Hey there, everyone. It's mating season again for the Gulf area shorebirds, specifically different species of herons, egrets and the Roseate Spoonbill so I decided to drive to Smith Oaks a few weeks ago to get some photos. I went on Sunday the 24th of April and since I already know the location pretty well I didn't bother getting up early to go. I'm guessing most (if not all) reading this aren't familiar with Smith Oaks so I'll explain a bit.
Smith Oaks Sanctuary is a rookery where the different birds I mentioned come to mate annually. A lot of photographers prefer going to their locations early in the morning to get the best lighting conditions. Early in the morning and in the evenings is what's referred to as the "Golden Hour," which is where the sun is closest to the horizon. This causes the sunlight to pass through more of the atmosphere and refract more to cause a "softer" light condition. There is less light available at these times than around noon, but around noon is where the sunlight is coming from directly overhead and causes a more harsh contrast between light and shadow. The situation with Smith Oaks is that there is only one vantage point to shoot from which faces directly East and the rising sun backlights all of the possible subjects.
Smith Oaks itself is basically a small to medium sized pond with a few islands dotting the surface. These islands are where the birds make their nests and mating grounds. The sanctuary is located on the beginning of Bolivar Penninsula, about an 80 mile drive Eastof Houston. The area is a good spot for photographing alligators and shorebirds because of all of the specific places you can go like High Island and Anahuac. I've posted photos from Anahuac before and I plan on going back soon, not just to Anahuac but Smith Oaks and some of the other places I haven't been to yet.
After I spent about 30 minutes going back and forth between two different vantage points I got all of the photos above from the second one, which was closer to the island nesting site. I'm glad I settled there because I got to see a few interesting things from that spot.
The first shot is exactly what you think it is, an alligator trying to swallow a bird. I saw this when I settled on the second spot (which is about 100-200 feet to the left of the first observation point you have access to). According to a member of the Houston Audobon Society that was present informing people of the various species, pointing out nests and hatchlings, and so on the bird was a dead juvenile that had fallen out ofthe nest and died. The alligator just happen to see it and crawled onto the island to get it, but it was having a difficult time trying to swallow it. It took the alligator about another 15 minutes or so to swallow the bird after I noticed it.
The other photos in the slideshow below are of a lesser egret I was following. This one was a male who was getting a late start finding a mate and was still performing the mating display. I really liked this series of photos because you get to see his display, but also because of the spoonbill next to the egret. To me it looks like the spoonbill is judging the egret in an almost "what a weirdo, why is he doing that?" kind of way.
Fun fact: The long flowing plumes that you see on egrets this time of year are only present during the mating season and are specifically for these displays. Back in the 17-1800s during the heyday of hunting and trapping countless numbers of various egret species were hunting into critical numbers so their mating plumage could be used to make ornaments for hats and clothing. Luckily laws were eventually passed to protect egrets and other mating shorebirds so their numbers have bounced back so most are no longer in danger.
Now on to the star of this post, this male Great Egret. To say this guy was photogenic was an understatement. He kept flying from his nest on the island to the tree that was just to my right every few minutes for about a dozen times just to get twigs to help build his nest. Now you might have noticed I keep saying "he" and here's why, the males during mating season go through a slight color change around the eyes. The skin on their faces around their eyes change to that bright green seen below so they're easy to identify. While he was making the constant trips back and forth to gather nesting material his mate would take the sticks from him and build. It was interesting to watch and provided a lot of good photo ops as you can see.
I'll be going out to Smith Oaks and Anahuac again soon so I'll have another round of photos to post in the next week or two.
I'm going to finish this post with two photos. The one above is one of the few decent cardinal shots I've taken. For some reason cardinals are my worst enemy to shoot so I was happy with a halfway decent shot for once. The other is of a beached boat on the Colorado river in Austin. It has absolutely no relevance to this post, but I don't know where else to fit in in so why not here right?
Hey look, it's another post on the same day, fancy that!
