Hawks perched above
On high bare winter trees,
Waiting for dinner below.
Winter continues to persist. Birds of prey frequently perch on surrounding trees looking over the snow covered pastures waiting for slight creature movement below. It is a good time for bird watching.
“Waiting for Breakfast”
Frequently I look out my window and see this American Kestral perched on a pear tree watching over the pasture below. This seems to be one of its favorite spots. This morning, I waited for the sun to rise a little and shine through the morning fog to silhouette the Kestral. It was a beautiful way to start the morning.
I needed a little change of pace and started reviewing some photographs from an earlier wildlife photography trip. In my review, I found this “fellow” just waiting to be processed and displayed.
Lesson Learned: It pays to go back and review old images from time to time.
Sandhill Cranes – Othello, Washington
More Sandhill Cranes … It was very hard getting a shot of flying cranes, separated from each other with their wings in a similar position. If you shoot enough, you get lucky … sometimes.
Sandhill Crane Near Othello, WA
Here comes one right over the top of me. I was hand holding my camera and almost fell over backward as the crane flew directly over my head. The Sandhills are sure pretty and graceful creatures!
Sandhill Crane Near Othello, WA
This image is technically better that the one in my previous post. However it is still not as sharp as I would like. The original image was taken with a 600mm equivalent configuration on a full size image sensor camera. In addition I cropped the image by a 16x factor.
I need a lot more practice to get the image as sharp as I would like. I do not think that I am at my equipment’s limit yet.
I just returned from a weekend photographing Sandhill Cranes near Othello, WA. The cranes are on their migration path from central California, where they winter, to Alaska. I am relatively new at bird photography. I practice a lot to get decent images. I took around 3500 images over a three day period. My “decent image” percentage is about 2%.. The following sequence is what we went through to photograph the birds. #1 – Find the birds. The first day we spent about 4 hours before we saw any Sandhill’s. #2 – Position myself to get the sun behind my back. Hope that wind is coming from the same direction. The birds land and take off into the wind. #3 – Have a lot of patience. Don’t get excited and take hundreds of images of birds on the ground not doing anything or birds that are flying off way in the distance. #4 – Wait for the birds to do something interesting like taking off/landing or “dancing” on the ground. #5 – Anticipate, be be ready. You do not have a lot of time to focus and shoot. #6 – Make sure you are focused on the bird before you shoot. I had a lot of blurry images (I meed a lot of practice). #7 – Pray that you captured a few good images. My success rate was not very good. #8 – Shoot with someone who knows what they are doing. Thank you Jack!!!
The above image was not my best, but it had some interesting lighting. It was a good opportunity to do a little post processing. I will include sharper images in future posts.
After looking at this, I laughed at myself. This is not a sandhill crane … it’s a Canadian goose. It is still a beautiful sight though.
Now things really get tough. Capturing a diving tern is not easy. They dart changing directions constantly as they fly looking for little morsels in the water. Once they see something, they dive at 1000 miles per hour (or so it seems). To catch a dive, I had to actively follow the bird as it darted above, keeping it in focus. Then as soon as it makes a motion down, I start shooting and drop my camera to the water as fast as I can. My camera shoots at 10 fps and I still caught only a couple of dives in the 250 images I shot. We shot for about a half an hour. I was exhausted from the concentration that I had exerted. I was ready to quit. But this is not the end of the story. Wait for my next post …
Nesting Great Blue Herons
Now things are getting a little more difficult. The heron’s flight path was erratic and now I had to worry about timing and composure within the frame. Here, I was trying to capture a specific action of the male landing to bring the female branches to make a nest. I made a lot of errors including not leaving enough room at the edges of the frame. Many of my images clipped the wings of the heron as he landed. Also, I had a difficult time focusing on the main subject. There were many other things going on around me and I would try to capture them as well. I missed several opportunities to capture special actions of this couple.
There is also a little story behind these two love birds. Even though the male was working hard to bring the female twigs for the nest, she was not very faithful. When he would fly to get more twigs, another male would fly in and “do its thing”. The first male would quickly fly back to chase the second one away. It was rather comical to watch their behavior.
Wood Stork at Orlando Wetlands Park
This and several other Wood Storks helped me practice panning to follow their flight patterns. These storks would fly from one set of trees to another set of trees about 500 – 1000 yards apart. I was on a hill positioned at right angles to their flight path. All I had to do was to pick up their flight from one set of trees and follow it to the other set of trees. Their flight path was straight without any erratic moves. All I had to worry about was the correct exposure, shutter speed to freeze action, and achieving the initial focus. Pretty easy …