Bird of the Week – Green Heron in SC

greenheron-SC (1 of 2)

I have faltered quite badly at generating the “Bird of the Week” postings. I can’t say that’s going to change, but I will do them as time permits. This bird was a neat find. My kids and I met my brother and his wife in the Lowcountry of South Carolina to spend a couple days before retreating to my brother’s home in the Asheville area for the reminder of the kids’ spring break from school. We took a boat ride for an afternoon (highly recommended) with fellow photographer Eric Horan. We saw a great many interesting and exciting things.

What attracted me to this heron was that it was pure chance that we even saw it. I happened to glance across the waterway we were passing through and looked up a small inlet. The heron was tucked in there and I could barely even discern it, so much so that I thought that it was a bittern at first. Eric wheeled around and as we got closer, I snapped the image above. The bird flew across the waterway and landed on the dead branch/stump shown below, where it remained for a minute or so before disappearing for good.

I love the green on the backs of this species. It’s a color I find particularly appealing.

I will post more about the boat trip in future, but I cannot recommend it highly enough. Eric is a wonderful host and there are a ton of things to see.

greenheron-SC (2 of 2)

Photograph information:

Both images:

  • Canon EOS 7D Mark II
  • Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM + Extender EF 1.4x III
  • ISO 1000, f/8, 1/1000 secs. @ 560mm
  • handheld

 

Posted in Bird of the Week

Death Valley Part Three

milkyway

This is a slightly different post about Death Valley. As is self-evident, this image is of the night sky. I must issue a full disclaimer that I have never done any night sky photography prior to this shot, save for one set of a handful of exposures in Connecticut that were badly affected by the stray light that is prevalent in CT’s night skies. Also, I have much to learn about post processing of night sky photographs. With all that said, you cannot go to Death Valley without marveling at the incredible brightness of the skies after dark. There are simply stars everywhere. Death Valley is considered one of the places with the darkest night skies that you can find. To give a sense of what it’s like, I awoke one morning in my tent, with only the mesh opening above me obscuring my view, as well as my poor vision without my glasses, and even without my glasses, I could clearly discern the Big Dipper above me through the mesh. It’s simply incredible!

Getting back to this image, I went up to Twenty Mule Team Canyon Road very early one morning to climb the hills there to get some sunrise shots (see Death Valley Part One). This was about one hour before sunrise, looking east/southeast. The brightness on the lower left of the horizon is the sun getting in position, but still over an hour prior to actual sunrise. The Milky Way is visible where the horizon rises on the right and moving across and to the left of the frame. It continued fully across the sky. What is shown here is but a small portion and this is with a 14mm extreme wide angle lens! Again, I will point out that my post-processing skills for shots of this type need to be enhanced!

Photograph information:

  • Sony A7r
  • Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 lens (Canon EF mount with Metabones IV adapter)
  • f/2.8 @ 21 secs., ISO 1600
  • Tripod and remote release employed
Posted in Scenery and Landscapes

Death Valley Part Two

furnacecrk

I enjoy searching for and finding images that represent a more abstract take on a scene. These can be the result of unusual light, colors, forms, textures or combinations of these characteristics. After shooting the image included in the first Death Valley post, I stopped at the Zabriskie Point parking area and took a few shots there. On my way back to Furnace Creek, I glanced to the left and immediately focused in on the area shown above. I saw the shot before I ever took the camera and tripod out of the car. I love the colors as well as the movement of the lines/curves through the image. There is actually a distance of many feet between the foreground area that fills the bottom of the frame and angles up to the right as compared to the background area that starts on the left and expands to fill the entire horizontal area at the top of the frame. I knew I wanted to blend these so I used a telephoto lens to compress the entire view. The sun was low on the horizon, giving the rock a relatively warm glow, while still providing a few darker areas to provide a little texture and contrast.

