Tuesday morning was a dream photo shoot for me at Santa Clara Photo Ranch west of Edinburg. It was one of the few times I’ve photographed alone this year and the absence of human sounds was deafening. It was obvious the critters appreciated the quiet time; birds were everywhere.
The big EVENT of the morning began with a scream, then screams and more screams…the kind cats make when mating. Around 8:00 AM, the chilling vocalizations started just 20 yards from my blind. Knowing what it was, I quickly prepared the Canon 7d II and NEW 100-400 mm lens for action. The first cat to appear was a large female that came within 20 feet of the blind before crouching for a long drink.
The cat was great; the new lens was great; the light overcast sky was great! She paid no attention to the zip, zip, zip of the camera. When she finally strolled away, a second kitty came in. It was one of the prettiest bobcats I’ve even seen. In the space of 5 minutes, both cats came and went. It was a “hum-drum” morning after that. Yep, there wasn’t much to do but photograph birds, green birds, red birds, orange birds, yellow birds, etc. , but somehow I muddled through.
Here are a few images from my big day at Santa Clara Photo Ranch: Remember to click on an image to enlarge and sharpen it.
This oriole was missing a toe on its right foot.
This is “the year of the northern cardinal in south Texas”. Significant numbers have moved into McAllen for the winter and that’s a rarity.
The nature photography life is a sweet one on days like this.
I spent three hours yesterday morning photographing birds and a kayaker on the Laguna Madre at South Padre Island. The weather was beautiful with a gentle north wind blowing down the bay and the sun at my back. Hoping for some good flight photography, I patiently wasted 2/3 of my time waiting for ducks and pelicans that just didn’t come …at least not by air. Fortunately, there were some birds about so, I took advantage of their feeding and loafing activity.
Using a Canon 7d II camera and 500 mm lens on the Gitzo tripod and Wimberley head, I had enough telephoto reach to make some reasonable captures. Here are a few images from a slow morning on the Laguna Madre: Click on an image to enlarge and sharpen it for viewing.
I prefer for birds in flight to be a little closer to my eye-level, but this bird was acceptable. Wing position and light angle are important, of course.
*** When the wind is out of the northwest, photographers are mostly seeing the rear end of birds as they face into the wind. It is important to capture the subject look back over its shoulder.
…and so the morning ended. There are many birds about the Laguna Madre this time of year, but success is always regulated by wind speed and direction and by the tides. It takes some planning and good luck to catch a “fast” morning on the bay. I’ll hit it right before winter ends.
When December rolls around, I always try to dedicate about three days to photographing white-tailed deer at the peak of the breeding season. But, this year the time just got away from me and I missed the chase.
Here are a few deer images from January 9, just in time to capture the end of the main rut.
Don’t forget to click on an image to increase its size and sharpness for better viewing.
Most of these photos were taken from ground level with a Canon 7D Mark II and Canon 70-200 mm lens, hand held. My elbows were on the ground and the stabilizer was on setting # 2.
Getting this shot requires photographer vigilance and having the necessary camera/lens settings “dialed in” before that magic moment occurs.
These spikes played at “being bucks” for about 5 minutes and without paying any attention to me.
I hope you enjoyed this brief trip to deer country.
Here is the final group of photos I will share with you from our Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge Instructional Photo Tour. Some in our group had far better luck and skill than I as they captured many beautiful images.
Click on an image to enlarge and sharpen it. Click on the right edge of a photo to advance.
Many of the sandhill crane images I captured were at low shutter speeds with the Canon 7D Mark II and 500 mm lens on a Feisol cf tripod and Wimberley gimbal head. The slow shutter speeds allowed me to get the wings blurred while keeping the bird’s head sharp to give the impression of “action” to a still photo. I especially loved the water background in this shot.
How could a photographer not love photographing these elegant cranes.
The slow shutter speeds (1/80-1/125 second) also creates an impressionistic look to background vegetation.
Sunsets reflected in the crane roosting ponds can create many colors from red-pink-gold.
