The Shot that Started it All.


Most of you don’t know it, but I used to be just a flower and landscape photographer.  I had absolutely no interest in photographing birds.  That changed in October of 2006, just only about ten years ago.  We were visiting our dear friends, Deb and Paul, in Knoxville, Tennessee.  Deb is an excellent photographer, too.  She, at that time, was shooting with a Nikon Camera while  I had my Canon.  (Deb now uses Canon equipment).  We were discussing the attributes of each brand when  I saw some birds in a large evergreen tree outside of their living room window.  I decided to try and shoot some photos, and Deb generously took the screen off and opened the window for me.  I started shooting and this image of a House Finch is the very first photo of any bird that I have ever taken.

House Finch

House Finch

A few minutes later, I followed up this one of a Red-bellied Woodpecker, the second bird photo that I had ever taken.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Those two photos really got me hooked on bird photography, and birding in general.  I had never realized how many beautiful birds there were in the avian world.  The experience taught me that if a person opens his or her eyes and really looks, they can discover that there are wonders in nature all around us.  Of course, I still love my landscape photography, especially when I get to go to the beautiful Big Bend area of west Texas.  But even while there, I am always on the lookout for some great bird photo opportunities.

With the wind and some thunderstorms, the birding has been slow, but here are some images from the past few days.  These were taken at San Angelo State Park.  I prefer to not use the blind there, although I do go there on occasion.  I have much more fun hunting and photographing from my car.  I can catch the birds in more natural settings, sans bird feeders, etc.

Canyon Towhee

Canyon Towhee

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

Lark Bunting

Lark Bunting

All in all, I would say that I have come a long way in the past ten years.  I hope you agree.  Be sure to click on any image to see an enlargement.

Happy Birding!!

Sunday at San Angelo State Park


On Sunday morning, Ann and I decided to visit the bird blind at San Angelo State Park.  There we met our friend, Christie McCorts-Chambers, as she had the same thoughts as ours.  We sat and watched the birds to see if there was anything new to drop by.  There were a couple of Black-chinned Hummingbirds that were quite active and I managed to get some nice shots of those.  Also, I was pleased that a beautiful, male House Finch decided to pose for me.

House Finch

House Finch

Black-chinned Hummingbird

Black-chinned Hummingbird

Black-chinned Hummingbird

Black-chinned Hummingbird

A male Northern Bobwhite made a brief visit at the back of the viewing area, but I managed to get a photo with my Canon 70D and Tamron 150-600mm lens, as I had with all of these photos.   He was about 60 feet away, but as I do with most of my photos, I still was able to crop for a nice close-up.

Northern Bobwhite

Northern Bobwhite

We decided to take a drive around the park.  We asked Christie to join us so we spent a couple hours checking out all areas.  Most of what we observed were too far for decent photos, but for birding we saw a total of 27 species for the morning.  Here is one photo of a perhaps a young, or a female Scissor-tailed Flycatcher.  The tail is quite shorter than normal male adult.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Click on any photo to see enlargements.

Holiday photos – gotta get out more.


I am still ailing just a little bit, getting used to some new meds, but don’t fret, I should be 100% in a few days.  I really feeling like getting out more, and I did so for a few hours during the recent Fourth of July holiday.  Here are a few results, mostly from our local San Angelo State Park.

Greater Roadrunner resting in a tree.

Greater Roadrunner resting in a tree.

Greater Roadrunner enjoying the chase.

Greater Roadrunner enjoying the chase.

Golden-fronted Woodpecker - female taking a pose for me.

Golden-fronted Woodpecker – female taking a pose for me.

House Finch ruffling it's feathers.

House Finch ruffling it’s feathers.

Click on any image to see some enlargements and enjoy.  A couple of these will probably end up in my gallery at http:www.bobzellerphotography.smugmug.com.  Have a look when you can.

Easter Weekend Memories


Ann and I were relatively idle over the weekend.  On Friday,without any specific projects in mind, we just drove around the area to see what we might see.  Of course, I think that is what we do most of the time, now that I think of it.  So I guess this weekend was no different.  Okay, so I sound like and old man rambling.  Well, I am old, so I guess that is my job. Anyway, here are a few miscellaneous photos that I managed to grab.  All photos were shot with my Canon EOS 70D with a Tamron 150-600mm zoom.  Please click on any image to see enlargements.

