Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Grey Heron in flight, bathed in golden light

At 40 inches (over 1 meter) total length, this migrant is among the tallest birds ranging in our islands. It has a very wide wingspan as well - 70 inches - nearly as wide as the standard height of doors. And when it's in the air, it is almost as if a small airplane is flying around.
I've photographed this species many times in a few places, mostly at Candaba Wetlands. But it was only recently in my native La Union, at the vast fishponds of Sto. Tomas, where I got it with most of the right ingredients falling into place - a well-groomed specimen in sweet late afternoon light, a photogenic wing position, and a pleasing, out-of-focus background.
The EOS 7D MII + EF 400 f/4 DO IS II + EF 1.4x TC III, my new hand-held BIF rig, did a great job in nailing the focus, while I panned from right to left, giving the bird some lead space in the frame. The resulting composition is strong enough without the need for cropping. Please check the high-res version to appreciate better the details captured.
Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea, migrant)

Habitat - Uncommon in wetlands. 
Shooting Info - Sto. Tomas, La Union, Philippines, November 7, 2015, EOS 7D MII + EF 400 DO IS II + EF 1.4x TC III,
560 mm, f/7.1, 1/2500 sec, ISO 320, manual exposure in available light, hand held, uncropped full frame resized to 800 x 533.

High res 1800 x 1200 version


Friday, November 13, 2015

Java Sparrow at Bued River

I got close to this little fellow this afternoon, while it was feeding on the ground at Bued River. The head, with its contrasting colors, was tough to expose well in direct sunlight. The bill likewise can be easily blown in the red channel. So I patiently waited till it hopped into the shade before pulling the trigger.

Total length of this bird from tip of bill to tip of tail is about 5-1/2", so this image should be more than lifesize in most displays, even at 800 x 533. Nice to have 65 AF points to choose from - I used on off-center one to focus in AI servo at the eye, and attempted to get my desired comp without having to crop out and waste a single pixel.


Java Sparrow (Padda oryzivora, resident)

Habitat - Uncommon in parks, residential areas and scrub, sometimes in neighboring ricefields.

Shooting Info - Bued River, Rosario, La Union, Philippines, November 13, 2015, EOS 7D MII + EF 400 DO IS II + EF 1.4x TC III, 560 mm, f/5.6, 1/200 sec, ISO 320, manual exposure in available light, hand held, uncropped full frame resized to 800 x 533.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A raptor's successful fishing dive

One of nature's awesome spectacles is the fishing dive of a raptor from high up in the air, often from over a hundred feet up, to the water below where its prey is swimming just underneath the surface.

The whole action happens in just a few seconds, often at a long distance from the observer, making it very tough to see details of the unfolding scene with the naked eye in real time.

Fortunately, a fast focusing DSLR with a high frame rate coupled with a long, sharp optics can freeze the amazing scenes very well, to be viewed and enjoyed later in print or on a computer display.

I was very lucky to witness a Brahminy Kite's successful fishing dive on November 11, 2015, at the vast fishponds of Sto. Tomas, La Union. Shooting distance was between 70 - 90 meters, and the elapsed time from the beginning of the raptor's dive to the point when it grabbed the fish was exactly three seconds. Direction and quality of light was great, and the 7D MII + 400 DO IS II + 1.4x TC III did its job nicely in capturing the action despite the shooter's clumsiness and trembling with excitement. Here's a series of eight frames from the nature show.
Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus, resident, adult)

Habitat - Open areas often near water, and also in mountains to 1500 m.

Shooting Info - Sto. Tomas, La Union, Philippines, November 11, 2015, EOS 7D MII + EF 400 DO IS II + EF 1.4x TC III, 560 mm, f/7.1, 1/2000 sec, ISO 320, manual exposure in available light, hand held, major crop resized to 800 x 533.
1. Frame No. RO722224 (High res 1500x1000 version)

2. Frame No. RO722228 (High res 1500x1000 version)

3. Frame No. RO722230 (High res 1500x1000 version)

4. Frame No. RO722231 (High res 1500x1000 version)

5. Frame No. RO722233 (High res 1500x1000 version)

6. Frame No. RO722234 (High res 1500x1000 version)

7. Frame No. RO722235 (High res 1500x1000 version)

8. Frame No. RO722236 (High res 1500x1000 version)


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Great Egret in flight (with the 7D MII + 400 DO II + 1.4x TC III)

I just laid my hands on an EF 400 DO f/4 IS II, and coupled with an EOS 7D MII and an EF 1.4x TC III, it is a very impressive combo for capturing birds in flight (BIFs) - light hence hand holdable, very sharp with a 1.4x TC III even wide open, long enough (896 mm angle of view), extremely fast focusing and with a fast frame rate (10 fps).

To get to around 900 mm AOV before, I had to use tripod-based combos (1D MIV + 500 f4 + 1.4x TC, or a 7D + 400 2.8 IS + 1.4x TC). This severely limited my mobility and reduced my birding opportunities. With my new light combo, I can take long hikes and shoot hand held, increasing my bird shooting possibilities significantly.

