Category Archives: Newsletter

One Spot Open for Whooping Crane Photo Tour

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Whooping Crane headed to roost at sunset, Aransas NWR
Whooping Crane headed to roost at sunset, Aransas NWR.

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 lditto@larryditto.com if you want to join the small group at Rockport, Texas on February 7-9.

Larry

After the Fog Burned Off

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:

When you click on an image, it will enlarge and sharpen for better viewing.

Brown Pelican preening
Brown Pelican preening.
Brown Pelicans removing the droplets of fog from their feathers.
Brown Pelicans removing the droplets of fog from their feathers.
Mottled Duck pair loafing in mangrove thicket.
Mottled Duck pair loafing in mangrove thicket.

That’s the female talking and the male with the yellow bill.

Green Heron posing on a boardwalk perch.
Green Heron posing on a boardwalk perch.
American Wigeon drake in flight.
American Wigeon drake in flight.
Northern Pintail drake at takeoff.
Northern Pintail drake at takeoff.
Northern Pintail drake over colored water.
Northern Pintail drake over colored water.

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.

Osprey on the hunt for fish.
Osprey on the hunt for fish.
Osprey making a right turn.
Osprey making a right turn.

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.

Ospreys in flight
Ospreys in flight.

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.

Larry

Bosque del Apache Instructional Photo Tour: Volume 4

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:

Remember to click on a photo if you want  it to enlarge and sharpen for better viewing.

Drake northern pintail landing near golden willows.
Drake Northern Pintail landing near golden willows.
Northern Pintail drake breaking for the landing.
Northern Pintail drake breaking for the landing.
Northern Pintail landing at sunset with a storm cloud for background.
Northern Pintail landing at sunset with a storm cloud for background.
Profile of Northern Pintail drake landing.
Profile of Northern Pintail drake landing.
Northern Pintail drake landing with other ducks.
Northern Pintail drake landing with other ducks.
Northern PIntail with wings and tail catching a lot of air.
Northern PIntail with wings and tail catching a lot of air.
Northern Pintail hen landing
Northern Pintail hen landing with a display of speculum.
Mallard pair landing.
Mallard pair landing.
Mallard drake take off.
Mallard drake take off.
Mallards aborting takeoff.
Mallards aborting takeoff.
Northern Pintail, drake landing.
Northern Pintail, drake landing.

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.

Larry

Bosque del Apache Instructional Photo Tour: Volume 3

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.

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

More snow geese landing in corn.
Snow goose family landing in corn.

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.

Snow geese resting on a pond during mid-day.
Snow geese resting on a pond during mid-day.

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.

Snow geese leaving a frozen roost pond at sunrise.
Snow geese leaving a frozen roost pond at sunrise.

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).

Snow Goose family landing in corn
Snow Goose family landing in corn.
Snow Goose landing
Snow Goose landing.

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.

Snow Geese in flight.
Snow Geese in flight.

I’m always looking for birds flying together and holding the same wing position.

Snow Goose family in flight.
Snow Goose family in flight.

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.

Snow Goose pair turning in flight.
Snow Goose pair turning in flight.

 

Snow Goose pair in flight.
Snow Goose pair in flight.

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”.

Close up of Snow Goose in flight.
Close up of Snow Goose in flight.

Stay tuned for more from Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.

Larry

Bosque del Apache 2016 Volume 2 (Bald Eagles)

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.

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

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.

Bald Eagle with northern pintail.
Bald Eagle with northern pintail.
Bald Eagle with northern pintail.
Bald Eagle with northern pintail.
Bald Eagle with northern pintail.
Bald Eagle with northern pintail.

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.

Bald Eagle and raven on dead tree
Bald Eagle and raven on dead tree

The duck carcass soon attracted ravens and another hungry eagle.

A second eagle arrives at the perch to try claiming the northern pintail carcass.
A second eagle arrives at the perch to try claiming the northern pintail carcass.
Bald Eagles fighting over duck
Bald Eagles fighting over duck.

Eagle #1 realizes the best thing to do is drop his meal and make a quick exit.

Bald Eagles, adults fighting over duck kill.
Bald Eagles, adults fighting over duck kill.

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.

Larry

Bosque del Apache NWR 2016: volume 1

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.

Click on a photo and it will enlarge and sharpen for viewing.

