Fun with creative editing….


In times like this, when the weather is hot and the birding is slow, it is time for….drum roll please………..Creative Editing.

Actually, I did get out for a little while Sunday morning.  I didn’t want to spend too much time as I wanted to get home in time to watch Andre Beltre, of the Texas Rangers, get his 3000th base hit.  In the history of baseball, only 30 others had accomplished that in their career.  But, heck, you are not interested in hearing about baseball.

So, back to the original purpose of this post.  While we were out, Ann, a couple of family friends, and I, were birding at San Angelo State Park.  As I said, not too much going on, but we did spot a Northern Bobwhite perched and singing in the distance.  In the distance, is an understatement, as we could barely see him with our naked eyes.  I put my bean bag on the window sill, turned off the engine to prevent anymore vibrations.  I settled my Canon 7D Mark II with my Tamron 150-600 G2 lens, on the beanbag.  With that solid bed, I fired off a few shots at 1/1250 sec. @ f6.3, plus 1/3 stop of EV adjustment.  ISO was 800, which promoted a little digital noise.  Here is the original, looking through that long lens.  I was at a distance of approximately 100 yards.  Remember, with the naked eye it looked even much further away.

Northern Bobwhite

Since that was the only usable image from that outing, I loaded it into the computer to see if I could make something out of it in my digital darkroom.  The result follows below.  First, you can see how I first cropped it.  In doing so, it left part of the tree taking up space, too close to the quail for my liking.  Fortunately the sky was an even blue all around, so I just cloned the tree out very easily.  After all, I was after a nice photo of the bird, not the tree.  It was just a distraction in this case.

The first thing I did was get rid of the tiny bit of noise that the higher ISO of 800 created.  There wasn’t much, as the Canon 7D Mk II handles high ISOs very nicely.  But I have a plug-in, Topaz DeNoise, that does a great job of eliminating digital noise.  Very easy to use.

Now, even with taking those precautions described above, the image wasn’t tack sharp.  But that is going to happen when you crop an image so tightly, especially since the original was shot from so far away.  I do all of my cropping and editing in Photoshop CS5.  I do not use their sharpening, though.  I have a great plug-in, called Focus Magic.  Photoshop’s sharpening method with the so-called “Unsharp Mask” just messes with the pixels.  Focus Magic actually corrects the focus very naturally.  But having said that, evev after I use the Focus Magic, I sometimes tweak it a little more by using the Photoshop’s focus tool and paint it a little lightly.  A very neat trick.

After that I tweaked the contrast and color saturation a bit.  And there you have it, my little secret recipe that has been handed down over hundreds of years.  Not bad, if I do say so myself.  I hope you like it. 🙂  (Click on either image to see nice enlargements.)

Northern Bobwhite

And yes, in case you were wondering, Andre Beltre did get his 3,000th  hit,. After that, I took a nap. 🙂

Oh, in case you missed it my beautiful 2018 calendars are here.  Click this link for more information: https://bobzeller.wordpress.com/2017/07/25/2018-calendars-on-the-way/

Summer Birding at San Angelo State Park


I have been birding at San Angelo State Park for about ten years.  I have seen highs and lows.  The highs were in the years of 2007-2008.  Then O. C. Fisher lake started drying up.  Gone were a lot of the water loving birds, herons, ducks, etc.  You could literally walk across the lake and not get your feet wet.  Then there was a program where spraying was done to kill the mesquite.  Those trees and shrubs started dying and losing foliage, which was cover for some birds.  About that time, we had some welcome storms that brought water back into the lake.  The water reached the levels of 2007.  That was welcome as the water fowl started to return.  But now with withering temperatures we had recently, the lake is slowly dropping again.

