50mm Lens, Birds, Canon 50D, Nature, Photo Challenges, Photo Editing, Photography

Weekly Photo Challenge: Eerie

This weekend I spent some time at World Bird Sanctuary because they were hosting a Camera Day.  That is where they have some of their birds out of their cages so that you can get some nice photos in a more natural setting.  Here is a shot I got of a Great Horned Owl:

ISO 320 50mm 0ev f/4 1/800

ISO 320 50mm 0ev f/4 1/800

The good news is that I had a great time.  The bad news is that I forgot my tripod.  While it doesn’t matter too much for this particular photo, I will tell you that I have a lot of photos that will be heading for the electronic trash bin.

As you can see, it was a pretty bright day.  I set my ISO pretty low but because of the dark wood colors I did not set it at 100, but 320 looked like it would work.  When I am shooting in this situation I almost always try to shoot bracketed exposures.  There are two reasons for this.  The first is that with light changing frequently in a wooded area, a bracketed exposure gives you more options per click of the shutter.  The exposure that would have worked a minute ago may now have changed.  Bracketing offers you some flexibility with the changing conditions. The second is I am almost always thinking of trying to make an HDR image out of a photo like this.  What you see above is HDR.  I really like bird images in HDR because in my opinion it really brings out the detail in their feathers.  I chose a low f-stop because I did want to blur out the background a bit.  I would like you to notice how well this bird blends in with its background, but I don’t want the background to compete too much with the bird.  Given that this owl is made to blend in with it’s environment, the balance between the subject and background can be a tough one.  Since the Great Horned Owl is often not seen but instead heard, you would be forgiven for thinking it was a bit eerie to suddenly hear it hooting.  I wouldn’t blame you for jumping a bit.

Eerie is the theme of the weekly photo challenge at WordPress and other entries can be found here.  Have you ever been startled by one of these birds? it’s happened to me more than once while out camping, in the dead of night of course!  Do you like this HDR version?  This is not my first time photographing the Great Horned Owl, here is another shot from last fall. Your comments are welcome below.

Cheers!

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Birds, Canon 50D, Nature, Photo Challenges, Photo Editing, Photography

Weekly Photo Challenge: (Scanning the) Horizon

This is a female Peregrine Falcon:

ISO 400 140mm 0ev f/5.6 1/500

ISO 400 140mm 0ev f/5.6 1/500

The peregrine falcon scans the horizon looking for prey while it is in flight.  When it  spots a potential meal it can dive at speeds up to 200 miles per hour.  You can tell this is a female by it colored breast feathers.  The link I have included shows a photo of a male.

This photo I took at World Bird Sanctuary, at one of their Camera Day events.  If you live or are visiting the St. Louis area on November 3rd, they will be hosting another event and it is a great opportunity to take photos of various birds of prey in a natural setting.  That was how I managed to get close enough to get this profile shot.

To get this photo I used a tripod.  I was working on a project that is a series of birds of prey in HDR.  In order to make the HDR image I used a series of three images with different exposures.  Combining them later into one image to bring out more detail in the bird.  I used my bracketing setting on my camera and also a very high shutter speed.  For this photo I wanted to have the background very blurred, in part because I wanted to have the viewer focus on the bird, and in part to honor the fact that these birds seem to be able to live with any sort of backdrop as their home.  They can be found nesting in vast open spaces and also very crowded cities.

This particular photo is a 5×7 card and a print, along with the rest of the series which is available for viewing here on my website.  I have also blogged about a few of the other photos.  Here are links for the Eastern Screech Owl, Long-Crested Eagle, Eurasian Eagle Owl, and the Barn Owl.

This post was written in response to the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge which has horizon as a theme for this week.

What do you think of my peregrine falcon? Have you ever seen one of these beautiful birds in flight or diving?  Feel free to leave a comment below.

Cheers!

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Animals, Birds, Canon 50D, Nature, Photo Challenges, Photo Editing, Photography

Travel Theme: What color are your feathers?

The theme this week at Where’s My backpack? is multicolored.  I thought right away of this photo I have of an Eastern Screech Owl:

ISO 400 260mm 0ev f/5.6 1/400

ISO 400 260mm 0ev f/5.6 1/400

It has lovely colors but the interesting thing to me is that this bird can also have more of a grey bark color.  Same bird, but it depends on where it lives when it comes to what coloring it has in its feathers.  I have a link here to some information about the bird, and also a photo of the dramatically different way it can look.

