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Showing posts from September, 2011

White-Eyed Vireo

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White-Eyed Vireos [gallery] are beautiful to see and hear, but often frustrating to find.  You often hear them in the trees singing away, and you know they're there, but you just can't see them.  But when they do come  and show themselves to you, it's a beautiful treat.  I love their white eyes surrounded by yellow spectacles.

Lens Basics: Mid-Range Zoom

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As we discussed in my previous post, the most important lens in your arsenal as you develop your photographic interests will be the mid-range zoom lens.  If you're using an APS-C sized sensor DSLR, this will be a zoom that begins around 15-18mm on the wide end and ends at the 55-135mm range on the telephoto end.  If you're using a full frame camera, the range will begin in around 24-28mm on the wide end and 135-200mm on the telephoto end.

I recommend buying the best lens you can afford without going crazy.  Professional lenses are great, but you can get by with less, and good photographic practices can often cover up some weaknesses in lenses.  For instance, if you know your lens is not sharp at its widest angle shooting at its widest aperture, you can often "fix" this by stopping down.  So if your widest aperture is f/3.5 at 17mm, try shooting at f/4 or f/5.6, or back up and zoom in a little.  Some lens weaknesses can also be corrected with software.  Barrel distor…

Black Skimmer

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Black Skimmers [gallery] are fun birds to watch.  They are related to gulls and turns, but they have unique red and black bills. The bill makes the bird easily identifiable. The lower mandible is larger than the upper, so these bird can fly low over the water dragging their beak in the water to catch fish near the water surface.  Here are a few photos of this wonderful bird.

Lens Basics: A Common Sense Guide

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This is the first in a series of posts on lenses.  As I've said in a previous post, for most types of outdoor photography, your lenses are far more important than your camera.  Even entry level DSLR cameras today can take great photographs when attached to great lenses.  There are good reasons to buy professional cameras, but if you're on a budget and you have to choose whether to sink your money into lenses or cameras, I'll always choose a lens. With this post, I'm assuming 1) that you're on a budget and need to plan your lens-buying, and 2) that you don't already know a lot about lenses.  This post will cover the basics of how you can plan your lens-buying future. Let me start with the basics of different kinds of lenses available to you.

Prime v. Zoom.  Prime lenses are lenses fixed on a single focal length.  If you buy a 50mm prime lens, you will only be able to shoot at a 50mm focal length.  Zoom lenses cover a range of focal lengths.  for instance, a 17-8…

Bird Photography, Part 2: Composition

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In my first post on bird photography, we looked at exposure; here I'd like to consider some tips for composition.  In bird photography, your options for composition are often very limited.  Bird photography is often more about being at the right place at the right time.  It's about knowing where to go when, and knowing about bird behavior so that you can position yourself to be where you need to be to get the image you want.  At the same time, there is a lot you can do to improve your composition in the field:

Shoot First, Position Yourself Later.  Birds frequently move while you get yourself in just the right place.  I learned the hard way to take a photo first and then try to get in the right position.Catch Light in the Eye.  Bird photos look more natural if you can capture a little reflection in the bird's eye.  And when the bird's head is facing the right direction, the sun will provide it for you.  You can also use fill flash to create a little reflection in the e…

Bald Eagle

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Orlando Wetlands Park, 9/26/2011

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For the third time in four days, I went to Orlando Wetlands Park to bird with friends [gallery], not that I'm complaining.  This was a very good day for me.  I saw my first Yellow Warbler in Florida, and the best highlight for me, I saw and photographed an American Bittern.  We were walking back to the car, and it flew up right in front of me.  I was looking up in the trees, and I didn't even see it until it flew away.  I was able to get one sharp picture as he flew, and it's not very good, but it's my first ever photo of one, so I'm content, for now.

Another highlight for me was watching one Belted Kingfisher, who caught a fish that seemed way too big for her.  She had the fish in her beak and slapped it down on the branch he was sitting on over and over again.  She did this for at least 10 minutes until she finally swallowed it.

Here are some photos from my day.

This is the list of species we observed:

NonBirds
American Alligator
Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly
Gul…

Pileated Woodpecker

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When I was a kid, I loved to go hiking, and even though I wouldn't call myself a birder then, I still loved to see interesting birds.  Because my dad is a birder, I actually learned the call of a Pileated Woodpecker long before I ever saw one.  I still remember vividly my first time seeing one in person.  Our family was camping at Bull Run Park in Virginia; I remember telling my parents I was going to go find a Pileated Woodpecker.  And sure enough, as I was walking, maybe 30 min. later, one flew right by me, landed on a tree trunk for a second, and flew off.  I was mesmerized.  Since I announced I was going to find one ahead of time, it took a while before I convinced my family I actually saw one.  Now seeing a Pileated Woodpecker is commonplace for me.  I see them very frequently here in Florida.  But something about seeing one brings up those childhood memories.

Pileated Woodpeckers are the largest woodpecker in the United States (with the exception of the possibly extinct Ivo…

Orlando Wetlands Park, 9/24/2011

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I went to Orlando Wetlands Park again today [gallery], and I'm so glad I did.  I saw many of the same species I did yesterday, but I saw many more, including Blue-Winged Teal and Northern Shoveler ducks.  I also saw more warblers, including a many Common Yellowthroats, a Palm Warbler, and a Northern Waterthrush, which is the first I've ever photographed.  Another highlight of the day came when several White-Eyed Vireo posed for us--we wer by the influent, if you're interested in going to see them.  We also saw many Belted-Kingfishers; they all stayed pretty far away, but one came close enough for a photograph large enough for me to post.


Here are my species for the day.

NonBirds
American Alligator X
White Peacock Butterfly X
Gulf Fritillary Butterfly 2
Cloudless Sulphur Butterfly 1
Pig Frog X
Various Dragonflies X

Birds
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck X
Blue-winged Teal X
Northern Shoveler 4
Anhinga X
Least Bittern 1
Great Blue Heron X
Great Egret X
Snowy Egret X
Litt…

Orlando Wetlands Park, 9/23/2011

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I went to Orlando Wetlands Park [gallery] this morning with a friend, and it was great to see the warblers returning there.  It's always a pleasure to see a Common Yellowthroat, and there were several there this morning.  I saw one adult male and several females and juveniles. I also saw a juvenile Purple Gallinule and two Roseatte Spoonbills.   But I think my favorite part of the day was watching one particular Snowy Egret in action. Every once in a while, we'd see waves of small fish jumping out of the water to escape larger fish. When they did, the Snowy Egret would fly over the wave of small fish and pick one out of the water while flying.

Here are the species I saw today:

Non-Birds
American Alligator
Clouded Sulphur Butterfly
Black Swallowtail Butterfly
Varous Dragonflies

Birds
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck X
Anhinga X
Least Bittern 1
Great Blue Heron X
Great Egret X
Snowy Egret X
Little Blue Heron X
Tricolored Heron X
Green Heron X
White Ibis X
Glossy Ibis X
Ros…