A Few Shots From This Spring and Summer

Hello, everybody.  It has been so hot for so long, that I just haven’t been outside much.  The last few times out, I tried shooting some short videos which was a lot of fun.  The editing of said videos isn’t such a big thrill, however.

Below are some photos from Transition Ranch, Laguna Seca Ranch and a stretch of highway between Sabinal and Utopia, Texas.  One of my favorite photo ranches, Santa Clara Ranch, has been booked all summer so I’m waiting for October to get back.

Don’t forget to click on a photo to enlarge and sharpen it for viewing.

Cactus Wren with colorful background at Transition Ranch.
Cactus Wren with colorful background at Transition Ranch.

I really liked this wren shot, but should have been shooting at f8 or f11 to bring the tail into focus.  On the other hand, that would have brought more detail into the background and I didn’t want that.  Unfortunately, this type of pose lasts about 2 seconds, so there is no time to think about “where to focus at f11″ and still keep the background blurred.  The correct focus point for this shot would probably have been about mid-way up the tail.

Crevise Spiny Lizard and lichen covered limestone outcropping.
Crevice Spiny Lizard on lichen covered limestone outcropping.
Finding room for a trio on this perch.
Finding room for a trio on this perch.
Northern Bobwhite male shaking and re-organizing his feathers.
Northern Bobwhite male shaking and re-organizing his feathers.

Interest can be added to your photos by placing flowers in the background at strategic locations before photography begins.

Northern Cardinal flying from Crepe Myrtle branch..
Northern Cardinal flying from Crepe Myrtle branch..
Northern Cardinal male drinking
Northern Bobwhite male drinking.

The challenge on this bobwhite quail photo was to capture water running from its beak.  Water streaming out of his mouth added interest to the shot.

Curve-billed and Long-billed Thrashers chasing after prey.
Curve-billed and Long-billed Thrashers chasing prey.

This is a second look at the location with blooming flowers in the background.

Painted Bunting just out of the bath
Painted Bunting just out of the bath.

Don’t give up if your bird subject comes in to bathe and is frightened away before you get the shot.  It will almost always come back two or three times (as this painted bunting did) to finish the job.

Wine Cups and Indian Blankets on the Utopia highway.
Wine Cups and Indian Blankets on the Utopia highway.
Wildflowers north of Sabinal, Texas.
Wildflowers north of Sabinal, Texas.

I hope to keep digging up photos from recent trips that haven’t been shared.  That way, we can pass the summer days with a reminder of more pleasant weather.  I think it’s time to head east for beach shots.

See you later,

Larry

 

Yellow Birds

Last Wednesday, I headed for South Padre Island hoping to photograph some of the last of 2016’s spring migrant warblers.  It was just about the end of the migration but a handful of warblers, hummingbirds and catbirds were still resting and foraging in the Convention Center thicket.

These shots were made in the shadows at a water feature without the aid of photogenic perches.  Fortunately, the yellow birds exposed well, even on dead limbs.

Click on a photo to enlarge and sharpen it for better viewing.

Ever try photographing a redstart in low light...a constant twitch, twitch, twitch.
Ever try photographing a redstart in low light…twitch, twitch, twitch.

Most of these photos were shot at 1/160th to 1/80th of a second; pretty slow but you work with what you find.

Magnolia warbler looking for water.
Magnolia warbler looking for water.

 

Nice bird (Magnolia Warbler), bad perch.
Nice bird (Magnolia Warbler), bad perch.

 

Beautiful but shy Mourning Warbler.
Beautiful but shy Mourning Warbler.

 

Mourning Warbler, same perch, different head position.
Mourning Warbler, same perch, different head position.

 

Yellow Warblers bathing
Yellow Warblers bathing

 

Bath before the long flight home.
Bath before the long flight home.

 

Male Yellow Warbler bathing.
Male Yellow Warbler bathing.

 

Not bad for a "bird on a stick".
Not bad for a “bird on a stick”.

 

Yellow Warbler male among the limbs.
Yellow Warbler male among the limbs.

 

Yellow Warbler with a hint of orange in it feathers.
Yellow Warbler with a hint of orange in it feathers.

