Watching the Birds In My Backyard

You can tell just how much I need to get out and shoot by how much I photograph the birds in my backyard. It is not that I am bored, but I really need to make some photographs when this happens. Yesterday seemed like the perfect morning to play around a little. The fresh snow outside really helped me bring them in it seemed like. My feeder has been working for a while now, and I spread some seed on top of the snow on our table outside to get them a little closer.

Getting In Tight With the Tamron 150-600mm Lens

I don’t know what I expected when I bought this lens. I guess I thought that I had a backup at a fair price in case something happened to my 400mm. I did not really expect stellar images with this lens. What I have found is that it really does the job for me. In a situation like what I was in yesterday I really couldn’t be set up in one spot. The light lens for the 600mm reach really allowed me to stay mobile and make the pictures that I wanted to make.

Am I In the Studio?

The white snow as my background really allowed me to nearly recreate some of the great prints that Joel Sartore makes for the Photo Ark. It was a fun way to make a photo a little different from what I normally make. I had thoughts of getting rid of the sunflowers seeds in Photoshop, but decided against it.

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The Male House Finch

It is that time of the year again when I start to go a little stir crazy at home and photographing the backyard birds. I have started putting more seed out and trying to think about where I want to photograph them at. When the weather is grey and boring the birds start looking pretty good. Of course you know that I chase the snowy owl and the bald eagles in the area, but I don’t often focus on my backyard birds. When you start seeing the birds creep up on the website then you know that I must be going crazy. We are finally into February so baseball season is just around the corner. Maybe I need to fly south like the birds to photograph some early season baseball.

More About Birds

This past week NWIndianaLife put together an article about some Indiana bird photographers. It was cool seeing the work of some other photographers around where I used to live. They even allowed me to contribute some words and some photos to it. Go to their site here to give it a look. I don’t visit the site as often as I should. It is nice to go to a news site though and only see good news. We need a little bit more of that today.

A Hawk Takes Flight On a Warm Winter Day

Yesterday I was out looking for a couple of birds. I really wanted some action from the snowy owl, and when that didn’t pan out I went looking for bald eagles. Neither of those two species would cooperate with me so I ended up just driving around for a while. This is the time of the year when I go a little stir crazy as far as photography goes. I have a Saturday with nothing in the books, and of course three events all nearly at the same time Sunday to shoot that I have to pick from. I spent most of the day Saturday with my family but took some time when the light was good near sunset to go out and try and make a picture. Thankfully this hawk was sitting perched for me or I would have come away with nothing. The reach of the Tamron 150-600mm lens on my crop frame Canon 7D Mark II really helped me make this picture. One of these days the stars will align, and I will be able to get in a good test of this new lens.

Just Before You Go

I knew this hawk was about to take flight. I can’t see into the future or anything, but I have some knowledge that some may consider gross. It is science though. The hawk dedicated while I was looking through my viewfinder. Most birds will do that just before taking flight. It must make them feel lighter in the air. If you are photographing a bird on a perch then wait for the moment after they vacate. That is when they will go.

An Unexpected Trip To See The Snowy Owl

Yesterday I left the house to make some photos of the Wabash River from overhead. On the way home from the zoo with my daughter I noticed that the ice was flowing pretty heavy down the river. I thought that I could look great from directly overhead. I will have more on that tomorrow. When I had made my picture I jumped in the car to warm up a little. I decided to check on the snowy owl sightings to see if our friend up north was still there. There were recent sightings so I happily made the drive up there to see it. I had my 400mm lens in the car in case I came across any bald eagles. When I pulled up to the area I saw one familiar car driving away, and a new car parked with someone looking into a field with some big glass. It turned out that it was a 1200mm lens pointed right at a snowy owl. The owl was too far away to do anything with so I waited…and waited…and waited. After about and hour and half the owl took off and flew to the barn near where I was parked. The photo above was one that I captured during that flight. I have plenty of static photos of the bird, but now I had some behavior! I am an action sports kind of guy so I like it when I get to track something. Tracking a bird this small at f/2.8 is a chore, but a fun one.

