I’ve been photographing around the Starr and Hidalgo County area of south Texas this past week or so. Cloudy weather dominated most of the winter so it felt good to feel some rays.
I can put you onto some lightly used photo equipment at really good prices. Yours truly has a Canon IS 100-400 mm, slide focus lens that is in great shape and very sharp. Make me an offer. A Colorado friend, Joe Zinn, has a Canon 1DX camera with low frame count and an excellent 600 mm lens (not the new model) for $6,000. These will be sold together. If you are interested, let me know and I’ll discuss these with you and/or put you in touch with Joe.
Here are some recent photos. Click on an image to see a larger and sharper version. Click on the right edge of a photo to advance.
I put my favorite photo first. It took two hours of patient waiting for this light and pose.
This is a second burrowing owl sleeping on a rocky slope. I photographed him for almost two hours while lying on my side with the camera and 500 mm lens on a bean bag.
I used a Canon 1D Mark IV, Canon 70-200 lens and 1.4 x teleconverter to get this photo at 1/3200 second, f4.
By placing native fruit or bird seed near a perch, you can capture very natural looking images. Also, note the clean backgrounds form most of the shots in this newsletter…they are no accident.
Some native brush is starting to bloom, so I took advantage by using cuttings for bird perches.
Anticipation and pre-focus! I captured some of these images at Laguna Seca Photo Ranch north of Edinburg. (www.lagunasecaranch.com)
At sunset three days ago, this little nine-banded armadillo came walking boldly to the photo blind water hole at Santa Clara Photo Ranch northwest of McAllen. (www.santaclararanch.com)
Oklahoma in November is normally an incredible place for wildlife and landscapes. Anticipating that, I put together a little photo tour this past autumn and four of us headed for the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge at Lawton. We were shocked on the morning of the first day when we awoke to high wind and plunging temperatures. In spite of the unusual weather, we tried to anticipate what the animals would be doing. It turns out they did just what we wanted to do…find a place behind the hills and in the canyons to soak up some sunshine and keep out of the wind.
So we dressed for the cold and headed for the hills. The group got some amazing shots and I can only imagine how well they would have done without the wind and cold. Here are a few of my images to show you what is possible in southern Oklahoma in November.
You can click on an image to increase its size and sharpness. By clicking on the right edge of a photo, you can advance through the slide show. Enjoy.
This wild turkey gobbler was part of a flock we photographed from the car. I highly recommend a high quality bean bag for a Wichitas trip.
After an hour of patient sitting in a low spot near this burrow, I was rewarded with several interesting photos of these prairie dogs. This shot was done with the Canon 7D, 500 mm lens, 1.4X teleconverter, and Gitzo tripod with Wimberley head. I was wearing camouflage to help me blend into the landscape.
A new 70-200 mm lens was mighty handy for big game photography on this trip.
Elk are plentiful at the refuge, but always hard to photograph from a car. In fact, the refuge flourishes with wildlife including many great bird species and landscape opportunities. Its oak covered hills and extensive grasslands can hold a photographer’s interest for many days both in autumn and spring.
Two weeks ago, I was in Rockport leading a “whooping crane” photography tour that turned out to be much more than that. After starting the week with a lot of cold and drizzle, our last day and a half were fair days with a lot of photography ops. The group was composed of seasoned veteran photographers and a beginner, but everyone got a pleasing number of wildlife and landscape subjects during the week. Here are some of the subjects I captured with the camera while working with the other photographers. Notice that I didn’t have a lot of room left to show the whooping crane images after including some of my other subjects. I was particularly taken with the green-winged teal that allowed us to photograph them while they bathed and rested.
Just click on an image to enlarge and sharpen it. Clicking on the right edge on any shot will advance you through the photos.
These cranes were photographed from a ground blind near Goose Island State Park. I was pleased with the similar pose between the birds. Since I wasn’t using a “high end” camera, I didn’t dare push the ISO enough to get sufficient depth of field get both birds in sharp focus.
The bird in the image below had a deformed beak but it managed just fine at feeding time. I’ve seen several at Bosque del Apache Refuge in New Mexico with an upper mandible curving down over the lower mandible like a crossbill.
With birds in flight, I try to maintain at least 1/2000 second shutter speed to insure the photo “freezes” the birds.
We often see a good variety of photo subjects during the return trip from a whooping crane outing. Although the light is sometimes a little harsh, who can resist a long-billed curlew profile.
A bird in flight under white skies often needs to be overexposed by 2-3 stops to get the bird’s undersides and darker areas at proper exposure.
I decided to try the image above as a black and white and was quite pleased. Seeing the calm waters as we left a nearby restaurant, two of the group’s photographers convinced me we should return for some night shooting. This photo was captured at 10:30 PM.
