Archive for the 'New Jersey' Category


11/9/2010: Yellow rumps 3

As I have mentioned, Cape May NJ was awash in Yellow Rumped Warblers when I visited last for the Autumn Weekend. I have already posted two sets. This is the third and last installment of YRWB from the weekend. Always such cheerful little guys. They are rarely as cooperative as they are in Cape May during heavy migration days, so you have to seize the opportunity.

The sun was just up over the dyke at the Morning Flight Tower at Higbee Beach, and this warbler joined the foraging sparrows at the base of the reeds. The light really brings up the yellow!

Canon SD4000IS behind the 15-56x Vario Eyepiece on the ZEISS DiaScope 65FL, providing the field of view of about an 1800mm lens on a full frame DSLR, f5 @ 1/500th @ ISO 125. Programmed auto.

Added Clarity and Vibrance in Lightroom. A touch of Recovery for the white highlights, Blackpoint just nudged right. Sharpen narrow edges preset.


11/8/2010: okay wigeons

You can burn a lot of digital storage space trying to digiscope feeding ducks. Even with a good burst mode…especially with a good burst mode. These American Wigeon in Cape May Point State Park in NJ are typical. Never still. Never with their heads out of the water for more than a second at a time. If you pixel peep this shot you will see that eye-light is a line, not a dot…which means that the bird’s head moved while the image was captured.

To complicate matters I was shooting off a wooden platform out over the water, which vibrated whenever anyone moved for about 50 yards either side on the boardwalk. Not ideal. Still, they are wigeons…okay wigeons.

Canon SD4000IS behind the eyepiece of the ZEISS DiaScope 65 FL for the field of view of about a 2500mm lens on a full frame DSLR. Scope limited to f7 @ 1/320th @ ISO 125.

Added Clarity and Vibrance, and Sharpen narrow edges preset in Lightroom.

And, of course, when the birds will not sit still, you can always switch to video.

American Wigeon, Cape May NJ

11/7/2010: in the frame now, happy Sunday!

I woke this Sunday morning from a dream of worship…that in itself is odd…though I do have a few of those dreams each year, and I suppose Sunday morning is appropriate for one…but before I was fully awake this post formed, and now, up and at the computer, all I have to do is build what I saw.

At my best as a photographer I am only a frame and an instant.

I am a frame. All I do is point the frame of the camera’s rectangular view at the world. Today I use the zoom on the camera to  change the size of the frame…make it bigger and more inclusive, more grand…or smaller and more particular, more intimate. I can move in close for a true macro of lichen, or add magnification by shooting through a spotting scope for portraits of sparrows. I can zoom out to wide-angle for the sunrise. I can even stitch frames together into the larger frame of a panorama. But whatever I do, it is still a frame…a little rectangle imposed on reality. The frame says “This is what I see. Look!” I am a frame.

I am an instant. I control when I push the shutter button. I choose the instant, and it is only an instant…a fraction of a second, when the camera records, for better or worse, whatever is in the frame. Even if I shoot a burst of images, as I often do when digiscoping birds, I still have to pick the one instant out of all those instants that I want to show the world. The instant says “This is what I see now. Look” I am an instant.

I do not fill the frame, I can only point it. I do not create the instant. I can only choose it. But in those two choices is all the power of photography.

The rest is just technique.

This is what I see now. Look!

I don’t of course, know what you see when you look at one of my photographs. I can hope that if I have done my job, you will see something that captures your attention…maybe even something that stirs your soul, that moves within you and touches places that need touching. At best, looking at what I see might open your eyes to something you would not otherwise have seen. It might change the way you see the world. That is the power of photography at its best.

I took pictures for a long time before I knew what I was looking for…what fills my frames and draws me to the instants I choose. Interestingly enough, the actual photographs did not change much, if at all. One day I knew why as well as what and when.

And that brings us full circle. As I have said, I am sure, on more than one Sunday in the past, my why is worship. What fills my frame in the ever-changing now is always some aspect of the beauty…the awe-full beauty, the intimate splendor, the wonderful power, the amazing compassion…of the Creator God displayed in the creation. Every picture is a celebration of that in God and that in me that brings the world to being through love. I frame those instants, from macro to panorama, when I am most aware of God. That is worship. That is my why.

So, this is what I see, now. Look.


