Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 Photographic Year in Review

2010 is about to come to an end shortly and soon 2011 will be upon us. I had a feeling at the beginning of the year that this would be a great year in terms of photography and it didn't disappoint.

My first image of the year, taken during the first sunrise of the year still remains one of my favorites.

Later in January, I went to the La Jolla cliffs for the first time to photograph Pelicans which was also very productive. This Pelican portrait gets a lot of comments from those who pass by the 24" print of it hanging on my office door at work.

One of my favorite bird action images I made early this year while hanging around the Palo Alto Baylands one early cloudy morning.

I spent a bit more time hiking around Big Basin this year, finally having a chance to see what has been described as one of the finest waterfalls along the California coast.

The book I worked on with Gladimir for most of last year also finally hit the shelves in May. The first several months of the year still ended up being excruciatingly busy at work because of CS5 (fellow Photohsop and ATL peeps will know what I'm talking about).

One of the things I started playing around with this year is blurs. I've done several blurs with flocks of birds with varying levels of success.

The major trip for the year was Galapagos in May. Not only was it a photographic trip but was also the first time Kim and I had a chance to travel by ourselves since Maya was born. The Galapagos as well as the week afterwards in Florida were great and I'm still going through those images.

This was also my first year going up to British Columbia, Canada to photograph Loons, Flickers and other wood peckers. Despite my minor injury, it turned out to be a very productive trip.

Immediately following Loons in BC, I joined family to vacation in the Seattle area and visited Olympic National Park for the first time. This is definitely an area I'll be returning to in future years.

This year I participated in a workshop with Edward Mendes for the first time. We spent a weekend shooting in the Eastern Sierras trying to capture fall color as well as the majesty of Mono Lake.

In October, I was excited to see one of my images appear in the iPad edition of National Geographic.

I did a major shuffle of my astrophotography gear this year. Earlier in the year I bought a new mount, a Takahashi JP-Z and later on I sold it along with most of my other telescope equipment opting instead to use LightBuckets.

I had the chance to make a lot of Curlew and Willet images in the Santa Barbara and Morro Rock areas, something I'd been meaning to do for some time.

The year wrapped up with a photographic trip to Bosque. A couple of firsts with this this trip. It was my first time doing a trip with friends I had met on the forums on (Bobby and Joshua) both of whom were great. It was also the first time I had experienced 'fire in the mist' conditions at Bosque.

Thats it for 2010. Though I'm looking forward to 2011, it'll be challenging to produce more images than in 2010. The start of the year looks promising as I'll be out shooting with Edward Mendes again in Yosemite followed by a family trip to Southern California. March will be special month as I'll get a chance to shoot with Andy Biggs again.

Lastly, photography aside, I know that 2010 has been a difficult year for a lot of folks. I have been fortunate and thankful that my biggest decisions have been around where to go shooting rather than figure out how to put food on the table or how to pay the mortgage. Hopefully, 2011 will prove to be a better year for all!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Dueling Cranes

And of course a good fight always needs an audience.

Technical Specs: Canon 1D4, 500 f/4 IS, f/5.6, 1/400s, ISO 400.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Rock Art

Today was my last day at Bosque. Tomorrow, I make a marathon drive home. After a morning shoot at Bosque (with more cranes and snow geese), we checked out of the hotel and decided to kill some time in Albuquerque.

I've been to Petroglyph National Monument before but this time I was there just as the light was nice (late in the day, diffused by cloud).

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Very Large Array

This afternoon, similar to what I did last year, we went to visit the NRAO Very Large Array which is about an hour away from Socorro. Its the perfect 3 hour trip to do in the middle of the day between photographing the birds at Bosque.

I had a great time photographing the radio telescopes. We were also fortunate in that the telescopes were re-oriented to observe a different target while we were there so we were able to witness them moving up close.

If you are ever in the central New Mexico area, I definitely recommend checking out the VLA.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Fire in the sky

Really, that is what it looked like to my eyes. The most spectacular sunset I can remember. In the late afternoon it looked like the sunset would be a dud (too many clouds) but it didn't disappoint. The colors were gorgeous and best of all they encompassed the entire sky. This photograph doesn't come close to doing it justice, and at one point I just had to stop shooting and simply enjoy it.

Technical Specs: Canon 1Ds3, Zeiss 21 Distagon, f/5.6, ISO 400. Fusion of 3 exposures.

Blast Off!

Sometimes f/32 and a slow shutter speed is a good thing.

Technical Specs: Canon 1D4, 800 f/5.6 IS, f/32, 1/30s, ISO 800.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Fire in Mist

I arrived in Socorro, New Mexico last night and this morning went out for my first shoot at Bosque del Apache on this trip. I was fortunate in that the conditions for mist were right and so just as the sun was coming up, I was able to make this image. Though the lighting conditions were very nice, I wasn't able to find a framing with interesting subject action.

Technical Specs: Canon 1D4, 800 f/5.6 IS, f/11, 1/400s, ISO 100.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Playing With Your Food

Technical Specs: Canon 1D4, 500 f/4 IS + 1.4x TC, f/8, 1/80s, ISO 400.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Pair of Troublemakers

You just know that these two are up to no good :)

This is an image that saw more of Photoshop than one of my typical images. This was taken on the Anhinga Trail in the Everglades back in May this year. I was walking the trail with a 1D4 and a 500 and saw these two herons (juvenile green herons I believe) but one was perched a couple of feet behind the other. So I took two shots, one with the plane of focus on each heron with the intent of fusing the images in Photoshop later. Since I was hand holding the alignment wasn't perfect and it turned out the final image was a little tight on the left requiring extending the image with a lot of copy and pasting, clone stamping and content aware filling.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Dinner with Friends

I went out for dinner with other members from my lab at work this evening.

