The Great Journey in Photography

Posts tagged “outdoors

Seattle Stickies

seattle

Seattle Stickies is now available on the iOS app store. They are available as a free download to all iPad and iPhone owners for a limited time.

It is a collection of Messages stickers celebrating the landmarks and culture of Seattle and the Puget Sound. Great for residents and travelers. These stickers are made in the distinctive canvas art style. Help celebrate the art and culture of all Washington by using these free stickers today.

 

Download_on_the_App_Store_Badge_US-UK_135x40

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Dressing Up

Fly By

280mm f11 200iso 1/800sec

So, if you were wondering what were the best ways to attract birds to your space today is your day. Be it small, big urban or rural, there are birds everywhere and it is possible to bring those critters around yours, just be careful of what you wish for. To attract birds you don’t have to reach far, just appeal to the three things birds are always looking for and are only thinking about, food, shelter, and procreation. First, the food. That is pretty easy, just buy a bag of seed for wild birds, get the cheapest you can find, I don’t see any difference in brands, they all attract the birds and will work just fine. Here are a couple of tips to make things a little easier feeding birds.
To attract larger birds buy some sunflower seeds and mix that in to the feed.
If you want to attract large numbers of birds, rather than using a feeder set a cup of seed out in a couple of piles near some bushes.
Don’t forget the water, especially if water is difficult to find. In cold environments where most water sources are frozen the liquid is gold. For desert like environments the addition of misters will make a more hospitable environment the critters will enjoy.

Have some foliage or even just places for the birds to perch and look around. Birds are always on the lookout for danger and the essential component of their behavior is sitting up high and surveying a scene before approaching. They are most comfortable having camouflage but even branches held in place with clamps help tremendously and also make great locations for making photographs.  Taller trees make great places for nesting and if birds can build nests near by all the better. Trying to get birds to nest on your window sill probably is not a great idea, you may grow weary of the noise and may not be a happy camper when some of them die and are eaten. A better idea is to make sure the birds can build nests nearby. if your space has a plethora of twigs and fibers to choose from for nest building they will be all the more likely to return on a daily basis.

Be careful of what you wish for. Birds are part of an ecosystem and they will attract other animals such as cats. If you are a cat owner be advised they will hunt the birds and cause a stress on their community. Dogs keep the cats away and generally don’t disturb the birds. Small birds attract larger birds that prey on them. Raptors eat the small birds and other birds like black birds eat the eggs and hatchings especially the humming-bird. On the plus side birds will control the spider and insect population regardless of how much food you set out.

If you have any tips for attracting birds go ahead and make a comment.

Thanks for stopping by-See you ext week.


Birds and Branches

Sparrow on a Branch

420mm f6.3 320iso 1/250sec

So you have gone out and made the ultimate effort to capture great bird photos. You have the fast glass and you practice, practice, practice but there are some things you just can’t change or make any better. One of those things happens to be the fact that birds hang out in trees and other foliage. It’s a safety issue for them. Ultimately we all have to decide wether or not it is worth the effort to try to make the shot but there are always going to be some branches to deal with. Cloning out small branches and twigs is a pain but we all do it from time to time. Having a really shallow depth of field that you get with fast lenses helps tremendously and brings a nice creamy background to the image but there is often the errant branch that is on or very close to the focal plane and causes a distraction. Rather than spending a lot of time cloning out the distraction there is an easy alternative in Photoshop. Blur it into the background.

Screen-Shot-2014-04-11-at-6.57.59-AM

In this photo you can see exactly where I applied the blur. It is pretty easy, just make repeated strokes with the blur brush until you get the desired look. Use a duplicate layer for safety. Of course there is always an argument to be made about when and where to use these tools and for that matter whether or not the photograph should be shown in the first place. I am sure you all know that you should be striving to get what you need in the camera but there are always exceptions.

Thanks for stopping by everyone, I hope you find this tip useful. You can see more of my photos here.


Epic Fail

Crowned Sparrow on a wire

The plan this week was to have some video and a few stills of Brown Pelican antics that were made with the GoPro Hero 3 camera. I needed to test out the camera for another project I am working on so I figured I would try out some wide-angle video for birds. I had a good plan I knew where I wanted to mount the camera. one static spot on a rock near the waterline where Browns routinely dive for fish and also mounted atop the 300mm f2.8. I had scheduled 3 sessions figuring one of them would wash out leaving 2 good attempts to get some footage. One of the big attractions of the Hero 3 is the applications available for the iOS devices that allow you to control the camera remotely. The first morning I set the Hero 3 up in my backyard the first thing I noticed was there was a very long delay in the video to the iPad, I also saw that it indicated a low battery after I had just charged it. A short time later the camera was dead. After charging it and checking the battery it was non responsive. Checking online there seems to be a number of complaints with the same issue. I tried a couple of “tricks” to get it working but no luck. Sorry Go Pro you are a No Go, I will be looking for other solutions in my project.

