Yeah I know you could just right click and save this image but that is stealing and you have to deal with the watermark. I do believe that most people don’t want to steal and I am making it easy for to do the right thing anyway. You can download this image and dozens of others in high resolution, unmarked, to copy and enjoy for personal use by installing the Nature & Wildlife Pictures app for iPhone and iPad.
With more than 60 high quality nature images free and for sale and support for 4 languages, version 3.3.2 of NWP was released today looking better than ever. Included in this version.
- 12 Eagle pictures, 18 stunning landscape pictures, and 7 canvas art illistrations.
- 6 Free Wildlife images specially designed to be used as Apple Watch faces.
- See any of the for sale images in augmented reality mounted in a frame of choice in your own home before buying the image.
- It’s a free download! That’s right you can get this application for less than the price of a cup of coffee.
You can download your own free copy of Nature & Wildlife Pictures for iPhone and iPad at the link below.
Just a quick little reminder that the Wildlife & Nature Pictures application that I have for iPad and iPhone contains 46 free full resolution images available for download and personal use. The application is a free download too. Counting it all up that means that there are 46 nature and wildlife images at no cost to you! When last I checked, that is less than a cup of coffee.
Wildlife & Nature Pictures is available world-wide in the Apple App store and is translated to Spanish with more languages coming soon.
You can download your free copy today at the link below or search for app id #595565558 outside the US.
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!
I’m not the kind of guy that keeps track of all the different birds I encounter. I’m not that guy even though apps like iBird Pro make it very easy to keep track of sightings. After a while though, you just don’t see many new species of bird without making plans to do so with a trip to a new place. I doubt that it is a bird I have not seen before as it is rather common but it is a bird I have not noticed or specifically photographed and that is kind of cool. With a moderate amount of rainfall here in Southern California everything is once again turning green, something we have not seen in a very long time.It made for a fun afternoon shooting and discovering the new bird.
You can’t tell from the image above but the bird I am writing about is the Say’s Phoebe an unremarkable and common bird that just happened to stand out in the fields of green, but still something new is fun to see.
Contrary to what some people believe birds don’t generally fly for the fun of it. As far as I can tell and all things being equal, they would just as soon remain stationary. Food, shelter, saftey, and procreation are a birds motivation in life and all of their flying time serves one of those needs. They are creatures of habit and are always going to perform repeating patterns in flight. They like to fly along a shore line for example, and you will often see birds carry twigs on the exact same route when nest building. I know of one osprey that has a favorite fishing hole and most every day that bird can be found sitting on a branch above the hole waiting for the right fish to come along then swoops down to grab it.
Generally, they will also take off and land into the wind. That tells us that most birds very seldom fly in straight lines. All birds are going to circle around the nest at some point or follow the curves in the shoreline or river bed looking for food. Soaring birds always make circular patterns. Use this to your advantage, set up and track from profile all the way to head on and get a series of images. Many cameras acquire and track focus much better when the subject is moving across the field of view rather than straight at you. Using that technique will make things easier for the camera to do its job.
The one thing that will always make or break a photo is the background. Second to the subject the background is the single most important feature that must appear in every photograph. Most of the time the photographer wants to have the background blurred out as much as possible. This allows the viewer to concentrate on the subject which presumably is in focus. I always hear that a good photographer should buy a really fast lens and shoot at a wide aperture to get great blurred backgrounds, also known as “bokeh”. That is great advice but in the world of avian photography it is more complicated than that and I will try to explain a couple of things that have worked out for me in getting pleasing backgrounds.
There are also times when you need to have the background in focus and essentially it becomes the main subject. Take for example a bird silhouette against a sunset or moonscape. This may sound like a fairly easy, straight forward type of photograph but there are some important things that have to happen in order to get both your bird and background in focus.
Just to illustrate how big a deal the background really is, look at the image at the top. It is one of my favorite pictures of a Raquet Tailed Roller from a trip I made to the San Diego Zoo. Now look at the image below. That is the same bird on the same branch taken less than a minute apart. Look at how awful that background is. You may think that one of these images has some clever Photoshop work done to it. Well I am here to tell you that I am not that clever. The whole secret to getting that more pleasing image was to take about a half step closer to the subject and a couple of steps to the left. That is all a product of being mindful of both the subject and the background.
- Always be mindful of both your subject and the background. It is very helpful to search for the background you want in a target rich area and then wait for the birds to come into that background area. It will take experience to know if the background you want is an area where the birds will want to go but just remember that birds are creatures of habit, if they do it once chances are they will do it again. Be careful of branches, twigs, and hotspots. Some of this stuff can be photoshoped but it is always better to get it right in camera.
