Mallard Ducks

I have been stopping by Greenwich Point in hopes of finding some birds. The incredibly warm weather seems to have changed the feeding habits of what I would have considered common shore birds and even backyard feeder birds the last few weeks.

Mallard Drake
Mallard Hen Doing the Shake
The Happy Mallard Couple

My schedule the last few weeks also hasn’t helped me be in the right spot at the right time when photographing birds. Sunrises have not been kind and when they are good, they don’t seem to match high tide which is important on the coast of Connecticut. At many of the beaches and parks that allow public access (don’t get me started with that one), low tide could mean you are several tens of yards away from the birds. Unless you are using the Hubbell Telescope, you won’t have enough glass in that situation ;-).

Images captured with Nikon D700 w/600mm f/4 and TCe-1.4 II on Lexar Digital Images

Water Blur

I have been experimenting with intentionally blurred images as of late. For the most part I am not an artsy fartsy photographer. However, I do like some of the results I am getting.

Water Blur

Besides, it gives me something else to think about and do while I am waiting for the wildlife to do what I want it to do! Sometimes that can mean a lot of waiting! As you can tell from this image, I have a lot to learn about this aspect of my photography. You know what that means? Shoot some more.

Gulls are Great Practice Subjects for Portrait Photography

I have been thinking about getting more involved with portrait work. One way I have thought about practicing for this new avenue in my photography has been to practice on Gulls.

Ring Billed Gull
Laughing Gull
Herring Gull

The reason I chose The Gull family as practice dummies is simple. They do silly things, they are unpredictable and they actually transmit gesture in some of their actions. So my theory is that if I can capture gesture in the face of a gull, I should be able to do better with a human being.

New York City Skyline Blur

Wow! I was blown away by how many people commented on the last post on NYC Skyline HDR & Pano. So I decided to share this image which is attempt at an intentional blur I made.

New York City Skyline Intentional Blur

I tried several different patterns by moving the camera during the exposure. Below is an example of moving the camera in the shape of a crown, more silly than an artistic masterpiece :-).

New York City Skyline Crown Blur

Have a great weekend!

9 Image HDR + Panorama

I have been asked a bunch of questions about this image I made of the NYC skyline.

Manhattan Skyline Twilight Pano

This image was created from 9 separate images. I used a Really Right Stuff pano rig. This was my first time using a pano tool and I really liked the ease of use of this tool. What I did was wait for a time when no ships (or planes :-)) would be passing through the scene and set the shot up so that I took 3 bracketed images (1/2 stop apart) in 3 different positions on the pano plate.

I then processed (tone mapped) each of the 3 bracketed images in Photomatix Pro 4 and used Adobe CS5 to stitch those 3 HDR images together to create this one image. I did have to remove some leaves that would have been in the bottom right of the image because of some trees that are growing into the scene. Lastly I ran the whole image through Color Efex Pro 4. Just how I like my images, fast and easy!

Monday Musings – What Seed is in Your Feeders?

As a follow up to last weeks post on the current configuration and layout of my Backyard Bird Photography Studio, I wanted to let you know what kind of bird seed I was using and why.

Tufted Titmouse Working Over a Seed

Frankly, I have followed a different feeder seed approach this year. Last year I was faced with an interesting dilemma. When I filled the feeders with seed on Sunday, they would usually be empty by Wednesday. Given that I leave the house early and come home late each night, the lack of seed would force the birds to look elsewhere for a food source and subsequently effect my viewing options for the weekend.

This year I tried a combination of 3 different feeding options in an attempt to ensure access to food all week. In the ranch feeder and the squirrel buster, I use Wild Birds Unlimited (WBU) Choice Plus Blend. This is the seed that seems to go the quickest and is usually gone by mid week. In the large perch feeder I use WBU Safflower Seed. My local WBU store made the comment that birds look at the choice blend as dessert and safflower seed as salad bar! The benefit of this strategy is that the safflower seed seems to make it through the whole week, providing some food source for the birds when the more desirable choice blend is cleaned out. The third source of food I provide is suet. I place one in a cage on a dead branch that the tree clinging birds seem to love and one goes in a cage attached to the ranch feeder. So far I have found most birds really like the suet with berries and nuts in them, more so than bark butter. This combination seems to keep the birds around all week and provides a food source for a longer period of time, something that is important in ensuring the birds can get food consistently during the winter.

As for why I use WBU seed, the answer is simple. While expensive it does seem to be fresh and better quality compared to the big box store brands. I will also tell you that I don’t see the birds tossing out a lot of the filler seed with WBU brands like they do with the big box brands. I believe that when you take into consideration how much seed the birds throw away when using the cheaper brands, the cost difference between WBU (they don’t use filler seed) and the cheaper brands is not that far apart.

Great Black Backed Gull – Which Do You Like Better?

I thought this Great Black Backed Gull was a beautiful bird from the moment I saw it.

Great Black Backed Gull Portrait

The light that was falling on it was a little harsh but in certain spots you could see great detail in the bird. As you can tell the bird is a large gull. In fact, the Great Black Backed Gull (try saying that fast 10 times) is the largest of all gulls in the world.

Great Black Backed Gull Full View

Of the 3 images, which do you like best?

Great Black Backed Gull Long

Images captured with Nikon D700, 600mm f/4 on Lexar Digital Film.

Purple Sandpiper

On my recent trip to Barnegat Jetty, I had the good fortune to add a new species to my files, the Purple Sandpiper.

Purple Sandpiper Kissed by Sun

What really amazed me about these birds is how gentle they seem.

Purple Sandpiper Seeking Shelter from the Wind

As I stated in my post last week, the wind this day was ferocious with gusts of 30 mph. It is truly amazing how these birds can find safety from the wind let alone cling to the rocks. The downside of them finding shelter was poor, indirect light. We didn’t have a chance to photograph one Purple Sandpiper that was in the sun all day. That said, getting some good clicks of a new species for the files makes any day a good day!

Images captured with Nikon D700, 600mm f/4 with TC-e14 II on Lexar Digital Film

Monday Musings – Backyard Bird Photography Studio

After I published the image of the Northern Flicker last week, I received a lot of email asking about the perches and feeder locations I was using.

So I thought I would post a few images of the feeder and perch setup for everyone to see.

Ranch Feeder and Perches
Both Feeders
Clinging Bird Perch

The light is good for afternoon shooting this time of year and I usually find that staying on the cameras side of the fence makes the birds feel more comfortable. From where my camera is (these are iPhone captures), I can also shoot from inside the garage through a window using the garage as a blind which can be very convenient on cold days :-).

2012 is Starting off as a Great Birding Year!

Over the Christmas break, I thought I had seen a Northern Flicker flying around the yard. Then one day I was sure I had seen one on a perch by the feeders. I know they are considered a common bird but they are difficult to get good glass on…..until recently!

Northern Flicker Facing Right
Northern Flicker Facing Left

I wish I could blend these two images into one. If you look closely at the tail feathers for the bird facing right, you will see a yellow tint. The east coast variety of Northern Flicker is called yellow shaft due to the yellow feathers. The eastern version also has a red crescent on its nape, which the west coast version does not.

Which of the 2 images do you like best?

Images captured with Nikon D700, 600mm f/4 w/TC-e17 II on Lexar Digital Film