What?? Not Another Birding Trip??

Okay, I confess.  My name is Bob Zeller and I am a hopeless birding addict.  I tried to stop, but the withdrawal pains are too severe.  When I see a bird that I don’t recognize, I frantically dive into my thirty-some bird guides, tearing pages to make that elusive identification.  To add to my habit, I am also fanatic about wanting to photograph every bird I see.  I wade in the muck, crawl in the weeds, get tick-bit, all so I collect those photos.

So, to satisfy our cravings (Ann is addicted, too), we invited the Johnsons from Eldorado to join us.  We wanted to see if we could see more species this day than the day before, which I believe was 40.  We again set out for Middle Concho and Spring Creek parks.  Both parks in the same area, one on one side of the river, and the other park on the other side.  So the habitats for both are quite similar.  I have a few photo highlight for you.  Click photos to see beautiful enlargements.

Portrait of a Northern Mockingbird

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Belted Kingfisher

Great Blue Heron

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Horned Grebe (photographed previous day)

Here is the total species of 42 that we spotted.

  1.  Northern Mockingbird
  2.  Great-tailed Grackle
  3.  American White Pelican
  4.  Great Egret
  5.  Great Blue Heron
  6.  Northern Shoveler
  7.  Double-crested Cormorant
  8.  Ring-billed Gull
  9.  American Goldfinch
  10.  White-crowned Sparrow
  11.  American Coots
  12.  Pied-billed Grebe
  13.  Golden-fronted Woodpecker
  14.  House Finch
  15.  Lesser Goldfinch
  16.  Gadwall
  17.  Black Vulture
  18.  Eastern Phoebe
  19.  Yellow-rumped Warbler
  20.  Black-crested Titmouse
  21.  Bufflehead
  22.  Turkey Vulture
  23.  Red-winged Blackbird
  24.  European Starling
  25.  Western Meadowlark
  26.  Northern Cardinal
  27.  Cinnamon Teal
  28.  Ladder-backed Woodpecker
  29.  Vermilion Flycatcher
  30.  Eastern Bluebird
  31. Wild Turkey
  32.  American Robin
  33.  Green-winged Teal
  34.  Common Raven
  35.  White-winged Dove
  36.  Northern Flicker
  37.  Cedar Waxwing
  38.  Common Grackle
  39.  Belted Kingfisher
  40.  Clay-colored Sparrow
  41.  Blue Jay
  42.  Northern Harrier

As you can see we did break our previous day record.  These were seen during an approximate four hour period.  Click on any image and you can see beautiful enlargements.

Click my Flickr Logo at the right side of this page to view more of my photos.

I’d like to wish everyone a very Happy New Year!

Yesterday’s birding and new lifer

Ann and I decided that another nice day deserved to be spent birding.  We spent a couple of hours at Middle Concho and Spring Creek parks, then we got a call on our cell phone from Suzanne Johnson down at Eldorado.  A Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula), had been spotted at the water treatment ponds.  So we left immediately to get down there.  We saw it and I got a nice photo of it.  It was lifer number 239 for me.

Common Goldeneye

Canon EOS 7D with Canon 500mm f4 IS lens and 1.4 tele-converter.  Exposure 1/1600 sec. @ f8, -0.3EV, ISO 400.  Partial metering and aperture priority.  Captured from our car, using a Puffin Pad window support.  Distance to subject was about 100 yards.

Total of 40 bird species spotted:

  1.  American Coot
  2.  Northern Mockingbird
  3.  Great Blue Heron
  4.  Pied-billed Grebe
  5.  Golden-fronted Woodpecker
  6.  Cinnamon Teal
  7.  Gadwall
  8.  Northern Shoveler
  9.  Great Egret
  10.  Green-winged Teal
  11.  Wilson’s Snipe
  12.  Great-tailed Grackle
  13.  Red-tailed Hawk
  14.  European Starling
  15.  Western Meadowlark
  16.  Double-crested Cormorants
  17.  Yellow-rumped Warbler
  18.  House Finch
  19.  Savannah Sparrow
  20.  Eastern Bluebird
  21.  Vermilion Flycatcher
  22.  Ring-billed Gull
  23.  American Coot
  24.  Wild Turkey
  25.  White-winged Dove
  26.  Northern Flicker
  27.  Red-winged Blackbird
  28.  American Goldfinch
  29.  Lesser Scaup
  30.  Eared Grebe
  31.  Northern Pintail
  32.  Horned Grebe
  33.  Ruddy Duck
  34.  Canvasback
  35.  Common Goldeneye
  36.  Ringed-neck Duck
  37.  Killdeer
  38.  Lark Bunting
  39.  Egyptian Goose
  40.  Eurasian Collared Dove

By Request – Northern Bobwhite

On one previous post I invited anyone to submit requests if they happened to want to see photos of one particular bird.  So in yesterday’s post, Carolyn Rutherford asked if I had some images of some Northern Bobwhites.  So without further adieu, here is a selection of images of the Northern Bobwhite (Colinus virginanus) that I captured over the past three yearsAll were photographed at San Angelo State Park, San Angelo, Texas.  Carolyn, enjoy.