- The ratio of focal distance to the distance between the subject and background has the most profound effect on the detail of the background. This is true when using any super telephoto lens especially when using a crop sensor camera. So, if you are looking for that super blurry background you want to be as close as possible to the subject and have as much distance as possible between the subject and the background. conversely, if you want the subject and background to be in focus you will want to have some distance between yourself and the subject and also stop down the aperture as much as possible.
- Don’t be too concerned about the aperture settings effect on the background. Typically I only concern myself with aperture settings in regards to the subject. I set it so I will get the detail in the birds where I want it and no more. When using a lens 300mm or more at close distance the depth of field is going to be very shallow anyhow.
- Search for complimentary colors. If you have all those other things working for you the background will very often be just a swath of color. Try to choose colors that will compliment the subject. For example, one of my favorite photos is a white egret against an all blue background caused by the ocean.
- Try to get the background lighting similar to the lighting of the subject. Doing a high key or dark background is very dramatic but a little goes a long way and in general you will want to have the whole scene evenly lit.
Those are my few tips for getting pleasing backgrounds. Thanks for reading and I hope you comeback soon.
Thanks for stopping by and please remember you can always get a copy of my iPad application Wildlife &Nature Wallpapers from iTunes below.
Every time I have a sunset shoot there is always a Golden Moment. After most of the action has settled down and most of the birds have wandered off for the evening comes the golden moment. Look around, the light is weak but the colors are most saturated to the eye. It will only last a few minutes. Look around and often you will find a lone bird, maybe fishing or just hanging out. Make that your last salute to the day and I bet you will get a bunch of keepers. A couple of things to remember though, the light is always very weak so make sure you check any exposure compensation settings in the camera and always have support available because you will probably need it. Try to make portraits during the golden moment because birds in flight are not only sparse but are a lot more difficult to make.
One more quick tip. Many DSLR’s have a fine tune function. Nikon calls it “AF Fine Tune” and Cannon says “Micro Adjust”. These features are to compensate for any Front/Back focus problems. There are devices to check for focus problems but a very cheap and straight forward way to check is to take repeated photos of newsprint at a variety of settings, compare them and obviously use the one that is best. I have not to date deeded to make any adjustments for lenses but I have made a very slight adjustment on a lens and tele-converter combo. When adding a TC the chances of errors is increased because the lens is now passing its data through a second connection and another device. With time and wear I think the ability to adjust the focus plane can be a valuable tool. If your camera supports it give it a check, you just might get yourself some sharper images.
Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed todays photo Snowy Egret in “Fortress of Solitude”
You can see more photos of mine here.
And don’t forget, those of you with iPads can download my Wildlife application Nature & Wildlife Wallpapers and get some free high resolution images for just 99cents, while it lasts.
There is nothing blue about them. They are white, gray, black, and even some yellow and green but no blue. I’m talking about the misnamed Great Blue Heron. I guess one could say that the light grey takes on the look of a bluish gray but that is stretching it in my opinion. Great Blue is the largest of the Heron family and is considered a coastal wading bird, they are common along the East and West coast and in the Southern states of the United States.
The photo here with the adult feeding the young has special meaning to me as it was the first series of images I made of the Great Blue Heron. It was also the first time I photographed at 500mm focal length. The lens was a brand new Tamron 200-500 on an old rickety tripod and ballhead. The scene was actually quite dark with the sun at my back completely covered in clouds. Shutter speed was down to 1/160 or below and I was pretty much holding on for dear life trying to keep the camera steady watching the young pop up from the nest from time to time when all of a sudden the adult circled above my head and came in for a landing. I was in the right place at the right time and got one of the more memorable images of my life. All the feeding was over in remarkably short order and in moments the sun was completely obscured and fog rolled in. How did I know to find these birds? Well that part was pretty easy. In the parking lot of the reserve I followed the guy with the most expensive gear. Yup, he hiked in before sunrise about a mile with me trailing him, he set up and waited and I set up right behind him and waited, he didn’t say a word, I didn’t say a word. Many other photographers came by took a few shots and wandered off and not a single one of them got the feeding shots that we both did. Sometimes ignorance really is bliss and it pays to play follow the leader when you don’t know what you are doing.
I have photographed the Great Blue Heron many times over the years and in spite of their size they can be rather challenging to shoot. Every time out I do better than the time before but still I am often disappointed. Perhaps I trick myself into thinking that it is easier than it really is and get lazy about it all. Big slow-moving birds that have neutral colors, what more can you ask for? They tend to be shy and separate themselves from humans on a three-dimensional level (they always want to be higher or lower as well as distant) and that makes things extra tough. When they are hunting or hanging out in a tree these Herons will stand perfectly still for long periods of time so there is never a rush to get the shot just realize that you are going to be at a distance. The best literature I have read about photographing the Great Blue Heron is located on Moose Peterson’s website and rather than trying to repeat what he wrote I will link to that post and let you enjoy it in all it’s glory here.