Plan 2.
I have some old gear I need to sell to help finance the new years planed expenses and what can sell photo gear better than some nice photos made with said gear, plus I wanted to make sure everything was in good working condition. Even my newest gear is old and that is why I am selling off a bunch of it. To get better equipment. It is painful using the oldest stuff, cameras and lenses I once thought to be really good no longer cut the mustard and results are frustrating. I wonder about the photo above. It is not an image that I consider to be good. The day I made that picture I had numerous beautiful scenes to set up upon and I did and I waited and waited and not a single time did a bird come into view. my best shot was this little sparrow on a wire. Bird on a wire is not a classy scene in high-end bird photography and I kind of wonder why. Is it because it is supposed to be easier to make or is it supposed to be ugly? Honestly, I find neither to be true. I actually like a bird perched on a nice rusty piece of barbed wire, it highlights the whole foot area of the bird which can be complex. Anyhow this image is not great quality either, too much contrast even though the light was pretty good.
Not a great way to close out 2013, “epic fail” as the kids would say.

Thanks for stopping by everyone, I really appreciate having a chance to share my thoughts and images with you and 2014 is going to be a great year. “Epic Not Fail” right?… “Epic Fail-Not”? Whatever!

 


Passing Time

brownPelicanatBolsaChica

350mm f6.3 250iso 1/2000sec

snowyEgretatBolsa Chica

420mm f6.3 250iso 1/2500sec

Tuning up with the old Tamron 200-500 lens. I have probably spent the most hours of shooting time with the old Tammy but in the last few years it was rarely used. It appears that as I have become a more mature, experienced bird shooter the old warhorse has become more forgiving and easy to use. maybe it is because it is so light, maybe it really a lot better than I ever believed but whatever the case that piece of glass was a breeze. The first thing I did was go straight to what it does best, short distance portraits. There is no doubt that at short (down to around 7″) focus distances the Tamron works best and also works very well at 500mm focal length. It is the lightest long lens I have  used and all of a sudden that is a serious plus. Sometimes folks it is best to go for what you know.

This one is for you Old Girl. God Bless

This one is for you Old Girl.
God Bless


Lost

sandhill crane in the menagerie

300mm f5.6 250iso 1/3200sec

You know how sometimes you get caught up doing a bunch of things and something gets forgotten about or left behind. Call that falling through the cracks. A lot of things can fall through the cracks in bird photography not the least of which are images. We have to make hundreds maybe thousands of images to get a really good one that is just a fact of life. Think about how impossible it is to give each and every image a good look. The last couple of days I have ignored some of the things I have to do, you know that endless stream of things that must be done, at a certain expense, money not made and that sort of thing, before my head exploded, and sifted through several thousand images I had made the last several months. I had already looked at these images a couple of times but I could not bring myself to deleting them because I knew in my heart that thee was some value there, hidden gems, backgrounds, stock, etc. I really like doing this because we are always trying out new software and editing techniques and I am always looking for an image for practice.

I had been thinking about something Moose Peterson said about photographing wildlife composed small in the scene. He said it is harder and more impact-full when done well. Scrolling through images I found a series of photos I had completely forgot. A single Crane flying through a menagerie of golden swirling clouds. Pretty cool I think and very little processing involved.

Hey everyone, I have to plug my latest iPad application Wildlife HD. If you have an iPad and want to see some great photographs, learn, and make great photos I recommend you give it a try. Available in the App Store for $1.99 today.

Thanks for stopping by. See you next week.Wildlife HD


Pole Position and the Tale of the Gay Ducks

Pintail Ducks

420mm f9 250iso 1/640sec.

Last time I went out to La Jolla Cove I recall having a less than pleasant moment. After a long drive and still well before Sunrise I pulled up to the site and a little out of the ordinary there were a handful of photographers already in position with their tripods firmly standing at the seemingly required five foot seven inches tall in a neat line. I noted that they were way too far back, circling around to cross in front of them because there was no option behind. One of the would be photogs let me know that I needed to pull back for fear of disturbing the birds. I knew he was wrong. A thousand or so hours of photographing pelicans told me otherwise. Sure, had I walked up closer and set up like the others it may have been a problem but that was not my plan. I was circling around so the rising sun would be at my back (kind of important thing) and even better, I moved forward to a crevasse in the cliffs where I climbed in barely visible to neither bird or man. I did the most polite thing I could think of in the pre-dawn hour, I ignored the well-meaning camera operator. I took the position that day, I took the best position because it was there for the taking. In the end I also made some of my best Pelican photos that day too.