1. Northern Bobwhite in tree

2. Northern Bobwhite in a tree

3. Northern Bobwhite

4. Northern Bobwhite - female

5. Northern Bobwhite

6. Northern Bobwhite

Exposure information:

Image 1.   Canon 7D, 100-400mm lens, 1/200 sec. @f13 -0.3EV, ISO 400.  Partial metering with aperture priority.

Image 2.   Canon 7D, 500mm lens with 1.4 tele-converter, 1/500 sec. @ f13 +0.3EV, ISO 800.  Spot metering with aperture priority.

Image 3.   Canon 40D, 100-400mm lens, 1/400 sec. @ f5.6, ISO 640.  Center-weighted average with aperture priority.

Image 4.   Canon 7D, 500mm lens with 1.4 tele-converter, 1/2500 sec. @ f6.3, ISO 800.  Partial metering with shutter priority.

Image 5.   Canon 7D, 500mm lens with 1.4 tele-converter, 1/2500 @ f5.6, -0.3EV, ISO 2500.  Partial metering with shutter priority.

Image 6.   Canon 7D, 100-400mm lens, 1/500 sec. @ f11, -0.3EV, ISO 2000.  Partial metering with aperture priority.

More blasts from the past

Here are a few more images that I captured earlier this year.  Like yesterday’s post, this one features again, photos from a fall visit to the water treatment ponds at Eldorado, Texas.  The date was October 3, 2011.  Click on any image to see an enlargement.  Hope you enjoy.

Nashville Warbler

American Pipit

Red-shouldered Hawk

Great Blue

Camera information:

Nashville Warbler (Oreothlypis ruficapilla)Canon EOS 7D with Canon 100-400mm zoom lens.  1/2000 sec. @ f6.3,  -0.3 EV,  ISO 800.  Shutter priority with spot metering.

American Pipit (Anthus rubescens) :  Canon EOS 7D with Canon 500mm lens and 1.4 tele-converter.  1/3200 sec. @ f6.3, -0.3 EV,  ISO 400.  Aperture priority with partial metering.

Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus)Canon EOS 7D with Canon 500mm lens and 1.4 tele-converter.  1/2000 sec. @ f16, ISO 1600.  I just set the camera on Program, hoisted the camera, aimed, and shot.

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)Canon EOS 7D with Canon 500mm lens and 1.4 tele-converter.  1/2500 sec. @ f8, ISO 400.  Aperture priority  with partial metering.

All shots with the 7D were handheld.  To see more of my photographs click on the Flickr Logo on the right side of this page.

Yellow-headed Blackbirds

The end of the year is here, so I think I will show you some posts of photos from earlier in the year.  I don’t think you have seen these shots of the Yellow-headed Blackbird (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus).  I photographed the top two photos down at the water-treatment ponds at Eldorado, Texas, back in April.  They were wandering along the shoreline of one of the ponds.  The third (bottom) image was captured in September of 2008 at San Angelo State Park, atop a mesquite tree.

Western Texas is on their migratory path.  I saw my first one many years ago, when it landed on our back-yard fence.  Another time we saw one sitting on the roof of the kiosk at the entry to Big Bend National Park  The females, are somewhat non-descript and only about half the size of the male.

Yellow-headed Blackbird

Yellow-headed Blackbird

Yelllow-headed Blackbird

Pertinent photo information:

Photo 1.  Canon 7D with 500mm lens and 1.4 tele-converter.  1/1000 sec. @ f11, -0.3 EV, ISO 640.  Aperture priority.

Photo 2.  Canon 7D with 500mm lens and 1.4 tele-converter.  1/1000 sec. @f11, ISO 800.  Aperture priority

Photo 3.  Canon 40D with 100-400mm zoom lens.  1/5000 sec. @ f5.6, ISO 400. Aperture priority.

I hope you enjoyed the photos.  For more of my images, click my Flickr Logo on the right side of this page.

