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
 

 

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.

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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.
 
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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, 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.
 
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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, 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.

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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.
 
 
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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.

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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, 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.

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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





Thursday, October 8, 2015

Portrait of a Blue Rock-Thrush

This female migratory bird has become a temporary resident in a certain area along Bued River very near the junction of Kennon Road and Manila North Road (aka McArthur Highway).
 
For the second time this season,  it allowed me a portrait session. Light wasn't ideal, as the bird was perched in the shade and the distant foliage was sunlit. I had to do some meticulous post-processing to lift the shadows and pull back the bright background. The back-to-the-camera pose shows some interesting feather pattern, while the open bill and catchlight are welcome bonuses.
 
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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 8, 2015, Canon 7D + 400 2.8 IS + 2x TC II,
800 mm, f/5.6, ISO 320, 1/200 sec, 475B/516 support, manual exposure in available light, near full frame resized to 800x1000


HD Video Footage of the Blue Rock-Thrush

Monday, October 5, 2015

Zebra Dove in full speed flight

Called "pagaw" or "turokutok" in my native Ilocos, this common, garden-variety dove is about 8-1/2 inches in total length. Its second name in our vernacular is probably derived from its call. It's found in most Philippine islands.

This individual zipped by while I was waiting for birds in flight along Bued River. My hand held BIF combo (1D MIV and 400 5.6L) had no trouble locking its AF on the target given the plain sky background. A short 10 fps burst allowed me to select a frame with a photogenic wing position, while the 7 am morning sun provided good quality illumination.

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Zebra Dove (Geopelia striata, resident)

Habitat: Common in open country, cultivated areas and gardens. 
 
Shooting info - Bued River, Rosario, La Union, Philippines, October 6, 2015, 1D MIV + 400 5.6L,
f/5.6, 1/2000 sec, ISO 400, manual exposure in available light, hand held, major crop.
 

Saturday, September 26, 2015

A reunion with the Golden-bellied Flyeater

I can't go out to bird as often as before, so I haven't seen this tiny bunch of feathers (4 inches total length) in a long time. Every now and then though, I hear its distant, unmistakeable, loud song.
 
This individual was silently flitting from branch to branch in the mango tree at my mother's backyard while I was staking out the newly arrived Brown Shrikes. I tried for many minutes to catch it in my viewfinder, but its perpetual motion made worse by its tiny size and the low light under the canopy made acquisition and focus very tough.
 
I was of course stubbornly persistent to catch it, and in the end I was allowed a brief 8-fps burst. With the 400 2.8's IS, I can use a shutter speed of as slow as 1/20 sec at static birds, but I pushed my Tv to 1/125 sec to have a chance of freezing the active target. This meant using ISO 1600 on the ancient, "noisy" 7D. One shot in the burst turned out sharp enough, and I was rewarded with a heads-up pose, with the wide open 800 mm combo doing a good job in melting the busy background.
 
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Golden-bellied Flyeater (Gerygone sulphurea, resident)
 
Habitat – Open country, second growth, mangroves and even in residential areas.
 
 
Shooting info - Baroro, Bacnotan, La Union, September 21, 2015, Canon 7D + 400 2.8 IS + 2x TC II,
800 mm, f/5.6, ISO 1600, 1/125 sec, 475B/516 support, manual exposure in available light, major crop resized to 800x640.
 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The colorful Blue Rock-Thrush

For the past couple of weeks, I've been noticing this beautiful migrant hanging out in a certain area along the Bued River. But each time I tried to get near the bird, it flew away before I can acquire it in my viewfinder.
 
This afternoon's stalking session turned out differently, to my pleasant surprise. The bird wasn't so shy today.... perhaps it has settled in and became more familiar with people going around its territory? I got within full framing distance while it was perched on a mound of river gravel, with distant foliage as background (this melted nicely given the thin DOF of the wide open 400 2.8 IS + 2x TC). The afternoon light (around 3:25 pm) had started to turn golden and this enhanced the colors of the bird's plumage.
 
I wish the bird will give me more shooting opportunities, particularly with a photogenic perch, in the coming weeks and months, before it goes back to its breeding place overseas sometime in May.

Disclosure - no pixel was thrown away in the making of this image, as it is an uncropped full frame. :)
 
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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, September 22, 2015, Canon 1D MIV + 400 2.8 IS + 2x TC II,
800 mm, f/5.6, ISO 160, 1/1250 sec, 475B/516 support, manual exposure in available light, uncropped full frame resized to 800 x 533 pixels.
 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Brown Shrike dives for prey

They're back. These migratory birds we call panal in Ilokoslovakia.
 
