Llano, Texas – Bald Eagles

About two and a half years ago, Feb. 7, 2008, to be exact, Ann and I, decided to make a trip down to Llano, Texas, a distance of 130 miles.  A pair of nesting Bald Eagles have been going there annually, for the past six or seven years, always using the same nest.  We had been there a few months previously, when they had arrived to start re-building the nest.  During that time, we had watched them haul up branches, sometimes the size of 2x4s.

This time we were interested in seeing the young eaglets.  We got glimpses, but they were pretty tiny, and mostly hidden from view.  To see the eagles, a person has to watch from the side of Highway 71, about 7 miles from Llano.  For best viewing use binoculars or long lenses.  Because of the large amounts of people that flock to see the eagles, the highway department has cleared a spot off the road to allow for parking, so is not to impede traffic.

As usual, there were 3 or 4 other photographers there, each with a long lens set-up because the nest is about 200 yards from the highway, high in a tree.  Some were using Nikons, but I didn’t hold that against them. 🙂  Seriously, we were all friends and enjoyed swapping tales and talking photography.  For best lighting it is best to get there early in the morning.  Also, to get the better spot to set up a camera. It can get a bit crowded.

It was pretty cold and nippy that morning, so it wasn’t long before Ann opted to sit in the car and read a book.  I was thankful that I had dressed for the coolness.  At least, the sun was bright and shining.

As we watched, one of the adults was going and bringing food for the young ones.  We watched him/her bring up a whole leg of a deer, a large duck or goose, and a large fish of some kind.  Those kids were going to be well fed.

I got many images, of course, but none that really showed much of the eaglets.  As I said, they usually were hidden by one or both of the adults, and also because of the depth of the nest.  By the way, those eagles nests, or aeries, are huge.  This one probably measured 8 feet across.  I have chosen this image to show you.  First the original, to show you how far away it was.  Remember I was using the equivelent of a 700mm telephoto lens.  The second photo is of course, my cropped and edited version.

Bald Eagle from 200 yards thru 700mm lens

Bald Eagle - cropped close-up

  • Canon EOS 40D
  • Canon 500mm IS lens with 1.4 tele-converter – tripod mounted
  • 1/1600 sec. @ f7.1
  • ISO 400
  • Lens focal distance  700mm
  • Metering  – pattern
  • Aperture priority
  • Bogen-Manfrotto tripod
  • Wimberley II gimbal head

Click in either image to enlarge.

Tale of the Take – Fledged Great Blue Herons

This past Monday morning, before I had to see the doctor for my pre-surgery instructions, I went with Ann for a little drive along the Concho River, here in downtown San Angelo.  Along the way, we saw activity up in a Great Blue Heron aerie.  It was about 50 feet high in a tree overhanging the river.  With our binoculars we discovered that there were three fledglings, nearly old enough to fly.

It was a very exciting moment, so I got my tripod and camera out of the car and set it up about another 50 feet away from the tree.  The sun was right at me so the birds were back-lit in the morning sun.  To photograph them from the side with better light I would have to have been in the river itself.  I compensated by adjusting my EV (exposure value) setting.  I exposed around 75 images and the  following are three of my favorites. 

The first is of the fledglings themselves.  The second has the adult mother.  The third shows one of the fledges peeking over the edge of the nest, maybe thinking about making the big jump.  I hope you enjoy my cute captions.  Click on either one for an enlargement.

"All My Children"

  • Canon EOS 7D
  • Canon 500mm IS lens with 1.4 tele-converter
  • Bogen-Manfrotto tripod with Wimberley II gimbal head
  • 1/1250 sec @ f13 – Plus 1/3 EV compensation
  • ISO 1000
  • Lens focal distance 700mm
  • Aperture priority
  • Partial metering
“But, Ma, we’re hungry!”
  • Canon EOS 7D
  • Canon 100-400mm lens
  • 1/640 sec @ f10 – plus 2/3 EV compensation
  • ISO 320
  • Lens focal distance 320mm
  • Aperture Priority
  • Partial metering

    "We double-dare ya!"

  • Canon EOS 7D
  • Canon 500mm with 1.4 tele-converter
  • Bogen-Manfrotto tripod with Wimberley II gimbal head
  • 1/320 sec @ f10 – plus 2/3 EV compensation
  • ISO 100
  • Lens focal distance 700mm
  • Shutter priority
  • Partial metering

You can still vote for me.  Click on this link People’s Choice Award, then check off your favorite photo.  I appreciate you. 🙂

Tale of the Take: Great Blue Heron II

We were at Spring Lake Park yesterday morning with our friends Suzanne and Sid Johnson, who drove in from Eldorado.  As we drove slowly by this little lagoon, I spotted a Great Blue Heron wading along, searching the water for prey.  I had my camera on my lap and decided to get a photograph.  Just as I got the camera to my eye, I saw him tense, and I knew he was going to fly.  I immediately pressed the shutter and held it at approximately 8 frames per sec and got a series of photos.  Here are three of the resulting images.

