Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category

Alaska Bound

My wife and I are off to Alaska next week. We have been planning this trip for a year. We started right after Jack Mills came to the Arundel Camera Club and gave a talk. His bear photography from Alaska was great. We are going with our friends Anna and David. We are flying to Anchorage. From there we have three destinations. First we are driving to Denali. Then we are flying to Brooks Falls. Finally we will drive down to Seward. Cross your fingers the weather forecast Has been rain, rain, and more rain.

I will be posting photos to my Flickr during the trip and updating my blog pending Internet access.

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Bald Eagle, originally uploaded by bmthomas.

We visited the Sarasota County Landfill Pinelands Reserve while we were in Florida. For the most part I was unimpressed. However there is an Eagle Nest very close to the birding path. There were two adults and at least one baby while we were there. One parent always seemed to stand guard while the other hunted. There were opportunities to get shots as they came and went. I would say this is the closest I have ever been to a eagle nest. Well worth the visit especially if you are going to the nearby Venice Rookery.

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Osprey, originally uploaded by bmthomas.

In Sarasota where the Pelican Man used to run the pelican sanctuary there is a new bird rescue called Save Our Seabirds. Now most of the birds are in cages and it can be very challenging to get a good photo. Today however the volunteers were chasing around a Kestrel that had escaped its cage. They kept trying to lure it with scraps of meat. This gave me a chance to get some good photos. When I left they still hadn’t captured him.

Nearby is a boat launch. There are always Blue Herons, Egrets, and pelicans there hoping to steal some fish from fishermen when they return and clean their catch. I have also seen night herons and cormorants. In the trees across the water there is a rookery for brown pelicans, blue herons, and aninghas.

While there I spotted an osprey in a tree. He let me get fairly close before taking off. I really couldn’t be any closer and keep his wingspan in the frame when he took off.

American Kestrel American Kestrel

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Palma Sola Botanical Park

Red-bellied Woodpecker, originally uploaded by bmthomas.

The Palma Sola Botanical Park is right across the street from Robinson Preserve so there is no reason not to visit both. It is open daily from 8am until dusk- no entry fee!

Normally there are lots of flowers to photograph. Unfortunately they looked like maybe they had been affected by freezing weather.

So the birds are the other attraction. In just a short morning visit I saw cormorants, osprey, red bellied wood peckers, brown pelican, a hawk of some kind, blue-gray gnatcatchers wood storks, white ibis, moching birds, canada geese, coot, mallards, etc.

Well worth a visit or two. I always walk down in the morning any time I am visiting my parents.

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Robinson Preserve

Loggerhead Shrike

Originally uploaded by bmthomas

Just down the street from my parents house they have built a new 487-acre preserve. They are trying to return the land, shore, and marshes to a natural state. They have a lot of biking, walking, and paddling trails.

Robinson Preserve is located in northwestern Bradenton, in the Palma Sola area, across the street from the Palma Sola Botanical Gardens.

While visiting we saw a Loggerhead Shrike, egrets, ibis, vultures, osprey, little blue heron, great blue heron, redish egret, and an assortment of shore birds.

Redish Egret Redish Egret

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I spent another week in Florida visiting my parents and haling my camera to local birding locals in February. Over the next few days (or weeks) I will upload a description of each local I visited and some of the highlights as well as photos.

While in Florida I went to the following birding hot spots:

Here is a map with some links of all the locals I went.


View SW Florida Birding in a larger map

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Ok every since I saw my first hummingbird show up this year I have been dying to take a good photo of one. My first photo is not great and is a male sitting on a branch. But I wanted one in flight.

Ruby Throated male Hummingbird

So I looked around on Flickr and got a few tips. My next try was ass backwards. I set up six flashes triggered by Nikon wireless CLS around a feeder and blasted the poor hummingbird on full power while my Nikon D300 was set to a shutter speed of 1/8000.

Hummingbird Setup

This resulted in these photos. Note there is still motion blur in the wings.