So back in April of 2014 I decided to go for a drive a little north toward Brenham, TX to try and find a field of bluebonnets while they were blooming. I had this idea in mind that I wanted a large field on a hill that went as far as you could see or until it hit went to the woods (I would've also settled for an enclosed meadow, I'd take either without being disappointed).
I figured I would have to make it up to Brenham or further (Brenham is known for their Bluebonnet fields) in order to find what I was looking for, but I got lucky. While I was driving up 290 and saw a small field on the North side of the highway (290 and Liendo Parkway) where a few groups of people were parked and walking out into the field to take theirown photos. I pulled off just to get some practice shots and change my camera settings to match the conditions for the day. While I was off 290 I decided to take some backroads and kept going down Liendo Pkwy through a small patch of woods and when got out of the woods my ideal field was right there on the left-hand side of the road.
After I got some nice shots of the above field I kept driving on back roads for a while, went through Chappel Hill, and took 1155 (Main St) North and found a few fields of different wildflowers. Most of those photos didn't turn out well for different reasons, but I was able to get some good shots of Indian Paintbrushes.
I never did make it up to Brenham on this trip because I had already found what I wanted and I was satisfied with what I had accomplished that day so I decided to head home. Overall it was a great photo trip, but it was also a miserable one. My allergies in Texas are pretty much non-existant, but that day with all of the flowers blooming my allergies came back with a vengeance. I ended up having to pull off in a random little town on the way home bcause my eyes were so irritated, watering to the point I couldn't see, and my contacts shifting around didn't help much either. Eventually it got so bad that I had to actually take one contact out and ended up driving home with one contact in and essentially blind in the other eye. In the end I was happy with the trip though and that's all that matters.
Happy New Year everyone. I have another Library post for you, in fact this one's a twofer, some from Galveston and some from Hermann Park. I'm going to keep this one short and just post some of my favorites from those two trips.
Galveston - 6/21/14
These were taken over by the jetties on the East site of the island by the entrance to the ship channel.
Hermann Park - various dates in 2014
Hermann Park is a good location to shoot in for some local wildlife that is less than a 10 minute drive from where I live. These photos were taken in February and August. Some you might recognize from my main wildlife page, too.
Sometimes I won't have something "new" to share for each blog post and for those weeks where I haven't gone out to shoot I'm going to pull some old photos to share from my library, hence the Title of the post. I'm going to keep the naming trend going for this type of blog post in the future. These will also be more focused on the photos than the story behing them so they'll be shorter. Anyway on to the post...
I went out to Santa Cruz, California in May of 2014 to visit my friend Claire for a week. I had never been to the West Coast before so we went to a lot of places, but some of the more photogenic places were a cliffside beach (complete with tidepools), a mountaintop, and a redwood forest.
I would have liked to have more time out in California because it's just so beautiful and has a lot of different environments to shoot in. Different environments means more diverse wildlife also so that's a plus on both the landscape and the wildlife checkboxes. I'll get out there again, maybe one day on a more permanent basis. Who knows what the future will bring?
Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
The struggle is real. I'm starting to notice a trend in my posts and that's they're being delayed longer than I want them to. I'm going to work on fixing this because my last post was a week late and this one is three weeks late. The whole point of this blog is to get out there and take more photos and share them on a regular basis. This will help by forcing me to practice more with my photography, writing, and maintaining deadlines for my work and yea..isn't happening the way it should. Again everything on this site is a work in progress and that's the name of the game, progress. Anyway, onto the main post.
Wings Over Houston is an annual airshow held in October (17th weekend this year) with a variety of different planes and shows backed by different organizations. One of the organizations that deserves a lot of credit is the Lone Star Flight Museum in Galveston, TX. Lone Star is recognized as the Texas avaition Hall of Fame and specializes in informing the public about, along with restoring and preserving warbirds. The link below will take you to their website where you can learn more information about them and what they do.
