Sunday, January 31, 2010

Short-billed Dowitcher

I am about 80% sure this is a short-billed dowitcher, several folks on the FM Nature & Wildlife forum were able to help me out. I took this at the Palo Alto Baylands a while ago and finally had a chance to process it. These guys don't stand still, especially when feeding. I believe this one stood still for only a fraction of a second before resuming feeding.

Technical Specs: Canon 7D, 800 f/5.6 IS, f/5.6, 1/640s, ISO 400.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Staring Contest

I think he's going to win. This image was inspired by similar images I have seen made by Art Morris (this bulletin is one example). Artie does a much better job than I, but he has about 20 years more experience at this than me, so I'll cut myself a little slack.

Technical Specs: Canon 7D, 100-400 @ 400mm, f/5.6, 1/320s, ISO 400.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Cold Cranes

I have finished processing all of my images from Bosque last year. There are a lot of images I have pleased with, though I know of many ways to do better in future years.

I have put together a collection of my favorite images from Bosque.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


This image of a Heermann Gull is one of my favourites from my trip to La Jolla. I didn't have very much time since I was set up to photograph the close up pouch details of a Pelican (an image for another day) and this Gull landed on a nearby out cropping. I quickly composed the image, liked what I saw the viewfinder and took the shot. A couple of seconds later the Gull took off.

Technical Specs: 1Ds3, 800 f/5.6 IS, f/5.6, 1/200s, ISO 400.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Pelican Eye

On my second day in San Diego, I met another photographer who was trying to get an image of just the Pelican's eye. I decided to do something similar, though I was going for more of a tight head shot rather than just the eye. This was taken about 6m away from the Pelican with my 800mm lens (and 6m is the minimum focusing distance of that lens). In retrospect, I should put my 7D on there and gotten more eye detail and should have used some extension tubes to get even closer.

Technical Specs: Canon 1Ds3, 800 f/5.6 IS, f/7.1, 1/500s, ISO 200.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Western Gull

I made this image around 7:45 in the morning at the La Jolla cliffs. The sun hadn't come out from behind the mountains completely but the western sky had very nice bands of pink and blue and there was still enough light from the east so that the Gull wasn't completely backlit. I had to lay down on my side to get the right angle for the background I was looking for. I can only imagine what the joggers along with cliff path were thinking, watching this guy lay in the wet dirt to photograph a Gull.

Technical Specs: Canon 7D, 70-200 f/4 IS @ 150mm, f/4, 1/160s, ISO 1000.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Turquoise Eyes

The bright, beautiful turquoise eyes of the double-crested cormorant are one of its distinguishing features (the other is its orange/yellow bill pouch). I went out for my last morning session at the La Jolla cliffs today and one of the images I wanted to make was with a cormorant. I'm happy with the way this one turned out. Now its time to drive back to San Jose.

Technical Specs: Canon 7D, 800 f/5.6 IS, f/5.6, 1/640s, ISO 200.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Wood Duck Portrait

This afternoon we went to Santee Lakes. I was hoping to get some close up portraits of the wood duck and was pleased to see that they aren't very shy here. I did see a ring-necked duck but it was skittish. I also saw a Cinnamon Teal but it also stayed pretty far away. I have one more shoot at the cliffs of La Jolla tomorrow morning then I get to spend 8 hours driving back.

Technical Specs: Canon 1Ds3, 800 f/5.6 IS, f/6.3, 1/400s, ISO 400.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

La Jolla Pelicans

The weather this morning was thankfully very nice (the entire day was nice) and there were lots of Pelicans in the upper cliffs here. The reason to be here is that this is one of the best places to photograph the Brown Pelican while it has its red pouch during the beginning of breeding seasons. I'm looking forward to a couple more shooting sessions and am hoping to get some good images.

Technical Specs: Canon 1Ds3, 800 f/5.6 IS, f/7.1, 1/800s, ISO 400.

