February 10, 2016 Salineno Birding Area, Texas

Altamira Oriole
Altamira Oriole

Yet More Birds … and a New iMac

Great Kiskadee Landing
Great Kiskadee Landing

Please excuse the delay in new posts recently, but my faithful old iMac died, and it could not have chosen a worse place to do so, here in remote, no cell reception, 1 bar of 3G internet reception, Salineno, Texas. I made the switch from PC’s to Mac about 7 or 8 years ago, leaving behind the world of constantly crashing systems and buggy software and entering a new world of constant, reliable service from a very dependable piece of electronics. But all good things eventually do pass, and this iMac, that has bounced around on the dinette table of my motorhome for the past three years, finally decided to quit on me last week.

After initially trying to get a new 27″ iMac from B&H, where I have purchased thousands of dollars of camera equipment over the years, I was forced to actually purchase my new machine from Adorama Camera. I had one of the more unpleasant experiences I have encountered with some very arrogant and rude personnel at B&H, who told me they had to cancel my order with them because they could not reach me on my cell ( no cell service here at Salineno, a fact I explained to them by email ) for a “verification” call. They dragged this non-purchase out for almost a week before deciding they didn’t need my business. Adorama, on the other hand, had my order shipped to me ( Free, by the way ) in three days. Must be wonderful to be such a successful business as B&H to be able to just toss aside customers who have spent thousands of dollars with them over the years, but Adorama has earned all my future business, for sure.

With the arrival of the new iMac and dreading the process of loading all my old programs and files from my old system to the new, I actually had to move out of my spot in Salineno and take the motorhome up to the county park where I could get some 5 bar 4G internet signal as well as cell phone coverage. Turns out that migrating all my files and programs from my old Time Machine backup hard drive to the new iMac was a surprisingly easy process, even for me! Thank you, Apple.

Only glitch was when I opened up Photoshop and, to my dismay, though not surprise, found my old Photoshop CS4 would not be supported on the new Mac OS. Not just PS, but the entire Adobe Creative Suite that I had purchased for a couple thousand dollars, I no longer could use, since Adobe no longer supports CS4. My only option was to purchase PS CC for $120 a year if i wanted to continue using PS, and with the long learning curve for me to learn PS, I really had no choice but to pay yet more tribute to Adobe, and just throw away my original investment. Not to mention the hundreds, or more like thousands of hours I have invested in using Adobe Dreamweaver, part of the Adobe Creative Suite, and my unfortunate choice to design my McQ Gallery website on. All that work, all those hours, now wasted, unless I start paying Adobe another $250/year to be able to continue using something I had already purchased from them. Needless to say, I am no longer a great fan of Adobe, a wonderful example of corporate greed.

Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal

Enough grousing about all that, I am up and running again and I have an enormous backlog of images and blog posts to work on, so here goes.

Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal

I really do think the quality of the small birds in flight shots continues to improve as I continue to practice and experiment with camera settings and new bird props.

Green jay Bookends
Green jay Bookends

I am constantly on the lookout for new props as I take walks along the river or through the woods around the birding area. The “Y” shaped prop shown above has yielded many nice shots and a 7 foot tall piece of driftwood, also in a “Y” configuration, that I pulled out of the river the other day, will be featured in some upcoming blog posts.

Green jay
Green jay
Green jay
Green jay

I do have to finally admit that, although i still find these small birds in fight shots challenging, I sort of am looking forward to finally getting back on the road in a month or so, and seeking new things to photograph.

Female Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Female Golden-fronted Woodpecker

But you still will be stuck with yet more bird shots for another few posts.

Altamira Oriole in Flight
Altamira Oriole in Flight

I really am quite happy with many of these Altamira flight shots, a vast improvement on my initial attempts a month or so ago. A fairly steady stream of nice days has made the process a little easier and I am able to shoot hundreds of shots daily and move my new props about the birding yard to take advantage of the sun’s angle and the various backgrounds necessary for a pleasing shot. And as the old adage goods, practice makes perfect!

Altamira Oriole in Flight
Altamira Oriole in Flight
Altamira Oriole in Flight
Altamira Oriole in Flight
Altamira Oriole in Flight
Altamira Oriole in Flight
Altamira Oriole in Flight
Altamira Oriole in Flight
Altamira Oriole in Flight
Altamira Oriole in Flight
Altamira Oriole in Flight
Altamira Oriole in Flight
Audubon Oriole
Audubon Oriole

These Audubon Orioles are much more difficult to get good shots of than their cousins, the Altamiras, because of their black heads. Unless the light is hitting them just so, their dark eyes completely disappear in those black heads, ruining many shots that otherwise would be considered acceptable.

Audubon Oriole
Audubon Oriole

A little catch light in the eyes is essential for a good shot here, and is seldom actually available.

Audubon Oriole
Audubon Oriole

The fact that there are probably no more than four of five of these Audubons coming into the yard, as compared to a dozen or more Altamiras, means there are many fewer opportunities to catch them in flight. But, of course I’ll keep on trying!

