Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Fast Action Photography

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things 
you didn't do than by the ones you did do.
Explore. Dream. Discover.
~ Mark Twain~

Great Learning!

© M. Raeder-Photography

All through the summer, the large flock of hummingbirds in the Santa Cruz Mountains offered a great learning opportunity to fast speed photography.  These tiny birds can fly at 30 miles per hour and they flap their wings at a rate of 40-80 times per second.  They are ‘energy bundles” in a tiny package:  weighing approximately 1/10 of an ounce and yet on their migration they can fly non-stop across the Gulf of Mexico – a distance of 500+ miles!  Once they have reached their destination, they typically feed on nectar and obtain their protein from catching small insects.  They feed ~2/3 of their body weight in nectar which means they must feed about every 10 minutes during the day.  

© M. Raeder-Photography

There are over 300 species of hummingbirds and they are birds of the New World.  Their migration routes are as long and difficult as for most birds wintering in the warmer climates but migrating for the summer all the way up to Canada and Alaska.  Late spring and early summer, hummingbird females build a nest and typically lay 2 eggs.  They tend and feed their chicks with devotion which involves gathering food for the hungry chicks from sun-up to sun-down.  This summer, I was fortunate to observe a hummingbird nest for 6 weeks from the laying of the eggs to the hedging of the chicks – a fascinating journey (and subject to another story).

Competition at the feeder - 
© M. Raeder-Photography

Back to the Santa Cruz Mountains:  Although we see hummingbird in many places n California, the Santa Cruz Mountains must offer good food and habitat.  My friend Judy Bingman, a wildlife photographer (http://judybingmanphotography.blogspot.com/) has created an oasis for hummingbirds in her backyard of her secluded home in the mountains where 10+ feeders attract many hummingbirds all day long.  She has been planting native flowers that attract the birds with Mexican sage, honey suckle, Watsonia and other nectar producing flowers.  The low bushes and trees offer branches to perch and rest. 

© Judy Bingman Photography

Throughout the summer, we have invited students to come up to the mountains to enjoy Judy’s garden and to learn how to photograph these amazing birds.  Photographing fast objects requires some special considerations to craft beautiful images using “stop action” photography to capture a beautiful portrait.  Judy and I have teamed up to teach and help students mastering new techniques necessary for the hummingbirds.  Looking at the beautiful images our students achieved what they came for.  Below are the examples of what is possible during a day of observation and patience – both a must in wildlife photography - concentration, attention to light, exposure and shutter speed.


Photo Tips:  For fast action - stop action photography, I typically start out with a setting of f7.1 and 1/1000 and dial the ISO up to gain proper exposure.  For the hummers, I use the longest tele lens that I have [Nikon 200-400mm] and add a tele extender Nikon 1.4.  When using a Nikon camera with a cropped sensor [Nikon D7000] this will yield an effective yield of ~800mm.  A sturdy tripod is a must to keep the equipment still.  Cable release is helpful.  Any small camera shake will result in blurring.

When capturing wildlife, it is also important to observe routines and patterns and to anticipate the action - this will greatly improve the capture of great wildlife images.


Dan practicing some macro photography
© Dan Houk Photography

© Dan Houk Photography

                                          Ellen focusing on a hummer

© Ellen Bateman

© Diane Finke


Steve concentrating on the birds

                                                        © Steven Tull


               Patcheree - taking the next shot.

Flying in  --  © Steven Tull

                                              © Ellen Bateman

© M. Raeder-Photography

Anna seemed to be undisturbed by having all of us in her yard!

© Diane Finke

And the hummingbirds are very used to Kelly strolling through the yard.

                             © Susanne Weissenberger  [http://whitemountainphotography.blogspot.com/]

Overall, this has been a great summer of exploring.  The hummingbirds were there in droves and offered a great learning opportunity for fast photography and every one was able to get lots of images taking home among them some really great shots!

I can't wait for the next spring to see the return of the hummers to Judy's garden.

Until next time,

To see all of the workshops and photo travel opportunities 
offered by M. Raeder - Photography, please click here.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Travel TidBits: Dragonflies

Travel TidBits:  Dragonflies and solitary oaks on Blair Ranch

Coyote Hills

A couple of weeks ago I joined a group of hikers to search for dragonflies in the hills west of Coyote Valley.  Blair Ranch is a private property and was only accessible during this hike organized by the Santa Clara Open Space Authority and lead by 2 very knowledgeable naturalists.  Much was learned about Dragonflies and their lifecycle which is predominantly under water!

To the south, the thick marine layer brought moisture, enough for the oaks to stay green while the grass typical for this time of the year was all dried out.  Our hike brought us over a ridge to a small pond and soon we saw a myriad of dragonflies.

The meadow hawk - no this is not a bird - lurked in the dry grass and although observing with its big eyes it let me crawl quite close to capture it.

This blue beauty was found close to the pond sitting just for a second before taking off again.  We saw a Red-flame skimmer and the tiny common bluetail damselfly (below).

As we walked back the sun had broken through the cloud layer, we passed by this solitary oak capturing the essence of the California hills - standing tall struggling to stay alive in the hot summer sun by drawing the moisture from the frequent fog.  Gnarled but beautiful.

Til next time,