As for this photo, I took it at the World Bird Sanctuary in St. Louis. I added in the link in part because if you are in the area on November 3rd they are hosting a Camera Day.  On that day they will take many of their birds and place them in natural settings.  It is a great day to get photos.  I took the photo above on a camera day this past spring.

Speaking of this photo, it is actually three photos merged into one using HDR. So, I took three exposures, one dark, one light and one in the middle, and merged them together using Photomatix. In Photoshop I did a bit of sharpening and cropping.

This owl is part of a series that I did of birds of prey, they are here for viewing and purchase.  I have blogged about a few of the other photos too; the Long-crested Eagle, Eurasian Eagle-Owl, and the Barn Owl.

So what do you think of this little one? and it is a very small owl!  Feel free to leave comments below.

Cheers!

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Animals, Birds, Canon 50D, Nature, Photo Challenges, Photo Editing, Photography, Picfair

Weekly Photo Challenge: The World Through Your Eyes

How about looking into the eyes of this guy?

ISO 400 300mm 0ev f/5.6 1/60

ISO 400 300mm 0ev f/5.6 1/60

He is a Long-crested Eagle, a bird that is native to Africa.  This particular bird however has a permanent home at the World Bird Sanctuary in St. Louis Missouri.

The reason he is here perhaps explains the intense look in his eyes.  He was seized by the US Fish and Wildlife Service when someone cut off his crest, spray painted him, and attempted to sneak him into the US with the thought of selling him illegally.

When I took this photo, I was hoping to catch this intense gaze because I think it helps tell his story.  To get this image, I had rented a 70-300mm lens.  I was also using a tripod.  I settled on an f-stop of 5.6 because I thought it left a lot of detail in the bird and also blurred out the background in a slightly surreal way.  I was hoping that the odd background would also suggest that this bird really does not belong here in the US, he should really have been left in the wild but now has to stay here.

I took a bracketed exposure because I knew I wanted to create an HDR image.  I used Photomatix to create the HDR and then did my sharpening in Photoshop.  This bird is part of a series that I created.  Other birds I have blogged about include a Eurasian Eagle Owl and a Barn Owl.

A version of this images is available on Picfair.

What do you think of this bird? Pretty intense looking? Have you ever seen one? Have a comment just in general? feel free to leave it below.

Cheers!

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Animals, Birds, Canon 50D, Nature, Photo Challenges, Photo Editing, Photography, Picfair

Weekly Photo Challenge: Fleeting

This Spring I was working on a series of bird photos.  I wanted to do birds of prey.  My favorite place to photograph birds is World Bird Sanctuary which is just outside St. Louis Missouri.

If you have never seen a Barn Owl in flight, it is almost silent.  It is almost like you can feel a slight disturbance in the air rather than hear it flying.  Talk about fleeting, it you didn’t know the bird was in the air, you might miss it.  I was at the Sanctuary, and they were flying this owl:

ISO 400 70mm 0ev f/5.6 1/500

ISO 400 70mm 0ev f/5.6 1/500

For all these images in this post I was using a 70-300mm IS lens.  For the photo above and below I was using a fast shutter speed because I really wanted to stop the motion of the bird.  For these images I was not using a tripod.  Here is the owl at rest with a treat:

ISO 400 300mm 0ev f/5.6 1/500

ISO 400 300mm 0ev f/5.6 1/500

Here is the final photo I used for my project:

ISO 400 150mm 0ev f/5.6 1/125

ISO 400 150mm 0ev f/5.6 1/125

This is actually an HDR image.  I merged three photos that were exactly the same, except for their exposure, in Photomatix, which is a software that specifically helps the user create HDR images.  As for the photo itself, because the bird was still, I lowered my shutter speed.  It had been at 1/500th for the other two shots in the post but here it is 1/125.  That is still a pretty fast speed and the reason for that is that I know that if any of the feathers are moving at all, it creates a blurred look in HDR.  For this shot I was also using a tripod.  A lens like the 70-300 IS I was using is fairly heavy, so the tripod was to help with any camera shake I might have introduced by just holding the camera.

