Saturday, January 30, 2016

0.3 second worth of fishing action

Time is relative, indeed.

Sometimes, a wader can stand motionless for hours without anything happening.

At other times, everything just happens at once.

It's interesting to see how much action can be packed into a mere fraction of a second, specially if this is recorded for posterity by a fast focusing, high frame rate birding gear.

Here's a three-frame, 10 fps burst taken of a successful fishing strike by this graceful wader at the fishponds of  Sto. Tomas (La Union) recently.


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Great Egret (Egretta alba, migrant)

Habitat - Uncommon in a variety of wetlands from coastal marshes to ricefields.


Shooting Info - Sto. Tomas, La Union, Philippines, January 13, 2016, EOS 7D MII + EF 400 DO IS II + 1.4x TC III,
560 mm, f/7.1, 1/2500 sec, ISO 320, manual exposure in available light, hand held, major crop resized to 800 x 533.


Shooting Info - Sto. Tomas, La Union, Philippines, January 13, 2016, EOS 7D MII + EF 400 DO IS II + 1.4x TC III,
560 mm, f/7.1, 1/2500 sec, ISO 320, manual exposure in available light, hand held, major crop resized to 800 x 533.


Shooting Info - Sto. Tomas, La Union, Philippines, January 13, 2016, EOS 7D MII + EF 400 DO IS II + 1.4x TC III,
560 mm, f/7.1, 1/2500 sec, ISO 320, manual exposure in available light, hand held, major crop resized to 800 x 533.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Kingfisher with my old 400 2.8 IS + 2x TC III

Just checking if my 7D MII and 2x TC III works well with my old 400 2.8 IS.  After a couple of months of shooting a 400 DO II, the bigger 400 felt even heavier than usual. However, its optics are still as sharp as ever even with a doubler and shot wide open.

A kingfisher perched under the canopy of some trees along the Bued River allowed me to get within full framing distance earlier today. The bird's feathers are still partially moist from a previous attempt to catch its meal along a shallow stream.

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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, January 20, 2016, 7D MII + EF 400 2.8 IS + 2x TC III,
800 mm, f/5.6, 1/100 sec, ISO 1250, manual exposure in available light, 475B/516 support, near full frame resized to 800 x 533.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

A headless Whiskered Tern

This common migratory water bird was coming in to land on a stake in the middle of one of the fishponds at Sto. Tomas (La Union) yesterday. The wind was blowing in my face in a steady breeze. Since birds normally land while facing the wind, I was presented with an avian posterior instead of its photogenic front side.
 
Just the same, I raised my shooting gear, acquired the subject, and fired off a short burst, hoping that my very fast shutter speed can capture and freeze an interesting wing pose. Looks like I got what I wished for. To my color-blind eyes, the side lighting gave the subject some sort of a 3D look.
 
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Whiskered Tern (Chlidonias hybridus, migrant, non-breeding plumage)

Habitat - Bays, tidal flats to ricefields. 
 
Shooting Info - Sto. Tomas, La Union, Philippines, January 7, 2016, EOS 7D MII + EF 400 DO IS II,
 400 mm, f/5.6, 1/3200 sec, ISO 320, manual exposure in available light, hand held, major crop.

 
 
 

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

A raptor's mid-air dinner in sweet light

After a couple of weeks of hectic Christmas activities, I managed to find some time to go afield yesterday, January 6th - my first birding sortie in the new year. The skies were virtually cloudless over the vast fishponds of Sto. Tomas (La Union). I took off my 1.4x TC III to allow more photons to reach the 7D MII's AF sensor, thus increasing AF speed and responsiveness under the dying light of the day.
 
 As the sun got low over the South China Sea, my regular customer arrived to catch its next meal.
 
The raptor promptly grabbed its prey at the well-stocked fishpond and proceeded to eat its dinner in the air, while soaring in the steady breeze. I let go of a long burst, and I was lucky to have one frame with the beak open, ready to munch the soft flesh of the tilapia. The quality and direction of light was very favorable, allowing me to expose the contrasting plumage well. It's normally tough to capture detail of this raptor's eye, but in this case the light angle was just right.
 