It was a tough afternoon, shooting into thick, shaded cover, but those yellow birds made my day.

Larry

Hummingbirds in the Desert

Last week I had the pleasure of photographing for a few hours at the Christmas Mountains Oasis south of Alpine, Texas.  It’s a long way from “Nowhere”, but it is heaven for the birds.  Rare and beautiful Lucifer hummingbirds nest on the property and spend much of their time at the Oasis feeders.

A visit to the Oasis is by invitation only, so if you want to have a chance at Lucifer hummingbirds and many other species, sign up for my August 17-18 hummingbird photography workshop.  I’ll be posting the particulars on my website under the Photo Tours heading in the next day or two.  Eight slots were available and two are already taken.

Here are some images of the oasis and Lucifer hummingbirds:

Click on a photo to enlarge and sharpen it for better viewing.

Lucifer Hummingbird male landing at feeder, west Texas, USA
Lucifer Hummingbird male landing at feeder, west Texas, USA
Lucifer Hummingbird, female hovering in flight
Lucifer Hummingbird female hovering in flight.

These birds have long, curved beaks and, of course, the males have that incredible purple/pink/lavender…throat.  The above shots are in natural light and photographed with the Canon 7D mark II and 500 mm lens with Wimberly head and Feisol tripod.

Christmas Mountains Oasis bird habitat after sunset, s. of Alpine, Texas
Christmas Mountains Oasis bird habitat after sunset, s. of Alpine, Texas
Christmas Mountians, west Texas.
Christmas Mountains, west Texas.

Lucifer hummingbirds nest in cholla cactus near the top of this mountain.  Amazing!!

Lucifer Hummingbird male hovering in flight, west Texas, USA
Lucifer Hummingbird male hovering in flight, west Texas, USA.
Lucifer Hummingbird male displaying gorget, w. Texas
Lucifer Hummingbird male displaying gorget, w. Texas
Lucifer Hummingbird male perched.
Lucifer Hummingbird male perched.
Lucifer Hummingbird male feeding, w. Texas
Lucifer Hummingbird male feeding, w. Texas.

The last shot was done with the aid of multiple flashes and artificial background.  If you like stop-action hummingbird shots, you can appreciate this image made at about 1/12,000 of a second.  I’ll have the setup available at the Christmas Mountains Oasis Hummingbird Photography Workshop in August.  To register, contact the folks in charge of the Fort Davis Hummingbird Celebration at Fort Davis (info@fortdavis.com) or contact me by email at lditto@larryditto.com and I’ll get you hooked up.

Larry

 

 

 

Transition Ranch and April Bird Diversity

Like last spring, the Texas hill country caught a lot of rain in April and the bird photography instructional photo tours endured a few overcast, cool and even drizzly days.  Nevertheless, we saw a lot of nice birds at Block Creek Natural Area (Turkey Hollow B&B) and at Transition Ranch near Uvalde.  I was at Transition all of last week with two groups of photographers  where we worked from photo blinds and by walking some of the roads bordered by wildflowers.

A dry spring will bring more birds to the waterholes and food at the blinds, but I think you will see some indications of the ranch’s potential in the following photos.

Remember to click on an image to enlarge and sharpen it for viewing.

Spring wildflowers on Transition Ranch.
Spring wildflowers in the orange glow of sunset.

Except for the image above, I used my 500 mm lens for virtually every shot.  This image was made with Canon 5D Mark II and 24-105 mm lens at f22 and tripod mounted.

White-winged dove in black brush at sunset.
White-winged dove in black brush at sunset.
Northern bobwhite quail calling from a short perch in wildflowers.
Northern bobwhite quail calling from a short perch in wildflowers.
Mexican ground-squirrel on log.
Mexican ground-squirrel searching an old for bird seed.
Lesser goldfinches were at the photo blinds each day.
Lesser goldfinches visited the photo blind waterhole just before sunset.
House Finch bonding
House Finch bonding behavior.  The male fed the female.
Black-throated Sparrow on cactus.
Black-throated Sparrow with a firm grasp of the only landing spot on a prickly pear cactus.