I am not saying that birding is bad, but the birds that once were plentiful have had their numbers decreasing.   There was a time when we would always see large numbers of hawks, osprey, and other birds of prey.  Now we rarely see a raptor.  That doesn’t mean that there aren’t any.  It is just to show that they are scarce.  In our searches we have discovered one Swainson’s Hawk, two Red-tailed Hawks, and until yesterday we knew of only one Great Horned Owl that was hangout near the Isabell Harte picnic area.  That increased by one yesterday when I tell you of a nice experience we had.

Great Horned Owl

Yesterday morning, Ann and I decided to got to the park early, to check out the bird blind.  It had been recently damaged in a storm, but it was now open again to the public.  We drove down the lane to the structure and turned into the little parking area.  Lo and behold, sitting on the fence next to the blind and about ten feet from the door, was the Great Horned Owl, pictured above.  We sat in the car, or what I call our mobile blind.  I was able to get that shot and several others from there.  I was only about 35 feet from the bird, and to get out of the car would probably spook it.  We observed it for about 10 minutes, not wanting to disturb it.  However, after a few minutes, a volunteer that puts birdseed in the feeders drove up.  That spooked the owl and off he flew.  but it was an amazing experience, to be that close.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

We were at the blind for about an hour and we saw Painted Buntings, Northern Bobwhite,  Northern Cardinals, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Curve-billed Thrasher, Bell’s Vireo, Bewick’s Wren, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, (pictured above) and the usual doves, sparrows, etc.

After leaving the blind, we took a drive all through the park, seeking birds that don’t frequent the blind.  Here are a few photos from those drives during the past couple of weeks.

Blue Grosbeak

Swainson’s Hawk

Swainson’s Hawk

Of course, I have so others that I haven’t processed yet, and some others that are just throw-aways.  But we saw around 40-45 species in the past couple of weeks.  Others that deserve mentions are Common Nighthawks, Western Kingbirds, Scissor-tailed Flycatachers, Black-throated Sparrows, Green Heron, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Greater Roadrunner, Wild Turkey, Pyrrhuloxia, Canyon Towhee, Bullock’s Oriole, plus the various doves and sparrows.

Looking back at what I have written, I suppose that I may have painted a bleak picture of the birding.  But then I realized that most of the birds are here, just not in large numbers, such as the raptors.  You just have to look a bit harder to see them.  But, isn’t that the fun of the hunt????

So, I believe the birding at San Angelo State Park, is alive and well.

For information on purchasing prints click on the Bob’s Gallery button at the top of this page, or this link:https://bobzeller.wordpress.com/photo-album-guide/

Happy Birding!!!

 

 

 

 

 

Catch me live, in living color…..


To begin this post, I would like to let you know that yesterday, Thursday June 29, I was honored to be featured and interviewed on a local TV program, Concho Vally Live on KLST.  I spoke about photography, and showed several of my photographs.  Here is a link to see that interview if you want to finally meet and see me up close.  You will see that I am not the handsome hunk that you thought I was.  http://www.conchovalleyhomepage.com/concho-valley-live/photography-talk-with-bob-zeller-concho-valley-live-june-29-2017/754138109

It went pretty well except the person in charge, loaded the photos so they would loop rather than show individually, so each photo showed for only 5 seconds.  You will see that I had a difficult task to try to describe  of them.  Ashley Cunha did a great job doing the interview, though.   But I must say, she had the advantage of reading from the teleprompter, whereas I had to wing it.  I hope you enjoy seeing the show.

In other news, many of you have probably heard about the storm that hit San Angelo a week ago.  It was really devastating, millions of dollars damage through out the city.  We were one of the lucky ones.  Our flag pole got snapped in half, a portion of our fence blew down, and our roof lost a couple of shingles.  Other parts of town lost building, roofs, signage, etc.

San Angelo State Park, where we do most of our birding, and where I get many of my photographs, sustained major damage.  Trees uprooted, RVs destroyed or damaged.  The trails are impassable for the present, and of course closed until cleanup can be completed.  The park itself, was closed for about three days, then it opened yesterday, but only to travel paved roads.  Most of the RV sites have been cleaned up.  Here are a few photos that showed the damage.  The bird blind took a “direct hit’ I was told.  The roof was partially blown off and the fence was down.  I wasn’t permitted to take the trail back there to get a photo.

