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Sunset on Horseshoe Lake in Muskoka near the town of Rosseau, Ontario, Canada

Sunset on Horseshoe Lake in Muskoka, Ontario, Canada

Its hard to believe that another year has flown by and that we are now heading into 2016. It is also that time of year when I like to share with you some of my favorite images that I created throughout the past year. One of the highlights of the past year for me was to spend two weeks on the Caribbean island of Cayman Brac, where I quite literally spent more time in the ocean than I did on land, and while on land I spent much of that time photographing Brown Booby birds at the nest with chicks. The day before I boarded the plane for Cayman Brac I was rewarded with our resident, over-wintering Snowy Owl perching in a dead tree across the road from my home. I also spent quite a bit of time photographing frogs, as I usually do:), and created my most favorite Bullfrog-scape to date. My travels throughout much of the year was somewhat limited as I was staying closer to home to assist my elderly parents. I was however able to attend a personal invite to the Algonquin Radio Observatory on Lake Travers in Algonquin Provincial Park and do stay tuned as I will be setting up a workshop at this location during the summer months. In September I finally made the trek up to The Crack in Ontario’s Killarney Provincial Park despite a bad flare-up with my lower back and a bad right foot. My foot problem was corrected with a small surgical procedure that prevented me from doing much hiking in October and November, but I am all healed now and ready to hit the trails in 2016.

I hope you enjoy viewing these images again here in this Top 10 for 2015 post and do remember to click on each image to view the larger, sharper versions.

See ya in 2016:)

Happy New Year to all and safe travels to those of you who are traveling during this time.

Bullfrog (male) in wetland on Horseshoe Lake Muskoka, Ontario, Canada

Bullfrog (male) in wetland on Horseshoe Lake
Muskoka, Ontario, Canada

 

Stonefish camouflaged on the ocean floor Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands, British West Indies

Stonefish camouflaged on the ocean floor
Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands, British West Indies

 

High-key Common Loon on Horseshoe Lake Muskoka, Ontario, Canada

High-key Common Loon on Horseshoe Lake
Muskoka, Ontario, Canada

 

Sunrise on Pollard Bay Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands, British West Indies

Sunrise on Pollard Bay
Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands, British West Indies

 

Snowy Owl in dead tree Thornton, Ontario, Canada

Snowy Owl in dead tree
Thornton, Ontario, Canada

 

Brown Booby (male) with chick Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands, British West Indies

Brown Booby (male) with chick
Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands, British West Indies

 

Octopus Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands, British West Indies

Octopus
Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands, British West Indies

 

The Crack over-looking Killarney Lake LaCloche Mountain Range Killarney Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada

The Crack over-looking Killarney Lake
LaCloche Mountain Range
Killarney Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada

 

Sunrise on Lake Travers Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada

Sunrise on Lake Travers
Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada

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Mallard drake Nikon D800, Nikon 200-500mm VR Lens @ 460mm ISO 400, f8 @ 1/640 sec.

Mallard (drake)
Nikon D800, Nikon 200-500mm VR Lens @ 460mm
ISO 400, f8 @ 1/640 sec.

About one week ago I made a trip down to Humber Bay Park on the Lake Ontario shoreline in Toronto to see which waterfowl have shown up to over-winter at this location. Unfortunately, it was a rather quiet day without too much activity, however, the usual assortment of Mallards were hanging around. I was hoping to have an opportunity to try out the Nikon 200-500mm VR Lens on ducks in flight, but as I said it was a quiet day and the ducks were not being overly active. With the Mallard ducks it is very easy to lure them in for images – all you need to do is make a throwing motion with your arm as though you are throwing feed into the water for them and they will immediately swim in your direction – without fail.

I never pass up an opportunity to photograph the common wildlife subjects. We tend to pass up the chance to photograph the common species because they are too common. These species make great subjects to practice and improve technique, test new equipment, try new things, teach the younger generations about wildlife, etc…the list is endless and do note that elsewhere in the world they are not so common. Enjoying what we have at our doorstep can be very inspiring:)

Here is a few photos of the Mallard ducks created with the new Nikon 200-500mm VR lens. On another note, these images were created with the Nikon 200-500mm VR Lens firmly mounted to a Wimberley Sidekick, which I will be reviewing in an up-coming blog post soon.

Please click on each image to view the larger, sharper version.

Mallard hen Nikon D800, Nikon 200-500mm VR Lens @ 320mm ISO 800, f8 @ 1/320 sec

Mallard (hen)
Nikon D800, Nikon 200-500mm VR Lens @ 320mm
ISO 800, f8 @ 1/320 sec

 

Mallard drake Nikon D800, Nikon 200-500mm VR Lens @ 500mm ISO 800, f8 @ 1/640 sec.

