Monday, August 29, 2016

A Pygmy Swiftlet forages in the rain

During prolonged monsoon rains in our islands, golden light - the main ingredient of pleasing wild bird photographs - becomes a scarce commodity. However, raindrops and flat lighting during times when the skies continuously weep can provide a unique opportunity to get moody, seldomly captured avian images. Wild birds still need to forage and nourish themselves, rain or shine. 

I recently noticed these tiny endemic swiftlets hawking small insects in mid-air at the banks of Bued River. Light was quite low for conventional BIF shooting, so I mounted my EF 70 - 200 f/2.8 IS II on my trusty 7D M II, hoping the AF system can function a little faster with the 1-stop brighter aperture compared to my EF 400 DO f/4 IS II. Target acquisition with the wider field of view than customary was also easier.

I experimented with various shutter speeds - I needed to balance the Tv such that it would be fast enough to freeze the subject, yet slow enough to let the raindrops travel a bit in space and present photogenic longish streaks. A Tv of 1/500 sec appeared to be the sweet spot, and I engaged Mode 2 IS to help tame camera shake during panning.

The AF of the combo worked surprisingly well, considering the tiny and dark subject in front of a featured background, all under low uncontrasty illumination and with raindrops getting in the line of fire. I deliberately underexposed during capture and just pushed +1 stop during RAW conversion to avoid blowing the white rump.


Pygmy Swiftlet (Collocalia troglodytes, a Philippine endemic)

Habitat - Fairly common, smallest swiftlet in groups flying low over forest, clearings and logging roads (total length = 3.5 inches) 

Shooting info - Bued River, Rosario, La Union, Philippines, August 29, 2016, 7D MII + EF 70-200 2.8 IS II,
200 mm, f/4, ISO 640 (pushed +1 stop in RAW conversion), 1/500 sec, IS mode 2, hand held, major crop.

Monday, August 15, 2016

An all-White-eye diet

With the migrants still to arrive this season (and the monsoon rains pouring non-stop), White-eyes are the only interesting subjects I can get close to here in Northern Luzon.

The 7D MII's AI servo AF works magnificently in placing  focus with pinpoint accuracy on the part of the active forager that matters.


Lowland White-eye (Zosterops meyeni, a near Philippine endemic)

Habitat - Second growth, scrub and gardens. 

Shooting info - Bacnotan, La Union, Philippines, August 14, 2016, EOS 7D MII + EF 400 F/4 DO IS II + EF 1.4 TC III, 560 mm, f/5.6, ISO 640, 1/320 sec, hand held, manual exposure in available light, AWB, near full frame resized to 800 x 533.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Good light on a perpetual motion bird

A small tree at my mother's backyard in Bacnotan (La Union) is currently teeming with White-eyes, feasting on its berry-like fruit.

Though they're numerous, these tiny birds (a mere 4 inches from tip of bill to tip of tail) are in constant motion, and are tough to nail AF-wise and exposure-wise. I had to patiently wait all day (over the last few weekends) in an improvised blind to get a few decent captures.
This last weekend, in the late afternoon, I got very lucky with one particular capture - a beam of golden light managed to pierce the foliage and illuminated a clean perch. Improbably, a White-eye used that spot and lingered for a few seconds - long enough for my AI servo AF to lock well on the head area and for my itchy shutter finger to fire a short 10 fps burst.
Lowland White-eye (Zosterops meyeni, a near Philippine endemic)

Habitat - Second growth, scrub and gardens. 
Shooting info - Bacnotan, La Union, Philippines, July 17, 2016, EOS 7D MII + EF 400 F/4 DO IS ii + EF 1.4 TC III,
560 mm, f/5.6, ISO 320, 1/500 sec, 455B/UBH45 support, manual exposure in available light, near full frame resized to 800 x 533.

Monday, July 11, 2016

A wet and miserable White-eye

We Homo sapiens are very fortunate - we need not forage for food each time we are hungry.

Our feathered friends are not as lucky. No refrigeration, no fast food restos, no canned goodies, no preserves, no pizza deliveries. They have to search for food each time they need sustenance, in any weather, often at the risk of being preyed upon by other birds. Or worse, trapped or hunted.

I chanced upon this little dynamo while it was feeding at a fruiting tree, just after some heavy rains. I felt privileged to be able to observe its behavior up close, and capture its seemingly sad look, complete with wet feathers.


Lowland White-eye (Zosterops meyeni, a near Philippine endemic)

Habitat - Second growth, scrub and gardens.

