Willet Having Breakfast

Willet with CrabThis Willet was having a late breakfast, as it was pushing 11 am and I was just about done for the day. This is a good example of when waiting around can pay off pretty well, and this was almost my last image of the day. In fact, I’d already decided to call it quits as my camera would only hold 10 more frames when this Willet moved away from the other birds and quickly plucked up a little crab. Just as fast as he caught it, it was gone down his throat, so there is indeed an element of luck in this shot, confirming that you can’t get a good shot if you don’t press the shutter button.

All told, I had a very good morning at Ft. DeSoto a couple of weeks ago. It was -9 degrees when we left Princeton, so 68 degrees in St. Peterburg was a real treat. This morning it was foggy at first and stayed overcast all morning, but there was a nice tame group of birds around, including this Willet, a pair of Marbled Godwits, a Litttle Blue Heron, a Roseate Spoonbill, a Reddish Egret and of course the ever present Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets.. They didn’t mind at all that I was kneeling in the water within 8-10 feet of them and I was just so glad to be out of the freezing Massachusetts weather that the gray skies was of no concern to me. The light fog and overcast made for nice soft light and high key backgrounds.

Hope that you enjoy this Willet shot with his crab breakfast.

Taken with a tripod mounted Nikon D4 and 600 mm lens at 1/1,250 sec., f7, ISO 640.

 

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New Rochelle Sunrise

Sunrise from Neptune Park looking toward Glen IslandSo, exactly what was I doing in New Rochelle, NY for a sunrise last October? Well, I had a 9 am meeting scheduled for a project in neighboring Pelham Manor. Not wanting to be late, I got up at 3:30 am to drive from home and it seems I got there way too early. Sitting in the parking lot at 6 am and wondering what to do for the next 3 hours I set off to explore the neighborhood a bit. Knowing the ocean was close by I headed East and found myself in little Neptune Park in time to watch a beautiful New Rochelle sunrise.

There were a few other people around, but all in all it was just as quiet as the photo suggests. It lasted about 15 minutes and then was gone, but it was worth getting up earlier than necessary to see such a beautiful start to the day.

Nikon D800, Nikon 24-0 mm lens at 26 mm, ISO 800 1/160th @ f4.5

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Double Crested Cormorant

20140331_D4_23001-01I came upon this Double Crested Cormorant while wading around a sand spit in the lagoon at North Beach in Ft. Desoto Park. Cormorants are pretty common, yet I’ve never gotten any real clear images of them. This cormorant was  resting on the other side of the little peninsula and as I came around the corner we saw each other at pretty much the same time. Moving further out into the water so as not to startle him off, my first few shots have his huge web feet hidden behind the sand. So, over the next few minutes I kept moving slowly to the left trying to get to where sand wasn’t between us. About the same time I had a shot, this cormorant decided he’d had about enough of me. This was the 3rd and final frame I got before he turned his back on me and started walking away. A few more frames of his backside convinced me I wasn’t going to get anything better so I just quietly waded back across the lagoon to look for something else.

This may seem like a lot of effort for a single cormorant shot, but I’ve always like that emerald green eye and unless you catch it just right in the light it just doesn’t stand out as well as in this image. And while many figure a cormorant to be just a black bird, there is actually a lot of subtle and interesting coloring and texture in their feathers.

A fair amount of Photoshop work in this final image beyond the normal sharpening and cleanup. I shot this aiming a bit too low and to the right, so I clipped off the very tips of his tail. I added some canvas on the left to give me room to splice the tail tips from the 2nd shot of this guy back on. I also thought the framing was too tight on the right so added some on there also. What the heck, I said the shot was low, showing too much out of focus sand so I added canvas back to the top, giving me room to crop some off the bottom.

Shot with a Nikon D4, 600 mm lens w/1.4 telextender for 840 mm, 1/2,500 sec. @f 5.6, iso 800, tripod mounted.

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Common Merganser

20140327_D4_20563-02This Common Merganser worked his way out of the water and right up onto North Beach at Ft. DeSoto. It was late afternoon with the sun about an hour from setting behind me when he decided to put on quite a show for me. He was strutting around on the beach like it was all his and I sometimes got the impression this Merganser was even doing doing a little dance. Unlike any duck or merganser I’ve ever seen at home in Massachusetts, this Common Merganser didn’t seem to be concerned about me at all and went on about his business like I wasn’t even there. Actually, a whole flock of these Comomn Mergansers were around for most of the 2 weeks I spent photographing there this past spring and while they often came up pretty close to me.

It was a beautful evening and really quiet. Although a few other people were out on the beach, the birds and I had the lagoon pretty much to ourselves. I shot almost 800 frames and ended up with several nice keepers of which this is one.

