Tim Boyer Photography

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Rough-legged Hawk

First Birds of 2016

Bird PhotographyTim BoyerComment

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.

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 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.

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 40 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. 1/1800 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.

Canon 7D Mark II Review Post #2

The Canon 7D Mark IITim BoyerComment

A real review by an in-the-field photographer.

I am primarily a bird photographer, so the ASP-C sensor size is a plus for me, so this isn't about full frame versus smaller size sensor.  For me it's about shooting action, motion, focusing quickly and accurately and about getting the bird large enough in the frame.  Since birds are small, magnification or reach is important.

I took the Canon 7D Mark II up to the Skagit to see what it could/would do.  Here are a few images and a few lessons learned about this camera.

Snow Geese and full moon. 1/250 of a second, f/8, ISO 800, 600 mm lens, 1.4 Extender, Effective focal lenght 1,3444 mm.
Snow Geese and full moon. 1/250 of a second, f/8, ISO 800, 600 mm lens, 1.4 Extender, Effective focal lenght 1,3444 mm.

When I got out of the car at the Snow Goose Preserve I knew it would be a special morning.  I just had to wait for it.  The moon was bright and gorgeous, the fog was pink, the air brisk, and a little patience was in order.  I waited for some birds to fly in front of the moon, and after a while this flock did.  If these snows had flown by 10 minutes, earlier the sky would have been pink.  Oh well, next time.  ISO 800 doesn't seem to matter much; there's a little grain from the higher ISO but there isn't any noise, and I can live with a little old fashion Ektachrome look every once in a while.

Canon 7D Matk II, 600 mm lens, !.4 Extender, 1/1000 of a second, f/5.6, ISO 500.
Canon 7D Matk II, 600 mm lens, !.4 Extender, 1/1000 of a second, f/5.6, ISO 500.

The Rough-legged Hawk was pretty far away.  Even with an effective focal length of 1,344 mm I still had to crop this by about 40 to 50%, but it shows what the new camera can do.  That, and it was the first Rough-legged Hawk I saw this year in the Skagit, so I felt like I just had to get a shot of it.

Dunlin & Black-bellied Plover. 1/160 of a second, f/45, ISO 4000, 600 mm lens, 1.4 Extender.
Dunlin & Black-bellied Plover. 1/160 of a second, f/45, ISO 4000, 600 mm lens, 1.4 Extender.

Not my best shot, but I include it to show what f/45 at ISO 4000 and a 600 mm lens looks like with the Canon 7D Mark II.  Typically at f/4 or even  f/8 there is an inch of depth-of-field, at f/45 there's about a foot. If I could have gotten on the other side of them and they weren't backlit, well then it could have been an okay image.  I'd still have a problem that they're in the mud etc. but you can see the possibilities.  Oh, and I'm pretty sure this is the first time I've taken and shown an image at ISO 4000 and f/45!

Great Bue Heron, 1/320 of a second, ISO 200, f/8, 600 mm, 1.4 Extender.
Great Bue Heron, 1/320 of a second, ISO 200, f/8, 600 mm, 1.4 Extender.

As I  pulled up to this Great Blue Heron jumped up and started flying off.  I got off a couple of quick shots. The Canon 7D Mark II acquired the bird quickly and the ten frames per seconds functions are what allowed me to get a few images.  If I had been shooting the Canon 5D Mark III my other camera, I simply would not have gotten any images at all.  Not the best image, at f/8, with the Extender, the smaller camera sensor, and the shooting angle from the road, all made the background a little too much in focus and thus distracting, but again you can see the potential of the new camera.

Red-tailed Hawk 1/400 of a second, ISO 200, 600 mm lens, at f/4.
Red-tailed Hawk 1/400 of a second, ISO 200, 600 mm lens, at f/4.

So with just the camera and the 600 mm lens, the effective focal length was 960 mm.  That's a lot of reach when a big bird like a Red-tail is just across the road.

Okay, I've had the camera about ten days, and I still like it.  I'm going to be using it as my primary bird photography camera with the 5D Mark III relegated to landscapes and a backup bird camera.  The autofocus is fast, the ten frames per send are fast, the autofocus is everything Canon said it would be, the new sensor is pretty darn good.  One thing the extra reach of a smaller ASP-C sensor will do for bird images is the photographer doesn't have to get as close, so the birds appear in a more natural stance, they aren't all hunched over ready to launch themselves away from the perceived threat of a photographer.  Hope this helps you if you're trying to decide if this is the camera for you.

Enjoy!

Thanks

Tim.

Bird Quest 2014 #6

Bird PhotographyTim BoyerComment

Skagit Flats is home to many raptors in the winter and on January 18th I was able to photograph Rough-legged Hawks and a Barred Owl.  

Rough-legged hawk in flight
Rough-legged hawk in flight
Rough-legged Hawk perched, this is the more noraml view we get of hawks on the  Skagit Flats.
Rough-legged Hawk perched, this is the more noraml view we get of hawks on the Skagit Flats.

Ya gotta love winter in Washignton, the sun might not come out for a few weeks at a time, but the birds are fantastic.

this Barred Owl came out about half-an-hour before sunset.
this Barred Owl came out about half-an-hour before sunset.

It was getting dark, the sun was going down, the day was cloudy (go figure), so I used a flash unit and a Better Beamer Flash Extender to light up the owl a little.

Spotted Towhee at Nisqually National Wildlfie Refuge.
Spotted Towhee at Nisqually National Wildlfie Refuge.

Finally after three weeks of rain the sun came out.  Yesterday I went to the Old Fishing Hole in Kent, then Cedar River and Gene Coulon Park in Renton for a couple of hours of photography.  It was so nice to be outside in the sun again, and ran into a couple of other bird photographers for some good conversation. What a day!

Female Mallard finishing a bath.
Female Mallard finishing a bath.

Photographers always talk about anticipating the action.  I was this female Mallard with a male on top of her, and I knew that after they were finished, they would both take a bath.  This is the last frame of about six with the female.  (I'll post another one on my FaceBook page.)

Yellow-rumped Warbler Cedar River Park, Renton.
Yellow-rumped Warbler Cedar River Park, Renton.
Black-capped Chickadee Cedar River Park, Renton.
Black-capped Chickadee Cedar River Park, Renton.
Male Gadwal Gene Coulon Park, Renton.
Male Gadwal Gene Coulon Park, Renton.
Buffelhead, Gene Coulon Park, Renton.
Buffelhead, Gene Coulon Park, Renton.

Good Birding!