YEE-HAH!! Published again…………


I have great news again.  I have been published again for the second time in National Wildlife Magazine.  But, strangely, it is the same photo of mine that was on the cover of the August 2010 issue.  This time it is on page 8 of the October 2011 issue.  If you didn’t see it last year, here is the image.

Prairie Dogs at San Angelo, Texas

  •  Canon EOS 20D with Canon 100-400mm zoom lens
  • 1/3200 sec. @ f5.6 – ISO 3200
  • Lens focal distance – 380mm
  • Partial metering – Aperture priority

I apologize for being such a braggart, but I am kind of proud of my achievements over the years.  This photo of the old mission near Menard was published in the February 2007 issue of Wild West Magazine.  They were doing an article on this historic ruin and purchased the rights to use the picture.

Presidio De San Saba

 This photo of a water lily from the San Angelo International Water Lily Collection was publishd in the November 1999 issue of Photographer’s Forum Magazine.

"Magnificent Ballerina"

In the December 2008 issue of Texas Farm and Ranch Magazine, this quail photo appeared in an ad for “Blue Quail Hunts at the Felix River Ranch” in New Mexico.

Scaled Quail

When Ross McSwain decided to write his story, “See No Evil, Speak No Evil”, he approached me about a photo for the cover of the book.  This one of the barn and wagon is the one he picked.  Published in August 2008.

"Old Barn and Wagon"

And you thought that I only took bird photographs. 🙂

In other news, this probably will be my last post for about a week or so.  Ann and I are leaving Monday morning to spend a few days around or near Big Bend National Park.  We will be staying near Terlingua, the home of the annual National Chili Cookoff, which happens sometime in November.  Our room will actually be a little cabin at about 3 miles from the entrance to Big Bend NP.  Click this link, FarFlung Outdoor Center and if you like come down and join us. 🙂

Today and tomorrow will be spent doing the usual chores that pertain to traveling.  Checking my cameras and equipment, washing the car, buying last minute items, stopping the paper, and the mail, etc.  So don’t forget me in our absence and I will probably post again sometime next weekend.  Hopefully, I’ll have some more news and images from our trip.

Have a great week! 🙂

Feisty Black-crested Titmouses


The Black-crested Titmouse (Baeolophus atricristatus), is the western version of the eastern Tufted Titmouse.  A cute, but feisty, little bird that is one of my favorites.  I took the following photographs a couple of years ago with my Canon 40D camera.  I came across the images when sorting through a few this morning and I thought you’d like to see them.

Black-crested Titmouse
  •  Canon EOS 40D with Canon 100-400 zoom lens
  • 1/800 sec. @ f6.3 – ISO 400
  • Partial metering – Aperture priority
Black-crested Titmouse
  •  Canon EOS 40D with Canon 100-400mm zoom lens
  • 1/400 sec. @ f6.3 – ISO 640
  • Partial metering – Aperture priority
Black-crested Titmouse
  • Canon EOS 40D with Canon 500mm lens w/1.4 tele-converter
  • 1/250 sec. @ f5.6 – ISO 800
  • Center weighted metering – Aperture priority

    Black-crested Titmouse

  • Canon EOS 40D with Canon 500mm lens w/1.4 tele-converter
  • 1/800 sec. @ f5.6 – ISO 500
  • Center weighted metering – Aperture priority

I hope that you have enjoyed these images of the ferocious little bird.  Click on any of them to see an enlargement.

 

A solid platform for sharper images


In my post yesterday, I neglected to mention the importance of having your camera in a solid position.  This is so important when you want to get the sharpest image possible.  Much has been said about the cameras and lenses that have some kind of image stabilization.  That feature has been a boon to photography.  However, this feature cannot be taken for granted.  It will stablize the image, but not freeze it.

Image stabilization, called differently by each camera brand, can be beneficial when hand-holding your camera in low light, or when no tripod is available.  But even then you must still be sure that you don’t move the camera too much.  It will not freeze an object that is moving.  It will not help if the wind is blowing the trees and bushes.

I use a Manfrotto tripod and Wimberley gimbal tripod head for my heavy Canon 500mm lens.  When in my car, I can use a Puffin Pad foam support that fits on the window.  A bean bag will work also.  When using my Canon 100-400mm zoom lens, I usually hand hold it, unless I am sitting in a blind.  Then of course, I can get comfortable and put it on a tripod.  It has IS (image stabilization), and does a fine job of getting sharp images, and using fast shutter speeds help even more.

There are two popular types of tripod heads available, besides my Wimberley gimbal.  They are the ball-head and the panhead.  There are pros and cons for each.  A ball head has only one know to adjust.  You can put the camera in any position and lock it down.  The one that I tried seemed to slip and sag after I locked it down.  Maybe I got a cheap one.  The panhead uses three different knobs, and for me the one I have and still use, seems pretty solid.  I feel it is easier to pan with it, too.  I loosen the knob just a smidge to allow me to smoothly pan left to right – or the other way, too. 🙂

There are many gimmicks available for sale, too.  One that sells for around 20.00 is a cord about 5 feet long with a loop on one end.  The other end you attach to the ring under your camera.  You put your foot in the loop and hold the camera with a little upward pressure, and you get a stable shot.  I saved 20.00 and put an old dog leash in my bag.  Great for emergencies.

