Hiding under the bank

I was starting to think about heading home from the bird sanctuary on Sunday. There were a lot of people there and lots of kids making noise, so many of the birds just passing through were staying away or at least out of sight. But there were a few interesting shots to capture. Some of the mallards and some of the coots were a little irritable, squabbling over food resources (the vegetation kind, not the handouts) and in one tiny corner of the sanctuary the reflections on the water resembled liquid gold. For the most part I was amusing myself by working on scenic images of the ponds and pathways in the sanctuary.

Wood duck pair floating in dark shadowsThis image really needs to be viewed in larger format. Click on image for larger view.

As I was strolling along one of the paths next to a small slough, out of the corner of my eye I thought I caught a suggestion of movement under the overgrown bank on the other side of the slough. Finding a clear spot that gave me an unobstructed view of the far bank, I gave my eyes time to adjust to the gloom under the bank. Yes, there was a pair of wood ducks hiding over there. I could just see the white markings on the drake and the hen’s eye patch. The people near me finally moved away and the wood ducks decided to move out from under the darkest part of their hiding place, but turned their backs to me. I knew that if I could capture them in that light I would have an image that I would count among my favorites. But I needed them to turn their heads. I waited… Finally the hen turned a bit, I held my breath…and then the drake turned a little, and as he did he positioned his flank into a spot of filtered light from the late afternoon sun infiltrating the grass and branches hanging over the bank. He didn’t stay there for long but I was ready, I just hoped I had the focus right! I could hardly wait to get home to take a better look at my image…but phew! It was fine. It was a RAW file so of course it needed basic processing, but essentially nothing beyond that. And yes, it is definitely one of my favorite images! I couldn’t have planned the image any better. Like my Fairytale Swans image, it was a gift!



Geese at the beach – Monochrome Madness Week 35

flock of geese flying low over beach shallows monochromeClick on image for larger view.

I was down at the beach the other day, the tide was quite high, so not much sand, and the weather was overcast and grey. Not much going on, just some flocks of ducks, divers, and geese feeding quietly in the shallows. When this flock of geese took off and flew parallel to the beach, I had my camera set on a slow shutter speed, so I took a crack at a motion blur and came up with this image. The water was grey, the geese were dark, so this image was a logical candidate for black and white. I submitted it to Leanne Cole’s  Monochrome Madness Challenge for Week 35, which is published today.

Here’s the link to Leanne’s website so you can take a look at everyone else’s submissions. An interesting and varied collection, as usual.

Butterfly courtship

Two white butterflies, one with wing blurClick on image for larger view.

I’m really having fun with in-camera motion blurs right now, but this is one I captured last year and I just stumbled on it again today. I like the way the wings blurred, it’s what I’ve been trying for with bird wings, unsuccessfully, this week. The poor male butterfly tried to approach the female for a  l o n g  time before she was finally ready.


Dog portrait

Black dog head protraitClick on image for larger view.

I was out with my camera all day today, capturing bird images out at the bird sanctuary before the storm hits us later this week so I didn’t have a chance to process any recent images today. Instead you get to see that nice dog I featured a couple of weeks ago, the one that we met up in the mountains north of Lake Geneva. Such a sweet dog, here shown snuggling with her person.

I don’t usually go to the sanctuary on weekends because I prefer to go when it’s less busy, but I thought today might be okay because when I left home it was just starting to rain. But halfway to the sanctuary it began to clear off. There were some totally awesome clouds hanging over Vancouver but there was nowhere where I could pull over and capture them. By the time I got near the sanctuary the clouds were clearing off completely and it was turning into a glorious day. As a result, half of the city was out walking the dykes looking at the birds. Oh well.

My 55-250mm lens has been driving me nuts recently with the autofocus frequently not giving me good results. I usually shoot in manual mode, but with autofocus 75% of the time. I’ve been reading up on back button focusing, so without holding my breath, today I decided to give it a try. It took me a while to get used to it, as well as having to fiddle with two buttons instead of one, but by the end of the day, even though a couple of times I froze up and had to stop and think about which button was doing what, it was all feeling much more natural. More to the point, by the end of the day I LOVED focusing that way! I just have to practice the technique more so it’s totally automatic. I brought home a much  higher percentage of clear images than I’m accustomed to — when I saw them on my computer display I was delighted! I wish I’d tried this much much sooner!


Mallard portraits

Click on gallery images for larger views.

When I go to see the birds at the bird sanctuary there are usually lots of mallards around, but the last time I was there, there were thousands on thousands of them, and it made me realize that I really take these beautiful birds for granted when I’m there. But I do find the hens particularly appealing in spite of their plain brown jackets. Actually, they’re very pretty brown jackets, I love the detail in their feathers, but the boys certainly are much flashier. So I decided they deserve a little exclusive attention in the way of four head studies.

And just for fun, here’s another version of the first image. I have some unused and new art apps and I spent some time playing around with them during the last few days. Unlike the chickadee image earlier in the week, where the software did almost all of the heavy lifting, with this image I used a couple of apps in addition to my usual workflow, but was much more hands-on with the processing, and of course I changed the background.

Mallard drake digitally painted head study

I’m really pumped about getting back to the sanctuary while the snow geese are still there and perhaps get some captures worth posting… My largest lens, the 55-250mm, really isn’t up to the task with the distance involved, but my thinking is that the more I’m there, the better my chance of a great goose shot. We’re expecting a visit from Hurricane Ana next week, altho by then she’ll be a tropical storm, but it likely will mean lots of rain and wind, not very conducive to flight shots of the geese.  Perhaps some storm images…not that we get big waves around here (we’re in the lee of Vancouver Island). I hope the weather improves before the geese leave…


Introductions – textured

2 horses and a mini horse greeting each other through a fenceClick on image for larger view.

This image received a textures treatment, using some of my handmade textures and a little “brush” work, so it resembles a painting.

The image shows Oporto (at the front) with his mini-horse companion greeting a new arrival. Still learning to be a gelding himself, Oporto was helping the bratty little mini ex-stallion adjust to being a gelding. He took his job very seriously…the mini would grab a mouthful of skin and muscle and hang on, and feisty Oporto would just grit his teeth and try gently to brush him off. The mini was also good at escaping from their field, which would worry Oporto until he knew that I was aware of the escape, at which point the problem became mine and he could relax. His relief was always palpable. The mini would visit other horses in adjacent paddocks. Not all of them liked him, so Oporto’s concern was justified. Here everyone is being polite and sociable.