Monthly Archives: December 2011

It’s Snowing! (Somewhere)

Austin, Texas is not known to be the snow capital of North America. And it’s not even the rain city. With the long drought recently broken by nice rains, we have begun to accumulate a little of the much-needed moisture for our spring wildflower germination. If it keeps up into January and some in February it should be a nice year.

While watching some of the snows in New Mexico, and the Northern Plains, I was reminded of a great photo day in the mountains west of Denver in February several years ago.

I thought I would resurrect one of those images to post here.

Nikon D2Xs, Nikkor 80-200mm F2.8 D AF zoom lens, Gitzo tripod.

While this image is not of grand mountains nor famous skiers, it evokes a sense of place for me as it was taken at at a favorite old haunt at Guanella Pass just west of Georgetown, CO.

I enjoy the composition leading upward and to the right from the rock anchoring the lower left corner. Except for the spot of color on that rock, this image could easily be mistaken for a black and white. It is important with images like this to nail the exposure. The blacks need to be good and dark with detail remaining and the white highlights pure, but with detail and texture of the snow remaining.

From a traditionalist standpoint the composition works well with the Golden Rectangle (or Fibonacci Spiral) superimposed on it (black) and the Rule of Thirds grid (red). But those are rules.

I say rules are simply guidelines to coach our eye for compositions that work. Must we follow rules? Well, of course not! We have to feel the composition, and when it feels right, voila! Some say that rules are made to be broken. When? There must be another rule for that.

But that’s another story. If it feels good, save it. Print it.

© Brian Loflin 2011. All rights reserved.

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Texas Cacti

Many of my readers believe that Arizona or maybe New Mexico are the Southwestern states with the most abundance of cacti. This is perhaps because of the large land mass covered by the Sonoran, Chihuahuan and Mojave Deserts.

It is actually not surprising to discover that Texas has a great number of cacti species as well. More than 150 species have been documented in Texas from dime-sized button cacti to seven-foot tall barrel cacti. A large portion of the Chihuahuan Desert that covers Texas west of the Pecos River and the geographic proximity of Mexico with its vast semi-arid and semi-tropical flora augments these cacti numbers. This number is also showing diversification due to the science now available allowing greater differentiation in plant species.

To get an in-depth look at cacti in Texas, you may want to review our recent book Texas Cacti, published by Texas A&M University Press.

Lace cactus, Echinocereus richenbachii,Nikon D2Xs, 200mm f 4.0 Micro Nikkor, SB-800 flash on Gitzo tripod.

I will add some additional images from the book in later posts.

© Brian Loflin 2011. all rights reserved.

Nesting Eagles

Winter is the time for Bald eagles to begin nesting in central Texas. While eagles are not as numerous  in our area as they are in northern or western states, we still have a few. There are are several somewhat dependable spots in the Texas Hill Country west of Austin where pairs can be found nesting in the winter.

One such spot is in an old pecan tree measured at 135 yards from a state highway overlooking the Llano River. Excellent viewing of the eagles doing their thing is possible from this location until mid-February. And with the right equipment, many nice images are to be made of the eagles in flight, returning to the nest with fish and feeding their young.

 

Both images: Nikon D2Xs, Nikkor 600mm f 4.0 super telephoto, Gitzo Studex tripod and bean bag lens weight. (Nikon 1.5X tele-converter -top image.)

Required equipment for bird photography at this distance includes a very long super telephoto lens in the 500 to 600mm focal length range and a sturdy tripod. Vibrations at this level of magnification can be very detrimental to image quality and should be eliminated as far a possible. Good long lens technique helps as well. Images should be made with mirror lock-up and shutter speeds set to levels that can further minimize vibrations from the camera’s mechanics. An additional aid is the use of a weight bag on the lens to dampen vibrations. And the heaviest tripod practical.

With a lot of patience and perseverance, many good images may be made of the daily activities and behavior of the Bald Eagle, our national symbol.

© Brian Loflin 2011. All rights reserved.

South Texas Birds, part two-

Shooting was excellent in the morning blind. But, as the sun moved across the sky the light angle required a move to a second prepared blind which had  a better sun angle. It is always nice to have birds more front-lit than from other directions, even though it may seem more creative. The compositional possibilities are improved with sun on the front side.

Here are a couple more of my favorites:

While certainly not unique to south Texas this Northern Cardinal made a nice image while taking a drink from the water feature at the blind. The Crested Caracara, below, is now a somewhat common sighting in the Rio Grand Valley. An opportunist, they will feed like vultures on carrion and other fare. They are rather difficult to approach, but from a blind it is possible to get frame-filling images.

Both images: Nikon D2Xs, 600mm f4 Nikkor super telephoto, Gitzo tripod with Kirk Cobra head.

© Brian Loflin 2011. All rights reserved.

South Texas Birds

Last month I took a trip to far south Texas, the Rio Grande Valley. Because of its proximity to Mexico and the semi-tropical climate, many different bird species may be photographed that are not found even here in central Texas. And some are found there that are not encountered elsewhere in the United States.

I had the pleasure of photographing on a ranch near McAllen that has been provided with blinds in some of the best birding habitat in the region.

Preparations were made the day before, including setting up attractive perches in the best light, placing feed in strategic spots and assuring the water features were clean and full.

As expected, the next morning was clear, cool and perfect for photographing from a blind. The action started almost immediately after getting cameras, and other equipment set up and settling down quietly. The action continued from sun-up until dark.

Here are a couple of the shots from the morning.

Top image: Green Jay, a very colorful and somewhat noisy bird indigenous to scrub habitats. Lower: Greater Roadrunner, somewhat common in the arid lands of the Southwest.

Both images: Nikon D2Xs, Nikkor 600mm f 4.o super telephoto, Gitzo tripod with Kirk Cobra head, SB-800 Speedlight with Better Beamer teleflash.

I will publish additional images from this exciting shoot shortly. The ranch is abundant with photographic subjects, the facilities are excellent and the hospitality is perfect. I am currently planning to host a bird photography workshop on this property in the Spring of 2012.

© Brian Loflin 2011. All rights reserved.