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.

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Olive-backed Sunbird (Nectarinia jugularis, resident)

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).

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. 
 
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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 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.


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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.




Saturday, November 12, 2016

Barn Swallow - a body designed to slice the wind

From the tip of its short bill, to its small dark head and sleek body, to the forked tail - it seems evolution has designed this bird to be fast and extremely maneuverable in the air. 

It's a very common migrant, and I often see it hawking small insects while flying low. But its speed and unpredictable flight pattern make it a very tough customer to acquire and focus on, plus its contrasting plumage is an exposure challenge. Light quality and intensity have to be just right so the dark head can be illuminated well, while avoiding blowing out the white body. The plain sky background makes it easier to catch the bird in the viewfinder and to place it in precise focus.

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Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica , migrant)

Habitat - Coast to above the forest in high mountains. 

Shooting Info - Sto. Tomas, La Union, Philippines, November 10, 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.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Eurasian Hobby - my 281st lifebird!

Yesterday (November 10th), the skies were cloudless once more, so I hied off to nearby Sto. Tomas after lunch time to check out the water birds. I thought it would be a shame not to go birding and waste such good light.  I decided this time to explore a wide grassy expanse at the remote western portion of the town, bordering the South China Sea. The grassland is surrounded by ricefields and fishponds. 

Within an hour of my arrival, I saw a very small raptor flying low, circling an area about 200 meters from my position. From afar, I thought it was a Kestrel, as its size was too tiny for a Peregrine Falcon. I immediately took documentary shots of the tiny speck in the sky, as it started to fly farther away from me. 

Then, suddenly, it turned and flew northward, heading straight towards me. My heart started to beat like a high-revving Hayabusa engine and I barely managed to acquire it in my viewfinder. Once acquired, I didn't lift my finger off the shutter button until the bird passed me, in the process getting several dozen frames. 

I'm thankful to the avian gods that the raptor chose to fly over me  with a slight deviation to my left, getting some positive illumination from the sun at  my right. Had it chosen to fly to my right, it would have passed between me and the sun, and all I would've gotten are silhouette shots.

I'll go back to the same place in the next few days to get better captures of the Sand Martin, and hopefully have a return encounter with the Hobby. These birds became my 281st and 282nd lifers. 

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Eurasian Hobby (Falco subbuteo, migrant)

A rare migrant to the Philippines, it's found in open country, farmland and marshes. 


Shooting Info - Sto. Tomas, La Union, Philippines, November 10, 2016, EOS 7D MII + EF 400 DO IS II + 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.
 High res 1500 x 1000 version



Shooting Info - Sto. Tomas, La Union, Philippines, November 10, 2016, EOS 7D MII + EF 400 DO IS II + 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.
1200 x 800 version

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Pied Triller in flight

This is supposed to be a common avian species, ranging widely in our islands. But I seldom see it, much less photograph it well. To catch it in the air is one of my obsessions, given the difficulty of acquiring the bird during its short flight from tree to tree.

Each time I see one foraging in a treetop, I wait with full anticipation, hoping that it flies towards my position. This morning, I was fortunate to be granted my wish. With the plain sky as background, my BIF workhorse had no trouble catching it in the middle of its undulating flight.

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Pied Triller (Lalage nigra, migrant, male)

Habitat - Common in trees in open country, gardens in towns, and open scrub in the lowlands. 


Shooting Info - Bued River, Rosario, La Union, Philippines, November 10, 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 533.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Whimbrel evades the 'delete' button

I noticed this Whimbrel only after it  had flown way past my position, and its flight attitude was no longer photogenic. Just the same, I instinctively raised my shooting gear, acquired the subject in a split second, and fired a couple of frames.

I intended to delete the shots immediately, but when I reviewed these in the 7D MII's LCD, I noticed some redeeming qualities of the captures, especially the second shot. Yes, the flight position was bad and most of the wing feathers are tattered (a result of the long migration journey). But light on the subject was good, and the background was pleasing. So, deletion was postponed until after I've looked at the image on my processing computer.

Later, during pixel-peeping in post-process, I saw the detail captured, as well as catchlight in the eye. I decided to stay the obliteration of the files for good. This image gives me something to aspire for on my next visits to the fishponds of Sto. Tomas. When light is golden and the feathers are replaced by new ones in time, the gear and the operator seem capable of catching this flying wader against a non-sky background. 

The ingredients for a great keeper will be in place - I only have to wait for a well-groomed Whimbrel flying towards me. Eternal hope that the next shot will be better than the last is what makes a birdnut continue doing and enjoying this tough pursuit.

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Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus, migrant)

Habitat - Along the coast in grassy marshes, mud and on exposed coral flats, beaches and sometimes in ricefields. 

Shooting Info - Sto. Tomas, La Union, Philippines, November 5, 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, November 5, 2016

A Great Egret comin' at me

One of the toughest AF jobs for any DSLR-lens combination is a fast moving subject coming straight at the shooter. 

