Archive for November, 2010


11/30/2010: Sanhills 1

Part of the attraction of Bosque del Apache NWR is the spectacle factor…14,000-20,000 Sandhill Cranes as they mass around the refuge, early and late, are simply impressive. They are big, noisy birds. When you see several thousand of them in field below the mountians in the clear warm light of New Mexico’s autumn, it is, well, worth seeing. Unfortunately, even video does not quite capture that aspect of Bosque. Photographs and video are good enough to make you, maybe, want to visit Bosque…but they will not prepare you for the experience of being there! Which is a good thing.

Canon SX20IS at 1) 140mm equivalent @ f4.5 @ 1/800th @ ISO 80, Landscape program and 2) 560mm equivalent @ f5.7 @ 1/640 @ ISO 100. Landscape program.

Processed in Lightroom for intensity (see the page link above).

And a bit of video.

Sanhill Cranes at Bosque del Apache

11/29/2010: wings of chance?

Okay, so no, I don’t in fact believe in chance…or luck…but I do believe in being at the right place at the right time and doing the right thing…even when you don’t know what any of those are. I believe that we are blessed beyond our deserts…and nothing convinces me more than wildlife photography.

And, of course, before any of you get started, if I had a real camera and a real lens (full frame DSLR and a 600mm or APS DSLR and a 400mm) this would, indeed, have been a better image…but you work with what you have. Besides, I am pretty sure I could not shoot off-hand with either of those rigs anyway. The Canon SX20IS cranked out is a 560mm, f5.7 equivalent, and set on sports mode for the fastest shutter speeds it is very easy…and very quick on target. I only wish it had a more rapid burst (motor) mode. One frame per second is pretty slow for flying birds.

This shot is actually more intentional than it looks. I was panning with the geese when the crane entered the frame, flying at about twice the speed of the geese. I barely had the presence of mind to click the shutter and pray.

Imagine my delight when I reviewed the shot a few seconds later!

Sometimes you do get more than you deserve indeed.

Canon SX20IS as above, f8.0 @ 1/1250th @ ISO 320. Sports mode.

Processed lightly for intensity in Lightroom.

And a couple more on the same theme: 

And, no, I insist, chance has nothing to do with it!


11/28/2010: Crane at Sunset

Happy Sunday!

Bosque del Apache Sunsets can be spectacular (see last Sunday’s post), especially if you are where the Cranes and Geese are coming in to roost for the night. At some point in the process I stopped shooting the sunset itself and started trying to catch cranes as they passed in front. This shot was intentionally exposed for the silhouetted crane and the amazing colors of the sky.

Canon SX20IS at about 500mm equivalent. f5.7 @ 1/640th @ ISO 800. Sports program.

Processed for intensity and silhouette effect in Lightroom. Chromatic aberrations corrected and noise reduced.

And, for my Sunday thought: sometimes all we can see is silhouettes against the persistent glory that illuminates our world, at least to the eyes of faith. And sometimes that is all we need to see. A speck of present life, even in silhouette, provides the perspective we need to face the future with confidence.

But maybe that is a bit much to hang on a crane against the sunset? 


11/27/2010: Rachel Carson Merriland River

Thanksgiving day morning at Rachel Carson NWR. We are blessed to have RCNW all around us here in Kennebunk, and the headquarters, with its classic little nature trail,  just down the road. I have photographed this view in all seasons, all weathers, and all light…so far…I am sure it still has a lot to show me.

This is the season in Maine between foliage and snow. It has a subtle beauty that is easy to miss, and a kind of dull day, light wise, makes it even more subtle.

HDR opens new options for this view, in particular, as the foreground trees are other wise hard to capture in any detail. In fact, this HDR is one of my most satisfying renderings of the view to date…in a quiet way…from the quietly interesting sky to the gentle tones and textures of the marsh, to the subtly detailed textures of the tree bark right in front.

This is HDR at its most subtle and unobtrusive. Certainly in keeping with the season.

Three exposure HDR with the Canon SX20IS at 28mm equivalent, autobracketed 1EV either side of –2/3 EV set with exposure compensation. Assembled and tone-mapped in Photomatix, processed for intensity in Lightroom. (Check out my recent piece on P&S Landscape on HDR and Photomatix Light under the Photomatix link.)


11/26/2010: Watchers under Bosque sky

A frosty morning at Bosque del Apache NWR, with amazing clouds. This is a three exposure HDR, only possible with people in it because these folks were so intent on photographing the geese and cranes in the field in front of them that they did not move at all.

One of my commenters on a listserve (yahoogroups) that I post to objected to my leaving the photographers in what is obviously a picture of the sky. I think the tension in the photo, and what caught my eye as much as the clouds, is the fact that the watchers are so intent on the geese and crane show in front of them that they are totally oblivious to the show happing overhead!

Canon SX20IS at 28mm equivalent. Three exposures auto bracketed at –2/3 EV, ISO 160, assembled and tone-mapped in Photomatix, processed for intensity in Lightroom. (I actually had to tone it down a bit by increasing exposure as the clouds were, imho, over-dramatic.)


11/25/2010: happy Turkey day!

Not a very original thought, but here are some turkeys for Thanksgiving. These fellows were strutting their stuff this spring at Laudholm Farms in Wells Maine (Wells National Estuarine Research Center) early one foggy morning when I was out after spring birds with my digiscoping rig. I sincerely hope they are still in good health today!