House Finch

House Finch

The House Finch was photographed at San Angelo State Park.  I was in the bird blind there watching the activities of various birds.

Red-winged Blackbird

Red-winged Blackbird

The Red-winged Blackbird was also shot at the blind.  I love the brilliant wing bars on these birds.

Ash-throated Flycatcher

Ash-throated Flycatcher

After visiting the blind, we decided to just take a leisurely drive through the park.  I saw the Ash-throated Flycatcher off to the side of the road and photographed it from my car.

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

On Sunday morning, after breakfast, we drove by the old K-Mart building where there is a creek nearby.  We had received about a quarter inch of rain during the night, and there was some substantial water in it.  There was also this Yellow-crowned Night Heron strolling by.

Solitary Sandpiper

Solitary Sandpiper

This Solitary Sandpiper was also nearby.

American Kestrel

American Kestrel

We then decided to drive the backroads down near Eldorado, Texas then visit the city water ponds in that city.  On the way we spotted this American Kestrel in the top of a dead tree off to the side of the road.  I brought the car to a stop, turned off the engine.  Since the bird was on the passenger side of the car, I had to hand-hold the camera across in front of Ann.  It was no easy feat,but thanks to the Vibration Control in the lens, I managed to get this shot.  The bird was about 150 feet away and I was zoomed to the full 600mm of the lens.

Wilson's Phalarope

Wilson’s Phalarope

Arriving at the ponds, we saw quite a bit of activity, teals, gadwalls, shovelers, etc.  In one corner of one pond we spotted about twenty of these Wilson’s Phalaropes.  They were not skittish at all of my car, and I was only about twenty feet away for this shot.

Cattle Egret

Cattle Egret

On an island in the middle of one pond were a few Cattle Egrets.  This is my favorite photo, I think, even though there is a bit of a twig in front of the face.  The image was taken from a distance of about 200 feet.  The photo was severely cropped so I could show you the close-up.

After that, light showers began, so we headed for home.  We were not unhappy as this area needs as much rain as we can get.

Update:  New total for my Big Year Texas list is 147.  New additions are:

#146  Yellow-crowned Night Heron

#147  Cattle Egret

Great Horned Owl and others


After I published yesterday’s post about my great birding day, I went back over the images.  I had been in a hurry when I selected that photo of the Great Horned Owl, as I wanted to get the post published.  Now that I have had more time, I have found another image of the owl that is more exceptable.  I had taken photos from different positions.  This one I had nixed because of the twig over the face, but on further review it doesn’t look that bad.  Besides, the exposure turned out a little better.  Shot with my Canon EOS 7D and 100-400mm lens.  1/1600 sec. @ f5.6, +0.7EV, ISO 2000.

Great Horned Owl

Besides that picture, I was able to get these.

House Finch

House Finch, photo taken at the bird blind at San Angelo State Park.  100-400mm lens, 1/1250 sec. @ f6.3, +0.3EV, ISO 2500.

Golden-fronted Woodpecker also at the bird blind at San Angelo SP.  One of my favorite subjects.  These woodpeckers are so photogenic.  100-400mm lens, 1/1250 sec. @ f5.6, -0.3EV, ISO 1000.

Western Grebe

Western Grebe enjoying the water in the Middle Concho River.  A rare appearance for this bird.  He was a little further downstream, so I had to drive through the boonies, then hike through the brush, cactus and trees to get to the shoreline.  That was while carrying my tripod with the Canon 7D with the heavy 500mm lens and 1.4 teleconverter.  This plus trying to avoid stepping into various varment holes and watching out for rattlesnakes.  1/1000 sec. @ f10, -1 step EV, ISO, 320.

Osprey

Osprey just hanging out in a favorite tree along the Middle Concho River.  100-400mm lens, 1.1600 sec. @ f6.3, +0.3EV, ISO 320.

There is still time to vote in my Bird ID quiz.  Click here to see the photo and vote.  Results will be published on Friday the 20th.

