Category Archives: Bird Photography

Update : South Texas Bird Photography Workshop

img_4819Setting up in the wee hours. by Cathey Roberts

Late last October six photographers met met with me where we encountered mild weather and birds in the numbers. It was a little iffy the first morning but the weather behaved itself and presented wonderful photographic light.

This fall we were blessed with a fair amount of rain in South Texas as well as here in Austin. Therefore the conditions on the ranch were in good shape. Things were green and not as parched as in previous months. The temperatures were pleasant.

The first afternoon in the first blind was a teaching period. Everyone acclimated to the nuances of shooting from a blind and  the limitations it presents. We double-checked equipment, shooting and exposure settings, flash and more. In general, the use of flash in daylight as a fill for birds is an unfamiliar technique for many new to bird photography. As usual, several bugs were worked out and a number of “keeper Images” were made by all.

img_4849Getting ready- Day One. by Cathey Roberts
a-bunch-1-of-1a-bunch-1-of-1
A highlight of the workshop is the raptor shoot. Raptor morning brought us a
mix of 16 Crested Caracaras and 17 Black and Turkey Vultures. by  Gary Eastes.
proud-caracaraProud Caracara by Charles Seidel.
20161022-_07a4739A Para Cara (above) and Coming in for landing by Bob Karcz

20161022-_07a5072

road-runnerGreater Roadrunner by Charles Seidel.dsc_5815
 Roadrunner and luncheon snack. by Richard Flores.
20161023-_07a7076Roadrunner drink and reflection. by Bob Karcz
img_0208Run / Flying away. by Cathey Roberts
mmartin-lsw-oct02016-4-of-6mmartin-lsw-oct02016-3-of-6Great Kiskadee and Pyrrohuloxia by Michael Martin.
20161023-_07a6957Male Pyrrohuloxia with Prickly pear. by Bob Karcz
d4s_5720Mourning dove in the cactus pads. by Richard Flores

grapegrapeolive-1-of-1olive-1-of-1_1

Green Jay with grape and Olive Sparrow. by Gary Eastes
dsc_5287Curve bill Thrasher by Richard Flores
green-jayGreen Jay by Charles Seidel
mmartin-lsw-oct02016-6-of-6Look Out! Turkey Vulture with Crested Caracara. by Michael Martin
20161023-_07a6903
Curious male Northern Bobwhite. by Bob Karcz

The next South Texas Bird Photography Workshops are already scheduled and spaces are available. They will be held March 2-5 and October 12-15, 2017.
Please contact: bkloflin@austin.rr.com  for more information.

Copyright © 2016 Brian Loflin. All rights reserved.
All images  copyright by their respected makers.

 

 

 

 

Showoff your Subject- Manage the Background

_BKL5502-1-Sm

Northern Cardinal female, Nikon D800, Nikkor 80-200 F2.8 lens, 1.7x teleconverter.

 

To achieve the very best from every photographic composition it is very important to assure the subject stands out in the frame. To do this you must manage the background.

There are three basic ways to manage the background: Separate the subject from the background by using a very small Depth of Field; Use contrasting tone values; and Use complementary colors. The more of these effects that are used in a photograph, the more successful that composition becomes.

The first method is to set off or separate the subject from the background by muting all background distractions by using a minimum amount of Depth of Field  (or depth of focus).  To do this effectively first focus carefully on the subject and use a small F number aperture. The small F numbers provide a very small amount of the scene, both in front of and behind the point of focus that is in acceptable focus.

It is not reasonable to simply use the smallest F number provided by the lens. It is important to have enough DoF to cover the subject in its entirety. Larger subjects require a bit larger DoF.

Here is a comparison. The first image below is of the branch where the cardinal was perched. It was made with a lens at 340mm and at F29. The second image was made at F4.8. The comparison is quite evident. It is also important to remember that the DoF gets smaller as the lens focal length gets longer.

_BKL5594-1-SmDeep and distracting background above. Few distractions and smooth, pastel background below.

