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It could be you photographing endangered whooping cranes near the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge next month. I have one slot open my annual Whooping Crane Instructional Photo Tour for a lucky photographer. Contact me quickly at this website or a firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to join the small group at Rockport, Texas on February 7-9.
I left home at 5:45 AM on Wednesday past in route to South Padre Island’s World Birding Center boardwalk and the Laguna Madre waterfront for some early morning bird photography. The fog was lifting as I arrived at sunrise and, in a few minutes, it was broken enough to allow shafts of sunlight to penetrate. Dozens of brown pelicans were roosting on pilings at one of the marinas, so I parked and photographed several birds.
About 45 minutes later, I moved up the street to the birding center boardwalk wherea good number of ducks were landing to bathe and drink near the boardwalk. The shooting (photography) was good until about 10:00 AM when the clouds and fog had completely cleared and the sun was turning white and hot. Here is a sample of what I got over that two and a half hour stretch:
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That’s the female talking and the male with the yellow bill.
When I’m photographing over or near the water, I try to get positioned where my subjects, usually birds, will swim through or fly over patches of water that are reflecting shoreline color (from trees or even manmade structures with colorful paint like the South Padre Island Convention Center) rather than sky. As you can see from the last image above, this pintail flew above just such a stretch of colored water.
When photographing birds in flight, I find that their most photogenic position will be during a turn with their back toward the camera as in the shot above.
This pair of ospreys caught me by surprise while I was using the 500 mm lens. There was no time to put it down and grab a second camera with the 100-400 mm lens. Hence, I lost a great opportunity for several good shots with the birds together. From now on, I’ll follow my own advice and keep the second camera with smaller lens slung over my shoulder for a quick switch when needed.
If you don’t see my images on Facebook, then you missed the shots I’m posting today. This was the best year for duck photography at that refuge I’ve ever had. Here are some of my favorites from this year’s batch:
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That’s just a sample of many duck photos I captured on the evening before the workshop began. The action was fast and furious for about an hour just before sunset. I was shooting to the east with the birds coming into me facing the sunset and a stiff northwest wind. With a colorful background, that’s about as good as it gets.
Since I was fortunate enough to capture over 7,000 images during a recent New Mexico trip, I am breaking these newsletters down by subject. This one covers snow geese.
See if you can spot what I was trying to do with compositions as I photographed geese. If you are familiar with the species, you know they tend to “swarm” a lot and seldom fall into “formations” as Canada geese do. So, I was looking for small groups and interesting wing and body positions and juxtapositions.
Really successful goose photography at this refuge requires a south wind. It forces the birds to land and take off into the wind which means the birds are facing into the sun and toward the photographer at the same time. That didn’t happen during our late November trip, so I had to make the most of what opportunities I had to capture images with birds flying in crossing patterns and, occasionally, landing at an angle to the camera.
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The grayish birds are young from this past summer. They stay with the parents during much of the first winter. Three young have survived the migration and a few weeks on the wintering grounds at Bosque del Apache Refuge.
This large flock was within 50′ of the highway at mid-day. I was able to get within 10′ of the resting birds to capture this image with a wide angle lens.
I love shooting toward the sun to capture light passing through the thin wing feathers of snow geese. Note the birds loafing on the ice (it was 13 degrees this morning).
Summer weather extended into fall so that by the time we got to New Mexico after Thanksgiving, the leaves were still golden and giving us some great backgrounds.
I’m always looking for birds flying together and holding the same wing position.
Notice how much more interesting the shot becomes when the subjects are coming at an angle toward the camera. Clouds of varying color make the background more photogenic, too.
The blue bird is a snow goose, too. It’s the blue morph of this species and is often referred to as a “blue goose”.
Stay tuned for more from Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.
Here is a small collection of bald eagle shots from the recent Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico Photo Tour. Actually, these were made on November 28th (the day before the photo tour began) as I circled through the refuge on my pre-tour scouting drive. I’ve had little or no luck getting in the past at getting this close to eagles, but each year brings some new and exciting experiences. It all came down to spotting the bird, stopping in the right place and having the camera ready.
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I had the lens on the eagle as it left the perch, but with a 1.4X teleconverter on the old Canon 500 mm lens, it took a few seconds to acquire focus. I was shooting with the Canon 7D Mark II.; 1/4000 second, f 5.6, ISO 640.
Once focused on the subject, I fired a rapid blast at 10 frames per second while trying to maintain a good composition. The images above show the bird with its most pleasing wing positions.
The duck carcass soon attracted ravens and another hungry eagle.
Eagle #1 realizes the best thing to do is drop his meal and make a quick exit.
The persistence of golden leaves on the salt cedar, willow and cottonwood trees at Bosque provided some color for our photographs. In most years, leaves have fallen by the end of November.
Watch for volume 3 to see the beauty of northern pintails in flight.
