Showing posts from January, 2012

Warblers at Fort De Soto, 1/31/2012

In my last post I mentioned seeing many warblers this morning at Fort De Soto.  I didn't want to clog up that post with photos of them, so I figured I'd include them in a separate post. These were all seen in one cluster of trees by the parking lot at North Beach. Since I went straight from there to work, I haven't had time to go over all of my photos. These are just a few photos that I think are at least presentable. The tree where I found these warblers was largely shaded, so I had to raise my ISO to about 500 to keep my shutter speed fast enough to get sharp images. I was lucky enough to get a few to come out into the sun.

Fort De Soto, 1/31/2012

I took an hour before work this morning to visit Ft. De Soto again. I heard from a friend that North Beach was a good section to check out.  He was right.  I only had a little bit of time, but I was able to see 3 American Oystercatchers, 2 Reddish Egrets (including one white morph), about 5 Red-breasted Mergansers, 2 Belted Kingfishers, and an assortment of Gulls and Terns.  On the way back to the car, I stumbled upon a group of trees filled with warblers: Prairie, Pine, Yellow-throated, Black & white, Palm, and Yellow-rumped.  A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker flew into the tree for a while as well.

After this I went to the fort to see if I could find the Lark Sparrow that people have been seeing there.  There was a group of people there, and there two scopes out, so I figured I was going to be in luck.  Sure enough, it was there.  After the group left, the Lark Sparrow came relatively close to me, and I was able to take a few pictures before it flew into a bush. All in all, a great wa…

Double Crested Cormorant

This morning at Ft. De Soto I found a couple Cormorants that didn't mind me being close to them.  One was on the beach and one was on a post in the water.  I thought these photos might illustrate the benefit of shooting at eye level.  In the beach photographs below I got as close as I thought would not disturb the bird and then crouched down low to the ground.  If I had stood upright while taking this picture, I would have been looking down on him and the background would be more defined; but by getting down low the sand in the background is more uniformly blurred.  The Cormorant on the post above was shot from a pier.  I tried to position myself to shoot the bird with the sun behind me, but the pier was significantly higher than the bird.  But then I noticed stairs that went down a lower level.  From there, I could stand upright and photograph the bird at eye level.

Nanday Parakeet

Today I went to Ft. De Soto Park for about an hour on my way to work.  I had no idea where to go in the park; I had no idea it was so large. So I need to do some research before going back again. But I did see some Nanday Parakeets, about 30 of them, while I was there. This is the first time I've seen any parakeet outside of a cage, so it wasp pretty nice to see.

Photographing Back-Lit Subjects

Photography in harsh lighting can be very difficult, especially when the sun is in front of you.  When this is the case, the top of your subject will often be much more bright than the front.  This can create situation in which there is too much contrast for your subject to look natural.  While you can't always fix the situation, if shoot in RAW, you may find that sometimes you can, and you can frequently improve your photographs with software.
If you're shooting in RAW, your image contains more information than a JPEG file can hold, and so if you do your editing with the RAW file, there's more data to work with, especially in the highlights. If your exposure has retained some detail in the highlights, there are at least two thing you can try in order to make your photograph look more natural.  I'm going to tell you what I do in Lightroom, but if you use a different program, you may find that it does the same thing with different terminology.
Localized Editing.  I…

Merritt Island NWR, 1/28/2012

This morning I went to Merritt Island and had a great morning.  I first went to the Max Brewer Causeway and saw many gulls and skimmers, but only one shorebird: a Willet.  Next I went to Pumphouse Loop--not much was there, a bunch of Dunlin, Black-bellied Plovers and Willet.  Things picked up on Blackpoint Drive.  Of the 8 Reddish Egrets I saw, two of them were white morph.  I found an American Bittern between stops 6 and 7.  He was nice enough to come out and wade in the stream.  By the restrooms I also saw a Sora.  From there I went to the Scrub Ridge Trail and found 4 Florida Scrub Jays.  From there I went down Biolab Rd, where the only birds I saw of note were Sanderlings,  Savannah Sparrows and an Eastern Phoebe.  From there I was going to head home, but I saw a bunch of cars parked on the side of the road and a raft of ducks in the water, so I pulled over and found hundreds of American Widgeon; one Eurasian Widgeon was relatively close to the shore.