Friday, January 22, 2010

White-tailed Kit Enjoying Dinner

I just finished processing another image from my afternoon in Halfmoon Bay. I'm not ecstatic with this image since the Kite was very skittish and so I had to heavily crop the resulting image, still its an interesting image.

Later this afternoon I'll be heading down to San Diego for the weekend to photograph Pelicans in La Jolla, fingers are crossed the weather gets nice.

Technical Specs: Canon 7D, 800 f/5.6 IS, f/5.6, 1/250s, ISO 400.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Northern Shoveler

The shoveler is a fairly common duck in North America.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Mt. Whitney at Dawn

I just finished processing this image I took a couple of weeks ago. It features Mt. Whitney in the background with the rocks of the Alabama Hills in the foreground. The sunrise that morning gave some nice colors but the lack of clouds kept it from being spectacular.

Technical Specs: Canon 1Ds3, 100-400 @ 220mm, f/8, 6s, ISO 100.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Perched Hawk

I have heard several people mention that the area around Half Moon Bay is a great place to see raptors. About a week ago, I drove up there and spent a few hours trying to photograph them. I only saw a couple of raptors that afternoon and this was one of them. It was a generally uncooperative afternoon weather wise with it being almost overcast (hence the white background), and they weren't getting that close.

Technical Specs: Canon 7D, 800 f/5.6 IS, f/5.6, 1/250s, ISO 400.

Monday, January 18, 2010

An Intense Orange

This is another image from my trip to Death Valley which I finished processing this weekend.

Technical Specs: Canon 5D2, 100-400 @ 285mm, f/8, 1/6s, ISO 100.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Bald Eagle portraits

I made this image on my 3rd day at Bosque last December. It is currently my best image of a bald eagle in the wild and is an example of serendipity. In the mid morning I was driving around the refuge and saw this eagle perched on a tree very close to the road. It stayed there for the next 40 minutes offering a variety of head angles to photograph.

I was also fortunate enough to be one of the first two people to arrive at the spot, giving me a great vantage point. I had to shoot out of the window of my small car which proved challenging with the 800 and without beanbag. I ended up reclining my seat all the way down, raising the window up about halfway and heavily relying on Live View.

Technical Specs: Canon 7D, 800 f/5.6 IS, f/5.6, ISO 200.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

American Coot Portrait

The Coot can be challenging to photograph because its body is very dark but its beak is a bright white, so if you expose for the body, the beak will be blown and if you expose for the beak, there will be no feather detail in the body.

A friendly recently asked me whether I do a lot of editing or whether I just take really good pictures. Both go hand in hand. I shoot RAW and shoot with the intent of post processing (with a rough idea of what I'm going to do in post). This Coot is a good example. When taking the shot I exposed the image so that I could get the absolute longest possible exposure without complete clipping the whites the beak. Then in Lightroom most of my processing involved applying a tone curve which boosted the shadows and pull back the highlights a little.

Technical Specs: Canon 7D, 100-400 @ 400mm, f/5.6, 1/250s, ISO 800.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Colored Rocks

Artists' Palette is another one of those iconic places to visit in Death Valley.

The various mineral deposits gives the rocks a variety of colors including green and purple.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Greater Scaup

The Greater Scaup, Lesser Scaup and Ring-necked Duck closely resemble each other. You can tell the Greater Scaup apart from the others by the fairly large black 'nail' at the end of its bill.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Unfriendly Crane

There are many ways to photograph birds. Some photographers focus entirely on the while in flight, others while they are perched. Photographing them when in action is something that requires knowledge of the bird's behavior, skill and patience. The above image shows just how much of a novice I am at bird action photography, however the image was pure luck either. I did notice the Cranes would squawk just before lunging and chasing away a newly landed Crane. So with the pool full of Cranes in front of me I kept an eye out for landing Cranes and once a Crane had landed I would look for signs of displeasure from other nearby Cranes. Once I saw some squawking, I would have the camera ready. Once the action starts, I fire away and keep the focus locked on the chasing Crane. I realize that the framing of this image is less than ideal, part of it was intentional (I wanted the chasing Crane to occupy as much of the frame as possible) and part unintentional (it would have been great to have more of the Crane to the right in the frame. I had to crop the left of the frame a little bit in post, and if this image were ideal, both Cranes would have fit in the frame. Oh well, lesson learned for next time.

