Monday, October 31, 2011

Multiple Exposure Photography

9x Multiple Exposure
(rotating between exposures)
With the announcement of Canon's new EOS 1Dx, both Nikon and Canon have DSLRs with the ability to shoot multiple exposures.  I don't own any of these, but when I shot film SLRs, I used to love multiple exposure photography.  Even without a DSLR, you can duplicate the effect of multiple exposures with Photoshop.  I like to do multiple exposures in two ways.  First, I rotate the camera between exposures (above).  With the photo above, I rotated the camera 10 degrees between exposures, so that I started horizontally and ended vertically.  And second, I'll move the camera up/down or left/right between exposures (below).

Multiple Exposure
(panning up between exposures)
If you have a camera that can shoot multiple exposures, here's how you do it.  Check your camera manual to find out how to activate multiple exposures on your camera.  You'll need to underexpose each exposure to compensate for the other exposures.  For a double exposure, you underexpose each exposure by 1 stop.  For 4 exposures, you under expose each by 2 stops.  And for 8 exposures, you underexpose each by 3 stops.

Reddish Egret

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Reddish Egret
Reddish Egrets are a threatened (or near threatened) species of Egret found along the Gulf Coast and Atlantic Coast of Florida.  They are such beautiful birds!  They are easily recognized by their reddish color and two-toned bill.  I think they are the most fun when feeding.  They tend to run around a lot and put out their wings as they drive their beaks into the water.  I've read that they do this to confuse the fish and, I suspect, let them see into the water better.  I see them regularly at the Merritt Island NWR, and I highly recommend visiting there if you ever visit Central Florida.

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Reddish Egret
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Reddish Egret
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Reddish Egret
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Reddish Egret
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Reddish Egret

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Cape May Warbler

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Cape May Warbler

Yesterday I found a female Cape May Warbler that really stumped me.  The feathers on the back of her head were sticking up making it look like she had some sort of crown. I found this bird at Lake Lotus Park.  She was very active in a tree right by the gazebo at the fishing area on Lake Lotus.  Because this was so strange to me, I figured I'd share the photos with you.

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Cape May Warbler
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Cape May Warbler
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Cape May Warbler
"I can see it!"
Reach!


Lake Lotus Park, 10/29/2011

Yellow-Rumped Warbler
I was planning to go to the Circle B Bar reserve yesterday, but it rained all morning, and the weatherman told me it wouldn't be any better at the reserve.  I got a late start in the morning because of the rain, but around 10am it started to clear up, so I decided to head out to Lake Lotus Park here in Seminole Co.  I haven't seen any buntings this year, and I've heard they were there.  Unfortunately, I did not see any, but it was still a very good morning.  I found many different warblers, including Palm and Yellow Rumped, but also Prairie and Cape May warblers.  The Cape May was a female, and it took a fair amount of time for me to identify.  I also saw one Ruby-Crowned Kinglet.  I had my best success on the main trail on the board walk where they allow fishing.  I was able to stand by the gazebo there, and many birds came to the trees very near me.  It was a great day.

Cape May Warbler
Eastern Phoebe
Palm Warlber
Red-Bellied Woodpecker
Red-Femured Spotted Orbweaver
Here is a list of all the species I observed:

Non-Birds
American Alligator
Florida Red-Bellied Turtle
Red-femured Spotted Orbweaver
Monarch Butterfly
Viceroy Butterfly
Gulf Fritillary

Birds
Wood Duck 1 (I was outside the park when I saw it fly overhead)
Double-crested Cormorant 2
Anhinga 1
Great Egret 1
Snowy Egret 1
Little Blue Heron 1
Tricolored Heron 1
Green Heron 1
Black Vulture X
Turkey Vulture X
Bald Eagle 1
Red-shouldered Hawk 1
Common Gallinule X
Limpkin 1
Belted Kingfisher 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker 4
Downy Woodpecker 2
Eastern Phoebe 1
White-eyed Vireo 1
Blue Jay X
Fish Crow X
Carolina Wren 2
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 1
Gray Catbird 1
Northern Mockingbird X
Common Yellowthroat 1
Cape May Warbler 1
Palm Warbler X
Pine Warbler 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler X
Prairie Warbler 1
Northern Cardinal 3
Red-winged Blackbird X
Common Grackle X
Boat-tailed Grackle X