Mallard (drake)
Nikon D800, Nikon 200-500mm VR Lens @ 500mm
ISO 800, f8 @ 1/640 sec.

 

Mallard hen Nikon 200-500mm VR Lens @ 500mm ISO 800, f8 @ 1/500 sec.

Mallard (hen)
Nikon 200-500mm VR Lens @ 500mm
ISO 800, f8 @ 1/500 sec.

 

Mallard drake - up-close & personal Nikon D800, Nikon 200-500mm VR Lens @ 500mm ISO 800, f8 @ 1/200 sec.

Mallard (drake) – up-close & personal
Nikon D800, Nikon 200-500mm VR Lens @ 500mm
ISO 800, f8 @ 1/200 sec.

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Common Loon - juvenile Nikon D800, Nikon 200-500mm VR Lens @ 500mm ISO 1000, f9 @ 1/4000 sec

Common Loon – juvenile (Gavia immer)
Nikon D800, Nikon 200-500mm VR Lens @ 500mm
ISO 1000, f9 @ 1/4000 sec

Recently I have been using the new Nikon AF-S 200-500mm f5.6E ED VR Lens for my wildlife imagery and intimate landscape scenes. I will do a full review of the lens once I have had more time with it, but I must admit that so far I am lovin’ this lens – money well spent:)

On the weekend past, the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, I was up at Horseshoe Lake near Parry Sound, Ontario to close-up the family cottage for the winter. Amid doing the various chores that needed tending to before closing up the cottage I noticed a juvenile Common Loon slowly making its way along the shoreline of the lake. I quickly grabbed my gear and jumped into the canoe and paddled towards the loon. This youngster will hang out on the lake for about another couple of weeks before flying to southern, coastal waters where it will remain for 2-3 years prior to flying north again. As I made my approach I slowed down to ensure I did not startle the loon and was glad to see that it was going to be a co-operative. Once I had the canoe into position I sat in the bottom of the canoe to gain a slightly lower perspective and photographed the loon while it swam about the canoe looking for a fish dinner below. On occasion the loon would come in almost too close to the canoe and I would have to wait for it to swim further away from my position. I experimented with using the lens in both the Full Frame format and the 1.5 DX Sensor Crop feature on the Nikon D800. I will select this sensor crop on the Nikon D800 when I wish for a little more “reach” as it will create an effective focal length that would be roughly the equivalent to adding a 1.4 Teleconverter onto the lens, however, there is no loss of f-stops. When working with the 1.5 DX Sensor Crop the 200-500mm lens becomes a 300-750mm lens.

Here is a sampling of some of the photos I created of this juvenile Common Loon with the new Nikon 200-500mm VR Lens. Please do remember to click on each image to view the sharper, larger versions.

Common Loon - juvenile Nikon D800, Nikon 200-555mm VR Lens @ 500mm ISO 800, f8 @ 1/1250 sec

Common Loon – juvenile (Gavia immer)
Nikon D800, Nikon 200-500mm VR Lens @ 500mm
ISO 800, f8 @ 1/1250 sec

 

Common Loon - juvenile Nikon D800 (1.5 DX Sensor Crop selected) Nikon 200-500mm VR Lens @ 440mm (660mm effective focal length) ISO 1000, f10 @ 1/1000 sec

Common Loon – juvenile (Gavia immer)
Nikon D800 (1.5 DX Sensor Crop selected)
Nikon 200-500mm VR Lens @ 440mm (660mm effective focal length)
ISO 1000, f10 @ 1/1000 sec

 

Common Loon - juvenile Nikon D800, Nikon 200-500mm VR Lens @ 480 mm ISO 1000, f10 @ 1/1000 sec

Common Loon – juvenile (Gavia immer)
Nikon D800, Nikon 200-500mm VR Lens @ 480 mm
ISO 1000, f10 @ 1/1000 sec

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Brown Booby (male) Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 400mm ISO 400, f16 @ 1/125 second

Brown Booby (male)
Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR @ 400mm
ISO 400, f16 @ 1/125 sec.

During my visit to Cayman Brac in February 2014 I was able to photograph the Brown Booby colony on the island as they were incubating their eggs. I kept hoping that the eggs would hatch before I departed the island, but no such luck, so I planned my recent trip to be slightly later in to the nesting season to be assured of hatchlings at the nest.

Brown Booby pair at Nest Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 330mm ISO 800, f11 @ 1/250 second

Brown Booby pair at Nest
Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR @ 330mm
ISO 800, f11 @ 1/250 sec.

