Sunday, December 25, 2016

Olive-backed Sunbirds of Bued River

I haven't made a bird video in a while, as I'm too busy with other things lately. Filming birds and editing the footage require a lot of effort and time, two commodities which I have in short supply.

However, these tiny birds are too incessant with their early morning calls, and my resistance finally gave way a few days ago. I had to devote three mornings to filming the birds to get enough footage for this short video.


Olive-backed Sunbird (Nectarinia jugularis, migrant)

Habitat - Common lowland sunbird.

Shooting Info - Bued River, Rosario, La Union, Philippines,  December 21 - 23, 2016, EOS 7D MII + EF 400 2.8 IS + EF 2x TC III + EF 2x TC II, 1600 mm, f/13 - F/14, 1/125 sec, ISO 160 - 200, manual exposure in available light, 475B/516 support, 1080/59.94p capture, processed to 720/23.97p.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Feather detail with 4x worth of teleconverters

I was filming birds with a 4x TC when this Brown Shrike perched nearby for quite a few minutes. This gave me the opportunity to try the 4x TC on shooting stills, probably my first time to use the combo in this application.

The video quality with the stacked doublers is still quite good, considering that the 7D MII down-samples the original sensor capture to 1080p video by a little over 3 stops. This effectively nearly offsets the 4 stops loss due to the stacked 2x TCs.

However, at full-res 20 MP stills, viewing the 7D II's tiny pixels at 100% should be another story IQ-wise. Even the super-duper sharp 400 2.8 IS should suffer from the 16x dilution of its optics, which is equivalent to using a 320 MP APS-C sensor on the naked lens, and viewing the image at the pixel level.

Here's analyzing one of the sharper frames I got.

Brown Shrike (Lanius cristatus, migrant, male)

Habitat - Common in all habitats at all elevations. 

Shooting details - Bued River, Rosario, La Union, Philippines, December 22, 2016, EOS 7D MII + EF 400 2.8 L IS + EF 2x TC III + EF 2x TC II, 1600 mm, f/14, ISO 200, 1/200 sec, 475B/516 support, manual exposure in available light.

Uncropped full frame resized to 800 x 1200.

100% crop  (actual pixel view at original capture resolution).

100% crop  (actual pixel view at original capture resolution).

50% crop (original capture resized to 50%, then sharpening applied).

My conclusion?

The 50% crop is much sharper than anything I can get with a single 2x TC on the 400 2.8 L IS. This means that the second 2x TC is still significantly adding captured details when focal length limited, at least on a very sharp lens like the 400 2.8 L IS.

In other words, 4x TC > 2x TC > no TC, IQ-wise when focal length limited. This field experience mirrors exactly the results I get in more controlled tests:

Of course, with each doubler mounted, shot execution (shake control and focusing) becomes more difficult. Hence, I'd probably use this combo only when the subject is static and it allows me enough time to practice careful long lens technique.

Eye contact with a fishing raptor

It's not very often that I manage to get a good eye contact with this migratory fishing raptor in flight. The angle of the sun on the head area has to be just right so details of the piercing eye can be captured well. This is one of those lucky occasions. 
Osprey (Pandion haliaetus, migrant)

Habitat - Associated with water both along coast and inland. 

Shooting Info - Sto. Tomas, La Union, Philippines, December 3, 2016, EOS 7D MII + EF 400 DO IS II + EF 1.4x TC III,
560 mm, f/6.3, 1/2000 sec, ISO 320, manual exposure in available light, hand held, major crop resized to 800 x 533.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

A banking Bee-eater over Bued River

Sorry, I couldn't resist the opportunity for an alliteration. 😊

During a short walk along the banks of the Bued River early this morning, this bee-eater passed near me, did a U-turn in the air and banked away at a nice angle relative to the sun.

I quickly fired a short 10 fps burst, and one of the frames caught the subject in a photogenic full wingspread.


Blue-tailed Bee-eater (Merops philippinus , resident)

Habitat - Open country usually associated with water along rivers, marshes and ricefields. 

