Friday, November 26, 2010

Bald Eagles Along The Susquehanna (Day 1)

Each fall Joan and I take a short weekend trip to the southern part of the Susquehanna River to view and photograph Bald Eagles that have migrated there from the north.  The spot along a Fisherman's access area just below the Conowingo Power generation dam.  The eagles find it easy to find fish there when the generators are running at the dam.  It raises the water level while at the same time churning the water which brings many fish close to the surface.  On Friday the 19th of November I stopped counting at 70 Eagles in the tress and along the bank.  I took one picture across the river and had 13 eagles in the picture while using a 600mm lens.  There is also a Great Blue Heron rookery there on an island below the dam.  It is not uncommon to see 50 plus great blues.  It is certainly a bird watcher and photographer paradise.

The Eagles in the trees can present a back lighting problem, but it is a great opportunity to practice those types of shots by playing with exposure settings as well as using a better beamer to fill flash the birds.  All of these shots were with a Canon Mark IV 1D with Canon 600mm f4 lens on a Gitzo Tripod using a Wimberley Head and the IS was turned off on the lens.

The eagles are amazing.  The fish seem to be plentiful and easy to catch.  However, when one catches one, others swoop in to try to steal it away.

Canon Mark IV 1D; Canon 600 f4; at f5.6, 1/800, ISO400 EC +1
This shutter speed would normally be too slow (I like to keep at 1/1250 minimum) to capture a flying eagle crisply-I caught them at a moment in flight when they were changing direction so their speed of flight was down and it allowed a good crisp shot.

Canon Mark IV 1D; Canon 600 f4 at f5.6; 1/1000 ISO 500 EC+1
I used the eye as my focal point on this shot and could probably have taken the aperture to f8 to get a deeper depth of field-but the picture actually turned out well.

The next series of shots is a sequence of an eagle catching a fish--notice after he has caught it and begins to get airborne that he actually checks to see if he has the fish!

f6.3; 1/3200 ISO 1000 EC +.33

f6.3; 1/2500 ISO 1000 EC +.33

f6.3 1/2500 ISO 1000 EC+.33

f6.3 1/2500 ISO 1000 EC +.33

f6.3 1/2500 ISO 1000 EC+.33

The next shot was after another sequence of shots were the eagle caught one-but then he lost it.  After he found he lost it, he circled back and picked the fish out of the water again. 

f6.3 1/1250 ISO 800 EC 0.0

This was a difficult shot to get.   The eagle with the fish was being pursued by 5 other eagles and they kept getting blinded from me by a row of trees along the river bank.  Finally they came out into the open and I was able to get a burst of shots of the chase with this one being the best.

f6.3 1/6400 ISO 1000 EC +.33

After many tries on many trips I was finally able to get a Bald Eagle in a well lighted dive for a fish.  This one was with the 1.4tc on the 600mm lens giving a focal length of 840mm (or about 17x magnification)

f7.1 1/3200 ISO 640 EC +.33


Until Next Time!
Jim Borden

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Pa Elk in the Fall

We have been busy with business and family the past few weeks but have had time to visit Elk County Pennsylvania before the beginning of the Elk Season.  We saw over 275 different elk in the Benezett area-all of them in the hunt zone.  All of these elk were very acclimated to human interaction.  It is very difficult to understand those that support the hunt 100% when one sees how tame these elk are.  Their claims that they go into the back country and the elk are not tame there is certainly a misunderstanding of the facts.  The PGC claims the elk herd is about 700 to 800 animals.  With that in mind I observed about 1/3 of the entire herd in two days at benezett.  Joan and I took a walk back in the woods and I was able to walk within 15 yards of a small herd of elk resting in the woods.  They showed no signs of fear and remained laying down while I photographed them.  A certain faction of the individuals that I have conversed with from the area that are avid hunters and members of the Keystone Elk Alliance have begun calling some of us anti-hunters because we oppose the Pa Elk Hunt.  One individual's conversations are laced with veiled violent rhetoric and he has even said the anti hunters better be careful in the woods during the hunt because they might get hurt.  It is sad to see that some of these individuals can not have an adult conversation about the pros and cons of how the hunt is run and a discussion of the facts concerning the hunt showing that it is not a fair chase hunt.  It is also sad that they can not understand that many of us that oppose the Pa Elk Hunt are avid hunters and Sportsmen!

