It was still pretty dark when I pulled into the parking lot of the Ridgefield NWR today–about 7:00 a.m. For many shots, I used ISO800 or higher today, except on a few select shots when the sun tried to peak through the heavy overcast. Not the greatest day for action shots due to the lack of light but I did get a few frames and some surprises.
TWO EXPERIMENTAL SHOTS
Due to the low light, I tried a couple of experimental shots. This Great Blue Heron was in an algae-covered waterway while it was still really dark out. I took this flash shot just for the heck of it. First, it’s no surprise that it looks just like a FLASH shot! No awards for artistic lighting on this one. The shadow casted by the flash is also a big negative here. The lens had a little trouble focusing in the dark but wasn’t a complete failure.
My favorite time to use flash is when the ambient light is bright enough to light the shot at least to about 85-90% of needed light. Then the flash is used to finish off the last 10% or so. This shot obviously relied too much on the flash but the bird is beautiful anyway. Also, I want to say that if you are just getting into flash wildlife photography, be prepared to have to fix the eyes in Photoshop. This heron had a hot pink eyeball before I cloned in some black.
Experimental shot #1 (using only flash for light)
On to the second experiment–this time in high ISO shooting. It was so dark when I started out around the auto loop this morning that I decided to take a few shots at ISO5000. I’ve gotten passable shots with the 7D at ISO 1000 before but had never tried anything like 5000. I took a shot of a nice little Golden-crowned Sparrow in dark conditions–8 a.m. under dark overcast skies. The shot was taken at 1/800 and f5.6 with flash. I used the sharpening and noise reduction controls in Lightroom 3.5 to attempt to lessen the noise while holding on to some sharpness. I also used Photoshop and Color Efex Pro 4 to make some enhancements. As expected, the quality just isn’t there, but again, the bird is lovely.
Experimental shot #2 (using ISO 5000)
It’s now about 9:30 in the morning and I’m just passing post #5. In the field on my left is a doe and her youngster. Here’s a shot of the doe taken at 1/640th, f5.6 and ISO500.
After a few shots, I bumped the shutter speed to 1/800th and ISO640. Just then, the doe bolted and I got this shot, although not a fast enough shutter speed to completely stop the action.
Here’s a shot of the youngster.
Not far down the road, I see this beautiful Red-tailed Hawk posing nicely at the top of a tree.
And a cute little Song Sparrow taken using high speed sync flash at 1/800th, yielding just a ‘kiss’ of light on the bird.
And–what I think is a Marsh Wren–although I usually find these guys on cattails–not in trees.
So now, I’m approaching post #13, near the beginning of the new road portion, and out of the tall grass comes one of our resident coyotes. I stop the truck and start shooting as the coyote hardly pays me any mind. All the while, it is coming closer to my truck as it is looking for voles. After many frames, it walks past the rear of my truck within 15 feet or so. These coyotes are getting very used to vehicles being around. Here are a bunch of coyote shots I got from this encounter.
Heading around the loop again I spot a Bald Eagle on top of the snag just past the turn at post #9. The bird stayed here so long I decided to put on my 1.4x extender making my setup 560mm. This makes my lens an f8 lens–not good for this relatively dark day. So I bumped up my ISO to 800 and used the live view feature of the 7D at 10X zoom, to attempt manual focus of the lens. It’s not a high quality photo, especially due to the excessive noise, but I liked the pose here.
Still in the Ash tree woods, there’s another Song Sparrow nestled in some mossy branches.
Here’s a shot of someone who either can’t read the refuge rules board, or, thinks they are more special than everyone else and can do as they please. We’d all like to have the flexibility of exiting our vehicles to shoot some shots–especially flight shots–but refuge rules require that we stay inside our vehicles during the cooler months. I stay in my rig, and I miss some shots because of it. It’s the rules.
Okay, now let’s turn to a happier story! Just after taking the above shot of the VW, I made my way over to where that car was when I took its picture, in front of Rest Lake. I was parked to the left of the road watching some gulls and harriers circling around over the lake out of my driver’s side window. All of a sudden I noticed a light colored bird that ‘joined’ the gulls and harriers– but this bird had a different wing cadence or speed. At first I thought it might be a male harrier, but I knew it wasn’t due to its slower wing cadence. It was just too far out to know for sure, even with my binoculars. I decided to shoot some frames as it was circling thinking that the shots would likely not be keepers due to the distance and white skies. I got only a few seconds of burst shots before it decided to break away from its circular flying and head south.
Checking my camera’s LCD display and zooming in, the bird turned out to be a Short-eared Owl (SEO)! Wow, was I excited. I had only seen a SEO once on the refuge in the 5 years I have been shooting here and that was a couple of years ago. Still, I wasn’t expecting much from the shots due to the weather and distance of the bird. After processing the shots, I was happy with a few of them. They aren’t great but considering the heavy crops and the conditions, I am a happy camper. These were taken at ISO800 and 1/1000th.
A couple minutes later this Red-tailed Hawk flew by, and like the owl shots, taken from the window of my truck.
About two minutes later, I’m down past the three tree area just about to make the turn to post #13 when I again saw that same beautiful coyote (that I saw earlier today) on the dike between the road and Rest Lake. Here are some shots of this encounter and the final shots of the day.
Thanks for visiting The Blog and I’ll see you next time!