I had an opportunity to shoot one such incoming bird in flight yesterday at the fish ponds of Sto. Tomas, La Union. With the 1.4x III teleconverter attached, the AF of the combo was a bit slower than when the lens is bare.  Additionally, the terrain background made it more difficult for the all-points AF to initially lock onto the subject. 

Luckily, the approaching wader has a bright plumage, and that mitigated AF acquisition and tracking. I managed to shoot a 'double-tap', with the focus placed precisely on the head area.

(Please view the larger versions linked to see more details.)

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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 5, 2016, 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, near full frame.



Shooting Info - Sto. Tomas, La Union, Philippines, November 5, 2016, 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, near full frame.

Trying to expose an Osprey well

With the heavens virtually cloudless earlier today, the first time I've seen a blue sky in weeks, it would have been sacrilegious for a birdnut like me not to go birding at the wetlands of nearby Sto. Tomas, a mere 30-minute drive away.

I arrived at the birding site at around 2:30 pm, about three hours before sunset, and roughly an hour before light starts to turn golden. There wasn't a single tree nor any man-made shade at the spot I chose to wait for birds in flight. With just a cap protecting my featherless head, the rest of my exposed skin was slowly baked past medium-well..... such is the necessary consequence of shooting under cloudless skies. 

But this time the reward is worth the toasting - just past 4:00 pm, an Osprey flew very close to my position. I let go of a long burst and the combo managed to capture over two dozen frames, almost all in good focus.

However, this raptor's contrasting dark and white plumage was a nightmare to expose well, even in soft golden light. The bird itself was flying under side lighting, and its face was shaded each time the wings were in downstroke. During upstroke, the white underwing was prone to overexposure. Fortunately, my manual exposure settings were just right to hold in the highlights. I just recovered some details in the shadows during post process.

To see more details, please view the 1500 x 1000 version.
 
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Osprey (Pandion haliaetus, migrant)

Habitat - Associated with water both along coast and inland. 


Shooting Info - Sto. Tomas, La Union, Philippines, November 5, 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, near full frame resized to 800 x 533.



Friday, November 4, 2016

The migrants are back at Sto. Tomas (La Union)

I found some time to visit the vast fishponds at Sto. Tomas (La Union) yesterday, to check if my favorite photo subjects have arrived.

Yes, many of the visiting water birds are back. Their feathers  aren't very nice-looking at the moment, as such haven't recovered yet from the tearing and bruising of the long migration flight. Perhaps, in a few more weeks, their plumage will become well-groomed enough to be very photogenic. 

This long-billed wader flew in without warning from my left, flying towards the late afternoon sun. I'm glad my manual exposure settings were almost spot-on as-is, as I had no time to adjust the settings during the few seconds that the BIF was in the shootable zone. The hand held 7D MII with the TC-less 400 DO II, using all-points AI servo AF, had no trouble picking out the target from the shiny background (nearly dried up pond).

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Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus, migrant)

Habitat - Along the coast in grassy marshes, mud and on exposed coral flats, beaches and sometimes in ricefields. 

 
Shooting Info - Sto. Tomas, La Union, Philippines, November 4, 2016, EOS 7D MII + EF 400 DO IS II,
400 mm, f/5, 1/2000 sec, ISO 320, manual exposure in available light, hand held, major crop resized to 800 x 533.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

A Couple of Photography Workshops

This birdnut will conduct the following photo workshops in the next few days. See you there!

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 October 29, 2016   (Courtesy of Canon Philippines' FB Page)

Learn tele-action photography techniques from #CanonPH Crusader of Light, Romy Ocon as you shoot live action at the Pinas Cup! Join this workshop on October 29, 2016 at Cafe Mesa, Clark, Pampanga!

Register today: http://bit.ly/2eqIwcH

This event is FREE for all those who purchased a Canon camera or lens from July 1, 2016 so please bring your proof of purchase! A minimal fee of Php500 will be charged otherwise.



Canon Crusader of Light Romy Ocon give instructions on manual exposure and AF settings 
to a workshop participant during a field shoot at Pinas Cup, Clark Freeport Zone, on October 29, 2016.

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October 27, 2016   (Courtesy of Canon Philippines' FB Page)

Interested in Avian Photography? Join our Canon Conversations session with Romy Ocon to learn and share with other photography enthusiasts! Mark your calendars for Oct 27, 6-8 PM at Camerahaus, SM North EDSA.

Registration is FREE: http://bit.ly/2eOtK3A




A workshop poster, some A3-size bird prints and a couple of  Canon supertelephotos 
are on display at the facade of Camerahaus-SM North Edsa Annex on October 27, 2016.

 
Romy Ocon explains the elements of a good avian image during the workshop at 
Camerahaus-North Edsa Annex on October 27, 2016.