Shot from 49 feet away, this is an almost full frame capture and is only slightly cropped. Also shooting from very low to the ground I was able to use the sand and puddles of water to make a nice softly colored and out of focus background. Shot with a Nikon D4 and 600 mm lens at 1/1600 sec, f5.6, ISO 1600 and using a lowered tripod.

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Tricolored Heron

Tricolored HeronThis Tricolored Heron was searching for a meal in the lagoon at Ft. DeSoto Park, Florida in late March. Although it’s pretty common to see them just standing on the beach, this is one of the few times I’ve gotten any shots with their wings extended like this. Similar to behavior of one of my favorites, the Reddish Egret, this Tricolored Heron spreads its wings to block the sun glare to see fish and shrimp in the water. Combined with the characteristic red eye and fine breeding feathers on the neck, this Tricolored Heron shot will certainly remain in my “keepers” file.

In the IPTC data below, you can see that the iso was much higher than the normal iso 100. This allows me to shoot at much higher shutter speeds, resulting in a lot more sharp photos. Keeping the shutter speed above 1/1000 second makes a really big difference when trying to capture a Tricolored Heron, or any other bird, on the move. Newer cameras are very capable of providing really good quality at higher iso ranges. A lower iso might yield slightly better quality from the sensor, but the higher available shutter speed makes for a better photo overall.

Nikon D4, 600 mm lens, tripod mounted, 1/1600 sec @ f8, iso 1400

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Blue Angels

The Blue Angels performed at the Sun N’ Fun show in Lakeland, Florida in April. Dennis and I went on the Friday after our trip to see the Thunderbirds. Having never been to an airshow before it turned into quite a week getting to see both the Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds. There were more clouds around, but we both still got lots of great shots. I‘m told that the Blue Angels perform the tightest diamond pattern of any aerobatic team, getting to within 18 inches of each other. So, the question is just how do they do that?Fun N' Sun, Blue Angels

Take a look at the closeup cropped photo in this next shot and you’ll see that the only one watching where they are going is the lead plane. The pilot on the right is looking to his left, the pilot on the left is looking at the wing to his right, and the pilot below and back is looking up at the tail of the lead plane. Fun N' Sun, Blue Angels

Of all the images I captured on this day, my favorite is this one of two Blue Angel F/A 18’s going past each other at around 400 mph. That’s a closing speed of 800 mph and plenty fast enough to rattle the fillings in my teeth.

Fun N' Sun, Blue Angels

I’m glad that they found the money to put the Blue Angels back in the air as this show is really something to see. All the favorite formations with some puffy clouds in the background made for a really fun afternoon for us. I hope you enjoy looking at them as I had taking them.

Fun N' Sun, Blue AngelsFun N' Sun, Blue Angels

Fun N' Sun, Blue Angels

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Bass Harbor’s Boats at Sunset

20131011_D401275_HDR1-Edit-EditLast fall’s trip to Maine included a stop at Bass Harbor one evening shortly before sunset. Arriving there, it seemed a little disappointing for photo opportunities and we almost got in the car and left. It was mostly overcast and everything looked quite dull, but what the heck. We were there, so I took a bunch of shots, including this hand held HDR composite of 5 images. On returning home I liked the composition of these boats in Bass Harbor with the mountains in the background, so I assembled the 5 frames and ran them through Photomatix. I was very pleasantly surprised to be able to get this as a final shot, Bass Harbor looks so quiet and peaceful (which it was) and the HDR process added enough color and contrast to make this photo work for me.

Bass Harbor is a nice little spot in Tremont, Maine and sits right on the southwest side of Mt. Desert Island. Turning 180 degrees from this view affords a nice view of the rest of the harbor, which includes the many lobster boats and the ferry to Swan’s Island. This side of the island is cetainly a lot more laid back and much less crowded than the popular and better known Bar Harbor.

So, while we didn’t stay long it was a nice enough spot to visit that we stopped by again a couple of days later. Hope that you enjoy this image.

 

 

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Thunderbirds at Punta Gorda Airshow

Florida International AirshowMany of you know that I really enjoy doing bird photography, but a recent trip to see the Air Force Thunderbirds gave me a chance to get some shots of a definitely different kind of bird.

We really had had it with the winter this year, so Darcy and I packed up and headed south for 4 weeks from mid-March to mid-April. Upon arriving in St. Petersburg, a friend asked if I’d like to join him at the International Airshow in Punta Gorda, FL. It was an early morning that day, getting up at 3:45 for the 1 1/2 hour drive to the show. Dennis is a former Navy pilot and we met up with some of his buddies in the special photographer’s area, so there was no shortage of talk about planes or cameras all day long. We all had a great day, my thanks to Dennis and my new friends Hank, Morris, and Ron for sharing all their tips and stories throughout the day.

