Tim Boyer Photography

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Ocean Shores

Shorebird Migration On The Washington Coast

Bird PhotographyTim BoyerComment

It’s late June so now is when things start to change again, shorebird migration on the Washington Coast is starting. First, the failed breeders will start showing up then the breeding adults will start to trickle southward. As we get into July more and more adult birds will start returning to the coast, and finally, in late August and into September we’ll have some rare birds show up along with this year's juveniles. Juvenile birds migrate with innate maps coded into their DNA; they’re migrating without their parents, so mistakes happen. If a juvenile bird in the high Arctic makes a small mistake, it could end up on the wrong side of the Pacific Ocean. We got to see birds like the Ruff on August 21, 2014, or Lesser Sand Plover on August 16, 2015. While it’s super exciting to see those rare birds, we’ll still get to see birds a little more common, but equally as special like Pacific and American Golden-Plovers, or Long-billed Curlews and Whimbrel as they migrate down the coast. Late into October, we’ll see juvenile Rock Sandpipers on the rocky coast and jetties.  

Fall migration requires patience that the spring migration doesn’t. In the spring there’s a quick 6-week flurry of birds rushing in their migration northward to claim the choice breeding territories. But the fall migration of shorebirds is very long from the end of June through October. Four months where we need to pace ourselves if we’re to keep up with the latest arrivals. There are several places on the Washington Coast to check out for fall shorebirds. I like to go to the North Jetty at Ocean Shores for Surfbirds, Black Turnstones, Wandering Tattlers and sometimes even Pigeon Guillemots show up. For Sanderlings, Semipalmated Plovers, Dunlin, Western Sandpipers, the outer coastal, sandy beaches are great places. Later in the summer, the coastal freshwater ponds near Midway Beach or the Oyehut Wildlife Area in Ocean Shores are gathering places for migrating Red-necked Phalaropes, Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs, Willets, and occasionally even Whimbrel show up. Where there are some grassy areas out on the Oyehut Wildlife Area, it’s possible to find Pacific and American Golden-Plovers, rare birds like Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, and Ruff.

If you’re interested in photographing shorebirds and learning more about them, come on my Fall Migration Shorebird Photography Workshop click here.

Enjoy  --    Thanks As Always  --  Tim

Give the Bird Room to Move Into The Frame

Bird PhotographyTim Boyer1 Comment
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 a a "normal" shot. 840 mm, the 600 mm lens and a 1.4 Extender.

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.

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 shoot 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 how 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 fulling 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

Lesser Sand Plover

Bird PhotographyTim BoyerComment

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 Sadn Plover found on the outer coast of Ocean Shores near teh Quinault Casino on Aug. 16th, 2015.
Lesser Sand Plover-8128
Lesser Sand Plover-8128
Lesser Sand Plover-8188
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 Sandpipers 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

Bird Quest 2014 #20

Bird PhotographyTim BoyerComment
Ruff watching cars and people walk by.
Ruff watching cars and people walk by.

Today on the outer coast of Ocean Shores I spotted a Ruff in a mixed flock of Black-bellied Plovers, Short-billed Dowitchers, Sanderling, Western Sandpipers, and Semipalmated Plovers.  This is only the  third time I've seen a Ruff, and the only time I've seen one on the outer coast, out in the open.  Typically they're found near ponds or marsh habitat.

Ruff moving out of the traffic lane.
Ruff moving out of the traffic lane.
Ruff
Ruff

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 #13

Bird PhotographyTim BoyerComment
Glaucous Gull at Ocean Shores.
Glaucous Gull at Ocean Shores.

Glaucous Gull at Ocean Shores.  During the Grays harbor Shorebird Festival I heard there was a Glaucous Gull on the beach , but I couldn't find it.  There were lots of Western/Glaucous-winged hybrids around which didn't make it easy.  Finally after a couple of tries I found the bird a mile away from where it was the weekend before.

Great Horned Owl at Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge.
Great Horned Owl at Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge.

Nisqually is famous for it's family of Great Horned Owls that can be seen on the nest in the winter months.  Usually when the trees leaf-out, the owls are tough to find.  If a refuge volunteer hadn't pointed it out I don't think I would have found it.  This is a heavily cropped image, even with a 600 mm lens the bird was small in the frame.

Common Yellowthroat at Samamish State Park.
Common Yellowthroat at Samamish State Park.

Often heard but rarely seen around the lakes and wetlands of the Northwest,  I was able to get this shot of a Common Yellowthroat on a wetland trail at Lake Samamish State Park.

Enjoy!

Thanks

Tim

Bird Quest 2014 #12

Bird PhotographyTim BoyerComment

Shorebird migration continues on the Washington Coast.  This past week -- Wednesday and Thursday there was great weather on the Washington Coast and while there were fewer birds than a week ago, there are still thousands and thousands of shorebirds out there.  

California Gull hanging out in some good Washington Coastal weather.
California Gull hanging out in some good Washington Coastal weather.

