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Archive for the ‘Nature’ 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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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.

Hummingbird

Hummingbird

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.

Hummingbird

Hummingbird

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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Bobcat Artic Wolf

I discovered the Lakota Wolf preserve in 2007. It was featured in the Tamron Newsletter. The Lakota Wolf Preserve is in New Jersey near the Delaware Water Gap and is only a four hour drive away. You can find details at their web site www.lakotawolf.com. I went there in January 2007. It was bitter cold and had snowed the night before and was worth every second and dollar.

The compound consists of four large fenced in areas. In one area there were three Artic wolves. The Artic wolves were beautiful white wolves but they were very shy. The photographer that escorted us throughout the shoot used dog biscuits to lure the wolves closer. The other enclosures had packs of Timber and Tundra wolves. There was one additional much smaller enclosure that had bobcats and foxes.

For photographers they allow you inside the outer fence. They have hinged portals cut in the fence that allows photographers to photograph the wolves without having to focus through the fence. The enclosures were large enough to easily keep the fence out of the photos. Another nice thing is that you do not need a 600mm lens. I used a 200mm when I went.

They welcome photography clubs. I just looked on their site and a two hour session is $300. As I recall they had half day and all day sessions available but they are not currently listed on their web site. This is the time of year to go while the wolves have their full winter coats and if you time it right you can get a nice snowy background.

Originally Published in the Bowie-Crofton Camera Club newsletter “THE VIEWFINDER” March 2009

Fox

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Viera Wetlands

Northern Harrier, originally uploaded by bmthomas.

Again based on a tip from Middleton Evans, we included a visit to the Viera Wetlands  during our vacation to Florida. We spent three hours in the morning and a couple hours at sunset at the Viera Wetlands.
The layout is great. You can drive around a number of man-made ponds.

We saw lots of Common Moorhens and Coots, a number of hawks that I think were Northern Harriers, Snowy Egrets, Anhigas were on every stump and tree, Great White Egrets, Little Blue Herons, Great Blue Herons, Greem Herons, White Ibis, Tricolored Herons, Black Vultures, Osprey, a few Ring-necked ducks, Hooded Mergansers, Blue winged Teal, a pair of Sandhill Cranes, Belted Kingfishers, Wood Stork. There were even a few alligators and armadillos.

We enjoyed Viera Wetlands much more than Merritt Island NWR. We would defeintely go back and would recommend a visit.

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Gatorland


Egret
Originally uploaded by bmthomas

Middleton Evans told me we should visit Gatorland this week while in Florida. Sure enough they had a “Dawn to Dusk” pass for around $30 that allowed entrance at 0730 in the morning well before the park opens at 0900 and we were able to stay until sunset well after the park closes. We spent most of the day in their rookery which is in the aligator breeding swamp area. Mike Godwin showed us around and really made us feel welcome. You can find his blog here. Turned out there are what seems like hundreds of Great White Egrets nesting there. At sunset thousands more fly in to roost including Little Blue Herons, Tricolored Herons, White Ibis, and Snowy Egrets. Well worth a day and the money. There were also lots of aligators and a couple of endagered American Crocodiles. We got to photograph the crocodiles mating which is a farely rare site.  This was definitely worth a visit.

_DSC8617

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Red Tailed Hawk
Originally uploaded by bmthomas

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 usually hosts raptor photo shoots twice a year. Once in the fall and once in the spring. For the first time ever they are going to host a winter photo shoot featuring resident birds of prey. 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.

Barn Owl

Screech Owl

DSC_1242

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

Saturday February 7, 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

Email: Lloyd.tydings@baltimorecity.gov

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Assateague Snowy Owl

Assateague Snowy Owl, originally uploaded by bmthomas.

I spent the weekend on Assateage Island National Seashore in Maryland with my fellow photographers Dennis Wilson and Bob Leverton. A couple of weeks ago Middleton Evans came and gave a talk to the Arundel Camera Club.

After the lecture he told me we could find a couple of snowy owls wintering on Assateage. So this weekend we headed out with all our camera gear loaded in Bob’s 4WD. The snowy owls were easy to find. they perched on top of the sand dunes. I guess that gave them a good view to watch for predators and from which to hunt.

Guess who we ran into at the hotel…Middleton Evans. He had brought a few other photographers to see the owls. My thanks to Middleton for the tip. He has published some great books that I highly recommend Maryland’s Great Outdoors and Rhapsody in Blue.

For more of my photos of these owls visit my Assateague Set on Flickr.

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Deer Silhouette

Originally uploaded by bmthomas

I entered this in the Arundel Camera Club Novice Digital Open Competition on 1/14/2009 but did not place. The judge said I should clone out the birds in the sky. There are three birds that look like birds and are reflected in the water. According to the judge, all of the other birds looked like dirt and should be cloned out.

Here is a cleaned up version per the judge’s comments.

Deer Silhouette

What do you think?

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Since the copy of Helicon Focus I downloaded is good for 30 days, I thought I would try some more experimenting. Here are three more shots I put together with Helicon Focus.

Yellow Tipped Tulips (Helicon Focus)

Wet Macro Pink Tulips (Helicon Focus)

Pink Tulips (Helicon Focus)

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