Friday, January 21, 2011

Back Yard Photography and Short Ear Owls

This time of year is great for viewing and photographing Short Ear Owls, Long Ear Owls, Northern Harriers, and Rough Legged Hawks that have migrated to our area for the winter.  As I talk with photographer friends I hear many languish about it being winter and cold and they are planning their expensive trips to Yellowstone, Alaska and other far off places.  I certainly dream about visiting those areas again-but Joan and I have looked at what we can do with short, local trips and have many more opportunities versus focusing all the resources on one or two trips.  The ability to locate and photograph migrating birds in our area is an example.  We have been driving about 3 hours each way on day trips to see and photograph Rough Legged hawks, Short ear Owls and long Ear Owls.  Recently a friend birder -Joe Demarco-clued me into short ear owls on a farm less than 10 miles from where I live.  Three trips to that farm this week yielded great pictures of the short ear owls and also the opportunity to see rough legged hawks and a first for me-dark morph rough legged hawks.  I need to spend more time around that farm to be bale to get quality pictures of the rough legged hawks, but our opportunities for the short ear owls have been great.  Photographing them can be a challenge as they normally come out near dark and/or on overcast days in late afternoon.  It requires use of high ISO and careful attention to the histogram on back of camera to make sure the pictures are being exposed to the right to keep noise down. One effect as a result of this type of photography is that the images have a slight blue cast to them--it can be corrected in photoshop-but I prefer to leave it as it is what I saw with my eyes.

Canon 1D MK IV, Canon 600mm f4 @ f7.1 1/500 ISO 1000 EC+1 about 30 yds
The next one is an example of where the high ISO was absolutely necessary to get shutter speed up for inflight.  Even at 2000 ISO I was only at 1/1000 shutter speed which is usually marginal for in flight shots-however, owls glide and I caught him in almost a stall so he came out crisp!
Canon 1D MK IV, Canon 600mm f4 @ f5.6 1/1000 ISO 2000 EC+1 about 60 yds

Patience often pays off with a special shot such as this next two images.  However, at 9 degrees F in blowing wind-it can be tempting to get back in a warm vehicle!

Canon 1D MK IV, Canon 600mm f4 @ f5 1/1000 ISO 2000 EC+.67 over 100 yds 

Canon 1D MK IV, Canon 600mm f4 @ f5 1/2000 ISO 2000 EC+.67 over 100 yds

Canon 1D MK IV, Canon 600mm f4 @ f5 1/1250 ISO 2000 EC+.67 over 100 yds 
Canon 1D MK IV, Canon 600mm f4 @ f5 1/1600 ISO 2000 EC+.67 over 100 yds 
Canon 1D MK IV, Canon 600mm f4 @ f4 1/1250 ISO 2000 EC+.67 over 100 yds 
Canon 1D MK IV, Canon 600mm f4 @ f4 1/1600 ISO 2000 EC+.67 over 100 yds
The following is a documentation picture-it is not as sharp as I want-nor is the composition what I like-but I am using it in my personal bird album as documentation of a dark morph rough legged hawk

Canon 1D MK IV, Canon 600mm f4 @ f5.6 1/800 ISO 12500 EC+1 over 100 yds

Until Next Time

Jim Borden

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Winter Time is Eagle Time

Canon 1D MK IV; Canon 600 f4 with 1.4TC (840mm) @f8 1/2500 -.33EC ISO1000 @100+ yds

Northeast USA is a wonderful place to be in winter to enjoy the American Bald Eagle.  As winter freezes rivers and lakes in Canada and the Northeast USA, the Bald Eagles migrate south in search of easier food supplies.  They congregate in areas of open water with a good supply of fish.  Places like the Conowingo Dam in Maryland, the reservoirs along the Hudson River Valley and the Delaware River Valley become stopping and/or wintering spots for the Eagles.  Joan and I have found some places that have been good for us for eagle sightings as well as Eagle Photography.  The Conowingo Dam in Maryland is a popular place for birders and photographers to congregate in October and November to view and photograph the eagles.  The activity continues through the winter but with less activity than is seen in October and November.  I am not certain why-but have a theory that the eagles that stop at Conowingo end up going father south for the winter months.  We have found that the Northern Delaware water shed region has been a very good area for observing and photographing the Bald Eagle in winter.  We visited one such area on Monday-January 3 and were treated to an entire day of eagles fishing in open water at the upper end of a reservoir.  It was exciting to watch and photograph.  We could not successfully photograph part of it as there were trees between the road and the stream entering the reservoir.  One tree there had 12 adult bald eagles perched in it. The photography is done from the vehicle on a window mount.  The reason for this is that leaving the vehicle is prohibited by law in that area when the eagles have migrated there.  Many of the eagles there have migrated from areas where they have little to no contact with humans and people outside of vehicles alarm them and they fly away and do not come back.  We have previously used a small boat launch parking lot and could be within 35 to 50 yards of the perched and flying and fishing eagles.  However, that parking lot is closed this winter because of individuals last winter ignoring the regulations and they were getting out of the vehicle.  Images can still be done in that area but the distance is 100 plus yards.