_BKL5593-Sm

In the next post we will review the second technique, use of contrasting tone values.

Copyright © 2016 Brian Loflin. All rights reserved.

Photograph South Texas Specialties & Fall Migrants

Workshop Dates:  October 30 – November 1, 2015

Goluch Jays
Image by participant, © Richard Goluch.

Join noted photographer Brian Loflin for a highly instructional, hands-on bird photography workshop in the heart of the South Texas flyway. The workshop features a half-day of full, hands-on instruction and three half-days of shooting in some of the best South Texas birding habitat available where the neotropical South Texas varieties abound. Take a moment to view participant images from previous workshops here:

The workshop will be held at the Laguna Seca Ranch north of Edinburg, Texas in the heart of the lush Rio Grande Valley. Features of this 700-acre ranch are purpose-designed for photography and preserved with all-native plants and animals. It features four constant-level ponds, each with permanent photography blinds oriented for the best use of light. Each location has been hand-crafted, and they all provide outstanding birding and photographing opportunities. Nearly eighty species have been listed on the ranch. Laguna Seca Ranch clearly offers a unique South Texas birding and photography adventure!

At Laguna Seca Ranch we bring the birds to you! We will set up natural perches considering the best photographic light possible. Most photography of the best scenarios is just 12-15 feet from your lens! Birds have water, dripping attractions and are fed year-round so attraction of the best species is stress-free.

Dolph-Laguna Seca 3-484
Image by Participant, © Dolph McCranie.

This workshop is designed for serious photographers who are competent in the use of their camera and equipment, yet may not have experienced the thrill of producing bird photographs of the highest quality. Copious instruction will include hands-on demonstrations in bird photography, understanding best exposures and camera settings, and the use of flash. Instruction will also include how to set up in a blind and shooting etiquette, setting up perches, best management of backgrounds and light and much more.

“Brian put so much work into this workshop, it was amazing! He took care of absolutely everything that you could imagine, meals, lodging, bird attracting set up, and always making sure that we were comfortable. At times there were so many birds around us, you didn’t know which shot to take first. We all had a great time, and I am ready to go back again! ” –C.C. – Austin, Texas

For more information see:  RGV Bird Workshop
or, Email direct to:   bkloflin@austin.rr.com

Copyright © 2015 Brian Loflin. All rights reserved.

NEW! 2015-2016 Photography Workshops

Caracara Landing-1232-Sm

Bird Photography in the Texas Rio Grande Valley
October 30 -November 1, 2015 • March 17-20, 2016

Come to the avian rich Rio Grande Valley for a hands-on bird photography workshop in the heart of South Texas. The workshop features instruction and intensive shooting in some of the best South Texas birding habitat available.

The workshop will be held at the 700-acre Laguna Seca Ranch north of Edinburg, Texas, purpose-designed for photography and preserved with all-native plants and animals, constant-level ponds, and permanent photography blinds oriented for the best use of light. Each blind provides outstanding photographic opportunities. At our workshop we bring the birds to you creating an outstanding South Texas birding and photography adventure!

Three Day Workshop: For more information click here:
Three Day Bird Photo Workshop

Four Day Workshop: For more information click here:
Four Day Bird Photo Workshop

GalliardiaMoth-1533-Sm

Texas Hill Country Nature, Wildflower and Macro Photography- September 18 – 20, 2015

Photograph in the heart of the magical Texas Hill Country for a three-day photography workshop geared to shooting in a field setting. This workshop is at Mo Ranch, a 500 acre facility located on the North Fork of the Guadalupe River with aquatic, riparian, grasslands, oak-juniper woodlands, and limestone hill habitats.

This workshop will be packed with hands-on instruction to help you grow your photographic abilities with new-found skills, techniques and proficiency. It will feature hands-on learning and demonstrations with native flora and fauna.