Each of the 27 dishes is 82' across and weighs 100 tons.  They peer into deep space to gather information on forming stars, black holes and galaxies.
Each of the 27 dishes is 82′ across and weighs 100 tons. They gather radio waves from deep space to provide information on forming stars, black holes and galaxies.
Radio Telescopes at VLA, New Mexico
Radio Telescopes at VLA, New Mexico

These sunset shots were done with a Canon 50D Mark II camera and 24-105 mm lens.

At the end of the day, an incredible New Mexico sunset painted the sky red and orange.
At the end of the day, an incredible New Mexico sunset painted the sky red and orange.

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 .

A windmill at the VLA.
A windmill at the VLA.

Tomorrow, we will look at wildlife and more landscapes on the Bosque del Apache Refuge.

Larry

 

Experienced Photographers Make Excellent Photos

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.

Northern Mockingbird at lift off from a ranch pond.
Northern Mockingbird at lift off from a ranch pond.

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.

Roadrunner with some sort of plant part.
Roadrunner with some sort of plant part.

Barbara caught this northern roadrunner playing with the remains of a plant seed or pod.

Bobcat at Dorothy's Pond for a late afternoon drink.
Bobcat at Dorothy’s Pond for a late afternoon drink.

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.

Bobcat getting its evening drink.
Bobcat getting its evening drink.
Green Jay landing.
Green Jay landing.

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.

Larry

Ten Days Ago at Santa Clara Ranch

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:

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

Crested Caracaras on perch.
Crested Caracaras on perch.

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.

Golden-fronted Woodpecker male drinking.
Golden-fronted Woodpecker male drinking.
Greater Roadrunner carrying a pecan shell???
Greater Roadrunner carrying a pecan shell???

I have no idea where this “nut” came from, but a greater roadrunner enjoyed several minutes of play with it.

Green Jay landing.
Green Jay landing.

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.

Hooded Oriole female drinking with northern cardinal and cottontail rabbit
Hooded Oriole female drinking with northern cardinal and cottontail rabbit.

At times, there was a big crowd gathered around the pond at our blind.

Young gobbler Rio Grande Turkey wading.
Young gobbler Rio Grande Turkey wading.

A small flock of 8 wild turkey (mostly this year’s young) came looking for grain at mid-morning.

Groove-billed Ani at pond.
Groove-billed Ani at pond.

We saw Groove-billed Anis looking for a drink at two of the blinds.

Trio of Northern Bobwhite quail drinking.
Trio of Northern Bobwhite quail drinking.

Many Northern bobwhite quail came by our blind to eat and drink.  It has been a good hatch year.

Northern Bobwhite, male displaying.
Northern Bobwhite, male displaying.

Several quail enjoyed having others of their kind to chase.  This little guy was impressive with his feathers ruffled.

Buck deer drinking.
Buck deer drinking.

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.

Hope you enjoyed these shots,

Larry

Bird Photos Plus Equipment for Sale

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 pddenman@att.net has a Canon 1 D Mark IV  with extra batteries for sale.  Sylvia Garcia at sylvia@sylviagarcia-smith.com 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.

Snowy Egret eating fish
Snowy Egret eating fish
Snowy Egret plucking minnow from water on the fly.
Snowy Egret plucking minnow from water on the fly.
Snowy Egret launching into flight.
Snowy Egret launching into flight.
Snowy Egrets resting on floating log.
Snowy Egrets resting on floating log.

A turtle takes over when the sun comes up.

Red-eared Slider sunning
Red-eared Slider sunning
Wood Stork landing
Wood Stork landing

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.

Wood Stork in flight at sunrise
Wood Stork in flight at sunrise
Cormorant and sunrise.
Cormorant and sunrise.

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).

Larry

More of the Christmas Mountains

 

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.

Fog and rain hanging on the Chisos Mountains next door to the Christmas Mountains.
Fog and rain hanging on the Chisos Mountains next door to the Christmas Mountains.

These first three shots are by Margaret Tulley.

A beautiful Varied Bunting male in post nuptial molt.
A beautiful Varied Bunting male in post nuptial molt.

Tulley lucifer2-0583

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.

Male Lucifer Hummingbird hovering.
Male Lucifer Hummingbird hovering.

 

Scaled Quail scurrying through the brush at Organ Mountains Oasis.
Scaled Quail scurrying through the brush at Christmas Mountains Oasis.

 

Black-chinned Hummingbirds were abundant at the Oasis.
Black-chinned Hummingbirds were abundant at the Oasis.
Several nice male Lucifer Hummingbirds came to our multi-flash setup.
Several nice male Lucifer Hummingbirds came to our multi-flash setup.

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.

Larry