Fiscal Shrike in Tanzania Bush
There were so many beautiful birds we spotted on our recent Africa trip and … so many that I didn’t capture on camera. The ones I was able to capture, were not always photo sharp, to my dismay. But still, they provide wonderful memories. I so love birds and hope to get better at capturing their distinct beauty.
“Everyone likes birds. What wild creature is more accessible to our eyes and ears, as close to us and everyone in the world, as universal as a bird?”
Nature historian David Attenborough
Snowy Egret, Anna Maria, FL
This fellow had a challenge on a breezy day balancing on a pier piling hoping to snatch some discards from a fish being cleaned on Rod and Reel Pier in Anna Maria. He was never lucky, though, as the fisherman tossed the remains to the pelicans below. For this week’s theme of “Balance” where the left and right halves of an image draw the eye equally, I used this image as an example of an ‘imbalanced’ image where the visual weight of the egret is on the left where your eyes are drawn primarily, with nothing on the right to counter the ‘imbalance’ of the photo. Had there been a fish in the egret’s mouth or another egret’s head popping up from the right lower corner would have helped put this image into a more balanced pose, making the difference of a great shot versus an average one as is this one.
Vultures in Serengeti Sunrise, Tanzania.
When on safari, one doesn’t consider African vultures worthy of photographing when there are more beautiful creatures to capture. But one early morning at our mobile campsite on the Serengeti, there were a number sitting up in the trees, resting before the day began. They were a beautiful sight against the sunrise. I learned to appreciate these barbaric looking birds for their importance on the plains of Africa. Their ability to fly over 60 miles a day patrolling the plains plays a vital role in keeping the wild areas free of disease and rotting carcasses. They are incredibly efficient scavengers, leaving just bones, providing yet another meal for their competitors – the jackals, hyenas and feral dogs who will remove any remaining evidence of death.
I captured this Anhinga at Herons Nest Nature Park cleaning up and air-drying himself. Usually these guys are in the water swimming with just their neck and head showing, so it was nice to capture him drying out.
My backyard has two pine trees that stand high above others in the area. Because of its height, it provides a great view for avian predators on the hunt, such as bald eagles, hawks, owls and an occasional great blue heron. Early in the evening the other day, I kept hearing a “who-who” nearby so I grabbed my camera and went out to investigate. It took a few moments to find him, but there he was, high above me, staring down at me … a Great Horned Owl! And he wasn’t alone. There were two of them. I took a bunch of photos hoping for some decent shots since the light was fading and they could fly away at any moment. But it provided me an image for this week’s theme “View From Below”. Hope you enjoy!
Cormorant in Flight.
Next month we are headed to Africa in hopes of spotting the big five – lions, leopards, African elephants, rhinos and Cape buffalos. We’ve been to South Africa before, but this trip we will safari in Kenya, Botswana, Tanzania and South Africa with a couple of other friends. On the previous trip, photography wasn’t my passion and as a result, the photos, were just so so. In anticipation of this trip, I have extensively Googled to death the camera gear I should take. We each have weight restrictions of 33lbs for carry ons on the small puddle jumpers we will be taking to each of the camps, so camera gear has to be minimal. I’d like to take two camera bodies and 3 lens so I’m not having to change lens in the dusty environment, but I’m still undecided. Right now I’m taking a 24-70mm and a 70-200mm but undecided between the 10-24mm or the 28-300mm.
I recently rented and tested the Nikon 80-400mm which would give me more reach but didn’t really see a remarkable difference from the 70-200mm when cropped in. Additionally, I found the 80-400mm a bit slow as you can see in the above photo when I tried to capture the cormorant in flight. It’s ‘SOOC (straight out of the camera)’ and you can see that it’s just not sharp enough. Of course, it could be the user!!! I’ve considered a teleconverter for the 70-200, so that’s my next test. I’d really like to take something in the 400mm to 500mm zoom range, but their weight really make them impractical for this trip, as well as their cost!
So fellow photographers, if you have any additional thoughts on gear, please share!
Brown Pelican diving at Anna Maria Island.
One of my favorite places to capture my favorite bird, the Pelican, is on Anna Maria Island. Oftentimes there are many parents and juveniles, hunting and diving for food off one of the piers, as they were in the above image. The juveniles are similar to the adults, but have a brown neck and head with a grayish bill. I love watching their take offs and awkward landings. Sadly, I noticed one juvenile had some fishing line flowing off his foot when in the air. Not good.
I thought for the ‘Starburst’ challenge, I would cheat! To shoot successful sun flares and starbursts, one needs to use a narrow aperture such as f/22 and for best effects, something physically blocking part of the sun, like the horizon or buildings or trees. I have practiced a bit in the past but with the holidays upon me, I’ve had little time to get out and capture a starburst. So …. as I said, I cheated. I used a great iPhone app called LensLight which has a wide selection of interactive lights such as bokeh, lens flares, light leaks and sunbursts. I don’t use it often, but on the few occasions, it can really pop an image. I hope you think so too.
Happy Holidays, friends.