The EXIF exposure data for these images is as follows:

  • Canon EOS 7D
  • Canon 100-400mm lens – hand-held
  • 1/2500 sec. @ f5.6 – minus 1/3 EV
  • ISO 400
  • Lens focal distance – 260mm
  • Shutter priority
  • Partial metering

I might mention one of my habits.  I prefer to adjust my EV by minus -1/3 most of the time, as I like how that slight under-exposure renders the tonal values.  Of course, if the whites are still extra bright, I go another 1/3.  And then, of course, there are my “senior moments” where I have forgotten to make the proper EV adjustments and have had to correct in Photoshop or Photoshop Elements.  I use both, depending on……….heck, I don’t know.  I just do this stuff by feel, meaning I use whatever I feel like at the time. 🙂

It really makes me chuckle.  My work flow is so confusing and maybe “cluttered”, I sometimes wonder how I manage to produce the good work that I do.  If two people asked me how I did something, I would probably give two different answers.  But, for me, the fun is getting the job done with a great result, not how I accomplished it. 🙂

So, I hope you enjoyed the above images.  You can click on any of them to see some enlargements.  You can still vote for me at this link, People’s Choice Award.  I appreciate your votes.

Tale of the Take – Hawk Hatchlings

A friend of mine, Ken Coley, told me of a Red-tailed Hawk‘s nest that was on private property out near Dove Creek.  Fortunately, he knew the owners  of the property and he arranged to take me out there to check it out.

We arrived late in the afternoon and the temperature was about 95 degrees.  We drove in and parked near the peoples’ house.  Ken says that we can walk to the tree, and we’ll be able to see the nest.  I decided to just carry my 100-400mm lens setup.  It was about a 500 yard walk, but when we got there, I discovered the nest was about 70 feet high up in a pecan tree.  To get the shot, I needed to get about 100 feet away in another direction to get in the proper light.  The 100-400mm wasn’t going to do the job.

I hiked back to the van and this time I decided to drive in a little closer.  I was able to get within about 50 feet of the tree and park near other trees so it wouldn’t be a distraction.  I then was able to set up my tripod to enable me to mount my 500mm lens on my Canon 7D.  This particular shot that I have posted here was taken with my 1.4X teleconverter attached.  I also took a few exposures with the 2X teleconverter.  I must use manual focus with the 2X because of aperture restrictions with that setup.  Also, because of the shade over the nest I had to adjust the EV to +2/3.

But I must say, that 2X done an amazing job.  After printing two 8x10s, I could not tell the difference between the photo taken with the 2X and the cropped version with the 1.4.  These Canon L series lenses continue to amaze me.

Anyway, as you can see, those little hatchlings are real cuties.  I intend to go back in week or two and see if they are large enough to be standing on the edge of the nest.  You can click on the photo to see an enlargement.

  • Canon 7D
  • Canon 500mm IS lens w/1.4 teleconverter
  • Aperture Priority
  • 1/1000 sec. @ f10
  • ISO 3200
  • EV +2/3
  • Partial metering

Tale of The Take – Great Blue Heron

Some of you readers that have been with me a long time, maybe remember this photo of a Great Blue Heron.  This image shows the heron maneuvering his catch so he can swallow it down head first.  I was fortunate enough to come up with an exposure that seemingly suspends the catfish in mid-air.

Great Blue Heron - about to swallow catfish

We were below the Lake Nasworthy Dam, in San Angelo, Texas, back in September of 2009.  There were several pools between the rocks in the water, and the Blue Heron was doing a little fishing there.  He seemed oblivious to Ann and I, so I was able to take the time to set up my camera and tripod only about 30 feet away.  I watched him fish a bit, and tried to time his spearing so I could get a shot, as I did this one below.

Great Blue Heron catchng a catfish

Not bad for a practice shot.  I tried several more series of shots.  I had set my camera on high-speed multiple shots, and was able to shoot at about 5 frames per second.  As the heron’s head hit the water, I held the shutter down and produced several more shots.  Two of them are below.

Great Blue Heron with captured catfish

Great Blue Heron with captured catfish

This bottom photo is the one that I selected to produce the cropped image that you see at the top of this post.  The heron was quite hungry that morning as we watched him catch and devour at least four little catfish.