With that part of it aside-we had a great time viewing and photographing the elk.
Canon Mk IV 1D; 600 f4 at f4 1/100; ISO 2500 EC +.67

Canon Mk IV 1D; 600 f4 at f4; 1/160 ISO 2000 ec+.67

Canon Mk IV 1D; Canon 600mm f4 at f4 1.40; ISO4000 ec+.67

Canon Mk IV 1 D; Canon 600 f4 at f4; 1/100 ISO 2500 EC +.67

Canon Mk IV 1D; canon 600 f4 at f4.5; 1/125 ISO 4000 EC +.67

Canon Mk IV 1D; Canon 600 f4 at f4.5; 1/125 ISO 4000 EC +.67

Canon Mk IV 1D; Canon 600 f4 at f4; 1/60 ISO2000

Since most of the good photo opportunities were early in the morning and late in the evening, it gave us a good chance to really push the ISO capabilities of the camera.  I had previously thought I would need to stop at ISO 2000 to retain good picture quality-but this trip proved that theory wrong.  I was able to take high quality pictures up to an including ISO 4000.

here is a parting shot.  Joan took this picture of me after we had walked to the back of the reclaim area in hunt zone 2.  I had walked across the open field area toward the elk to see if they would spook-the wind was to my back and I was in the open.  I walked to within 15 yards of the elk and they did not show any signs of fear or anxiousness.  This is the spot where friends had been a few weeks prior and the archer and/or the archer's "guide" that were hunting there made claims that "anti's" had interfered with the hunt.  No one spooked any elk or attempted to spook any elk and the archer could have directly walked up to the elk if he had so chosen.

Until next time

Jim Borden

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Pa Fall Foliage 2010

Our part of Pennsylvania peaked with fall foliage early this year-so some of the spots we usually get to visit to take very colorful pictures were rather dull because we were in maine when our peak occurred.    However, there were some scenes that became very colorful late and it allowed us to take some good images.

Misty Morning Wilson Pond-Lymanville Pa

Reflection on Wilson Pond

Farm Pond near Springville Pa

View at Harrison Lookout in Pa Grand Canyon

View at Colton Point in Pa Grand Canyon

Falls on Campbell Run near Tiadagton Pa
Swimming Hole I enjoyed 45 or so years ago

Some of the above photos were taken using High Dynamic Range (HDR) Photography.  

Until next Time
Jim Borden

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Maine Fall Foliage and Wildlife

We spent 9 wonderful days in Northern maine enjoying the scenery and looking for wildlife.  We saw coyotes, foxes, spruce grouse, ruffed grouse, deer and of course-Moose!  We did not see as many moose this fall as we normally do as there was quite a bit of foliage left in the woods at the beginning of the week and the moose were not frequenting the ponds and rivers as much as they normally do this time of year.  We had a couple of days of little to no wind and clear skies so there were some opportunities for photographing some awesome reflections.  I am certainly glad I had experimented with doing HDR photos this summer so I could put the techniques to good use this trip.  Photoshop CS5 handles doing HDR composites very well without any plugins or additional programs being required.

This is an HDR composite of three photos: -2, -1 and normal exposure.

This is also a composite HDR image made up of three shots: -2, -1 and normal exposure.

It is very important to use a tripod and to focus the camera before starting and then put in manual focus and make no further focus adjustments -then take the 3 to 7 shots with various exposures about 1 stop apart.  