Technical Specs: Canon 1Ds3, 800, f/5.6, 1/400s, ISO 800.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Littlest Guardian

Better not mess with him, he looks like he means business.

Technical Specs: 1Ds3, 800, f/5.6, 1/1000s, ISO 400.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Guava Harvest

Time to take a break from the serious photography. One of our front Guava trees has been very productive year. They are usually found in tropical climates, but an survive in colder temperatures (down to 5 degrees Celcius) for short periods of time (which is usually the average winter lows here in San Jose). I remember having my first Guavas in Zambia but during all those years living in Canada, its something I had only once or twice. In the last several weeks, I have harvested nearly 2 dozen Guavas from this plant along and yesterday Kim harvested another 1.5 dozen. Never thought I'd say this, but I'm bored of the Guavas, so this batch is going to her work to be given away.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Manly Beacon

Manly Beacon is one of the iconic photographic subjects at Zabrieski Point in Death Valley. The colors can vary widely depending on the color and quality of the light as well as the time of day.

Technical Specs: Canon 1Ds3, 100-400 @ 275mm, f/8, 1/2s, ISO 100.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Landing Snow Goose & Bosque Sunset

I finished processing the pictures from my first day Bosque. The images from the subsequent days are better, however the landing Snow Goose is one of the classic Bosque images to capture. Mine is nowhere near as nice as the ones others have been able to make, but that is largely due to the fact that the Geese were staying far away.

The sunset on that first day was quite nice though.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Muscovy Duck Portrait

The Muscovy Duck is not one you'll see that often up here (I believe they are more common in Mexico) but a pair of them have been hanging around the Palo Alto Baylands since at least last spring.

Technical Specs: Canon 7D, 100-400 @ 400mm, f/5.6, 1/320s, ISO 800.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Ring Billed Gull

The Ring-billed Gull is one of the most common Gulls in North American. As such, it gets ignored as a photographic subject (I know I tend to ignore them all the time). However, sometimes it pays to try something even with such a common species. I tried to get as close as I could to this resting Gull. The lighting was also a little flat day (lots of clouds) so I positioned myself to try and get as interesting a background as possible.

Technical Specs: Canon 7D, 100-400 @ 400m, f/5.6, 1/500s, ISO 800.

Monday, January 04, 2010

2009 Photographic Year in Review

2009 was a challenging year photographically speaking. From about February right through to the end of the year the bulk of my free time was spent on a big non-photographic, non work related project (something which I will talk about later this year).

Between this project and all the responsibilities that go with Maya, I had to force myself to find time to shoot. However looking back upon the catalog of images I made this past year I've still managed to make a lot of images and hit some personal milestones.

The first was which was near the beginning if the year with my first trip dedicated entirely to photography. I've done lots of photography on many trips before and have made many images I've been pleased with, however my trip to Death Valley and Lone Pine in February was the first time where the primary goal was photography and everything was planned around that. I found it to be creatively stimulating and a great experience which has motivated me to plan several more.

Spring 2009 wasn't a great time for birding for me. I didn't get much of a chance to get out and the lack of Egrets at the nesting area in the Palo Alto Baylands didn't help.

Another one of the firsts this year was photographing shore birds on the coast from a boat. Though I was mentally for the challenges of shooting from a small boat, its something that one needs to experience to truly appreciate. I was surprised by the number of good images I was able to get even when shooting with a long lens like the 800.

I visited Canada (and Ontario in particular) several times this year. Though none of the trips were dedicated to photography I did manage to sneak away for a day or so to get in some shooting. During one of these 'getaways' I managed to visit Point Pelee for the first time.

The end of the year was photographically more productive with my first trip dedicated to bird photography, i.e. Bosque del Apache in New Mexico. Once again, this trip has stirred up my creative juices and I'm trying to plan as many bird photography trips as time and Kim's patience will allow.