Shooting Info - Bued River, Rosario, La Union, Philippines, December 11, 2016, EOS 7D MII + EF 400 DO IS II,
400 mm, f/5.0, 1/2000 sec, ISO 320, manual exposure in available light, hand held, major crop resized to 800 x 533.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Another take at a Barn Swallow in flight

I had a 1.4x teleconverter mounted on the EF 400 DO IS II when this speedy, little bird passed near my position at one of the fishponds of Sto. Tomas (La Union). 

That slowed down the AF of my BIF rig a bit, but I was pleasantly surprised that the combo managed to isolate the subject  from the grasses in the distance and place the focus where it should be.


Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica, migrant)

Habitat - Coast to above the forest in high mountains. 

Shooting Info - Sto. Tomas, La Union, Philippines, December 3, 2016, EOS 7D MII + EF 400 DO IS II + EF 1.4x TC III,
560 mm, f/5.6, 1/2000 sec, ISO 320, manual exposure in available light, hand held, near full frame resized to 800 x 533.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A sweet reunion with the uncommon Little Tern

The last time I saw one of these uncommon migrants was over twelve years ago, at Olango Island off Cebu. It was late October 2014, and the bird then was still molting off its breeding plumage.

I made a short visit yesterday afternoon to the fishponds of Binmaley (Pangasinan), and I saw a lot of water birds. When light started to turn golden, one particular bird passed by my position, and I instinctively raised my camera to take a burst. I have all but forgotten the capture, thinking it was just of a garden variety Whiskered Tern.

When I reviewed the shots in my computer, I noticed something peculiar - the bill was thinner and longer, and not all-black,  as compared to the Whiskered Tern. Likewise, the tips of the overwing are much darker. I quickly looked at my Kennedy Guide, and voila... what I got was the uncommon Little Tern!

This capture validated once more a personal rule that I practice in the field - when encountering a seemingly common bird, don't ask questions and dismiss the capture opportunity. Just raise the camera and get the shots, as these can be deleted easily in the computer later. Who knows, what initially appears to the eye as an ugly duckling might turn out to be a beautiful swan.


Little Tern (Sterna albifrons , migrant, non-breeding plumage)

Habitat - Uncommon along coasts, bays and river mouths. 

Shooting Info - Binmaley, Pangasinan, Philippines, November 30, 2016, 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.

For reference, here's my 2004 capture, with the newly arrived migrant still sporting some of its breeding plumage.

Shooting Info - Olango Island, Cebu, Philippines, October 22, 2004, EOS 20D+ EF 400 f/5.6 L, 400 mm, f/8, ISO 200, 1/2500 sec, hand held, major crop.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Supermoon over La Union

I dusted off my largest diameter birding lens and stacked a couple of 2x teleconverters to maximize reach in capturing this November's supermoon.

Shooting info - Rosario, La Union, Philippines, November 15, 2016 (03:36:59 am), EOS 7D MII + EF 400 2.8 IS + EF 2x TC II + EF 2x TC III, 1600 mm, f/16, ISO 100, 1/50 sec, manual exposure, 475B/516 support, two frames combined.

High-res 3600 x 2700 version


Small version @ 800 x 800 pixels.

Crop - resized to 60% of original pixel level view.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Oriental Skylark in courtship flight

During my last two recent visits to the place, I noticed there were quite a number of this species ranging in a grassy area at Sto. Tomas (La Union). 

In the late afternoon, a few individuals do their courtship flight - partially hovering and ascending to as high as 25 to 30 meters while singing. Most of the previous courtship flights I saw were either at a  great distance, or the direction of light was unfavorable.

This Sunday afternoon, I returned to the area to check out the Sand Martins and the Eurasian Hobby. My two birds of interest were a no-show, but one Oriental Skylark did its courtship flight at a relatively near distance.  And it did this spectacular show while illuminated by the golden light of the 4:33 pm sun.  It was a pure luck that I got to see this behavior up close. I'm glad that my manual exposure settings were on the dot and the BIF gear did its AF job well.


Oriental Skylark (Alauda gulgula, resident)

Habitat - Uncommon in open country on the ground. 

Shooting Info - Sto. Tomas, La Union, Philippines, November 13, 2016, EOS 7D MII + EF 400 DO IS II,
400 mm, f/4.5, 1/2000 sec, ISO 320, manual exposure in available light, hand held, major crop resized to 800 x 533.


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