Final images from Houston…for now…


I was going through my images from Houston and found a few more birds that I could have included in the two previous posts.  With those, I decided to also add some of our personal photos from our last evening there.   Shannon and Scott decided that on Saturday night they would fix a fire in the pit, and with the children, we would roast ‘s’mores’.   This all took place right next to their creek.

Eastern Phoebe in early morning light.

Eastern Phoebe in early morning light.

Ann and I on creek bank.  Ann knitting, me shooting with my Beast.

Ann and me on creek bank. Ann crocheting, me shooting with my Beast.  Photo courtesy of Shannon.

Spotted Sandpipe on log in creek.

Spotted Sandpiper on log in creek.

Shannon raking leave around the picnic table.

Shannon raking leaves around the picnic area, getting ready for the s’more roast.

White Ibises feeding in nearby creek.

White Ibises feeding in nearby creek.

Scott, Shannon's hunk husband getting the firepit ready.

Scott, Shannon’s hunk husband getting the firepit ready.

Shannon’s mother, Jane, was also in attendance but I didn’t get any photos of her or the children.  I am sorry about that, but at that time I hadn’t anticipated that I would be putting them in a blog.

During our stay we saw two life birds, a Pileated Woodpecker and a White-tailed Hawk.  No photographs of either, not quick enough on the shutter.  Click on any image to see enlargements.

More from Houston trip


My last post described the great wildlife in and around Shannon’s back yard near Houston, Texas.  Here are a few more photos I took during that great week, including this sequence of a Great Egret making a landing in their creek.

Great Egret making a landing.

Great Egret making a landing.

Great Egret landing.

Great Egret landing.

Great Egret fishing in the creek.

Great Egret splashing down.

In the nearby trees a spider was working in the early morning light.

Early morning spider web.

Early morning spider web.

White Ibises were all around us it seemed.  Beautiful, long-billed wading birds found around the gulf coast.  Their favorite food are the river snails found in the creek.

White Ibis

White Ibis

White Ibises

White Ibises

Back in the yard, Shannon’s children are finding some large grubs in her compost bed.  I think they named this one Moe.

Texas-sized grub.

Texas-sized grub.

Shannon and grub.

Shannon and grub.

Shannon goofing off with grub again.

Shannon goofing off with grub.

The woodland birds were waking up and we spotted this nearby Ladder-backed Woodpecker.

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

A Snowy Egret made a late appearance.

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret

So our four fun days ended there and we returned home to San Angelo with great memories.  Can’t wait to go back.  Click on any image to see an enlargement.

Avian Wings over Houston


Last week Ann and I had the wonderful pleasure of visiting some dear friends in the Houston, Texas area.  Shannon and her family showed us some east Texas hospitality at their home.  They actually have a small creek that crosses their land that was full of birds, large and small.  So, needless to say, we had no really desire to go anywhere else to do any birding.  Perhaps on our next visit we may expand out to some other sites.  But they had enough to keep us busy.  White Ibises roamed the place, as did various herons and egrets.  We saw a total of 40 different species, during the trip, which included a short visit on our way, at the blinds at Pedernales State Park near Fredricksberg.

Today I will feature some images of a Tri-colored Heron.  This photo was taken from Shannon’s back yard.  What nice views to have from there.

Tri-colored Heron showing off his beautiful plumage.

Tri-colored Heron showing off his beautiful plumage.

Shannon is a decent photographer herself, and she was dying to try my 500mm lens.  So I assisted her with setting her up with the tripod and she came up with the following photographs.

Tri-colored Heron

Tri-colored Heron

Tri-colored Heron

Tri-colored Heron

I would say that she is doing very well.  I needed to pry that lens out of her little fingers before we left to come home.

My next post will have some more photos from this delightful trip.  Click on any image to see some enlargements.  To see my entire blog on your computer, go to this on this link: https://bobzeller.wordpress.com.

Gad! I Photoshop my Images!