Anyway, no matter how you do it, the point is to make sure your camera is stable in any photographic situation.

Cropping close for better close-ups


A friend of mine asked me the other day if I cropped my photographs.  I replied in the affirmative, that I cropped nearly all of my images to some extent.  Most of them very little, say for print sizes, etc.   But  I like to do most of my composition in-camera or in the view-finder if I can.

Unfortunately, trying to compose an esthetic picture while trying to capture a moving animal or a skittering bird, is very difficult.  So for that reason, I take what I can get, and compose during cropping.

Care must be taken to get your subject in focus.  My method is to use only one of the camera’s focus points.  Generally that for me, is the center one.  The importance of using only on point becomes to be most apparent when I am photographing a tiny bird among the branches, like the wren photo below.  With more than one focus point being used, the lens would be going wild searching because of the surrounding twigs and branches.

The first image below is what I saw through the view-finder.  You can see the difficulty I would have had with more than one focus point.  I also like to use spot metering in these cases, that is, if I remember to change the setting.  (Hey, I am human). 🙂  With spot-metering the chance of getting the subject exposed properly is much better.

Wilson's Warbler - original camera image

Wilson's Warbler - cropped and edited

The same principal applies to the following image of the Dickcissel.  Although the bird is more out in the open, there still was the fence wires to make focus difficult.  Of course, I must admit that one of the most difficult efforts, is to get that focus point on the bird.  But with practice it is easy to do with practice.   Remember,  what I see through the viewfinder is what is maybe 70-80 feet away, and I am looking through my 500mm lens.  I am actually much further away from the subject that it appears.  I had to use my binoculars to first locate the warbler in the bushes.

Dickcissel - original camera image

Dickcissel - cropped and edited

Of course, what I have described is only my methods based on my own experiences.  I am sure that some other photographers have their own ways of obtaining their images.  Heck, maybe I am doing things the hard way, but it is what works best for me.  At least, until someone asks “Hey, Bob, have you ever tried this?”  I am alway open to hearing tips from my peers.

But for now, that’s my story and I’m sticking with it. 🙂

I hope you enjoyed reading my little foray into trying to write an educational article.  I couldn’t think of anything else to write about today.  Click on the images to see enlargements.  Also, check out my other works by clicking on the Flickr logo on the right side of this page.

Eldorado Weekend of 42 Species


In my previous post I mentioned that we had seen 42 species at the Eldorado Water Treatment ponds and surrounding area.  Maybe some of my readers would be interested in the entire list.  All viewed within about 3 hours.

  1. Turkey Vultures  15
  2. Chihuahuan Raven  3
  3. Northern Cardinal  2
  4. Baltimore Oriole  2
  5. Lesser Goldfinch  6
  6. House Finch  10
  7. Black-chinned Hummingbird  4
  8. House Wren  2
  9. Pied-billed Grebes  24
  10. White-winged Dove15
  11. Mourning Dove  8
  12. Yellow Warbler  3
  13. Barn Swallow  25
  14. Northern Shoveler  50
  15. Scissor-tailed Flycatcher  13
  16. Clay-colored Sparrow  3
  17. Eastern Phoebe  2
  18. Egyptian Goose  2
  19. Great Egret  1
  20. Northern Pintail  24
  21. Wilson’s Phalarope  16
  22. Great Blue Heron  2
  23. Blue-winged Teal  18
  24. Green-winged Teal  17
  25. Blue Grosbeak  1
  26. Vermilion Flycatcher  1
  27. Red-winged Blackbird  5
  28. Yellow-headed Blackbird  2
  29. Spotted Sandpiper  3
  30. Baird’s Sandpiper  1
  31. Greater Roadrunne  4
  32. Lesser Scaup1
  33. Red-tailed Hawk  1
  34. Marsh Wren  25
  35. Common Yellowthroat  1
  36. Belted Kingfisher  1
  37. White-faced Ibis  26
  38. Dickcissel  6
  39. Savannah Sparrow  1
  40. Green Heron  1
  41. European Starling  4
  42. House Sparrow  8

Another Foray to Eldorado Water Treatment Ponds


This past weekend Ann and I decided to make another trip to one of our favorite birding haunts. the water treatment ponds at Eldorado, Texas.  Our friends, Suzanne and Sid Johnson, who live there accompanied us.  It was fruitful day, to say the least, as we saw 42 different species.  Three of the highlights are pictured below.

The first is a Wilson’s Warbler, (Wilsonia pusilla).  A pretty little yellow bird, identified by the black crown on it’s head.  This one was in a Hackberry tree along with a few of it’s friends.

Wilson's Warbler

  • Canon EOS 7D with Canon 500mm lens with 1.4 teleconverter
  • 1/640 sec. @ f13 minus 2/3 EV adjustment – ISO 100
  • Lens focal distance – 700mm
  • Partial metering
  • Shutter priority

After that we came across this bird sitting on a fence.  It was hard to ID at first, because of difficulty in getting close enough.  I thought it looked familiar, but wasn’t able to confirm what I saw until I was able to maneuver the car so I could get a shot with my long lens.  It is a Dickcissel (Spiza americana).  This is either a winter male, or a first year male.