A very solid mounting system is required.  Some use window bags, but I have found with large lenses to get sharp results I have to use a sturdy window mount (such as a BM or Kirk) along with ball head and sidekick Gimbal.

Here are some shots from January 3:

Immature taking flight:
Canon 1D MK IV; Canon 600 f4 @f5.6 1/1600 ISO1600 @about 100 yds 

NYS Blue banded D44 After Takeoff:

Canon 1D MK IV; Canon 600 f4 @f5 1/1250 ISO1600 @about 100 yds

NYS Blue D44 surveying the situation:
Canon 1D MK IV; Canon 600 f4  @f7.1 -.33EC 1/160 ISO640 @about 60 yds

NYS Blue Y50 sitting on stump watching ducks:
Canon 1D MK IV; Canon 600 f4 @f5 1/640 -.33EC ISO1600 @60 yds

Maryland Pink Band U2 Landing on stump with a fish:
Canon 1D MK IV; Canon 600 f4 with 1.4TC (840mm) @f8 1/1250 -.33EC ISO1000 @100+ yds

Immature Bald Eagle in flight:
Canon 1D MK IV; Canon 600 f4  @f6.3 1/1600 -1EC ISO400 @100+ yds

Immature coming in for a catch:
Canon 1D MK IV; Canon 600 f4 @f4 1/4000 -.33EC ISO2500 @about 100 yds

Three adults looking for small fish along edge just before dark:
Canon 1D MK IV; Canon 600 f4 @f4 1/320 ISO1000 @about 100 yds

Immature on stump watching ducks:
Canon 1D MK IV; Canon 600 f4 with 1.4TC (840mm) @f9 1/1600-.33EC ISO1000 @about 60 yds

Until next time!

Jim Borden

Sunday, January 2, 2011

2010-A year of Growth

2010 was a year of growth for me with photography.  Even though I have been doing wildlife photography as a hobby for over 32 years, I found 2010 to be one of the years of most significant learning.  I struggled through 2009 with issues with a very expensive long telephoto lens.  It took quite some time in 2009 and early 2010 to find that the issues I was having were not the result of poor long lens technique, but due to a lens that was incapable of resolving fine detail at distances over 60 feet or so away.  Through the help of fellow friend photographers Mark Picard, Herb Houghton and Gary Steele and the application of my own problem solving skills I was able to finally identify the lens as the issue and was able to move on.  Once I had new equipment to work with I was able to once again experiment, learn and grow in my photography skills. I am so thankful that my interest in wildlife photography was rekindled in 2007 through meeting a new friend-Mark Picard.  It has changed my life.  I have refocused on family and spending time in the outdoors enjoying God's wonder.

Reading friend Coy Hill's blog and his review of his best pictures of 2010 stimulated me to do a similar thing.  While reviewing my images from 2010, I found it was difficult to pick "the best".  I also found that while some were not the greatest or sharpest images, they brought a smile to my face through the memory of the moment when the picture was taken.  I decided to share some of the images here and also share a link to a slideshow of the most memorable for me in 2010.

I have tried for years to get a great loon picture and this year I was blessed with the opportunity to get a female loon with her twins out for a ride:

I once again got to watch moose go about their business of feeding, courting and playing:

I have found the resurgence of the bald Eagle to be intriguing and I enjoy spending hours observing them and learning their behaviors:

Out maneuvering Black Bears to get good shots has been challenging and fun:

Awaking early in the morning and walking among the Elk of Pa continues to be enjoyable and informative:

Enjoying the color change in the fall has been calming:

Doing all this with my wife of 40 years has been the best!

Until Next Time

Jim Borden