It may just be bad memory but I think I am drawn to the Great Blue Heron from a sinister cartoon character in my childhood. Sometimes they just look like they are pondering some evil deed.
You can see more of my pictures at www.ronboyddesign.com
OK, so I am going to get all technical on you today. Recently I heard a very informed person mention the Brown Pelican was not hurt by the chemical DDT which was banned back in the ’70’s. While this is technically true in that the birds themselves were not effected by the chemical in the environment, there was, it is thought, a significant impact on the population. I thought another person duped by clever manipulation of the facts. Rather than making the birds sick the chemical is thought to cause significant thinning of the egg shells (about 12%) of many bird species including the Brown Pelican. After a moment of satisfaction on my part, the informed person caught himself and stated just that, but then went on to say that even the thin shell theory is subject to debate. That led me think it may be true that the evil chemical DDT did not cause the thinning of the egg shells either. Let’ take a closer look.
On Nov. 17, 2009 the Department of the Interior removed the Brown Pelican from the Federal list of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. The 29 page document goes into great detail about the measures taken to help the Brown, population changes, and even the impact of global climate change, but I did not find any reference to DDT or any other toxin once thought to be the primary cause of threatening the existence of the Pelican. During the time of protection many steps were taken to support the birds, creation of natural habitats, responsible management of oil spills were 2 large factors. Not only did the government take actions to stop the things leading to population decreases but created factors to increase populations. It worked. Still I thought it odd the main culprits not referenced in the document. A little more research uncovered some facts about DDT and the impact on egg shells.
First of all DDT actually has no effect on the eggshells is in fact thought to be a compound known as DDE (Dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene) a by-product of DDT that is stored in the body fat of raptors and waterfowl. There is a measured correlation of DDE levels and shell thickness but also there is conflicting data. For example the Brown Pelican shells improved with the removal of DDT from the environment but after 40 years of the chemical being banned, California Condors still suffer from thin shells. It is thought that 6-10 years is required to flush traces thought the environment. It is even admitted the DDE damage is a hit and miss effect completely unchanging many bird species, in particular domestic breeds.
So yeah it is subject to debate, not only if it causes shell thinning but also how the DDE is introduced to the birds that are impacted.
You can own your own full resolution of todays photo for just 99 cents. It is part of the iPad application Wildlife & Nature Wallpapers. Download it today.
“To be the business or interest of”, that is how Merriam -Webster defines the word concern and the conservation status of many birds is called “Least Concern”. Obviously that means that there is no concern or danger of that type of bird disappearing from the face of the earth. Ironically, the moniker also translates in another way. It seems as though the common birds draw least concern from those who photograph them. It kind of makes sense in that it is believed to be more of a challenge to make images of birds that are hard to find but in reality isn’t that just matter of patience or having the ability to purchase air fare to travel to where the bird is in promising numbers? The question being, does that make one a better photographer? It may indeed be rightfully so but it seems as though the more money spent making an image the bigger the treasure and that for some least concern falls on the common bird.
I like to photograph these pigeons but they are plentiful in my area and so I seldom show pictures of the pigeons. I never think about whether or not they are common to other people in other parts of the world, they are just the same old pigeon. The pigeon is not super easy to photograph, no bird is, either. Reality is that if you can make a nice sharp picture of any bird it is in its self an accomplishment. Believe it or not there are many very accomplished photographers out there who do not have a prayer of making a bird image on the fly. Photographing the pigeon is not as easy as it would appear either, for one thing they often bob their head back and forth making it hard to get real sharp eyes, a common characteristic of some raptors.
If you follow this blog regular you may notice that we have had some rain the past few weeks and that background has come back to the normal green and Fall colors it is supposed to be. A little late in the season but I will take everything I can get :).
One thing that is of great concern to me is sharing the latest version of my iPad application Nature and Wildlife Wallpapers. Get it at theApp Store today.
Last week I lamented the fact that I did not like the two images I was presenting and that at times there can be overriding factors as to whether an image is worthy of publication. I didn’t like the photos because they were of poor quality in my opinion. The stuff was worthy of publication because it documented strange and unusual occurrences. Today lets take a look at the hawk image and first focus on why I think it is of poor quality. There are three things that I don’t like about the image, what do you think they are? Take a moment, look at it, and make a note of what you think is wrong.
OK pencils down.
