Category Archives: Bird Photography

Multiple Flash Hummingbird Photography

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Capturing the inflight antics of hummingbirds, like this Black-chinned female,  poses a number of challenges. We have to think about getting them where we want them to be, to be in focus, to have a good exposure, and to be sharp with wing feathers rendered in fine detail.

With today’s digital cameras, automatic technology makes some of this possible. But to get truly refined in-flight images of these little jewels, requires a bit more than camera and high shutter speeds alone. So multiple off-camera, electronic flashes is the only way to go.

To get the flying hummer where we want it, requires placing a feeder with one feeding port in the shade. Shade is important because we need the high speed capability of the off-camera flashes to work for us to stop the motion and wing beat of the hummers. If the set is placed in the sun, most flashes don’t have the power at high speed to compete with the sun for proper exposure.

A diagram of my most frequent set-up is below:

Hummingbird Photo Set-up

Specifications include: 

CAMERA:

    Medium Telephoto Lens 70-200 mm

    Manual Shooting Mode

    Manual Focus – Focus on feeder tube-

    ISO 800–    (Adjust to achieve good shade exposure)

    Shutter speed 1/250 sec   (Or maximum flash sync speed for your camera)

    Aperture F11-   (Depending on adequate exposure in the shade)

FLASHES:

    Three:    2 on Bird –about 2 feet in front of bird

                    1 on Background (Optional) — about 3 feet from background

    Set at 45 degrees to bird

    Zoom at 35mm

    Flash Power- Manual 1/64 (Flash duration: 1/35,000 sec)

    Trigger: Wired, Radio or Ettl / iTTl

BACKGROUND:

    Out-of-focus photo of vegetation printed on matte paper about 30×40 inches

    Mounted print on foam core board

    Positioned on easel or stand about 3 feet behind bird (must remain in the shade)

ADJUST EXPOSURE:

    Tweak flash-to-subject distance (preferred) or

    Flash power in Manual Mode. (This changes flash duration)

Here is a photo of the actual set-up:

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The real key to this method is to let the electronic flash do the work for you. They are designed to produce crisp, daylight-white light, and at a very fast flash duration. Today’s Speedlights can produce a flash duration as short as 1/40,000 second.

But that speed is not to be achieved at full power. That full-power flash duration may be as long as 1/900 second, much longer. The short flash duration therefore, comes at a trade-off of output light intensity (or exposure, if you wish). Therefore we must be in the shade to overpower the sun. Two flashes on the bird provides additional exposure for increased apertures and better Depth of Field. Place the flashes on stands and synchronize them with the camera using cables, radios or IR triggers or the flash eTTL / iTTl technology. The flash sync does not need to be TTL as everything is in manual mode. The light intensity at the bird may be controlled by simply changing the flash-to-subject distance.

Once the feeder is set up and hummingbirds are using it frequently, it’s time to bring in the other equipment, including camera, flashes on their stands, and the background. It may take a few minutes for the birds to become settled down with all this around, but my experience has showed it is not very long.

When feeder, camera and background are in place, the camera needs to be focused on the feeder port in manual focus mode. The aperture will provide sufficient Depth of Field to assure the bird is sharply focused. As things are moving around, especially in a breeze, auto-focus tends to continuously hunt for a target. The picture you are trying to achieve, depending on lens focal length is like the one below. As the hummer sips, it will back away and then return to the feeder. When it backs away is the opportune moment to shoot.

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Finally, the last thing to do is process the image. I shoot in RAW, so I can achieve excellent white balance and tone values in blacks, whites, shadows, highlights and mid-tones. Adobe Camera Raw is the perfect solution for the processing. Other software packages are available including, Lightroom, and On1. After processing, a final crop will yield excellent compositions.

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Later, as your success rate increases, the set may be fine-tuned by the addition of a couple of strategically-placed flowers and greenery to hide the feeder and to provide a framing device for the composition. In addition, the hummers may enjoy actually feeding from several species of tubular flowers with a bit of sugar-water mix in the flower throats. Watch the vegetation the hummers actually use and select some blossoms and greenery for a natural set-up. Then get your finger on the trigger and enjoy!

Copyright © 2017 Brian Loflin. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Fall photography workshops approaching

Four photography workshops are approaching fast. Each have just a few spots available.

For more information and to reserve your spot before they are gone, please visit the website at http://www.thenatureconnection.com/workshopschedule.html  .

2017 Workshop PromoB

Copyright © 2017 Brian Loflin. All rights reserved.

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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.