Category Archives: Wildlife

Close up lens selection for larger insects

_BKL7935

Roseate Skimmer Dragonfly, Orthemis ferruginea (m)-
Nikkor AF 200 mm F 4.0 Micro Nikkor lens. Fill flash.

 

Last week I was preparing to visit one of my favorite hunting grounds for insects and other critters. The nearby Hill Country Water Gardens is an amazing emporium catering to those who build and maintain ponds. Additionally, they are a very complete nursery with a wide variety of plants. The best thing for me is that they have many tanks and ponds with live water lilies and lotuses. These water features attract many varieties of aquatic insects, including dragonflies and damselflies.

As I was gathering equipment I was selecting the optics appropriate for the day. I knew that I needed more reach than standard macro lenses like my Nikon AF 60mm F 2.8 Macro Nikkor or my Nikon AF 105 mm F2.8 Macro Nikkor. These two lenses are great, but the magnification just is not enough. My longer, Nikon AF 200mm F 4.0 has more reach, but as a fixed lens, there is no angle of view versatility and it will not accept a teleconverter.

So, the tried-and-true solution is a mid-range telephoto lens, with the addition of a teleconverter and for close-focusing ability the addition of a short extension tube. Frequently, a prime lens like a 300 mm lens with a 1.4x or 1.5x teleconverter and a 10 to 25 mm extension tube works well. The arrangement allows a full frame sensor to produce a field of view of about 4 inches and will focus to about 2 feet. That’s perfect, but that arrangement still has no angle of view flexibility.

The answer lies with a zoom telephoto lens, a teleconverter, and if required, an extension tube. With a teleconverter and extension tube robbing the optics of light, a fast lens is most desirable. The solution is a Nikon AF 70-200 mm F 2.8 VR Nikkor lens. To it we add a TC-17EII AF-S teleconverter. This produces a focal length range from 119 to 340 mm and at 200 mm, a field of view of 3.5 inches wide on a full frame sensor. The good thing about this arrangement is that it will focus down to 3.6 feet (measured from the sensor- about 2.5 feet from the front of the lens), plenty close for dragonflies and similar insects.

_BKL8200

Four-spotted Pennant Dragonfly Brachymesia gravida (m)
Nikon AF 200mm F2.8 Nikkor lens with TC- 17 EII 1.7x teleconverter. Fill flash.

 

Canon makes the same arrangement with a 1.4x and a 1.5x teleconverter as well as a 2.0x. Their 70-200 F 2.8 lens will focus to 3.94 feet with a similar set up.

Both Nikon and Canon produce F4.0 versions of these two great lenses at a considerable difference in price.

_BKL8327

Robber Fly, Efferia albibarbis (m)
Nikon AF 200mm F2.8 Nikkor lens with TC- 17 EII 1.7x teleconverter. Fill flash.

 

As these minimum focusing distances are perfectly ideal for butterflies, dragonflies, damselflies, and other insects and creatures, there is no need for an extension tube. A 12 mm extension tube will produce a 3.0-inch field of view but will further reduce the effective aperture by an additional stop. In some cases, you need all the light you can get for best auto-focusing and low light situations.

Another benefit of not using the extension tube is the lens combination can focus to infinity. This is a great benefit for that surprise bird or other subject at greater distances.

As in all outdoor photography, a flash used as a fill flash about 1.0 EV below the ambient exposure helps produce images with lower contrast, higher dynamic range and with more motion stopping capability. All the images in this article, except the lilies,  were produced with a Nikon SB-910 Speedlight at minus 1.0 EV.

_BKL8045-Edit

White water lilies in water garden-
Nikon AF 200mm F2.8 Nikkor lens with TC- 17 EII 1.7x teleconverter.

Copyright © 2018 Brian Loflin All rights reserved.

Advertisements

NEW- Photography Workshops for 2018

2018 Workshop Promo

Copyright © 2018 Brian Loflin
All rights reserved

2018 Wildlife Photography Exhibition at Texas A&M University – Kingsville

Exhibit-Three Winners-6938_1

Winners in the First Annual Wildlife Photography Exhibition at Texas A&M University- Kingsville include, left to right:  David Campbell, Best Habitat; Kelley Wood, Best in Show; and Alex Meza, Best Wildlife. The Best in Show was awarded a sizeable cash award. The Best Wildlife and Best Habitat winners both received a Rotational 180 Backpack from Mind Shift Gear.

 

The first Wildlife Photography Exhibition represents the finest of the images produced and selected by students of the new Wildlife Photography Program at Texas A&M University- Kingsville. Students created images to best depict Texas wildlife and its habitat. The class members produced these images during the Spring 2018 semester and printed and prepared the mounted images for the May exhibit at the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Center in Kingsville, Texas.

AWARDS

Exhibit-ladybird beetle - exhibit

BEST IN SHOW- “It’s a Small World”- Kelley Wood

“This ladybird beetle was on a Honey Mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa) inflorescence. I was looking at the plant because there were multiple butterflies and other insects that I wanted to take pictures of. It was in the shade, so the lighting was not as harsh.”