11/6/2010: Morning flight, Cape May nJ

One of the great migration shows is the Morning Flight at Higbee Beach, in Cape May NJ. Most mornings during fall migration the birds wake up in Cape May after a 24 hour rest and a good stoking among the fall seed heads of the point and fly north…yes, north…up the shore of Deleware Bay, presumably looking for a narrower stretch of open water to cross. This northward flow along the shore concentrates the birds something wonderful. Thousands of some species pass every day. For many years now CMBO and ZEISS have put counters on the dyke at Higbee to count the passing birds, beginning a hour before sunrise and ending two hours after. These days here is also an observation tower below the dyke and, on weekends, an interpretive naturalist there to tell folks what is going on.

A week ago today was one of those high days when Cape May was alive with birds. The best migration day, some said, since 1999. Before dawn the dyke at Higbee was populated with birders waiting for the show, cars were parked all up and down the road, and it was standing room only on the observation tower. 

This is a three exposure HDR, with some extra processing in Lightroom to bring up the foreground. Canon SX20IS.


11/5/2010: woodcock on the lawn

I have only ever seen three Woodcocks in my life. The first was just as it was getting too dark to see, in the light of a flashlight in our backyard in Kennebunk during migration. The dog alerted us to that one, and I had to investigate the strange sound it (something) was making out there.

The second was along side the road near Parson’s Beach, about 2 miles from home, in broad daylight, early in the spring. That bird was, after we passed on to the beach, and before we drove back home, hit by a car (we found the remains 😦 ). I have video of him doing his dance…though not so hot as it was taken through the windshield of the car.

The third was a week ago today, on a little patch of grass between the car port of a hotel and the house next door, across the road from the beach in downtown Cape May. A few birders found it as they walked by, and since they were visible from the windows of the room at the Grand Hotel where I was working the ZEISS booth, eventually, as more birder’s gathered, Clay Taylor (Swarovski) and I went out with our digiscoping rigs to photograph what turned out to be this exhausted Woodcock. Chris Woods, who works for eBird (Cornell Lab of Ornithology) was one of the birders there and he knows much of what there is to know about Woodcocks (well, about almost any bird). He and Clay were speculating on how far out to sea the Woodcock had been blown before fighting its way back to land, and barely 100 yards in, before crashing on that little patch of grass. It was huddled up against the base of a porch, perhaps trying to keep out of the wind, which was still blowing strongly.

Clay and I eventually worked our way around through empty stalls in the car port to where we could get some shots at a decent angle. The light was not the best, but the opportunity was too good to miss. This shot was from 30 feet away (we did not want to disturb the bird) at something like the equivalent field of view of a 1600mm lens on a full frame DSLR. ISO 200 at 1/80th second and f5.0 (limited by the camera…by which I mean the f-stop of the actual lens/scope combination was f4.4 computed…and since the camera chose a f-stop of f5, the camera’s f5, which is smaller than f4.4, is the determining f-stop for exposure. But perhaps that is more than you wanted to know.). Canon SD4000IS behind the 15-56X Vario on the ZEISS DiaScope 65FL. I happened to have the camera in wide mode (16/9 ratio, like HD video) when I took the image.

Sharpened and adjusted to add clarity and intensity in Lightroom.

Note the detain in the eye!

And, of course, since I was shooting with the SD4000IS, I had to do some real HD video…though motion was not what  this Woodcock was about, at least last Friday.

American Woodcock, Cape May NJ

11/4/2010: Cape May Point pond reflections

Just a week ago in Cape May NJ: The front approaching that pushed all the birds in on Friday and Saturday. The main pond at Cape May Point State Park, from the boardwalk behind the Hawk Watch platform. There were birds aplenty and I was there to digiscope, but that does not mean I turn a blind eye to the other splendors nature has to offer. Interesting sky, eye-catching fall foliage, interesting reflections, interesting water, for many layers of interest.

This is a three exposure HDR using auto-bracket on the Canon SX20IS, with the center of the bracket range shifted down 2/3 EV using exposure compensation. ISO 125 at the wide angle (28mm equivalent) setting.

Blended and tone-mapped in Photomatix. Processed with a bit of Fill Light, Blackpoint right, added Clarity and some Vibrance, and Sharpen narrow edges preset in Lightroom.


11/3/2010: Goldfinch for Wings on Wednesday

Yellow-rumped Warblers were not the only birds to take advantage of Cape May’s smorgasbord on Friday and Saturday. Goldfinches were wherever there were sunflower or thistle heads left standing. Again, they were so busy stoking the migration machine that they allowed unusually close approach. A digiscopers dream. Catching the feeding action, on the other hand, was difficult, especially that “hanging upside down off the flower head” thing they do. It just does not impress as much in a still image. Once more, late afternoon/early evening sun picked out the details of the plumage and warmed the shots.

