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

 

Davis Mountains Hummingbird Festival and More

On August 17-18, I guided a group of photographers into a remote part of west Texas known as the Christmas Mountains.  The trip was a pre-festival event for the Davis Mountains Hummingbird Festival and we were after Lucifer Hummingbirds.  I hope  to  lead more trips in the coming year in May and August.  This one filled up the first day it was advertised, so let me know early if you are interested.

August is also the west Texas monsoon season and many species of hummingbirds begin heading south into Texas from the Rockies further north.  So, the festival is scheduled to take advantage of the many hummers moving into the Fort Davis area.  After my workshop, I stayed around to check out some of the festival events  and presented the keynote talk on the closing evening of the festival.

*** Important news on used cameras.  McAllen, Texas photographer Paul Denman (pmdenman@att.net) would like to make you  a great deal on his Canon 5D Mark III camera with grip and extra batteries as well as a Canon 1D Mark IV with extra batteries.  Go ahead and contact him directly to get more information and discuss prices.

Here are a few images from the west Texas trip:

Don’t forget to click on an image to make it larger and sharper for viewing.

Christmas Mountains, west Texas at sunset.

 At the base of this butte in the Christmas Mountains west of Big Bend National Park, Lucifer Hummingbirds nest in cholla cactus each spring and summer.  It’s doesn’t look like hummingbird nesting habit, but there they are.  We photographed them at feeders within a quarter mile of this mountain.

Christmas Mountains, west Texas at sunset
Christmas Mountains, west Texas at sunset.

Sunset light on the Christmas Mountains can produce some excellent scenic views.

Male Lucifer perched in black brush, Christmas Mountains, May.
Male Lucifer perched in black brush, Christmas Mountains, May.
Lucifer Hummingbird in breeding plumage.
Lucifer Hummingbird in breeding plumage.

Both of the above Lucifer shots were with Canon 7D Mark II and Canon 500 mm lens mounted on Wimberley head and Gitzo 1348 tripod.

Lucifer Hummingbird male at feeder
Lucifer Hummingbird male at feeder

Lucifer males have elongated, wrap-around gorgets that glow an iridescent purple from almost any angle.  Also, note the characteristic curved beak.

Lucifer Hummingbird male in flight
Lucifer Hummingbird male in flight.

This male is moulting but still sports a striking plumage.  Four flashes were used for this photo to light the bird and background.

Lucifer Hummingbird male banking in flight.
Lucifer Hummingbird male banking in flight.

Keep watching for a few more images from the Davis Mountains.

Larry

A Few Shots From This Spring and Summer

Hello, everybody.  It has been so hot for so long, that I just haven’t been outside much.  The last few times out, I tried shooting some short videos which was a lot of fun.  The editing of said videos isn’t such a big thrill, however.

Below are some photos from Transition Ranch, Laguna Seca Ranch and a stretch of highway between Sabinal and Utopia, Texas.  One of my favorite photo ranches, Santa Clara Ranch, has been booked all summer so I’m waiting for October to get back.

Don’t forget to click on a photo to enlarge and sharpen it for viewing.

Cactus Wren with colorful background at Transition Ranch.
Cactus Wren with colorful background at Transition Ranch.

I really liked this wren shot, but should have been shooting at f8 or f11 to bring the tail into focus.  On the other hand, that would have brought more detail into the background and I didn’t want that.  Unfortunately, this type of pose lasts about 2 seconds, so there is no time to think about “where to focus at f11” and still keep the background blurred.  The correct focus point for this shot would probably have been about mid-way up the tail.

Crevise Spiny Lizard and lichen covered limestone outcropping.
Crevice Spiny Lizard on lichen covered limestone outcropping.
Finding room for a trio on this perch.
Finding room for a trio on this perch.
Northern Bobwhite male shaking and re-organizing his feathers.
Northern Bobwhite male shaking and re-organizing his feathers.

Interest can be added to your photos by placing flowers in the background at strategic locations before photography begins.

Northern Cardinal flying from Crepe Myrtle branch..
Northern Cardinal flying from Crepe Myrtle branch..
Northern Cardinal male drinking
Northern Bobwhite male drinking.

The challenge on this bobwhite quail photo was to capture water running from its beak.  Water streaming out of his mouth added interest to the shot.

Curve-billed and Long-billed Thrashers chasing after prey.
Curve-billed and Long-billed Thrashers chasing prey.

This is a second look at the location with blooming flowers in the background.

Painted Bunting just out of the bath
Painted Bunting just out of the bath.

Don’t give up if your bird subject comes in to bathe and is frightened away before you get the shot.  It will almost always come back two or three times (as this painted bunting did) to finish the job.

Wine Cups and Indian Blankets on the Utopia highway.
Wine Cups and Indian Blankets on the Utopia highway.
Wildflowers north of Sabinal, Texas.
Wildflowers north of Sabinal, Texas.

I hope to keep digging up photos from recent trips that haven’t been shared.  That way, we can pass the summer days with a reminder of more pleasant weather.  I think it’s time to head east for beach shots.

See you later,

Larry

 

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