Photograph information:

  • Sony A7r
  • Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM
  • 286mm, f/10, 1/200 sec.
  • Tripod and cable release employed
Posted in Scenery and Landscapes

Death Valley Part One

20muleteam

I was extremely fortunate to spend a few days in Death Valley in late March. Having only driven through once previously, without even stopping, I was unaware of what an absolutely amazing place it is. I took several photos and while there are some that I like, I can only imagine what opportunities there are when there are clouds in the sky to complement the amazing scenery. I will post several images in the coming days. I cannot wait to return and explore some of the other treasures that this park has to offer.

This image was taken at dawn from the hills above Twenty Mule Team Canyon, looking west toward Zabriskie Point and the Panamints, which are across the valley and are the distant peaks to the right in this image. I love the color of the sky before the first rays peek over the ridges from the east. I hiked up in the dark to the highest point I could find that featured a pleasing vantage and then experimented with many compositions. It is hard to find bad scenery!

Photograph information:

  • Sony A7r
  • Rokinon 14mm f/2.8
  • ISO 100, f/11 @ 0.8 sec.
  • Tripod and cable release employed
Posted in Scenery and Landscapes

Blue Hammonasset and the Canon 16-35mm f/4 L

bluehamm

While I am fairly certain that most photographers are gearheads whether they admit to it or not, I also firmly believe that the gear is a distant second to simply getting out and shooting. I have no doubt that a talented artist could produce excellent results with a 110 film camera. That being said, there are pieces of equipment that seem to develop a well-deserved reputation for excellence almost as soon as they are available. The Canon 16-35mm f/4 L wide angle zoom is one such piece of gear. It was lauded as being one of the best, if not the best, wide angle zoom on the market at its release last summer. I took the plunge almost as soon as I could purchase it.

This shot was among my first taken with it on the day I received it. I wandered down to Hammonasset State Park on a rather dull, overcast evening that held very little promise of exciting picture-taking opportunities. However, I wanted to put the lens through its paces. This composition and image remains one of my favorite from last year. I am drawn to the manner in which the boulders pull you offshore and I love the serenity and many different tones of blue present in the image.

Photograph information:

  • Canon EOS 5D Mk. III
  • Canon EF 16-35mm f/4.0L IS USM
  • 16mm, f/20, ISO 100, 4 secs., circular polarizing filter
  • Tripod and cable release employed
Posted in Gear, Scenery and Landscapes

Bird of the Week – Barred Owl

barredowl

I am perpetually hearing, “you should have been here yesterday” or showing up to see a Snowy Owl that’s been sighted for days on the day that it has decided to move on. Being in the right place at the right time is one of the few things that you can’t control in photography (or life). However, being persistent can be controlled and that’s how you make your own good fortune. Except when good fortune finds you. I have a feeder in my back yard and my back yard is forested for at least 100 yards. I have had a lot of traffic this winter – bluebirds, cardinals, finches, nuthatches, juncos, sparrows, woodpeckers, flickers plus others I am certain I am forgetting. I also see the occasional hawk in the neighborhood. No owls even though I have been hearing the “who cooks for you?” as long as I’ve lived here.

Imagine my surprise when I looked out one day a couple weeks ago to see this beauty. It has becoming a somewhat regular dawn and dusk visitor. I can even hear it faintly whispering, “let the cat out.”

Photos have been difficult as the density of the branches makes it a challenge to get a clear view. This shot was okay, but not perfect in that regard and the late afternoon sun hitting its tail feathers is a little distracting, but I’m so happy to be treated to its visits that I don’t mind the less than optimal photo.

Photograph information:

  • Canon EOS 5D Mark III
  • Canon EF 600mm f/4.0L IS II USM + Extender EF 1.4x III
  • f/5.6, 1/200 sec., ISO 1600
  • Lens rested on the deck railing for support
Posted in Bird of the Week

Hammonasset Lakebed

hammonassetlakebed

Full disclosure: I love this image. I know, it doesn’t tick all of the boxes for a great landscape photograph. However, sometimes it doesn’t have to for an image to connect. For me, I love the orange of the autumn grasses, the way the stump pulls you in with its roots, and the subtle colors tucked into the grass. A computer display doesn’t do this image any favors, either. It really needs to be seen in a larger media, such as a print, to see all of the details and nuances.