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January 24, 2016 Salineno Birding Area, Texas

Moving in on the Oriole
Moving in on the Oriole

A Little Fun in PhotoShop

Incoming Blackbird, We're Outta Here
Incoming Blackbird, We’re Outta Here

Let’s see, now i have more than a few decent shots of small birds in flight, let’s figure out what to do with them.

On a Mac at least, right clicking on any of these images will open a larger, sharper version in a new window.

Rainbow of Birds
Rainbow of Birds

Every now and then, I have managed to capture multiple birds in flight in one image, sure doesn’t happen often, but as I’ve stated before, this small birds in flight thing is a numbers game, and I have the time, and place, to take a lot of shots.

Colorful Quartet
Colorful Quartet
Three Birds Incoming
Three Birds Incoming

So I thought, why not combine parts of several of my better images with some of the good shots that already have multiple birds in them … just play around and amuse myself in PhotoShop.

Three Orioles
Three Orioles

Since all of these shots are taken on a tripod and I don’t move the camera sometimes for a  hundred flight shots or more ( I am manually focused on a spot where I hope the birds will be ), many of these shots have the exact same background as several others making combining images a breeze.

Quartet
Quartet
Four Birds
Coming and Going
Cardinal and Jays
Cardinal and Jays

These shots should give you an idea of the sometimes almost unbelievable color you can see in the yard here in Salineno. I have been sitting here watching these guys now for three months and it still amazes me.

Great Kiskadee and Altamira Orioles
Great Kiskadee and Altamira Orioles
Three birds
Make Room !
Three Birds
A Seat for All
Five birds
Not enough Room for Five

Only two of the birds in the above image were added, guess which ones.

Unwanted Intruder
Unwanted Intruder
Six Birds
Six Birds

This combined image gives you an idea of how difficult it sometimes is to shoot here because of the shadows of the overhanging branches. These shadows from the mesquite tree looming over the seating area move about the yard as the sun tracks across the sky, casting shadows over all the props I have set up in the yard to bring the birds in close for viewing. So many good shots are ruined by these shadows being cast over dark parts of the birds, such as the heads of the Green Jays and the Audubon Orioles, making their eyes indistinguishable from the dark feathers surrounding them.

Green Jay and Northern Cardinals
Green Jay and Northern Cardinals

The two shots combined here were taken at the very end of the day as the sun set behind me around 6 PM.

Hope you may have enjoyed these, let me know what you think!

Thank you for shopping Amazon from my site!

When you click through to shop Amazon from here, I get a tiny commission, one that does not in any way impact what you pay, and all those tiny commissions eventually add up and that helps me keep this blog going !


 

January 20, 2016 Salineno Birding Station, Texas

Altamira Oriole
Altamira Oriole

Another Week in Salineno

Altamira Oriole
Altamira Oriole

More good weather, and yet more bird shots. As I continue practicing, I find the percentage of decent shots keeps improving, leaving me with a new problem … too many images to now process, and what to do with them. Just how many images of an oriole, or a great kiskadee do I really need ?

To see a larger, sharper version of any image, simply right click on the image and a new window with the larger version will open ( on a Mac, at least ).

Altamira Oriole
Altamira Oriole

Yet my duties require me to sit in front of all these beautiful birds for 9 hours all but every day and I still have almost two more months to go here, and I can’t get out of the habit of setting up me camera and tripod when I settle in for my day’s ” work “.

Altamira Oriole
Altamira Oriole

But where I initially was shooting 1000 or more shots a day, I could quickly delete all but 30 or so that I would have to examine closer on the computer to see if they were sharp enough to bother processing. Now, out of that same 1000 shots or sometimes even more, I find I now have 100 or more that demand closer examination … and that is keeping me busy processing images for pretty much all of my free time.

Altamira Oriole
Altamira Oriole

Northern Cardinals

 

Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal

After we close the gate at 4 PM each day, there is about a one hour window where I can set up and shoot with the setting sun at my back and get some pretty nice shots of these colorful birds with the shaded bushes in the yard as a dramatic dark background.

Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal

I never know how these will turn out as I shoot them because there is so little time to check the images on the camera’s monitor due to the constant action. The Cardinals, along with the hundreds of nuisance Red-winged Blackbirds, constitute what we term the ” cleanup crew “, the birds that come in just before sunset and pretty much vacuum the grounds of any leftover seed and cracked corn.

Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal

While we always have several pairs of cardinals in the yard all day long, all of a sudden, just after 4 PM, about a dozen or more pairs materialize, and I set up a prop to try and lure most of them to come flying into a precisely located perch where I have the light just so and the background just the way I want it.

Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal

Then it’s just a matter of prefocusing on a point where I think they will be, and shooting off volleys of shots as they descend. As I have said before, then it’s just a numbers game, hoping they hit my prefocused spot, hoping they have their wings in the right position, etc.

Northern Cardinals
Northern Cardinals

Sometimes the results are quite dramatic, like above when I have the good fortune to catch more than one bird in the prefocused point, something that very rarely ever happens.