Shooting info - Bacnotan, La Union, Philippines, July 10, 2016, EOS 7D MII + EF 400 F/4 DO IS ii + EF 1.4 TC III,
560 mm, f/5.6, ISO 1250, 1/320 sec, hand held, manual exposure in available light, near full frame resized to 800 x 533.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Butterfly at Bued River

With the advent of the rainy season, plants along the Bued River are in full bloom. And where flowers are plentiful, many species of nectar-sippers congregate. 

This was a perfect occasion to take out my 1D Mark IV from storage for a de-rusting exercise. The combo's AI servo focus is lightning fast, especially with the bright f/2.8 aperture. Likewise, the 70-200 f/2.8 IS II's 1.2-meter minimum focusing distance allowed near-macro captures of the delicate, colorful subject.

Shooting info - Bued River, Rosario, La Union, Philippines, July 8, 2016, Canon EOS 1D Mark IV + EF 70-200 f/2.8 L IS II,
200 mm, f/2.8, ISO 320, 1/1600 sec, manual exposure in available light, hand held.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Getting close to an Olive-backed Sunbird

When I saw this immature Olive-backed Sunbird foraging at a flowering vine along Bued River, I tried to get close openly, on foot. I couldn't get nearer than 10 meters, as that seemed to be its comfort distance before it got frightened and flew away. I had to use my vehicle as a blind to get closer. It worked.... the bird acted as if I wasn't there at all, and 560 mm was long enough to fill the frame.

The 7D II's excellent AI servo AF allowed pinpoint focus placement on the active forager, while the light and compact 400 DO II + 1.4x TC III made shooting from the tight confines of the driver's seat very convenient. This bird is only 114 mm long from tip of bill to tip of tail, but the 400 DO II's MFD of 3.3 meters is good enough to get full frame captures.
Olive-backed Sunbird (Nectarinia jugularis, resident, immature)

Habitat - Common lowland sunbird. 
Shooting Info - Bued River, Rosario, La Union, Philippines, June 29, 2016, EOS 7D MII + EF 400 DO IS II + EF 1.4x TC III,
560 mm, f/5.6, 1/400 sec, ISO 640, manual exposure in available light, hand held, uncropped full frame resized to 800 x 533.
Shooting Info - Bued River, Rosario, La Union, Philippines, June 29, 2016, EOS 7D MII + EF 400 DO IS II + EF 1.4x TC III,
560 mm, f/5.6, 1/400 sec, ISO 640, manual exposure in available light, hand held, near full frame resized to 800 x 533.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Moon with a 400 DO II at 1600 mm

Seeing conditions were not too bad over our islands early this morning of March 31st, so I dug out my doublers to try out the 400 DO II at mooning.

Live View CD AF on the 7D2 surprisingly works fairly fast even at f/16. The 1600 mm combo is still light enough to hand hold, but I used a tripod to allow me to shoot at a low ISO (and consequentially slow Tv) for better file processability.


Shooting info - Bued River, La Union, northern Philippines, March 31, 2016 (4:10 am, local time), Canon 7D MII + EF 400 DO IS II + EF 2x TC II + EF 2x TC III, 1600 mm, f/16 (wide open), 1/30 sec, ISO 160, Live View AF, remote switch, 455B/UBH45 support, single RAW capture, near full frame resized to 800 x 533..

 High res 2400 x 1600 version

Monday, March 7, 2016

Flight feathers in a photogenic full spread

This good-looking little spitfire was flying in my general direction at La Trinidad (Benguet) when it suddenly banked in a tight radius. It presumably pulled several Gs in the process, not unlike what a fighter pilot experiences when his jet does a similar maneuver.
The bird had to open up all its flight feathers for maximum surface area, and braking efficiency, to do the quick aerial turn. By chance, the wind was coming from behind me, and from the same direction as the mid-afternoon sun. When the vectors of the wind and light source coincide, BIF shooting becomes ideal.
My light hand held combo of 7D II and a TC-less 400 DO II didn't disappoint as far as frame rate, focus speed and IQ are concerned.
Striated Swallow (Hirundo striolata , resident)

Habitat - Gorges and canyons, may also be found in open country, even in towns. 
Shooting info - Elev. 1315 m ASL, La Trinidad, Benguet, March 6, 2016, Canon 7D MII + EF 400 f/4 DO IS II,
400 mm, f/5.0, ISO 320, 1/2500 sec, manual exposure in available light, hand held, major crop resized to 800 x 1000.


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