A new version of the “Birds for Words” iMessage sticker app is being released today and it includes one of my very first wildlife photos, an American Coot. I have always loved this photo even though it is rather unremarkable and not difficult to capture. Fittingly named as “Behind” it is included in version 1.5 of the application. Also included in this version are translations to Spanish, French, and Italian languages.
You can download your own copy of Birds for Words below. Just a reminder-it really does cost less than a cup of coffee!
Some times I get caught up in the whole “I got to get there” thing and on my missions to make it to places that are on the bucket list, target rich, or just great shooting. I forget about stuff that is just a stones throw away. I remember a few years ago the price of gasoline had spiked to the point that I could not travel to those places I dearly love to be. I did a little exercise then, for a month I only photographed in places that were in walking distance. I normally walk 3-5 miles per day so it was not like I was limited to my backyard. I learned a lot that month about finding good places and good shots. With that experience in mind it was not too much of a chore to wander over to a local duck pond.
It was a truly crappy day, clouds were threatening rain and overall it was very dark. On the plus side, I could shoot all day. Nature’s soft box was in full effect and although there was little of it the light was very even. At times the clouds would thin out and it would brighten up a bunch. I didn’t bother bringing a bag and I was a bit taken back when I grabbed the camera and noticed that my 1.4x teleconverter was not attached. It pretty much lived on the 300mm lens but today it was gone. Given the circumstances it took me all of about 5 seconds to get over it and get excited about shooting at f2.8, a task impossible with he TC attached. Opening up that last stop of light really makes a difference not only with boosting shutter speed but also presenting a razor-thin depth of field and an outrageously creamy bokeh. Ducks should get close enough, I was not feeding them at all. I made some really beautiful images this week including the one you see above.
A couple of tips for shooting waterfowl on a stormy day. To get nice colors and reflections that you want to be sure to shoot in areas that are in complete shade. This will eliminate the gray of the clouds reflecting out of the water. You can see in the picture the ripple in front of the mallard is at an angle where it is reflecting the light from the clouds above. It makes a nice accent but big patches of the reflections can turn ugly especially if the water is calm. Shooting in complete shade will however bring shutter speeds way down. Down to an alarming speed but to compensate for that you are well served to shoot in short bursts of about 3 images. Waterfowl can be deceivingly fast when they are trying to get somewhere but also tend to linger around given the chance so choose your subject wisely and a slower shutter speed will work. If that is not enough of a reason for shooting in bursts you will also inevitably lose your desired focus with a super shallow DOF no matter how hard you try. Being able to choose from a series of images will give you the likelihood that one of this images has the focus you need.
Well gang, thanks for stopping by and until next week, happy shooting!
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The week before last I ran down the lens choice and a couple of other things to take to Alaska. One of the things that helped drive the decision to go with the Tamron was the Nikon D800 Digital body. At 36 mega-pixels the D800 has a lot to offer with the big files and incredible low light performance and in theory should work very well with the slow Tamron 500mm lens. I should be able to crop away and or compensate for any vignettes and boost sensitivity enough to keep the shutter speed high enough for the slow f6.3 aperture at 500mm.. I am renting the D800 though because I just could not bring myself to buy last Summer, and that is because of the one huge limitation, shutter speed. The D800 is just too slow to be a well-rounded camera body that I can use day in and out. I want to wait for something better to come along. For special uses like huge portraits and close low light situations the D800 will shine I am sure and that is what it will be used for.
The other really big item to prep is weather protection. This morning the place where I am going to be is 37 degrees with rain forecast for the next 5 days. For a Southern California boy that is simply brutal. Preparing to handle the elements is probably the biggest challenge of the entire adventure. Lenscoat makes wet weather protection at reasonable prices and there is also the bit pricier Aquatech. I already use lenscoat covers so I am going with their pro series camera and lens cover. I am sure it will work just fine. My body is another story. I didn’t know what to buy, I know I don’t have what I need sitting in the closet short of some thermal underwear and hiking boots. I turned to Amazon for two reasons. First, a lot of the clothing I need is hard to find in retail stores in Southern California, and if you can find it, overpriced. Second, there are reviews to guide me towards the higher quality products. To my surprise cold weather clothes are more affordable than I thought. Boots, pants, gloves, headgear and a nice supply of warmers came in at less than $300. Less than what I budgeted. Making my buys during the hottest days of Summer helped too, I am sure.
Thanks for stopping by everyone. Stop by next week for another fun installment of Diary of a Birdshooter.