Monday, August 3, 2020

Post #182 - Early Summer Photography - Landbirds for a change!

Damn, this blog is on life-support right now! It's been five weeks since my last entry, and I'll confess I've had a really hard time blogging in 2020. Some of my block can be blamed on COVID-related distraction, but I'm also burned out on writing. I'm still grinding away on my book about my 2014 bicycle Big Year, and the project has consumed more than twice years I'd imagined. Without giving too much away, the book is not the traditional Big Year account of the places I visited and the birds I saw; I'm more using my bird-motivated bicycle journey - itself totally unique in the Big Year landscape - to examine my decisions, insecurities, and mistakes ahead of my adventure. So, while most Big Year authors chronicle one year, I'm treating 35! The process has been an incredible emotional drain, but I'm confident my examination will yield an engaging, inspirational, and entertaining story when it's finally done. 

With that as a preface, I'll offer a few photos with some words about each. That's about all the additional writing I can handle at this moment!

Let's start with this Grasshopper Sparrow. Most shots of this species feature brown and tan backgrounds because the bird prefers arid grasslands, so I was really happy to capture something different here, the darker background resulting from a distant coniferous hillside as I shot over the crest of a ridge.

Grasshopper Sparrow - Ammodramus savannarum
Canon 600mm f/4 IS II + 1.4x TC III on EOS 5D Mark IV
1/3200 at f/5.6, ISO 640

Here is another shot of the same bird with a more traditional background. This is a super heavy crop - it represents less than 10% of the original frame - but I think the detail held up well. It's sometimes difficult to appreciate subtle plumage characteristics in the field, like the thin rufous streaks on the nape, so it's really satisfying to capture a photo which reveals otherwise overlooked details. Doubtful I'll ever encounter such a cooperative individual again! 

Grasshopper Sparrow - Ammodramus savannarum
Canon 600mm f/4 IS II + 1.4x TC III on EOS 5D Mark IV
1/2500 at f/7.1, ISO 1000

OK, let's switch gears to this Wrentit. This shy bird likes tangled underbrush, so I was shocked when this representative assumed this exposed perched when tempted with a few cycles of playback. I see/hear this bird on many of my birding outings, but this represents my first keeper frame of the species. The sun was a bit higher than ideal, but shooting down the hillside helped minimize late-morning shadows on the subject's chest.

Wrentit - Chamaea fasciata
Canon 600mm f/4 IS II + 1.4x III on EOS 5D Mark IV
1/1600 at f/5.6, ISO 800

This next shot is an Ash-throated Flycatcher I captured just before the Wrentit. This bird was standing on a metal post, so I decided to go with a tight headshot to keep the man-made object out of the frame. This represented another new species for my photo collection. I see these all the time, just not in photogenic proximity like this one!

Ash-throated Flycatcher - Myiarchus cinerascens
Canon 600mm f/4 IS + 1.4x III on EOS 5D Mark IV
1/1000 at f/8, ISO 800

Ok, just two more. I like to shoot birds at eye level because it maximizes eye contact, but I raised my lens a bit to capture this Spotted Towhee. He would have ideally been 18 inches lower, but I couldn't pass on the full song and beautiful view of the rufous flanks. No wonder this birds used to be lumped with Eastern Towhee as Rufous-sided Towhee. Closing down to f/9 enabled me to keep the entire bird in focus.

Spotted Towhee - Pipilo maculatus
Canon 600mm f/4 IS II on EOS 5D Mark IV
1/2000 at f/9, ISO 1000

Lastly, here is the male Anna's Hummingbird which lives in the bayshore park behind my house. He's present almost every time I visit, usually on the same perch, but it took me forever to make the effort to photograph him because I can't carry binoculars, scope, and camera on my bike when I visit. Leaving the scope and binoculars at home on this day, I was able to get super close to him for this shot. The smooth background was generated by standing on a high rock and shooting across SF Bay. Like the towhee, closing down to f/10 at close range helped keep the whole bird in focus.

Anna's Hummingbird - Calypte anna
Canon 400mm f/4 IS DO II + 2x TC III on EOS 1DX Mark II
1/1250 at f/10, ISO 1600

OK, that's it for now. I'll try to crank out more content this month to make up for the recent lack. Cheers!

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