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Pied-Billed Grebe

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Pied-Billed Grebe
Pied-Billed Grebe are sometimes confused with ducks, but they have chicken-like bills instead of flat bills like ducks have.  Instead, these are small diving birds, and they are extremely fun to watch.  I love to watch them feed, as they dive under the water in search of food.  I see them all the time, but I've never actually seen one in flight.  When frightened, they tend to dive under the water and come up some place else.    They are just about the cutest water birds you'll find.  One of my favorite birding mornings was when I was able to watch an adult feed a frog to its young.

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Pied-Billed Grebe
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Pied-Billed Grebe
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Pied-Billed Grebe
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Pied-Billed Grebe

Friday, October 28, 2011

Dobsonfly

IMG_3384-1
Dobsonfly
A few years ago my family was on vacation at Deep Creek Lake in Western, MD.  We decided one evening to build a campfire, so we collected a bunch of wood for the fire pit.  My son was helping me carry wood, but then he suddenly put down the wood and told me I had to come see this bug.  This thing gave new meaning to the phrase "big, ugly bug."  So of course, I was fascinated by it and had to get out my macro lens and take dozens of pictures of this Dobsonfly.  My son had found a female here, which is why the pincers are so "short."  Males have pincers so long they aren't dangerous.  Females can inflict a serious bite.  The bug itself was huge!  It was probably 5 inches long, and it felt like I'd been transported back to prehistoric times.  So now, of course, this is one of my favorite bugs.

IMG_3386-1
Dobsonfly
IMG_3378-1
Dobsonfly
IMG_3407-1
Dobsonfly
 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Birding is Fun!

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Reddish Egret
I'm so excited that Robert Mortensen at the Birding is Fun blog has asked me to be a monthly contributor to his website.  Tomorrow you should see my first post to that blog, called "The Joy of Birding."  I'd encourage you check out the blog.  There are many great bird photographers that post to that blog, and it's a great resource.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Eastern Wood Pewee

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Eastern Wood Pewee
The Eastern Wood Pewee is a small flycatcher, though it gets its name not from its size but from its "pee-a-wee" call.  They can be a challenge to identify, but look for bold wing bars and the grey-olive upper parts.  If you see one, or really any flycatcher, don't just identify it and move on.  Watch it for a while, and you may get the special treat of watching him catch a special treat.  That's the fun of watching these wonderful birds - seeing them in action.

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Eastern Wood Pewee
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Eastern Wood Pewee
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Eastern Wood Pewee
 

Blue-Winged Teal

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Blue-Winged Teal
Blue-winged teal are lovely ducks that I have the opportunity to see in the winter and spring.  The males in particular are easily identified by the white, crescent-shaped patch between the bill and eye.  Blue-winged teal have returned to FL in the last month or so, so I thought I'd share a few pictures.  These that I'm sharing with you were actually taken back in May during breading season.  Well, I suppose that's obvious from the photos, isn't it?  These are two happy ducks!  These photos are in chronological order, as you might guess.

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Yea, I'm not saying anything here
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Happy Female Blue-Winged Teal
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Blue-Winged Teal

Photographing Silhouettes

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Great Blue Heron Silhouette
In most of my posts about getting proper exposure of subjects outdoors I've suggested that there are a significant number of practices that will help you get your subject properly exposed. However, if you want your subject to be silhouetted against a colorful or dramatic background, you need to toss all that advice out the window.  In fact, when lighting conditions become "poor," I often start thinking about about photographing silhouettes, and then all of the sudden my lighting conditions may become good again.

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Sunrise and Trees
To photograph a silhouette, you need a relatively high contrast situation, which means that you will be better off if your subject is back-lit--that is, with the sun in front of you.  This will make the background very bright.  Then you want to base your exposure on the bright background.  Since your subject is not lit from the front, it will become very dark compared to the background in your photograph.  There are a couple ways to do this: the "right" way and a "quick and dirty" way.