Exhibit-_MG_4129

BEST HABITAT- “Bobcat”- David Campbell

“I was on the ranch I work on near Cotulla, TX heading to one of our ponds with a fishing pole and cold beer in hand. As I got near the water I noticed this bobcat sitting on the edge of the brush and realized I didn’t have my camera. I watched him for a second and decided to go back to the truck (a couple hundred yards away) to get my camera. To my surprise he had not moved an inch which allowed me to take this and several other great photos.”

Exhibit-Alex Exibition pictrures-1

BEST WILDLIFE- “Burrowing Owl”- Alex Meza

“Photographed in Granjeno, Texas, a small town literally at the edge of the Rio Grande River. This owl nests in crevices created by big boulders that are placed next to the levee to protect citizens from the Rio Grande River flash floods. The Burrowing owl was out in the sunset after a hot day in South Texas.”

Exhibit-_BKL6942

Exhibit juror, Shirley Loflin, critiques an image by student Kelley Wood. Shirley is a published photographer, author and naturalist and is a long time exhibition juror. She resides in Austin.

 

Exhibit-_BKL6943

Student Alex Meza describes cropping suggestions of one of his entries made by the juror to his wife Neyda Gonzales.

 

WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY PROGRAM

The new Wildlife Photography program is an unique-in-the-nation curriculum providing classes to biology majors within the Range and Wildlife Sciences department at the university. The program was started through a generous donation by the Frederick J. Bremner Trust. Dr. Bremner was a former faculty member at Trinity University in San Antonio.

The program began this Spring 2018 semester with the first in a series of classes entitled Introduction to Digital Wildlife Photography. Additional classes include: Advanced Digital Wildlife Photography, Wildlife Macro Photography, Wildlife Photographic Technology, and Digital Post Production in Wildlife Photography.

The program was developed by Brian Loflin, a Austin biological photographer, author and educator who has taught similar classes at UT Austin Continuing Education and Informal Classes for the past eleven years and in seminars and workshops throughout the country. Loflin is a adjunct faculty member at Texas A&M University- Kingsville.

ADDITIONAL EXHIBIT ENTRIES:

Exhibit-pine tree - exhibit

“Looking Up”- Kelley Wood

 

Exhibit-_MG_4214

“Rattlesnake”- David Campbell

 

Exhibit-Alex Exibition pictrures-2

“Altamira Oriole”- Alex Meza

 

Exhibit-Robert Exibition pictrures-2

“Colorful Flower”- Robert Dwyer

 

Exhibit-Robert Exibition pictrures-1
“Greater Roadrunner”- Robert Dwyer

 

Exhibit-pedro (2 of 2)

“Sandpiper on Jetties”- Pedro Cesares

 

Exhibit-pedro (1 of 2)

“Ocean Current”- Pedro Cesares

 

Exhibit-jeanette exibition pricture-2

“Swallowtail collecting Nectar”- Jeanette Casanova

 

Exhibit-jeanette exibition picture-1

“Mockingbird Chilling”- Jeanette Casanova

 

Exhibit-Crisantos exibition picture-2

“White-tail”- Crisantos Cesares

 

Exhibit-Crisantos Exibition picture-1

“Gulf-Fritillary on Thistle”- Christos Cesares

 

All material Copyright © 2018 by Brian Loflin. Images copyright by their makers. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

South Texas Bird Photography Workshop where avian antics delight participants

_BKL4795A small sample of the thirty Crested Caracara that appeared in front of our cameras at the raptor blind in the morning.

Inflight shots, raptor antics and unusual appearances were the highlight of the latest South Texas Bird Photography Workshop. Held March 22-25 at Laguna Seca Ranch in Hidalgo County, Texas, the workshop was fraught with overcast skies for most of the time, but great shooting was had never the less by everyone in attendance.

_BKL5563

A wild turkey hen and jake made several surprise visits to both the morning blind and afternoon blind.

RoadrunnerPyrrhuloxiaGreen Jay-19-EditGolden-fronted Woodpeckers

Roadrunner, Pyrrhuloxia, Green jay in flight and a pair of Golden-fronted woodpeckers by Dolph McCranie.

wild turkey 6x6sparrow on branch 5x7karakara flowers 5x7bathing sparrow 5x7

Wild turkey made a surprise visit, Sparrow on branch, Caracara in the wildflowers, and Bathing sparrow by David Alexander.

Laguna Seca_Cardinal_bath timeLaguna Seca_Pyrruloxia_femaleLaguna Seca_vulture_red headed_flightLaguna Seca_woodpecker_flight

Cardinal bath time, Pyrrhuloxia female, Turkey vulture landing, and Golden=fronted woodpecker by H.S. “Burt” Garcia.

_DSC1737_1_DSC1686_DSC1487_DSC1352

Curve-bill thrasher and Golden-fronted woodpecker in flight, Crested caracara on ground and landing by Gary Eastes.

