Oregon, taken after the sun has gone down.

 

Never come home from a trip less than exhausted. You can always rest later; you can only get the shot if you’re there and you see it. (See napping above.)

 

Have a Go Box by your front door or in the back of your car, food, water and an extra jacket. So you can stay out late, and get the incredible shots.

The Go Box, water, snacks, stove, and cup. Just add coffee!

The Go Box, water, snacks, stove, and cup. Just add coffee!

 

Put your equipment away in your camera bag in the same place every time. You won’t have to hunt for that one lens or filter, and you won’t forget it at home. Or if you’re tired because you got up before sunrise and haven’t had any coffee, you can find your gear by instinct rather than rely on thinking at 4:30 AM.

What's in the bag. Everything has it's place and it goes right back from where it was pulled out of.

What’s in the bag. Everything has its place, and it goes right back from where it was pulled out of.

 

Always, I mean always carry your camera manual with you.

I hope these tips help some of you experience the incredible light that begins and ends each day.  These tips aren’t new, they work, and many of these were practiced by photographers like Galen Rowell.  This is just a reminder that what worked once to separate experienced photographers from others was their willingness to go for the earliest and latest light.

See you at 4:00 AM someplace!

Enjoy!     Thanks     Tim