Wanted: Big Bend National Park Photographers

Two spaces are available for photographers who want to join me on the Big Bend National Park Instructional Photo Tour from March 29-31.  We will photograph landscapes, wildflowers, stars and some wildlife.  If you are interested, check this website for more details at the Photo Tour section and contact me by email: lditto@larryditto.com to register.

Here are some images to give you a look at the variety of sights we will photograph.  If you click on a photo, it will enlarge and sharpen for better viewing.

Big Bend sunrise

 

Big Bend wildflowers

 

Terlingua Cemetery west of Big Bend NP

 

Santa Elena Canyon through an adobe dwelling window.

 

Moon setting in the  Chisos Mountains “Window”, Big Bend National Park

Join me if you can,

Larry

Your Opportunity To Photograph the Iconic Big Bend National Park

In two months, I will be in Big Bend National Park photographing some of the most beautiful landscapes and wildlife in the Southwest.  There is plenty of time for you to sign up and share 3 days with me and a small group of photographers in this iconic landscape.  You must be tired of the photos some other lucky photographer captured in the Big Bend.  This spring, it can be you looking into the viewfinder at an orange sunset or the crystal clear night sky at Big Bend of Texas.  Go ahead, send me an email note now and I’ll get you signed up: lditto@larryditto.com.  I’ll get back to you quickly and furnish the information you’ll need to make this trip a reality.  Check out the information and photos on my website in the Instructional Photo Tour Schedule.

 

Here are a few more shots to give you an idea of the types of photography we will get in this far corner of the state.

Big Bend NP, “The Window” in the Chisos Mountains Basin.
Ocotillo in bloom, Big Bend National Park.
Boquillas Rim and Strawberry Cactus blooms, Big Bend.
Santa Elena Canyon on the Rio Grande, Big Bend National Park

We will photograph the incredible high walls that surround the Rio Grande in Big Bend, and we’ll do it at sunrise when the morning sun lights up Santa Elena Canyon.

Rio Grande at Santa Elena Canyon, Big Bend a few minutes after sunup.
Casa Grande and moon rise in the Chisos Mountains at Big Bend National Park.
Cactus Wren singing, Big Bend NP
Historic cemetery in Terlingua, Texas just west of the park.

We will also head a little way west of the park to visit the historic village of Terlingua and photograph the old cemetery and nearby sights.

On a trip like this, you can learn a lot about photographing nature, both landscapes and wildlife.  It will be an adventure you won’t forget.  I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Larry

Shots from Around the Valley

It’s about time to start the winter/spring photo tour season.  In 13 more days, I will be leading a whooping crane “shoot” on the mid-Texas coast.  The last slot filled today.  Meanwhile, I’ve just been getting out for short trips to photograph local birds and deer.

It was so warm this winter, I really didn’t get much done outdoors.  It would be fantastic if the weather cooled just a little and we could see more ducks pushing south along the coast.

Here is a small sample of recent photos.  Don’t forget to click on a photo to make it enlarge and sharpen for viewing.

The plugin that controls the photo presentation in these newsletters is not functioning correctly (glitch in the latest update from WordPress).  We are working on it and hope to have things back to normal soon.

White-tailed Deer, buck in rut

 

The last glow of a setting sun coloring a big buck’s antlers.

 

Feral hog (sow) feeding in south Texas brush country.

 

Snow Geese and sandhill cranes roosting at the salt lakes on Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge.

 

Gadwall in flight, winter

 

This duck took off at close range and I managed to clip its left wing, so some rebuilding was required for this one.

Is there room for one more. Northern shovelers and teal share a loafing log.

 

Male vermilion flycatcher landing in a 25 mph wind.

 

Northern Cardinal in flight.

Some of these bird shots were taken on overcast days with heavy winds.  But, we take what we can get, especially when it’s been days between periods of sunlight.

Larry

 

One Spot Open for Whooping Crane Photo Tour

Click on photo to enlarge and sharpen for viewing.

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

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