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Showing posts from July, 2012

Shooting the Moon

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Tonight I decided to shoot the moon, and I thought it would be fun to share my photos and the technique I used to get the images.  This past evening was partly cloudy, so occasionally the moon would disappear behind the clouds, but it was clear enough to have several minutes to photograph the moon at a time.

I used my tripod and cable release so that I could have absolutely no motion in the camera while shooting.  I wanted as much magnification as possible, so I used my 400mm lens with a 2x teleconverter.  On my Canon EOS 50D camera, this is an effective 1280mm focal length (400mm x 2 x 1.6), so the moon was significantly large in the frame.  The exposure that worked best was 1/20sec at f/11 (wide open) and ISO 100.  The biggest challenge for me was getting proper focus.  With the 2x converter on my 400mm lens, autofocus won't work, so I switched to live view mode and zoomed in on the craters of the moon.  Then I manually focused the lens so that the craters were sharp.  This I t…

Chipping Sparrow

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I drove to a friend's house in MD the other day, and as soon as I got out of the car, I heard what seemed to be a Worm-eating Warbler song.  This seemed rather strange to me, since I was in a residential neighborhood.  I decided to play a Worm-eating Warbler song to see what was going on.  As soon as I did, a Chipping Sparrow flew over my head and landed in a tree behind me.  Well, that makes a bit more sense.  But this Chipping Sparrow's song had a faster trill that I've come to identify with the Worm-eating Warbler.  So what's interesting to me is that while this bird fooled me into thinking it was a warbler, I also fooled it, since it thought my warbler song was the song of a Chipping Sparrow.  If you're interested in how these birds sound, Sibley has an excellent article about the similarity of their songs and how to distinguish them.  Here are some photos of the Chipping Sparrow I found.


Eastern Neck NWR, 7/26/2012

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Yesterday I went with a friend to Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge--an Island just north of the Bay Bridge in Chesapeake Bay.  We went to find bird species, and we found many, but we were more surprised and delighted by all the butterflies, moths and other insects we saw on the refuge.

That's not to say that we didn't see some fine birds as well.  In particular, I enjoyed photographing the Least Terns that were on the island.

Other highlights were seeing many Blue Grosbeaks, Indigo Buntings and Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers.

Occoquan Bay NWR, 7/23/2012

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This morning I went again to Occoquan Bay.  I was told that the "easy trail" might be very productive, and it was. I got my first photographs of a Prothonotary Warbler and a Field Sparrow, and I also found a couple American Goldfinches and Eastern Towhees that were willing to pose for photographs.

Indigo Bunting

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I'm up in Nortthern Virginia visiting my parents and I decided to take an hour this morning to visit Occoquan Bay NWR.  An Indigo Bunting came out to play by my car, so I had some fun photographing this wonderful bird. 

Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher in Flight

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Gnatcatchers don't like to stay put. That's the fun and challenge of photographing them. The other day I found one foraging on a tree. I love watching them act like flycatchers, and some times they can almost stay still when flying like a hummingbird. It doesn't happen very often that I can freeze the motion of these birds in flight, but I had some success when at Central Winds Park. I also liked the colorful background behind the bird.

Best Canon Lenses for Nature Photography

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I frequently get asked about lens recommendations for nature photography, so I thought it would be good to offer what I consider to be wonderful choices all in one post.  Before beginning, though, I do have a few caveats.  First, I'm limiting myself to Canon simply because that's what I know best.  I'm sure you can find comparable lenses to those mentioned here made by Nikon and other manufactures.  Second, there's no one way to build your arsenal of lenses.  Often the best lens to buy next depends on what you already have in your camera bag. We all have different habits and shooting styles, and so there's no one set of lenses that will be perfect for every nature photographer. Third, lenses can be very expensive, and my blog is generally designed for those on a modest budget--that is, cameras under $1800 and lenses under $1200.

Wildlife (Long Telephoto)
For wildlife photography, you often want to have your subject large in your frame while keeping your distance to…

Great Horned Owl

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This morning I went to a local park on my way to work.  The park has some beautiful Live Oak trees, and I decided to walk around there to see what I could find.  Almost as soon as I entered the wooded area (about 8am), I saw a Great Horned Owl fly away from me, and then another followed shortly after.  The first one landed not too far away from me, and its gaze was often just as fixed on me as mine was on it.  It let me photograph it for several minutes before I decided it was time to go to work--a very cooperative model, if I do say so myself.

Lake Apopka, 7/15/2012

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This afternoon I drove out to Lake Apopka to find a Fork-tailed Flycatcher that had been seen the day before. I drove to Magnolia Park and walked north along the Lake Apopka Trail up near the pumphouse (at the end of phase 1 of the trail). About a half mile south of the pumphouse, I came across the Fork-tailed Flycatcher. It's a beautiful bird, even though this particular specimen appears to have a worn or broken tail, making it look a fair amount like an Eastern Kingbird.

I also saw no less than 6 Fulvous Whistling Ducks, which I was very surprised to see. I also found a Purple Gallinule.


And a Great Blue Heron posed very nicely in calm pretty water.