Gear wise, 2009 has been a fun ride. I started the year off with my then 16 month old Canon 1D3. Now at the end of the year I'm shooting with a 1Ds3, 5D2 and 7D and had a brief 6 month interlude with a Nikon set up. 2009 was the year that Canon demonstrated that they can make exceptional wide angle prime lenses.

I was fortunate to be able to pick up both the 17m and the 24mm tilt shift lenses and use them quite a bit during the holiday trip and both are exceptional.

Body-wise, in 2009 we saw Canon introduce the 7D which is something a lot of bird and wildlife photographers have been asking for, for a very long time (a high density crop sensor with great AF) and overall I'm pleased with it. 2010 will be a very important year for Canon as the 1D4 (and presumably) the 1Ds4 hit the streets with their new auto-focus systems.

2010 is already off to a great start. I'm very pleased with the weather and light we got on our trip though Death Valley and the Alabama Hills. I'm planning a trip to San Diego to photograph Pelicans later this month. I'm also hoping to do a lot more bird photography near home this spring, the Egrets in the bay area, the raptors near Half Moon Bay and another boat safari at Elkhorn Slough. In May, we'll be heading off on our big trip of the year to the Galapagos Islands which will be the first photography workshop that Kim and I will be attending with Andy Biggs. I'm definitely very excited about all of these photographic opportunities.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Round'n'round the Mobius Strip we go

This morning I went back to the Alabama Hills to photograph the Mobius Arch at sunrise. To my surprise, there were several photographers already there, set up and ready to go. I couldn't get the ideal vantage point, but I still managed to frame a shot with the sun's golden light on the arch and Mt. Whitney in the center. I also have a few images of the Lathe Arch which I will post in a few days.

Technical Specs: Canon 5D2, 24 TS-E II, f/14, (HDR of 3 exposures, 1/30s, 1/15s, 1/8s), ISO 200.

Saturday, January 02, 2010


This afternoon we arrived in Lone Pine. Among the beautiful views of the Sierras and Mt. Whitney the other attraction here is the Alabama Hills. I've wanted to photograph one of the arches here for quite a while and finally had a chance this evening. By the way thats me in the image, staring up at the beautiful night sky. Before the moon came out it was pitch black and the views of the milky way were fantastic. I'll be returning here before sunrise tomorrow morning for more photography.

Technical Specs: Canon 5D, 17mm TS-E, shifted up, f/5.6, 2min, ISO 800.

Morning Dunes

This morning we hiked around the sand dunes neat Stove Pipe Wells. We started well before sunrise, however the sky was pretty clear this morning so we didn't get the same kind of sunrise as yesterday. Also, I guess there hasn't been a lot of wind recently since there were a lot of tracks all over the dunes, even the ones pretty far in. They have put in a new parking lot (it wasn't here when I visited last February) which makes it easier to park and spot in the dark. However it also means much increased traffic and unless there is heavy overnight wind, I don't think these dunes are going to be good for photography from now on.

Technical Specs: Canon 1Ds3, 100-400 @ 400mm, f/8, 1/30s, ISO 100.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Bad Water Sunset

The conditions at sunset today didn't disappoint. Once again, it looked like all the clouds would result in a poor sunset but that wasn't the case. I chose Bad Water as the place to shoot and it turned out to be a good choice. During the final minutes of sunset, nearly the whole sky was red, which was reflected back by the salt.

Technical Specs: Canon 5D2, 17mm TS-E, f/6.3, ISO 100.

Happy New Decade

Happy New Year and Happy New Decade to everyone!

We arrived in Death Valley last night and this morning I went out to see the first sunrise of the new year and to photograph Zabrieski Point. It was looking a little cloudy at first, but the enough of the clouds cleared up to get a beautiful sunrise.

Technical Specs: Canon 5D2, 24 TS-E II, f/5.6, 1/6s, ISO 100, shifted up.