Here are some in-flight images of this large migratory water bird, among the first bird shots I've taken with my new rig.
Great Egret (Egretta alba, migrant)

Habitat - Uncommon in a variety of wetlands from coastal marshes to ricefields. 
Shooting Info - Sto. Tomas, La Union, Philippines, November 7, 2015, EOS 7D MII + EF 400 DO IS II + EF 1.4x TC III,
560 mm, f/7.1, 1/2000 sec, ISO 320, manual exposure in available light, hand held, near full frame resized to 800x450.
High res 1920 x 1080 version

Shooting Info - Sto. Tomas, La Union, Philippines, November 7, 2015, EOS 7D MII + EF 400 DO IS II + EF 1.4x TC III,
560 mm, f/6.3, 1/3200 sec, ISO 320, manual exposure in available light, hand held, uncropped full frame resized to 800x533.
High res 1500 x 1000 version

Monday, November 2, 2015

Getting very close to a Brown Shrike

I was waiting for small birds near a fruiting tree recently when this Brown Shrike perched at around 10 feet away, just beyond the MFD of my 400 2.8 IS + 2x TC combo.

This bird is about 7-1/2 inches in total length (from tip of bill to tip of tail), and nearly half of that length is the tail. I'd estimate the distance from the tip of its bill to the back of its head as around 1-1/2 to 2 inches.

Since I couldn't zoom out, nor back down (for fear of spooking the subject), I decided to just take a head shot. This was one of the rare times when I had too much reach.


Brown Shrike (Lanius cristatus, migrant) 
Habitat - Common in all habitats at all elevations.

Shooting Info - Bued River, Rosario, La Union, Philippines, October 28, 2015, 7D + 400 2.8 L IS + 2x TC II,
f/5.6, ISO 320, 1/160 sec, 475B/516 support, manual exposure in available light, near full frame resized to 800x533.

High res 1500 x 1000 version

Pixel level view (aka 100% crop) of the eye area

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Red-keeled Flowerpecker in sweet morning light

Nothing can be more flattering to a bird's appearance than being illuminated in sweet golden light, either in the early morning or late afternoon.
I got very lucky this morning to catch this little fellow in first light (6:36 am). There was a very thin overcast in the east and that helped tone down a bit the overly warm illumination in that golden moment. This species, normally a four-inch long perpetual motion machine, was feeding on a fruiting tree when it decided to rest on a branch for a few seconds. That was enough time for my 7D's AI servo AF, slowed down by the 2x TC, to lock on target.

The direction of light was also very advantageous - it hit the dark upper parts head on, exposing it well, while the white underparts were away from the light, preventing over-exposure. I wish though that the red keel was more visible.
No pixel was harmed nor wasted in this uncropped full frame capture.
Red-keeled Flowerpecker (Dicaeum australe, a Philippine endemic)
Habitat - Canopy of forest, edge and flowering trees.
Shooting info - Bued River, Rosario, La Union, Philippines, October 29, 2015, Canon 7D + 400 2.8 IS + Canon 2x TC II, 800 mm, f/5.6, ISO 640, 1/250 sec,
475B/516 support, manual exposure in available light, uncropped full frame resized to 800 x 533.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

White-throated Kingfisher

For a couple of weeks now, I've been stalking this individual along Bued River, but it's very shy and would always fly away when it notices me pointing my birding rig in its direction. To make things worse, it prefers to perch in the dark understory, where photons are a very scarce commodity.
I had to stack two teleconverters on the 400 2.8 IS to get 1,120 mm and be within full framing distance, plus I had to shoot in high ISO (as high as ISO 3200) and at wide open aperture to illuminate the bird reasonably well. I normally film in 1080/30p with a shutter speed of 1/60 second but  sometimes, I was forced to shoot in 1080/24p with a Tv of 1/50 sec for the extra 1/3 stop of light.

This footage was filmed in the last couple of days. I hope to catch it in better light in the coming weeks.


White-throated Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis, resident)

Habitat – Clearings, along large streams and rivers, and in open country.

Shooting Info - Bued River, Rosario, La Union, Philippines, October 21 - 22, 2015, Canon 7D + 400 2.8 IS + 2x TC II + 1.4x TC II, 1120 mm, 1080p capture,  475B/516 support, manual exposure in available light.

Music - "Life of Riley" by Kevin McLeod

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Blue Rock-Thrush In The Rain (HD Video)

I finally caught this bird on a photogenic perch this morning, while it was raining over the Bued River. The video quality with the stacked 2x/1.4 teleconverters is still decent, even with the 7D's tiny pixels.

Blue Rock-Thrush (Monticola solitarius, migrant, female)

Habitat - Rocky exposed slopes, road cuts, and along rocky streams and rivers.

Shooting Info - Bued River, Rosario, La Union, Philippines, October 14, 2015, Canon 7D + 400 2.8 IS + 2x TC II + 1.4x TC II, 1120 mm, 1080/30p capture, 475B/516 support, manual exposure in available light.

Original Musical Score - "Inside View" by R. B. Ocon III, Paper Focus


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