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Reflecting on a Few Favorites

    Every once in a while I feel the need to follow my photography timeline right back to where it began.  After this last trip down memory lane I decided to pick a few favorites to talk about. 

    I’ve written a lot about my favorite moments and the pictures that followed, so this time I’ve dug deep to find a few shots that have perhaps floated under the radar.  

1. Red-tailed Hawk in last light

400mm  f/5.6  ISO 640  1/400s 

400mm  f/5.6  ISO 640  1/400s 

    I shot this bird one summer evening on my way home from an afternoon in the field.  I generally make the decision to continue driving, as I see him almost every time I make the trip out to the refuge.  It seems to be his favorite spot right along the road on any of the various telephone poles.  Luckily on this day he was sitting on one of the lower and less obstructed poles.  Plus how could I pass up the gorgeous light from the setting sun?  That’s right, I couldn’t.  There were hardly any cars on the road so I pulled off to the side of the road, across from of the bird.  With all the traffic that goes cruising past every day, he didn’t seem to mind I was there.  I spent probably five or ten minutes clicking away at him, until I decided it was enough for both of us.  When I uploaded the shots to my computer, I barely had to edit them at all!  The light was perfect and added a really neat effect to the shot, landing it on my list of favorites.

 

2. Song Sparrow in Spring 

400mm  f/5.6  ISO 400  1/1000s 

400mm  f/5.6  ISO 400  1/1000s 

    I took this shot at the Liberty Loop platform at the Wallkill River NWR.  This little song sparrow was jumping from stick to stick right in front of me.  This is another bird I normally never waste my time taking pictures of, but both the light and the composition were perfect.  The vibrant green popping out of the marsh set such a perfect background for this shot, almost like it were painted.  I can’t even imagine how a yellow warbler or indigo bunting would just pop in that sort of color.  I only have about five or so frames of the bird on this branch before he hopped back down into the thicker vegetation.  All it took was a few seconds of everything going right, and the results were fantastic.  

 

3. Adler Flycatcher close-up

400mm  f/5.6  ISO 400  1/320s

400mm  f/5.6  ISO 400  1/320s

    Photographing flycatchers is quite tricky.  The birds never really stop moving around and it is often rare to have them in the open.  While out walking the Winding Waters trail one morning in June, I got lucky with one.  As I walked I heard this adler flycatcher calling on my left, except this time he was out in the open, and close.  Without thinking or checking my settings, I grabbed focus on the bird and started shooting.  I knew that he wouldn’t be there long so that was my strategy: click and pray.  Believe it or not, that actually happens quite a lot.  In this case it worked out perfectly, although any less light and it would have been cutting it really close.  My shutter speed was relatively slow for this shot, so I was lucky to come out with anything at all!  Sometimes a low shutter speed and a split second of stillness from the subject can work out just right.  This was the prime example.    

 

4. Black-crowned Night Heron 

400mm  f/5.6  ISO 800 1/320s 

400mm  f/5.6  ISO 800 1/320s 

     Talk about low shutter speeds… THIS shot really pushes the limits.  Matt Zeitler and I ran into this black-crowned night heron one afternoon in July at the Wallkill River NWR.  It was a hazy overcast day with not much going on, until we found this bird!  This was my first ever BCNH, and a great one at that.  It was tucked in the middle of a bunch of trees but close enough for a good shot.  Knowing the light conditions we had, I cranked up my ISO and started shooting.  I’ll say it again; this was a total click and pray moment.  Shooting into the dark woods, on a dark day, at a somewhat dark bird.  Once again my shutter speed was fighting for life and somehow just made it high enough for a crisp shot or two.  I was shooting with my old camera body at the time: a Canon Rebel series T3i.  In other words, it was not the best with generating fast or low light images.  But at the end of the day, and after some decent post-processing, we both came away with some nice images for the portfolio.  A definite favorite of mine!  

 

5. Common Tern 

400mm  f/5.6  ISO 400  1/1600s

400mm  f/5.6  ISO 400  1/1600s

    I like this shot for quite a few reasons.  First off, the bird.  Terns are fast-flying seabirds that dip and dive all over the place in search of fish in the ocean waves.  This was one of the few days that I got to shoot terns flying in what seemed like slow motion.  With a steady breeze coming off of the water, the birds were basically floating in the air, nice and slow.  There were probably two dozen terns just doing laps between the jetties.  I stood myself right in between the middle of the madness with perfect afternoon sunlight directly at my back.  Bird after bird would cruise right by paying no attention to me.  They were so accommodating that in just thirty minutes or so, I had taken around 1500 shots and filled (yes, the card was small) my memory card.  This was my first real experience shooting terns so it just never seemed to get old.  I was scrolling through, deleting blurry pictures so I could take more!  The nicely lit sky set a super background behind the birds.  Seriously a best-case scenario as far as pictures go. 

    I enjoy going back and taking the time to look through old photos for many reasons. It not only shows me how far I’ve progressed in my photography, but it provides me with ideas and certain aspects to improve on.  In just a year I have almost completely changed the way I shoot.  I now know my camera inside and out, as well as when and when not to snap a picture and just how far I can push my equipment.  I feel as though I learn something new every day I go out and shoot, and nothing can beat that.  

    With the departure of our winter season, I am both saddened and excited.  Before we know it, hawk watch season will be among us and the raptors will be stirring up the region all over again.  For now, it is time to focus on a few months of change.  Warbler season is right around the corner and shorebirds are showing up in new numbers every day.  I cannot wait to see what spring and summer will be bringing us this year.  Time to sit back and enjoy!

 

Keep the photos coming! 

 

Kyle