 

Ash-throated Flycatcher_79A4608

This ash-throated flycatcher was at the blind for only a moment.

Gray Vireo on Transition Ranch west of Uvalde, Texas.
Gray Vireo on Transition Ranch west of Uvalde, Texas.

The gray vireo above is pretty rare in the hill country but they can thrive in the diverse habitats of the Transition Ranch.

Summer Tanager, female perched in black brush. Transition Ranch
Summer Tanager, female perched in black brush. Transition Ranch
Summer Tanager, male at photo blind.
Summer Tanager, male at photo blind.
Hooded Oriole, male perched in black brush at photo blind.
Hooded Oriole, male perched in black brush at photo blind.

Various orioles have already begun to nest.

Scott's Oriole, male in Texas persimmon bush.
Scott’s Oriole, male in Texas persimmon bush.
This bird was probably one of the last we'll see this season.
This cedar waxwing was probably one of the last we’ll see this season.
Singing blue-gray gnatcatcher at the afternoon blind.
Singing blue-gray gnatcatcher at the afternoon blind.
Blue Grosbeak, male in black brush after rain.
Blue Grosbeak, male in black brush after rain.

Blue grosbeaks were popping up everywhere during the last half of the week (around May 1).

This male lazuli bunting was the first of it's species photographed on the ranch.
This male lazuli bunting was the first of it’s species photographed on the ranch.
Male painted buntings were singing throughout the ranch.
Male painted buntings were singing throughout the ranch.
Vermillion Flycatcher male perched.
Vermilion Flycatcher male perched.

Vermilion flycatchers are among the early nesters at Transition Ranch and one pair fledged their young while we were there in late April.

Western scrub jay perched at Transition Ranch.
Western scrub jay perched at Transition Ranch.

This pose of western scrub jay was one of my favorite shots of the week.  Slight head-turn makes the photo.

Yellow-breasted chat "chatting".
Yellow-breasted chat “chatting”.

In a chattering contest between cactus wrens and yellow-breasted chats, it was a close call to name the winner.  They never let up.

Black-capped vireo on Transition Ranch
Black-capped vireo on Transition Ranch.

Black-capped vireos are found throughout the ranch in abundant mixed thickets of scrubby oak, Texas persimmon and sumac.

Golden-cheeked warbler on juniper, Transition Ranch, Texas
Golden-cheeked warbler on juniper, Transition Ranch, Texas.

These little guys love the juniper thickets of Transition Ranch.

As the days grow warmer and dryer, even more birds will find their way to the fresh water and food at the ranch’s photo blinds.  Like most south Texas ranches, the bird diversity is wonderful and the photo ops are abundant.

Larry

 

 

Last Week Around the Texas Coast

Last week at Galveston’s nature festival, FeatherFest, I helped lead several wildlife photography field trips and seminars.   It was my fifth festival and each year I share in the fun of photographing birds and landscapes along the coast from Rockport to High Island at the upper end of Bolivar Peninsula.  The following collection of images is offered to give you a glimpse at the diversity of Texas coastal birdlife during spring migration and nesting:

Be sure to click on the first photo to enlarge and sharpen for viewing. 

Roseate Spoonbill spreading its wings for a soft landing.
Roseate Spoonbill spreading its wings for a soft landing.

The weather on most mornings during FeatherFest  was gloomy, but colorful birds and intense bird breeding activity livened the scene.  Most of these images were made with a Canon 7D Mark II and 100-400 mm lens, handheld.  For the spoonbill, the camera settings were 1/1600 sec @ f5.6 and ISO 800.

Reddish Egrets in breeding plumage
Reddish Egrets in breeding plumage
Great Egrets pair displaying at nest with young.
Great Egrets pair displaying at nest with young.

The highlight of our photography sessions was a trip to High Island and the Audubon Sanctuary there where thousands of herons, egrets, ibis and spoonbills nest.

Roseate Spoonbill with nest building material.
Roseate Spoonbill with nest building material.
Laughing Gulls mating amid wildflowers in a Rockport city park.
Laughing Gulls mating amid wildflowers in a Rockport city park.
Caracara searching for gull nests among the wildflowers in Rockport.
Caracara searching for gull nests among the wildflowers in Rockport.