Fast forward to last week. Much the same situation. It was after Sunrise on the Bosque, after the Cranes flew off to feed for the day, around mid morning. The light was not great but it was diffused some with a light overcast and some clouds. The goal was to photograph some ducks. We happened upon a small pool close to the main pond, not the greatest location but at least the sun was at our backs. Smart money said it is essential to photograph ducks from the waterline. I would have preferred to have gone further down the road to a beautiful shaded pond that I knew about, but smart money also said there were no ducks there. Smart money was right. At the not so good pond I set out to do my best. The water’s edge was about six or eight feet below the roadway. Another photographer started to make his way to the water’s edge at the best angle to the sun when a photographer who had set up on the roadway chided him, “don’t go there, you will scare the ducks”. The frustrated bird shooter wandered off in another direction. I however, circled around went to the pond’s edge and worked my way around to the prime angle. It wasn’t really special in the first place but I made my shots from about two feet above the waterline. I slowly stood up and began pulling back when timed perfectly to my footstep all the ducks flew off. I looked back and in not too much of a surprise three photographers behind were giving me the look, you know, the looks that kill. Each one of them about twelve feet above the water and way to far away to make meaningful duck pictures. Now, no one really knows what makes a group of birds fly off but clearly they blamed me. I was not so sure, I had been there for a while and I was pulling back but even at that I am willing to take the hit on this one.

All that leads me to pose the questions. When is it a hinderance to be polite? Is polite always right even at the expense of making your shot? Interesting. I think in general the answer is opposite my actions, but for real I wasn’t breaking any rules, I was simply taking action to make the shot that others were not willing to do, I took the best position and I am willing to bet, made the best images. I also know that none of them were anywhere near polite to me after the birds flew. My recommendation is to let your conscience be your guide, have conviction in your actions but be sure to think about your actions and how they affect others. Having a win at all cost attitude is never the right thing.

I made the photo above in that session. One of the goals on the trip was to make duck photos and one of my goals in general is to capture bird behavior. I will say that my entire intention was to portray affection in this photo but in reality it was a bit of a tussle that ended with this affectionate looking pose. I honestly don’t know what it really was but I went with the affection angle. I had made one fatal mistake though, something I never thought about.  It was a symptom of not knowing enough about the subject, the fatal disease in wildlife photography, and I took some good-natured ribbing because of it too.
Those are two male Pintail ducks!
Not that there is any thing wrong with that.

More from Bosque next time. Till then Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

www.ronboyddesign.com


Land of Enchantment

Sunrise at the Bosque
Sunrise at the Bosque

Sunrise at the Bosque

Ever since my killer guard dog turned a hundred years old I have been careful about sharing dates and times that I am away from home. Last week was one such time as I was In the wonderful Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Reserve. Bosque is renowned for the spectacular Sunrises and sets it has during the Fall and Winter months. My first four days at the Bosque did not dissapoint. Each day being just as spectacular as the one before. It is hard to make an image that does the reality of Bosque justice, but try I did making hundreds of  photos every morning in the freezing cold. The one above is just one of many that comes close to what I saw.

Snow Geese on the move

Snow Geese on the move

Another thing that the Bosque is renowned for is the “Blast Off”. Every morning around sunrise thousands of Snow Geese fly out of the great pool, the morning sunrise pool, and fly out to the fields to feed. Sometimes almost every single bird leaves at the same time, hence the name “Blast Off”. Other times they depart in large groups in a period of a half hour or so. We didn’t see any spectacular blast offs this time out and in fact what I found far more interesting and photographic was the thousands of Geese that fly to the lake prior to sunrise to meet up with the others that stayed there the entire evening. They just keep coming in waves for an hour or so making great opportunities for making silhouettes and artistic blurs.

There were so many great birding places at the Bosque that it is impossible to show it all at one time so today is the Sunrise. In posts to come I will be showing many other interesting things and places in this little slice of the Land of Enchantment. Stay tuned for a full Sigma review, Sandhill Cranes, Ducks, the EVLA, and more.