By watching the nervous head bobbing and erect posture of a wild duck, it can be easy to anticipate “launch”. I have to remember to pull back on the telephoto power to leave room for the rising bird and outstretched wings.
One of our photographers photographed this bittern while it was catching anoles on tree trunks at the edge of a marsh.
Just before Thanksgiving, I led a group of photographers on the annual Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge instructional photo tour. On the first morning, after capturing a few images of mallards and wood ducks in Albuquerque, we headed south 80 miles to Socorro, New Mexico and then on to the refuge for an afternoon session.
It was the first time I’ve shot the area before Thanksgiving and the temperatures were warmer than expected. The birds were off the roost and heading out in a hurry to feed each morning. On colder, post-Thanksgiving days, the birds tend to start the day later, after sunrise. That slight delay gives photographers more opportunity for the great flight shots only Bosque can offer. Nevertheless, it was a great week and the photographers were thankful they missed those mornings with cold fingers and frosty noses that often come with the early December photo sessions.
Here are samples of the great photo opportunities available in autumn along the Rio Grande in central New Mexico :
Click on an image to make it larger and sharper. Then click on the right side of the photo to advance through the slide show.
Lesson #1, don’t shoot with your mouth open.
I carry my 24 – 105 mm wide angle lens and Canon 5D camera slung over one shoulder for those times when big flocks of geese erupt at close range.
*** It’s all in the wing position; wings pointing to the camera leave the birds looking “wingless” and weird.
I blurred parts of this image above to highlight three birds. Everyone wants to know “what are those dark birds” and “why are some of the geese so small?”
Note the size difference of Canada Geese and the lone Green-winged Teal.
One happy photographer made 10,000 images during our 3 day shoot. There must be some great photos in that batch!
Next week, we’ll take a look at some Oklahoma wildlife.
Before Thanksgiving, I spent a week photographing mule deer and whitetails in the west. Along the way, a few prairie dogs, bald eagles and geese got into the mix. Below are a few of the 5000 thousand images from the trip.
When you click on a photo, it will open in a larger, sharper format. Just click on the right edge of the shot to get the next image to appear in the slide show.
Note what seems to be a third antler in this buck’s forehead. His right antler forked at the hairline and grew laterally before shooting up as a misplaced brow tine.
These images were captured with Canon 7D and 1D Mark IV cameras with a 500 mm and 70-200 mm lens with 1.4X teleconverter. Most of the time, I was hand-holding the camera for greater versatility of movement during some fast action.
Next week, I will share some mid-November work from southern Oklahoma.
In recent weeks, I’ve been working on so many things, it’s hard to remember specifics. We were in the Davis Mountains of west Texas for two weeks, then we spent a week in Wichita Falls. Much of the rest of the time, I’ve been getting ready for this winter’s and spring’s photo tours… obtaining permits, motel reservations, etc. At last, it’s time to launch the photo season.
This week, I will lead photo tours at South Padre Island and in the North American Butterfly Association butterfly park for the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival. Oklahoma, Colorado and New Mexico trips are coming up fast.
If you want to sign up for a trip, just check my Photo Tour schedule on this site.
Here are several images from the late summer and early autumn period: Click on an image to enlarge and sharpen it. If you click on the right side of a photo, you can advance to the next one.
These gray fox images were captured after sunset with my new Canon 70-200 mm f 2.8 lens with 1.4 teleconverter, hand-held. I had read about its sharpness and the quality is more than I’d hoped for.
Most of the hummingbird images were done without aid of multiple flashes. These were done with a single flash used as a fill light.
By using the on-camera flash, I was able to photograph hummingbirds at relatively slow shutter speeds (1/125 – 1/200 second) to capture great light and wing blur. Of course, the blur gives a sense of motion to still image. The trick is to keep the bird’s eye sharp. For this capture, I used a Canon 7D camera, 500 mm lens with Really Right Stuff flash bracket and the Canon 580 EX flash.
Dr. Beto Gutierrez and I had a good afternoon of photography in late September at his Santa Clara Ranch, one of the premier photo ranches in south Texas. The next four photos were done from a photography blind at a water hole with year-round feeders.
I just returned from a photography scouting trip to the Chiricahua Mountains of Arizona. Austin photographer, Tom Ellis, and I spent three days searching for the best places to photograph the fabulous hummingbirds and other wildlife in southeast Arizona.
Although we knew we were heading west during their monsoon season, we had hoped for a good hummingbird migration. The birds really hadn’t started moving south in mid-August, but there were enough species to get us excited about coming back in the spring. We were searching for birds and found much more…great landscapes, a Gila monster, black-tailed rattlesnake, white-nosed coati, and some impressive buck Coues deer.
