Archive for November, 2010


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.


11/20/2010: Golden-fronted Acrobat

Not so great light this early morning at Estero Llano Grande State Park and World Birding Center in Weslaco Texas, but who could resist trying for this acrobatic Golden-fronted Woodpecker. Part of the WBC is an old trailer park, which was purchased because its tropical trees and plantings, including a smattering of citrus, attracts species not regular on the more arid sections of the State Park. I am not sure what this woodpecker was doing with the grapefruit but it makes for an interesting image.

Digiscoped with the Canon SD4000IS behind the 15-56x Vario eyepiece on the ZEISS DiaScope 65FL spotting scope for an equivalent focal length (field of view) of a 1300mm lens, f4.5 @ 1/50th @ ISO 200. Programmed auto.

Processed for intensity in Lightroom (Fill Light, Blackpoint, Clarity, and Sharpen).


11/19/2010: Roadrunner, roadrunner

I may have mentioned that the Edinburg Scenic Wetlands World Birding Center in Edinburg Texas is among my top 5 digiscoping (and birding, and butterflying) destinations. Every year I discover at least one contender, somewhere in my travels, that threatens to disrupt the top 5…but Edinburg WBC remains at the top. Shots like these, or rather opportunities like this, are the main reason why.

I was just walking back to the Visitor Center, or actually around the side of the VC to check the dragonfly pond for Kingfishers. I had my phone out and was about to return a call from my boss. As I lifted the phone to press the call button, it came in line with this fellow, practically at my feet, totally intent on harvesting insects along the side of the pathway. He was doing a lot of that thing in the second shot…peering up under the overhanging vegetation, looking, I assume, for some particular shade loving bug.

He was embarrassingly close…so close that even with both the camera and scope zoom cranked all the way down, I could not get the whole bird in the frame…not to mention that he was moving pretty fast. Of course, he was paying absolutely no attention to me so I did have time to get the tripod down, pocket the phone (first things first), turn on the camera, and get the zooms cranked back while he went about his business. I shot about 30 exposures of him before he decided to move up the trail past me and look for buggier trails beyond. When I gave up on him, I turned to find two other photographers behind me blasting away. Quite a show. And typical, in my experience, of Edinburg Scenic Wetlands World Birding Center!

And, yes, as soon as the roadrunner was out of range, I did call my boss.

Canon SD4000IS behind the 15-45x Vario eyepiece on the ZEISS DiaScope 65FL for the field of view of about a 1000mm lens, f4.0 @ 1/1000 sec. @ ISO 125. Programmed auto. (The three shots above are from a single 4fps burst…though not presented in order.)

Processed in Lightroom for intensity and sharpness.

I even managed to take some video which is included in my South Texas Snippets video.

South Texas Snippets….watch for the Roadrunner.

And one final image to go on with….


11/18/2010: Snow Storm (goose)

From Texas to New Mexico: Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. Snow Geese. Sunset. A storm of wings against the blush of sky. I still have lots of birds from Texas left to share, but I can’t resist this from the first day at Bosque. Not that everyone who ever visited a Snow Goose wintering ground doesn’t have one just like it…but still. (I seem to remember a Steve Creek shot from a few months ago.)

Canon SX20IS. 560mm equivalent @ 1/125 @ ISO 800. Programed auto.

Fill Light in Lightroom. Blackpoint right, added Clarity and Vibrance. Sharpen narrow edges preset.

And the real storm, complete with sound effects.

11/17/2010: feathers

I wanted to give you a break from digisocped birds this morning (or maybe I wanted one myself) but going back through the images on my SX20IS I am reminded that no one goes to the Rio Grande Valley of Texas for the scenery.

This little still life, perhaps a bit sad unless you can see the larger picture of nature at work, comes from my largely fruitless trip to a Photo ranch on the north edge of the Valley, where I hoped to photograph larger wildlife. There is beauty in this random scatter of feathers, in the fine details and the pattern. I think they might be Pyrrloxia, and are undoubtedly the remains of a Sharp Shinned Hawk meal.

Canon SX20IS at about 290mm equivalent (zoomed in for the detail) @ f5.0 @ 1/200th @ ISO 200. Landscape program.

Processed in Lightroom with a bit of Recovery, Fill Light, Blackpoint right, added Clarity and Vibrance, and Sharpen narrow edges preset.