I have a lot to be thankful for today…family…friends…good health…the many opportunities I have to enjoy the natural world all around the US (as part of my job, for which I am also thankful just in the sense of “gainful employment”)…lots of tech toys: cameras, phones, computers, kindle, etc. etc…and a pervasive sense of living where I am loved and can love, both in the macro-cosmic and micro-cosmic sense. Love is the way I experience the universe in person, and the persons that make up my life. When I am most aware of that, I am most thankful.

But back to the turkeys: Canon Powershot 1400IS behind the eyepiece of the ZEISS DiaScope 85FL. Somewhere around 2000mm equivalent. f4.5 @ 1/125 @ ISOs 125 and 250.

Processed for intensity in Lightroom.

And a very happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!


11/24/2010: Snow on the wing

For Wings on Wednesday. This looks better the larger you look at it (to a point!) so please click the image and use the size controls at the top of the window that opens as needed.

I will admit that this is a chance shot. I just pointed the digiscoping rig into the mass of swirling birds and held the shutter down at 4 frames per second for about 5 seconds. This is the only one I kept…because the foreground birds are more or less in focus against the back drop of fuzzy geese. I could not have planned this if I had tried.

It is, admittedly, a challenging image to look at…but I like that about it. Give your eye a moment to make sense of it.

Canon SD4000IS behind the 15-56x Vario eyepiece on the ZEISS DiaScope 65FL. “Kids and Pets” mode.

Processed for intensity and sharpened in Lightroom. (see new Lightroom Processing page)


11/23/2010: Mr. Vermillion

I chased this Vermillion Flycatcher around the Edinburg City Park next door to the Edinburg Scenic Wetlands World Birding Center for about an hour. Actually I was also chasing the Ringed Kingfisher who was hunting up and own the arroyo at the edge of the park, but the Vermillion was always tantalizingly tucked back far in the branches or way over on the other side of the water. He seemed intent on staying out of the sun, and when I finally caught him close, he was resting in the shade of a post on the fence.

The second shot, by the way, is out at about the maximum reach of my Canon SD4000IS/ZEISS DiaScope digiscoping rig: shot at the equivalent of about 6000mm from at least 150 yards. I do not generally even attempt such shots, but this actually came out pretty well.

Digiscoped as above. Shot number one at about about  50 feet.

Processed in Lightroom for intensity and sharpened.


11/22/2010: Mule Deer

Mammals on Monday (a Twitter thing).

Twice in my few days at Bosque del Apache NWR I came across small groups of foraging Mule Deer. The deer at Bosque are fairly secure (and they are Mule Deer, who are, in my experience, much less skittish and secretive than White-tails), and both times I was able to get the car stopped, digiscoping rig out, tripod up, camera ready, and take a series of shots while they peacefully continued about their business. They were aware of me, certainly, but not unduly concerned.

The first three shots are from an early morning encounter and the last from early afternoon. In both cases the New Mexico November sun provided spectacular light. The deer were about 75 yards across the water channels which line all the Bosque roads.

Canon SD4000IS behind the 15-56x Vario eyepiece on the ZEISS DiaScope 65FL for equivalent focal lengths (fields of view) of about 1500mm (1-3) and 1000mm. First three at f5 @ 1/320th @ ISO 125, last shot f5 @ 1/640th @ ISO 125. Programmed auto.

Processed in Lightroom with a touch of Fill Light, Blackpoint slightly right, added Clarity and Sharpen narrow edges preset.


11/21/2010: Bosque Sunset HDRs

Happy Sunday!

I went out after my day of work manning the ZEISS booth at the Festival of the Cranes at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge near Socorro NM, to digiscope Prairie Dogs in the last light of early evening, but the PD town was already closed down for the day. There was not even a single sentry on guard.

So I headed back to town and supper. Of course I had to pass right by three flooded fields where the Sandhill Cranes come in for the night, right at or around sunset. And, on day like yesterday, the sunset itself is a show. I stopped and parked and waited. As the sun sank, the parking lot filled with folks who had the same idea. During the festival, sunset parking is at a premium anywhere on the refuge, and they actually take buses in to particularly choice vantage-points otherwise inaccessible to the public. People pay $5.00 to ride the bus.

What you have here are three HDR shots: southwest in line with the sun, north along ridge that hides the mountains behind, and southeast where a larger mass of clouds behind the mountains took the color. The top shot is the last I took, just before the color died, when it was at its most intense.

I find it hard to believe that there are people anywhere who would not be moved by such a sunset, with or without the spectacle of the returning cranes. Such awful, such awe-filled, beauty in the fire in the sky at day’s end…there are no words for what it says to our souls…but there is no doubt that it speaks.

When the color died, everyone got back in their cars, or boarded the buses, and headed back to town. Route 1 is a steady stream of tail-lights for 8 miles into San Antonio. From the air it must look something like the cranes coming into the roost for the night 🙂

I am not sure what the Sunday thought is in the Bosque sunsets, but I certain it is there. Being there, along the dyke by the flooded field, and knowing that people were gathered all over the refuge to witness the same sight, with the air filled with the “music” of the cranes and geese, as the sky colored and as the color died, was very like being part of a worshiping congregation. I know who I worship, and I find it hard to believe that in those moments, we aren’t all, whether we acknowledge it or not, caught up in the same act of worship. Our awe may be as variously colored as the three images above, but it is the same awe, our birthright and our heritage as human beings…children of love.

Canon SX20IS. Three exposures per image, auto bracketed at minus 2/3EV, assembled and tone-mapped in Photomatix, processed in Lightroom.