New Mexico sunrises and sunsets are hard to match. Throw in several thousand ducks, geese and cranes and it’s magic for the wildlife photographer.
Here are some of my favorite shots from the recent Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge Instructional Photo Tour. Actually, it may take three or four newsletters to share these since I had a LOT of favorites.
The refuge is known for its thousands of snow geese, but this year the birds were hard to access because of the absence corn crops near the auto tour drive. So, you won’t see many geese in this batch but their absence is compensated by a plethora of sandhill crane images.
Click on the image to increase its size and sharpness. Advance by clicking on the right side of an image.
In early October, Nick Benavides invited me over to his Los Lazos Ranch near Laredo to photograph some of the big bucks he was seeing. With only two afternoons and a morning to spare for the trip, I was happy to see the big guys were ready to come in close for each photo session.
Two weeks later, four photographers traveled with me over to Cotulla, Texas where I conducted a three day Instructional Photo Tour the Santa Margarita Ranch (www.santamargaritaranch.com) . One of the great things about these south Texas ranches is the tremendous wildlife diversity. So, when we were ready to take a break from big deer, there were birds, reptiles and other critters to photograph at the photo blinds and along the ranch roads. The hospitality, food and accommodations were exceptional and the ranch managers were always available to insure that we had a quality visit.
Here are some of the images from these ranches. Just click on a photo to make it larger and sharper for good viewing.
The big bucks at Los Lazos Ranch didn’t have swollen necks in early October, but their antlers were impressive.
Lark sparrows and a variety of other birds perched near the deer blind as I waited for the big bucks to appear at Los Lazos Ranch.
This Santa Margarita Ranch monster was carrying so much headgear that he had to hold his head back to maintain a balance.
This mature black-buck antelope showed up at the photo blind on several occasions.
At a second photo blind we were greeted by many scaled quail and other critters like the colorful crayfish.
A huge whitetail buck gave me this parting shot as he crossed a fallen fence at sundown.
Don’t forget to check out all the south Texas Photo Ranches for a great time and some fantastic photography.
This newsletter will be short since it contains only a few bird photos from among the many that accumulated in my files since last winter. I just dumped 21,000 files from the recycle bin, so now you know there can’t be many keepers left to pick from. Nevertheless, these were a joy to capture.
Click on a photo to enlarge and sharpen it for better viewing.
These two (above and below) were captured within a few minutes of each other as Steve Sinclair and I attempted to get photos of a rare northern jacana at Estero Llano Grande State Park in Weslaco, Texas.
The Convention Center and World Birding Center at South Padre Island always offer a wide array of bird photography opportunities.
I really liked the “v” formation of these spoonbills in early morning light.
Later this week, we’ll take a look at photos from my recent south Texas ranch visits.
Let me put you onto a good used camera and lens deal. If you need any Canon equipment at a bargain price, a photographer in Corpus Christi has several camera bodies, a 600 mm lens and a 100-400 mm lens for sale. Just let me (email@example.com) know you are interested and I’ll forward your contact information to him.
Here are some “odds and ends” photos from this past summer and fall which haven’t appeared in newsletters:
Just click on a photo to enlarge and sharpen it for viewing. Advance arrows are available when you click on the right margin of an image.
The photo above was done with a 24-105 mm lens and Canon 5D full sensor camera, hand held.
Both of these butterfly shots were done with the Canon ESO 1D Mark IV and a 300mm f4 Canon lens with Feisol tripod and ball head.
Coming at me upside down!!!
This night heron was photographed from beside a county road west of Edinburg. Summer and fall rains created excellent ephemeral habitats for spoonbills, ducks, herons, wood storks, etc..
This green kingfisher was feeding at a resaca (oxbow) in the Sabal Palm Sanctuary east of Brownsville.
I’m waiting for fall colors. With McAllen temperatures hovering around 85 degrees, it’s hard to guess when north Texas will begin to look like autumn. Are you seeing color in the woods yet?