I use the car as a photo blind a lot, and this works really well for gulls at the beach since they're used to a lot of vehicles.  Well, some people even feed the gulls from their cars ;-) so the  gulls are habituated to cars and humans.  Taken with a bean bag drapped over the window/door and the camera and lens resting on the beanbag.

Crow, let's just say American.
Crow, let's just say American.

I was really hoping I could get some more Raven  images, but the crows were more plentiful and cooperative.  Oh well, next winter then.

Killdeer trying to figure out if it should do the distraction display or if I wasn't a threat.
Killdeer trying to figure out if it should do the distraction display or if I wasn't a threat.

Killdeer are so funny, they're nervous and curious at the same time.  This one ran towards me, then ran away form me several times, trying to figure out what I was doing.  I just sat and watched, not making any noise or sudden movements.

How to Get Close:

The next three images were made on an incoming tide.  As the tide came in I was laying in the sand with my camera and lens mounted on a Skimmer Ground Pod II (made by Naturescapes) and a Whimberley gimbal tripod head.  As the birds are pushed towards me by the tide, I slowly crawl a little closer to them.  Moving very slowly it's possible to become just part of the  landscape, and they will eventually get closer than the lens will focus.  At this point I crawl backwards very, very slowly so I don't scare them and either continue to take more images or go back to my car and let them feed.  Shorebirds need a lot of fuel for their migration, and I don't want to have them waste any energy by me spooking them.  I think these eye level images of shorebirds are the best way to create an image of them in their environment, at their level we don't tower over them or look down on them, and it's easier to connect with them.  It's also possible to get even lower by using a ball-head on the Skimmer Ground Pod,  Then then lens will be only a couple of inches above the ground.

Sanderling looking for the  next meal.
Sanderling looking for the next meal.

This Sanderling is still pretty much in non-breeding or basic plumage.  Other Sanderling were already starting to get a little brown and a reddish coloration on thier necks and heads, their breeding or alternate plumage.  This is a great time of year to study molt or feather changes in birds.

Semipalmated Plover eating a marine worm.
Semipalmated Plover eating a marine worm.

Shorebird congregate wherever there is plenty of food.  The stretch on beach I was on was loaded with marine worms.  There was also a limited clam dig open when I was shooting and I was told that clam diggers look for where the birds are and that's how they know where the clams will be.  I watched the clam diggers and the shorebirds use the same stretch of beach, the birds were actively feeding within several feet of the clam diggers.  Neither bothered by the other too much.

Western Sandpiper searchiing for food.
Western Sandpiper searchiing for food.

Although it appears as if  the Western Sandpiper is looking at itself in the reflected water, it's really just a search for the next worm.

Enjoy!

Thanks & Good Birding

Tim

Photo/Birding Project 2013

Bird PhotographyTim BoyerComment

Photographic Big Year Update It's been pointed out to me that really I'm doing a photographic big year, so I think I'll just call it that.  This posting will put me at 95 birds this year.  A far cry from where I thought I would be at this point.  So, this week I'm going to go try to re-focus.  The attached nine birds were seen around Grays Harbor last week.

Red Knot, Bottle Beach State Park, Grays Harbor, WA with Short-billed Dowitchers and Western Sandpipers.
Red Knot, Bottle Beach State Park, Grays Harbor, WA with Short-billed Dowitchers and Western Sandpipers.

There was only  one Red Knot in the group of shorebirds I was close to on this day.

Short-billed Dowitcher feeding at Bottle Beach State Park, Grays Harbor, WA
Short-billed Dowitcher feeding at Bottle Beach State Park, Grays Harbor, WA
Greater Yellowlegs actively feeding at Bottle Beach State Park, Grays Harbor, WA.
Greater Yellowlegs actively feeding at Bottle Beach State Park, Grays Harbor, WA.

Some days the fog never burns off, but when a Greater Yellowlegs walks by as it's fishing, it's still a great day!

Osprey, Brady Loop Road
Osprey, Brady Loop Road

Same day on the way home, I stopped at Brady Loop Road and was able to get a few images of this Osprey with nesting materail in its talons.

Dunlin in breeding plumage, feeding at Bottle Beach State Park, Grays Harbor, WA
Dunlin in breeding plumage, feeding at Bottle Beach State Park, Grays Harbor, WA
Canada Goose flying over Bowerman Basin, Garys Harbor National Wildlife Refuge, WA
Canada Goose flying over Bowerman Basin, Garys Harbor National Wildlife Refuge, WA
Rock Sandpiper North Jetty, Ocean Shores , WA
Rock Sandpiper North Jetty, Ocean Shores , WA
Wandering Tattler, North Jetty, Ocean Shores, WA in breeding plumage
Wandering Tattler, North Jetty, Ocean Shores, WA in breeding plumage
Breeding plumage Surfbird on teh North Jetty, Ocean Shores, WA.
Breeding plumage Surfbird on teh North Jetty, Ocean Shores, WA.