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.

Spring has sprung – or not

I guess spring is finally here, however it is a little cooler here today, but I will ignore that.  Trees are budding out, expecially the mesquites, and that should be a sure sign.  But on the other hand, a niece e-mailed me three days ago that they had gotten 12 inches of snow that morning.  She lives near Traverse City, Michigan.  Thank God for Texas.

We saw our first Ash-throated Flycatcher of the year.  Plus I had a report from friends down in Eldorado that they had seen two Scissor-tailed Flycatchers.  So I guess the migration has started.  I hope you like this photo that I took when I first saw that flycatcher.

Ash-throated Flycatcher

People have asked me how I put that frame and mat around my digital images.  Well, I have a very special friend that wrote me a custom “action” for my Photoshop Elements program.  Pretty neat, huh??

About the Ash-throated Flycatcher (Myiarchus cinerascens).  Breeds in open, dry habitats.  It spends it’s summers in the Southwestern United States.  Click on the image to see an enlargement.

This flycatcher is difficult to discern from a few other species.  To learn more about the identification of all birds, Delbert Tarter, one of the best local experts on the subject, will be presenting a three-week, 12-hour class at the San Angelo, Texas, Nature Center.  Two hours each Tuesday and Thursday nights for the duration.  (Delbert, wasn’t that neat how I worked that plug into this post for you?  You can thank me later.)  🙂   Phone 325-942-0121 for more information.

One more thing, click here to see what  Toby  Shoemaker, of Maine, is saying about me.

Hey, he’s just a kid………….

Going through some old photos, I came across this one that brought back a fond memory.  A few years ago I was at someone’s ranch.  I really don’t remember whose.  I was just wandering around through the brush and weeds and I came across this new-born goat kid.  The mother was standing about about 20 feet away.  The little one was under a dense mesquite brush.  How it got there I didn’t know.

Looking at it carefully, I realized it was just a few hours old.  It still had blood clots in it’s coat and signs of the after-birth.  It didn’t have a way out of the bush, so I pushed branches aside and carefully reached in.  I gently placed my hand under it’s body and lifted it out into the clearing.  It seened like it only weighed a few ounces, and probably only messured about 14 inches from nose to tail.  It was so cute, I just had to take a photo.  The mother was not concerned in anyway.  She just stood and watched.

I used the cloning tool in Photoshop Elements and cleaned up the coat.  Click on the image to see an enlargement.

"Hey, I'm just a kid"

Goldfinches have arrived.

Ann and I spent a couple of hours doing some birding at San Angelo State Park‘s bird blind.  We saw the collection of the regular birds that stay here year round, but was surprised by this winter adult American Goldfinch (carduelis tristis).  We actually spotted two.  Also of late, we have seen a Ruby-crowned Kinglet.  Soon we should start seeing Pine Siskens.

adult winter American Goldfinch

But the target of many of my searches out there continues to evade me.  I am speaking of the Northern Harrier.  Again, I almost had a great shot of it as it appeared sitting on a fence.  But before I could get the camera on it, it was gone.  I rattled off a few shots as it left, but they were just blurred streaks.  I swear I heard it’s laughter as it went away.  I am determined to get a nice frameable photograph of that cotton-pickin’ bird.  I’ll get lucky soon.

Information on the Goldfinch photo is, 1/1600 sec @ f5.6, -1/3 EV, ISO 800.  Canon 7D with Canon 100-400 lens.  Edited in Photoshop Elements, Focus Magic, Topaz DeNoise.  Click on the image to see an enlargement.

My secondary quest, besides trying to add to my life list of 218, is to photograph all of those birds.  Cindy Kilpatrick, better know to you as “missus76k” in my blogroll, asked me how many of the 218 had I photographed.  Well in doing some checking, I think I have gotten about 190 images of that 218.  Of course, some of the photos aren’t anything to write home about, as quite a few were just good enough for identification.  But, eventually, I would like to have at least an 8×10 of each. 

Happy birding!!

More About Roseate Spoonbills

Okay, can you stand some more talk about the Roseate Spoonbills?  I feel like I have touched on them several times the past couple of weeks, but I think I’ve finally hit perfection this morning, so maybe no more after this.  They are so new to me, since I had never seen one before.  I have been struck by their beauty.