Want to sell your photographs??

A lot has been said the last day or two in comments to my posts, in reference to the sales of photographs.  I think, in this post, I will tell you how I have managed to pick a few bucks in sales.  To begin with, I feel I should mention that when I decided many years ago to study with the New York Institute of Photography, I had no intention of wanting to get a job in photography.  I didn’t want to work for a magazine or newspaper, and have to go on assignments.  I simply just wanted to be a good photographer.

It has worked pretty much the way I wanted.  I took what I learned, combined it with my natural eye for composition and managed to take good photographs.  Over the earlier years I mostly gave away my prints, for birthdays, anniversaries, etc.  Oh, lest I forget, I filled our walls, too.

Later on, about 15-20 years ago, a friend of mine who was an artist, a sculptor, suggested I enter an art show and sale that he was participating in.  With some arm pulling, he convinced me that would be a way to sell a few prints.  I had no display materiel, back-drops, etc.  I only had a card table.  The fee for the show was about 20.00 for a 10×10 ft space.

For merchandise, I had printed out twenty-one different 11×14 prints and had them mounted on foam-board and shrink-wrapped.  I done the mounting and shrink-wrapping myself, borrowing the material from my friend, and using a hair-dryer to seal them.  I was good to go, ready to present my work to the world. 🙂

The show was a week-end deal, from 10:00 until 6:00Pm on Saturday, and from noon until 5:00PM on Sunday.  I had my prints priced at 25.00 each.  I sold my first and only print at about 3:00 on Sunday afternoon.  At least, my first foray into the world of arts and crafts shows wasn’t a complete bust.  But to be honest, when I made that one sale, I was elated.  Holy Smokes!  Somebody liked my work well enough that they wanted to buy it.  What a great feeling!

I realized then that I really wasn’t prepared.  With only 21 prints to choose from there just wasn’t enough choice.  I had only one size, 11×14.  I decided the next time I would have more variety in pictures, and also in sizes.

The next time I was in better shape.  I got some backdrop made of lattice-work, hooked it together so it would stand up and hung a few prints.  I got a larger table with boxes where people could sort through the pictures.  Sales started to pick up.  But still not enough to really make enough money.

I decided if I was going to do this, I needed to get smart and do things to look a little more professional.  At first, I was having some prints framed at a professional frame shop.  That worked, except that because of the costs, I couldn’t sell them at a price where it was very cost effective.  So, I invested in a mat-cutter.  I learned to cut my own mats, and do my own framing.  I had a few outlets where I could buy frames at wholesale prices.  In place of shrink-wrapping, I discovered a company, Clearbags.com. that sold crystal clear bags or envelopes to slide my mounted prints into.  I also invested in some professional back-drops, whereas I could hang framed pictures in an attractive setting.

Show set-up

When things really got rolling, I was selling framed prints, mostly matted 11x14s.  They will fit perfectly into 16×20 frames.  Matted 8×10 prints will fit into 11×14 frames.  These are standard sizes.  This way you won’t be spending money on custom made frames.  Personally, I always bought my frames, standard off the shelf sizes, at Hobby Lobby, when they were on sale 1/2 off.  You can also buy pre-cut standard mats so you won’t have to do any mat-cutting if you don’t want.

I was also selling note-cards with envelopes, with of course my own pictures.  It pays to diversify, to have more choices for the customer.  They may not want to pay for large print, but they just might consider a few note cards, that cost you 35 cents and they pay you 2.95.

I own a Epson Stylus R1900 Photo printer.  It will print up to a 13×19 print, that will last 100 years.  For larger sizes, I use a very good on-line company.  Reliable Photo, whose prices you won’t believe.  I am talking really low prices for top quality, beautiful prints.  Avery, the company that makes paper, labels, etc. had free software so you can design your note cards, and by the way, business cards.

As you have probably realized by now, it takes considerable investment to really do it right.  But you can start out small, and probably do a better job than I did, then gradually add and grow.  Check out some arts and crafts shows near you, and see how some of those photographers and artists operate.

A few years ago, I was doing about 25 shows per year.  Averaging two shows per month.  We had a van and traveled around west Texas, usually picking out shows that were within 150 miles of us, so as not to travel too far.  I averaged anywhere from 700.00 to 2,000.00 in sales per weekend.

My car with sign

Some other tips.  Always carry business cards, and don’t be afraid to hand them to anyone.  You want to keep your name out there.  I even invested in magnetic signs for my car.  they cost me 30.00 each.  Now I am not going to say that someone saw my sign and called me about a picture.  Probably, not at all.  But my name is out there and people recognize me.