Until then have a great day and God Bless – Ron


Tern Time

Tern-at-Bolsa-Chica

300mm f5.6 250iso 1/2,500sec
click for larger image

All of a sudden it has become mid-Summer, hot hazy days of Summer, my how time can fly. Not the best time of year for bird photography, Summer photography for me features the Terns of Bolsa Chica. Skimmers, Least, Caspian Common, and Forster’s are all plentiful this time of year and are usually easy to find. They are by no means easy to photograph. This year I have yet to witness one of the legendary feeding frenzy when large numbers of the Terns assemble in mass and take turns diving for fish, impatiently, and often colliding in the air. The conditions have to be right for a frenzy, wind and tide play a large role. I have had two sessions when I thought conditions were perfect but nothing ever developed. There are always a handful of birds regardless of the conditions so making photographs is always possible. Overshadowing the Tern activity this year has been the remarkable quantity and behavior of Brown Pelicans. None the less there are some great Tern images to be made.

As a quick review for photographing this birds always remember that fast rules everything. These guys are incredibly fast with lots of jerky motions and sudden changes in direction. They are relatively oblivious to humans while fishing and will fly very close to you at times so that means that focal lengths of 200-300mm will work just fine. You will want however, to have have a camera with a fast frame rate, a fast lens, and back button focus enabled. All of our Terns are high contrast subjects in one respect or another, very often with a patch of black in the head area, so watch that the highlights don’t get blown out at all. I have found that recovering blown out highlights that are less than a stop over yields less detail then if it is right in camera so I say default to the underexposed side. In order to get eye detail in many cases when that portion of the head is black you need to capture the eyes in direct sunlight.
Lastly, take some time to watch their behavior. Each bird will have it’s own pattern of flight and fishing. They repeat these behaviors over and over, that makes them predictable, and that knowledge will help make you successful.

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed todays picture. If you click on it you will be able to see the full size version. Notice the eye detail.

Follow me on twitter @RonBoyd


Sources of Grief & Post Process Relief

Cooper's hawk sitting in a tree

500mm f8 400iso 1/1,000sec

Remember a while back when I wrote about how important backgrounds are? How about a couple of weeks ago, about trying different ways to process photos, or even last week when I wrote about not being able to make a good shot in weeks? Well here is an example of all three rolled up into one image.

I loathed this photograph the moment I took it. It was my safe shot. I don’t often see Hawks perched only a few feet off the deck. In this case about seven feet. There were other noisy people in the area so I knew my time was very limited. One of my greatest peeves is people who scream on a cell phone while on nature trails disturbing everyone and everything in their wake. There will come a day of reckoning for those clowns, but I digress. This was about as close as I could get before the bird retreated to higher elevations. Here is what I really didn’t like about the photo.
Not close enough. I really wanted to half the distance from this shot but I rushed in and made too much noise probably chasing the bird off before I could have worked my way in to the position I really wanted. Had that bird been watching over a recent kill I would have easily made that position.
I was shooting hand-held at 500mm. In thick brush I decided hand-held would be best. I had the shutter speed up at 1/1,000sec but even then it is really hard to get a very sharp image. Remember effective focal length is going to be about 750mm with the 1.5x crop sensor.
Then there is the fact that the subject is not just close to the background, it is in it! As I approached I was circling around to see if there was a vantage point that separated the hawk from many of the branches but no luck, this guy was pretty much in it.

When I saw the photo on the computer I decided I had to do something with it if for no other reason just to document the days events. I thought a B/W conversion could be all right but when I did it the bird was completely lost in the background, then I thought of the technique I never use because I have always heard it was a cliché. I also remembered that when I make people photos it is one of the things I hear requests for, so it can’t be all bad. Anyhow, this is what I did. Now the image has the separation it so desperately needed. Not by distance or depth of field but by contrast of color and black and white. To the viewer’s eye it has the same effect.

I did this using NIK Color Effects plugin. Just choose the B/W conversion filter and adjust as you see fit, then add a negative control point to the subject and you are done. Back in Photoshop if you notice any areas of the bird that didn’t get colorized just add a mask to the layer and paint the B/W out. You can also do this just with Photoshop rather easily. Simply make a second layer and convert to Black and White with the method you are most comfortable with, add a layer mask and paint away the areas you need to be in color. I recommend a fairly hard edge brush. In Lightroom it is not as easy but still can be done, just de-saturate an adjustment brush and paint the entire area to lose color being sure to turn on auto mask when you are painting close to the subject.

While this technique may have become a cliché in other genres of photography I will add that I very seldom, if ever, I see it used in bird photography, so don’t feel shy about giving it a try once in a while.

Just as a footnote, one other things I would do to this photograph is clone out the one straight line in the entire frame. See that straight branch to the lower left of the Hawk? It should be gone.

Thanks so much for reading, I hope you find this and all my other tips valuable and until next time have a great day.

www.ronboyddesign.com