Image Spotlight: Vermillion Flycatcher (2)

I recently returned from a trip to South Texas and while there I visited one of my old hotspots–Llano Grande State Park (i.e., Big Plains State Park). I have a love-dislike relationship with this park. On the positive side, it’s a great place to see and photograph many different bird species. In addition, if one is lucky, alligators or bobcats may be seen. I’ve had luck in the past with the alligators but the bobcat continue to elude me. What I dislike about the park is the large number of joggers, bikers, and portrait photographers that always seem to make their presence when the action is good, which inevitably scares the birds away. On more than one occasion, I’ve been photographing birds in beautiful light only to be interrupted by a portrait photographer attempting to take homecoming or quinceanera (15th birthday) photos. In case you are starting to wonder about that rant, yes it is a state park and they have just as much right to enjoy it as a bird watcher or photographer; BUT, a little common courtesy seems to be in order here. It’s a 230 acre wetland park so if someone is already photographing birds where you desire to take portraits…respect the photographer already there and find another place for the portraits…just don’t setup in the same location and start shooting.

OK, that’s off my chest. Lets get to the images in this post. The Vermillion Flycatcher’s winter range includes the Rio Grande Valley (South Texas). For the past 3 years I have seen this bird flying from perch to perch near the big pond behind Llano Grande’s park headquarters. Unfortunately, the perches within photographic distance near this area are man made; but hey, sometimes it’s good to photograph wildlife that shows the hand of man. I’d prefer a natural perch, but when photographing at a state park, one rarely has control of his or her shooting conditions.

Vermillion Flycatcher

Vermillion Flycatcher | Canon 7D MkII | ef 500/4.5 | ISO 6400  |  White Balance: Cloudy

On this particular day, the light was terrible, i.e. it was dull, overcast, and gray. In order to achieve a high enough shutter speed to freeze the wings in these light conditions, I would need to bump the ISO on my camera to 6400 and even then, the shutter speeds were not as high as I would desire. I had observed this vermillion flycatcher frequently visiting this perch as it fed on insects. So, as it made it’s rounds to a different perch I setup my shooting position on this post and then waited. It was a short wait. From this post, the vermillion flycatcher would take off, attempt to catch an insect (often successfully), then fly back and repeat the sequence. Understanding this behavioral pattern, I prefocused on the perch and upon the vermillion’s return, I depressed the shutter and let the 7D MkII capture its 8 frames per second. I liked the two shared here.

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Vermillion Flycatcher | Canon 7D MkII | ef 500/4.5 | ISO 6400  |  White Balance: Cloudy

I hope to capture this bird in better light next year but for now, I’ll have to be content with these two. Until next time, good light and keep shooting. –KEVIN

For information on the equipment used to capture these images, please click on the gear recommendations tab.

ImageSpotlight: Red Eared Slider Reflection

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During a recent trip to South Texas I found this red eared slider sitting on an old log. It was an extremely quiet morning around Ibis Pond at Estero Llano Grande State Park. The birds were not too active on this day but this image was one I could not pass up.  While this turtle is native to much of the Southern United States and Mexico, its popularity in the pet trade has made this an invasive species elsewhere due to their release by pet owners. While I have many concerns with the pet trade (exotic pet trade in particular), I will leave that to another post. In this part of the world, and in this image, the red eared slider is in its native habitat and thriving in a balanced ecosystem.

I used the gear below to capture this photograph (to see a description of this and other gear I recommend, please see my gear recommendations page).

Canon 7D Mk II 

Canon 500mm

Gitzo Tripod

Kirk BH1 Ballhead

Until Next Time….Good Light and Keep Shooting! –KJHurt

 

ImageSpotlight: Great Blue Heron with Prey

Great Blue Heron.  Canon 7D | 500/4.5

Great Blue Heron. South Padre Island, Texas.

During a quick visit to Texas, I ventured out one morning to South Padre Island. I’ve always had good luck at this location and the morning would not let me down. While a bit slow by a “good day” standard, my patience was rewarded as this Great Blue Heron began to hunt/fish in front of me. I managed a series of images of this particular sequence and this is one I particularly liked with the heron’s wing position and the blood trailing from fish to water.

Until next time, good light and keep shooting. — KEVIN

Gear I used to make this shot:

Canon 7D – I used v1 of this camera body which is now my backup to the 7DMII.

Canon 500mm–  I used version 1 of this lens which is no longer available now that vII is.