I happened to have a Leica M9 in my possession this evening, so thats what I brought to dinner with a Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Biogon attached.

The M9 is kind of a pain in the ass to use. Its not the manual focusing thats the pain per say but all the bloody focus and recompose (because focus is always done at the center of the frame).

And the image quality at high ISO, though quite acceptable isn't going to give a D700, 5D2 anything to worry about.

That said, there's something so enjoyable about shooting with a Leica.

Alas no, I will still not be getting one, though one has to wonder what shooting with an M9 with a 21 f/1.4 Summilux is like...

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Black Bellied Plover

I had a heck of a time identifying this bird. The Black Bellied Plover looks very different in its breeding plumage versus non-breeding plumage. I eventually narrowed it down and finally after looking at many many other pictures am convinced thats what this little fella is.

Monday, December 06, 2010


That is lemon pepper, yes lemon pepper :)

Technical Specs: Canon 5D2, 65 MP-E, f/8, 1/200s, ISO 400. Stack of 7 images.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Morro Rock Sunset

Compared to a lot of other landscape photography I do, this was taken with very modest equipment and relatively poor technique. I was scouting the Morro Strand Beach area around sunset for possible locations for a morning sunrise shoot the next day. It had been raining so I didn't go out for sunset shoot, but my mistake, the rain cleared up just for sunset and just as I pulled up to park. Having only a few moments, I grabbed my Sony NEX-5 with the 18-55 kit lens attached, framed the shot quickly, took just the one image. No tripod, no filters.

And this is what the image looked like when first imported into Lightroom and after some basic tone curve adjustments. To create the final image, it was imported into Photoshop as a Camera Raw Smart Object. Morro Rock was masked and a graduated ND was applied in Camera Raw on the background layer. Some very basic color corrections and thats it.

The quality of the NEX-5 sensor appears to be quite good and I'm pleased with it. The 18-55 is sometimes maligned for its image quality but in this case the resulting image has plenty of resolution to make a decent large sized print.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010


The Whimbrel was definitely the most common of the shorebirds I saw on our trip this weekend. I had a chance to photograph them both on both days in both Santa Barbara and Morro Bay.

During my shoot at Morro Bay on Sunday morning I noticed that the beach had patches of dark and light colored sand. I figured that if I put that sand in the background, it might make for an interesting dappled pattern.

I guess it worked and overall I'm happy with the way these images came out.

I usually avoid getting the water in the frame since it is usually much brighter than the bird. But in this case I think the water adds some interest into the first third of the frame.

All these images were taken hand held. The first two and the last were taken with a bare 500 and the remainder with the 1.4x tele-converter attached on a 1D Mark IV.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Channel Islands Fox

These are cute little guys weighing usually between 3-6 pounds. They are unique to the Channel Islands and are descended from the gray fox some 10,000 years ago. They have no natural predators on the islands and so have survived since 'moving' there during the last ice age.

Sadly, their numbers have been rapidly declining since the 1990's and they are an endangered species.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Willet at Sunrise

This is why I love morning light. This image was captured at 6:54 AM this past week on Friday. We went on a small family trip during the Thanksgiving break this year visiting Santa Barbara, the Channel Islands and Morro Bay. I took the opportunity to photograph some shorebirds and this was taken at the Santa Barbara beach early Friday morning. For me, nothing beats early morning light for wildlife photography, those soft warm colors are simply fantastic. I was out on the beach well before sunrise and I believe this was captured just as the first rays were clearing the mountains.

Technical Specs: Canon 1D4, 500 f/4 IS, f/5.6, 1/640s, ISO 400.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


This is not a new image but a reprocessing of an old one. I originally took this in January 2006 at Henry Coe State Park. The sun was setting and we were rushing back to the parking lot so that we wouldn't get stuck there at dark. I turned around and saw the branches of a tree with its spidery limbs spreading out in front of a beautiful sunset. There was a subtle hint of purple and some very strong orange reds near the horizon. I quickly composed the shot (what you see here hasn't been cropped) and pressed the shutter button. I later hastily processed the image in whatever software I was using at the time (probably either Canon's DPP or Photoshop CS2) and moved on. Below is what I originally took:

I was never happy with the image. The colors seemed muted and it felt like the image didn't really capture what I saw that evening (or at least what I thought I saw). Fortunately, my post processing skills have improved in these past 5 years and I think I've finally managed to create a version of this image I am happy with. Whats interesting is that this new processed version took only about 5 minutes in Lightroom and 2 minutes in Photoshop to create. Here is a quick breakdown of what I did:

- Manually adjusted curves (LR) to get highlight contrast right
- Hue shifts and saturation adjustments (LR)
- Noise reduction (LR) better color profiles (LR)
- Filled out distracting elements (PS)

Though the composition was good here, technically there are a couple of things wrong. Most notable was that I shot this hand held at 1/125s and ISO 800. I definitely didn't need to use such a high shutter speed and could have benefited from stopping down (to get better corner sharpness) or from reducing the ISO (resulting in less noise) or had I used a tripod, I could have benefited from both of these things.

Technical Specs: Canon 20D, 17-40 @ 40mm, f/4, 1/125s, ISO 800.

Friday, November 19, 2010


Sometimes the combination of timing and right shutter speed is everything.

I captured this Red-necked Grebe in British Columbia, Canada earlier this summer.

Technical Specs: Canon 1D4, 800 f/5.6 IS, f/6.3, 1/500s, ISO 400.