After crossing the South China Sea without a stopover (nearest point between the south coast of China and Luzon island is over 600 km), they arrived in our islands emaciated, with torn feathers. Hence, it's no surprise that for weeks after their arrival, they feed like crazy, as if eating will go out of style tomorrow.
 
Their favorite meals are easy-to-catch, tender, juicy invertebrates. But these migrants are so numerous, and easy prey can be depleted fast. So flying insects are also fair game, especially in the early morning.
 
I caught this female when it hawked a tiny insect in mid-air, as the sun was just rising beyond the Bued River and the Cordilleras in the east. It was quite distant, so I had to crop heavily down to actual pixel view (aka 100% crop).
 
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Brown Shrike (Lanius cristatus, migrant, female)

Habitat - Common in all habitats at all elevations. 
 
Shooting Info - Rosario, La Union, Philippines, September 18, 2015, 1D MIV + 400 5.6L,
f/5.6, ISO 400, 1/1600 sec, hand held, manual exposure in available light, processed 100% crop.

 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

My first try to freeze lightning

There was a sudden thunderstorm over Bued River a few nights ago, and I took the opportunity to practice my first lightning shots. Being a newbie at this subject, I initially dialed in exposure parameters of f/11 (for more DOF), ISO 100 (for least noise) and 30 sec (to cast a wider exposure net), thinking that lightning was supposed to be blindingly bright. 

However, the lightning bolts were registering too dark in my first attempts even down to f/5.6, and I had to open up to f/4 to get the sky exposure I want. In the image below, focus was on the cement silos - luckily, the near gravel mound and the lightning bolts in the far distance turned out to be decently sharp at the pixel level, kudos to the amazing optics of the EF 16-35 f/4 L IS.

To give us a sense of scale, the three cement silos are over 20 meters high from the ground (6 storeys high), not including the lightning arrester.

Imaging this heavenly phenomenon simply involves framing the dark scene consistent with good composition, and leaving enough space for the sky which becomes the blank canvas for the lightning formation. Then,  the shutter is opened over a 30 second period, with the fervent hope that something very interesting happens within that time window.

Similar to what Forrest Gump said, lightning photography is like a box of chocolates - you'll never know what you'll get, at least until you can review the shot through the camera's LCD. For the vast majority of the frames I took, there was no lightning captured, only dark skies.

Looks like I'm getting hooked on this thing and might be inspired enough to chase thunderstorms more often (with better foreground) in the future.


Shooting info - Bued River, Rosario, La Union, Philippines, August 17, 2015, Canon 5D MIII + EF 16-35 f/4 L IS, 16 mm, f/4, ISO 100, 30 sec,
manual exposure in available light, tripod/gear head, near full frame resized to 800 x 533 pixels.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Building a highway under the moonlight

I was observing the production of concrete at Ten-Four’s ultra-modern batching plant in  Rosario, La Union (Philippines) recently, as it supplies the basic building material to the on-going construction of the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX).
 
(Incidentally, my handle in various photo forums is “liquidstone” and this has reference to my field of expertise before I retired. Concrete of course behaves as a liquid when fresh and flowable, thus it can be easily molded into any size and shape of structure. When set and cured, it becomes as hard as stone and is extremely durable to last for many decades and even centuries.)
 
At about half past 7 in the early evening,  the moon rose in  the east beyond a hill. I thought the moonlit sky above the cement silos, coupled with the dynamism of heavy equipment in full operation at night, would provide a photogenic moment.
 
I quickly set up my 5D MIII + EF 16-35 f4 L IS on top of a tripod and gear head and took several frames with long exposures. The image posted below is my favorite of the bunch. I chose a Tv of 30 seconds to capture light trails and equipment motion blur, as well as to properly expose the darkish areas of the scene. An Av of f/9 assured enough DOF to render near and far objects sharp, while an ISO of 100 gave me optimum dynamic range and least noise.
 
I do most of my photography in the supertelephoto realm, but its amazing sharpness from edge-to-edge is quickly turning the EF 16-35 f4 L IS into one of my favorite lenses.
 
 __________
 
Shooting info - Bued River, Rosario, La Union, Philippines, July 31, 2015, Canon 5D MIII + EF 16-35 f/4 L IS, 16 mm, f/11, ISO 100, 30 sec,
manual exposure in available light, tripod/gear head, AWB, near full frame resized to 800 x 533 pixels.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Bued River in golden light

Noticing the interesting formation of clouds over Bued River* late this afternoon, I took a walk along its bank with my 5D MIII and EF 16-35 f4 L IS in hand. I was hoping that the last golden rays of the setting sun would somehow find a way to pierce through a gap in the clouds and illuminate the environment.
 
