Tim Boyer Photography

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Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

Celebrate our National Wildlife Refuges -- Malheur NWR

Bird PhotographyTim Boyer2 Comments

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.

Lake Malheur 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 where tehre wre 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 favoirte birds becasue of the way they sit side-ways and the sound they make when they dive through the eveing 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 flyinig near sunset.

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 thorugh the refuge, and migrate traps like the Malheur NWR Headquarters site arrtact them.

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

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

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

Malheur NWR What a Difference a Year Makes

Bird PhotographyTim BoyerComment
The expansive Malheur Lake at sunrise from The Narrows.
The expansive Malheur Lake at sunrise from The Narrows.

There's a drought in the West, some days it's not noticeable, but other times it just smacks you in the face -- there's no water here!  I had hoped to do some more landscape photography around Malheur and Mud Lake this year, but it didn't happen because of the massisve amount of water that just isn't there.

This is what Malheur Lake looked like last June, full of water, and here's what it looks like this June!

Lake Malheur from the Narrows June 2015
Lake Malheur from the Narrows June 2015

The photos can be deceiving though, it rained for 10 days straight before we got there so the desert was green with grasses, sage-brush and even flowering plants.  But it won't last, it was only a temporary splash of color on a stark barren landscape.

But,  where there's water -- yikes there's bugs - and where there's water & bugs, yep there are birds.  Here's a few of my favorite images for the three day photography workshop.

Beuna Vista Overlook
Beuna Vista Overlook
Common Nighhawk
Common Nighhawk
Young Burrowing Owls at teh nest.
Young Burrowing Owls at teh nest.
Great-horned Owl
Great-horned Owl
Young Great-horned Owl
Young Great-horned Owl
Common Nighthawk in evening light.
Common Nighthawk in evening light.

Despite the drought we had plenty of birds to photograph, Spotted Sandpipers, Yellow Warbles, Willow Flycatchers, Ravens, Franklin's Gulls, Sandhill Cranes, American Avocests, Black-necked Stilts, Wilson's Phalaropes, Bullock's Oriole, a pair of Greater Scaup, Killdeer, Ferruginous Hawks, and a lot of others.

Enjoy   Thanks   Tim

Shooting Slow

Photography TipsTim BoyerComment

Long exposures can smooth out water, create an evocative mood, add depth and emotion to an image, intensify colors, and can force us to slow down and think about what we're creating.

30 second exposure of Malheur lake at sunrise from The Narrows, Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. f/11, ISO 100, 17mm focal length.
30 second exposure of Malheur lake at sunrise from The Narrows, Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. f/11, ISO 100, 17mm focal length.

When I think about this image, really I feel it.  The stillness grabs me and pulls me into this image; I feel like I want to experience the calmness of this quiet blue morning. The promise of a new day is present in the hint of yellow and reds on the horizon, and the natural landscape points toward the sunrise, creating the desire to see what's over the horizon.

Here's how I start and what I think about when I arrive at a location and decide the best way to shoot it is by going slow.

I almost always have my camera set to Aperture Priority Mode and my exposure metering to Evaluative Metering Mode.  I then set the Aperture to somewhere between  f/11 and f/22, if you know you want to get the slowest shutter speed possible, then start at f/22.  I then set my ISO to 50 or 100, attach a remote control/cable release ( or use the self-timer mode -- when I forget the cable release).

I start to think about the image, what I want to include, and start making a composition.  I compose an image, then cover the viewfinder with tape, and take a test shot.  This is just to set the exposure, and see if I need to add any more depth-of-field, see if the composition works etc.  I then check the exposure and add or subtract light based on what the Histogram or Highlights Alert Mode tells me.  I add or plus 1/3 a stop or more if the image is too dark, and I subtract or dial in minus 1/3 a stop or more is there's too much light. After I've made a test shot, I check the Exposure, Shutter Speed, and the effect and impact of the slow Shutter Speed image.

