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.
Last week I spent two days with Sandy and Leslee Hurwitz at their “Transition Ranch” northwest of Uvalde, Texas. They are in the process of building the ranch into a nature photography destination, so I was invited to provide advice. In my opinion, the greatest challenge to starting another photography ranch is having topography and wildlife that offer something different. The Transition has all of that.
We photographed at a blind that is being constructed but where food and water had been in place for several months. Many species of birds visited that site. All that remains to be done there is to get the blind finished and prepare a number of good bird perches.
Some of the birds you will see in this week’s newsletter were located in the oak and juniper (cedar) covered hills within the ranch. Most notable among the species in this habitat are black-capped vireo, golden-cheeked warbler, and Montezuma quail. With just a little extra work, I think some mammals like gray fox and white-tailed deer will be available at the blinds.
Here are some of the bird photos from my two days at “Transition”. Remember, just click on a photo to make it enlarge and sharpen. By clicking the arrow on the right edge of each photo, you can advance to the next shot.
All of these bird photos were made with a Canon 7D camera, 500 mm IS lens, Feisol carbon fiber tripod and Wimberley head.
My visit to Transition Ranch was pretty much unscripted. While roaming the hills, we photographed prickly pear cactus in bloom, endangered birds, a quail nest and many other subjects. You should plan your April, 2015 to include a photo trip to Transition Ranch.
Accommodations and meals are a part of the nature photography package. All you have to do is relax and enjoy the scene.
It’s been a long time between posts. I’ve been to Big Bend National Park with a workshop and then on to Galveston’s Featherfest. This past week, Sandy Hurwitz and his lovely wife, Leslee, hosted me at their Transition Ranch west of Uvalde where we photographed as many birds as possible in two days. More about that later.
For four days, Joe Zinn and I lead a group of 8 photographers around the huge west Texas park in pursuit of the perfect landscape photo. I think they all got it. Unfortunately, you will have to look at some of my shots instead.
Remember to click on the images to change them to a larger, sharper format and to get the “next” button.
All these images were done with a Canon 5D Mark II camera; 16-35 mm or 24 – 105 mm lenses, Feisol carbon fiber tripod and ball head, and electronic release. For the shot of cactus (below), I used the super-wide lens focused from about 12″ while I leaned against a small ledge over the river.
This image (above) needed some clouds to make the black and white image pop. Nevertheless, I decided to do it anyway.
After I set up my camera and composed this scene (above), I went inside to light paint while another photographer triggered the 30 second exposure.
I waited for this scene to develop by allowing the sun to reach the western horizon. After the closer mountains were in shadow, the Boquillas Rim turned pink in the warm sunset light.
In the next newsletter, I’ll share some bird photos from area ranches.
I have some exciting news to share with you this week. Kathy Adams Clark, her husband, Gary and I have partnered on a new book from Far Country Press called “Texas – A Photographic Journey”. You can find it on Amazon or at Barnes & Noble, Costco and many of the state’s other book stores and nature centers. Take a quick look at the promotional ad below and consider adding this one to your library. Reading it will be like taking a trip across Texas to see our cities, historic sites, and natural wonders.
Several mornings this past week, I visited a nearby south Texas ranch to photograph wild turkeys as their mating season begins. The weather was fantastic and, as always, the ranch country was beautiful at sunrise.
Now, here are some of the photos from last week’s ranch trips: Just click on the right side of a photo and it will open in a larger, sharper format. There are “next” and “previous” arrows on the sides to advance help you advance through the images.
Notice that most of these images were made at ground level either hand-holding the 100-400 mm lens and camera or sitting in the grass with the big 500 mm lens and camera on a shortened tripod. This low perspective always brings the viewer into a more personal relationship with the image. It’s almost like being another turkey in the flock. * I know…some of you are saying “another turkey is right in this case”.
In case you never noticed, male turkeys have black-tipped covert (body) feathers and females have buff-tipped feathers. This certainly gives the females some advantage of camouflage while nesting . Of course, they are ground nesters like their cousins the quail, chickens, pheasants and such.
The buck deer and the gobblers seemed to enjoy this confrontation. Mostly, it was posturing, but the turkeys did try hitting their victim with those powerful wings until they realized he wasn’t backing down.
While roaming the ranch last week (right after a cold front passed), I saw a mesquite tree full of male Baltimore orioles. So, the spring migration has begun for many species.