First the image is not as sharp as it should be. True that, but exactly why is it not so sharp? Shutter speed is indeed quite low we all have to agree, crop sensor, 300mm with a 1.4x teleconverter says I need around a 1/500sec shutter compensate with the Nikon VR vibration reduction and maybe one could push the speed down to around 1/125sec. So it is simple, not enough shutter speed. But wait, look close and you will see the feet of the hawk are quite sharp. Oh you might say, in that case the depth of field is just too shallow because the head is not nearly as sharp as the feet. Nope, I won’t go into the detail here but given the distance math proves the focal plane should have both the head and feet in focus, in fact the head and feet are very close to being on the same plane in the first place. The real culprit does go back to shutter speed but it about movement related to the scene not the camera and lens. a theory that I have yet to confirm or deny it’s that many bird and raptors in particular quickly oscillate their heads as part of their focus mechanism. It makes sense in that it would help aid in-depth perception to have more than one perspective to reference in your vision. In any case, it is important to remember that movement in the scene is in no way effected by and VR, IS, OS, or any other optical stabilization offered by the camera or lens. Movement in the scene also is not in any way effected by the focal length that is being used, so if you scene requires a minimum shutter of 1/160sec that is it, no further math involved, and no way to get around it.
The key to making the sharpest possible image at extremely low shutter speeds is to make a lot of images. Set that frame rate as high as it will go and burn a bunch of images but it also increases the chances that it will capture that very brief moment when you the camera and lens are free of movement as well as the subject in the scene. Yeah it really works. When in doubt drop the hammer and chances are pretty good the will be a sharp one in the group.
Another thing I don’t like about this photo is the background, in a word it sucks. Even though it is nice and blurry there is a pattern in the background and that pattern is the tell-tale curse of the chain link fence. It is fairly easy to eliminate chain link fence infant of your wildlife subject but behind is another story. In this case it was at an effective focal length of 630mm shooting wide open at f4 fence about 15 feet behind the subject. As you can see it is nice and blurry but the pattern of the chain link is visible. Because this fencing is often coated with a bright galvanized finish it usually contrasts with the rest of the background, overly bright if in sunlight or dark in shade. Removing the unwanted lines is more difficult than it appears in Photoshop also, so don’t think it is easily fixed problem.
Lastly, I just don’t like the colors. It is OK I suppose but there is a sharp contrast between the ground and the rest of the background. It creates a horizon line with a hard transition from tan to green. We are in the midst of a severe drought this year and much of the foliage is off-color. Normally this time of year that chain link fence would not even be visible, it would be covered in green and gold making a sometimes spectacular background. Mother has given us a difficult situation and the is only one good way to handle that, try different perspectives. Go higher or lower than the usual comfort positions and always be mindful of the back ground.
Today I am also including one of my favorite hawk pictures so you won’t feel cheated on a good image for another week :). Thank You for stopping by, I hope my little reminders and failures help you and your photography.
Please, don’t forget you can download the latest version of my iPad application Nature and Wildlife Wallpaper below.
Alright people this is the year to step up and give out full size candy for Halloween. No body wants to get their ass kicked by Snow White.
I have a vague relocation of going there as a young child. Busch Gardens in Van Nuys California was a tropical themed amusement park attached to a brewery. It was Busch Gardens from that Busch, the Anheuser-Busch (aka Budweiser) company. It is no real surprise that one of my only memories of Busch Gardens is free beer, and I didn’t get any. Busch Gardens is also one of the leading theories as to the origin of wild parrots that have been living in Southern California for many years. In fact according to LAlist.com Busch gardens was paid by the Federal Government to take care of Amazon Parrots. They write:
For one 3 1/2-year period, Uncle Sam paid the company $110,000.00 in bird sitting fees related to a flock of fugitive parrots. Federal agents had thought the sanctuary a perfect nesting place for a seized shipment of 205 noisy and colorful Amazon parrots, smuggled in illegal through Mexico.
In all Busch Gardens was home to about 1,000 exotic birds. When the park closed in 1979 the legend says many birds were lost or let go and the run of wild parrots was born.
I had absolutely no real appreciation for the invasion of wild parrots. For a few years I had occasionally seen 4 wild parrots in my neighborhood, but nothing like what happened a few weeks ago. I never researched them because the parrots are not native to North America. For sixteen straight days a large band of wild parrots invaded my neighborhood in the morning. Almost like clockwork at around eight-thirty the racket started off in the distance and grew louder. in a minute or two the birds descended and caused nothing but commotion. At least a hundred to my count and I soon found out that parrots are not easy to photograph. They move around quickly and are hard to spot in trees because they are green. I have one large oak tree that is owned by a squirrel and maybe that is the reason why the parrots refused to fly to my tree but for whatever reason it was off-limits to them making it even harder to get a descent photograph. The wild parrots were very aggressive and disrupted the overall ecosystem for birds forcing unusual behavior and stress. One day I was visited by my local hawk. Usually very skittish the young bird paid absolutely no attention to me during its hunt. It makes me wonder if the hawk was deprived of food because of the parrot disruption.