I also found that the use of a camera with the ability to take pictures at higher ISO was a definitive advantage to get some shots that would otherwise have been missed.  Early morning is often a great time for seeing moose and light is at a minimum then.  Elevated ISO helps keep shutter speeds up with long lenses to prevent blur.  here is an example of an image shot at 4000 ISO:

600MM lens; 1/50; f4; ISO 4000; Image stabilization off; 6:36 am

It was barely light when the above image was captured.  The scene looks bright as the histogram was right of center which is important to control noise when taking images at high ISO.

The above image was taken during the time of "Golden Light".  It gives images a pleasing quality. Shadows are controlled with the low sun angle. This image was taken at 840MM; f7.1; 1/1250; ISO 400.

Occasionally we get lucky when taking images.  A spruce grouse caught me by surprise and there was no time to setup tripod -so I grabbed the 600 and turned IS on and spun the ISO to 1000 and cranked the aperture wide open (f4).  I am surprised that the shot turned out as the shutter speed was 1/60 and I was handholding over my knee.  Here is the result:

Later I had the opportunity to capture a spruce grouse when I was ready with tripod.  He cooperated well:

Tripod mounted 600; f5; 1/30; ISO 400; IS turned off

We saw six different bull moose with the following being the largest we photographed:

Check out for a slide show of more photos from the trip.  

Until next Time!

Jim Borden

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Pine Creek Valley Wildlife Weekend

We enjoyed another peasant weekend in the Pine Creek Valley of North Central Pa.  The wildlife were very active this weekend.  It seemed the ducks were congregating to get ready to migrate.  We saw many mergansers fly by the cabin in large groups.  We also saw a number of mallards and wood ducks.  We spent some time sneaking up and taking pictures of wood ducks as they are some of our favorites.  The still back waters, ponds and other still pools still have a layer of algae and pollen on them.

This one was shot with a Canon 7D with a 600 f4 lens attached.  It was shot at ISO500, f7.1, 1/200. Normally I use a tripod, but in this instance Joan's shoulder had to serve as tripod. The 7D performed well delivering a sharp picture with fine detail in the feathers. More about this later.

We found three whitetail bucks feeding together in the ferns and brush.  There was a spike, a scraggly 8 point and a mature 8 point.  The spike would easily walk into the open and was not at all afraid of us.  The scraggly 8 point would then start to come into the open and the mature 8 point would stay in the brushy area.  The scraggly 8 point would start the foot stomp, ducking head routine and then he would run and all three would go into the woods and then come out again.  This continued for three or four cycles and we finally left so they could eat in peace.

The mature 8 point never did give us an open shot.  This picture is the type that might be used with a story in a hunting magazine. 

Canon Mk IV 1D, 600 f4 lens, ISO 500, f6.3, 1/8

The sharpness of the above picture amazes me when considering it was taken with a 600mm lens with a shutter speed of 1/8.  I got lucky on that one!

Canon Mk IV 1D, 600 f4 lens, ISO 2000, f4, 1/160

I did not do any noise correction on this picture and you can see some digital noise in the background, but once again the sharpness is surprising for such a low shutter speed.   Good long lens technique combined with observing and understanding animal behavior helps deliver pictures such as this. Deer and many other animals have a sequence of motions that they go through and then they momentarily stop.  It is helpful to learn those motions and watch an animal and determine their cycle, then wait and take advantage of that moment when they stop all motion.

Canon Mk IV 1D, 600 f4 lens, ISO 2000, f4, 1/250

This picture has had noise correction applied to the background area.  The above two pictures demonstrate the quality of the Canon 600 f4 lens and its ability to deliver sharp images at wide open aperture.

We were fortunate to see black bears again this weekend.  Joan took the following picture were off a bean bag as we were not in a position to setup tripods without disturbing the bear and its yearling cub.  Notice the reflection of the yellow/green ferns on the bear's fur.

Nikon D300, 80-400 f3.5-5.6 lens at 400mm, ISO 400,  f6.3, 1/100 

If this picture looks like it was taken from the same position as the one above-that is almost correct-I was behind Joan and used her shoulder again as a "tripod". 