There is room for two more photographers, so signup quickly if you can make the May 7-9 trip. Accommodations fill quickly since the area is a popular birding hotspot, so we need to get you booked soon.
With the daily rains, we didn’t have much time to shoot last week, but May will be dryer. Here are some of my images from the Chiricahuas. Be sure to click on the photos to enlarge and sharpen them for viewing.
Yes, this is Arizona. Temperatures hit the low 50’s at night and never exceeded 82 degrees in the daytime….mid- August monsoon season.
The hummer above was photographed at 125th second, f4 with an on-camera flash set for Manual mode at 1/8th power. The slow shutter speed produced this nice, ghost-like wing and tail blur.
Gila monsters are endangered and extremely hard to find. One local naturalist told me she had only seen 4 in her lifetime. The reptile is poisonous.
These Gila monster shots were made from about 4 feet with a 70-200 mm lens.
Blue-throated and Magnificent hummingbirds were twice the size of most other hummers.
Several species of woodpecker were hanging out near the feeders where we photographed.
There were many opportunities to photograph birds and insects in natural habitat at various feeding stations.
The snake is in a natural coil. We didn’t harass it to try for a “raised head and rattling tail” pose. I shot this with the 500 mm lens rested on a camera bag near ground level to get the green background.
These last two hummingbird photos were taken with the 500 mm lens, tripod, and on-camera flash set at 1/8 power in manual flash mode.
Join me in Arizona during the week of May 7-9. I will emphasize natural light and camera flash photos of various birds, especially hummingbirds, and the multi-flash setup will be available in hope of getting some “wing stopping” shots.
I just posted the photo tour and workshop schedule for 2014-2015 on this website. While it will be a few days until the last bit of information is added, the locations and dates are pretty much set, so check it out.
*** If you are a Nikon shooter or if you know one, check in with Kandace Heimer at firstname.lastname@example.org . She is selling a large inventory of her photo gear. I can vouch that she took meticulous care of those cameras, lenses and accessories. You will find some good buys with Kandace.
In recent days, I’ve been photographing on some of the local photo ranches. Here are a few of the images from late May and early June.
When you click on an image, it will enlarge and get sharper. “Previous” and “next” arrows are located on the left and right edges that will help you advance through the show.
Following images were from Laguna Seca Ranch:
The doves were late afternoon arrivals at a small pond with photo blind. I liked the positioning of the two birds and the eye contact with the nearer dove.
I captured the image with a Canon 7D camera, Canon 500 mm IS lens, Gitzo 1348 Carbon-fiber tripod and Wimberley head. This combination gave me 800 mm of magnification and lots of stability. A teleconverter wasn’t necessary to bring these little guys in close. The image stabilizer was off since the tripod offered the necessary support while shooting at ISO 400, 1/1000 second @ f11. There would have been a moment of vibration as the stabilizer kicked on when the shutter button was pushed.
The kiskadee was captured with the Canon 1D Mark IV, 300 mm Canon IS lens and Feisol carbon-fiber tripod and ball head at ISO 1000, 1/2000 second @ f4.
It was the diagonal position of the bird and the open wings that I liked about the great kiskadee shot.
Mockingbirds like to flap their wings, especially when trying to scare up a bug. Image made with Canon 1D Mark IV, 500 mm Canon IS lens, Gitzo 1348 tripod and Wimberley head at ISO 640, 1/2000 second @ f4.
From photo blind with Canon 1D Mark IV, 500 mm lens, ISO 1000, 1/3200 second @ f8.
This scissortail was diving into a large pond and flying up to the perch to shake water from its feathers. On this capture, I liked the wings and tail, but the bird was looking directly at me so the bill shape wasn’t distinct. On another landing, his head was turned. I elected to clone the head from the other images and superimposed it here…a perfect fit. The cowbird didn’t seem to mind.
Canon 1D Mark IV, 500 mm lens, tripod and Wimberley head at ISO 1000, 1/1600 second @ f4.5.
Using “evaluative metering”, I subtracted about 1 1/3 f stop of light to keep the eye and bill properly exposed while darkening the shaded area around it. The spotlight effect makes the shot.
The following images are from the Santa Clara Ranch:
The warm light on this lizard was a combination of sunrise light and reflected light off the red soil where he was resting.
Canon 1D Mark IV, 300 mm lens, Gitzo 1348 tripod, Wimberley head at ISO 1000, 1/250 second @ f9.
Canon 1D Mark IV, 100-400 mm lens @ 285 mm, from blind using Gitzo window mount with Arca Swiss monoball head, ISO 800, 1/2000 second @ f5.6.