Neither of these photo is of any quality and normally I would not even consider posting them but somehow I feel there is some sort of news worthiness in them, and that will be a topic for another day, just what to do when you are caught off guard or just plain can’t get the shot your need. When do you pack it in, when is it worthy to document with poor quality. But that is a topic for another day. Today it is the fighting parrots and the little hungry hawk.
See you next week.
I originally wrote this post for another website but it was never published so lucky us, I am going to put it up here. You often read me referring to the “golden hour” and how magical it is, well this is my explanation of how it all works. Enjoy.
The golden hour, it’s that time right after sunrise and around sunset when the light is best for photography. Shadows are softer, colors bright and golden. So just what is it that makes the golden hour golden? Anyone who says its because the red color spectrum is increased please go to the back of the room and stand in the corner because that is not what I am going to tell you.
It all starts over at that fireball called the Sun. Our Sun emits rays of light that is called clean white light. White means that is contains all the colors of the spectrum. These colors are violet, indigo, blue, green ,yellow, orange and red. Combined there is no perceptible color and this light simply illuminates. All the colors in the ray of light are defined as waves and each color is a wave of a different length so for example the color red is the longest wave length and violet is the shortest. This is important to remember.
Light rays travel toward the earth at breakneck speed, so fast that people often refer to it as the “speed of light”. To be exact the speed is 299,792,458 m/s or 671million miles per hour. As that ray of light approaches the earth in the eight or so minutes it takes, it may encounter things like asteroids, planets, space debris, satellites, and the occasional Yugo, but in general it is unaltered until it hits the earth’s atmosphere. That’s when things change big time.
The earth’s atmosphere is made up primarily of nitrogen, oxygen, argon and water vapor along with trace amounts of chemicals, other gasses, with soot and dust particles. It also becomes more dense the closer it gets to the surface of the earth. The atmosphere does a bunch of cool things to protect us from harmful emissions but it also changes the quality of light that travels through it. Going back to those different colors of light having a different wave lengths now comes into play. The short answer is that the longer wave lengths are more durable than the short. You might think of it this way. Long wave lengths that make up red and orange light are like football players and the shorter lengths compromising violet, indigo and blue are like ballerinas. As the light travels through the atmosphere it encounters obstacles like water vapor, dust and Oxygen molecules. Often times the football players are able to brute force their way through the obstacle while the ballerinas have to go around. They are elegantly sent off in another direction essentially stripping that ray of light of that color. This stripping of color and diffusing it throughout the atmosphere is also the reason why the sky is blue. This phenomenon happens 24/7 but is not noticeable during most of the daylight hours. It is only when sun light is forced to travel through the greatest length and densest parts of the atmosphere that it becomes most noticeable. That is the golden hour.
So the notion that the red and yellow light actually increases during golden hour really is not possible. You would need to have a pretty substantial strobe mounted on the moon to actually increase any portion of the light spectrum. You might ask yourself, “if the sunlight intensity is greatly reduced then why do I get crazy fast shutter speeds while shooting sunsets”? Probably because most photographers won’t even try to capture the sun at any other time without some extra protection. Your camera wouldn’t even be able to handle all the light. Since the sunlight is less intense in the golden hours, you also have the added benefit of softer shadows an in general a softer quality to all natural light.
And that is what makes the golden hour gold for photographers.
Thanks For Reading.
You can see more of my photos at www.ronboyddesign.com
Even though temperatures have been soaring well into the 100’s where I am but we are well into fall and that means that all those migratory birds are getting ready to head south in the Northern hemisphere. If they are looking for warm weather they are welcome to come over to my place. I am looking forward to getting back into the swing of things and actually I have been seeing a dramatic change the sunrises and sets. A few clouds in the sky and the golden hour is often filled with color. There is an aqua color that appears here unlike any color I have seen before. In New Mexico it is a reddish, almost glowing pink color that is unique to there but here it is an aqua color. Perhaps it has something to do with the proximity to the ocean. I am presuming that a higher moisture content in the air could throw off cooler color tones. I am not an expert in that respect and I have found out over the years very few people are as much of the talk about color in the sky is mere speculation. Next week I think is going to be a good time to re visit the facts about pollution and how light rays effect the color in the sky.
Today is the fifth straight day of my neighborhood being terrorized by a band of rogue wild parrots. I say terrorized because they make a tremendous amount of noise. Those noises are foreign to the rest of the wildlife and it has them as expected, running for cover.
