Had a very odd day today – I could not seem to get anywhere near a bird, but somehow managed to end up with 10 photographs that I was happy with. Of course because of the lack of proximity the birds come out a little small in some of the pics, but it was not the fruitless endeavour that I had first expected. Today’s birds included the usual Egrets and Tree Swallows – my Buckeye locals! The Yellow Headed Blackbirds were out again, as was a lone Osprey. The new additions to my collection were a Common Yellowthroat and a Cinnamon Teal.
I managed to get out to Arlington this morning. It was very windy and I had trouble keeping the camo netting around myself and the tripod. Lots of birds of prey were up in the air, but none were close enough to be photographed… I did see (and hear) lots of Yellow Headed Blackbirds hiding amongst the reeds. Occasionally one would pop out allowing me to take a couple of frames. This one was a from a group of 5 shots taken as the wind blew the front reeds out of the way. 2 seconds later the reeds were obscuring my view of the bird again.
Had a lovely day in Buckeye today. Spent about 3 hours walking the irrigation streams and saw a lot of birdlife. I used some of Arthur Morris’ field techniques for getting close and was very pleased with the results.
This first picture was taken not long after first light – the ducks hadn’t noticed me as they came in to land and I was able to frame this shot:
I spent about 30 minutes with this Great Egret – Arthur Morris’ techniques allowed me to creep from about 400ft up to about 30ft away from him without him showing any signs of alarm or concern. It is a shame that the background is as cluttered, but c’est la vie and as I discussed in my previous post today – satisfaction doesn’t always come from the perfect picture.
What was interesting about these shots was that the 30 minute time span caused some very noticeable changes in the blue of the sky. For this second shot I also used a little fill flash to try and bring out some of the detail. I am not sure whether I like the results yet, but will definately adjust the flash output next time.
Up at 4am this morning – I love this first day when I am not working. I sleep all day Monday and then try and sleep as much as I can Monday night, which last night was from 10.30 pm till 4 am. So now at 5.30 am I have showered, fed the dogs, started the laundry, made breakfast and have started my second cup of coffee. This is the time I love because I can sit and catch up on my favorite photography blogs and forums before I leave the house at 7am(ish) to catch some of the waterbirds that arrive in Buckeye and settle in the streams.
Today, I have read a very interesting blog entry by David DuChemin – which made me smile (Confessions of a So-Called Pro) – because it made me realise that it is ok to occasionally ignore the “tech stuff” – to forget to clean your sensor is not a life or death issue, to mismanage your exposure can sometimes be a positive experience and only using 1% of photoshop is ok… because sometimes a shiny piece of equipment distracts you, or because you become engrossed in your subject or because you would rather be on the porcelain throne reading about tripod heads than actually learning about histogram curves (as important as they are). So, let’s raise a glass for those of us that do not count ourselves as professionals and never really expect to be classified as such, for those of us that get up at 4.30am full of enthusiasm because “I just want to make images, man”. For the others, the people that get paid to do this, you can sleep easy knowing that I am thoroughly enjoying my hobby without stressing that my bokeh is not as attractive at f5.6 as it is at f4.
I completed my budget version R Strap yesterday and I took it out for a trial run. The original version can be seen here. My version is definitley not as versatile as the Black Rapid R Strap, it does not have the ability to attach pockets, accessory straps etc, etc… but I built it for a fraction of the cost. For those people who are unaware of the R Strap – imagine a quick draw system for a camera. In my case my primary lens and camera are tripod mounted, but for those times when you need to hand-hold a camera very quickly the tripod set-up is not ideal. This strap allows me to keep a second camera with a 70-300mm at my side.
I found it very useful yesterday… when I was focusing my primary camera at a nesting Osprey I was suddenly aware of motion to my side. Using my ‘Alex-strap’ ;) I was able to capture these images without having to try and manipulate a heavy tripod.
Yesterday I relocated my backyard feeding pole and employed some tips from other bird photographers – in essence I moved the feeder to a more photographic location and I added some ‘fake’ branches so that photographs have a more natural/wild feel to them. I added the branches by drilling out part of the feeding pole and inserting some small, dead branches that I found. The aim is that pictures will now have birds on branches, rather than on the plastic feeder. The location of the pole was changed so that I have a better bokeh in the morning and evening sun, previously the background was a breezeblock wall, now the morning background is a lime tree and the afternoon background is a fan palm. This morning (and yesterday eveing) I set up the hide and waited to see what would happen. The first thing I noticed was that most birds continued to visit the area that the pole was originally in, probably to feed on the seed that was on the ground. When the house finches did catch on to the new location they made use of the branches – allowing me to get the pictures below.
One lesson I did learn – I do not need the 1.4x teleconverter when working at this distance, in fact it may be better to add an extension tube to the 300mm f4 in order to reduce the minimum focus point.