Canon Mk IV 1D, 600 f4 lens, ISO 1600, f5.6, 1/640, EC-.67

The exposure compensation had to be set at -.67 to keep the ferns from "blowing out".    The metering in the Nikon camera did not create that effect so Joan did not have to use EC. 

We saw a number of hawks over the weekend and we got to photograph three-a red tail hawk, a broad wing hawk and a red shouldered hawk.  We were fairly close to the red tail hawk and the broad shouldered hawk and we got good pictures.  The red shouldered hawk was a little further away and I wanted to take advantage of the crop factor of the 7D body so I used the 1.4 TC on the 600 lens with the 7D body and found that i could not take a sharp picture.  I will be doing more experimenting with that as I am able to take sharp pictures with the 1.4 TC and the 600 lens and the Mk Iv 1D body.

Canon Mk IV 1D, 600 f4 lens, ISO 640, f5.6, 1/400
Broad Wing Hawk (?)

Canon 7D, 600 f4 lens, ISO 800, f7.1, 1/2000
Red Tail Hawk

Canon 7D, 600 f4 lens with 1.4 TC, ISO 400, f7.1, 1/400
Red Shouldered Hawk

This was the sharpest I could get with the 1.4 TC on the 600 f4 with the 7D body.  The equivalent focal length in 35MM of the above picture is 1344 mm--so maybe it is a matter of shutter speed and I will have to experiment to determine.

Until next time:

Jim Borden

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Peaceful Days

For me this time of year represents peaceful days in preparation for the coming changes of foliage and weather.  It is a time to reflect on the year and look forward to the next and thank God for allowing me to walk through life and enjoy his wonders yet another day.  Photography has been a calming intervention in my life and even though I have enjoyed photography for about 40 years now-the last 4 years have been special-it has helped me stop, assess life for what it is and take time to enjoy the ride.

Thanks for looking.

Peaceful pond near our home. our lives are like a pebble dropping into the pond-we may make a ripple or a wave which is soon dampened to the reflective beauty we see here.

I really enjoy watching the deer in the backyard.  We often travel far to enjoy and photograph wildlife and yet return home and they are right here for us to enjoy!

Until next time.
Jim Borden

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Backyard Whitetails and Some Sunflowers

The deer have started to frequent our "backyard" as we approach the fall.  This morning we were treated to  a doe, a fawn and a nice 8 point buck for about an hour.  The doe and fawn both spent some time in our old standing corn that we have left for the birds and animals.  The buck remained in the shadows so we did not get any pictures of him in the Golden Light.

The doe has the beautiful Golden light on her.  As a wildlife picture, this would be heavily critiqued by pros for being "too busy".  However, as a picture of a deer in a natural habitat it has value.

We took a day trip on Friday and we came upon a sunflower field.  The lighting was good so we spent some time taking photos.  I took some with a 24-105 lens set at f14 and then some with a 600 lens set at f14 to try to illustrate the different depth of field effect that you get at the same f stop setting with differing focal lengths.  The longer focal length decreases the depth of focus while at the same time somewhat flattening the image.

First Image 105mm focal length, f14, ISO 200, 1/100

Second image  600mm focal length, f14, ISO 200, 1/160

Until next time!

Jim Borden

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Whitetail Time

We had a great weekend with daughter's family along Pine Creek last weekend.  The grandadughters played in Pine Creek, we biked and we went animal looking.  We saw 8 different bears and they were difficult to get pictures of due to the time of day and they were in woods. I did get a few shots at 2000 ISO and 3200 ISo, but shutter speeds were low and the pictures were not crisp.  One thing we observed was 4 different sets of triplet fawns and many sets of twins.  This is certainly encouraging for future deer populations.

here is one of the does that came out well at 2000 ISO:

Next is one fawn from a set of triplets--they showed off for teh grand daughters for quite a while:

Here is a bear at 2000 ISO and low shutter speed. He has two ear tags-so may be a nuisance bear?

One thing to remember when shooting at 800 ISO or higher is to keep the histogram to teh right without bowing out the details.  By doing that-detail will be maximized with minimum noise for that ISO level.

Until next time

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