Maybe I am becoming a "birder"

I was at a rural East Texas retreat this weekend and discovered a bird feeder in the back that was very active with red birds and cardinals. So, I set myself up about 30 feet away and used my Canon 5d and a 70-200mm Canon telephoto to capture the action.  I ratched up my ISO so I could shot at a faster shutter speed (1/500th of a second and even faster). Focus is critical and I had a lot of culls because the birds are small and catching tack-sharp focus was a challenge.

Using a full-frame camera like the 5D really helps get more accpetable images because the birds are so small in relation to the overall frame.  Even using the telephoto lens, the birds were only occupied about 30% of the frame.

Late afternoon sun helps give the birds dramatic color and the telephoto lens (and a lower f5.6 f-stop) gave me a shallow depth of field and provided a rich, creamy background bokeh.

I really liked photographing these birds.  Maybe I will become a "birder" and do it more often.

























Rattlesnakes and Bluebonnets

I love to photograph wildflowers and I took several of these shots in the Texas hill country, around Fredericksburg. When you are wading around in a patch of wildflowers there is always a chance other critters are lurking in the undergrowth.  In the Texas hill country, as often as not, those critters are rattlesnakes. Sure enough we saw two large ones and I was nervous.  I got down on my belly and got my shot, but I moved quickly.


















Robber caught in the act

I was standing near the Grand Canyon south rim (Pima Point) very early one morning (I was the only person around for miles) and it was so peaceful and quiet. Suddenly, a racket broke the silence and a squirrel popped up over the edge of the rim. A bird was dive-bombing him everywhere he went, and squawking the whole time. I caught this shot. I am guessing the squirrel was probably trying to rob her nest.


Say Cheese!

One day years ago when we lived in Kenya, I was doing what many westerners do in East Africa, taking pictures of the incredible scenery and interesting people. I had friends with me who were Masai and we were in a Masai village. I had been there for a while when two ladies approached me and wanted to see inside my "box" (camera). I handed them one camera and used another one to capture the moment. I love their expressions. A picture speaks a thousand words.



Here is one of my favortie butterfly pics.  It was taken with a telephone lens at "butterfly" level.


Photo-Tips: Turning water into "cotton-candy"

Two photographs, taken moments apart.  Same camera, same subject, same angle (the camera did not move), same lighting.  Yet, dramatically different results. What gives?

I made one simple, yet important camera setting change.  The top photo was taken with the camera set to "Automatic." The camera shutter speed was automatically set to 1/50 second (the camera decided what was the correct shutter speed and f-stop to give me an acceptable looking photo). The bottom photo was taken with the camera shutter speed manually set at 1.3 seconds. In other words, I took the camera off "Automatic."  It made a BIG difference.  Here's why.

1/50th of a second is pretty slow by camera standards (just fast enough to be hand-held without blur).  It is almost fast enough to stop the water in motion (but not quite; the flowing water is blurred).  If you had taken this same photo yourself, and you had your camera set to the "Automatic" setting (as I did), chances are your picture would look similar.

Sometimes though, there are good reasons to take the camera off the "Automatic" setting. The photo on the right benefited from an extremely slow shutter speed. I knew that if I changed the camera setting to "TV" (Canon's term for Time Value or Shutter-Speed) and set the camera shutter speed to a very slow - 1.3 seconds - I could achieve the "cotton-candy" effect I wanted.

In this case, the camera compensated for my slow shutter speed by automatically choosing the correct f-stop (lens opening) to give me a good exposure. The camera chose f-22 to compensate for that really long shutter time (the camera made the lens aperture hole very small).

Also, I did a couple of other things to improve my chances of a good (non-blurry) photo while using that 1.3 second exposure time.  I used a tripod weighted with a sand bag for stability. I also set the camera's internal mirror to lock in the "up" position so it would not vibrate my camera while it was opening and closing during my exposure.  I also set my camera's timer to ten seconds so I could step away from the tripod and let things settle down before the camera actually opened and closed the shutter.

This may all sound like a lot of work for a simple time-exposure photo.  Like a lot of other things though, I am stubborn. I have tried to do this same photo multiple times by hand-holding the camera (no tripod) and using shorter shutter speeds.  It just never worked. It was close at times, but close is only good when playing horseshoes.

So, there we have it.  Take your camera off “automatic” and turn water into "cotton candy.".

Story behind the photo: No Smoking. No spitting. Gasoline -16 cents a gallon.

I love old things; especially old signs. In 2010 I took these pictures of an old, run-down (and obviously closed) Texaco gas station, located on a back road, off of another back road, deep in the Texas hill country.

The scene is almost as if time stood still the minute the station closed for the last time. The gasoline price sign reads an amazing 16¢ a gallon (of which 1¢ was federal tax and 5¢ was state tax).

I am older than dirt, but I do not ever remember gasoline being that cheap. I am just guessing this station closed sometime in the early 1960s.

The two blue signs on the door read: “No Smoking” and “No Spitting.”