Happy Birthday to Me…….

Almost to the end of another month.  And the end of another year in my life.  I will turn 80 on Thursday, which is October 2.  So to celebrate we, Ann and I will be doing our usual thing.  This time however, we will be birding at Uvalde, Texas.  A friend has invited us to use his bird blind down there, with promises of brand new birds for our life list.

We are leaving Wednesday morning Oct. 1, and will return Friday, October 3.  So I am looking forward to posting a blog over the weekend, hopefully with a bunch of new images of some new birds.

This will probably be my last post until the weekend, so here are a few recent photos that I have gotten locally.

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal

This Northern Cardinal was at the bird blind at San Angelo State Park.  I thought he was too pretty to ignore.

Great Roadrunner on the hood of our car.

Great Roadrunner on the hood of our car.

We happened to look out the door of the blind, and we spotted a Greater Roadrunner on our Ford Escape.  Fortunately, besides the camera that was mounted on the tripod, I also had a second Canon 70D with my 100-400mm lens handy.  I grabbed it and got these shots before the roadrunner hopped off and ran towards the brush.

Greater Roadrunner on our car.

Greater Roadrunner on our car.

Not seeing as many birds that we had hoped, we took a drive around the park for a few minutes.  Not too many birds in the building.  A year or so ago, they, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, took upon themselves to spray the thick mesquite that is in abundance in the park.  The thought was that that the brushy trees were sapping too much of the valuable water of the area.  That was probably true, but in killling the trees, they also destroyed valuable habitat.  I believe that is why the populace of birds, hawks, and wildlife in general has declined.

But having said that, we was this Loggerhead Shrike on a thorny, dead branch.

Loggerhed Shrike

Loggerhed Shrike

So I apologize for the short post, but I hope to make for it in my next post.  But no promises, as I will then be an old man of 80, so we can get absent-minded.  But I would hate to have to start visiting the senior center downtown, because that is where all of the old people hang out. 🙂

Northern Cardinal – the “Redbird”

Northern Cardinal, (Cardinalis cardinalis).  No matter what you call it, nobody can resist liking this flashy, red bird.  It can be found throughout most of the midwest and eastern part of the country.  Ann and I took a short trip to San Angelo State Park on Sunday morning and I took this photo at the bird blind there.

Northern Cardinal

While going through my archives this morning, preparing for this post, I came upon a couple more images that I think you may have never seen.  I think this next one had been splashing in a pond before me getting the photo.

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal

I hope looking at these photos will help jump-start your week.  There is something about looking at happy birds, that can give a person a feel-good feeling.

Sunday Bluebird and a Hawk

A fairly short post again today.  Recently on one of our forays into the parks near Lake Nasworthy, we came across this Eastern Bluebird, (Sialia sialis), sitting on a small tree branch.  He was part of a group of bluebirds, Cedar Waxwings, and American Robins.  It was obviously a popular spot for birds, with the water nearby.

Eastern Bluebird

EXIF data:  Canon 7D with Canon 500mm lens and 1.4 tele-converter, 1/1000 sec. @ f8, +0.7 EV, ISO 160.  Center weighted metering with apertur priority.  Hand-held.

Later, on the outskirts of the park, in an area where there is a disc golf course set up in the trees, we spotted this Red-tailed Hawk  (Buteo jamaicensis), on a tree branch.  We observed it for awhile and I got several photos of it.  After a bit, he decided to fly off, and I was able to capture an in-flight photo.

Red-tailed Hawk in tree

EXIF data:  Canon 7D with Canon 500mm lens and 1.4 tele-converter.  1/1000 sec. @ f8, ISO 125.  Center weighted metering with aperture priority.  Hand-held.

Red-tailed Hawk in flight

EXIF data:  Canon 7D with Canon 100-400mm zoom lens.  1/2000 sec. @ f8, ISO 200.  Center weightd metering and aperture priority.  Hand-held.

I hope you enjoyed the images.  Click on either of them to see an enlargement.

A salute to the American Coot

One of the most ignored ducks, at least around here, is the American Coot (Fulica americana).  They are everywhere, in nearly every body of water around.  So today, I thought I would give them a little press time.  I guess I ignore them, mostly because there are so many.  I would be out driving looking for photo ops.  I would see the ducks, and I would say to Ann, “Aw, them ‘er just some more coots.”, and we would just drive on, failing to appreciate them.