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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, January 6, 2016, EOS 7D MII + EF 400 DO IS II,
400 mm, f/5.6, 1/2000 sec, ISO 320, manual exposure in available light, hand held, major crop resized to 800 x 1000.
 
 
 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Osprey grabs a fish at Sto. Tomas

This migratory raptor, whose wingspan exceeds four feet, feeds exclusively on fish. Its diving routine to catch its regular meal is one of nature's awesome spectacles.
 
I was privileged to witness this fishing raptor get its prey at the vast fishponds of Sto. Tomas recently. The bird closes its nictitating membrane (a semi-transparent secondary eyelid) at the point of impact to protect its eyes from damage. When this image was taken a split second after the grab, the nictitating membrane was still unretracted.
 
Again, I'm impressed by the amazingly quick AF of  my new BIF rig (7D MII + 400 f/4 DO IS II + 1.4x TC II). My reaction time to acquiring and tracking the diving hunter was delayed, but the combo was quick enough to compensate for the shooter's slowness. It managed to lock in almost instantly to capture this first frame of a short burst.
 
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Osprey (Pandion haliaetus, migrant)

Habitat - Associated with water both along coast and inland. 
 
Shooting Info - Sto. Tomas, La Union, Philippines, December 9, 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.
 
 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Portraits of a Whiskered Tern

Wild bird imaging, like all genres of photography, is all about the quality of light.
 
When light is good, even the most common bird species can be portrayed in a pleasing manner, like this ordinary migratory bird.
 
I was waiting for birds in flight at the vast fishponds of Sto. Tomas (La Union) when this individual perched on a stake in the middle of one of the ponds.  The 3 pm sunlight had started to turn golden and its intensity became mellower. The background is out-of-focus pond water. I waited with my hand held rig for the bird to strike interesting poses before firing short bursts. Here's a couple of images from that brief portrait session.
 
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Whiskered Tern (Chlidonias hybridus, migrant, non-breeding plumage)

Habitat - Bays, tidal flats to ricefields. 
 
 
Shooting Info - Sto. Tomas, La Union, Philippines, December 6, 2015, EOS 7D MII + EF 400 DO IS II + EF 1.4x TC III,
560 mm, f/7.1, 1/1600 sec, ISO 200, manual exposure in available light, hand held, major crop resized to 800 x 533.


Shooting Info - Sto. Tomas, La Union, Philippines, December 6, 2015, EOS 7D MII + EF 400 DO IS II + EF 1.4x TC III,
560 mm, f/7.1, 1/1600 sec, ISO 200, manual exposure in available light, hand held, major crop resized to 800 x 533.


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Philippine Scops-Owl at ISO 12,800

For some time now, in the early evening, I've been hearing a strange bird sound at the mango tree in my mother's backyard. I long suspected that it is an owl species, and a few nights ago I couldn't contain my curiosity anymore when I heard the call again.
 
I grabbed a bright flashlight and scanned the branches of the mango tree. True enough, there's an owl perched on one of the branches with a newly-caught prey (a fat, juicy mouse). I quickly rushed back to the house to get my camera, and returned with the domestic boss in tow to hold the flashlight while I shoot. 

It looks like a Philippine Scops-Owl (Otus megalotis) to me, but I could be mistaken and would welcome any ID correction. I'm sure though that I haven't photographed this owl species before, so it's a much welcome photo-lifer (my 279th species).  

I'm very impressed with 7D MII's IQ even at ISO 12,800 - yes, noise is there but it's fine grained and responds well to a simple noise reduction routine. If forced by low light, I wouldn't hesitate at all to shoot at this high sensitivity. I did expose to the right (ETTR) to mitigate the noise. 
 
The camera was on AWB and the white balance as captured was too "cold" for my taste. Since 100% of the illumination on the bird was provided by the flashlight (torch), I simply had to shoot a white sheet of paper under the same light later to aid me in setting a "click white balance."
 
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Philippine Scops-Owl (Otus megalotis, endemic, provisional ID)

Habitat - Forest and forest edge in the lowlands.
 
Shooting Info - Baroro, Bacnotan, La Union, Philippines, November 29, 2015, EOS 7D MII + EF 400 DO IS II, f/4, 1/250 sec, ISO 12800, manual exposure/flashlight, hand held, near full frame resized to 800 x 533.
 

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.
 
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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
 

 

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