This afternoon I have been busy loading the car and getting packing done for a trip tomorrow that will lead to some friends in the Houston area.  We will be gone for about a week, hence there will be no posts here during that time.

But I am going to do a little ranting.  It is about one of the least understood subjects, i.e. post processing of photos.  This was brought on by a remark a reader made about one of my photos that I posted to my Facebook page.  It was a beautiful photo of a Painted Bunting.  It is truly one of the most beautiful birds in the United States.  This reader said that it must of been “Photoshopped”.  Well, of course it was.  I don’t think that he meant anything derogatory in the remark.  I actually believe that he was giving me a compliment, and I appreciate it.

However, it gets my dander up, when I hear that term used, as a lot of people tend to think that the pictures were somehow ‘doctored’ up to make something look different.

In the old days, I post-processed photos in a darkroom, or I had a photo lab do it for me.  I always process my images, whether it is film in the darkroom, or done digitally in a computer.  With the computer, I just don’t get my hands dirty.  But I accomplish the same either way.

There is a term, “the camera doesn’t lie”.  That is true.  But they don’t produce an accurate image of what the photographer sees either.  I have to check the lighting and adjust accordingly, or adjust the contrast to give the image more pop, or correct the color, or remove dirt spots.  But the odd thing is back in film days, you wouldn’t hear such remarks like, “Hey, that picture was ‘dark-roomed”.

Look in any magazine, book, trade magazine, you name it.  You will never see a photograph that was published straight out of the camera.  My photos would still be very nice, but you can see a marked difference between my originals and the processed ones.  But do they look anything different that what I saw when I took the picture,  Of course not.  An exception would be if there would be, for example, a beer can lying in an inappropriate place in a composition.  I would try to remove it, but I would also do the same if I was using a darkroom.  I believe that would called be using a bit of artistic license.

Which makes bring up one more point.  If a paint artist can paint a picture, interpreting it as he sees it, a photographer has the same freedom.  Again, that is artistic license.

That is the end of my rant for today.  I am sure that I will now get comments about the pros and cons of post processing.  Now I have to get back to work.  I have a number of photos that I need to Photoshop, er, uh, I mean Darkroom. 🙂

Patience Pays in Photography


This Friday afternoon it was quite cloudy and cool.  Ann had finished grocery shopping and we wanted to visit San Angelo State Park and see how much water had been caught in our previously dry O. C. Fisher reservoir, after recent rains.  After driving out there, we found the gates were locked.  The park was closed for use of the dove hunters.  So that will wait for another day.

After that I thought we should return to our favorite birding places near Lake Nasworthy.  We stopped at Middle Concho Park for a little drive around.  With the cool wind blowing and cloudy skies, I didn’t hope for much.  But I told Ann, patience is the key.  We may not see many birds, but we may get a surprise or two.  As I predicted we saw nary a bird, until we were about to leave that park and we saw a hawk swoop thru the trees.  We saw the approximate area that it went, so I drove towards that spot, watching the trees.  After some close searching, we spotted a Cooper’s Hawk in a tree.  It was the first Cooper’s that I had seen in several months.  I was able to maneuver my vehicle so I could photograph it from a distance with my Canon EOS 7D and 500mm lens.  Here is the result, a nice image of that beautiful bird.

Cooper's Hawk

Cooper’s Hawk

We left that park and ventured over to it’s sister, the Spring Creek Park.  Driving through there we saw this Great Blue Heron, one of my favorite birds to photograph.  It was hunting across the river.  At one moment it decided to show off it’s wings and I took this shot, among others.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

We decided to go home, but since it was early and we had extra time, we decided to drive to Twin Buttes reservoir and see if our luck would continue.  In a small tree we spotted this red-shafted Northern Flicker.

Northern Flicker - red-shafted

Northern Flicker – red-shafted

Then, lo and behold, in the same tree on another branch was this Ladder-backed Woodpecker.

