Tim Boyer Photography

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Creating Light on a Dark Winter Day

Bird PhotographyTim Boyer1 Comment

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 22 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 adn ISO 5000 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

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 #19

Bird PhotographyTim BoyerComment

Still catching up from the bird photography tour of Central Oregon  --  Malheur National Wildlfie Refuge -- Cabin Lake Photography Workshop.  Here are eight new birds for this year.  

White-headed Woodpecker

White-headed Woodpecker

It's always fun to see the White-headed Woodpecker.  Black, white and the male red patch ont he back of the head, a cool looking bird.

Cassin's Finch

Cassin's Finch

White-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch

Green-tailed Towhee

Green-tailed Towhee

Green-tailed Towhees are one of my favorite birds, rusty-red flared caps, olive green sides, white throats, and a little challenging to find.  They're like little punk rock stars!

Chipping Sparrow

Chipping Sparrow

About to take off from its perch for the water feature below it, this Chipping Sparrow looks  like it's cupped in a pair of hands.

Mountain Chickadee

Mountain Chickadee

American Kestrel

American Kestrel

Vesper Sparrow

Vesper Sparrow

There were more Brewer's Sparrows than Vespers in this area, but it was the first time I could tell them apart without going by vocalization/singing.  The Vesper Sparrow is larger, has a rusty patch on the shoulder , and more streaked on the breast, and looks chuckier (maybe not a technical description, but it just looks that way to me).

If you're intrested - this brings the year total to 110 photographed species.

Enjoy

Thanks

Tim

Bird Quest 2014 #18

Bird PhotographyTim BoyerComment

What happens when you mix Cascade Pine Forest, the high desert sage eco-system of Eastern Oregon and a little water?  ....An incredible variety of birds!  Heres the first eight of the sixteen birds I added to this years list.  

Red Crossbill

Red Crossbill

Gray Flycatcher

Gray Flycatcher

Male Western Tanager

Male Western Tanager

I confess I've wanted to get a good Western Tanager image for years, I got several on this trip.  What a special bird for us out west.

Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker

Always photogenic the male Northern Flicker perches prior to diving down to the water for a drink.

Mourning Dove

Mourning Dove

Soft light really shows the beauty of a Mourning Dove.

Pygmy Nuthatch

Pygmy Nuthatch

Clark's Nutcracker

Clark's Nutcracker

Eurasian Collared-Dove

Eurasian Collared-Dove

I was surprised to see a Eurasian Collaared-Dove fly in, perch and take off, all in one fluid motion.  It was like an Air Force touch and go landing practice.

I made these images with a Canon 5D Mark III and the 600mm lens.  I used a 25mm extension tube so I could focus closer.  Yes, they were that close!  A couple of years ago I tried to use the 600mm lens with the Canon 7D and I had too much lens, I ended up shooting too tight - even for me.  I set the aperture to f/8 wanting to capture as much fine feather detail as possible, this really helped with the sharpness and increased the depth-of-field a little.

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

Bird Quest 2014 #10

Bird PhotographyTim BoyerComment

I had the chance to give my "Understanding Shorebirds, the Miracle of Migration" at the Blue Mountain Audubon in Walla Walla last week. On the way back I added these three birds to my quest of seeing how many birds I could get good quality images of this year.  Last year I didn't do so well after the art show season started, this year I think I'll do better.  

Starling at a nest hole it was trying to  put  grass strands in.
Starling at a nest hole it was trying to put grass strands in.

I stepped out of the car at McNary National Wildlife Refuge just as this Starling was entering a nest hole.  I waited a few minutes as it came back first with grass strands, they  wouldn't fit in the  hole so the Starling dropped them.  Then for a minute or two it just stood by the entrance as if guarding it.

Yellow-headed Blackbird calling from McNary National Wildlife Refuge.
Yellow-headed Blackbird calling from McNary National Wildlife Refuge.

I like the call of Yellow-headed Blackbirds, the raspy, richness of their voices make me smile.

From McNary I made a stop at the Burrowing Owls near Othello.   I got a few images of them, but was surprised to hear Sandhill Cranes.  They were directly above me riding thermals.  It was fun watching them for several minutes as they were swirling around in the sky.

Sandhill Cranes catching a thermal over farm fields east of Othello WA.
Sandhill Cranes catching a thermal over farm fields east of Othello WA.

Enjoy!

Good Birding

Tim

Birding/Photo Project #5 & San Diego Workshop Images

Bird PhotographyTim BoyerComment

These images were created on the banks of the San Diego River, and at Cabrillo National Monument as part of the San Diego Workshop.   Having never photographed Wrentits, Little Blue Herons or California Towhees, this was a fun day.  California Towhee was a new bird for my life list as well.   The tally is now 33 species photographed and  467 to go.  

A Little Blue Heron pauses while searching for food along the San Diego River.

A Little Blue Heron pauses while searching for food along the San Diego River.

A basic/winter plumage Forster's Tern hanging out on the San Diego River.

A basic/winter plumage Forster's Tern hanging out on the San Diego River.

A Killdeer along the banks of the San Diego River.

A Killdeer along the banks of the San Diego River.

A Horned Lark searching for seeds along the San Diego River.

A Horned Lark searching for seeds along the San Diego River.

A Whimbrel searching for food along the San Diego River.

A Whimbrel searching for food along the San Diego River.

A California Towhee searching for seeds in the Cabrillo National Monument across the bay from San Diego.

A California Towhee searching for seeds in the Cabrillo National Monument across the bay from San Diego.

A Wrentit feeding in bushes in teh Cabrillo National Monument, San Diego CA.

A Wrentit feeding in bushes in teh Cabrillo National Monument, San Diego CA.

Birding/Photo Project #4 & San Diego Workshop Images

Bird PhotographyTim BoyerComment

These images were taken on Jnauary 7th during the San Diego Workshop. We spent a full day shooting at Santee Lakes, the birds were cooperative and very close at times. This has to be one of the best locations in San Diego County to photograph birds.  

Great-tailed Grackle at Santee Lakes, CA
Great-tailed Grackle at Santee Lakes, CA
Wood Duck, Santee Lakes, CA
Wood Duck, Santee Lakes, CA
American Wigeon, Santee Lakes, CA
American Wigeon, Santee Lakes, CA
Pied-billed Grebe, Santee Lakes CA
Pied-billed Grebe, Santee Lakes CA
Ring-billed Duck, Santee Lakes, CA
Ring-billed Duck, Santee Lakes, CA
Red-tailed Hawk, Santee Lakes, CA
Red-tailed Hawk, Santee Lakes, CA
Black-crowned Night-Heron, Santee Lakes, CA
Black-crowned Night-Heron, Santee Lakes, CA
Ruddy Duck, Santee Lakes, CA
Ruddy Duck, Santee Lakes, CA
Great Blue Heron, Santee Lakes, CA
Great Blue Heron, Santee Lakes, CA
Snowy Egret, Santee Lakes, CA
Snowy Egret, Santee Lakes, CA
Cinnamon Teal, Santee Lakes, CA
Cinnamon Teal, Santee Lakes, CA
Gadwall, Santee Lakes, CA
Gadwall, Santee Lakes, CA
Brown Creeper, Santee Lakes, CA
Brown Creeper, Santee Lakes, CA