I didn't get as early of a start that day as I would have liked, but I had to meet up with an insurance agent to inspect my Jeep for a claim that morning. Fortunately it didn't take long and I was down at Ellington Airfield before things really started kicking off. I had my camera out before I even walked through the gate and started taking some photos, but I really came down for the warbirds and the synchronized flying teams. After warming up with some early photos I went off to find Moose and his wife Sharon Peterson.
Moose is a professional photographer whose work I follow closely. He focuses mainly on wildlife, landscape, and aviation photography. The Petersons fly in from Mammoth Lakes California every year for Wings Over Houston in support of the Lone Star Museum. I was able to meet up with them and talk for a bit between their responsibilities to working the event. When the warbirds started flying we met up again and started shooting as a group, along with some other photographers.
It was interesting shooting in a group since I'm almost always by myself. Every time a plane came by for a photo pass someone would call out a direction and we would ready up and start shooting. We all had our constant high-speed shutters going off so that was interesting to hear that all around me on each pass. All of the other photographers had better equipment than I did, but I didn't do too bad.It takes a lot of skill to pan that fast and I don't have any experience photographing planes in flight so I was suprised how well some turned out. I will say that I shot a little over 1600 photos, only about 115 or so I would consider decent, and about half of that to be "good."
Panning is definitely a skill I need to develop judging from the photos I took not being as sharp as a I want them do be due to motion blur. Even the ones that were pretty sharp (not that many) weren't up to par without some editing. I'm not sure if this is the limitations of my equipment of lack of knowledge on my part to take sharper photos, but that's something I will have to research more. I've noticed now that I'm spending more time editing now that my photos are never quite as sharp as other photographers work that I follow, so again more research needed on my part.
Well that's it for this post, until next time.
So I'm a little late getting this blog posted since these photos were taken last Sunday, but I got lazy over the week and didn't end up editing any of these until earlier today. Actually, I went to Galveston today to visit my friend Trish who came back from Hawaii and is moving to St. Louis soon so I'm just going to say it's appropriate for me to post them on a day I went to Galveston again.
Last Sunday I went to Galveston to meet up with my friend Alyssa and her boyfriend Joe for brunch. I took my camera down with me to see if I could get some decent shorebird photos. After we went our separate ways I drove out to east beach, but didn't find any birds or scenery I liked.
On the way back I saw a kitesurfing kite flying over by the Galvestonian so I decided to stop off and go to the beach there. By the time I got the camera ready and walked out to the beach the kitesurfer was bringing in his kite since there wasn't enough wind for his equipment. I ended talking to him and his wife for a while and I found out he owned a kitesurfing store in Clear Lake and moved here recently from Florida.
After that I started walking down the beach and found a few flocks of birds, mostly seagulls and sandpipers. I settled in with a few different flocks and started shooting.
One bird in particular caught my eye, I believe he was the alpha of the group. The reason why I thought that is because he definitely had the biggest personality and was chasing the other members around every time they would group up to feed in one spot. A wave would roll in and out, and when it receded some birds would gather in one spot to try and dig some food out of the sand. Whenever there would be a higher concentration this little guy would run over from where ever he was, chase them off, and claim that spot to eat. This went on constantly and made for an interesting photo opportunity to try and catch him running around.
Well, I was trying to break up this post a little more so it wasn't just two galleries of photos, but there wasn't much of a story to this one. There doesn't really need to be a story to every blog post I guess as long as I had fun taking the photos and wanted to share them. Happy trails.
This weekend was my first attempt at submitting some of my photos to different magazines and contests to get published. I now realize how time consuming and how much effort it takes for freelancers to get their work published. I'm only looking at roughly 6 different publications and they all have different file format, size, metadata, and story and/or caption information requirements. Fortunately I can make use of excel to track the differences otherwise I would be trudging through that mess every time. Anyway, here's a list of the websites I'm looking at right now and some details on what I've submitted this weekend. Now you've seen most of these photos already from my Wildlife page, but I wanted to include them again on this post since I wanted to give you an idea of which ones I'm sending out.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Submissions
Discover Wildlife Magazine - BBC
Discover Wildlife submissions required a short story for their photos:
This photo was taken at Antelope Island State Park at the Great Salt Lake in Utah. It was about 9am when I came across the first herd and I got out of the car and started taking photos right away. This Bison was further away from the herd and I was able to get this shot with his little bird friend with a great backdrop of the Thurston Peak mountain range behind them.