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

So when you are out in the field, thinking that there is nothing going on, just be patient.  You never know what might suddenly appear.

All of my images are cropped and post-processed in Photoshop CS5.  Click on any image to see an enlargement.

Notes from a Saturday morning


I and Ann ate our usual breakfast at McDonald’s and that’s where it all started, I guess.  Some bully stole my toy from my Happy Meal™.  You can’t trust those 6-year olds.  Anyway, I had forgotten that this particular morning was when the Concho Valley Photo Club had their monthly meeting.  I had recently told them that I would join.  So after getting home, I realized that the skies were a bit cloudy, my favorite conditions for photography.  Forgetting about the meeting, I decided to head for my local favorite birding areas.  Ann opted to stay home and work on finishing up some glorious looking afghans she is making for gifts.

As I was driving into Middle Concho Park, I was greeted by five small dogs of a breed that I was not familiar.  At the same time a truck rushed by me, going in the opposite direction.  My first instinct was that somebody had just dumped the dogs on the road to get rid of them.  Thankfully, as I continued on my way, I passed a campsite where a lady said they were hers.  I was tempted to say that she shouldn’t be letting them run loose, for their own safety, but by then the dogs had returned to her.  I am not a trouble maker.

Weekends are usually busy at the parks, with day visitors and weekend campers.  This day was no different.  I was approaching a large area where there were about eight campers and motorhomes parked tightly together.  Obviously, a family reunion or something of that nature.  I was about seventy-five yards away when I spotted an Osprey high atop a dead branch of a tree, overlooking this group.  It was feeding on a fish.  I backed off about twenty-five yards, turned the car so I could shoot from my drivers side window with my Canon 7D and 500mm lens.

Osprey feed on fish.

Osprey feed on fish.

I took several images from a distance of about 100 yards.  But because of the clamor or the people below, who were completely oblivious of what was going on above them, the bird decided to take his meal elsewhere.  My lens was still focused on him so I held the shutter down.  Unfortunately, with no time to make a great composition, I clipped his wing.  But I feel that the images are still exciting, as you can still appreciate the action.

Osprey taking off.

Osprey taking off.

Osprey in flight.

Osprey in flight.

Notice how the Osprey always positions the fish so the head is always pointing forward.  I guess they feel they are more streamlined that way.

As I continued on my way I saw some beautiful Great Blue Herons on the other side of the river.  They are one of my favorite wading birds.  This one was just enjoying the beautiful weather.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Here is an image of a Belted Kingfisher watching the water from a power line across the river.  These guys are amazing.  When they spot a small fish, they dive at high speed, crashing into the water at seemingly a hundred miles per hour.  It is a wonder that they don’t get a concussion.

Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher

I decided to call it a day, and when leaving the area, what did I see over a wetland area?  Of course, another Osprey sitting in a dead mesquite.  Even though most of our winter birds haven’t arrived yet, it was still a nice way to end an exciting morning.

Osprey in dead mesquite.

Osprey in dead mesquite.

My apologies to my fellow members of the Concho Valley Photo Club.  I will try to make it next month, unless……….. 🙂

Click on any image to see enlargements.

Great Horned Owl in camo


When a I spotted that Great Horned Owl that I wrote about in my previoust post, I had taken several images from different positions.  Many of those poses were with tree leaves obscuring the details.  This image that I found is a side view and the leaves are mostly to the side.  However, the owl was blending into the colors and shadows of the tree itself.  Also with the back- light, it presented a post-processing challenge.  Here is the image that I chose for this post.  I didn’t mention it before, but I think that there is damage to the left eye.  I never did see it wide open, but he did seem half asleep part of the time.  Maybe he was just keeping one eye on me. 🙂

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

Click on the image to see an enlargement.