Sure enough, at about 6:05 pm, a soft burst of golden photons managed to shine through, and a good photo opportunity materialized. I didn't bring my tripod with me, as such would slow me down while trekking over the slippery boulders along the bank.  I had to shoot this one hand held at a shutter speed of 1/6 sec - slow enough to smoothen the flowing water and render the turbulence with a painterly touch, yet fast enough to have a chance of freezing the static elements in the frame.
 
While holding the camera just above the water surface, I framed the scene using Live View and the display grid. It was pure luck that I got a shot with a level horizon, without the need to do some corrective rotation in post process. I find it amazing too that camera shake was tamed well by the lens's Image Stabilizer (IS) system - tiny details are sharp across the frame even at actual pixel view (aka 100% crop).

 
*Bued River originates from the city of Baguio and winds down towards the South China Sea, in the process separating the provinces of La Union and Pangasinan with a natural boundary.

Shooting info - Bued River, Rosario, La Union, Philippines, July 30, 2015, Canon 5D MIII + EF 16-35 f/4 L IS, 16 mm, f/11, ISO 100, 1/6 sec,
manual exposure in available light, hand held/IS engaged, AWB, uncropped full frame resized to 1575 x 1050 pixels.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Hungry White-eyes after Typhoon "Egay"

After more than 24 hours of strong winds and torrential rains brought by Typhoon "Egay" (international name - Linfa ), Lowland White-eyes converged like starving bees at a fruiting tree in my mother's backyard at Bacnotan, La Union. The tiny birds feasted like there's no tomorrow on whatever berry-like fruits that survived the onslaught of the howler.
 
I braved the light rains and wind of the typhoon's tail-end and enjoyed a prolonged shooting session. I had to wrap my birding combo in a plastic sheet to protect it from moisture. The overcast lighting made exposures easier to tame.
 
Again, the 400 2.8 IS + 2x TC II's IQ and AF accuracy didn't disappoint (the DOF is super thin at 800 mm and 3 - 5 meters shooting distance).

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

Habitat - Second growth, scrub and gardens. 
 
Shooting info - Bacnotan, La Union, Philippines, July 6, 2015, Canon 5D MIII + 400 2.8 IS + Canon 2x TC II, 800 mm,
f/5.6, ISO 1600, 1/250 sec, 475B/516 support, manual exposure in available light, near full frame resized to 800 x 533.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Not the prettiest bird in our islands

This bird is perhaps not the best looking feathered creature in our islands, but it certainly has one of the most impressive avian eyes I've seen (colored blood red, according to the Kennedy Guide). It is a common noisy resident, and can be found in many areas in the lowlands. Its total length is about 8 inches. The adult is glossy black, while the immature (featured here) has a more interesting range of colors.

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Asian Glossy Starling (Aplonis panayensis, sub-adult)

Habitat - Lowlands from second growth to downtown in cities. 
 
 
Shooting info - Bacnotan, La Union, Philippines, June 28, 2015, Canon 5D MIII + 400 2.8 IS + Canon 2x TC II, 800 mm,
f/5.6, ISO 1250, 1/500 sec, 475B/516 support, manual exposure in available light, near full frame resized to 800 x 533.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Lowland White-eyes in La Union

With the recent sale of my birding workhorse (500 f4 L IS), my remaining big white - the heavy 400 2.8 IS - gets used more often. With a 2x TC II and an MFD of 3.0 meters, the magnification of this 800 mm combo is nothing short of amazing. These images were all captured within a shooting distance of 3.0 - 5.0 meters, allowing me to fill the frame even when the bird's total length is just around four inches.
 
AF speed with a 2x TC II slows down, but still fast enough to capture these tiny, active birds. IQ remains very decent even when shot wide open.
 
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Lowland White-eye (Zosterops meyeni, a near Philippine endemic)

Habitat - Second growth, scrub and gardens. 


Shooting info - Bacnotan, La Union, Philippines, June 29, 2015, Canon 5D MIII + 400 2.8 IS + Canon 2x TC II, 800 mm,
 f/5.6, ISO 1600, 1/200 sec, 475B/516 support, manual exposure in available light, near full frame resized to 800 x 533.


Shooting info - Bacnotan, La Union, Philippines, June 29, 2015, Canon 5D MIII + 400 2.8 IS + Canon 2x TC II, 800 mm,
f/5.6, ISO 2500, 1/250 sec, 475B/516 support, manual exposure in available light, major crop resized to 800 x 533.
 