Anahuac Wildlife Refuge is about 75 miles east of Houston and is a great place to visit in March to April every year to catch the Spoonbill mating season. After leaving the rookery I went to the other locations in the refuge and there was a fence on one side of the road out to East Bay. On the way back from the end of the road I saw this little guy preening so I pulled over, it started to rain as I was shooting and she stopped, tucked her head in, and just sat there waiting out the Spring shower.
While on vacation to the Outer Banks North Carolina in July 2014 I was shooting a few families of ospreys. One day we decide to take the boat out to go fishing and on the way out of the canal by our beach house there were more ospreys perched on the pilings. We slowed down to a crawl while I got out my camera and most didn't even bother to leave as we went by, lucky for me.
Ok, so this is my first blog post ever so I'm going to try and make it a decent one to start.
Earlier this week my buddy Josh and I (I'm trying to use proper grammar as well) decided we were going to take a trip out to Austin to explore a bit and try to make it to Enchanted Rock for the sunset. If you don't know what Enchanted Rock is it's a state park in Texas that's about 11/2 hours west of Austin in the Texas Hill Country. The main attraction to the park is it's namesake, Enchanted Rock itself. E Rock is a large granite dome mountain that's about 420ft about the rest of the landscape and you can see for miles from the summit.
We left around 930-10am to make the drive to Austin first. We stopped off at McKinney Falls state park to check it out since neither of us had been there before. The falls themselves (there's an upper and lower falls) were more of a trickling stream instead of a waterfall, due to it being relatively dry upstream there wasn't much water to feed them. That being said the pools being filled by the falls still had plenty of water in them and locals use them as swimming holes. There were a good number of people partying at the pools and we decided that we would have to come back sometime.
After McKinney Falls we went to get lunch at Uncle Billy's Brew and Que. It's a Texas BBQ place in Austin just south of Downtown that also has a Brewery. One split appetizer and half a BBQ chicken later we left for E Rock around 530-6pm. It's about a 1 1/2 hour drive from where we were and sunset was at 750pm so we were pretty spot on for timing. We ended up passing two women that were broken down on the side of the road about halfway to E Rock and we were going to stop but given our timing we knew if we stopped we would miss the sunset from the summit so we decided to press on since that was the whole reason for our trip in the first place.
We got to E Rock at about 730pm so we were cutting it pretty close since we still had to climb the mountain. It's a pretty steep hike up the dome and had to stop twice, but at the pit stops we ended up talking to other hikers who came out for the sunset and the super moon that was supposed to be that night. Unfortunately the cloud cover all but blocked the moon as it was rising and it only cleared up after we left. We got to the summit just it time to see a decent sunset despite the clouds and stayed up there for a while. There was about two dozen other people up at top, but given the size of it it wasn't really that packed.
While up at the summit we talked to a few groups of people, one family that was camping out at the park for the super moon, a group of women that hiked up the mountain just behind us to also catch the sunset and take some group photos, and a couple from Chicago that came to Texas on vacation. After the sun had set and it was getting dark a light rain also started so we decided to make our way back down the mountain in case the rain picked up and made the rock slippery. About halfway down the mountain we ran into the same two girls that were in that broken down car we passed on the way to the park so yea, small world.
One the way down we met Jim Lingenhag, another photographer who specializes in landscapes, mostly in and around Texas. He's a little more serious than I am at the moment and had much better equipment and more experience I'm sure since I'm just getting serious into photography.
We ended up leaving E Rock around 930pm and made our way back to Houston. We stopped off at the Bucc-ees in Bastrop and continued on the 4 1/2 hour drive back. We got back home at 130am and that was the end our our "day trip" to the Hill Country.