Dickcissel

  • Canon EOS 7D with Canon 500mm lens with 1.4 teleconverter
  • 1/800 sec @ f6.3 – ISO 100
  • Lens focal distance – 700mm
  • Partial metering
  • Shutter priority

Along the ponds there an abundance of reeds.  In those reeds we saw a large proliferation of Marsh Wrens (Cistothorus palustris).

Marsh Wren

  • Canon EOS 7D with Canon 100-400mm zoom lens
  • 1/1250 sec. @ f5/6 minus 2/3 EV adjustment – ISO 400
  • Lens focal distance – 340mm
  • Spot metering
  • Shutter priority

A  side note to this story.  Late last night I received an e-mail from Suzanne Johnson.  She and Sid made another trip to the ponds after dinner and saw four Soras (Porzanna carolina).  They are the first ever to be seen in that area.

Click on any image to see an enlargement.  To see more of my photography click the Flickr Logo at the right side of this page.

San Angelo Water Lily Fest – 2011


As I have mentioned in previous posts, San Angelo, Texas is home to the largest international water lily collection in the world.  Fans of the beautiful water plants and blossoms come here from all over the world to see and study our flowers.  Ken Landon, the curator is the man behind all of this, obtaining the plants from other countries so San Angelo can keep on having the best and the biggest.

The Chamber of Commerce presents an annual festival to show off the gardens and today was the day.  A new species that was developed and bred by Mr. Landon, was presented to the city, and by proclaiming through the state judicial system, it has been named the Texas State Water Lily.  Our State Representative Mr. Drew Darby was the man behind that effort.  The species’ name is Texas Dawn.  It is pictured below.

"Texas Dawn" - State Water Lily of Texas

While I was at the water lily gardens I strolled around and got these images of some of the other water lilies.

Blossom from San Angelo Water Lily Collection

Blossom from San Angelo Water Lily Collection

Blossom from San Angelo Water Lily Collection

Blossom from San Angelo Water Lily Collection

So is not to take up a lot of space with EXIF data, suffice it to say that I shot all images with my Canon EOS 7D.  I used my Canon f4-5.6 IS 100-400mm zoom lens.  Basic exposures were with Aperture priority, at  ISO 400.  I processed bottom four images with PhotoMatix HDR pro, then fine tuned in Photoshop.

Also while there I met a young budding photographer Amanda Berrie.   David Tarver, another local wildlife photographer was there, as were my old friends from the San Angelo Visitors Center.

I hope you enjoy the images.  Click on any of them to see enlargements.

Remembering the Dark-eyed Juncos


Another of the forgotten species of birds that inhabit this part of west Texas is the Dark-eyed Junco. (Junco hyemalis).  In all honesty, I have never personally seen one here in San Angelo, but I have in nearby places such as the Abilene area and Fort Davis, for example.  Why they avoid San Angelo, I do not know.

The two types that I am familiar with are the Slate-colored group and the Oregon group.  Rather than try to tell you the differences in text, I will show a couple of  images that I took over the past few years.  In these photographs you can see the difference between the two.

Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon group)

  • Photographed February 15, 2009
  • Canon EOS 40D
  • Canon 100-400mm zoom lens  (400mm)
  • 1/500 sec. @ f5.6  ISO 400
  • Metering – center weighted
  • Aperture priority

Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored group)

  • Photographed November 10, 2010
  • Canon EOS 7D
  • Canon 500mm f4 IS super-tele lens  (500mm)
  • 1/400 sec. @ f4 – ISO 3200
  • Metering – partial
  • Shutter priority

There are also some other variations of the junco that are not ususally seen  around west Texas.  They are Pink-sided, White-winged, Gray-headed and Yellow-eyed.

Click on either of the images to see enlargements.

While you’re here click Avian101 to read a guest article that I contributed to H. J. Ruiz’s blog about birds and birding.

To see more of my photographic prowess, click on my Flickr logo a the right of this page.

The cute Scaled (Blue) Quail


In going through some more images from the past, I remembered these that are from early summer of 2007.  The Scaled Quail (Callipepla squamata), also known as Blue Quail.  A medium-sized, short-tailed quail with a tufted crest.  Feathers have a scaled appearance.  In my opinion, the numbers of them in west Texas are diminishing, as I haven’t seen them as often as I used to.

I have been fortunate to sell one of my photographs to an advertising agency.  Here I have three more images that you may enjoy.  They were taken about four years ago, when I was still using an old Canon EOS 20D, but still had my Canon 100-400mm lens.  I used Partial metering, at Aperture priority on all these images.

Scaled Quail

1/250 sec. @ f8 – ISO 400

Scaled Quail

1/400 sec. @ f5.6 – ISO 200

Scaled Quail

1/640 sec. @ f5.6 – ISO 200

I hope you enjoyed these images.  Click on any of them to see enlarged photos.