These collared peccaries (javelina) were traveling with young of varying ages. The babies try to stay behind or under mom for safety from predators. The dense brush in the background is their preferred habitat.
Canon 7D, 100-400 mm lens at 275 mm, window mount and ball head, ISO 400, 1/2000 second @ f5.6.
When the June temperature hits about 104 degrees as it was here, everything needs water. Under these conditions, the normally reclusive yellow-billed cuckoo ventures cautiously to a photo blind pond for an afternoon drink. The long-billed thrasher (background)was less wary.
Canon 7D, 500 mm lens, 1.4X teleconverter = 1000 mm of magnification, window mount and ball head, ISO 1000, 1/4000 second @ f5.6.
When shooting gets slow at the blind, we find ourselves photographing wasps and dragonflies. By pre-focusing on the perch and swinging slightly right and using a high shutter speed, I was able to capture dragonflies in flight.
Canon 1D Mark IV, 500 mm lens, Gitzo tripod, Wimberley head, ISO 1000, 1/1000 second @ f4
This image of an endangered aplomado falcon was taken from a blind in Cameron Co., Texas at sunrise.
Canon 1D Mark IV, 500 mm lens, Feisol tripod, Wimberley head, ISO 800, 1/5000 second @ f5.6 to freeze wing motion.
Canon 1D Mark IV, 500 mm lens, Feisol tripod, Wimberley head, ISO 640, 1/2500 second @ f8.
Realizing this yucca was the falcon’s favorite perch, I set up to catch a landing by pre-focusing on the stalk and then manually rotating the focus ring slightly to add about 4″ of focus distance. That let me get the bird with its wings open while landing. Of course, I had to set the shutter speed to stop the action (about 1/2000 second shutter speed will stop most birds in flight).
Following photo taken at the Ramirez Photo Ranch near Roma, Texas:
*** Don’t forget to check out the new photo tour and workshop schedule available on this website by going back to the home page.
For the last two weeks, I’ve visited several of the my old haunts here in south Texas, including Santa Clara Ranch, Laguna Seca Ranch, and South Padre Island. It’s May and all the critters are doing two things, looking for water and mating…not necessarily in that order. So, it was the right time to head for the country and stir up a few photos.
When you are viewing today’s photos, don’t forget to click on the image to enlarge it and make it sharper. The right and left margins have hidden arrows for advancing and going to the previous photo.
The photo above was shot at blind #2 just after sunrise. The two cottontails seemed to be playing tag…one would dash in and the other would leap over it. In the past, I tried to get these shots with the super telephoto, but switching to the 100-400 mm lens allowed me to widen the view for catching a rabbit 3 feet in the air.
When agarita is fruiting, it is very attractive to birds and humans for food. This limb was brought to south Texas by another photographer to set up a colorful perch for hungry, fruit-eating birds.
Yellow warblers, like this one at Laguna Seca Ranch, are always among the late spring migrant songbirds in south Texas.
This piping plover photo is one of my favorites. I used the 500 mm lens and 1.4 X teleconverter on a Canon 1D Mark IV to get this capture from the car window. It was shot at 1/3200 sec. , f 6.3 on ISO 640.
This is just a little of what I’ve seen in my neck of the woods in May. It makes me all the more eager for June’s arrival.
Last week, I was at the Block Creek Natural Area near Comfort, Texas to lead an instructional photo tour with three other photographers and our hosts Sharron and Larry Jay. It was a fun four days with good company, great food and lots of wildlife.
During the week, John Karger, Director of “Last Chance Forever” brought several of his hawks and owls to the ranch. It was educational and gave us an opportunity to photograph the birds at close range.
The following group of images should give you a pretty good idea of the beauty and wildlife diversity we enjoyed. Be sure to click on the right side of each image to enlarge and sharpen it and to find the “next” arrow to take you through the images.
During the photo tour, we experienced unbelievably great weather with cool days and chilly, clear nights.
The painted bunting was number one on everybody’s priority list for this shoot. No one was disappointed.
Each of us tried to hold our camera settings at 1/2000th second to stop flight action and head motion. During the sunrise and sunset hours, we had to settle for something slower, but we never stopped looking for behavior and action shots. The bunting was at 1/640th second and f4; the goldfinch was 1/400th second and f4. Except for the hawks and owls where I used a wide angle lens or small zoom on the Canon 7D, my bird captures were made with the 500 mm IS lens and Feisol carbon-fiber tripod with Wimberley head.
This hawk passed within two feet of my head and 24 mm lens while landing.
Having saved the best for last, we photographed this male vermilion flycatcher on Sunday morning in a meadow in front of the ranch house.
I hope to lead another photo tour at the Block Creek Natural Area next spring during the first week of May. Plan to join me if you like colorful birds, starry skies and good food.