*Note-Once again WordPress lost/deleted a good portion of the text in this post. I will try to recover but I am not going sit around for another hour or two loosing valuable time because WordPress can’t properly manage data. My apologies.
Here is the video I did not make.
Please don’t forget to check out my latest iPad Application.
I have tens of thousands of bird images there is no arguing about that. When I wander through the images of yesteryear looking for something it is rather easy to get side tracked going off on a tangent to find other images I forgot even existed. It is easy because I have tools that are so much better than just a few years ago. Not talking about cameras and lenses obviously as these are old photos, I am talking about the digital tools we need to process the image files. The toolbox has become a lot lighter for me too. I used to have suites of plugins and tons of junk to make my images look better. Almost all of that is gone now, I have one suite of color effects that I use so infrequently that I forget the name of it and my two most trusted pieces of software, Photoshop and Lightroom, and that is about it. There is also one piece of hardware that makes all this possible and that is the Solid State Drive typically referred to as a SSD. If you don’t have one, get one. Lightroom was generally thought of as an organizational tool but it o good now that it takes on the role of primary editing tool too. It is a cause of internal conflict whether or not to export an image to Photoshop for processing any more. Fact is that I really only need Photoshop for one specific routine process. All those expensive plugin suites have been replaced with custom actions.
As you can see now I am wandering off on a tangent about editing tools when the point I want to make is that when you have collections of images, store them rather than delete because you never know when you may be able to breathe life into them at a technical level. Once you have saved those images, make sure you go back and visit them from time to time too. The new life I am able to breathe into my old images primarily comes in the form of exposure and noise reduction. My tools are so good now at balancing exposures, bringing down highlights, recovering over exposed areas, and bring up light in shadows that many images that otherwise would be good are now useable. Associated with adjustments like this is digital noise and older cameras had lots of it. Lightroom and Photoshop(ACR) are now so good that many of those noisy old images are also just fine.
Hurray for technology! Take a second look at some old photos and please don’t delete.
I never even thought about it until yesterday or I would have been mentioning it endlessly for the past few months as it occurs to me that bird photographers have to travel to make photos in almost every case. Today I am happy to announce for the first time on this blog a new iPhone application I made called Trip Trak. According to my own press release all of which is true, I promise:
…makes it easy to record and store mileage, routes traveled, expenses, and gives turn by turn driving directions all in one place. Users can also easily export data to their Dropbox folder, via email or by AirPrint. Trip Trak also allows the user to store up to three different vehicles with unlimited trips and categorized expenses. Using the latest technology offered by the operating system and iPhone 5s, Trip Trak sends a friendly reminder when the user forgets to input ending mileage and prompts voice navigation when turn by turn navigation is accessed while the vehicle is in motion.
One of the cool functions of Trip Trak is the stop and go button that records your position, so if you are bouncing along and find a good spot all you need to is press one button and you have recorded your position in the data. You can also rest assured that Trip Trak does not connect with any third-party or owned servers so there is no possibility of of a data breach beyond the Apple native security.
Trip Trak is free and has in-app purchase to remove ads and unlock premium features, if you are an iPhone user I invite you to give it a look. You never know come the end of the year if you will need to provide data for all your deductible expenses connected with your photography. Get at the App Store Today. You can also learn more about the app and read tutorials at this site.
A little something that I forgot to mention last week about tripods and ball-heads. The more you rely on your stabilization system and the older you get, many people tend to lean into the set up. Traditional long lens technique has the photographer leaning into the camera and draping one arm across the top of the lens to hold everything in place and dampen any vibration. Note that this is not the only technique, some people are more comfortable cradling the lens from below and sort of holding the back of the camera to create a fulcrum effect that makes for fast panning. In either case it is important to be comfortable and fluid. I have noticed that a gimbal style head can become bulky and awkward at times when trying to maneuver the rig. Just something to know.
I also hear about those cool looking c covers for the tripod legs. We can argue about it all day long but in my experience I don’t see any real value in using camouflage clad gear but these leg covers do serve a purpose in two areas, insulation and comfort. If you happen to have an aluminum tripod they will solve the concern about the legs getting cold in winter and the insulation in the covers provide padding when carrying the tripod over your shoulder. Leg covers will set you back about $50 but if you don’t want to shell out the money for the camo you can easily make one of your own for just a few dollars with pipe insulation from the local home improvement store and some “athletic” style tape. If you are very lucky you may even be able to find your own camouflage tape.
Part of the premise of camouflaging gear is to make the subject feel less threatened. Beyond any benefit camo may lend it is very important to maneuver your tripod in a non-threatening manner. Collapsing the legs to move a few feet in the brush is a huge pain in the rear and is time-consuming but picking up a tripod with long extended legs can easily be perceived as an aggressive move so here is what I do. First, as always be slow and as quiet as possible, always facing the subject draw the tripod legs together and swing the ground end of the legs behind you cradling the camera/lens close to your body. Holding the tripod loose enough to allow the brush to guide the path of the legs as pushing brush around and breaking twigs and branches will make sounds that disturb the bird.
