I Broke Down And Created an Instagram Account: HurtNaturePhoto

I have resisted opening an instagram account for the longest time as keeping up with a blog, website, and facebook is more than enough social media for me. However, I recognize that it is a popular platform and so I finally broke down and created my own Instagram Account. I hope you will visit and like the images. Chances are you have seen the ones I posted there on here in the past but it’s also highly likely that many of the images there will be new to you. I’ll be populating it with more images in the coming days and moving forward, I’ll share some images here but not there and vice-versa. Thanks in advance for any views/likes you may give.

Until next time, good light and keep shooting — KEVIN

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: 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.