Humming Bird

Humming Bird

Turns out I made a few mistakes. First FP Sync has issues. Again more tips and help from the Flickr community.

According to John Groseclose. Checkout his photos. They are great.

“If you’re trying to “freeze” motion, FP Sync isn’t the way to go. Since it turns the flash into a constant light source for the 1/300 or so it takes for the complete transit of the shutter slit across the sensor, you will still end up with blur.If you’d used an ND filter to knock down the ambient to black instead of using the high shutter speed to do it, you’d be using the flash duration of 1/1000ish at full power instead of the 1/300ish of the FP Sync. And since FP Sync loses a lot of power anyway, you might even be able to drop the flash power to 1/16 or so, and get a flash duration of 1/10000 or shorter (see page 122 of your SB-800 manual for the power/duration listings).

See webs.lanset.com/rcochran/flash/hss.html for details.

“You’ll want to get to a point where the ambient light is *zero*. If you shoot without flash, the scene should be *black*.

Then add flashes until you have enough to see the bird at a good exposure. That’ll freeze it.

At 1/250, f/8, ISO 400, you’re almost shooting for direct sunlight (f/16, ISO 100, 1/125 is “Sunny 16″.) Turn your ISO to 100, shutter to 1/250, and hit f/16. Don’t be afraid to crank your power up – the Metz 48 shouldn’t exceed 1/1000 at full power, and 1/2000 at half power.”

According to Michael Roy a.k.a. digitaldirectphotos.com. Checkout his photos and setups. They are awesome. Maybe buy his calendar.

” the ghosting appear because too much light hit the sensor. if you disconnect the flashes, everything should be almost black… if not ghosting appear. 1/16 should be ok for the flashes…, i would increase the f stop to f14 to f20 lower the iso to 250… the flashes have to be close to subject… use a patio umbrella or shoot when it is not in full sun… just like in studio.”

I really needed to reduce my shutter speed to 1/250 (i.e., no FP sync). Second I needed to decrease the power of the strobes down to say 1/16 power. The lower power settings actually allow the strobe to fire faster. This is where I am learning that when the strobes are the primary light source their speed is actually the important factor in the exposure. In stead of six flashes I am now using three on stands set around the feeder. Finally some of the blur was from my wide open F stop. I closed down that F-stop to the point that without flash, the photos were black. The next photos show this. Note that I have much better motion stop less blur.



Also note the black background. I wanted a beautiful background. So again more tips from Flickr community. I put a piece of black foam core behind the feeder. I took an out of focus shot of my day lillies, printed that on a piece of plain paper and taped that to the foam core behind the feeder. Finally I took one more strobe and used it to light the background. This resulted in the following photos. I learned this trick from digitaldirectphotos.com as well.

Here are the backgrounds I have used so far.

Yellow Day Lilly Background

Pink Cone Flower Background

With these background I got the following photos.



So I haven’t seen the male come back since my first photo and I sit around for hours and I am lucky if the female comes around once or twice. Today there were two females and they came around much more frequently and did not seem affraid of the flashes. One just about flew up the camera lens and into the house. My understanding is that by mid August the offspring will be leaving the nest. Cross your fingers. But this is sure a lot of fun. Now the next challenge will be changing up the backgrounds to see what I can get.

Yea I finally had a male show up. It happened so fast I didn’t even realize it until post.

Hummingbird on Gold

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Night Train (HDR) Western Maryland Scenic Railroad (HDR)

Who doesn’t like trains? They are a massive symbol of a great industrial age. Their importance to America‚Äôs Manifest Destiny is undeniable only surpassed by the age of flight. If you like photographing trains there are many wonderful opportunities nearby in Maryland and Pennsylvania. Here in Maryland we have the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum and the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad. In Pennsylvania you can find the the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania and the Strasburg Railroad.