You might frame a few prints and ask your favorite bank, or restaurant, etc., if you can hang some framed prints there.  Offer them a percentage of a sale.  You can ask a larger price to cover that.  Personally, I have a large collection of my work hanging in the Crockett National Bank, here in San Angelo.  As I get new works, I frame it and swap it out, so my display changes every month or two.  I don’t have an account there, but the bank president had seen my work and liked it.  He initially asked me to display my work for a month, but I have been there now for over a year now.  By the way, when I sell something he doesn’t want any commission.  He benefits from the people to come in his bank, when I tell them my gallery is located there.

A web-site is good to have, too.  It is a good place to refer people to, so they can see your work ahead of time.  In reality, I have sold images over the internet but not enough to make a living at it.  On occasion, a magazine will contact me and that can be lucrative.  I have been published in Photography Forum Magazine,  Wild West Magazine,  Texas Farmers and Ranch Magazine,  and National Wildlife Magazine.  Plus I had a photo on the cover of another issue of National Wildlife Maazine.

Ross McSwain, who writes the “Out Yonder” column for the San Angelo Standard-Times, wrote a book about west Texas.  He asked me to do the cover for the book, plus illustrate several chapters.  It sold unter the title of “See No Evil, Speak No Evil”.  Now he is doing another book.  It will be called “The Best of Out Yonder”, and again he has contracted me to do the cover and other illustrations.  It will published in 2012.

For me, though, the shows were where I made the most money on a regular basis.  But now I now longer need to do them, and at my age, I now longer want to do them.

Now, just word of mouth and local sales work for me.  For example, on two occasions, I have had people buy literally a house full of pictures.  They had bought new homes, and wanted my work in each and every room.  My only advertising, is my cards, my sign on my car, and the fact that people know that for nature photography, I am the person to see.

I hope this article instills a little eagerness on your part to get out and let the public see and buy your images.  I did it, and so can you.

Now I want to wish all of my readers, my fellow bloggers, and everyone else, a very Merry Christmas to you and your families.

Birding and New Photos from Middle Concho Park

It is frigid again here this morning, and not expected to get above 40 degrees with winds up to 25mph.  Possible snow flurries forecasted over the weekend, but not expected to stay on the ground very long.  Stay tuned on that.  Maybe San Angelo will have a white Christmas.  If so, maybe I can get out and get some snowy photos.

Anyway, yesterday was beautiful, got into the 60s, so Ann and I took advantage and went to Middle Concho Park to do a little birding.  We saw 28 species this time. (see list below).  A few that were new, that we hadn’t seen for a long time.  Here are some photo highlights.  EXIF data will be at the bottom of this page.

Western Meadowlark


Vermilion Flycatcher - female

Eastern Bluebird - with attitude

Some of these photos are not up to my standards, but they are passable.  For some reason, I wasn’t on my A-game.  I was making exposure mistakes, accidentally moving my settings and not discovering them until it was too late, then had to try to fix the errors in Photoshop.  I guess I was enjoying the weather too much and not paying attention.  We sure saw a lot of birds though, and here is that list.

  • Mockingbird   8
  • Black Vulture  2
  • American Coot   100+
  • Gadwall   25+
  • House Finch   50+
  • Pied-billed Grebe   14
  • Great Egret   3
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler   75+
  • Golden-fronted Woodpecker   8
  • Western Meadowlark   35
  • Ladder-backed Woodpecker   1
  • American Goldfinch  15
  • Lesser Goldfinch   6
  • Eastern Bluebirds   75+
  • Northern Shovelers   24
  • Double-crested Cormorants   10
  • Great Blue Heron   2
  • White-crowned Sparrow   24
  • White-winged Dove  50+
  • Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
  • Red-tailed Hawk   1
  • Great-tailed Grackle  20
  • Marsh Wren   1
  • Vermilion Flycatcher   4
  • Bewick’s Wren   1
  • Ring-billed Gull   20
  • Red-winged Blackbird   24
  • Mute Swan   3

About the photos:  All photos were taken with my Canon 7D and 500mm lens with a 1.4 tele-converter.  Aperture priority and partial metering.  Handheld from the window of my car.

Western Meadowlark.   1/640 sec. @ f6.3   ISO 400

Vermilion Flycatcher.  1/4000 sec. @ f6.3, +0.3 EV,  ISO  400  Distance  50 feet.

Eastern Bluebird  1/5000 sec. @f5.6  ISO 400  Distance 30 feet.

