She Aims, She Shoots, She Scores…

Fort DeSoto is one of the first landfalls for migrating birds. If you time it just right, you can find hundreds, if not thousands of birds resting and eating before they continue their journey north to their summer grounds. I have never timed it right for the migration and had no expectations that I was here at the right time this week. Upon arriving at DeSoto this afternoon we found Hooded Warblers, Black & White Warblers and Yellow-throated Warblers in good numbers. Suddenly our plans changed from photographing shorebirds to focusing on Warblers. Talk about a challenge stalking these little guys with the 600mm and 2X attached. After a few minutes I decided to find a good spot and sit down and let them come to me which is exactly what they did. They would land nearby and hop their way through the grass in search of food. Any little disturbance would send them all into the trees to hide. A crow would fly by, the warblers would take off, an osprey flew by, they took off and it was a while before they got up the nerve to come back. But, with lot’s of patience and sitting very still, come back they did. In fact, they would come back and hop right up to me closer than my lens would focus so I would sit back and simply watch and admire them for a bit. But, when they were in shooting distance I had my lens trained on them working the focus manually most of the time as they were so small and active. As one Hooded warbler approached, I had my lens aimed, hand on the focus ring turning it slightly with every hop as it closed the distance between us. When suddenly, it dipped it’s head and came up with a Crane fly in it’s beak. I hit the shutter button as it was lifting it’s head, kept firing while it turned towards me and continued to fire while it turned away to swallow the bug it had caught. One second, nine frames, one major score for me! Not only do I have a new species for my files but, it was in great light with a nice background and surroundings and, it had dinner clamped tightly in it’s beak. Score!!!

For a chance to shoot with me at Fort DeSoto and the surrounding area (a birders smorgasborg) this July visit my website. You never know who might drop in.

Image captured with Nikon D3S, AF-S 600mm VR, TC-20E III on Lexar Digital Media.

Stopping To Make Lemonade Pays Off

With a day of pouring rain and high winds preventing us from photographing the birds, we were up and out early to find subjects to aim our lenses at. We headed to Sawgrass Park where there are usually an abundance of birds to choose from. A walk around the entire boardwalk yielded….nothing! Heading towards the car, the beautiful light bouncing off the trees reflected in the water caught my attention. Those of you who know me, know I can’t pass up a good reflection and with no birds to be found, I aimed my 600mm into the water and began shooting…

Out the corner of my eye I saw a blur as something flew past and landed just up the canal from where we were shooting. I looked up in time to see a Tri-colored Heron land on a log hanging out over the water. The light was hard and I had a beautiful bird with full sun and mottled green background. For some this would be a no win situation and they would pass it by, others would shoot it anyway and come home with images that would end up in the trash can. But, with the knowledge of light, I knew I could dial in minus compensation to drop the background out and get great colors on the bird. So, I dialed in minus one, the bird was still too bright and the background too distracting, minus one and a half began to look better so, I went to minus two which gave me exactly the exposure I was shooting for. The background went to black and the Tri-colored Heron simply popped…

After shooting our fill of the Tri-color we moved on down the trail a short way where we found a Green Heron perched in the water with a great reflection. We were able to photograph our fill of the Green heron before he finally flew off…

What began as a bust turned into quite a productive morning. So, when the photo gods don’t give you what you hope for, make lemonade and maybe your luck will change.

Images captured with Nikon D3S, AF-S 600mm, TC-20E III on Lexar Digital Media

Tech Tuesday…Polarizer

Many people believe that a polarizer is used to make the sky bluer and the clouds stand out against the blue sky…


without polarizer


with polarizer

While that is one side benefit of a polarizer, the actual use is to remove reflection whether it’s the glare off water, or other reflective surface or simply the blue of the sky reflecting upon the landscape. By removing the reflection, the true colors come to life giving an image more color and saturation…


without polarizer


with polarizer

A polarizer is a two ring filter that threads onto the lens and the outer ring rotates. You simply rotate the ring until you see the colors begin to warm up (or, yes, the sky turn darker blue). A polarizer is most effective at a ninety degree angle from the sun. Keep in mind that a polarizer will cost you from 1 1/2 – 2 stops of light. The camera will automatically meter through the polarizer but, you need to be aware that you will have a slower shutter speed when using a polarizer.

I use a polarizer on overcast days when there is foliage as well. It removes the grey cast of an overcast sky bringing out the rich colors. Another use for a polarizer is to take advantage of that two stop loss of light when you are photographing moving water and want that silky look or want a slower shutter speed and the light is too bright…

There are two types of polarizer, the standard version and a circular polarizer. Digital cameras need a circular polarizer to work with the metering system. So, if you don’t have a circular polarizer in your bag, now is a good time to add one.

A Walk On The Beach

With Photoshop World just a happy memory now, I headed to the west coast of Florida to do some shooting for a few days. Fort DeSoto is one of my favorite locations for bird photography and it didn’t let me down this morning. We arrived at dawn with a slight overcast which makes for nice bird photography. The quantity of birds was not that great to start with but, you only need a few good birds to keep clicking. As the morning wore on, the birds grew in numbers and variety to the point that I have to say that this was the best day of shooting shorebirds I have ever had at DeSoto. It got to the point I didn’t know where to aim my lens. Do I go for the laughing gulls, or the Royal Terns? The Willets, or the Plovers? I tried to get my lens on each species that was present and I’m sure I missed a few but, I did get most of the usual suspects with Black Skimmers…

Willets…

Ruddy Turnstones…

As if the regulars weren’t enough, a pair of Marbled Godwits made an appearance…

And the biggest treat of all was the rare appearance of a Long-billed Curlew…

All in all it was a spectacular morning with more birds than I can possibly post here. As we were packing our gear back into the car the big storm that was predicted hit and we high tailed it back to the house to hunker down with our mornings images.

Images captured with Nikon D3S, AF-S 600mm VR on Lexar Digital Media