For more information click here: Hill Country Nature Photo Workshop

Three Zebra-1797-Sm

Africa in Texas Wildlife Photography
October 3, 2015 • November 14 – 15, 2015

Experience African safari-style photography at the 1,800 acre Fossil Rim Wildlife Center with our exciting and educational wildlife one-day or two-day workshops. Classroom session and hands-on instruction covers different aspects of wildlife photography and up close and personal photography of endangered species within Fossil Rim. Animals photographed include white rhinoceros, blackbuck, European red deer, waterbuck, oryx, gemsbok, zebra, addax, giraffe, sable, aoudad and kudu just to name a few.

The workshops feature a driving photo tour conducted along nine miles of remote roadways through the best wildlife habitat. Photography is timed to make the best use of the quality light and behavior of 52 species of animals on Fossil Rim’s pastures. The drive is in open vehicles designed to maximize the experience for wildlife photography. Lunch at the Overlook Cafe and discussion of the day’s photos by the instructors completes the experience. The two-day workshop adds a second day of photography, three meals and lodging at the Center’s Safari Camp, an excellent facility in the heart of the wildlife habitat.

For more information contact: Fossil Rim Wildlife Center: 254-897-2960
Or, click: Fossil Rim Workshops


“Thanks to Brian for the extensive preparation that he did for our workshop. He has expansive knowledge and photographic expertise. On top of that, he is a very capable communicator and teacher who shows much interest in his students. He goes above and beyond what you would expect in order to make the learning experience worthwhile and memorable. Our workshop was first rate!”Nancy N, Austin, Texas


To see additional images from Brian’s customers and read
what they have to say click: Testimonials.

Copyright © 2015 Brian Loflin. All rights reserved.

Laguna Seca Ranch Workshop Update

Pyrrhuloxia-in-the-Rain---Mailable
Five intrepid photographers braved somewhat unpleasant weather at my South Texas Bird Photography Workshop February 27 through March 1. Temperatures at Laguna Seca Ranch dipped into the low forties with drizzle and fog but did not keep the team from making some good images. A great feature about this ranch is that the blinds are cozy, being partially underground and protected from the wind.

Regardless of the weather, the birds performed for us in remarkable numbers. Our latest rough count lists thirty species in front of our lenses. We had lots of Crested Caracaras, Turkey Vultures and Harris Hawk at the raptor blind for most of a morning, providing ample shooting of each species. The smaller birds did not disappoint either. Many of the species were developing their breeding plumage; Pyrrhuloxia, Cardinals, and Green Jays were in brilliant color.

Golden-Fronted-Woodpecker-Mailable

A benefit in shooting from the below-ground blinds was the increased time available to practice shooting birds in flight. Perches and feeders were set to optimize flight time near the camera. This was a new skill for some participants however the time was well spent. I have received some very nice participant images like this male Pyrrhuloxia:

Dolph-Laguna Seca 3-484

And this Crested Caracara:DSC_0156-Rd

And this female Red-wing Blackbird:DSC_6440-Edit2

Water features and a a variety of perches provided diverse looks for many of the images created.

_B1A2059

DSC_4886-Edit

_B1A0839

Green Jay Bathing

Laguna Seca Ranch is a wonderful facility for bird photographers regardless of the experience level. Each blind has space for six seated photographers at eye level with the birds, well planned backgrounds and a water feature with built-in dripper system. Perches are set about 12 to 15 feet in front of the lens providing a reasonable image size without super telephotos. A favorite lens at this facility has become the 80-400 mm or 100-400mm lenses provided by both Nikon and Canon. And when coupled to a compatible tele-converter, this flexibility in focal length gives excellent  environmental or bird-in-flight images as well as frame-filling images of even smaller sparrows.

DSC_9030-Rd

New dates are set for Fall 2051 and Spring 2016 workshops.

Those are:

October 30-November 1, 2015, and

March 17-20, 2016.

To reserve one of the six spots before they are gone, email me: bkloflin@austin.rr.com.

Copyright © 2015 Brian Loflin. All rights reserved.

All photographs Copyright © 2015 by their respective makers.

My customers make great photographs. You can too!

