Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The tough-to-expose Brahminy Kite

I've always considered a Brahminy Kite in flight as among the toughest exposure jobs a birdshooter can encounter in the field.
The adult bird's white head and breast are in extreme contrast to the dark wings and the rest of the body. In addition, this raptor prefers to come out in the air at mid-morning to early afternoon, when a breeze is blowing. This is to save energy during the hunt. It can just ride the air currents with motionless wings like a toy kite (that's probably where its name came from?).

The trouble with such flight time is the harsh light - it wreaks havoc on the exposure of the bird's contrasting plumage.
Imagine my joy when this individual came out earlier that usual over the fishponds of Sta. Cruz, Zambales. Light at half past seven in the morning was still reasonably decent. This allowed me to expose the dark underparts well, while controlling the highlights. The catchlight in the eye and the photogenic full wing spread showing the primaries nicely are welcome bonus.
This raptor at 20 inches total length is considered medium sized. Its wingspan is a tremendous 48 inches, and that gives it enough wing area to glide and soar at the slightest breeze. It ranges in most Philippine islands.
Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus, resident)

Habitat - Open areas often near water, and also in mountains to 1500 m.
Shooting Info - Sta. Cruz, Zambales, Philippines, April 26, 2011, Canon 1D MIV + EF 500 f4 IS + 1.4x TC II,
700 mm, f/6.3, ISO 400, 1/1600 sec, manual exposure in available light, 475B/516 support.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Crested Myna in flight

I took out my BIF gear this weekend to shake the rust off the equipment and my reflexes.
The mynas at an open field in the surfing town of San Juan (La Union) provided a good target practice for this currently-not-so-active birdshooter. The black plumage is not particularly known to excite the AF sensors of DSLRs, thus it presented a formidable challenge to both this imager and his tools. After numerous attempts at the flying bird, I was lucky to get some frames in focus.
This bird species was native to China and southeast Asia, and introduced to the Philippines in the 1850s where it thrived well. Now common in Luzon and Negros islands, it is a medium large bird, with a total length of about 10 inches.
Crested Myna (Acridotheres cristatellus, resident)

Habitat: Open country and agricultural land.

Shooting info - San Juan, La Union, April 28, 2013, 1D MIV + 500 f4 IS + Canon 1.4x TC II,
700 mm, f/6.3, ISO 800, 1/1600 sec, 475B/516 support, manual exposure in available light.

Shooting info - San Juan, La Union, April 27, 2013, 1D MIV + 500 f4 IS + Canon 1.4x TC II,
700 mm, f/7.1, ISO 400, 1/1600 sec, 475B/516 support, manual exposure in available light.

Friday, April 26, 2013

The tiny Red-keeled Flowerpecker

This diminutive flowerpecker (total length is ca. 4 inches) is common in most Philippine islands, except Mindoro and the Palawan group.
That said, although easily found or heard, it is quite difficult to observe well due to its active nature, minute size and preferred habitat (canopy of trees). Photographing it on a good perch, with a clean background and frame-filling detail, is even more challenging especially when shooting in low light under the canopy.
I was very lucky to catch the bird in the first photo just as it landed on a branchlet. In my haste to shoot before it moves on, I erred on the manual exposure and I had to push the brightness by 1.5 to 2 stops in post process. The 40D's RAW file held up pretty well to the extreme exposure adjustment - shadow details were recovered but noise is well controlled.
The second photo shows a bird nesting under the canopy of a coffee tree at the foothills of Mt. Makiling. The scene was so dark and I needed a fast shutter speed for the handheld Bigma so I was forced to use a flash and Better Beamer, among the rare times I use artificial lighting at wild birds.

Red-keeled Flowerpecker (Dicaeum australe, a Philippine endemic)

Habitat - Canopy of forest and edge, usually in fruiting and flowering trees.
Shooting Info - Tiaong, Quezon, Philippines, December 29, 2007, Canon 40D + 500 f4 L IS + Canon 1.4x TC II,
700 mm, ISO 400, 1/100 sec, f/5.6, manual exposure in available light, 475B/3421 support, near full frame.

