Category Archives: photography

See ’em ducks? MR knot ducks, MR ponies. MR no ducks right now.

The Thanksgiving weekend at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia is billed as a waterfowl weekend to celebrate the huge numbers of migrating waterfowl that come to the Chesapeake Bay. Evidently, the waterfowl did not get the announcement this fall. So, absent them, what to photograph?  Well, wild ponies.

The ponies spend most of the year on the Assateague Island except in July when the firemen round them up, and swim then onto Chincoteague to select out a number of yearlings for auction, and to provide veterinary care. Otherwise, they are pretty much on their own to survive.

Having come to see thousands of Snow Geese and such, the ponies were only mildly interesting though the majority of visitors seemed to get really excited to see them. Obviously not birders.

There are, of course, resident birds that are pretty accustomed to people.  I’ve found that an auto is an excellent “blind” for bird photography.  My wife, Pam, is becoming proficient in positioning the car for me, and I set up in the back seat with a bean bag on the window sill to support the heavy telephoto lens. Moving the car just a little can greatly  improve the background and more clearly define the subject.  Being in the backseat, I can shoot to both sides.  Well, the first resident bird for us was a Great Blue Heron very intently fishing along the road to the beach.

One of the enjoyable aspects of photographing birds is learning to recognize the signs that a bird is ready to take flight or to strike at prey.  When your reaction time is added to the shutter delay of around 45 milliseconds, it is key to press the shutter before the main motion is seen.

The action is so fast that I am not generally sure if I have captured the event until I get the images downloaded to my laptop that evening. The camera’s screen did not clearly let me see the small minnow in the bird’s beak.

Adding to the difficulty is keeping the bird’s eye in focus. The autofocus has to recognize the movement and shift focus in the milliseconds involved.

All of this was on a section of the beach road where a canal parallels road so you can be close to the birds.

While there, I was out of the car anticipating a fly-over of some egrets or an ibis that were nearby. Did not happen.   As I chatted with another photographer, I saw a Belted Kingfisher fly down the canal towards a wooded patch some 200 yards away. Great Blue Herons are interesting but Belted Kingfishers are much less approachable, and I was excited.  I’ve not previously had any good images with them.  So, I gathered up my gear, set up the bean bag in the back seat, and Pam moved me into position.

The result was pretty encouraging. This little Belted Kingfisher helped me forget how few waterfowl were on the marshes. I realized how small they are as I watched it for about a half hour.  It preened, and stretched, and then began some serious watching for prey.  I was disappointed that it never dove for a fish, but still it was a high point for the weekend.

You’ll note the nice background.  That came about from a shift of only 5 feet in the car’s position.  If you are going after improved photos, pay serious attention to the background.

This was pretty much the high point of the weekend. We searched widely for more subjects but what I saw was not equal to images I already had of waterfowl. Still, we had an enjoyable time observing bird behavior with our binoculars.

There were a few Tundra Swans on the fresh water pools. We found one immature foraging very close to us on Sunday afternoon (after most of the weekend visitors had joined the exodus home). As the bird foraged, I realized how powerful they are.  It was pulling water plants out by the roots, and would vigorously twist and strain to gain the plant.  Their long neck allows them to feed at a greater depth than competing geese or ducks.  Their size convinces the smaller waterfowl to stay distant.

Of course, Sunday evening was very quiet in town and the sunset along the channel was colorful.

We decided to skip the refuge in the morning and head home with a stop at Bombay Hook NWR where we found American Avocets, Northern Harriers, Pintails, Northern Shovelers and huge mixed flocks of Starlings, Grackles, and Redwing Blackbirds swirling about their roost trees in liquid waves called “murmurs”. ( The volunteer receptionist at Bombay Hook was from Ithaca.  Small world, again.)

I expect to see on some bird blog that the waterfowl arrived on the Chesapeake in a few days. It will be tempting to try again, but I’ll first check with some local contacts. Overall, the weekend was enjoyable with some good practice on birds.  The Kingfisher saved the weekend from being a loss.

Paul Schmitt

Waxwings on a blustery day.

Thought about driving to a mountain known to be good for migrating Golden Eagles, but decided to stay home and begin the day with a nice walk around the neighborhood.  Seemed like a poor day for photos and too much uncertainty about whether I would even see birds.

So, off I went for a brisk morning walk.  Rounding the last corner on my way homeward, I spotted Robins and Cedar Waxwings eagerly feeding on small crab apples.  Rushed home, added some extra layers before assembling the camera on tripod with a flash. The birds were feeding in a determined manner and cared not that I was only 20 feet way.  Neighbors on their morning walk stopped to chat without any effect on the birds.  They were just hungry on this windy and cold day.  Best two photos of the day were:

Acrobatic Cedar Waxwing

Cedar Waxwing feeding.

I lasted about 1-1/4 hours before the finger tips got sluggish.  Really happy with this, in large part because the birds are so quick.  You have to anticipate the image; waiting until you see the pose will give you a photo of something that happens 1/4 second later.

Pushed the ISO to 800 and used luminance noise reduction. Exposures were as slow as 1/100 second with fill flash to help freeze the motion.

More photos of Cedar Waxwings and Robins in the Perching Birds gallery of SmugMug. Select the gallery in  http://pschmitt.smugmug.com/ . Hope you enjoy.

Regards,

Paul Schmitt

Color Pops on Cloudy Rainy Days

fall color 1

For so many years, Kodak encouraged us to pick a sunny day for our picture taking. “Put the sun over your left shoulder”. Film was slow, cameras were simple, and our memory filled in the blanks. With the sophistication of today’s equipment and the development over the years of digital processing, sensitive sensors with high ISO’s and low noise, you can almost shoot in the dark and get good images. Canon’s new 1Dx body is capable of ISO’s as high as 204,800. Of course it costs $7,000. But such is digital technology today. That being said, what about fall color?

fall color 2

fall color 3

The reality is that sunny days are not the best days for shooting fall color. Actually a day like yesterday with clouds and light occasional sprinkles of rain are ideal days for capturing fall color. The woods are dark and deep, the light is diffuse and even with no harsh contrast, and the rain helps to intensify the color on the leaves. So grabbing the gear and driving around my own neighborhood, I took a little afternoon time to go out and capture a bit of the beauty still evident in this colorful season.

fall color 5

fall color 5

fall color 6

Posted by George Cannon.

All images are Copyright © George Cannon.

Welcome to the CNP Blog.

So Hello CNP members.  This is your new blog. Hopefully you received an email telling you about its existence and the log in information if you are a member current with your dues. You are invited to become a blogger and write about where you’ve been, what you’ve seen, show your recent photos, offer advice on deals you have found, equipment you like, or even let members know you have equipment to sell or trade. Anything you feel might be of interest to members. So share your nature photo news with us all, and enjoy this forum.  Also feel free to leave comments on things others post. It’s easy. Be sure and sign your posts at the end so we know who the author is.

Fall Color Has Arrived

Driving home this afternoon, I was keenly aware of how rapidly, almost overnight, it seems the fall color has arrived.  I’ve certainly seen it creeping up. A few trees here and there, the asters at the road side, the sumac reds. But this afternoon it seemed that almost the entire ride home along Rte.89 to Trumansburg was simply alive with new color. Maybe I’ve just been too busy to notice, maybe my mind has been on too many other things, or maybe the change was really that rapid. Regardless, fall is here in all its glory and it’s time to take the cameras and hit the road to revel in autumn beauty. The assignment for the next CNP meeting is “Fall Color”. So let’s go get. Enjoy!

roadside asters

taughannock creek

abandoned house

red tree

red sumac

Posted by George Cannon. All images are © George Cannon.