Happy Birthday America

I took this image of the then Freedom Tower crane right when they started construction. It has become a constant reminder for me of the friends I lost and the families that were touched on September 11. Its a shinning beacon that reflects all those souls that lost their lives that day.

World Trade Center Crane (previously freedom tower)
World Trade Center Crane (previously freedom tower)

Every time I speak to a Vet they remind me of one very important lesson that cannot be said enough, Freedom is not free.

Image captured with Nikon D2x on Lexar Digital film.

Signs of the Season

In all the craziness of the holiday season I was only able to photograph in Manhattan one evening. What I was trying to portray were some images of icons that were taken from a different vantage point.

Empire State Building w/Christmas Colors
Empire State Building w/Christmas Colors

Unfortunately I don’t think my attempts were that good. But thats one of the reasons we keep trying ad coming back for more. I’m never happy with what images I make, I always want to do better. Its a character flaw! Its easy to say I will just “visit here again” but what you see now might be different on many levels when you return, even to the exact same spot. I was not well prepared on this evening for making great images and it shows. I have to do better next time.

Empire State Building at Christmas with Flags
Empire State Building at Christmas with Flags
Christmas Lights Rockefeller Center
Christmas Lights Rockefeller Center

The holidays wouldn’t be the same without the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree
Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

Images captured with Nikon D4s and 70-300 f/4.5-5.6 on Lexar digital film.

New Blog and Website

I have been thinking about updating my blog and website for some time. The main reason was to take advantage of newer technologies that the old blog and website could not utilize. For example I wanted to be able to post larger images which the old blog could not handle. I also wanted to update the look and feel for the website as well, officially separating my blog from my image galleries. I am very happy with the outcome and I thank Jack Brauer for his help and guidance with getting this project completed.

I thought for my first post I would start with a trip I took this past summer to the Turks & Caicos Islands. It was not a birding trip but needless to say my camera gear made its way down via my briefcase.

Gray Kingbird on Fence
Gray Kingbird on Fence

Never before this trip had I observed a Gray Kingbird. As a member of the flycatcher family, this bird is an astute hunter of insects although I was not fast enough to catch him with one in his beak. He also is very fast and really didn’t like me setting up near him.

Gray Kingbird Pose
Gray Kingbird Pose

Images captured with Nikon D4s, 80-400 VR2 on Lexar digital film.

Northern Cardinals in Full Color

The Northern Cardinals in this area have been in great form this season. The males have been very dark in color and in relatively good shape (no beak chips) :-).

Northern Cardinal Male on Perch
Northern Cardinal Male on Perch

Interestingly I did some research on why the Cardinals at my feeders might be in better shape this year and found an interesting piece of research from the Oxford Journal of Behavioral Ecology that might be interesting to some of you. In essence their research shows that the redder the male Cardinal the more fertile he is and most likely better nourished and surprisingly happier with his mate (they refer to this as mate quality, you just can’t make this stuff up).

Northern Cardinal Male Hiding in Spruce Tree
Northern Cardinal Male Hiding in Spruce Tree

Regardless of the reasons, the Northern Cardinal is a beautiful bird always welcome in my backyard.

Images captured with Nikon D4s, 600mm f/4 on Lexar digital film.

Connecticut Trail Days

This weekend was CT Trail Days. Since the weather was spectacular I thought I would visit a local nature center to celebrate :-).

Eastern Cottontail
Eastern Cottontail

I have to admit that I do not particularly like any of these images, it was just nice to get out, hike for a few hours and make some images. The location I visited was the New Canaan Nature Center.

Chipping Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow

Away from the Red Bellied Woodpecker, the other backgrounds are too busy for my liking….and style. I like natural settings, I just like cleaner backgrounds.

Red Bellied Woodpecker Peek-A-Boo
Red Bellied Woodpecker Peek-A-Boo
Red Bellied Woodpecker
Red Bellied Woodpecker

Ideally I think this location wood be best photographed with a tripod while sitting in one spot. I think my movement had the effect of scurrying the wildlife. That is a little odd for a public location, you would think the wildlife was more acclimated to people. However, that won’t stop me from returning.

Images captured with Nikon D4s and 80-400 VR III on Lexar digital film.

First Hairy Woodpecker

I don’t know if I have just gotten better at identifying birds, become more observant in my observations or there is a real change in the migrating patterns I am seeing this year.

Hairy Woodpecker about to hit the feeder
Hairy Woodpecker about to hit the feeder

The results however have been pretty meaningful. I have observed several new species (here, here and here) for my neck of the woods the past 4 weeks. Unfortunately most of these observations were short lived.

Hairy Woodpecker on the lookout
Hairy Woodpecker on the lookout

Much to my chagrin many of these birds have already migrated further north. I was pretty amazed when I first saw this Hairy Woodpecker. The brown spots made me think I had somehow seen a Pacific variant which has more brown. Hairy and Pileated Woodpeckers are difficult to to get on film. They are very skittish and I like to be close when I make my images, I like the subject to fill the frame, portrait style if you will. I also like to make images that show point of reference and biology.

Ruby Crowned Kinglet

If it weren’t for my friend Kathy Brown, I might never have figured out what species I was observing. Identifying this bird stumped me!