Shooting Info - Mt. Makiling, Laguna, Philippines, June 12, 2004, Canon 300D + Sigma 50-500 DG+ Sigma EF 500 flash/Better Beamer,
500 mm, ISO 400, 1/400 sec, f/7.1, hand held, jpeg capture, near full frame.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The rare White-fronted Tit

One morning in early December 2006,  a mobile phone call from fellow birdshooter and close friend Tina M. sounded sweet music to my ears - she just stumbled upon a nesting pair of this rarely seen (and photographed) Philippine endemic at Subic rainforest.
I rushed to the area right away from Metro Manila, almost breaking the sound barrier while driving along the North Luzon Expressway. The prospect of bagging a rare endemic photo-lifer elevated my adrenaline level to record highs.
This tiny bird is found only in the Philippines, where it ranges in Luzon and Mindanao islands. With a total length of just 5-1/4 inches, and given its habit of staying in the crown of trees, it presents a tough subject to fill the frame with. I had to stack two 1.4x TCs on the 500 f4 to get a bit closer. The dark plumage and the contrasting white spot at the forehead  likewise didn't make the exposure job any easier.... good that I shot in RAW, I was able to recover later some details in the highlights and shadows.
That so few images of this species are generated when one does a Google image search even now (over six years after this capture) is a testament to how difficult it is to see this bird in the wild.


White-fronted Tit (Parus semilarvatus , a Philippine endemic)
Habitat - Rare and local in lowland and middle elevation forest and second growth.

Shooting Info - Subic rainforest, Bataan, Philippines, December 3, 2006, Canon 20D + 500 f4 L IS + stacked Canon 1.4x II/Tamron 1.4x,
1000 mm, ISO 800, 1/80 sec, f/9, manual exposure in available light, 475B/3421 support, near full frame.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Blue-naped Parrot

This medium-sized parrot (12-1/2 inches total length) is found in all major Philippine islands, but it's now becoming rarer due to habitat loss and poaching pressure. It can still be seen in good numbers at Subic rainforest, where this photograph was captured, as well as in Palawan island.
I chanced upon this individual while it was feeding at a guava tree near a road at Subic. Using my vehicle as a blind, I was able to get reasonably close to the subject. The frame-filling capture has so much detail, even if the EOS 40D's resolution is considered modest by current standards. I was able to blow up the 10 MP RAW file to a 24" x 36" print for an exhibit, with excellent feather detail even when viewed up close.
Interestingly, this same photograph appeared on the front page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer as a comparative image to the illustration used in the new Philippine 500 peso bill.


Blue-naped Parrot (Tanygnathus lucionensis, a near Philippine endemic)

Habitat – Uncommon in forest and edge.

Shooting Info - Subic rainforest, Bataan, Philippines, December 5, 2007, Canon 40D + 500 f4 L IS + Canon 1.4x II, 700 mm, ISO 400, 1/125 sec, f/7.1, manual exposure in available light, bean bag.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The rare Hoopoe

This strange looking bird with an impressive crest is a very rare migrant in the Philippines. Often found in open scrub, ricefields and grassy areas, it feeds on insects by probing in the ground with its long bill. It is 10-1/2 inches in total length.
Its crest is normally retracted behind its head, but it spreads this into a spectacular fan-like headdress when alarmed. This individual opened its crest very briefly when a domestic chicken and its chicks got close. An 8 fps burst from my 1DMII captured the photogenic crest in mid-spread.
Hoopoe (Upupa epops, migrant)

Habitat - Rare in the Philippines, found in open scrub, dry ricefields and park-like settings.
Shooting Info - Ternate, Cavite, Philippines, August 19, 2008, Canon 1D MII + 500 f4 L IS + Canon 1.4x II, 700 mm, ISO 400, 1/320 sec, f/7.1, manual exposure in available light, 475B/3421 support.


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