A Second Chance

The flight was over almost before it began, and the bird was now resting on top of a barn. I moved down the road a little to photograph it there, but it was too far behind the barn. I drove down a side road near the area to see where it went, and I watched it fly the other way off of the barn. I then sat for over an hour again in a spot where I had the light working with me and waited for the bird to take off again. Right about when I was ready to give up it took flight again. I flew right by me and landed on top of a telephone pole. A little patience on the day resulted in two great opportunities to get some shots of the owl in action. At this point the light was almost gone, but the timing was perfect.

Having Fun In The Wild

I love shooting sports. There is no doubt about that. On a weekend like this one where nothing was going on though I had a void to fill. Photographing wildlife is a great way to fill that void. In sports you get excited when you make ‘the shot’. In wildlife photography you wait a lot longer for moments so when you get them it is even more exciting. This was a fun way to spend a couple of hours out in the middle of nowhere. Soon the owls will go back north, and this opportunity will be gone.

A Bonus Photo

As I was heading home I saw a couple of deer out near me in a field. I grabbed my 400mm again and made this picture out of my window. It will never win any awards, but it was fun to make.

On The Lookout For Owls

Above is one more of the photos that I made on Christmas Eve when I lucked into a huge group of Short-Eared Owls. It was an amazing sight, and it made the fact that the snowy owl was not doing anything interesting very easy to take. This was the first and the last time that I have seen such owls in the wild. At some point I need to study these owls a little so I can know where to find them a little easier. For now I will just thank the stars that I wandered down the right country road on the right day.

The Fickle Nature of the Snowy Owl

Earlier today I went out looking for the snowy owl again. I had to make the rounds around the block a couple of times before I saw one. When we finally saw the owl it was on top of a light pole with a man out of his van underneath it making photos of it. When he got back into his car the sound of the door combined with the tractor passing by must have been too much for the owl as it then flew out into the field nearby. We waited quite a while for the owl to move, but it never did. We did get to see the owl, but I think that the amount of people coming around to disturb it have made it more leery of people. I have made my posed pictures of the owl. I would love to get some shots of it exhibiting some behavior. Maybe I need to rent some long glass and invest in a blind.

My 17 Favorite Critter Photos of 2017

I really think that I had an amazing 2017 with the amount of cool critters that I was able to see and photograph. Almost off the bat I was able to capture a few photos of bald eagles grabbing fish out of the Wabash River. From there it was a fun year finding new and interesting wildlife to chase. After fruitlessly looking for a few years I was finally able to photograph a few owls as well. This was a fun year for wildlife, and here are a few of my favorites.

17. I spent a lot of my year waiting for eagles to do something. Often they would just sit in the trees doing nothing. At some point you start to get bored and you try and make an image out of that. Here the light was hitting the branches just right to make that work.

16. Usually I don’t use my iPhone when making photos of wildlife. Here in Ocean City, Maryland though I was able to do just that. While crabbing on a pier one of the crabs came right up to me. The phone was the only thing that I had available so I made the photo with it.

15. When we go to the Indy Zoo the first thing that the girls always want to do is to see the butterflies. Of course I have my camera so I go around and try and find something interesting to photograph. Here we found a female that was fending off many males. One male comes in close to the female here.

14. This year I finally made it up to see the Sandhill Cranes at the Jasper-Pulaski Wildlife Area. They were amazing to watch as they spent some time here before continuing south. Here one grouping takes off out of the marsh.

13. More fun at the zoo. While the kids watch the animals I like to have fun photographing them. I will probably not go on an African Safari in my life so I like to pretend that I am on one while I am there. It is fun to try and make photos of the animals that don’t look like they were made at the zoo.

