Archives for December 2011

Musings From A Fellow Adventurer

My name is Steve Seligman, and I am honored that Laurie asked me to write a posting for her blog. At this point, I need to confess that I was infected with the photography virus 7 years ago, and I doubt there is a cure! Since meeting Laurie 5 years ago, I have participated in her workshops several times to photograph Coastal Brown Bear in Alaska, large shore birds in Florida, the Grand Canyon, and most recently, the Albuquerque Balloon Festival. I was fortunate enough to spend a few days with her last weekend in Bosque del Apache. This wildlife refuge is less than 90 miles south of Albuquerque. On first appearance, it looks like hundreds of acres of fields and ponds. But in actuality, it is the winter retreat for Canadian Snow Geese and Sandhill Crane. I found it the most challenging photography I have done to date, most likely because of the rapidly changing light conditions and the speed at which the birds travel.

The picture below is the classic blast-off. I find interesting the sharpness of the picture as well as the ability for the geese to fly very close together and avoid collision.

D3S 600 mmF4 lens F 8 1/1500 sec ISO 450

I discovered quickly that the secret to good pictures was observing the behavior of the birds, monitoring wind directions, watching the light changing, and trying to control the background as much as possible.
Below are two classic Bosque photographs: The Sandhill Crane early in the morning and the Snow Goose in the evening. Note the pleasing backgrounds and the beauty of the late afternoon light on the goose.

One of my goals for this trip was to try Nikon 51 3D Dynamic Focus. I found it worked well with the birds in flight, but it seemed to fail in the last seconds, as the birds landed in a group. In a similar fashion, 51 3D dynamic does not work well in the first few seconds as the birds take off. The exception would be if the bird was alone and not in a grouping of other birds. Once in the sky, it works great at tracking the birds.

D3S 600 mm F4 lens f6.7 at 1/1000 sec ISO 800

D3S 600 mm F4 lens f8 1/640 sec ISO 200

Many times, we were able to observe the Sandhill Cranes landing in the brisk wind like a helicopter. They would just extend their wings and drop almost straight down. The typical landing for the Crane is much like a glider. The wings, which are usually 6 feet from side to side, are extended, the feet are directly under the head, and the Crane floats down at a 45 degree angle. It looks to be almost effortless.

D3S 600 mmF4 lens at 1/1000 sec ISO 250

Since Laurie started working with me during our photo outings, she has always tried to stimulate some creativity from me. My natural tendency is to be very black and white. After sunset, there was ample time to experiment with different settings of white balance and ISO. We tried to produce some blur pans. My blur pans, it seems to me, appeared to be just out of focus! Seems like a good reason for a return trip!! Another challenging photograph is that of the birds at sunset. By switching the white balance to 10,000 Kelvin, I was able to capture images that more accurately depicted as what I was actually observing.

D3s 600 mm f 4 lens at f6.7 1/160 sec at ISO 3200

In conclusion, I suspect photography is much like golf: Outcomes are not from competing against others; instead, they are more user-dependent. The more you practice, the better you get. But as you improve, you realize how much more there is to learn.

Happy Holidays!

Bosque del Apache…It’s A Wrap

What a week! We have had anything from bright sunny days where the temps soar into the high sixties to beautiful, partly cloudy days that extend our shooting time with good light. We experienced a wind storm with sustained winds of forty miles per hour and gusts to sixty that blew dust and birds around like confetti and nearly knocked us to the ground at times. And on our final day, the predicted severe winter storm that was predicted arrived with the return of the geese and cranes to the ponds to roost.

The bird count is higher than I can remember (at last count there were 56,000+ light geese and 14,000+ cranes) and the photo opportunities equally good. Once again a great group of fellow adventures joined me and we all had an amazing week of cmraderie, excellent food and great shooting. Enjoy a few final images from the week…

Nikon D3S with AF-S 24-120mm f4 VR

Nikon D3S with AF-S 24-120mm f4 VR

Nikon D3S with AF-S 600mm f4 VR, TC-17E II

Nikon D3S with AF-S 600mm f4 VR, TC-17E II

As the sun sets on yet another Excellent Photo Adventure at Bosque del Apache, I am already looking forward to next year…

Nikon D3S with AF-S 600mm f4 VR, TC-14E II

Bosque del Apache… Pretty When They Preen

Preening is nearly as essential to a bird’s well being as eating. Keeping their feathers in top shape is important to their well-being so they can fly and for warmth and protection. Most birds have up to 25,000 feathers and preening removes dust, dirt, and parasites while also aligning each feather…

Nikon D3S with AF-S 600mm f4 VR, TC-14E II

There is a grace and beauty as they stretch their necks to reach each and every feather. I can spend hours watching and photographing preening birds and early mornings at Bosque are great for capturing this activity as they awaken and begin their day preening themselves…

Nikon D3S with AF-S 600mm f4 VR, TC-14E II

I tell my fellow adventurers to stay locked on a preening bird as the final steps are the wing flap, a beautiful display. The challenge at Bosque is not to find a preening bird but, rather to isolate just one from the thousands. while I love to move in really tight, it’s important to leave enough room on the sides and top for the wing flap to avoid chopping off wing tips or heads. Continuous advance helps me to capture the peak of action…

Nikon D3S with AF-S 600mm f4 VR

Bosque del Apache…Not Just Geese And Cranes

While most people come to Bosque for the Snow Geese and Sandhill Cranes that winter over here, there are many other species of birds that make wonderful subjects. Northern Pintails are a bit skittish and will move away when approached but, if you have patience and sit still they will soon move within range…

Nikon D3S with AF-S 600mm f4 VR, TC-17E II

Road Runners can normally be found hunting along the side of the road, near the bushes. Once they go into hunting mode, it’s pretty easy to approach to within photographic range. This one was on the hunt and as it ran along the berm near one of the ponds, he stopped long enough for a few quick photos…

Nikon D3S with AF-S 600mm f4 VR, TC-14E II

The current raptor count at Bosque is seventeen. While driving the loop we saw several Northern Harriers (easily identified by the white strip one their tail feathers) working the fields and decided to try and photograph them. They can be a bit difficult to photograph as they cover a great distance while on the hunt and their flight pattern is a bit erratic. You just get one in the viewfinder and it dips, twists or soars away. With enough patience, you can get “lucky” like we did here…

Nikon D3S with AF-S 600mm f4 VR, TC-14E II

There are many species birds to aim your lens at when visiting Bosque del Apache. We have dedicated a short period of time each afternoon to working a few.