I first saw this crested caracara walking amid hundreds of laughing gulls resting on the ground in a beautiful landscape of Rockport wildflowers.  Eventually, it gave up on finding an easy meal and flew directly at me.  The Canon AI Servo worked perfectly in predicting the bird’s approach and holding focus for several frames.

Great Blue Heron in flight over Aransas Bay.
Great Blue Heron in flight over Aransas Bay.

Our  photo group captured many species and thousands of images from a boat at Aransas and Galveston Bays.

Great Egret landing
Great Egret landing
Great Egret displaying its plume feathers.
Great Egret displaying its plume feathers.
Forster's Terns bonding
Forster’s Terns bonding on the boardwalk at the Port Aransas Birding Center.

At Port Aransas we encountered a mini-fallout of migrating birds forced to ground by an approaching coastal cold front during their northward flight across the U.S.

Black-throated Green Warbler male feeding on insects
Black-throated Green Warbler male feeding on insects.
Scarlet Tanager male in a mulberry tree.
Scarlet Tanager male in a mulberry tree.
Least Bittern with fish in the cattails at Port Aransas Birding Center.
Least Bittern with fish in the cattails at Port Aransas Birding Center.
Purple Gallinule eating grass seeds at the High Island Sanctuary.
Purple Gallinule eating grass seeds at the High Island Sanctuary.
Sunlight on seagull wings and tails in Galveston Bay.
Sunlight on seagull wings and tails in Galveston Bay.
Brown Pelicans in flight over Galveston Bay.
Brown Pelicans in flight over Galveston Bay.

On my last evening in Galveston, our group got to see thousands of gulls and brown pelicans swarming over their nesting islands as the sun sank.

Brown Pelicans and laughing gulls at sunset on Galveston Bay
Brown Pelicans and laughing gulls at sunset on Galveston Bay.

If you are a photographer, think hard about joining some of the photography sessions at FeatherFest next April.

LARRY

Panhandle Prairie Chickens

Last weekend, I was in Canadian, Texas with several other photographers to try for lesser prairie chickens on the lek (booming ground).  The weather was fantastic and the birds were active.  Two years ago, three of us spent three days in a Canadian rain, so we were primed for sunshine and birds.

One of my problems has been (and continues to be) realizing that when I’m photographing wildlife in action, I need to pull back and leave a lot of room for wings, legs, etc.  This time around, I had the Canon 7d Mark II fixed with the new Canon 100-400 mm lens.  It seemed the ideal combination for this session, but maintaining space was still a challenge.

As usual, the birds were on the lek well before dawn each day and the wait for shooting light was stressful.  I wanted to capture as many “cock fighting” sequences as possible, but it was an extreme challenge.     Here are some of the images from the two-day shoot:

Click on an image to enlarge and sharpen it for viewing.

Lesser Prairie Chicken male booming on lek,
Lesser Prairie Chicken male booming on lek as the sun rises.
Prairie chicken perched on a cedar stump in the middle of the lek.  The birds seek high perches like cow paddies, yucca clumps and stumps scattered about the booming ground.
Prairie chicken perched on a cedar stump in the middle of the lek. The birds seek high perches like cow paddies, yucca clumps and stumps scattered about the booming ground.
Chicken landing on a yucca.
Chicken landing on a yucca.
Lesser Prairie Chicken male landing
Lesser Prairie Chicken male landing
Western Meadowlark attracted to all the action at a lek.
Western Meadowlark attracted to all the action at a lek.
Horned larks visited the lek each morning.
Horned larks visited the lek each morning.
Greater Roadrunner at Adobe Walls west of Canadian.
Greater Roadrunner at Adobe Walls west of Canadian.
House Cats living on porch of old building in the village of Lipscomb.
House Cats living on porch of old building in the village of Lipscomb.

Since prairie chickens seldom visit the lek during the afternoon, we spent that time looking for other wildlife and scenics.

Lesser Prairie Chicken landing.
Lesser Prairie Chicken landing.

Male prairie chickens constantly run and fly about the lek challenging other males.

