Photoshop Elements for Bird Photos

The weather is still pretty inclement around here.  We did do a little birding

Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike

 from our van yesterday morning after feeding the birds.  We saw our first Loggerhead Shrike of the season.  After that we went home and I framed two more prints to display at Kenny Blanek’s Village Cafe.  If you haven’t been there, Kenny lets me hang a few pictures there, then he sells them for me.

Earlier I mentioned that I would talk a little about photo editing software.  My personal preference is Photoshop Elements.  For two reasons.  One, it is a lot cheaper than Photoshop CS4, but contains a lot of it’s features.  Second, I don’t want to pay those big bucks for Photoshop CS4.

I don’t use my photo editing programs to do any kind of digital gimmickry.  I do the same thing that I would do with a regular darkroom, except I keep my hands cleaner, not having to mess with chemicals.  I usually check my photos, for the right lighting, contrast, and color correction.  However, if when composing a picture through the view finder, if there is an unwanted

Western Meadowlark before edit

Western Meadowlark before edit

 element in there that I can’t physically remove, I will clone it out digitally.  Of course, in the chemical darkroom, I would do that anyway.

Here are two photos of a Western Meadowlark that I took a couple of years ago.  The first one is the original file.  The second is the cropped and edited version.  You can see that I like to crop tight for good close-ups, and then give the picture more snap with adding contrast and adjusting the color. 

Western Meadowlark after edit

Western Meadowlark after edit

When these photos were taken, I was still shooting in the JPEG format.  Since then, I have changed to shooting in the RAW format.  Photoshop Elements 7 and the new and latest version, Photoshop Elements 8, make the RAW conversion very easy.  RAW gives you much more detail in the shadows and better tonality.  But to use the photo you have to convert it to JPEG, Tiff, or other formats.

Now for the birder that isn’t into photography for arts sake, expensive editing software isn’t necessary.  But you would want some way to store the images and print them.  So there are some very inexpensive programs out there.

Happy Birding!!

More photos at

Damp, Cool, Overcast Day

Hey, this isn’t Michigan.  This is supposed to be West Texas, where it is usually hot and dry.  As usual, the rain that we get isn’t in the right places.   O. C. Fisher Lake is down to only 4% of it’s capacity according to the experts, but I suspect it is getting closer to 3%.

It could be worse.   Many, many years ago, there was a TV show called “Laugh-in”.   It starred two comedians by the names of Rowen and Martin.  Well, they gave San Angelo “The Fickle Finger of Fate” award when O. C. Fisher lake caught fire and took a fire truck with it.

Ann and I are taking over the bird-feeding job at San Angelo State Park bird blind for a few days, as the people that usually do it are out of town.   We went out there this morning, and it was chilly enough for a jacket.   We hung around for a bit but I think most of the birds were hunkered down for warmth.

I wanted to see those MacGillivray’s Warblers again.   I want to be sure that I hadn’t mis-identified them.  The Mourning Warbler is very similar and it would have been very easy to make a mistake.  But both species are seldom seen around this area.  It would have been quite a co-incidence of both were here at this time, and I don’t think that happened.

In the photo that I posted a few days ago of the MacGillivray’s, I thought I could see the dark lore that connected across between the eyes.  The Mourning Warbler doesn’t have that.  However, the photo is not very distinct; the only usable one I obtained.  That may well be just a shadow over the eyes.  The bird presented a challenge to photograph as he or she, was flitting in and around a reedy, grassy wet area. 

I may get lucky soon.  Stay tuned……………

Happy Birding!!


Birding and Photography

Birding and photography go hand in hand.  That’s not to say that you have to be a photographer to be a birder.  But to own a camera of some type is a definite help in being able to identify bird species.  How exasperating it can be to see a bird that you don’t recognize, then try to remember what you saw while you are looking at you bird guides.  If you have a photo that has a decent image of the bird, it can be of great assistance.

Most cameras manufactured today, have some sort of zoom lens.  However, in my experience I would recommend for birding, you have a zoom of at least 300mm or equilivant.  You can find SLRs, (Single Lens Reflex) cameras or inexpensive point and shoot cameras.  You don’t have to spend a lot of money, but you want one that will give you a decent image, preferably close-up.

I,myself, use a pair of Canon 40D digital SLRs.  The 40D is probably classified a middle of the range in price.  It has all the features that I need, and some that are found in the high-end super-expensive cameras.  But having said that, I do use the top of the line super-expensive lenses.  That is because that regardless of the price of the camera, you have nothing if you don’t have good a quality lens.  It is the lens that make for great photographs.  The camera is just a tool to make things easier.  So if you have low to medium end camera that takes inter-changeable lens, think about up-grading your lenses before changing equipment.

Also when considering a camera or lens, check to see if there is auto-focus, or image-stabilization.  Both features make it easier to catch the action when the bird is about to fly, or if the light is so low that you need a slower shutter speed.

As I said before I use the Canon 40D.  My favored lenses are the Canon 100-400mm L series zoom, and the Canon 500mm f4 L Series super-telephoto.  The 500mm is not a zoom, but a fixed focal-length lens.  I can add a 1.4x teleconverter to lengthen it to 700mm.  If I add my 2x converter, it will be a healthy 1000mm.  Of course, with that big lens I use a heavy Manfrotto-Bogen tripod.   You can see that set-up in the picture at the right in the side-bar.