All said in done, I found 71…

Exposure Tips for Bird Photography

When  photographers begin to learn about exposure compensation, they are usually taught to "expose for the highlights."  That is, look for the brightest part of the frame, and set your exposure to put that where you want it.  For a sunrise, I usually spot meter off a bright part of the sky near the horizon and set my exposure compensation to +1-1/3 stop (or perhaps a little more).

But with bird photography, I find this is insufficient advice for two reasons:

Using your spot meter while shooting birds is impractical.  For example, when shooting a bird in flight, the sky will likely be the brightest part of the photograph, and getting the sky right may make the bird all wrong.  And moving birds have a tendency not to care whether or not they are in the part of the frame where your spot meter is collecting data.Your main concern most of the time (shooting bird silhouettes is an obvious exception), you are far more concerned with making sure the bird is properly exposed than yo…

Orange-crowned Warbler

It's always thrilling when you go to a place looking for a bird and actually find it.  That happened to me this past Saturday at Mead Gardens. I had read reports of Orange-crowned Warblers being seen in the area, and I'd never seen one, so I decided I'd give it a shot.  Sure enough, shortly after arriving I found myself surrounded by various warblers, mostly Yellow-rumped and Palm warblers, but then out popped this drab looking warbler, and thought, "I think that's it! I actually found one!"  What a thrill.  There were also Pine and Black & White Warblers there, and that was nice too, but the Orange-crowned made my day.

Photographically, this was more of a challenge.  The sun was in front of me and to my right, and there wasn't much I could do to reposition myself for better lighting. And since the sun was shining through the trees, it created a very uneven lighting situation.  Most of my shots show the bird half in shadow and half blown out from the…

Fun with an Osprey

A few days ago I was driving home from Miami and decided to take a detour off I-95 to visit Viera Wetlands. I was looking at a first year Red-tailed Hawk when I saw out of the corner of my eye an approaching Osprey. I quickly panned my camera around to catch him landing on a pole, but in my rush I accidentally cut off the tip of one of the Osprey's wings.  That was so irritating because everything else about the Osprey was quite lovely. I had an idea, though. I decided to crop the photo to clip both wings enough to make you think I was so close that I couldn't get the whole bird in the frame.  But I'll confess to you that I wasn't.

Now the Osprey must have had sympathy for me in my frustration.  I continued to point my camera at the Osprey, and he must have found my actions rather curious.  He looked straight at me and tilted his head, as if I seemed strange to him.  I think the look on the Osprey's face makes up for the wing clip on my previous photo.  I can'…

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warblers are so common here in the winter time, and I thought it would be a fun project to keep an eye out for them and photograph their various looks throughout the winter months. These warblers have a bright yellow rump, but the yellow is not always visible; for me it's easier to notice patches of yellow on the sides of the bird's chest. On the above photo, the yellow rump is barely visible, but the yellow on the sides confirms the identification.

Photographically, I love this scene, not only because the warbler was out far enough on the branch to give me a nice clean background, but also because yellowish-greenish patches of color in the frame. I thought that might help the background complement the warbler. Thankfully, the bird was nearly at eye level, so I didn't have to crouch down too much. In hind sight, I might have lowered the camera a little more here, if that wouldn't clutter up the background.  I over-exposed the shot slightly to retain deta…

Wood Ducks

When I'm at Mead Gardens, I very frequently see a pair of Wood Ducks, and when I was there last, they were  relatively close to me, and I thought their plumage was particularly striking.  They are one of my favorite species of ducks, so I spent a fair amount of time watching them and waiting them to swim into favorable lighting conditions.  Eventually they did, and so I crouched down as low as I could (some plants in the foreground prevented me from getting any lower) and had a great time with these beautiful ducks.  The males seem to get all the attention, but the females I believe are just as striking.

Green Heron: Expert Fisherman

This morning when I was at the "click" ponds of Viera Wetlands I saw a Green Heron fishing.  I love watching any heron capture its prey, but Green Herons to me are especially fun because they like to orient themselves upside down with their feet out of the water and then lunge their bills downward to catch the fish.  I watched this particular heron for a few minutes and was able to capture him grabbing a little fish out of the water.