San Angelo SP storm damage

San Angelo SP  storm damage.

San Angelo SP storm damage

San Angelo SP

Fortunately, there were no serious injuries.  One lady obtained a cut on her head, when she got slammed around when her RV trailer got tipped over.  For me, this was one of the worst storms I had seen in years, in terms of the widespread damage.

This morning Ann and I finally made a serious attempt to see some birds and for me to get a couple of photographs.  Birding was slow but a couple of shots made it worthwhile.  Here are those results.

Swainson’s Hawk

Common Nighthawk

That is all for this post.  To see more photos, or make purchases, click the “Bob’s Gallery” button at the top of the page.  Enjoy!

Check my New Gallery Page


Hi there everyone.  I am always trying to think of ways to improve this blog.  I think you will really enjoy my new Gallery page.  Just click the Gallery button at the top of this page, or click here.  The photographs are stunning.  You can scroll and scroll and scroll.  I will keep adding to them almost daily as I try to get all of my photos in it.   Try it out.

In other news, the weather has been nice here again,   The storms have passed and the dog days of summer have set in.  I haven’t been out as much as usual lately, though.  As I mentioned, I have been working on setting up my gallery page.  Also, I am putting together a collection of photos that I will present on a local television show on June 29.  It is called Concho Valley Live, a 30-minute show that airs daily on KLST at 4:00PM during the week.  They have asked me to appear on their June 29 show. (write that down.)  I hope my San Angelo area readers will tune in.  KLST is a CBS affiliate.

Hear are some photos from the past week or so that I managed to get.  Click one any of them to see enlargements.

The Bell’s Vireo was flying between a couple of trees.  He had a companion, and they were chasing each other around.  Finally one of them perched long enough to allow me to get this photo.

Bell’s Vireo.

It seems that even though were traveling all over the San Angelo State Park, we were never away from hearing one or more Northern Bobwhites.  I managed to find this one in a tree.

Northern Bobwhite

The Scissor-tailed Flycatchers are now set in for the summer.  This is another from San Angelo State Park.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

More from the Davis Mountains


I have been spending the past several days, catching up with editing my photos from our Davis Mountains birding trip.  I am really thrilled and happy that I was able to get these photographs, some of which have been on my bucket list for a long time.  Oh, I had seen most of the birds in the past, I just hadn’t been able to get the photos of them that I was satisfied with.  Anyway, here is anoatherhalf-dozen that I have ready for you.  All of them were captureded in or near the Davis Mountains of west Texas.  Click on an of them to see enlargements.

One of my favorites of the trip was this Acorn Woodpecker.  I love their clown face.  They are seen mostly in the mountains of far west Texas and southern Arizona.

Acorn Woodpecker

Formerly the Western Scrub-Jay.  It was split into different species, the Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay and the California Scrub-Jay.

Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay

The beautiful Scott’s Oriole is found mostly in west Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.

Scott’s Oriole

This Western Tanager was pretty elusive.  He stayed partly hidden in the branches, until he finally made this brief appearance.

Western Tanager

The Loggerhead Shrike is a familiar bird all across the southern states.  Know as the Butcher Bird as he likes to impale his prey on barbed-wire or cactus spines, to be eaten at a later time.

Loggerhead Shrike

Another photo of the Woodhouse’s Scrub’Jay.  I don’t know which I like best.

Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay

Again, I hope you enjoyed these photos.  More are coming in future posts.  Prints are available at my FineArtAmerican store at: http://1bob-zeller.pixels.com.  Just click on the image you are interested in and a menu will fall in place, letting you know what is available and pricing.  You may also buy 12×16 prints directly from me at bobzeller@pobox.com.