Northern Cardinals
Northern Cardinals
Female Northern Cardinal
Female Northern Cardinal
Female Northern Cardinal
Female Northern Cardinal

The female Northern Cardinal is considered by most to be a drab counterpoint to the brilliant red male, but in my humble opinion, certainly under these lighting conditions, she is anything but.

Female Northern Cardinal
Female Northern Cardinal
Female Northern Cardinal
Female Northern Cardinal

The gorgeous pink undersides of her wings and tail, unseen normally except when taking these sort of shots, make her quite the beauty.

Female Northern Cardinal
Female Northern Cardinal
Female Northern Cardinal
Female Northern Cardinal
Female Northern Cardinal
Female Northern Cardinal
Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Golden-fronted Woodpecker

I search the surrounding woods for new props almost daily and came up with this one that I set up to get shots of our two woodpecker species here at Salineno, the Golden-fronted and the Ladder-back Woodpecker.

Ladder-backed Woodpecker
Ladder-backed Woodpecker
Northern Bobwhites
Northern Bobwhites

We have a covey of a dozen Northern Bobwhites that visit us a couple of times a day. No props for these guys as they are pretty much strictly ground feeders.

Long-billed Thrasher
Long-billed Thrasher

My first flight shot of one of our Long-billed Thrashers. This bird often comes walking into the yard rather than flying and does most of his feeding on the ground, so attempts to get flight shots of him are few and far between.

Great Kiskadee
Great Kiskadee

And finally, yet more shots of our Great Kiskadees and Green Jays.

Great Kiskadee
Great Kiskadee
Great Kiskadee
Great Kiskadee
Green jay
Green jay
Green jay
Green jay
Green jay
Green jay
Green jay
Green jay
Green jay
Green jay
Green jay
Green jay
Green jay
Green jay
Green jay
Green jay
Green jay
Green jay

Though they now seem almost common to me, the Green Jay is one of the most colorful birds I have ever photographed. The blue head, the blue-greens of the tail feathers, bright yellow underside and outside tail feathers, along with it’s black mask … just a bird one never gets tired of shooting.

SPECIAL NOTE:

After 8 faithful years of flawless service, my IMAC died on me a few days ago. I will not be able to process images or do any blog posts until I have a new IMAC delivered and I go through the painful experience of getting it up and running. As of January 30th I have one ordered and hopefully enroute, but with no phone service and a very weak internet signal here in Salineno, it undoubtedly will take me a while to get everything I need loaded on the new unit, so please bear with me in the interim.

January 13, 2016 Salineno Birding Station, Texas

Altamira Oriole and Kiskadee
Altamira Oriole and Kiskadee

At Long Last, a Few Sunny Days

Green Jay
Green Jay

On cloudy and overcast days, and we have had our share of those to begin the new year, I am really quite limited in what I can shoot here in the bird feeding yard.

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Golden-fronted Woodpecker

The absence of abundant natural light makes flight photography all but impossible so I concentrate on trying to get the birds to remain relatively still on feeding props I erect in the yard’s brighter spots.

Altamira Oriole
Altamira Oriole
Great Kiskadee and Green jay
Great Kiskadee and Green jay

The few flight shots I do manage to get under these light conditions tend to be quite dull and contain a lot of noise, due to the high ISO required, but still useable to me for possible paintings somewhere down the road.

Great Kiskadee
Great Kiskadee
Great Kiskadee
Great Kiskadee

Interesting poses, but quite dull with little “life”.

Great Kiskadee
Great Kiskadee

But with a little sunlight, the images become rich and interesting, such as this shot of a gluttonous Great Kiskadee, frozen at the moment he grabs a huge mouthful in mid-flight.

Great Kiskadee
Great Kiskadee

These shots, with the dark backgrounds are taken around 4 PM when the sun is setting and the birds are coming in to do their final fueling to make it through the night.

Great Kiskadee
Great Kiskadee

This vertical shot is without doubt the best I have managed to date. In fact, I probably could stop shooting Kiskadees right now because I most likely will not be able to improve on this one. Not the greatest Kiskadee shot ever taken, just the best one I have managed to get …

Great Kiskadee
Great Kiskadee

… but since I still have two months to go here, and since I have become addicted to shooting these very entertaining birds, you will have to forgive me for posting another hundred shots of them over the next few months, just can’t help myself.

Great Kiskadee
Great Kiskadee
Great Kiskadee
Great Kiskadee
Great Kiskadee
Great Kiskadee

However, i will try to concentrate on getting some better shots of the other colorful birds in the yard, under these same dramatic late afternoon conditions …

Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal
Female Northern Cardinal
Female Northern Cardinal

… like these Northern Cardinals ….

Altamira Oriole
Altamira Oriole
Audubon Oriole
Audubon Oriole

… or two of our three species of orioles …

Green Jay
Green Jay
Green Jay
Green Jay
Green Jay
Green Jay

… or, of course, more green jays.

We have what looks like a week of nice weather heading our way, so stay tuned!

Thank you for shopping Amazon from my site!

When you click through to shop Amazon from here, I get a tiny commission, one that does not in any way impact what you pay, and all those tiny commissions eventually add up and that helps me keep this blog going !