 
Shooting info - Bacnotan, La Union, Philippines, June 29, 2015, Canon 5D MIII + 400 2.8 IS + Canon 2x TC II, 800 mm,
f/5.6, ISO 320, 1/250 sec, 475B/516 support, manual exposure in available light (pushed 1.8 stops in PP), near full frame resized to 800 x 533.
1500 x 1000 version


Shooting info - Bacnotan, La Union, Philippines, June 29, 2015, Canon 5D MIII + 400 2.8 IS + Canon 2x TC II, 800 mm,
f/5.6, ISO 3200, 1/200 sec, 475B/516 support, manual exposure in available light, near full frame resized to 800 x 533.
1500 x 1000 version


Shooting info - Bacnotan, La Union, Philippines, June 28, 2015, Canon 5D MIII + 400 2.8 IS + Canon 2x TC II,  800 mm,
f/5.6, ISO 640, 1/640 sec, 475B/516 support, manual exposure in available light, near full frame resized to 800 x 533.
1500 x 1000 version

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Startling Starling in Flight

I've been trying for some time now to get these fast noise-makers in flight, but they often fly very low, always presenting a terrestrial background. Such busy BG coupled with the all-black plumage of the adult bird make it a very tough AF job even for the 5D MIII.

Well, I got lucky this morning when one young fellow flew above the skyline. The striped plumage of the youngster  over a featureless BG rendered it an easier target for my favorite BIF gear to lock on.
 
__________
 
Asian Glossy Starling (Aplonis panayensis, resident, sub-adult)

Habitat - Lowlands from second growth to downtown in cities. 
 
Shooting info - Bued River, Rosario, La Union, Philippines, May 27, 2015, Canon 5D MIII + 400 5.6L,
f/5.6, ISO 640, 1/2500 sec, hand held, manual exposure in available light, major crop.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Five dozen Whiskered Terns above the sun

I had the opportunity to revisit Macabebe (Pampanga) this weekend. Although I brought my full range of birding gear with me, I used the hand held 5D MIII + 400 5.6L exclusively at BIFs. The 5D MIII's wider angle of view makes subject acquisition easier, and its AF is very impressive as well. The disadvantage of the slowish 6 fps frame rate is offset by the low noise of the high-res files.
 
My battle-scarred 400 5.6L on the other hand continues to amaze me with its fast AF speed, light weight and great optics even when shot wide open.

As the sun was setting on Saturday, I shot some test images to review the histogram and fix the optimum manual exposure on my hand held combo. Then I wished for a flock of water birds to pass close enough to the setting sun to be contained within the same frame. My wish was granted. During post processing, I pixel-peeped at 100% view to count the birds - there are exactly 60 of them within the frame.
 
__________
 
Whiskered Tern (Chlidonias hybridus, migrant)

Habitat: Bays, tidal flats to ricefields. 
 
Shooting info - Macabebe, Pampanga, Philippines, March 14, 2015, 5D MIII + 400 5.6L, 400 mm, f/7.1, 1/2000 sec, ISO 320, manual exposure in available light, hand held, near full frame resized to 1500x1000.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Barn Swallows of Talogtog

The mango trees are in full bloom at Brgy. Talogtog (San Juan, La Union) for a few days now.

And where there are flowers, there are insects, particularly in the afternoon when light becomes sweet.

Where there are insects, there are winged insect-eaters... hunters that hawk the insects in the air.

Of course, when feathered insect-eaters congregate predictably in one place, there will surely be a birdnut around, shootings BIFs like crazy, as if this activity will be outlawed tomorrow. :)
 
__________
 
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica , migrant)

Habitat - Coast to above the forest in high mountains. 
 
Shooting info - Talogtog, San Juan, La Union, March 7, 2015, 5D MIII + 400 5.6L,
400 mm, 1/2000 sec, f/5.6, ISO 640, manual exposure in available light, hand held, major crop.



Shooting info - Talogtog, San Juan, La Union, March 7, 2015, 5D MIII + 400 5.6L,
400 mm, 1/2000 sec, f/5.6, ISO 800, manual exposure in available light, hand held, major crop.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Little Ringed-Plover in flight

This migratory water bird, quite small at about 6-1/2 inches total length, is a very fast flier.  This is one of the very few times that I was able to catch it in flight. It was speeding over the fish ponds of Binmaley (Pangasinan) on March 1st.

The yellow eye-ring and other features in the head area, plus over-wing details, are easily visible, making the ID of this bird an easy job.

__________
 
Little Ringed-Plover (Charadrius dubius, migrant)
 
Habitat - Ricefields to river beds.