On Cayman Brac the Brown Booby nests at the very edge of the 144 foot bluff that dominates the east end of the tiny island (Cayman Brac is roughly 12 miles long and about 1 mile wide). My timing for my recent March 2015 visit was perfect as there were birds sitting on eggs, parents with chicks, and chicks that had began molting. Shortly before sunset I would make way to the trail that follows the edge of the bluff to photograph in the warm glow of the setting sun.

Brown Booby with Chick at the Nest Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 120mm ISO 200, f11 @ 1/500 second

Brown Booby with Chick at the Nest
Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR @ 120 mm
ISO 200, f11 @ 1/500 sec.

The experience of being able to sit and watch these majestic seabirds with their young at the very edge of the bluff is one I will not soon forget, nor is the sight of the fluffy, white chicks stretching their little wings that will one day enable them to glide over the ocean waves and plummet into the sea to catch their prey.

Brown Booby Chick Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 230mm ISO 100, f8 @1/250 second

Brown Booby Chick
Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR @ 230mm
ISO 100, f8 @1/250 sec.

During my two weeks on Cayman Brac I created several thousand photos of the Brown Booby. This post represents some of my most favorite images…hope you like them too:)

Do remember to click on the images to see the larger, sharper versions.

Brown Booby Chick Molting Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 400mm ISO 800, f8 @ 1/160 second

Brown Booby Chick Molting
Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR @ 400mm
ISO 800, f8 @ 1/160 sec.

Brown Booby Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR @ 280mm ISO 1250, f8 @ 1/80 second

Brown Booby
Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR @ 280mm
ISO 1250, f8 @ 1/80 sec.

Brown Booby with Chick at the Nest Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR @ 360mm ISO 200, f16 @ 1/250 second

Brown Booby with Chick at the Nest
Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR @ 360mm
ISO 200, f16 @ 1/250 sec.

Brown Booby with Chick at the Nest Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR @ 330mm ISO 400, f11 @ 1/320 second

Brown Booby with Chick at the Nest
Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR @ 330mm
ISO 400, f11 @ 1/320 sec.

Brown Booby with Chick Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR @ 400mm ISO 400, f16 @  1/250 sec.

Brown Booby with Chick
Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR @ 400mm
ISO 400, f16 @ 1/250 sec.

Brown Booby (female) Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR @ 400mm ISO 200, f11 @ 1/500 sec.

Brown Booby (female)
Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR @ 400mm
ISO 200, f11 @ 1/500 sec.

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Daybreak at Pollard Bay on Cayman Brac Nikon D800, Nikon 18-35mm lens @ 18mm ISO 100, f16 @ 1 second Singh-Ray 3-Stop Reverse Graduated Neutral Density Filter

Daybreak at Pollard Bay on Cayman Brac
Nikon D800, Nikon 18-35mm lens @ 18mm
ISO 100, f16 @ 1 second
Singh-Ray 3-Stop Reverse Graduated Neutral Density Filter

I returned from my 14 day stay on the Caribbean island of Cayman Brac late on March 19th. Since my return I have been busy getting caught up on various things and processing a few of my initial favorites, from the vast number of images created during the trip. Today’s post will highlight my most favorite photos from the trip and in subsequent posts I will get into the nitty-gritty of what worked, what didn’t work, and the techniques used to create the images.

During my trip there were many lovely sunrises, a few nice sunsets, lots of Brown Booby chicks, reptiles, amphibians, and it seemed like with each day of snorkeling, which was everyday, I found something really cool to photograph in the ocean too:)

Here are a few images from this recent trip to Cayman Brac.

Please do remember to click on each of the images to see the larger, sharper version. Hope ya like ’em:)

Male Brown Booby with Chick Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 400mm ISO 400, f16 @ 1/320 sec.

Male Brown Booby with Chick
Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 400mm
ISO 400, f16 @ 1/320 sec.

Hurricane Crab Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 80mm ISO 100, f25 @ 1/60 sec. Canon 500D Close-up Filter

Hurricane Crab
Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 80mm
ISO 100, f25 @ 1/60 sec.
Canon 500D Close-up Filter

Cuban Treefrog Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 195mm ISO 100, f22 @ 1/60sec Canon 500D Close-up Filter

Cuban Treefrog
Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 195mm
ISO 100, f22 @ 1/60sec
Canon 500D Close-up Filter

The Bat Cave Nikon D800, Sigma f2.8 EX DG 15mm Fisheye Lens ISO 100, f16 @ 0.6 sec.

The Bat Cave
Nikon D800, Sigma f2.8 EX DG 15mm Fisheye Lens
ISO 100, f16 @ 0.6 sec.