Sunset at Ocean Shores, WA. 5 seconds, at f/22 with a 40mm lens and ISO 100.
Sunset at Ocean Shores, WA. 5 seconds, at f/22 with a 40mm lens and ISO 100.

If the image isn't slow enough, I add a Polarizer or Variable Neutral Density Filter.  I rotate the Polarizer around until the highlights on the water disappear, or the sky turns blue, or turn the Variable Neutral Density Filter around until the shutter speed is where I think it needs to be.

I take a second shot, and then evaluate the results: Did the water, wave, mist, etc. soften or slow down as much as I  wanted? If not, and I used a Polarizer, I change to the Variable Neutral Density Filter. ( I use the Lee 4 x 4 Circular Polarizer here's a link to Amazon)    If I used the Variable Neutral Density Filter, I turn it a little more. If it's turned one full stop, the exposure time will double. If I've done everything right, my second or third image will be the one I keep.

Other tips:

If the Variable Neutral Density Filter is too dark,  switch to manual focus on your camera lens to get focused on the subject.

Use Aperture Priority mode up to about 30 minutes, after that switch everything to Manual Mode.  Long exposures of over 30 minutes will take an Intervalometer and an extra portion of patience.

Sunrise on Lake Malheur, from The Narrows. 2 second exposure, f/22, ISO 100 and focal length at 40mm.
Sunrise on Lake Malheur, from The Narrows. 2 second exposure, f/22, ISO 100 and focal length at 40mm.

This was taken a little bit later in the morning as the sunrise had added an element of red into the sky and clouds.  The water at 2 seconds isn't as blurred as the 5 seconds image or the first shot at 30 seconds. The 40mm lens flattens the depth of the image some and doesn't have the pull of the first image either.  For me, this has more color, but less impact.

Multnomah Falls in October. 1/2 a second at f/18, ISO 200 and a focal lenght of 23mm.
Multnomah Falls in October. 1/2 a second at f/18, ISO 200 and a focal lenght of 23mm.

At half a second the fast moving water is blurred to a very soft, silky quality, but the leaves and vegetation surrounding the falls are also moving and thus a little bit blurry.  ISO 200 was also needed as it was a rainy day.  The Polarizer cut the reflection and highlights on the vegetation and increased the intensity of the color, besides helping slow the shutter speed.

Enjoy!

Thanks

Tim

Bird Quest 2014 #17

Bird PhotographyTim BoyerComment

Last year it was about this time that I got so busy doing art shows that I thought I didn't have enough time to make new images and post them.  This year, I'm doing a few less shows and want to get out more.  So, I have two or three more posts from Central Oregon, and then I'll have some from the Oregon Coast. Most of the images today were taken during the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge/Central Oregon Photography Workshop I held last week.  These images are from the second and third days, and made with the Canon 5D Mark III and the 100 to 400 mm zoom lens, with a 1.4 Extender attached.

Great Egret, Benson Lake, Malheur NWR

Great Egret, Benson Lake, Malheur NWR

I like the Benson Pond area because the refuge rules let birders and photographers walk around a little.  And there are some  great woods that hold roosting Turkey Vultures, Egrets, and Great Horned Owls, and  other birds.  Don't miss the swallows, nighthawks, ibis, ducks, swans and sparrows that are there too!

Turksy Vulture soaring, Benson Lake, Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

Turksy Vulture soaring, Benson Lake, Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

Loggerhead Shrilke, Double O Road, near Malheur NWR

Loggerhead Shrilke, Double O Road, near Malheur NWR

The Double O Road had a little water this year, but it dried up fast.  Water that was several inches deep when I scouted, but was gone a couple of days later when I came back with the group.

Ring-necked Pheasant, Malheur NWR

Ring-necked Pheasant, Malheur NWR

Ring-necked Pheasant and Black-crowned Night-Heron are found by driving the refuge roads with the attitude, that you'll go out and see what's there.  Hardly ever is birding or photography a stake out at Malheur.