DSC_5259-EditDSC_2915-EditDSC_0300-EditDSC_0164-Edit-EditDSC_0037-EditDSC_1236-Edit-2

Red-wing blackbird pair (female landing),Crested caracara landing, Northern moclingbird, Red-wing blackbird female, Green jay, and (poss.) Green-tailed towhee by Jill Mcclain.

The next South Texas Bird Photography Workshops are scheduled for October 25-28, 2018 and February 28-March 3, 2019. Seats are limited, but currently available.

Email bkloflin@austin.rr.com for more information or visit:
http://www.thenatureconnection.com.

 

Copyright © 2018 Brian Loflin and listed individual photographers.
All rights reserved.

 

Frederick J. Bremner Charitable Trust paves the path to Professional Wildlife Photography at Texas A&M University-Kingsville.

Kleburg Group-7479-Sm

Principals attending the launch meeting of the CKWRI Wildlife Photography Program include, (from left) Brian Loflin, CKWRI Wildlife Photography Program Founder and Instructor; Sandy Hurwitz, Bremner Trustee; Janell and Tio Kleburg, CKWRI Advisory Board members; Leslee Hurwitz and McKayla Donovan, Del Rio Veterinary Services; April Conkey, Assistant Professor, Department of Animal, Rangeland, and Wildlife Sciences; Clay Hilton, CKWRI Director of Veterinary Technology; David Hewitt, and Executive Director of Caesar Kleburg Wildlife Research Institute. Also attending the meeting were Scott Henke, Chair, Department of Animal, Rangeland, and Wildlife Sciences, and Shad Nelson – Dean, Dick and Mary Lewis Kleberg College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Human Sciences.

Brackettville, Tex.- October 2, 2017

A new program for Wildlife/Biology majors at Texas A&M University-Kingsville (TAMUK) has been implemented by a generous donation from the Frederick J. Bremner Charitable Trust. The program includes a thirty-hour course of study in biological and wildlife photography, classroom and laboratory equipment and professional digital cameras and accessories for student use when enrolled. When fully established, this academic program will be the only one of its kind within a university setting in the United States.

Bremner Trustee Sandy Hurwitz said, “The trust was charged in finding a home for this donation in the center of a robust educational environment that can make a difference in habitat understanding and outdoor utilization. We believe that TAMUK is the perfect home for this program and we want to make TAMUK the unquestioned world leader in Wildlife Photography and Eco Tourism. As an educator, mentor and outdoorsman, Fred Bremner would be exceptionally thrilled with this new program.”

Dr. Fred Bremner, professor emeritus of psychology at San Antonio’s Trinity University, died June 30, 2016 at 80 years of age. A specialist in the relationship between the brain and behavior, Bremner joined the Trinity faculty in 1965 as an associate professor. Promoted to full professor in 1974, he served twice as chair of the Department of Psychology before retiring in 1999.

Dr. Bremner had a great love for horses and the outdoors and enjoyed teaching his students to ride, hunt, train bird dogs, and fish. He established the Frederick J Bremner Charitable Trust to continue his life’s work in promoting these passions.

Housed within the Caesar Kleburg Wildlife Research Institute at TAMUK, the new Wildlife Photography Program will provide students in the Bachelors, Masters and Doctorate programs an additional avenue to enhance their professional career through biological and wildlife photography. The purpose of the grant is to address the need to educate current and future students at the university level to serve the fast-growing needs of the millions of people in Texas and globally who are traveling to enjoy and photograph wildlife and nature.

The students will learn to make our public parks, private ranches, urban greenbelts, wildlife preserves and other wild places accessible and productive for wildlife photographers while preserving and enhancing the environment of the open spaces that the increasing number of ecotourists and photographers are utilizing. Every one of us that goes out into the field to photograph birds and wildlife clearly understands the need for more and better venues to enjoy our passion. The ultimate goal is to promote the Conservation and enjoyment of our Natural Environment through photography and ecotourism.

TAMUK is one of the most active and respected research universities in the world in the discipline of Wildlife Science. As a tool for research in the natural sciences, Digital photography is a tool on the cutting edge in providing new methods and practices in measurement, analysis and integrity in publication. As a tool in ecology and the environment, digital photography is very effective in attracting more people to the outdoors to better understand and appreciate our wild places. Wildlife photography also stimulates eco-business and nature tourism on a large scale beyond the scope of biological science.

These programs in wildlife photography and ecotourism will produce TAMUK graduates that will fill thousands of entirely new, well-compensated, high-quality professional jobs in rural Texas, and rural America that are not exportable to China, India or downtown Dallas.

 

For more information, please contact:

Dr. Sandy Hurwitz, Trustee, or                      Brian K. Loflin,

Phone: 512-751-8128                                     512-743-7009

Email: ausvetdiag@aol.com                          bkloflin@austin.rr.com

 

Multiple Flash Hummingbird Photography

Hummer-6302

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:

IMG_3557-1

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.

_BKL6324-1

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.

Hummer-6296

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.