The following two pictures were shot in the RAW format, then edited and converted to JPEGs in Photoshop Elements.  For you that are interested with such information, I photographed these  images with my Canon EOS 7D, with a Canon f4-5.6 100-400 IS  zoom lens.  The ISO was 800, shutter speed 1/4000, aperture f8 with an EV adjustment of minus .03.  That adjustment was for the bright whites that were caused by the early morning sun.  I hope you enjoy the images.  Click on either one to see an enlargement.

Roseate Spoonbill in flight


Roseate Spoonbills

Photoshop Elements 8

A number of people have asked me over the years, what editing software do I use.  I have Photoshop CS4 which I am learning to use.  But I stll have my dear old Photoshop Elements.  I have used Elements since they came out with their first version several years ago.  I now have version 8.

As they have upgraded, they have gradually added tools, bells and whistles,  that were originally in the full Photoshop software.  Version 8 has continued improving in that sense.  It is very user friendly, and very, very less expensive.  Example:  Full Photoshop CS4 or CS5 – around 600.00.  Photoshop Elements 8 – less than 100.00.  If you are inclined to shoot RAW file, Elements can handle the conversion with no problem.

I myself, shoot RAW and JPEG simotaneously.  My Canon EOS 7D allows me to do that.  Then I can choose to use whichever image I want.  But either way, I find that the final results are excellent.

Following are two examples.  Both were processed in Photoshop Elements 8.  An Eastern Bluebird and a Sunflower, which you saw the photo yesterday.  The bluebird original was a JPEG, whereas the Sunflower was shot in RAW.  These were shot with my 18MP Canon EOS 7D.  Having that extra large file to work with enables me to crop extra close.  Both of these photos produced very nice 11x14s.

Eastern Bluebird - original from the camera



Sunflower - original from camera




Of course, there is more to producing a good photograph than just cropping.   In these photos, I have adjusted the light, color saturation, contrast, and done a little more sharpening.  So that’s how Photoshop Elements has helped me out. 

If you have any questions or comments on this subject comment here or contact me direct at bobzeller1@aol.com.   Click on any of the images for an enlargement.

Photo editing

It’s cold and blustery this morning.  About  35 degrees with a wind chill of about 25.  So I have been sitting at my computer editing some of my photographs.  At the present I have been using Photoshop Elements as my editing software.  However, I have Photoshop CS4 on order and will have it in a few days.  I just want to emphasize  the importance of photo editing.  You can take what you may think is a badly exposed or badly composed image and make something of them.  I have a couple of examples here. 

First is the Sharp-shinned Hawk I photographed a few days ago, and posted it on my previous post.  When I took the original photo, I was sitting in the blind with my Canon 7D with a 100-400mm tele-zoom.  The hawk flew in and settled in the tree for a minute or two, about 15 yards away.  Because of the tree branches and a bird feeder limiting  my view I used spot focusing.  I had just enough room through the obstructions to get my center focus point on the eyes.  That’s important.  Get the eyes sharp and everything else falls into place.  If you don’t the picture is a bust.  But anyway, the intruding tree branches nearly threw the metered esposure off a bit.  The resulting original shows the hawk almost as a shadow.  But using my editing software I able to brighten it up, increase contrast,  then I cropped it close.  You can see the results below.  The “before and after”.

Sharp-shined hawk un-edited

Sharp-shinned Hawk - cropped and edited

The other photo is of a Black-crowned Night Heron.  I was down town on the River Drive.  Ann and I spotted him across on the other side of the river, about 75 yards away.   I got out of the van with my Canon 7D and my 500mm super telephoto.  In this case the camera done it’s usual great job, and very little editing was needed.  I just cropped it to improve the composition.  You can also see those “before and after pictures here.

Black-crown Night Heron - un-edited

Black-crowned Night Heron - edited

Of course, it is always nice to be close enough so you can compose full frame, and not have to crop, or not have to edit anything.  My Canon 7D comes the closest to getting a perfect exposure more than any camera I have ever owned.  It usually nails the exposure near perfect.  (No, Canon doesn’t pay me anything for pushing there equipment). 🙂

You can click on any photo to see an enlarged image.  Enjoy.

Happy birding and photographing!!

more photos at www.zellertexasphotos.com.