Goluch Jays

This is a recent image made at my South Texas Bird Photography Workshop by Denver photographer, Richard Goluch. A repeat customer, Richard shot this aggressive pair of Green Jays from one of the permanent bird blinds at my last workshop in October. The jays always make good subject matter, but Richard was able to take it a step further, catching the in-flight squabble. Well done, Richard!

Workshop participants often return for an additional season. Here is a note from another repeat customer:

“Brian is a great teacher and host. He wants you to be successful and goes to great means to make sure that you are.  I really liked the ranch and the atmosphere of the hotel. “ G. Payne- Arkansas

My South Texas workshops are three to five days long and prices are most reasonable, including all meals, lodging, instruction and ranch fees. Our ranch has four purpose-built bird blinds, each with permanent water features, automatic feeders and plenty of birds. Additional, specially constructed blinds for shooting raptors provide added exciting and action-filled photographic opportunities. South Texas specialties like the jays above are plentiful.

Crested Caracara

Incoming Crested Caracara landing at the raptor blinds. Nikon D800, Nikkor 80-200 mm F 2.8 lens with 1.7 teleconverter. This is an ideal setup for shooting on this ranch. Many of the birds are 12-15 feet from the blinds. Raptors, about 15 yards.

Workshops are planned to take advantage of both spring and fall migration. The species count is now at seventy-seven species photographed. There are two slots remaining for the next workshop in late February, 2015.For more information, please see: www.thenatureconnection.com/SoTxBirdPhotoWS.html .

Copyright © 2014 Brian Loflin. All rights reserved.

Understanding the myth of “Crop Sensor” cameras.

Why crop sensor cameras do not produce greater subject magnification than their full-frame brothers.

I am disturbed by a lot of talk over the last few years stating that cameras with “crop sensors” produce larger in-camera subject size to cameras with full frame sensors. This thinking is both incorrect and continues to mislead the photography world. I feel this misleading language comes from two camps: One, the marketing folks who try to tell us that with a 1.6 crop sensor our 200mm lens is now a 320mm lens. And two, the wildlife photographers who want large in-camera images and who use a crop sensor camera believing the crop sensor somehow produces greater subject magnification.

Let me provide a couple of examples of that talk:

“For nature, wildlife and sports enthusiasts, it might make more sense to stick with a smaller sensor. You can take advantage of the crop factor to get maximum detail at long distances.” http://digital-photography-school.com/full-frame-sensor-vs-crop-sensor-which-is-right-for-you/

 “…the Mark IV has the 1.3 crop factor and a higher megapixel count than the D3s, which are nice for telephoto work.” http://www.deepgreenphotography.com/the-gear/

 “Focal length measurements on lenses are based on the 35mm standard. If you are using a crop frame camera the sensor is cropping out the edges of the frame, which is effectively increasing the focal length. The amount of difference in the field of view or focal length with a crop sensor is measured by its “Multiplier.” And,

 “…while a crop sensor DSLR doesn’t provide the same level of image quality as a full frame DSLR, it does [offers] sic. major advantages when it comes to cost. It can also be very effective for telephoto photography for the extra reach gained from the crop sensor multiplier. For example, this can be very useful when shooting sports, wildlife, and other types of photojournalism…” both from: http://www.slrlounge.com/school/cropped-sensor-vs-full-frame-sensor-tips-in-2/

 First let me state two facts: One, images from crop sensor cameras are not inherently of lower quality than those of full-frame cameras and, two, crop sensor cameras produce exactly the same in-camera image magnification as do their larger full-frame brothers.

Before I take this discussion of why these facts are true, let’s understand some things about cameras and their sensors.

First, a full-frame sensor gets its name from the fact that is physical measurements are, in round numbers, 24 x 36 mm. That’s the same size of our old standby, the full-frame 35mm film negative or transparency.

Second, I truly believe that the term, “crop sensor” is a misleading term. It is simply a sensor that is smaller than the full frame cousin. And there are now several sizes of “crop sensors”. They range from the APS-C (15.7 x 23.6 mm), the APS-H (19 x 28.7 mm), four thirds systems (13 x 17.3 mm), and even smaller. So there is really no “Standard” when it comes to identifying a sensor size.