So, of course, I slid the little switch over to video and shot the action in HD. See below.

Stills are Canon SD4000IS behind the 15-56x Vario eyepiece of a ZEISS DiaScope 65FL for equivalent fields of veiw of 1) 2500mm and 2) 1200mm. 1) ISO 400 @ 1/1000th @ f6.7 (scope limited), 2) ISO 125 @ 1/400th @ f4 (camera limited).

Blackpoint, Clarity, sharpened, and color adjusted in Lightroom.

Video is a few clips from the SD4000IS edited together.

Female Goldfinch Feeding!

11/2/2010: Yellow-rumped Warbler 2

Late in the day on Saturday, out behind the Hawk Watch platform at Cape May State Park, as I mentioned yesterday, was like walking through an aviary, the birds were so thick and so close. This Yellow-rumped Warbler was perched about 20 feet off the boardwalk, in the full light of the low sun behind me, and a hint of autumn color behind. Irresistible.

I was able to catch several different ”poses” as, despite how it might look in the images, the bird was quite active on the perch. The low sun certainly picked out all the yellow in the bird.

For a digiscoper, or anyone who attempts bird photography, it just does not get any better than this!

Canon SD4000IS behind the eyepiece of the ZEISS DiaScope 65FL for the equivalent field of view of about a 1400mm lens on a full frame DSLR. 1/320th @ ISO 160 @ f4.5 (camera limited).

A bit of Recovery in Lightroom for the white breast and the highlights on the branch, Blackpoint just barely right, added Clarity and Vibrance, and Sharpen narrow edges preset. Slight color adjustment to tame the yellow.


11/1/2010: Yellow rumped Warbler

On Friday and Saturday of last week, there were Yellow-rumped Warblers everywhere and anywhere you chose to look in Cape May NJ. Lawns in town were littered with them. Every likely bush along the edge of the meadows was alive with them. They were so thick behind the Hawk Watch platform at Cape May Point, and at the base of the Morning Flight tower at Higgbee Beach, that avoiding collisions as you walked became a challenge. Late in the day Saturday, as they dropped out of the wind, some were so tired that you could walk within 3 feet of them as they perched on the boardwalk rail at Cape May Point. It was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen.

Of course that made it an ideal place to practice digiscoping warblers! Especially warblers close in and filling the frame. Over the next few days you will see quite a few YRWR shots here. 🙂

This bird was in the hedge row along the road at the Meadows (Nature Conservancy Cape May Migratory Bird Sanctuary). 

This shot is digiscoped with the Canon SD4000IS behind the 15-56x Vario eyepiece on the ZEISS DiaScope 65FL. I was about 20 feet away, and the digiscoping rig gave me the equivalent field of view of a 2500mm lens on a full frame DSLR. 1/200 sec @ ISO 125. F-stop about f7, limited by the scope.

This is the same bird, zoomed back to about the equivalent field of 1600mm lens. This one is at ISO 400 and 1/1000th of a second @ f5.0 (camera limited). Notice the image quality the Canon SD4000IS is capable of at ISO 400!

So, that is the first helping of Cape May’s Yellow-rumps.


10/31/2010: Cape May Sunrise hdr Panorama

Happy Sunday!

Looking east from the sundeck of the Montreal Inn in Cape May a few moments before sunrise, yesterday.

Sunrises, I think, touch a special place in the soul, and, of course there is noting like a sunrise over the ocean where you can see right out to the edge of the world. On a morning like this, even if just for a second there, it takes a hard heart indeed…or one deeply troubled, beaten well down…not to embrace the cliché: every new day is a miracle. It is easy for the hopeful to take such beauty at the beginning as a promise of the potential of the day. And, of course, part of the wonder comes from the fact that every sunrise is not so spectacular. Our lives don’t always allow us to see the sunrise at all, and there are days when the sun just sneaks up behind clouds (literal or figurative) with no display (or none we can see). So we have reason to celebrate the moments like this one. The moment itself is a gift from the creator, and so is the ability to appreciate it.

On the technical side, this is a 9 exposure HDR panorama: 3 sets of 3 exposures blended and tone-mapped in Photomatix, the results stitched in PhotoShop Elements, and the the panorama final processed in Lightroom. Best viewed as large as your monitor will take it.