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Mockingbird Silhouette
The Right Way: This is the best way to get a silhouette when your subject is relatively stationary.  When shooting subjects that may move at any second, I would try the quick and dirty way first.
  1. Change your shooting mode manual and your metering mode to spot meter, and I would also use a tripod to make things even simpler.  
  2. Zoom in on the brightest part of the scene you want in your photograph.  Use your manual controls to set that brightest pat of the scene to be the exposure you want.  I'd recommend beginning at +1 stop, unless you know you want it differently.  I often want a fair amount of depth of field when shooting silhouettes, so I often begin at ISO 100 and somewhere between f/8 and f/16, then set my shutter speed to give me +1 stop exposure compensation.
  3. Now recompose, make sure you're focused on your subject, and fire away.
  4. Check your preview screen and histogram to see if you achieved the results you want, and adjust your setting and take more pictures if you are not happy with the results you have.
The Quick and Dirty Way: I use this method when I find a subject is in just the right conditions for a silhouette photograph, but I'm nervous that those conditions may change before I can do it the "right" way.  This may be a situation where I see a bird in the right light, but he looks like he may fly away any second.  Or it may be that it's a cloudy day, and the sun has broken through the clouds to give me just the right light, but in just a few seconds the clouds will again cover the sun.
  1. Leave your camera settings the way you have them, since you don't have time to change.  But know an understand how they are set so that you can quickly adjust.  When not in manual mode, I am usually shooting in Aperture Priority mode with matrix/evaluative metering.  So the following instructions are what I do when my camera is set this way.
  2. Make a quick guess about your lighting situation.  In particular, you want to know how large the silhouetted portion will be in your image relative to the bright portions.  If it will be relatively small, you may be able to shoot with no exposure compensation.  If it is relatively large, you may need make adjustments--perhaps as much as -1 stop.  This is because your camera's light meter is trying to average all the exposure values in the frame to come up with what it thinks is right.  The larger the dark portion of your image, the more the camera will try to raise the exposure to make it properly exposed.  If it's very small in the frame, your light meter's reading will be much more weighted toward the brighter parts of your image. 
  3. Make sure your subject is in focus and start shooting.
  4. Check your preview screen to see how well you guessed at the proper exposure.  If you were off, make further adjustments and try again.  Over time, you'll find that your first guesses will be more accurate.
  5. If your subject is still where you want it, and if you have any doubts about your "quick and dirty" results, try the "right" way so you can be sure you go home with the results you want.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Common Yellowthroat

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Common Yellowthroat
Over the last month or so, warblers have come to Florida, and with them, the Common Yellowthroat.  The males have a wonderful black mask that makes them easily identifiable in the field, but females are juveniles are a little more difficult to identify.  Yet that's part of what I love about these birds--they have so many wonderful looks that they never get boring--at least not to me.  So here are some of my favorite photos of the Common Yellowthroat.

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Common Yellowthroat
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Common Yellowthroat
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Common Yellowthroat
IMG_9051
Common Yellowthroat

Monday, October 24, 2011

Florida Scrub Jay

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Florida Scrub Jay
The Florida Scrub Jay is a threatened species of scrub jay found only in Florida.  I have only seen them in one location--the Scrub Ridge Trail on Merritt Island.  But I've seen at least one every time I've walked the trail.  If you go, be sure to bring lots of bug spray, and also be prepared for it not to work.  I've never walked the trail without being escorted back to my car by a herd of mosquitoes.  Only once have I walked the entire trail--it's  a very short trail, but the mosquitoes get the best of me every time.  But I'll tell you, it's worth it.  The Florida Scrub Jay is a wonderful bird to see; here's a couple photos of the Florida Scrub Jay.

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Florida Scrub Jay
 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Black-Necked Stilt

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Black-Necked Stilt
The first time I saw a Black-Necked Stilt I was amazed that such a bird would exist.  They have easily become my favorite shorebird.  Being all black and white, however, they can be a significant challenge photographically.  In sunlight, it's very hard to keep detail in both the white and black feathers.  And with all black eyes, it's also hard to get a little catch light in the eyes to separate them from their black feathers.  Here are some of my favorite photos of these wonderful and beautiful shorebirds.

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Black-Necked Stilt
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Black-Necked Stilt
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Black-Necked Stilt
 
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