The main reason I decided that Arizona was going to be my second adventure of the year was the owls. I appreciate all birds, but I have a special soft spot for owls and Arizona presented a good opportunity. Matthew Studebaker and Dan Beam where my guides and scouts for this adventure and they did a great job. Of course, owls are not just hanging outside your hotel door, so it was hard work.
Of the possible 8 owl species we had planned to shoot, we found 5 but I was only able to photograph 4 of them: Great Horned Owl, Western Screech Owl, Mexican Spotted Owl and Elf Owl. The Whiskered Screech Owl was spotted, seen and heard, and even though Matt and Dan were able to photograph it, the day I was up there in Mount Lemon the wind was strong and loud and it was impossible to get a shot.
I have to admit that the night we were searching for the Elf Owl in the cactus-filled rocky hills of Catalina Park, I was thinking more about not running into a Rattle Snake than the owls itself, but persistence was bigger than fear and the images were achieved.
One year ago I set out to photograph as many owl species as possible and to this day eleven species have been captured by my camera plus hundreds of other bird species just as wonderful. Hopefully this year I’ll add a few more to the list, and if I play my cards right the Spectacle Owl will be in it.
It was almost 18 months ago when I posted about my frustrating struggle with hummingbirds. Since then, I have worked hard to perfect my technique and learn more about these fast and furious little creatures. I am completely in awe with their agility and speed, the two same attributes that makes them so hard to photograph. But it has been 18 months of training, focus and yes, a lot of frustration.
In my recent trip to Arizona I finally got my revenge. I finally got some images that I am proud of. We did drive over 1,100 miles in one week to achieve it, but got the wonderful chance to photograph species like the Black-chinned Hummingbird, Broad-billed hummingbird, Broad-tailed hummingbird, Rufous Hummingbird, Magnificient Hummingbird and the elusive (and shown here below) Lucifer Hummingbird. The Arizona Adventure will take many chapters to tell, but it the meanwhile and as promised november 2011, I want to share with you some of my favourite humming-bird photos. I still have a long way to go, but progess has been made… and smiles are now sharing the same space that was once only filled with frustration.
There is something particularly fascinating about white. Maybe it is that we associate the absence of color with purity or maybe is just all the cultural meanings attached to it, but white, specially white birds are fascinating to watch.
In one hand, we love colourful birds, like those found in the tropics, but on the other and entirely white plumage is as appealing as any amount of coloured feathers. Also white birds are not easy to photographed, To capture the purity of the plumage in the perfect exposure requires knowledge and experience, specially if the bird takes up a lot of space in the viewfinder.
These are just some shots where white triumphs in the image. In many others I have failed to capture its essence, usually by underexposing it. When color is not the main attraction, composition and image quality become more important. Color, even though beautiful, can sometimes become a distraction, both for the viewer and the photographer. Decoration can opaque poor structure.
Few birds are as graceful and charming as flamingoes. Despite the harm done to their image by Florida’s horrifying plastic statues, these birds are gorgeous and stylish creatures. Their pink feathers and their unmistakable beak, along with their long legs, make the American Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber), one of the true wonders of nature.
Their habitat selection is pretty specific, so this is not a bird you run into, but a bird you have to seek. In the Dominican Republic we are lucky enough to have two or three sites where they nest or feed with certain regularity, so that november morning I set out to find them and hopefully get some nice images.
It was before dusk and I was driving in the main road towards Salinas, and right there, in the pond next to the road, their magic and long silhouettes appeared against the first pinkish light on the Caribbean winter.
Of course Flamingos are skittish birds and getting close to them is not easy, so I had to crawl among the bushes and the sand to get somewhat close. I recently read an Anselm Adam’s quote that when something like this: “good exposure does not make up for bad lighting”. I am sure I am getting it wrong, but that’s the idea. That morning the light was perfect though! So coming up with the right exposure was not as hard as making a great composition; every time I thought I had it the birds moved or flew away.
These are indeed the best shots of that morning. Not necessarily great, but good enough for transforming an ordinary morning into an extraordinary experience.
Lekking is no doubt one of the most fascinating behaviours on the bird world. Maybe because somehow we can relate quite a bit to it. Males competing for females attention is no completely unfamiliar to us know, is it?
I was lucky enough to visit the Black Grouse lekking site twice while in Finland. These beautiful birds tend to use the same site for over a decade and the opportunity to observe this experience is priceless. The birds dark plumage is very hard to photograph against the white snow, but once you get a good shot, every degree of cold is worth it. After 243 species, the Black Grouse remains on my personal top 5. I can’t wait to go back.
Special thanks to Finnature.
It happens. It is rare that one gets son lucky, but it happens.
I had been looking for the Short-eared owl for almost two years with no luck. I had looked at every sighting report, talked to every birder I know and had even rescued and injured bird that was taken to me after it was shot in the wing by a hunter. But so far, never ran into a bird in the wild.
A few weeks ago, while visiting a high-end golf resort with my family I decided to go out to the horse stables in search of Barn Owls. I did have my camera and 500mm lens with me, but had no flashlight, no recordings, no tripod and no expectations. I drove past the stable a few times with no luck and then decided to search for night herons at the polo course. Just a few seconds after arriving I saw an owl-shape bird sitting on the ground. At first I thought it was a Burrowing Owl, but Cucús as we call them here, are not reported in the east of the island. And then it hit me! This was my S.E.O. right here.. I jumped out of the car, camera in-hand and spent the next 5 hours trying to get good shots.
Focusing was a challenge since I had no light to shine over the bird. I switched to MF and was able to get some decent shots, even though no fly shots were possible. These birds are considered a sub-species (Asio flammeus domingensis) by some experts. Others don’t agree. Even so, it was a great night for me and my camera. A great night indeed.