Ruby Crowned Kinglet "Over the Shoulder"
Ruby Crowned Kinglet “Over the Shoulder”

Ruby Crowned Kinglets are described by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology as a tiny bird seemingly overflowing with energy, the Ruby-crowned Kinglet forages almost frantically through lower branches of shrubs and trees. Its habit of constantly flicking its wings is a key identification clue. Smaller than a warbler or chickadee, this plain green-gray bird has a white eye ring and a white bar on the wing. Alas, the male’s brilliant ruby crown patch usually stays hidden—your best chance to see it is to find an excited male singing in spring or summer. I don’t think I could have described what I saw any better. This bird moves with the energy and manner similar to a hummingbird.

Ruby Crowned Kinglet
Ruby Crowned Kinglet

With that description I would have had an easier time identifying this species. At first I thought I was looking at something in the Vireo family. However, Kathy quickly pointed out that “There should be more contrast between head and back. Also, a blue-headed vireo would have “spectacles” around its eyes. Take a look at the beak. See how thin and pointy it is?”

Its help like this that makes birding so much fun, there is always someone like Kathy willing to help. Checkout Birders who Blog, Tweet and Chirp on Facebook. There are some rally great people associated with this community and Kathy is one of them. Thanks for your help Kathy!

Image captured with Nikon D4s, 600mm f/4 w TC-e14II on Lexar digital film.

My First Sighting of a Magnolia Warbler

I had a lot of fun observing and photographing a new bird for my list. Unfortunately I could only locate the male. I would assume that a female was not far away, it is spring after all.

Magnolia Warbler, Male
Magnolia Warbler, Male

While I was observing this Magnolia Warbler I also observed a Ruby Throated Hummingbird displaying to his mate. It was an awesome thing to see. The male started flying at high speeds first up in the air in a bright red blur, then down in iridescent green. He did this display 5 times. I suspect that the pine tree where this display occurred could be the nesting location. I will let you know what I find over the next few days.

Magnolia Warbler, Male
Magnolia Warbler, Male

When I first saw this Warbler from a distance I thought it was a Yellow Warbler. After looking at the bird more closely I realized that the markings were more consistent with a Magnolia Warbler.

Magnolia Warbler, Male
Magnolia Warbler, Male

My only disappointment was the poor background for these images. I’m not really happy with any of them. My style is for cleaner backgrounds. In this case a better background was not an option. Thats why I will be out there trying again in the near future!

Magnolia Warbler, Male
Magnolia Warbler, Male

Images captured with a Nikon D4s, 600mm f/4 with TC-eII on Lexar digital film.

Great Day of Photography and a Few Firsts

Sunday on the East Coast was a 10 when it comes to weather. After the long cold winter the beautiful weather was a welcome change, a nice gift to all the mothers on Mothers day. I am very fortunate that I was able to spend the morning with my wonderful mother who I owe the world to.

Then I was able to enjoy the afternoon walking the yard and checking out the feeders. It has been a quite spring at the feeders until last weekend when I noticed a few new species in the yard. Since it rained all last weekend I was unable to really see what new visitors we had.

The first new species I noticed and was able to successfully photograph was the Red Breasted Grosbeak.

Red Breasted Grosbeak
Red Breasted Grosbeak
Red Breasted Grosbeak
Red Breasted Grosbeak

This was actually the first Grosbeak of any kind I was able to photograph.

Red Breasted Grosbeak Red Breasted Grosbeak

It really took 2 days to get glass on these Grosbeaks, they were very shy and skittish. But once they got used to me, the whole family showed up, it seemed to me that there were 2 mating pairs at the feeders.

Red Breasted Grosbeak Red Breasted Grosbeak

Given how great the weather was, I didn’t mind standing outside for 3 hours to make these images. I have some research to do on the other new species to the yard, I think its a Blue Headed Vireo. Once I am sure I will post some images next Monday. Have a great week.

Images captured with Nikon D4s, 600mm f/4; TC-17e on Lexar Digital Film

Inspiration

I had much inspiration this weekend. I recently upgraded my Nikon D700 to the new flagship D4s. I also spent the whole weekend outside which was a welcome relief to the horrible winter that I hope is now in the record books.

My last bit of inspiration comes from my soon to be 98 year old grandfather that battled back from pneumonia this winter to defy all his doctors who gave us no hope of him recovering. Yes, he is still alive and kicking, like an old Cadillac, they don’t make them like that anymore.

To say that the D4s is a beast would not be doing the camera justice. I truly believe it is the best of the Nikon cameras that I have ever owned.

The first image below is of a Black Capped Chickadee.

BZBC_00331

This White Breasted Nuthatch is a favorite of mine. I have had them in my yard since I started photographing birds. They have a tendency to to be skittish so getting some good glass on them is not always easy. You can see the incredible feather detail on both of the bird images.

BTWN_00221

This image of the moon was a bit of fun. I actually think it looked majestic in the sky smack dab in the middle of the day.

MOON_00067

I have rebuilt my digital darkroom and am also using a whole new setup which I will share with everyone at a later date. Its a completely laptop based system with top of the line, high speed external drives. Yep, you heard it, no desktop computers. The reason I bring this up is that all of the images above are right out of my new D4s, I did not do anything to them as I have not finished building my Photoshop CC workspace (which I hope to do between now and Easter).

Hope you enjoy the images and sorry for the long absence from posting. I hope to have some regular post for you now that Spring is here and I can get out with my gear again! My next goal is to rebuild my blog and possibly the website to allow for higher quality, larger images.