Re-organizing My Dis-organization


My good friend, Jim Miller, did a post (click here) about how he organizes his photographs.  It is a great post, as he describes in great detail how he key-words all of his image files, to make them easier to find.  A very good, efficient system.  Probably one that all good pros should use.  But since I have had my own method for so long, I will now, for your entertainment, show you how I do it.

If I may regress, re-wind back to the good old days of yesteryear, 1960.  Do you remember Kodachrome (ASA 10).  That was my favorite film that I used when I first started to get passionate about photography.  I loved that particular slide film.  It was very slow as film of that day was, but I could look at a scene and picture how it would photograph.  I had Kodak Retina IIIs 35mm range-finder camera that I had purchased at the base exchange at Karamursel AFB, Turkey.  Back then zoom lenses were non-existent.  I had the basic 50mm lens, then I added an 85mm and a 135mm (whoopee) telephoto.

But back to the subject I intended to write about.  When it comes to organization of photos, working with slides wasn’t bad.  I had various slide trays that I kept for them, putting images for the different trips that I took into each tray and labeled them.

Later when I switched to negative film is where it started to get messy.  I tried notebooks with sleeves for negatives.  I couldn’t keep up with that, so I started just putting the negative into shoeboxes.  I still have some of those boxes of negatives.  I just hope no-one will ask me if I have a certain picture, that will make me have to sort through them.    I think I should throw the boxes away, then I won’t have that worry.

Now comes the digital age.  At first, my digital files were nearly as bad as the shoeboxes.  What a mess, image files were ending up in the strangest locations on my computer.  I one opened my Quicken program and discovered a photo of a raccoon.  🙂  Okay, I’m kidding about that.  🙂  Then about three years ago, when my friend in Tennessee asked me, “how in the world do you find anything?”,  a light bulb popped into my head.  I realized that I needed to do something.

It was about that time I was really getting into shooting wildlife.  So I opened a new folder in my computer’s hard drive, and called it “Photographs.”  How about that.  I certainly felt that this was a step in the right direction.  Since I was shooting a lot of bird photos, I made a folder in Photographs and named it “Birds“.  Boy, now I was on a roll.  When I had a bird picture, I just opened Photographs, then clicked on Birds.

But then I thought, there are a heck of a lot of birds out there.  Different species, etc.  So then if I photographed a sparrow, I made another folder under Birds, and named it Sparrows“.  You can see now where I am going with all of this.  In Sparrows, I have folders for the different species of sparrows, i.e. Vesper, House, Song, Fox and all the others.  If I want to find a photograph of a Lark Sparrow, I just go to my Fastone Image Viewer, click Photographs>Birds>Sparrows>Lark.  All of my Lark Sparrow photographs are there in thumb-nails.  I pick the one I want and open it up in my editing software.

I then did the same for Animals, Flowers, Scenics, etc.  All those are the main folders with sub-folders under each one.

I might mention that when I take the card from the camera, I download it into my Fastone Image Viewer.  I can delete the ones I don’t want, then easily move the keepable (is that a word?) images into the proper folder named above.

This system works for me because, at my age, I don’t want to spend all my time doing what Jim does.  Especially when I shoot a couple of hundred or more on any given day.  I know that his end result is probably much faster than mine and more efficient.  I know my friend in Tennessee is probably giggling over this post as she does use something similar to Jim’s method, as probably all the other pros out there.  But since this old dog doesn’t want to learn new tricks, I will now demonstrate how to find a photograph of a House Finch.  Click Photographs>Birds,Finches>House……

House Finch

Voilla!!!

And there you have it.  A pretty good system, if I do say so myself.  Also, as any photographer who wants to protect his images, I back up my files on a regular basis.  Now, I need to get that ‘coon image outa my bank account. 🙂

RAW Finches and Photoshop CS5


A drab, cold day here in San Angelo, Texas today.  I got restless, couldn’t go outside and do any shooting do to moisture, near freezing conditions.  What to do.  Naturally, I got on the computer and started going through old images.  I came across these that I shot in RAW a couple of years ago.  Now, as I may have mentioned many times, I have never been a big fan of shooting RAW.  Mainly, I guess, I didn’t have enough confidence to try to convert the photos to my satisfaction.