Osprey and Great Horned Owl


In the past few days I have been making frequent trips to my favorite birding haunts.  The fall migration still is a bit slow here as I have been waiting for the winter birds, i.e. waterbirds, ducks, etc.  But having said that I have spotted at least two Osprey that have been hanging around, and I have been able to get decent photographs of them.  Here is one that I got today.  Ann was with me and we spotted it high atop a tree on a leaf-less stub.  Apparently his appetite had been sated as he was just preening himself.

Osprey

Osprey

Yesterday my friend, Charles Yuker, had asked to go with me as he had bird photography questions and wanted to pick my brain.  We had crossed the river near Spring Creek Park and were on a little lane when he said, “There’s and owl!”  It was on a mesquite tree branch on his side of the car, out of my sight because of my car’s roofline.  I stopped immediately, and we assessed the situation, not wanting to startle the bird.  Since I could not see it yet, I opted to drive very slowly on for another 50 yards, then stop the car so we could look back.

We got out of the car, and crept along the treeline by the river, keeping in the dark shade.  Fortunately, initially it had been facing away from the car, so it had not seen us up until this time.  We started shooting, and it kept watching us for any agressive moves.  We took several images and I have posted one below for you.  As we decided to return to the car, the owl then decided he had enough and it headed elsewhere as well.  It took to another tree about two hundred yards away, but not in a good position for satisfactory photos.

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

But seeing these birds and a few other regulars, are keeping my enthusiasm alive in anticipation for things to come.   They definitely made our day.  Click on any image to see nice enlargements.

Red-tailed Hawk – before and after


I love going back through my image files and find one that have I ignored for awhile, for some reason or another.  This photo of a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk is one of those.  When I took the original photo, the bird had just took off from atop a telephone pole.  It is impossible to get a perfect composition at that time, and in this case, not only was the pole and wires in the image, I also clipped the wing of the bird.

Red-tailed Hawk - taking off from utility pole.

Red-tailed Hawk – taking off from utility pole.

For a long time the photo languished in my files, ignored because I was hesitant to publish the image.  This photo was taken back in May of 2011 so it has been around a long time.  Recently I decided that I could make a good presentation of it if I ignored the clipped wing and did a decent crop.  Even then, ordinarily I would not have published it with the clipped wing, but after looking at it as an artist should, I felt it was just too good not to show.  Here is the final result.

Juvenile Red-tailed Hawk in flight.

Juvenile Red-tailed Hawk in flight.

Photographing raptors, whether it be Ospreys, Hawks, or Owls; I love the challenge of shooting them in flight.  They are such glorious images when in the air. Click on either of them to see an enlargement.

By the way, it was photographed using a very old Canon EOS 40D and 100-400mm lens.  It doesn’t matter about the equipment as long as you know it’s limitations and how to use it.

Osprey and Great Egrets……


Ann and I took a ride to Spring Creek Park this Thursday morning.  We were looking for the arrival of migratory birds.  They are still slow in coming, but saw the arrival of the first Double-crested Cormorant of the season, so I guess that is a start.  We watched an Osprey hunting up and down the waters.  It took me by surprise and caught a fish, but I tracked it and I saw it land in a tree.  Fortunately, it was nearby and I was able to hand-hold my new Canon 70D with a 100-400mm zoom lens.  The first shot is of him perched, then I took the second shot as he began to fly off.  Then I was lucky enough to catch him in flight.

Osprey perched with fish.

Osprey perched with fish.

Osprey taking off.

Osprey taking off.

Osprey in flight.

Osprey in flight.

Farther on as we drove around the horse-shoe drive in the park, we looked across the water and saw four Great Egrets in the trees.  At that point the water is about 300-400 yards wide.  I propped my Canon 7D with the 500mm lens and tele-converter on my window sill to try for the shot.  I really thought it was to far for a quality image, but my state of the art Canon equipment performed as advertised.  Here is the result.  By the way, it is also tightly cropped for composition.

Two Great Egrets in a tree.

Two Great Egrets in a tree.

As always, these images were post processed through Photoshop applications.  Click on any picture to see an enlargement.