Shooting info - Binmaley, Pangasinan, March 1, 2015, Canon 1D Mark IV + EF 500 f4 IS,
500 mm, f/5.6, ISO 400, 1/2000 sec, manual exposure in available light, 475B/516 support, major crop.

1500 x 1000 version

Monday, February 2, 2015

Pygmy Swiftlet in flight

This swiftlet surely deserves its name ("pygmy" and the suffix "let" both denote smallness). The bird's total length is a microscopic 3-1/2 inches (88 mm). It is endemic to the Philippines and can be seen flying low in groups over forest, clearings and nearby areas. Found in most major Philippine islands, the small size, well-defined white rump and whitish belly are diagnostic.

I got a few shots of these little spitfires recently over Bued River, near the boundary of La Union and Pangasinan provinces.
 
In flight, these birds are not easy to catch - their tiny size and erratic flight behavior while hunting for insects make them a challenge to acquire and keep in the viewfinder. The mostly darkish plumage strains the camera's AF system and makes exposure difficult. I've to time my bursts when the bird is banking so its underparts or back are illuminated well. 
 
My DSLRs of choice for this tough job are the 1D MIV and 5D MIII - the large viewfinder and wider angle of view (compared to my 7D)  make subject acquisition and tracking much easier, while the high pixel density captures enough detail even in extreme crops. The robust AF system and fast frame rate also help a lot.
 
For glass, my venerable, battle-scarred 400 5.6L gets selected because of its light weight (I've to hand hold to keep up with the erratic flight vectors), and fast AF, especially when the focus limiter is set to the narrower range.
 
This species becomes my 278th photo-lifer. :)
 
__________
 
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, February 6, 2015, 5D MIII + 400 5.6L, 400 mm, f/5.6, ISO 800, 1/2500 sec, hand held, major crop.
1500 x 1000 version


 
Shooting info - Bued River, Rosario, La Union, Philippines, January 27, 2015, 1D MIV + 400 5.6L, 400 mm, f/6.3, ISO 800, 1/2000 sec, hand held, major crop.

 
Shooting info - Bued River, Rosario, La Union, Philippines, January 27, 2015, 1D MIV + 400 5.6L, 400 mm, f/6.3, ISO 800, 1/2000 sec, hand held, major crop.


1500 x 1000 version






 
 
 

 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Saunders's Gull in La Union (new Philippine record!)


I finally found some time to process the other shots I took last January 9th at the vast fishponds of Sto. Tomas, La Union. It turns out that I actually captured a new Philippine record in this sortie - a Saunders's Gull. This is the third new record that I've been fortunate to photo-document (the first was a Common Starling in Palawan way back in 2007, and the second was the recent Amur Falcon also in La Union) :)

It was fishing over a shallow pond in the company of dozens of Whiskered Terns, another migratory species. Even in a flock in flight, the gull was easy to differentiate from the terns because of its much larger size.

 
__________
 
Saunders's Gull (Larus saundersi, migrant, new Philippine record)

Habitat - photographed while foraging over fishponds.
 
 
 
Shooting info - Sto. Tomas, La Union, January 9, 2015, Canon 1D Mark IV + EF 500 f4 IS,
500 mm, f/4, ISO 640, 1/2000 sec, manual exposure in available light, 475B/516 support, major crop.

 

Shooting info - Sto. Tomas, La Union, January 9, 2015, Canon 1D Mark IV + EF 500 f4 IS,
500 mm, f/4, ISO 640, 1/2000 sec, manual exposure in available light, 475B/516 support, major crop.
1500 x 1000 version



Shooting info - Sto. Tomas, La Union, January 9, 2015, Canon 1D Mark IV + EF 500 f4 IS,
500 mm, f/4, ISO 640, 1/2000 sec, manual exposure in available light, 475B/516 support, major crop.
1200 x 800 version

Great Egret in golden light

The slightly overcast skies provided very soft lighting in this quickie sortie to the vast fishponds of Sto. Tomas (La Union), my first birding in 2015.

With the gape unmistakeably extending way past behind the eye, it seems to me the migratory bird in this photo is easy to tell apart from its white cousins. This waterbird has a wing span of 1.48 meters, and a length of 0.91 m.

__________

Great Egret (Egretta alba, migrant)

Habitat - Uncommon in a variety of wetlands from coastal marshes to ricefields.
 
Shooting info - Sto. Tomas, La Union, January 9, 2015, Canon 1D MIV + EF 500 f4 L IS, 500 mm, f/4, ISO 1250, 1/2000 sec, 475B/3421 support.
 

 

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