Male challenging another bird.
Male challenging another bird.
Prairie Chicken threat posture.
Prairie Chicken threat posture.

Male lesser prairie chickens jump into the air, kicking and pecking each other.  At the end of the brief encounters, one or both males often had a mouth full of feathers.

Landing lesser prairie chicken.
Landing lesser prairie chicken.

Next year, I would like to take a group north for lesser and greater prairie chickens.  It could be a great early April trip.

*** I’m going to lead a Lucifer Hummingbird photography workshop on a habitat west of Big Bend National Park on August 15-17. The birds WILL be there  This is a pre-festival photo session with the Davis Mountains Hummingbird Festival in Fort Davis.  Only 6 slots are available, so let me know soon if you want to sign up.

I still have those two lenses for sale: Nikon 80-200 mm and Canon 300 mm, f4.

Larry

Spring Arrives in Texas Hill Country

The Block Creek Natural and Turkey Hollow Bed & Breakfast hosted my first March workshop last week.  Some of the photographers wanted to try for “strutting” wild turkeys and March is usually the peak of turkey mating season.

Five photographers worked from all of the 5 photo blinds, the B&B’s spacious porch (for hummingbirds) and along Block Creek which flows through the property.  Most of the trees were just getting new leaves and the red bud trees were in bloom; blue birds were feeding young, turkeys were strutting, and hummingbirds were arriving daily.  Some of our images were captured at a nearby historic farm house; we even photographed the neighbor’s horse.

Here are some of my photos from the week of March 21-24: click on an image to enlarge and sharpen it for better viewing.

White stones along the bank of Block Creek.
White stones along the bank of Block Creek.

This shot was made from ground level with a Canon 5D mark II, 24-104 mm lens with polarizing lens, Feisol CF tripod and CF ball head, .8 sec. at f22, ISO 100.

Carolina Wren on post
Carolina Wren on post.
Cedar Waxwing in sycamore tree, Texas, spring
Cedar Waxwing in sycamore tree, Texas, spring
Chipping Sparrow in blooming Redbud tree.
Chipping Sparrow in blooming Redbud tree.

 

Juvenile Harris's Hawk
Juvenile Harris’s Hawk
Eastern Bluebird feeding young
Eastern Bluebird feeding young
Northern Cardinal male hiding among the redbud blooms.
Northern Cardinal male hiding among the redbud blooms.
Spotted Towhee male foraging
Spotted Towhee male foraging
Spotted Towhee, female
Spotted Towhee, female

** For Sale: Nikkor 80-200 mm lens, great condition, Not VR…make an offer.

** For Sale: Canon 300 mm lens, f4, IS, excellent condition:  make an offer

Clay jar by log cabin window.
Clay jar by log cabin window.
Rock Fence and cabin with dog run
Rock Fence and cabin with dog run
Bay horse at the red barn
Bay horse at the red barn
Hummingbirds and ball moss at sunrise
Hummingbirds and ball moss at sunrise
Red-tailed Hawk take off from tree stump.
Red-tailed Hawk take off from tree stump.

Photo taken with Canon 7D mark II, Canon 70-200 mm lens, hand held, 1/1600 sec. @ f8, ISO 400.

There are lots of subjects at Block Creek Natural Area, so I can’t wait to return in mid-April.

Larry

 

FeatherFest 2016 – Rookery Photography

THERE IS NO TIME TO WASTE!  SIGN UP NOW!

Click on photos to enlarge and sharpen for better viewing.

Great Egret showing plume feathers, Texas coast
Great Egret showing plume feathers, Texas coast

Share the excitement and fulfillment of fabulous wading bird photography on a two day, pre-festival (Galveston FeatherFest) photo tour with me at a rookery island near Rockport, Texas on Tuesday-Wednesday (April 12-13).  The $700 fee covers your share of the boat and captain for two mornings at the rockery island, professional instruction and assistance by me, and more fun than you thought possible.  Sign up immediately at www.GalvestonFeatherFest.com,  or email: FeatherFest@gintc.org ,or simply call 832-459-5533.