I was happy with the way my birds of prey turned out.  The final photo is available in my Picfair portfolio.  One of the other birds in the series was a Eurasian Eagle-Owl that I blogged about here.

This post was written in part as response to the Weekly Photo Challenge hosted by WordPress, this week’s theme is fleeting. I appreciate your thoughts and comments so feel free to leave them below.

Cheers!

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50mm Lens, Animals, Birds, Canon 50D, Canon Powershot ELPH 320 HS, Nature, Photography

A Nest Update, A Survival Tale

If you have been following my robin’s nest story, this is an update that I will tell you right now is not all good news, in fact there is very little good news.  I just thought that I would put that out there first so that you can click away if you would like.

Here are the five healthy hatches on Thursday morning:

ISO 800 4mm 0ev f/2.7 1/200

ISO 800 4mm 0ev f/2.7 1/200

On Friday morning a few of the birds had their eyes open:

ISO 800 4mm 0ev f/2.7 1/250

ISO 800 4mm 0ev f/2.7 1/250

It was Saturday when we first noticed the falcon, or Cooper’s Hawk?  I say falcon, but the truth is we are still debating which type of bird this is that is preying on the robins. We were working in the yard and the birds around started going nuts.  We looked around and saw the falcon on the corner of our roof.  The robins and a few blackbirds chased it off and everything calmed down.

This afternoon we were again outside when we again heard the birds and saw the falcon.  My oldest child got this video of the falcon attacking the robin nest:

Here is the nest moments later:

ISO 800 4mm 0ev f/2.7 1/640

ISO 800 4mm 0ev f/2.7 1/640

This robin could not have been any flatter or more still.  It was our guess that the falcon took one baby at this time.  It is not clear what happened to the three unaccounted for birds.  Sometime between Friday morning and Sunday afternoon they went missing.

Then the adult robins came back:

ISO 320 50mm 0ev f/5.6 1/200

ISO 320 50mm 0ev f/5.6 1/200

Half an hour later here is the nest again:

ISO 800 4mm 0ev f/8 1/200

ISO 800 4mm 0ev f/8 1/200

Empty.  I had my Canon 50D set up during the time that the last bird went missing.  My pictures do not shed any light on what happened to the baby. We also had a window open and didn’t hear anything.  Did the adults relocate the last baby?  At this point, that is what we suspect, so we go looking.  We notice an adult bird flying low into our hedgerow and we find the surviving baby.  When the adult leaves, I get a photo in the hedgerow:

ISO 800 50mm 0ev f/5.6 1/50 flash used

ISO 800 50mm 0ev f/5.6 1/50 flash used

I left the hedgerow and so did the robin, so I got this picture also:

ISO 640 50mm 0ev f/5.6 1/200

ISO 640 50mm 0ev f/5.6 1/200

I told the robin to get back into the hedgerow, but more convincing was the fact that the adult robins came back and told the baby in no uncertain terms that it was to get back into the hedgerow.  So it did.

Well, I will be keeping an eye out for this little baby.  Our hedgerow is about the best place it could be right now, but until it can fly, it is still pretty vulnerable.  I will take pictures and write an update if I have anything further.

If you are new to this story, here are the other posts:

The story begins here and I explain how I am getting the pictures. The first update with five hatchlings is here.  The second update featuring a very crowded nest is here.

Comments? Questions? feel free to leave them below.  If you have a guess to what bird of prey we have in the video, feel free to say so and explain why you think so.

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Animals, Birds, Canon 50D, Nature, Photo Challenges, Photography

Weekly Photo Challenge: Delicate

For this week’s photo challenge from WordPress I picked photos of the Eurasian Eagle Owl to represent the theme delicate.  Despite being one of the larger owls, it’s individual feathers are quite delicate.  I found one on the path at World Bird Sanctuary and took the photo just to show how delicate it is.  If you click on that photo you can see the wood chips through the feather in several places.  I have included a couple of pictures of the owl too, just to give you a feel for its size and beauty, if you are not familiar with this particular bird. Just for your information it is against US Federal Law to possess feathers (and the like) of birds of prey.  If you see the feather, take a picture, not the feather 🙂

Cheers!

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