Category: Birds

Great Blue Heron Flyby

Great Blue Heron

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A Great Blue Heron tired of standing around suddenly jumped up and started flying. He had been standing to the right of my vision for 30 minutes or so, doing absolutely nothing. In the meantime, I was wading around in the water at the North Beach Lagoon in Ft. De Soto, trying to isolate one or two of the Marbled Godwits. They weren’t cooperating and were determined to stay well bunched up, just like in the photo.

Lucky for me, the Great Blue Heron took off heading right across me. I managed to get off 5 frames, but he was moving faster than I was panning. This was the first frame, and is also the best of the series.

We stayed in Pass-a-Grille for four weeks this year, so I was able to spend many days at Ft. De Soto. It rarely disappoints, and this was a good day with me getting a lot of keepers. I’ll post some other photos as I work through them. My first count was just over 10,000 frames in the six weeks we spent between Sanibel and Pass-a-Grille. I’ve got them weeded down to about 800 now, and hope to end up with 50 that I really like.

This Great Blue Heron shot was taken about 10:30 AM, with the sun well up and shadows very strong. To counter the strong shadow under the wing of the Great Blue Heron, I lightened the wing underside with a layer mask set to “lighten” in Photoshop. I also cloned out a couple of out of focus fence posts in the background, and finished up with a little adjustment on a curves layer. The image itself is about 98% of the original frame, as I lost only a little bit in leveling the horizon. Finally, did some noise reduction to the whole image and then smart sharpening to the Great Blue Heron only.

Nikon D4 with 600mm and 1.4 TC for 850mm., tripod mounted. 1/1600 sec., f7.1, iso 800.


Willet Preening


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Seeing a Willet Preening is a very common sight at Ft. De Soto. This obliging Willet presented a really nice head angle just in time for me to get a picture. It was standing on a sand bar in several inches of water while I kneeled in a pool about 80 feet away. There were several other Willets right around this one, but I was able to capture this with enough separation that it was easy to crop the other birds out of the frame. The weather was overcast, with a light fog that made the background water turn almost white. By increasing the contrast while masking out the Willet, the smudged water went entirely white. Other post processing included darkening the eye a bit, bringing out some more detail in the Willet’s lighter feathers and then applying some sharpening just to the Willet.

After looking at this a while, it seemed to be a good candidate for a high key black and white image. I converted the picture above to black and white and applied a small amount of Topaz Simplify. This washed out all the color and raised the overall black and white tones, giving it a bit more of a painted impression. The final step in this second image was to warm up the tone just a bit, as the straight black and white just looked too cold.


Click on Image to Enlarge

I like the way this turned out, maybe even more than the original image. The black and white was posted to my Facebook page at: Snow Pond Photography on Facebook. So, thanks for looking and I hope you enjoy this Willet Preening.


Simple Spoonie


Spoonie is an often used abbreviation for Roseate Spoonbill and they are one of my favorite birds to photograph. This spoonie was quite tame and worked around me for quite some time, giving me several pretty good images. I particularly like this one because the calm water surrounds the spoonie with such a nice, uniform color. Somehow I managed to shoot this with the bird’s tail right up against the right side of the image, so I’ve added some canvas to balance out the frame. I also cloned out some pieces of debris lying around in the water. A nice photo to look at on a cold day like today, can’t wait to get back for some more Florida bird photography.

Nikon D4 with 600 mm lens, tripod mounted. 1/1250 second @f7.1, iso 640.

Hope you enjoy it, thanks for looking.


Great Egret Soaring In

20150414_D800_5200-EditA Great Egreat soaring into the rookery for a landing. He’s headed over a couple of out of focus Wood Storks, neither of which showed any interest at all in his approach. Over the course of a couple of hours, this same Great Egret followed the same approach path over and over again, offering many oppotunities to get him at different angles. This one of him banking show his topside is one of my favorites from the morning.

While many of the smaller birds, like the Cattle Egret from last week, come firing in like a fighter plane, these much larger birds just sail in, flare, and land over a period of several seconds. This gives me a much better chance at getting a good shot like this one.