There was a lot of good flying and good photo opportunities, but the real hit of the day was the Thunderbirds. It really is something to see, watching the aerobatics these pilots are capable of putting the jets through. Flying at speeds of 500 to 650 mph and 18 to 24 inches apart at some points doesn’t leave them any room for error. We all ended up with a bunch of good photos and at least for me a bigger bunch of not so good photos. Wow, these jets move fast!

Besides these three images, some of my better (as in luckier) shots of the Thuderbirds can be seen by clicking on the link: Thunderbird Photos

Florida International AirshowFlorida International Airshow

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Penobscot Narrows – Cable Stayed Bridge

Penobscot Narrows - Cable Stayed BridgeLast fall, we took a few days to drive up the coast to Acadia National Park on Mt. Desert Island, Maine and after rounding a turn in the road came upon this beautiful Cable Stayed Bridge over Penobscot Narrows located just outside of Bucksport, Maine. Granted, the last time I was in this area was 40 years ago, but seeing this bridge really struck me as a beautiful way to span the river and to replace the old suspension bridge that was determined to be in need of replacement. We pulled over for me to take some pics while Darcy read a nearby sign. When I’d had enough, she asked if I’d like to go up to the top of the tower. “Huh, how do you know about that?”, I asked. It’s that male/female thing about asking directions I guess, because the sign I never would have read clearly said you could take an elevator to an observation deck 420 feet above the river. The first picture is from the mainland looking over to Verona Island.

You can exit off Route 1 at the stop light and drive around to the base of the bridge into a parking lot shared with the Ft. Knox Civil War historical site. As you walk up to

HDR image of Penobscot Narrows Cable Stayed Bridge with Observatory in view at topthe base of the tower, it’s a relief to know that with only 440 feet to go there is an elevator to whisk you right on up. This second image is an HDR shot of 5 different exposures all sandwiched together to bring out all the detail in the concrete.

Wait for it, don’t give up and move on yet. If you can’t stay, then at least look at the last image below before you go.HDR of Penobscot Narrows Cable Stayed Bridge Observatory and Bucksport in the Background

For 10 bucks we got one heck of a view. The observation platform of the Penobscot Narrows Bridge is 2 levels high and accessed by a stairway from where the elevator drops you off. With floor to ceiling glass, the view is fantastic but not for those who don’t like heights. Taken from the south side of the observation tower, you can see the stairs in front of a spectacular view of Bucksport and the surrounding area. This is another HDR composite of 5 images to bring out the detail of the interior of the Penobscot Narrows Observatory while still showing the much brighter view outside the viewing deck.

Panorama of Penobscot River looking at Bucksport from the Penobscot Narrows ObservatoryNow, finally we get the real view. This last image is a hand held panorama shot through the glass of the Penobscot Narrows Observatory. We are looking north, right at Bucksport I’ve cleaned up most of the glare from the glass, although you can still see some reflections on the lower left side. Pretty neat sight for a lovely autumn day and well worth the time and the 10 bucks for the elevator ride. If you’re every passing by the Penobscot Narrows Bridge and it happens to be a nice day, stop by and visit for a while. You won’t be disappointed in the view.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cardinal – Thinking of Spring

Northern Cardinal in blossoming branchesThis Cardinal was photographed at Ding Darling NWR in Sanibel, FL last spring. Now spring is again just around the corner and we in the Northeast are pretty much all hoping for a nice one. I particularly like the looking over his shoulder pose of this Cardinal. Some viewers aren’t really fond of the branches crossing its tail and up its back, but I like seeing the Cardinal nestled into the branches. The slightly overcast sky helped provide nice soft light and good colors for this shot.

Cardinals are common at Ding Darling and you see them flying back and forth as you ride down the access road looking for the larger wading birds that I like to photograph when in Florida. However, they are quite quick and don’t hang around in one spot for very long. On this morning it was particularly slow and the birds were few and far between. There was a single Wood Stork that I’d been watching and while waiting for him to move this Cardinal dropped into the bushes about sixty feet from me. I didn’t think I had much of a shot, but what the heck. I lowered my tripod to get the best shot I could and got off several frames but had to shoot between the wires of a guardrail. As soon as I tried to move to a better position he flew off.

Reviewing my images for the day, I found a couple of the Cardinal that I really liked but they all had the out of focus automobile guardrail in them. Choosing this as the best image candidate, I’ve cropped the original image severely and then cloned out the rail that ran diagonally down the left side of the picture. There were also several broken branches on the right side and one branch that seemingly speared the Cardinal right through his beak and head that were cloned out of the final image. Anyway, here is the final image and I hope that you like it. Think Spring and enjoy.

Nikon D4, 600 mm lens tripod mounted, 1/400 sec. @ f4, iso 400.

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