I decided to take a short trip to Mt. Tabor Park today (March 8 ) for a change of scenery from my usual “home” base of Ridgefield NWR. Mt. Tabor is a city park in Portland, Oregon. It is basically a small mountain at 600 feet high in the middle of the city which contains the remnants of an extinct volcano. The park is about 200 acres and is surrounded by a neighborhood of houses. The park has a system of paved paths and roads amongst areas of well manicured grass and many tall fir trees as well as other shrubs and trees. Mt. Tabor is only about 20 minutes from my house so it is easy for me to come over quickly and get right to shooting.
My primary location to shoot from my vehicle is heading up the mountain on one of the paved access roads. As I begin driving slowly up this paved hill I’m probably at about 300 feet altitude. So the view out of the passenger side window is the “edge” of the mountain and I have a picturesque view of the city of Portland to the east. Just off the edge of the road the terrain drops off steeply then flattens out where there is grass planted among numerous huge pine trees–probably Douglas Fir. The trees are so tall they easily reach the level of the road I’m on and continue up past this level 50 to 100 feet. So, the boughs of these huge fir trees (at about half way up the trees) are basically lining the edge of the road for about a mile as I ascend the mountain from 300 feet to about 600 feet. On good days I can find quite a variety of small birds among these trees and the various shrubs.
As one might expect, since there are so many tall trees in this area, sunny spots along the road come and go in minutes as the sun moves behind clouds and also fir trees in the park. So I can drive up and down this road, say ten times, and the lighted areas will be different each time. I always bring along my external flash and my Better Beamer in case some extra light is necessary. In fact, I used slight fill flash on every shot I’m posting today. The shots actually look like the primary light is from the flash but I’d estimate only about 5% to 10% of the light you see is from the flash and the rest is provided by that good ol’ sun.
All the shots below were taken at 1/1000 shutter speed, f6.3, and ISO 640, and the flash was in High Speed Sync mode so that very little light from the flash is supplied. I explain a little about this mode in my article, Using External Flash in Bird Photography, if you are interested.
Note the dark backgrounds in all but one of the shots. This darkness is the shade of the Douglas Fir forest/picnic area that these trees create. A vast majority of the light on the bird is from the sun.
You’ll quickly notice that today was not a good day for variety! Although I spotted some other species, I didn’t get any decent photos of these. So I settled for the Dark-eyed Junco, which was willing to pose in several locations along the road. Here are seven shots of this cute little bird in different poses.
[Please click once on the thumbnails to see a larger image and more detail].
I’m hoping that as we move deeper into Spring, there will be more birds here that I can bring to you. Thanks for checking out today’s post and I’ll see you next time!