Monday, September 19, 2016

My 'in-house model' got injured


I noticed the arrival of this female migrant at Bued River about three weeks ago.

It was a nice, perfectly healthy specimen, albeit initially skittish as it tried to get used to its new locale. I purposely didn't approach it for some time to allow it to familiarize itself to things (including this birdnut) around its new habitat. This species usually stays in one general area throughout its visit to our islands. I reckoned I'd have enough time to photograph it well later, after it has recovered from the long migration flight.

About a week ago, just as it had started to allow me to get a bit closer, I was shocked to discover that its right thigh was seriously injured. Could it be the result of a slingshot damage? Or an injury from escaping a predator such as a cat or dog? Or perhaps a result of a natural accident? I'd never know. 

The right tarsus and claw hung from its thigh at an odd angle as it perched on a bamboo branchlet. Thinking that it might not survive long with its horrific injury, I took a lot of images, if only to record its beauty in pixels before it passes on to the great beyond.

Today, about a week after this image was captured, I was very happy to it see it alive and well, foraging for insects and invertebrates, with its injury appearing to heal nicely. I wish it will recover fully and be able to fly the long migration trip later, and breed more in-house models in the years ahead. 

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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 13, 2016, EOS 7D MII + EF 400 DO IS II + EF 1.4x TC III,
560 mm, f/5.6, 1/100 sec, ISO 320, manual exposure in available light, hand held, near full frame resized to 800 x 533.
 

Friday, September 9, 2016

A banking Red Turtle-Dove

This dove was in a gliding flight above the Bued River when it suddenly banked as it got near my position. Its straight trajectory made it easy to acquire, and I managed to shoot a burst of 6 frames at 10 fps before a tree got in the line of fire. 

The early morning sun was behind me, and I'm glad its head turned towards me at the critical time, allowing me a good eye contact. Here's a couple of frames from the short burst.

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Red Turtle-Dove (Streptopelia tranquebarica, resident)

Habitat - Open country or lawns. 


Shooting Info - Bued River, Rosario, La Union, Philippines, September 10, 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.




Shooting Info - Bued River, Rosario, La Union, Philippines, September 10, 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.

White-eye against the blue sky


These tiny dynamos are tough enough to capture when they are perched or foraging in fruiting trees.

When one takes  to air, given its unpredictable flight trajectory,  the degree of difficulty of acquiring the microscopic subject, keeping it in the viewfinder and maintaining good focus is multiplied several fold. Let's not even talk about nailing the exposure - i.e., avoiding over exposure of the white eye ring.

That wouldn't keep me though  from trying to catch these in flight. 

Most of my attempts wouldn't even result into a shutter press, as often the bird has passed me before I have a chance to acquire it in the viewfinder. But this fine Saturday morning, while birding along the banks of the Bued River, I  got lucky and managed to get one in the air, with reasonably good exposure. Thanks to the 7D MII's wide AF net (all-points AI servo) and the 400 DO II's responsive auto focus, the erratically flying target was caught with decent detail even if it was very small in the frame.

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

Habitat - Second growth, scrub and gardens. 


Shooting info - Bued River, Rosario, La Union, Philippines, September 10, 2016, EOS 7D MII + EF 400 F/4 DO IS II,
400 mm, f/5.0, ISO 320, 1/2000 sec, hand held, manual exposure in available light, major crop resized to 800 x 533.


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.


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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.

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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, 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.
 
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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 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.

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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 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.
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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.

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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.
 
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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.
 

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Siberian Rubythroat in Baguio, Striated Swallow in La Trinidad

I made a quick visit this weekend to the City of Pines to check out the strawberry festival at nearby La Trinidad. I brought my lightweight birding combo (7D II + 400 f/4 DO II + 1.4x TC III) just in case some feathered friends are in the mood for a photo session.

True enough, I saw a Siberian Rubythroat at Camp John Hay where I stopped for breakfast. I got only a few documentary shots, but I was lucky to capture the more colorful male.

Meantime, while I was enjoying a pile of succulent strawberries at La Trinidad a few hours later, I noticed a flock of Striated Swallows zipping above the parking lot. I quickly dismounted the 1.4x TC III to make acquisition more manageable and to speed up the AF of the combo, both helpful in catching these fast BIFs.
 
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Siberian Rubythroat (Luscinia calliope, migrant, male)

Habitat - uncommon in early second growth, open country and tall reeds. 

 
Shooting info - Elev. 1400 m ASL, Camp John Hay, Baguio City, March 6, 2016, Canon 7D MII + EF 400 f/4 DO IS II + EF 1.4x TC III,
560 mm, f/5.6, ISO 1600, 1/160 sec, manual exposure in available light, hand held, major crop resized to 800x533.
 
 
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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 800x533.

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.
 
 
 

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