One of my readers, Mr. Carl White, asked for a list of all of the species from that trip.  So for all of you birders who may be curious, here is what we saw from leaving San Angelo on May 1 until coming back on May 5.  It includes birds from the Davis Mountains, Lake Balmorhea, Saucedo Wetlands, and highways throughout the areas.

  1. Pyrhuloxia
  2. White-winged Dove
  3. Turkey Vulture
  4. Common Raven
  5. Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
  6. Northern Mockingbird
  7. Bullock’s Oriole
  8. House Finch
  9. House Sparrow
  10. Great-tailed Grackle
  11. Cassin’s Kingbird
  12. White-crowned Sparrow
  13. Greater Roadrunner
  14. Northern Shoveler
  15. Cinnamon Teal
  16. Mallard
  17. Killdeer
  18. Cave Swallow
  19. Western Meadowlark
  20. Purple Martin
  21. American Coot
  22. Pied-billed Grebe
  23. Olive-sided Sparrow
  24. Black-chinned Hummingbird
  25. Brown-headed Cowbird
  26. Red-tailed Hawk
  27. Chichuahuan Raven
  28. Lark Sparrow
  29. Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay
  30. Scott’s Oriole
  31. White-breasted Nuthatch
  32. Swainson’s Hawk
  33. Chipping Sparrow
  34. Black-headed Grosbeak
  35. Acorn Woodpecker
  36. Mourning Dove
  37. Wilson’s Warbler
  38. Black-crested Titmouse
  39. Hermit Thrush
  40. Western Wood-Pewee
  41. Summer Tanager
  42. Pine Siskin
  43. Blue Grosbeak
  44. Montezuma Quail
  45. Cactus Wren
  46. Canyon Towhee
  47. Say’s Phoebe
  48. McGilivray’s Warbler
  49. Bushtit
  50. Common Nighthawk
  51. Hepatic Tanager (lifer)
  52. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  53. Bewick’s Wren
  54. Western Tanager
  55. Loggerhead Shrike
  56. Scaled Quail
  57. Common Black-Hawk
  58. Eastern Meadowlark
  59. Ladder-backed Woodpecker
  60. Lesser Goldfinch
  61. Northern Cardinal
  62. Black-throated Sparrow
  63. Spotted Sandpiper
  64. Green Heron
  65. Red-winged Blackbird
  66. Western Grebe
  67. Clark’s Grebe
  68. Black-necked Stilt
  69. White-faced Ibis
  70. Snowy Egret
  71. Yellow-headed Blackbird
  72. Vermilion Flycatcher
  73. Curve-billed Thrasher
  74. Western Kingbird

Say it isn’t so, Bob, say it isn’t so…….


Well sorry to say, it is so.  I am suspending my blog, at least for a short period.  You might say I am taking a sabbatical for several weeks, perhaps a couple of months.  I am undergoing a series of procedures to cure some skin cancer on my face and neck.  I am hoping to get back to work by the end of April, as Ann and I want to spend a few days in the Davis Mountains during the first week of May.

Because of this, I obviously need to keep myself out of the sun as much as possible.  My face looks like it has been run over by a garbage truck with a full load.  It is very uncomfortable, and that makes it hard for me to concentrate on anything to do with writing creatively.  I do hope to get outdoors anyway, perhaps earlier in the day, or when it is cloudier.  I am not fit right now to be seen in public.  But in the end, it will be worth the discomfort.

Anyway, to ease your disappointment, I have a few images from the past couple of weeks that I will show you here.  Click on any photo to see an enlargement.

Burrowing Owl

American Kestrel

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Carolina Wren

Red-breasted Nuthatch

Red-winged Blackbird – female

American Robin in early morning light.

Horned Lark

Osprey, with lunch

Red-tailed Hawk

Great Horned Owl – peeking from behind a freshly cut branch.

So there you have it, something to hold you over for a few weeks.  See ya then….

Happy Birding.