Just a few minutes earlier, here is another shot just before landing. 20150414_D800_5071-Edit

For several years now, I’ve been using a 600 mm lens for virtually all my bird photos. The 600 is a stupendous lens . . . stupendous quality, stupendously large (as in heavy to carry) and stupendously expensive (let’s not go there). Like the Cattle Egret, this Great Egret was captured with my newest lens, a Nikon 80-400 mm f4.5-5.6 telephoto. Though not quite as fast or as sharp as the Nikon 600 mm f4, it’s turned out to be a great lens for hand held, medium distance bird shots. It’s less than 1/3 the cost of the 600 mm, as well as less than 1/3 the weight. That makes it light enough and compact enough that I can hand hold it, and don’t need to rely on a tripod. This 80-400 is much easier to track birds in flight, meaning I get a lot more keepers. For anyone looking for a more reasonably priced birding lens, the 80-400 is a keeper as well.

Both images captured in April with Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400 mm f4.5-5.6 lens at 400 mm, hand held at 1/3200 sec. f5.6, ISO 400.


Cattle Egret

20150414_D4_39480-EditA Cattle Egret coming in for a landing at a rookery in Bradenton, FL. This Cattle Egret was captured near the end of a morning of photographing with a couple of friends. We all ended up with many keepers, and this is just one of the ones I got. They are easy to miss because they can land so quickly. Fortunately, I saw this guy coming and was ready for him.

This rookery was a mob scene of nesting and nest building birds. They were flying in pretty much non-stop the entire time we were there. It was so crowded that it was difficult to get an image of just this one bird. Truth be told, there was an out of focus Wood Stork perching right under the incoming Cattle Egret, so I cloned him out of the picture. Also, a few distracting branches were cloned out of the final image.

Taken on a beautiful April morning with a Nikon D4, Nikon 80-400 f4.5-5.6 lens @ 400 mm, 1/4000 sec., f 6.3, ISO 400, handheld.


Reddish Egret Portrait
















This Reddish Egret held a nice portrait pose for me last January at Ft. DeSoto. The Reddish Egret is one of my favorite birds to photograph and this pose is a great example of why they are so much fun. When threatened by another bird, they can get very territorial, which is just what happened here. Another egret tried getting into this Reddish Egret’s space. A quick chase ensued with this one taking an aggressive stance and definitely with all its feathers ruffled.

Kneeling pretty close in, I ended up in the perfect position to grab this shot before the bird settled back down. Feathers all pointy and going every which way, along with the nice S curve in the neck makes for a handsome Reddish Egret portrait. Someone commented that the only thing missing was that this bird was not in full breeding plumage. Well, maybe next time but still a photo I really like.

It was a very nice evening to be out. I found myself all alone on this part of the beach and was fortunate to get a good batch of keeper photos.

Taken at North Beach, Ft. DeSoto a half hour before sunset, shot with a tripod mounted Nikon D4, 600 mm lens, 1/640 sec. @f8, ISO 1250. A slight crop to the original, noise reduction on the background, added a little bit of saturation to the Reddish Egret only, NIK Detail Enhancer to help with the feather detail, and cleaned up the eye and a few pieces of stray dust and spots.

Hope you enjoy viewing it as much as I enjoyed taking it.


Little Blue Heron

Little Blue Heron

As in my last post, this Little Blue Heron was feeding in the foggy morning light at Ft. DeSoto. On point and waiting for a bit of movement, I captured him staring down his intended breakfast. These Little Blue Herons often appear very dull and drab, but they actually have a lot of nice coloring as you can see in this photo.

It was getting much brighter out, but the fog still kept a nice high key effect. The warm coloring of the sun is really having an effect of a yellowish tint to the background and I left it there on purpose. Maybe that’s because back here at home it’s snowing again and any reminder of warmer winter days in Florida is a real plus.

Shot from sitting in the water with a Nikon D4, 600 mm tripod mounted lens, 1/2500 sec. @ f6.3, ISO 1600.



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.



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.


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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