Roseate Spoonbill flight
Roseate Spoonbill flight
Reddish Egret landing
Reddish Egret landing

Hoping to see you there!

Larry

To Santa Fe and Back

During a short trip to Santa Fe, I grabbed a few photos of landscapes to share with you.  The weather was great with clear, crisp (38 degrees in Santa Fe on March 10) days.  While it was raining across Texas, New Mexico was enjoying beautiful spring weather.

Almost everyone seems to appreciate the history and pueblo style architecture of New Mexico.  With some of these images, I tried to capture a sense of those qualities.

Click on an image to enlarge and sharpen it for better viewing.

A Santa Fe hotel with luminaria along the walls.
A Santa Fe hotel with luminaria along the walls.

Most of these images were done with the Canon 5D Mark II and 24-105 lens with polarizing filter, hand-held.

Window and flower box with reflection of Santa Fe building.
Window and flower box with reflection of Santa Fe building.

This blue window photo was a little difficult to compose since it was covered by a canopy of ugly fabric.

Apricot in bloom, Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe
Apricot in bloom, Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe

This apricot tree was blooming in the patio of the Georgia O’Keefe Museum at Santa Fe.  I decided to try it in black and white and color.  The shadows on those adobe walls were irresistible.

Pink apricot blooms and shadows on an adobe wall.
Pink apricot blooms and shadows on an adobe wall.
Historic Santa Fe Church at night.
Historic Santa Fe Church at night.
Petroglyph from the Three Rivers site in central New Mexico.
Petroglyph from the Three Rivers site in central New Mexico.

This petroglyph photo is my favorite of the trip.  By waiting until sunset on Sierra Blanca and painting the rock face with light during a slow exposure, I wanted to bring the face to life while capturing some color on the peak.

*** If your monitor isn’t properly calibrated, this image may be too dark or too bright to properly render the intended effect.  I strongly recommend that all photographers purchase and use a monitor calibrator and use it often.  I use Spyder3 Express software but several others are available.

Rainbow and windmill west of Del Rio, Texas on the return from New Mexico.
Rainbow and windmill west of Del Rio, Texas on the return from New Mexico.
Windmill and cloud reflection at sunset.
Windmill and cloud reflection at sunset.

As we reached Sanderson and Del Rio, Texas on the return trip, pools of water left by recent heavy rains were everywhere.  Thank you, Lord, for this sunset and reflection after the rain.

*** For sale, both in great shape:

Nikon 80-200mm, f2.8, looks new            $700

Canon 300 mm, f4, excellent condition $700

 

Enjoy spring break, everybody.

Larry

 

Quiet Spot in the Marsh

On Wednesday, I captured several images of roseate spoonbills resting and preening by the boardwalk at South Padre Island.  During that last hour of sunlight, the birds were reluctant to move, so I was able to work (if you can call it work) without moving.  What a perfect way to end the day!

Note how details of the birds tend to blend into the busy, cattail background.  While the location offers a good view of spoonbill habitat, I think a clean, water background would have improved these shots.   This is by no means a complaint;  I was blessed to be there.

Take a look at a few of the photos:

Click on an image to enlarge and sharpen it.

Roseate Spoonbill chasing black-necked stilts
Roseate Spoonbill chasing black-necked stilts
Stretching roseate spoonbill with black-necked stilts in the foreground.
Stretching roseate spoonbill with black-necked stilts in the foreground.
Roseate Spoonbill stretching by cattails
Roseate Spoonbill stretching by cattails
Resting roseate spoonbills by cattails.
Resting roseate spoonbills by cattails.

Several white ibis, black-necked stilts and heron mixed with the spoonbills occasionally, so I had to photograph them.  The reflections of all the birds really helped these images.

Tricolored Heron feeding past as sleeping white ibis.
Tricolored Heron wading past a relaxed white ibis.

The raised foot gives this shot a sense of action that would have been missing in a typical “standing bird” pose.

White Ibis sleeping in the shallows at the sun sets.
White Ibis sleeping in the shallows at sunset.

By the time this “sweet light” came, the hundreds of talking, boardwalk vibrating tourists had gone to dinner, leaving three photographers and the birds to finish a beautiful day.

Larry