A Pre-Valentine’s Day Post


I am getting back into my routine since returning from the Big Bend.  The weather is moving up and down like a Disney roller-coaster.  93° last Saturday.  Maybe 45° today.  No matter, I try to get out for an hour or two, or three nearly every day.  The birding is improving, but having said that, it will probably be another wait for the spring birds to arrive.  But let me show you the photos I have gotten since my last post.  As usual, click on any image to see some nice enlargements.

Here in San Angelo we do have American Robins pretty regularly, but this year it seems there many, many more than in the past.  I see them almost everywhere I go.

American Robin - 1/640 sec. @ f6.3, +0,7 EV, ISO 3200, 450mm

American Robin – 1/640 sec. @ f6.3, +0,7 EV, ISO 3200, 450mm

This House Finch and the above robin were photographed early in the morning at the same darkish location, which accounted for the high ISO of 3200.  As you can see, they are sitting on the same branch.

House Finch, female - 1/500 sec. @ f6.3, +0,7 EV, ISO 3200, 550mm.

House Finch, female – 1/500 sec. @ f6.3, +0,7 EV, ISO 3200, 550mm.

I love to photograph the Northern Cardinals.  They are so photogenic, it is hard to get a bad image.

Northern Cardinal - 1/500 sec. @ f6.3, +0.7 EV, ISO 3200, 450mm

Northern Cardinal – 1/500 sec. @ f6.3, +0.7 EV, ISO 3200, 450mm

Loggerhead Shrike, AKA ‘the butcherbird’.  They love to impale their prey on a thorn or barbed wire before consuming them.

Loggerhead Shrike - 1/640 sec. @ f8, +0.7 EV, ISO 200, 600mm.

Loggerhead Shrike – 1/640 sec. @ f8, +0.7 EV, ISO 200, 600mm.

The Belted Kingfishers are not innocent either.  They dive and hit the water at about 100MPH, stabbing their fish, and giving themselves a nasty headache.

Belted Kingfisher, female. 1/640 sec. @ f7.1, +0.7 EV, ISO 400, 600mm.

Belted Kingfisher, female. 1/640 sec. @ f7.1, +0.7 EV, ISO 400, 600mm.

This Carolina Wren gave me a nice pose early one morning.

Carolina Wren - 1/1000 sec. @ f6.3, +0.3 EV, ISO 640, 600mm.

Carolina Wren – 1/1000 sec. @ f6.3, +0.3 EV, ISO 640, 600mm.

Last week one day, we ventured out to about a dozen miles west of Eldorado, where this Burrowing Owl was making it’s home in a culvert.  When we arrived, we saw from about 100 yards down the road.  He was standing looking our way, like he was waiting for us to show up.  As we neared he jumped into the culvert, and turned and peeked out to look our way.  Of about 100 images this was one of my personal favorites.  My camera and lens gave me an excellent quality file to work with, and I was able to crop close and give you this portrait.

Burrowing Owl - 1/1600 sec. @ f7.1, ISO 400, 600mm.

Burrowing Owl – 1/1600 sec. @ f7.1, ISO 400, 600mm.

One day at San Angelo State Park ann spotted this Merlin off to the right of the car.  I only had time to shoot across Ann’s lap through her window.  The early morning gave me some good light.

Merlin - 1/2000 sec. @ f6.3, +0.7 EV, ISO 1000, 600mm.

Merlin – 1/2000 sec. @ f6.3, +0.7 EV, ISO 1000, 600mm.

Before we left the state park, we spotted this Red-tailed Hawk perched.  As I was starting to shoot, from about80 yards away, it decided to take flight.  I was ready, and I filled the frame with my lens.

Red-tailed Hawk - 1/2000 sec. @ f6.3, ISO 320, 600mm.

Red-tailed Hawk – 1/2000 sec. @ f6.3, ISO 320, 600mm.

I hope you enjoyed this post and all of the photographs.  I am working on adding images to my FineArtamerica store where you can buy prints and other items with my photography.

You may want to start a collection of my coffee mugs with birds or some of my landscape images.  They make fine gifts.  To browse and/or purchase, Click HERE.