Gitzo Tripod – I own and still use the Gitzo 1325 which has not been manufactured for years now. However, I have linked a good on you can purchase today (other options on my gear recommendations page).

Wimberley WH200– an essential piece of gear for long lenses.

Wimberley P40– without this you can’t mount the lens to the tripod.

 

ImageSpotlight: Reflection Bridge

This image may be difficult to truly appreciate given the size for internet viewing. It’s a panorama stitched from 5 different images. The day was extremely still and that allowed the capture of a mirror-like reflection of this bridge. Given the pale blue sky, I decided to minimize it in the image so that the focus of attention would remain on the bridge.

Until next time, good light and keep shooting. –KEVIN

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ImageSpotlight: Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

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Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

You may recall that in 2014 I wrote a blog post about “Making Hummingbird Backgrounds.” I’d actually be surprised if you remember that but you can enter those terms in the search tab if you care to refresh your memory. Anyway, two years later and those backgrounds are still in use. For the past two weeks, I’ve had female and juvenile ruby-throated hummingbirds but today, the male showed up. While I like the females and juveniles, it is the male with its iridescent gorget that gets photographers excited. Those brilliant colors add a dash of pop to the images.

To capture this photo, I used a 5 flash setup. Each flash was set at 1/16 power and placed in various positions to light the bird. I had one dedicated flash aimed at the background and 4 at the hummingbird. My camera (Canon 7D MkII) was set to Manual mode, ISO 200, f18, 1/250. I used a 70-200/2.8 with 1.4x converter. Because hummingbirds drink, move back and hover, then drink again, I prefocused on a spot where I anticipated the birds would hover. Each time the birds hovered, I pressed the shutter button. I’m looking to improve this image by adding an additional flash and incorporating a flower if I can find a suitable one at a nursery since there are no natural blooms around my home.

Until then, good light and keep shooting. –KEVIN

ImageSpotlight: Willet with Prey

Last year I made a voyage to South Florida and came away with some spectacular photos. This summer I returned once again with the hopes that I would find terns and skimmers on their breeding nests. I was a bit pessimistic, though, knowing that the area had been hit by tropical storms. Unfortunately, the area where I was photographing was hit too hard and none of the nests survived. I trekked a couple miles along the coast trying to find some survivors but it was a desolate sight. Such is the way of the wild but those birds will nest again and hopefully, next year mother nature will be more merciful.

Although I did not find any nesting birds walking along the beach, I did come across a Willet probing for prey. While fairly common in some areas, they have seen declining numbers due to a decrease in possible nesting sights attributed to coastal development in California. While wildlife is equipped to survive natural disasters, those due to man can have long-term harmful consequences. I’m not one of those who thinks you have to choose a side between man and wildlife. On the contrary, life is about man and wildlife living together. After all, man’s first home was in a garden. We do, however, have to remember to respect each other.

Willet. Canon 7DMkII | ef 500/4.5 + 1.4x | ISO 1250 | f 6.3 | 1/5000

Willet. Canon 7DMkII | ef 500/4.5 + 1.4x | ISO 1250 | f 6.3 | 1/5000

I hung out with this willet for about half an hour watching him probe the sand and scurry through the water. There wasn’t a soul around other than the two of us and soon the willet would move on leaving me alone. So, I sat back and listened to the waves for a bit before calling it an evening…and what an evening it was.

Until next time, good light and keep shooting…KEVIN

 

 

ImageSpotlight: Whitetail Lip Curl

I’m back after a bit of a delay. 2016 has been an unbelievably busy year and I’ve had to sacrifice the time I would normally dedicate to my blog. One does what he must and while I had to do that…right now, I must share the following image with you.

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Whitetail Buck: The Flehman Response

This beautiful whitetail buck is exhibiting a behavior that many hunters and avid naturalists alike recognize and commonly refer to as…the lip curl. Technically, this is called the Flehman Response, which is a name derived from the German verb “to curl.” This is a breeding behavior that occurs between late October – early January in the USA based upon geographic location. Bucks in Northern states (e.g. Iowa) may hit peak breeding time in November whereas in South Texas, peak breeding occurs mid-December to early January. So what purpose does the lip curl serve? Basically, the lip curl exposes an organ in the nasal cavity and allows a buck to get a deep whiff of something. In this case, he is trying to get a deep whiff of a lady friend with whom he hopes to hook up with…if you know what I mean.

Until next time, good light and keep shooting. –KEVIN