Sorry for not picking back up on the shutter speed series this week but this went a little long. We get back to it next week.
After writing about it on more than one occasion I finally gave the photo hosting service SmugMug the heave-ho last week. SmugMug wasn’t a bad service, in fact, the last year they did a good job of bringing the visual experience up to date with all new layouts and themes. I just didn’t think it was worth the money. On the back-end they really didn’t do anything to help you sell images and services. Enough said.
I am currently trying out the service from 500px. I had heard nothing but good things about 500px but to be honest I had never, not even once been there. Part of that may have been intimidation because 500px has always promoted the notion of nothing but the best of the best, but mostly it was because I don’t have time to sit around scrolling through photography sites. Don’t get me wrong I look at a lot of pictures and I make time for that but it is in a more targeted way.
500px is a popularity contest and they don’t make any bones about that. I have to admire that, they come right out and say it “popular” not the usual weasel words like “trending”. Popularity works too, we all know that from our high school days. I don’t particularly like this method of rating photos. It is often confused with a real critique. On whole 500px also displays the best photos because of their formula. It works because when I do view images I don’t want to see snapshots. I am not all that impress with 500 as a service though and the chances of me staying with them is about 50/50 when the trial is up. I don’t much like the default (free) theme, it is crappy. If you are not paying for a portfolio showing your best doesn’t look too good. The mobile app is marginal too. It seems to me that rather than picking a side or doing a spectacular job at both the service is stuck in between being a portfolio site and a social photo site. All those things don’t really bother me that much either but there is one big thing that may really break the camel’s back. Wildlife does not get a fair shake at 500px, there is no doubt in my mind. You can prove it to yourself by looking at the ratings and popularity (pulse) and you will see wildlife images are far behind others. I am going to say that a big part of that is the category listing of “animals”. It should be Wildlife, maybe wildlife and animals but using just animals is totally inappropriate and the fact that no one there doesn’t know that is troubling. The term animals immediately makes ones mind think as to farm and domestic life and wildlife is just that wild and natural. I spent an inordinate amount of time looking for a wildlife category and I couldn’t find one so either it is really hard to find or it doesn’t exist. 500px, you are in no way a bird shooters best friend.
Thanks for stopping by. Don’t forget to catch up with me on twitter @RonBoyd.
The other day I was playing around with bird song sounds. For the most part I am not in favor of using manufactured sounds to change the behavior of the animals but I have been curious. It is easy enough to do. The iPad app iBird Pro has call sounds for every bird listed that can be played in a continuous loop. The goal of playing the sounds is to attract birds of the same species by either sending a mating call or some other call that will peak their curiosity. I had a slightly different strategy. I wanted to attract birds that I rarely see, birds that I know are out there in very small numbers. I didn’t get any of those birds to show but it modified the behavior of all the other birds in ways that I never would have thought of. The common birds like sparrows and finches actually gave me the perfect opportunity to photograph them. The stopped eating and hopped up to the strategic branches and just looked around, more birds available to photograph at one time than I have ever seen. Oddly enough, when I did play sparrow and finch song it had little effect.
As I sat here yesterday preparing the photo for today’s post it occurs to me that some, maybe even many of you are under the impression that a lot of my pictures are composites. That being two or more photographs artistically combined to create one hopefully very pleasing image. I get that, but the truth is that I rarely make composites in bird photography. No wonder, it is just a matter of my style. Slightly too much contrast, slightly too much saturation and slightly too much differential of brightness between subject and background. It is a style and for better or worse it is my style. Everyone should have the ambition to develop their own style. Style is good. Some of you may be thinking that style should be limited to “shooting style” and not post processing. That is a way of looking at it and having a shooting style is also very important to develop also. For me the two work in concert as I actively seek out shooting situations that will yield results that compliment the other style.
So, how does one develop a style? Steal it. Believe it or not I think the best way to develop your own style is to copy one that you really like. With practice, emulation, and experimentation I promise that you will come up with your own unique presentation. No kidding.
Thanks for stopping by everyone. Don’t forget, you can follow me on twitter @RonBoyd.