The B&O Railroad Museum makes for a great day out and is conveniently located in Baltimore. It has 40 acres showcasing a number of historic railroad buildings including the historic Roundhouse and a huge collection of locomotives and rolling stock. The Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania is a two hour drive to Strasburg Pennsylvania near Lancaster. It hosts five acres of locomotives and rolling stock from 18 different Pennsylvania railroads.

Although the museums are great, I really prefer the challenge of photographing living breathing moving locomotives under full steam. Two and a half hours away In Cumberland Maryland they run steam locomotive rides during the day. You can ride the train but you will get the best photos watching it come and go. If you choose to ride the train there is a car that has openings where they store bikes that you can lean out of the train and get some shots. There is even a curve in the track where you can shoot the front of the train from the back of the train. Just watch out or you will get a mouth full of coal ashes.

I got my best photos when the train arrived for boarding and departed for its run to Frostburg 32 miles away. Then I drove to Frostburg to photograph the train arriving from Cumberland. The highlight in Frostburg is watching the locomotive being turned on the turntable. You need a wide angle lens to get the whole train in the frame. I used a 17mm. While the train is lying over in Frostburg there are great opportunities to walk to the front of the train and photograph it on the tracks before it heads back to Cumberland. This was a great opportunity to shoot some HDR shots of the train. In fact it is almost a necessity. If you expose for the train the sky is white. If you expose for the sky the train is black. HDR to the rescue.

As a bonus I stayed and photographed the mystery dinner theater train leaving and returning from Cumberland that night. This is not a steam train but a diesel train. Where else can you stand on a train track in the middle of the night and get a long exposure of a train up close headlight beaming into the night. Make sure and bring a tripod.

Across the street from the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania is the Strasburg Railroad. You can ride this train as well but the ride is 20 minutes in one direction, they turn the train, and 20 minutes back. I did not like photographing the train on departure because the locomotive is hooked to the cars backwards. I got my best shots by driving two mile down the road and finding a crossroad that intersected with the train track. I waited for the train to return and photographed it going through the Amish countryside. As soon as the train passed I drove back to the station and just barely got back in time to photograph the train returning to the station. The last train of the day will pull up to the water tower providing a great opportunity for photography before they tuck it away for the evening.

Published in the Bowie-Crofton Camera Club newsletter

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My wife and I spent the weekend in Lancaster Pennsylvania Easter Weekend. The highlight of the weekend was our visit to the Strasburg Railroad.

I took this between the rain clearing and the sun coming out. Basically an ugly white sky. That is why I converted it to monochrome. I didn’t like the trees when I was framing the shot. I was waiting for the train to clear the trees. But in hind sight I like the smoke billowing through the leafless trees.

You can ride the train. It leaves about once an hour. The ride is only 45 minutes round trip. The engine pulls the train backwards on the outbound. But the engine is facing forwards as show in this photo on the return trip. I guess they don’t have a round table to turb the engine around.

I only liked photographing the train on the return trip. We drove down a couple of miles to a cross road and I waited for it to return. After it passed I drove down to the train station and photographed its return.

The railroad museum is across the street but we didn’t go in. I much prefer the moving train under full steam than the exhibits at the museum.

You can find more of my train photos at my flickr site.

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Screech Owl


If you want a great opportunity to photograph raptors, and you live near Baltimore, this is your chance. The Carrie Murray Nature Center in Baltimore is hosting its annual spring photo shoot. Animals featured will be their resident birds of prey and set them in natural settings outside. In the past they have had a barn owl, a red tailed hawks, a great horned owl, a raven, a kite, screech owls, and a vulture.

For more photos check out the Carrie Murray Nature Center Raptor Shoots

Saturday April 11, 2009
From 10 am- 3 pm
Cost is $20 for adults and $8 for children( 12 and under)

Dress for the weather! The photo shoot will take place rain or shine. No pet Please.

Please Pre-register by calling:

Lloyd Tydings
phone: (410) 396-0808
fax: (410) 265-1085

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