Camera vital information:

  • Canon 40D SLR
  • Canon 500mm f4 IS telephoto lens
  • Aperture Priority
  • Partial Metering
  • Exposure 1/4000 sec at f6.3
  • ISO 400
  • Bogen-Manfrotto tripod
  • Wimberley II gimbal head

Click on any image to see an enlargement.

Tale of The Take – Porcupine

Getting this photo was one of my most amazing experiences.  Ann and I had driven to San Angelo State Park to check on the bird blind, back on January 19, 2009.  We usually put seed out so the birds will be attracted to the area.  This is for the benefit of birders and photographers who come to observe.

Porcupine in tree

We had just turned off the main road on to the little lane that leads to the blind when we spotted this round, bushy looking blob in the fork of a tree, about 25 feet from the side of the road.  Not realizing at first what it was, we put our binoculars on it and discovered that it was a Porcupine.

I had my camera on my lap, as usual, and took a couple of quick shots out the window of our mini-van, to make sure I had something in case the animal made a quick exit.  I then got out and started walking through the weeds and brush, much to the chagrin of my wife, Ann, who started to yell at me to watch out for rattle-snakes.  I called back, and told her to worry about whether I was going to get the shot.  After all, there things that are more important than others. 🙂

I was able to get close enough to the porcupine that I could have reached out and touched it as he/she was only about 5 feet off the ground.  I found that if you are going to pet a porcupine, don’t move your hand against the “grain”.  Those quills are very sharp.

A face any mother would love

I was able to shoot pictures to my heart’s content.  The porcupine probably had just awakened as it was about 8:30 AM.  He just sat there and stared at me for the whole time I was there.  Of course, I was in awe.  Most porcupines I ever see are usually slabs of road-kill on the highway.  This was by far, the closest I had ever been to one, especially a live one.

Photo information.  Canon 40D camera.  Tamron 28-300mm lens.  1/250 sec. @ f9.  ISO 400.  Zoom lens set at 105mm.

Tale of The Take – Ruddy Ground Dove

I have had a lot of people ask me all along about how I got some of my photos.  I got to thinking that there is a story behind almost all of my images, so what better than to relate to you, my readers, these tales.  So today I start the series, “The Tale of the Take”.   Catchy name, don’t ya think? 🙂

First up will be my exciting narration of how I was able to obtain this image of a very rare Ruddy Ground Dove.  As with a lot of my photos, a lot of luck was involved.

Ruddy Ground Dove

On Sunday afternoon, February 10, 2009, I got an e-mail forwarded from a local birder.  It was from Don and Linda Burt who live on property at Dove Creek, near here.  They gave a phone number and invited anyone to call or come see a rare Ruddy Ground Dove on their place.

Of course, since I am the consumate “have camera, will travel” guy, I gave them a call.  Sure, they said, c’mon out.  I loaded my equipment into our Mercury mini-van, and Ann and I headed out.

Now, at that time, I was pretty new at this past-time of birding.  I absolutely had no idea what a Ruddy Ground Dove looked like.  I didn’t even have the sense to look for pictures of one.  Fortunately, upon arrival, we found half of the Abilene chapter of the Audubon Society already there looking for it.  They thought they saw it in some trees, but couldn’t say for sure.

This was about 2:30PM or so.  Don Burt called me aside and told me to be patient.  He pointed to a fence gate about 30 yards away.  Just wait, he said, because at about 4:00 a flock of Inca Doves would gather near that fence, and the Ruddy Ground Dove would be among them.

I went ahead and got my Canon 40D, my current camera then, out of the car.  I attached my Canon 500mm super-tele with a 1.4 teleconverter.  I mounted the rig onto my Bogen-Manfrotto tripod with a Wimberley gimbal head.  I got it into position for a possible shot, then sat in the shade and waited.  So did the group from Abilene.

Sure enough, right on time, a bunch of Inca Doves flew in and started feeding near that fence.  The Audubon people pointed out to me the Ruddy Ground Dove.  I sure was happy that I wasn’t alone or I probably wouldn’t have recognized it.  I found it in my viewfinder and was able to get several shots.   Pertinent photo data:  Canon 40D SLR.  Shot at f5.6 for 1/1600 second.  ISO 400 in Aperture Priority.

The Ruddy Ground Dove is very rare in the United States, but sightings are on the increase, as they move up from Mexico.  As you can see, except for the markings, it could have been easily mistaken for a Mourning Dove by a novice like me.

Watch for my next thrilling, exciting, Tale of the Take.