A couple of months ago I, because of a good discount on sale, acquired Photoshop CS5.  I hadn’t got into it much, because most of my time is either in the field shooting, or writing my blog.  I was content to just cruise along, satisfied with the results that I was getting with sticking to JPEG images.

So, today, I thought was the time to get serious with this RAW and also do some experimenting with PS CS5.  And I’ll be darned, if it ain’t all that hard to come up with some pretty good images.  I am glad that I had kept these files of these female House Finches.

House Finch - female

House Finch - female

I think I am pretty pleased with the results.  I may be a new convert to RAW.  Maybe this old dog can learn a few new tricks.

More about X-Bar Ranch Nature Retreat


Sunrise at X-Bar Ranch Nature Retreat

Click here for X-Bar Ranch Nature Retreat information.  Ann and I made a visit last week and spent a few days birding and photographing.   I had told you about it briefly in a post last week.  Here are some photos that I promised you. 
 
We spent most of our time around the lodge area, about 50 feet from the cabin that we stayed in.  It was amazing how many bird species that we saw in that tiny area.  We could have driven around the ranch on our own, but we will do that on another visit, as we were afraid of missing a new bird.
 
We were the only guests there, so we had the entire place to our own.  Stan Meador, the general manager, welcomed us and saw to our needs, then basically just left us alone.  Stan returned on Tuesday morning, and took us in his pickup truck for a tour of the ranch.
 
Besides the birding opportunities, there is hunting, hiking, biking, and camping.  As a matter of fact, Eddie Salter, a national champion turkey hunter and guide from Hunter’s Specialties had just finished filming a hunt to be shown in January 2012 on the Outdoor Channel.
 
At the bottom of this post I have listed the total species that we saw there.  Click on any photograph to see an enlargement.
 

Painted Bunting

Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Northern Mockingbird
Chipping Sparrow
Western Scrub Jay
House Finch in flight
Rufous-crowned Sparrow
Canyon Towhee
Northern Bobwhite
 
 
Happy Birding!!
 
Location:     X-Bar Ranch
Observation date:     4/18/11
Notes:     These are our observations at the Lodge April 18, 19, & 20th.<br>from
the north & south ends of the porch!
Number of species:     37
 
Northern Bobwhite     8
Wild Turkey     4
Turkey Vulture     6
American Kestrel     1
Eurasian Collared-Dove     2
White-winged Dove     6
Mourning Dove     10
Black-chinned Hummingbird     4
Golden-fronted Woodpecker     1
Eastern Phoebe     1
Eastern Kingbird     1
Western Scrub-Jay     7
Barn Swallow     2
Black-crested Titmouse     4
Bewick’s Wren     2
Hermit Thrush     2
Northern Mockingbird     6
Orange-crowned Warbler     2
Nashville Warbler     1
Yellow Warbler     2
Yellow-rumped Warbler     3
Spotted/Eastern Towhee     5
Rufous-crowned Sparrow     2
Canyon Towhee     2
Chipping Sparrow     6
Lark Sparrow     2
Savannah Sparrow     2
White-crowned Sparrow     2
Summer Tanager     3
Northern Cardinal     6
Pyrrhuloxia     1
Blue Grosbeak     1
Painted Bunting     4
Great-tailed Grackle     2
Brown-headed Cowbird     1
Scott’s Oriole     2
House Finch     10
House Sparrow     2
 
 

Saturday Morning Birding Tour


Just a few updates about our State Park Birding monthly tour today.  The weather was a bit chilly and windy, but we still had a total of eight people.  We also had a new-comer.  Brenda Liverick mistakenly thought that today was the day for the Bison Tour.  She instead joined us for the birding.  It turned out that she enjoyed very much.

The birds were staying down in the brush, I guess because of the windy, chilly weather, but neverless our sharpeyed birders spotted quite a few.  Besides the usual Red-winged Blackbirds, finches, etc., we also spotted a Ruby-crowned Kinglet.  At one point several American White Pelicans took to the air and put on a great show.

In other news, Bill Yeates sent me this great photograph of a Female House Finch that he captured at the Llano State Park bird blind.   Thanks, Bill, for sending it.

House Finch - female

I hope to see more of our local birders for the next Adult Birding Tour in January.