Another thing I love about this image is that it was a very pleasant surprise. I had hiked around Lake Hammonasset (Madison/Killingworth, Connecticut) looking for some fall colors and, for the most part, came up empty-handed, as it was late October and most of the fall color had occurred. I was wandering aimlessly and hiked out on to the exposed lakebed (the water level is extremely low by autumn). I stumbled across this and it made the many miles hiked that morning worthwhile.

Photograph information:

  • Canon EOS 5D Mk. III
  • Canon EF 16-35mm f/4.0L IS USM
  • 24mm, f/13, ISO 100, 1/3 secs.
  • Tripod and cable release employed
Posted in Scenery and Landscapes

Bird of the Week – Eastern Bluebird

bluebird1

The past two months have been fairly consistent in Connecticut – temperatures either below or well below freezing. There is almost no fresh water to be found that is not frozen, including the Connecticut River. It’s also been quite dreary and generally devoid of color except on the infrequent days of sun and clouds, yielding interesting sunsets. One tiny, but nice source of color has been the birds in my backyard. In particular, I have had a gang of about a dozen bluebirds that seem to arrive at the feeder a few times per day like clockwork. They appear, eat, and then disappear. Their color is welcome, as is their somewhat comical, paunchy look. I would describe them as borderline fat. I caught this one in a more flattering pose that makes it look a little less rotund. I enjoy seeing them each day with the bright color they bring. It won’t be too long until there are more signs of spring, although the ten day forecast never seems to indicate that it’s coming.

Photo information:

  • Canon EOS 5D Mark III
  • Canon EF 600mm f/4.0L IS II USM + Extender EF 1.4x III
  • f/5.6, 1/2000 sec., ISO 800
  • Lens rested on an open window sill for support
Posted in Bird of the Week

Another Acadia Image

acadia2

This is my favorite image from the whirlwind tour of Acadia late last September. I had one chance at a sunset photo so I wanted to find a good location. My kids and I scouted this spot during the day and loved the many interesting and colorful rocks on the beach. When we returned late in the day, we were even happier as the tide had moved out, exposing even more rocks. I love the slight sheen created by the moisture on the surface of the rocks. It was an utterly cloudless sunset so the landscape/seascape had to play a starring role in the image. I am very pleased with the result.

Photo information:

  • Canon EOS 5D Mk. III
  • Canon EF 16-35mm f/4.0L IS USM
  • 19mm, f/16, ISO 100, 30 secs.
  • Lee Filters 3-stop split Neutral Density filter with hard edge
  • Tripod and cable release employed
Posted in Scenery and Landscapes

Bird of the Week – Hooded Merganser

hoodedmerganser

I have found Hooded Mergansers to be extremely skittish water fowl. So much so that whenever I have carefully approached ones that I have observed, they immediately turned tail and either paddled furiously away or have simply taken flight. If I try to insert myself into their environment and wait for them to approach, they never do. A few weeks ago, I was running errands on a particularly cold and overcast day and decided to take Route 146 from downtown Branford to Guilford (Connecticut) in the hopes of seeing something interesting to photograph. I was thinking in terms of scenery, not birds (I didn’t even have my “bird” camera body with me, the Canon EOS 7D). I drove over the bridge in the Branford River Gateway Scenic Area and was surprised to see a number of mergansers swimming by the bridge. I turned around and parked in the small “lot” and grabbed a camera with the 600mm lens. I stealthily crossed the street, hunkering down, and probably looking like a fool. I popped up over the bridge railing and snapped a few shots as the mergansers quickly swam away. This shot of a male was the best of the bunch. I know that many find them to be thoroughly ridiculous looking birds, but I find them to be almost regal.

Photograph information:

  • Canon EOS 5D Mark III
  • Canon EF 600mm f/4.0L IS II USM + Extender EF 1.4x III
  • f/5.6, 1/400 sec., ISO 800
Posted in Bird of the Week