Black-crowned Night-Heron, Malheur NWR

Black-crowned Night-Heron, Malheur NWR

Bullock's Oriole, near Knox Pond, Malheur NWR

Bullock's Oriole, near Knox Pond, Malheur NWR

Savanna Sparrow, near P Ranch, Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

Savanna Sparrow, near P Ranch, Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Malheur NWR

Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Malheur NWR

Lark Sparrows, Steens Mountain Road

Lark Sparrows, Steens Mountain Road

I don't think I've ever seen two at once!  I just wish they we're backlit. But, it was cool to see!

American Robin Wenas Canyon, WA

American Robin Wenas Canyon, WA

I forgot to post this with the other Wenas Canyon birds.  No disrespect intended, I like Robins, they're always doing something interesting, and their latin name is miss understood my many.

House Finch in the cherry tree, backyard, Renton, WA

House Finch in the cherry tree, backyard, Renton, WA

We have a couple of nice cherry trees in our backyard.  I like the cherries, but it's more fun for me to see what they'll bring in.  We added House Finch to our yard list this year, and right now there's two Northern Flickers, four Robins, and two Juncos.

(Just a side note if you're interested this makes 94 bird species photographed this year.)

Enjoy!

Thanks

Tim

Bird Quest 2014 #16

Bird PhotographyTim BoyerComment

Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in June can be a contrast of bounty.  In a wet year, the baby shorebirds and song birds are right beside the road and so plentiful it's hard to decide what to take a photo of.  In a dry year , the birds are there, they're just harder to find and photograph.  This year was a dry year again,  the last wet year was 2012.  These images are from the June 20 to 22 Malheur Photography Workshop.  

Horned Lark on teh Foster Flats Road

Horned Lark on teh Foster Flats Road

I went up the Foster Flat road to see if any of the Greater Sage-Grouse were still around, I looked two mornings in a row and didn't see any. I knew it was a long shot in June, but decided to try since they are such cool birds.  I did find a bunch of sage birds, and had a nice morning up there.

Cedar Waxwing near P Ranch

Cedar Waxwing near P Ranch

After trying for the  Sage Grouse I went  down to P Ranch to see if I could find any Bobolink, and along the way I found Cedar Waxwing and Willow Flycather.

Willow Flycatcher near Benson Pond

Willow Flycatcher near Benson Pond

Yellow Warbled near Benson Pond

Yellow Warbled near Benson Pond

The Willow Flycathers and the Yellow Warblers were really singing up a storm in the mornings, this Yellow Warbler let me listen for several minutes before changing locations.

Tree swallow near Knox Pond

Tree swallow near Knox Pond

There's a swallow box near Benson Pond, and they offered some close images.

Black Tern north of Buena Vista Ponds

Black Tern north of Buena Vista Ponds

On my second day of scouting the refuge for birds, I decided to try the northern portion of the Central Patrol Road, I did manage to find a few Black Terns, but with less water, there were not many birds in this area.

Forster's Tern from the Narrows

Forster's Tern from the Narrows

Ending the  day at The Narrows, from the pull off between the lakes, Forster's Terns were flying by, and then on the way to dinner at The Narrow RV Park, they had two Common Nighthawks on the fence railings.

Common Nighthawk at The Narrows RV park

Common Nighthawk at The Narrows RV park

White-faced Ibis form near P Ranch

White-faced Ibis form near P Ranch

Also at P Ranch there were plenty of White-faced Ibis and three times in three days there were Bobolink right beside the road.  I saw more Ibis and Bobolinks in this visit then any other visit to Malheur.

Bobolink from half a mile north of P Ranch

Bobolink from half a mile north of P Ranch

Bobolin are on everybody's want list when they visit Malheur, this year it was easy, most years it's a difficult task and  involves walking on the river trail and fighting misquotes.  Glad to have it easy this year, but they're such interestingly marked birds, it's always a joy to see them.

Enjoy!

Thanks

Tim