Rapture: The state of being transported by a lofty emotion; ecstasy
Saturday, February 23, 2008
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Mr. Eclipse gave explicit instructions for setting aperture and speed, but I had a little trouble reading the guide on the magnitude of brightness of the moon. In other words, the full moon was very bright in the beginning, but got less bright as it moved into the Earth's shadow, and it was necessary to change the settings every few minutes, as well as move to keep the moon in the frame. Just to be cautious, I kept changing both the aperture and shutter speed to take in more light as the evening progressed, and I'm glad I did. Not sure the metering feature was set right, since I'd been experimenting with those settings in relation to photographing white birds. Taking the flashlight outside was a good idea.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
The sign on the boardwalk at Wakodahatchee Wetlands advertised a Nature Photography Workshop in just two days. What an opportunity! Well, it was vacation, so we decided to skip the 6:30 am session, and called to sign up for the 8:30 am class instead. Claudine Laabs, a veteran nature photographer of some 20 years, was our guide and inspiration. The class included a range of photographers from very experienced to one person who didn't understand what an f-stop is, or that she couldn't zoom her point and shoot camera. Many of the things Claudine said were just common sense -- understand how your camera works and how to change the settings, be ready with extra memory and and another charged battery, and the mid-day sun isn't as good as early morning or evening sun angles. Going for action shots, she recommended a shutter speed of at least 1/500.
The key phrase of the day was "Wait for it..." Patience, of course, is a given among nature photographers, whether going for action shots or just a good pose. However, Claudine emphasized that you need to know the behavior of your subject. What will that Great Blue Heron do as it's ready to spear a fish or take off into the air? If you are going for courting behavior, what do you look for? How do the parents feed their young? Does the baby stick its head down the parent's throat or does the parent just drop a fish on the baby's head? Know that the Purple Gallinule will slide down to the end of a slender branch to eat the flowers and has a tendency to fall in the water. Some ducks have to run on the water before taking flight.
Her advice was "I know you are worn out from the excitement, but let's wait 10 more minutes," and 10 more would stretch out to 25 more. Focus where you expect something to happen, and hold your finger down on the shutter until the golden moment occurs. Oh, and while you are doing that, compose your picture to be sure to avoid a building or person in the shot, while insuring that the bird's natural environment is included. Wading birds are patient by nature, and the casual photographer can get pretty bored waiting for them to make a move!
To catch a bird in flight, you have to see it coming, and be ready before it gets too close. I got lucky when we saw a Belted Kingfisher hovering over one spot for some time, and burst mode captured it in several wing positions. Lead the flying subject, because you won't be able to see through the view finder as you are actually taking the shot. Be prepared to discard lots of empty sky shots. These Snowy Egrets were so fast, they swooped out, dipped in the water, and landed on the perch again before I could press the shutter.
Florida has lots of white birds, and getting a good light exposure on them is a challenge. The white tends to get washed out by most automatic settings, which give an average reading - good enough for all the other things, but too much for the white bird - and you lose the definition in the feathers. She talked about meter settings and I had to look it up again online when I got home. Apparently you need to set the camera for spot metering, and aim it at the white bird. We looked at some shots she had of Great Egrets, and her feathers were very distinct. My question now is, if you use that setting, what will it do to non-white birds? I'm not comfortable yet with changing the setting fast enough for a white bird here and something else in the next shot. Oh well, next time I go to Florida, I'll have to experiment with it.The final factor is luck. No matter how well prepared you are, some days you just won't get that outstanding shot, no matter how long you wait. Other times, you may catch that hovering Kingfisher or the Red Shouldered Hawk catching something in the marsh, and actually get the focus perfect. Persistence, patience, and lucky timing make all the difference.
Sunday, February 17, 2008
The Glossy Ibis looks dark and, well, glossy, from a distance. If they sun shines, it appears iridescent, otherwise a dark brownish-black color. The closeup shows that his head feathers are actually brown and white, and he has a distinct white mark outlining the edges of his beak. Do you notice this from a distance? Usually not. Since I don't have one of those 18 inch, mega-telescopic lenses, I use my converter (Panasonic says it gives the equivalent of 714 mm), set the camera for 8 megapixels, and shoot. When I get home, Photoshop lets me zoom in for those nice head shots, and crop out the excess foliage. I'm content with the results, and really have no desire to carry around 30 pounds of equipment and a tripod every time I go out.The colors to be found in a bird's eye fascinate me too. Most mammals will have brown eyes, and people of course, have a variety of colors. Some bird eyes are a solid dark color, while others are red or yellow, and the pupil stands out. This Tricolor Heron has red eyes, while the Osprey's eyes are yellow as are the Green Heron. I wonder if there are any studies about this difference? Does it improve the vision? Is there some survival factor to red eyes? And how in the world would any scientist ever be able to come up with a reliable answer to these questions? See, birding can broaden your mind!
Friday, February 15, 2008
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
In addition to providing educational and recreational opportunities for the public and habitat for wildlife, the Green Cay Wetlands naturally filter several million gallons of highly treated water each day from Palm Beach County's Southern Region Water Reclamation Facility. The wetlands also help to recharge groundwater resources and keep water in the earth's water cycle. To accomplish this, Green Cay incorporates 86 different species of trees, shrubs, grasses and aquatic vegetation on a former vegetable farm.
Palm Beach County government takes care of water treatment and provides much needed wildlife and bird habitat at the same time. Boardwalks through and around both wetlands provide an unprecedented opportunity for birders to see and photograph a large variety of birds including wading birds, raptors, and migrants, along with multitudes of turtles, fish and, of course, alligators. Small islands with trees are filled with nesting Anhingas and Great Blue Herons. Even non-birders are amazed at the birds easily seen and heard and appreciate a little help from someone who knows the names of those beautiful birds. How often will a visitor, in Florida for only a week, have an opportunity to observe courting and nesting behavior of wetlands birds? You could traipse out into the wilds of the Everglades on an airboat, and still not have a good chance. At Wakodahatchee, however, several small islands provided a rookery with nestlings of various ages and development levels. It makes a mother appreciate the efforts of other parents, and be glad that she can feed her babies with a spoon, and not by regurgitating fish for them. At least the Anhinga doesn't have to wash dishes or change diapers! This Anhinga couple are still courting, and their eyes change colors to show their readiness to mate. Big Kudos to the Palm Beach County Water Utilities Department for some wise decisions. Imagine, supporting the environment, wildlife and tourism at the same time! It can be done. This baby Great Blue Heron and I thank you!
Sunday, February 10, 2008