I’ve been sorting about 6000 images from a 3 1/2 day November Photo Tour in central New Mexico at the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge was in excellent condition and the weather was cooperative, so we had good luck photographing the landscapes and wildlife of the area. I wanted to show you so many of these that I decided to print them by category.
Let’s start with landscapes, since they are colorful and not too numerous. The following are from the Very Large Array (VLA) radio telescopes located about 50 miles west of our base in Socorro, New Mexico. You may remember the VLA if you have seen the Jodie Foster movie “Contact”. Anyway, the combination of an incredible sunset and the sci-fi nature of our landscape really got us pumped.
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These sunset shots were done with a Canon 50D Mark II camera and 24-105 mm lens.
Several telescopes were within walking distance of the parking lot or were visible from a short walking trail. Our timing was perfect as we enjoyed incredible light for the last half hour of the day .
Tomorrow, we will look at wildlife and more landscapes on the Bosque del Apache Refuge.
About a month ago, Tom and Barbara Pickthall from the Houston area spent the weekend photographing with me at the Santa Clara Ranch northwest of McAllen. Their time was well spent as they captured some really nice images of a variety of wildlife. They were kind enough to share some shots for the newsletter. I hope you will enjoy these as much as I.
The Pickthalls have been doing wildlife and outdoor photography for many years, so it’s no surprise that their timing is amazing when it comes to capturing the “moment” as Barbara did with the mockingbird above.
Barbara caught this northern roadrunner playing with the remains of a plant seed or pod.
These bobcat photos represent Tom Pickthall’s reward for being focused enough to continue the pursuit until the animal he is after makes an appearance.
A fast shutter speed and well placed focus point helped Tom get this landing green jay with wings spread.
One of the rewards from guiding photographers on these little safaris is getting to see and share their images of various landscapes and critters. For those of you who have photographed, please accept this invitation to share some of your favorite shots.
For now, I’m just waiting to head north for a few fall colors. It was 98 degrees in McAllen two days ago. Surely, it’s autumn somewhere.
Ten days ago at Santa Clara Ranch, the temperature soared to over 100 degrees so most wild critters were coming to water several times a day. Surprisingly, most of the birds were well feathered and colorful, so all we had to do was remain cool and quiet in the photo blind and enjoy the photography.
Here are a few shots from that weekend:
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On Saturday morning, we had 6 crested caracaras, two Harris’s hawks and several black and turkey vultures attracted to the food we had placed at the hawk blind.
The Canon 100-400 mm lenses were perfect for flight and landing sequences.
I have no idea where this “nut” came from, but a greater roadrunner enjoyed several minutes of play with it.
On Sunday morning, the green jays were extremely active and ready to pose. This shot was at 1/4000 second, f6.3 and ISO 800.
At times, there was a big crowd gathered around the pond at our blind.
A small flock of 8 wild turkey (mostly this year’s young) came looking for grain at mid-morning.
We saw Groove-billed Anis looking for a drink at two of the blinds.
Many Northern bobwhite quail came by our blind to eat and drink. It has been a good hatch year.
Several quail enjoyed having others of their kind to chase. This little guy was impressive with his feathers ruffled.
The white-tailed deer waited until sundown before appearing at the water hole. Our patience paid off as we got some nice images of two young bucks drinking.
I’ve got some bird shots to share with you in this newsletter, but first let me give you a couple of tips on excellent cameras and lenses that friends are selling at good prices. Paul Denman at email@example.com has a Canon 1 D Mark IV with extra batteries for sale. Sylvia Garcia at firstname.lastname@example.org has a Canon 5D Mark II and a Canon 500 mm lens plus a Canon 7D and a teleconverter for sale. She says it’s all listed on her Facebook page (Sylvia Garcia). Let me know if you have any difficulty reaching these folks.
Now, here are some captures from recent days near Edinburg, Texas. Click on an image to enlarge and sharpen it.
A turtle takes over when the sun comes up.
Wood stork images have been tough for me to come by, so I jumped at the chance to try for these guys as they passed through south Texas on their fall migration.
All of these photos were made with the Canon 7D Mark II and Canon 500 mm lens on a Feisol tripod with Wimberley head. I had to use ISOs of up to 1600 as the sun was coming up and then reduced it as quickly as possible to 500. All this was to sustain sufficient shutter speed to capture the flight action (1/2000 second or faster).
This is going to be a newsletter short on words and long on photos. Please enjoy some images by the photographers who accompanied me on the recent photo tour in the Christmas Mountains of west Texas. Remember to click on the photos to make them expand and sharpen for better viewing.
These first three shots are by Margaret Tulley.
Margaret’s male Lucifer Hummingbird is perched in natural light with a nice profile pose.
Dr. Josie Williams capture the following images. Note that we had a good variety of birds to distract us during the hummingbird photography sessions.
Thanks to our photographers for sharing their images of that incredible adventure to west Texas. Josie and Margaret have traveled to many photo with me in the past and each time they come away with awesome shots.