12. I spend a lot of time in the winter waiting for bald eagles to do something. While I am waiting I am also looking for other things to photograph. Here a flock of geese came by in great formation giving me a good photo. I don’t know that I came away with a good eagle photo that day, but I did come away with a cool silhouette photo.

Bald Eagles Of the Apocalypse

11. When I made this photo I called it “The Bald Eagles of the Apocalypse” With the sun lighting up the clouds behind the eagles that is what came into my mind for some reason. This is another example of me waiting for the eagles to do something. It sounds boring, but at times it can be fun coming up with shots while I am waiting. This is one of my favorites from those times.¬† Continue reading “Top 17 Critter Photos of 2017”

An Eagle Flys By

I really do not have any camouflage on my gear when I shoot birds and eagles. My theory on eagles is that they have such great vision that I am not going to disguise myself good enough anyway. I just let them get used to me by staying still for a while, and eventually they come closer out of curiosity. My big white Canon lens must really stick out to the raptors as they come to see just what I have. The photo above is of an immature bald eagle flying over me to see what I am all about. A just patiently sat on a park bench waiting for the eagles to come to me. It seemed like they never would, and then this one did. It got to a point where I was actually worried that I had too much lens for a second. It is rare that I have that worry photographing birds.

My Favorite Photos From the Past Week

One more plug for my favorite photos of the week. I have been putting together an Exposure page every Monday with some of the photos that I liked from the week before. Last week I did not shoot very much, but I did make some photos that I thought were interesting. You can find that Exposure page here. The posts are not my most popular on Exposure, but they are fun to put together. At times it gives me a goal when shooting as well. I want to make something cool for the page.

The Re-Birth of Second Level Studios

If you have followed me for a while then you know that I belonged to a group of photographers who shared a common studio space downtown. The studio is called Second Level Studios, and is a fantastic place to shoot. If you are a photographer in or around Lafayette come and give it a look. They are having an open house on February 27th. You can find out more info on the studio here on their website. Many plans are available to suit what you need.

Slowing Down the Hummingbird

The hummingbird moves so fast you have to really move fast to capture it. Yo have to anticipate the action, and have a high shutter speed to capture it. I was at 1/2000th of a second here, and it slowed the bird down, but left just enough movement in the wings to show action. You don’t want a photo of a bird that looks like it is falling. I did not have long to photograph the hummingbird, but it did make me want to set up a remote camera to try and get some more shots in the future.

Expanding the My Backyard Birds Segment

This post should really have been titled My Parents Backyard Birds. I was in town to shoot an event as well as see my parents for Mother’s Day when I decided to try and capture a few shots of the hummingbirds. I normally just post photos of the birds in my backyard, but since I used to live in this house I think that it counts. I am sure over the course of the summer I will re-visit this feeder to try a few things.

A Sparrow Caught in a Snowstorm

Friday I was chomping at the bit to use my new lens. I had just bought a Canon 400mm f/2.8, and I had not used it yet. I looked out my back window and noticed that the birds were really feeding with a few flurries coming down. Then the flurries developed into more, and I had a photo. I put the 400 on my Canon 7D Mark II, and made a couple of pictures quickly while the snow was coming down hard. This house sparrow did not seem too pleased about the situation. It just sat there very still for me as it tried to figure out why it was snowing. It made for an interesting photo, and gave me a chance to use my new lens.

Using a Long Lens to Compress the Scene

This shot is really made because of the long lens. It compresses the scene to give this look that I think is quite nice. The snowflakes closer to the camera become beautiful bokeh snowflakes, and they help add depth to the scene in an interesting way. Had I shot this with something smaller and cropped in I would not have had the same effect. I put the 1.4x converter on the lens to give me an effective focal length of 896mm. A nearly 900mm lens helps me get close to this small bird. That sounds like a lot of lens, but for a little bird it really is not. This was a good first test of the lens, and it gave me an indication that I was in for a treat while using it.