Now let’s talk about the lens for a moment, the image forming device that projects our picture on to the sensor. Lenses have several characteristics. They affect:

  • Image size. This is governed by the focal length. Longer focal lengths produce larger subjectdetail on the sensor at any given distance,
  • Angle of view. This is the area of coverage in front of the lens that the lens may capture and project on to the sensor. It too is governed by focal length. Shorter focal lengths produce a wider angle of view that longer focal length telephotos for example. And finally,
  • Perspective. This is a relationship of components within the image to others within the same image. Focal length affects perspective, but only when the lens-to-subject distance is changed.

Crop sensor-Example 1

Let’s look at the image above to understand the physical relationship. The large frame is that of standard 35 mm film and also that of a full frame digital sensor. The yellow outline represents the area and magnification of an APS-C sensor, similar to that of a Nikon D2X or D7100 series camera body. The image was taken with a Nikkor 80-200 mm F 2.8 zoom lens.

Lenses have physical characteristics in addition to the optical characteristics above. One that is most important here is lens flange-to-sensor distance. This is the physical distance from the rear mounting flange of the lens to the sensor. That distance is specific to allow the lens to be focused at infinity. This distance is somewhat different between manufacturers, but it is standard within a manufacturer family so that all lenses will work properly.

In order for a lens of any particular focal length to produce larger image details on the sensor, the lens must be moved farther from the sensor or closer to the subject. Since the flange-to-sensor distance must be the same for cameras of a particular brand, any given lens (of that brand) will produce an image of the same magnification at the sensor regardless of the sensor dimension. What changes is the area of the projected image, not its magnification.

So let’s look at how this works.

The set-up

A standard, single focal length 200mm prime telephoto lens is mounted on a tripod. A subject is placed at a constant, pre-measured distance from the lens for all images. And two camera bodies, Nikon D90 with its APS-C sensor and Nikon D800 with its full frame sensor, were used.

The Process

Two photos of a mounted scaled quail are made from the same spot. Nothing changes but the camera bodies. Both images are processed in Photoshop in the same manner. A new composite file was made using both images together. Each image was reproduced at the same magnification for comparison. The APS-C image is produced at a six times multiple of its actual size of 15.7 x 23.6 mm, and the full frame image is printed at the same six times multiple of its actual size of 24 x 36 mm.

The Result.

One can clearly see the subject is the same magnification on both sensors and the reproduction sizes of the bird are the same for both sensors. The full frame sensor on the left captures significant additional area than the smaller sensor. This is the source of the term “Crop Sensor”.

Crop-Full Comparison

Left: Full frame sensor, Nikon D800. Right: Nikon D90 APS-C sensor. Initial enlargement (left) = 6 times sensor length 36 mm x 6= 216 mm. Initial enlargement (right) = 6 times sensor length 23.6 mm x 6= 141.6 mm.

The Misconception

When both images are reproduced at the same dimensions, the APS-C subject is reproduced at a larger size. This is only because the image is blown up to be the same reproduction size. This is why some people think there is actual in-camera magnification increase.

When viewed in the camera through the viewfinder or in live-view the smaller sensor frame is filled with the subject at a given distance than the full frame sensor. Therefore, the APS-C camera appears to produce a larger image. This is simply because the frame is filled faster with any given focal length and subject distance. What actually happens here is that the APS-C (crop sensor) image is blown up to match the outer dimensions of the full frame image.

Same enlargement comparison

Left, Nikon D800 full frame sensor. Right, Nikon D90 APS-C sensor.

Image quality

Image quality is not entirely based upon image size at the sensor, but is based upon in-camera processing technology, pixel size and pixel density. Many “crop sensor” cameras have better sensors and processing engines than full frame cameras. But that’s another story. (Maybe later.)

Copyright © 2014 Brian K Loflin . All rights reserved.