Octopus Sony RX100 @ 10.4mm (28mm equivlent) ISO 400, f8 @ 1/1000 sec

Octopus
Sony RX100 @ 10.4mm (28mm equivlent)
ISO 400, f8 @ 1/1000 sec

Rock Iguana Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 390mm ISO 100, f8 @ 1/800 sec

Rock Iguana
Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 390mm
ISO 100, f8 @ 1/800 sec

Stonefish Sony RX100 @ 10.4mm (28mm equivalent) ISO 400, f8 @ 1/500 sec.

Stonefish
Sony RX100 @ 10.4mm (28mm equivalent)
ISO 400, f8 @ 1/500 sec.

 

 

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Female Cardinal Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 400mm, ISO 400, f8 @ 1/500 sec

Female Northern Cardinal
Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 400mm, ISO 400, f8 @ 1/500 sec

This morning when I awoke, I made my way into the kitchen to check the outside temperature on the thermometer by the kitchen window – it was reading -27 degrees Celsius. This temp would normally be fine with me but here in the land of the windchill factor the winds were making it feel more like -42 degrees Celsius. Now that’s getting a little chilly:) Nonetheless, I knew the cold and wind would make for some productive songbird photos from my heating blind that is set-up by the backyard birdfeeding station. After a quick protein shake for breakfast and a hot cup of coffee I made my way out to the blind. As predicted the birds were quite active as they filled up on the variety of feed that I put out for them to offer them a varied diet. The only problem that I encountered was that my aging portable heater that I use inside the blind was not able to contend with the brutally cold wind that was howling outside and my blind is by no means wind-proof. I last about two hours before I was forced to head back into the house to warm up. Here is a selection of my favorite songbird images from this morning’s time inside the blind.

Female Cardinal (vertical crop created from horizontal capture) Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 400mm, ISO 400, f8 @ 1/500 sec.

Female Northern Cardinal
Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 400mm, ISO 400, f8 @ 1/500 sec.

In the female Cardinal image above the vertical orientation was cropped from an original capture that was in the horizontal perspective. I felt that the vertical crop represented her better here. Doesn’t she look at tad chilly herself with the frosty build-up around the eye.

Blue Jay Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 400mm, ISO 400, f8 @ 1/400 sec.

Blue Jay
Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 400mm, ISO 400, f8 @ 1/400 sec.

The Blue Jays never seem to disappoint at the feeding station, although this morning they did look a touch puffier as they tried to stay warm amid the frigid temperatures and windchill.

Male Redpoll Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 360mm (DX crop = 540mm 35mm equivalent) ISO 400, f8 @ 1/500 sec

Male Common Redpoll
Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 360mm (DX crop = 540mm 35mm equivalent) ISO 400, f8 @ 1/500 sec

On the coldest winter days I often get visits from Redpolls that have ventured down south, from the treeline in the extreme northern regions of Ontario.

Female Redpoll Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 400mm, ISO 400, f8 @ 1/500 sec

Female Common Redpoll
Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 400mm, ISO 400, f8 @ 1/500 sec

And below are a couple of Black-capped Chickadee images. Like the Blue Jays, the chickadees are always present and entertaining to watch at the feeding station, and generally they become quite tame. They will often visit the feeders while I am changing the perches around and they will even take seed right out of my hand.

Black-capped Chickadee Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 400mm, ISO 400, f8 @ 1/500 sec.

Black-capped Chickadee
Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 400mm, ISO 400, f8 @ 1/500 sec.

Black-capped Chickadee Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 400mm, ISO 400, f8 @ 1/500 sec.

Black-capped Chickadee
Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 400mm, ISO 400, f8 @ 1/500 sec.

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American Goldfinch Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 400mm, ISO 1250, f8 @ 1/125 sec.

American Goldfinch
Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 400mm, ISO 1250, f8 @ 1/125 sec.

Today I finally had time to get out into my insulated photo blind, complete with portable heater, for my winter songbird photography. A couple of days ago I found a tree that was adorned with berries, so I snipped off two small sections of branches that I could use as perches at my backyard set-up. Here are a few of the days best results. The activity today at the feeders was quite low due to the lack of snow on the ground. Once we get a good layer of snow on the ground the activity always increases dramatically. When there is very little snow on the ground the birds tend to ignore the feeder and forage around my property in search of other food sources, such as previously stored food caches or hibernating insects.

Please do click on each of the images to see the larger, sharper versions.

Hairy Woodpecker Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 400mm, ISO 1250, f8 @ 1/320 sec.

Hairy Woodpecker
Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 400mm, ISO 1250, f8 @ 1/320 sec.

Black-capped Chickadee Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 400mm, ISO 1250, f8 @ 1/160 sec.

Black-capped Chickadee
Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 400mm, ISO 1250, f8 @ 1/160 sec.

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