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: 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: Northern Bobwhite Quail

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Northern Bobwhite Quail.  Canon 7D MkII | Canon 70-200/2.8 + 1.4x | ISO 1600 | f7.1

 

What a way to end 2015. I found myself back in South Texas on the Santa Clara ranch and once again, that ranch did not disappoint. I still haven’t viewed all of the photographs as I’ve not downloaded all of them yet; however, I really enjoyed the reflection of these 3 northern bobwhite quail and just had to share. I cropped this to a panoramic format to emphasize the reflection in the pond. While the original format looks nice, I think the panorama is a better portrayal.

Speaking of reflections, as you look back on your 2015, I hope that you accomplished all of your personal and photographic goals. As you look toward 2016, challenge yourself to stretch your photography skills. Whether that is to learn a new technique, travel to a new destination, or focus on that nemesis subject, may 2016 be your year.

Until next year…good light and keep shooting. –KEVIN

What Is a Photo Anyway?

Daddy-Long-Legs On Birch Bark

Daddy-Long-Legs On Birch Bark

Lets answer that question first, with what it is not. A photo is not the camera or lens you used to take it. I’ll bet 9 out of 10 readers who see this post, or any other image they like, quickly try to ascertain what camera and lens were used in its capture. I normally provide those things in the caption but here I purposefully omitted that bit of information. Yet, we humans are curious creatures and we like to know those things. Hey I don’t blame you, I’m in that 9 category myself. But let me ask, does it really matter? If I used a Canon 7D, 1DsMkII, or 1DMkII, with a 70-200/2.8 and extension tubes, or my dedicated 180mm macro lens would that elevate or minimize the perceived worth of the current highlighted image? What if I used my Olympus e-pl2 with 14-28mm kit lens? Did that help or hurt your opinion of this photo?

Now that we are passed the gear obsession, lets look at the merits of this photo and see if we can answer the question posed in the title of this post. Photography is about capturing light on a subject so those two things are certainly part of what makes a photo. In the current image, we have some soft, warm, and dappled light (quality/type of light) hitting our subject (a daddy-long-legs spider) which is perched on the beautiful bark of a birch tree (background). The direction of light is from the left (as we face the image), which is evident from the shadows of the peeling bark and this direction of light helps bring out the texture of the bark. A small amount of fill light has been added to the subject to give it a little pop in the dappled light. Sharpness of the subject is critical to the image and without that, this image would be in the trash bin. Since I have chosen to frame the subject tightly (composition), I have a relatively narrow depth of field, but for this type of image that works. There is a pleasing amount of contrast and the neutral colors are warm. So in this photo, as in any photo, the answer to our question can generally be found in some combination of the bolded terms above. All of these characteristics may not be present all the time; but when applied correctly, these things can make the difference between a keeper image or one destined for the trash bin.

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

Oh, because I know some of you are still curious about the gear I used…this image was handheld, captured with an iPhone 5s.

ImageSpotlight: Least Tern

Least Tern. Canon 7D | 500/4.5mm | ISO 400

Least Tern. Canon 7D | 500/4.5mm | ISO 400

Florida sure is a bird photographer’s paradise. I traveled to Bonita Springs last June and was met with photographic opportunities everywhere I looked, from Ding Darling NWR to a popular beach near hotels. The image featured here was near a nesting site behind a row of hotels on a fairly busy beach. The bird nesting areas are roped off to allow the birds to nest without being disturbed but to be honest, I think the taped areas need to be larger as people routinely walk right up next to the taped area and are met with birds dive bombing their heads to let them know they are too close to their nest.

The least tern is a small bird and I knew I would have to get close to get the shot I wanted, even with the 500mm on a Canon 7D. However, I did not want to disturb them on their nests. So, when I was probably 40 yards away from this pair of birds I got on my belly and began a slow methodical crawl toward them. I don’t know how long it took but it seemed like forever as I inched my way closer and closer. Eventually, I felt I was close enough and began focusing on nesting birds while keeping an eye out for interactions. The birds had grown accustomed to my presence and paid no attention to this blob of a figure laying on the sand. I noticed the interaction of this pair of birds and waited for the right moment. The result is featured here.

The key to this image was concern for the subject and a lot of patience to begin a low crawl way outside of photographic range.

Until next time, good light and keep shooting –KEVIN

ImageSpotlight: Indigo Bunting

Indigo Bunting.  Canon 7D | 500/4.5 | f8 | ISO 200

Indigo Bunting. Canon 7D | 500/4.5 | f8 | ISO 200

I’ve been after this bird for a number of years. When I lived in South Texas, these birds migrated through the area in the winter time. Now that I am in Georgia, the indigo bunting spends its summer months in the area. A few weeks ago I noticed a bird at my feeder that I had never seen on my property. It turned out to be the rose-breasted grosbeak, which migrates through the area. I setup hoping to get their photograph but they have since moved further north in their range. To my surprise, this beautiful blue bird visited my feeder instead. I was able to capture a documentation image but nothing I was excited about. Given that this is an afternoon feeder, the past two weekend afternoons has found me out back hoping for the bunting to land on my perch while the light was good. With the tall pines casting long shadows, I have a limited time before the perch is in the shadow and the background lit by the sun. After a few weekend attempts, I finally got a cooperative bunting to land where I wanted at the hour I wanted. And finally, an old nemesis was now a part of my portfolio. The summer has only begun so I hope to get many more but it sure feels good to have captured the image shared in this post.

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

ImageSpotlight: Blooming Azaleas

Azalea Blossoms.  Canon 7D | ef-s 15-85mm | ISO 100

Azalea Blossoms. Canon 7D | ef-s 15-85mm | ISO 100.  Click on image for better view.

If anyone happened to watch The Masters golf tournament on television this past weekend, it would have been impossible to miss the beautiful colors of the many azalea blossoms. It is not an accident that the tournament is played each April as the Georgia landscape comes to life at that time. However, Augusta is not the only place where one can see those blooms. Further West in the state, one can find breathtaking views of their own. This past Friday I visited a favorite local hot spot and was greeted with the scene featured here. With the overcast sky, I had soft muted tones that were simply vibrant. The calm windless day made for a creamy smooth lake reflection. This was shot at approximately 11:00 A.M., which would have been impossible on a sunny day. It’s a simple composition but one that I really enjoy and hope you do as well.

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