That’s it for the day.  Maybe the next time I will touch on photo-editing software.

Happy Birding!!


MacGillivray’s Warbler

Forget about all that talk yesterday about my age, and birthdays and all that stuff.  Today it is back to normal for me.

We got a call from Sid and Suzanne Johnson.  They wanted to come to San Angelo to go birding.  You don’t think that I am going to say no to a proposition like that, do you.  Ann says let’s do it.

After they arrived we headed to San Angelo State Park and the bird blind.

MacGillivray's Warbler

MacGillivray's Warbler

We put the usual feed out as we like to help out there on week-ends.  Not much activity there for awhile, mostly because there was a hawk shadowing the area for awhile.  After he was gone things picked up a bit.  House Finches, Black-crested Titmice, House Sparrows, Red-winged Blackbirds, but not much else until………….. there was movement in an area of some standing water and some reeds.  We spotted three MacGillivray’s Warblers.  They are a specie that is seldom seen in the area.  I managed to get a few photos but the birds were flighty in amongst the grass.  The one shown here is the best of the lot, then not the greatest.  I was using my 100-400mm hand-held. 

I went back to the van for my 500mm but by the time I got it set up, the moment and warblers were gone.  Next time I will have my 500mm set up first and be ready as soon as I walk into the blind.  Nevertheless, it was a lifer for me.

Later, after leaving the blind, we drove down towards the lake shore.  The American White Pelicans, and the American Avocets were  still hanging around.  Also some Blue Herons, Egrets, Sandpipers, and I think I spotted some American Coots.

Then we drove out the the Nasworthy Dam.  There they had the outlet flowing pretty heavily so that gushing torrent did nothing for any bird watching.  So we decided to call it a day, but for one last stop over the Twin Buttes Reservoir Equalization Channel.  There we spotted three Ospreys.  So all in all, not a bad day considering it was pretty much cool, cloudy and windy.

Happy Birding!!

More photos at

Celebrating a Milestone

What milestone is that, you may ask.  Well, today I reached my 75th year on this great planet of ours.  I saw it coming, but just couldn’t delay it.  It may seem odd, but I have always watched my life in 25 year increments.  Age 21 didn’t do as much for me as age 25 did.   Oh, yeah, at 21 I could drink and carouse around, but I really didn’t think about aging until I hit 25.

At 25 you start to think that, hey, I better start growing up and acting my age, you know, act a little more mature.  Then at 50 you think that this is the top of the hump and you’re only going to start downhill.  Little do you know that you also start picking up speed.  So then between when I turned 70 and yesterday, I always said that I was in my early 70s.

So that brings us to today.  Can’t say early 70s anymore, now it will be upper 70s for awhile.  Wow, now that takes my breath away.  How can that be?  I feel the same now as I did yesterday.  Actually, I feel the same as I did when I was in my mid-60s.  And that’s what important.  Age is only a number, and as the saying goes, you’re only as old as you feel.

If you read my bio you noticed that I didn’t say much about my early years.  I was born a  little pudgy round little babe, but started to lose weight until at about five years of age I was kinda scrawny.  I got anemic, had to take weekly shots for several years to counter that.  I suffered through a bout of encephalitis, which at that time was, and maybe still is, a somewhat rare malady.  I had got bitten by a some kind mosquito they said, but I don’t remember much as I was in a coma for about five days.

Then at age twenty I decided to enlist in the Air Force.  My younger brother Jim decided to enlist also.  We went together to sign up.  Now Jim was two inches taller, out-weighed me by 50 pounds.  I was 6’1″ tall and only weighed 119 pounds.  Everybody expected me to get rejected, but instead it was Jim that couldn’t get in.  They said he had some kidney abnormalities.

During basic training in upstate New York, I contracted pneumonia.  I was put in the hospital.  There the docs decided to fatten me up.  I spent thirty days in there, but I came out a svelt 139 pounds.  Whoopee!!  I ended up spending a little over seven years in the service of my country, then got released because of a medical problem.  It seems that I have a little deal called Marfan’s Syndrome.  It caused my lung to collapse on two different occasions.  One of those times I was playing the saxophone at the Cactus Hotel Ballroom with Leonard King’s Orchestra.  (More about my music career in another blog)  So there is no cure for this so-called disease.  It is genetic.  But not to worry, it is not necessarily fatal as long as I take the right pre-cautions.

So having said all that, and I can’t believe I unloaded all that at this time, I will begin my quest of another 25 years.  Despite what I said above, my overall health is great.  My doctor says I am in great shape considering the shape I’m in.  And my doctor isn’t the type to joke around much.

So my special day today started with a Happy Birthday from my very special best friend in Knoxville, Tennessee, then Ann and I decided to go birding at San Angelo State Park.   Saw that same flock of about 250 American White Pelicans, some herons, egrets, etc.  We stopped at the bird blind.  Several birds for awhile, until a Sharp-shinned Hawk flew in and spooked them all away.

As soon as I finish this blog, if I can get myself to shut up, I may work on a new book that I want to publish.   It will be a deluxe edition of some of my best bird photos.   You know, a “Bob’s Greatest Hits” type of thing.   Then maybe Ann and I will go out some for a nice supper.

I wonder what the next 25 years will bring.  Hmmm………………………

Happy Birding!!