It has been one of those black cloud weeks, seems like everything I have done turns to crap yet when I approach the end of the week and take stock of my accomplishments it really isn’t that bad. I did crash every time I took to flight but in the end all the repairs were made for little more than pocket change. I started and made good progress on two projects that have been lingering way too long. Here in Southern California we have finally settled into the normal weather pattern for May. With one day left to go the “May Gray” has crept into the picture this week. A heavy overcast the comes in off the ocean and usually burns off in early afternoon May Gray will soon give way to “June Gloom”. It works great for close bird photography, but even in that it seemed as though I was always a stop short of where I needed to be. Most images were only “kinda” sharp, not the tack sharp I am always looking for. Hundreds of “kinda” images wear very thin on me and that means means Yup, I got my gripe on in a big way.
First, slightly off topic, let me say Home Depot Hardware, you suck. When two-thirds of the items I need are not available at my local store but you graciously tell me that you can deliver to the store at no additional cost in 10 DAYS! You suck. They are common items, things that I can drive to Lowe’s on the other side of town and almost always pick up. This is not just a gripe week occurrence either, I have been experiencing this for many months since I have made a concerted effort to source items as close to my front door as possible. I actually do better at Wal-Mart right across the street. Seriously, Home Depot, you need some self-improvement.
Back to photography, there are two little bits of software I need to gripe about also. First, Nik software. I was in love with Color Effects Pro 3.0, it was the only plug-in that I used a lot. Tonal Contrast was my favorite feature and it was changed dramatically for the worse in all subsequent versions. When I switched to Photoshop CC it did not support Color Effects 3.0 and Tonal Contrast was lost, I tried the latest Nik versions and it was horrible. Not only was the Tonal Contrast junk but the whole plug-in clogged up my machines and ruined the entire Photoshop experience by slowing everything down. The next plug-in to get criticized is the onOne pixel perfect 8.0. I will moderate my gripping about this because I remember when the Suite of onOne software was $2400.00 and they are now giving it away. It’s a little cheesy that they give away one version just a few days before releasing the new one but that is really nothing to gripe about. It may be because I have used Photoshop every single day for more than a decade but I see no value in the plug-in. onOne has always been a huge memory hog and I find it actually is faster to make the adjustments in Photoshop. I have done several side by side comparisons and I usually prefer the Photoshop version. I just don’t see any value in buying something that I already have.
Ok, to review, Home Depot, put more stuff in your stores, Nik “by Google” you had your New Coke moment but you are not Coke or Colonel Sanders go back to the old recipe, BTW Google with the self driving car, you may learn someday that you don’t have to be at fault to be at fault. Your self driving car is so ugly pelting it with eggs is an improvement! onOne, butter luck next time.
Ahhhh. I feel better now. Good thing the week is almost over. If you have a gripe, look below and start typing.
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.
According to a study by the Wildlife Society Bulletin Comparing bird and bat fatality-rate estimates among North American wind-energy projects, the Obama administration seriously underestimated the number of birds killed by wind farms. More than 30% not including bats. My first thought is that the agency responsible did not miss the estimate, they lied about it to make themselves look better. A few years ago that would be considered crazy talk but today anyone who dismiss the notion out of hand is simply caught in a rundown between bases. So who cares anyhow? Even I had a relatively casual attitude about the wind farm issue poking fun at the liberal conundrum, but numbers ware piling up and there is increasing cause for concern. You may be wondering if there are many wind farms? There are 120 “Large” wind farms currently in the US with another 20 coming soon, actually a whole bunch more because a few months ago the Obama administration adopted the EPA recommendation and approved what is known as the “30 year kill rule”. According to The Washington Post:
Under federal law, it is illegal to “take” protected species unless one obtains an “incidental take permit” from the federal government. The Interior Department rule, finalized in December, extends the maximum time period for which such permits can be granted from 5 to 30 years. ABC (American Bird Conservancy) calls the regulation the “FWS 30-year Eagle Kill Rule.”
In fact the kill rule benefits all industry not just the green energy industry. In case you were under the impression that these large wind farms were funded and operated by local green energy companies and enthusiasts you might want to think again, while there is no doubt plenty of businesses struggling to harness and market the powers of wind energy, large companies like General Electric and Siemens are running the show. From the rumblings I have heard General Electric is also building Natural Gas fired power facilities on the wind sites along with the turbines. Facilities that may not get approval on their own and for sure would have to go through a lengthy red tape process.
You can call me crazy all day long but I suspect there is gambling going on in that bar. If it only was gambling it would be cool but I don’t put it past any government agency or large corporation to collude and break the law for financial gain and things are starting to stink of that. Also I would like to point out that all this is about the Eagles and other “protected” birds but the actual kill count does not discriminate and there are many other species of bird that are killed and injured. I recommend to everyone, take a look for yourself and form an opinion as it really becomes a complicated issue. The only thing I guarantee is that the more eyeballs on the issue the better off we all are.
Thanks for reading. I hope I gave you all something to think about and until next time you can follow me on Twitter here.
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.
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.