Tim Boyer Photography

Small Groups, Cool Birds in Fun Places, Create Award-winning Images!

Marbled Godwit

7 Ways to Get A Soft Background

Bird PhotographyTim BoyerComment

By having a softer background, the subject will be separated from the background and pop a little bit more. Also, our eyes will focus more on the subject and less on anything distracting in the background.

Shooting wide open at f/2.8, f/4, or f/5.6 will give us the minimum amount of depth-of-field. So I almost always shoot wide open (f/4 on my 600 mm lens) to help blur the background and to increase the shutter speed. Since more light is getting through the aperture, the shutter doesn’t have to be open as long.

 Use a longer lens the more telephoto power you use, the less depth of field you'll have so the background will be more blurred. Long telephoto lenses have a very narrow depth-of-field, this will help separate the subject from the background. A 600 mm lens gives a softer background than a 400 mm lens.

Use an extender to increase the effective focal length. By using a 1.4 Extender and making a 400 mm lens effectively a 640 mm lens, there will be less depth-of-field, and the background will be more blurred.

Use an Extension Tube to help blur the background. An Extension Tube (usually used in macro-photography) allows your lens to focus closer; this diminishes the depth-of-field so that the background will be blurrier.

Get lower or move to the right or left to improve what's in the background sometimes by moving lower you can get the sky in the background and not a cluttered bunch of branches. By moving right or left, the background will change as well, so move a little each way to see if the background can be improved.

Have distance between the subject and the background the further away the bird is from the background, the more it can be blurred. Sometimes you have control of this and other times you don’t but if you can shoot where the background bushes or trees are further away, the better the image will look.

Use a full frame sensor; a full frame sensor has less depth of field than a cropped sensor. A cropped sensor like the Canon APS-C on the 7D Mark II has more depth-of-field than a full sized frame on a camera like the 5D Mark IV.

I hope this helps, if you have other ways to blur the background, please leave them in the comments section below.

Thanks as always, Tim

It's All About Habitat

Bird PhotographyTim Boyer1 Comment

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 scratching its face. Birds have to be contortionist to satisfy those itiches.

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

National Wildlife Refuge Week -- Benton Lake NWR

Bird PhotographyTim BoyerComment

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 hiding 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 edge of the bill used to sift plankton and aquatic insects through.

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

Bird Quest 2014

Bird PhotographyTim Boyer2 Comments
Brown Pelican, La Jolla, CA

Brown Pelican, La Jolla, CA

A warm day and cool birds! Day 2 of my California trip I went to La Jolla, and Scripps Beach, for the pelican and the shorebirds, that can be found there.

There are also Brandt's and Double Crested Cormorants.

Brandt's Cormorant, La Jolla, Ca

Brandt's Cormorant, La Jolla, Ca

Double-crested Cormorant, La Jolla, CA

Double-crested Cormorant, La Jolla, CA

Just south of the La Jolla Caves, there's some beach access that often holds shorebirds.  I've found Black Turnstone, Spotted Sandpiper, Ruddy Turnstone, Black-bellied Plover and Willet here.  Today there was mostly gulls and a few Black Turnstones.

Black Turnstone, La Jolla, CA

Black Turnstone, La Jolla, CA

I finished the day at Scripps beach, and found the following birds there.

Whimbrel at Scripps Beach, CA

Whimbrel at Scripps Beach, CA

Spotter Sandpiper, La Jolla, CA

Spotter Sandpiper, La Jolla, CA

Say's Phoebe, Scripps Beach, CA

Say's Phoebe, Scripps Beach, CA

Marbled Godwit, Scripps Beach, CA

Marbled Godwit, Scripps Beach, CA

Shorebirds are my favorite group of birds, so whenever I can end the day with a few in golden light I consider it to be a magical ending to a great day.  Tally: at the end of Janauray 6th, I had 10 species photographed for the new year, and to quote Robert Frost, "miles to go before I sleep", but many adventures waiting ahead of me.

Birding/Photo Project #7 & San Diego Workshop Images

Bird PhotographyTim BoyerComment
Brandt's Cormorant on its nightly roost.

Brandt's Cormorant on its nightly roost.

Twelve birds from the  last day of the San Diego workshop. These images chronicle the last day of the San Diego Workshop  (January 11th). This brings me to 50 for the month. But more than the numbers,  it's the great expeiences I've had.  The surpise of seeing and spending time with the Little Blue Heron, the Snowy Plover, Wrentit, California Towhee, and the Brown Creeper.  The very animated Snowy Egret were all special moments and why I want to continue to spend as much time as possible with birds.

Adult Heermann's Gull roosting on the La Jolla cliffs.

Adult Heermann's Gull roosting on the La Jolla cliffs.

A yellow-rumped Warbler feeding.

A yellow-rumped Warbler feeding.

Song Sparrow feeding in the bushes at a park on the La Jolla coast.

Song Sparrow feeding in the bushes at a park on the La Jolla coast.

The ubiquitous Rock Pigeon, looking for handouts in La Jolla.

The ubiquitous Rock Pigeon, looking for handouts in La Jolla.

Marbled Godwit at Coronado Beach.

Marbled Godwit at Coronado Beach.

Wintering Snowy Plover on the beaches south of Coronado.

Wintering Snowy Plover on the beaches south of Coronado.

Willet on the beaches south of Coronado looking for food in the incoming tide.

Willet on the beaches south of Coronado looking for food in the incoming tide.

Winter plumage Western Sandpiper, foraging for food on the beache south of Coronado.

Winter plumage Western Sandpiper, foraging for food on the beache south of Coronado.

Black-bellied Plover in winter plumage hanging out in Coronado.

Black-bellied Plover in winter plumage hanging out in Coronado.

Semipalmated Plover hanging out on the Coronado beach waiting for a low tide so it can forage for food.

Semipalmated Plover hanging out on the Coronado beach waiting for a low tide so it can forage for food.

Black Phoebe on the beach near La Jolla Beach.

Black Phoebe on the beach near La Jolla Beach.