So on Saturday, New Years Eve day, we took a little drive thru the parks.  Since the temps here reached the 80 degree mark, there were a lot of people in attendance.   Pic-nickers, hikers, bikers, and disc golfers.  The activity was keeping most of the birds away.  But guess what?  The coots were there, not bothered at all.  They just done their thing of calmly swiming along, and occasionally diving for some morsel of some kind.  So I am ashamed to admit, I only photographed them as a last resort.

American Coot swiming

American Coot diving

American Coot swiming again

Photographed with my Canon EOS 7D.  Canon 500mm lens with 1.4 tele-converter.  Exposure:  1/2500 sec. @ f8, -0.3EV, aperture priority.  Handheld from window of my car, with Puffin’ Pad window support.

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.

Middle Concho and Spring Creek Birding Hotspot

Just when I thought it could’t get any better.  Middle Concho Park and Spring Creek Park are two adjacent parks at the confluence of Middle Concho River and Spring Creek, where they meet at Lake Nasworthy, here in San Angelo.  I think that is the easiest way to explain their location.  One park is on one side of the river,and the other park on the other side.  However to get from one side to the other, takes about a three mile trip around, back to the bridge that goes over the lake.  Confused??  We’ll just leave it at that.  I remember the joke about the guy on one side of the river calling to a guy on the other side.  He calls over, “Hey, pal, how do I get to the other side?”  The other guy calls back, “You idiot, you are on the other side”. 🙂

The way we bird these parks is to just cruise through the area on the many little lanes and roads, at idling speed of 1-2 miles mph.  Keep your eyes watchful, and you ears listening.  Watch into the trees and along the shorline of the river.  I must admit, in winter it is a bit easier because of the absence of leaves on the trees.  In nice weather we once in a while, sit my camera on a tripod near a picnic table, and just wait and watch.

So getting back to my post here, you remember a previous post a couple of days ago about Ann and I seeing 24 species in a couple of hours.  Well, I don’t know how it could have got any better, but when we made a return trip (again) Saturday, we saw a whopping 34 species in about 3 hours.  During that time, I was also shooting photographs, 442 images in all, if anyone is counting.  Here is a sampling of three.

Cooper's Hawk

Red-naped Sapsucker


I will put the EXIF photo settings at the bottom of this page.  But first here is a complete list of the birds we saw and/or photographed. (Mostly saw). 🙂

  • Northern Mockingbird   6
  • American Coot   200+
  • Double-crested Cormorants   25
  • Northern Shoveler   100+
  • Golden-fronted Woodpecker   4
  • Great Egret   4
  • Gadwall  50+
  • White-winged Doves   75+
  • Green-winged Teal   4
  •  Cinnamon Teal   2
  • Great Blue Heron   7
  • Black Vulture   3
  • Western Meadowlark   10
  • Great Horned Owl   1
  • Pied-billed Grebe   5
  • Eastern Bluebirds   25
  • House Finch   12
  • Great-tailed Grackles   25
  • Red-tailed Hawk   1
  • Yellow-Rumped Warbler   30
  • Savannah Sparrow   12
  • Lesser Goldfinch   3
  • White-crowned Sparrow   5
  • Red-winged Blackbird   3
  • Northern Flicker   1
  • Northern Cardinal   1
  • American Robin   1
  • Belted Kingfisher   1
  • Mallard   1
  • Ring-billed Gull   1
  • Blue Jay   1
  • Inca Dove   3
  • Cooper’s Hawk   3
  • Red-naped Sapsucker   1

About the photos.

Cooper’s Hawk.  The hawk was sitting in a tree.  I maneuvered my Ford Edge around so I could shoot it from my driver’s side window.  Canon 7D, 500mm lens with 1.4 teleconverter, 1/1000 sec. @ f11, ISO 400.

Red-naped Sapsucker.  I got out of the car and hand-held my Canon 7D with Canon 100-400mm lens.  1/1250 sec. @ f6.3 +0.3EV.  ISO 2000

Gadwall.  The bird was in the water about 15 yard from the shore.  I propped my Canon 7D with the 500mm lens and 1.4 tele-converter, on the hood of my car, resting it on a SafariSack support.  1/1000 sec. @ f10, ISO 400.