San Angelo Visitors’ Center

Recently I uploaded this photograph to my Flickr page.  Afterword, Holly Stanley (her blog), commented on the image, and said that I should have sold it to the Chamber of Commerce.

San Angelo Visitors' Center

Well, here is the story behind the image.

The center was constructed about seven years ago.  That’s approximate as I don’t have the exact date on hand.  One morning after it opened Ann and I were strolling along the walkway on the opposite side of the river.  Along the river, a person can walk for a couple of miles and see egrets, herons and other birds. (See Wikipedia image below).  One of my favorites places to stroll with my camera.  As we walked we noticed that the Concho River was very calm, as smooth as glass, and was reflecting the building perfectly.  Across the river, in front of the center, the light was playing perfectly on the landscaped area.

I decided to try and get a perfect shot of it and the river reflection.  To get the perfect composition, to capture the complete width of the center, I had to find the right position.  I used the widest lens I had that would give the least distortion and searched for a spot.  Would you believe there was a tree at the exact point where I wanted to be.  I sat down on the ground, shoved my back up against the tree, and took this shot.  With a clear, blue west Texas sky with no clouds, I opted to use the tree branches to frame the image.

English: Park along the Concho River in San An...

Image via Wikipedia

At that time, I was working as a volunteer in the visitors’ center, greeting the tourists, and expounding on the virtures of staying in San Angelo.  I showed the image to the people that managed the Chamber of Commerce.  They immediately wanted to use it on their post cards that were sold there.  We negotiated and we reached an amicable agreement that was financially good for each party. 🙂

At a later time, they asked if they could put the image on a billboard on one of the highways entering the city.  We again negotiated and I sold them the rights to use the image on the billboard.  Here is a photo of the billboard.  They had to crop out the river so it would fit the approximate 50 ft by 10 ft area.   But of course, I didn’t complain.  Here is a photo of the billboard.

San Angelo Billboard

So the moral of the story is, keep your camera handy, as you never know when you are going to make that shot that is going to pay off for you.

More photos from – Middle Concho – Spring Creek

I had gotten several photos during our recent trip to Middle Concho/Spring Creek park, that I described in a previous post.  (Click here)   Here are a few more.

Great Blue Heron - breeding plumage

This Great Blue Heron was sitting on the other side of the river on a dead tree limb.  Exposure was 1/1000 sec. @ f8, ISO400.  Canon 7D.  Canon 500mm lens with 1.4 tele-converter, tripod mounted.

Cinnamon Teal and American Coot

The Cinnamon Teal and the American Coot were feeding in these shallow reeds, along with several of their friends and relatives.  Exposure 1/500 sec. @ f5.6, ISO 400.  Canon 7D.  Canon 500mm lens with 1.4 tele-converter.  I propped the camera on the hood of my car, using a SaharaSack camera support.

Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher sitting on a branch watching over everything.  Exposure was 1/1000 sec. @ f7.1, ISO 400.  Canon 7D.  Canon 500mm lens with 1.4 tele-converter, photographed from window, using Puffin Pad camera support.

Great Egret and American Coots

Great Egret, wading in the shallows across the river.  Two American Coots swimming casually by.  Exposure  1/1000 sec. @ f16, ISO 400.  Canon 7D.  Canon 500mm lens with 1.4 tele-converter.  Tripod mounted.

I hope you enjoyed these images.  It certainly was fun doing the work.  Click on any of them to see enlargements.

I have added more images for you to see on my Flicker page.  Click here to view them at your pleasure.

Also I still have some of my gorgeous 2012 calendars left.  To order one follow the directions at the side bar on this page.

Calling all Birders -Photo ID Challenge!!!!!

Here’s the deal.  This is not a contest.  However, I have a photo of what I think is a Cooper’s Hawk.  Karen (her blog), sent me a photo of what appears to me to possibly be another Cooper’s.  However, I am not certain, so I am posting both photos here.  Now I know there are a lot of birders out there.  I would like to hear from any/or all of you to read your opinions and comments.  My photo on top.  Karen’s on bottom.

Cooper's Hawk ??? )Bob's)

What hawk??? (by Karen)

There you have it.  Based on what you see in these photos, what do you think they are.  My personal opinion is that they are either Cooper’s Hawks, or Sharp-shinned Hawks.  BTW, the bottom photo was taken in the eastern United States.  The top one, of course, photographed here in San Angelo, Texas.  Click on either of them to enlarge.  So don’t be bashful, you won’t hurt anybody’s feelings.  Just give us your opinion.