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Friday, July 26, 2013

A Fun Day At Serpentine - The Views Around The Sanctuary

Our birding adventure at Serpentine Fen on Thursday began at 9:15AM when we parked the car at the parking lot at Serpentine Fen located on 44th Avenue.

This is probably one of the premiere birding locations in Surrey. A wetland habitat for migrating birds on the Great Pacific Flyway, Serpentine Fen offers a place to rest and recuperate for the next leg of their journey. To get an idea of the types of birds you might see at Serpentine Fen in any season, check out the well documented birding checklist at Serpentine Fen Birding Checklist. This site also has many other checklists for various other places in the Lower Mainland. It is a great resource and many thanks to the person who created it.

I have decided that this is a cursory view of the different landscapes that you can see at Serpentine Fen as Chris (my son) and I walked along the Serpentine River that day.

The Pond area.

Looking towards King George Highway - the bridge spanning Serpentine River

At the first bend in the Serpentine River

The bend in the river looking towards Highway 99.

The decaying and broken down pier in the center of the sand bar.

Looking back along the trail by the sandbar.

Looking towards the Hwy 99 Bridge over the widening Serpentine River.

Looking back along the Serpentine River Dyke Trail.

Aiming the 600mm at the eagle's nest in the high-tension power line tower.

The marsh area from one of the observation towers

Another view from the observation tower

There are several observation towers dotted around the site offering panoramic views of the wildlife area.


Back at the car again after three hours of fun at Serpentine.

Utilizing Your Phone Camera

What is the camera that we carry around with us the most? Usually it's a camera-phone. It's compact, light and it's a necessity at this point in time where pay-phones are a dying breed. You can't find a pay-phone to save your life. Most people carry cell-phones and gone are the days when they were simplistic bricks that you used just to dial out or receive calls. Nowadays, it's like carrying a personal computer in your purse or pocket.

So how do you utilize it to best effect if you see a photo opportunity and don't have your expensive DSLR with you? Needless to say, it isn't the best solution to a DSLR but at least it will prevent the "moment" from getting away from you. But how do you get the best image possible out of your phone?

1. Avoid Subjects in Low Light - Low light on a camera phone is noise squared. The "gunk" that you get in your image - such as one like the stuff you see around the noise.

2. Avoid situating your subject in front of a lamp. The hotspot will create a flare that will drown out your subject in light. Remember phone cameras are extremely sensitive to light.

3. Avoid Zoom on your cell-phone camera - If you use zoom, you end up with noise. If you must get in closer, than move yourself physically closer to the subject.

4. If you have white balance capability, use it. The iPhone has automatic white balance that immediately gives you the proper white-balance. Other camera phones may not so check your user's manual.

5. Don't use your flash to illuminate subjects. Camera flashes are preset to the most powerful flash possible and you cannot lower the amount of flash. If you use flash indoors, you're breaking rule #1 and foremost your pictures are going to end up with ghost face (meaning white and featureless).

Solution:Position yourself half way between two decent light sources pointing 45 degrees towards the front of the subject and shoot (flash off). That way you don't have to utilize the flash and you avoid ghost face with camera flare as in this photo. Better yet, avoid taking photos in a bar.

6. For anything not a portrait, think about using rule-of-thirds. On the iPhone there's a grid function. Until you get the hang of shooting "rule of thirds" utilize that function. Position your subject so that it is dead in the center of one of the four grid intersections. Rule of Thirds creates tension in a photograph where your brain is trying to continue to resolve the tension (such as a portrait of a couple staring out towards an off-frame subject - utilize rule of thirds and you'll keep the viewer wondering just what the couple's attention is captured by) where as placing a subject smack in the center just creates a static image: "there it you are."

Good photos are possible with the phone camera, it is just a matter of utilizing it to its best advantage.

These photos were all taken on the iPhone 4s.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Serpentine Fen - July 25, 2013 - A trip for my son and I.

My son and I made our way to Serpentine Fen today. This was quite the shoot. We walked the trails for almost 3 hours and met up with some very interesting birds. And unlike the other time which we went, I was able to photograph them with relative ease as I had the range (the 600mm) to do so.

Serpentine Fen is a wildlife management area that allows public access. If you go down, please make sure that you stay on the trails and don't go into the areas that are fenced off.

Our first sighting for the day was an American Coot. This I'm not sure if it is a rarity or not, but most point to the fact that this one may just be a malingerer as most American Coots aren't around during the summertime...and only pass by during the fall. I chalk it up that this one ain't too bright.

A barn swallow extends its wings before taking off.

Another barn swallow sits on a fence post.

An Eurasian Collared Dove (formerly misidentified - but now properly ID'd thanks to Paul Kusmin)

Female Red Winged Blackbird

A Spotted Towhee

A bald eagle.

But the best part of today was the simple fact that my son was there to share today with me and he is becoming a great photographer in his own right.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Revisiting Lens Envy.

I wrote an blog entry way back in March 4, 2011 about the little green monster by the name of "Lens Envy" and how I was suffering from that affliction way back when my camera was a D300s and my best lens was a bare-bones 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII. Comparably when it was measured up against photographers who were carrying kit lenses such as the 18-200mm or smaller lenses, it stacked up pretty well. And actually people would comment on "how big of a lens that was." But when it came to nature/wildlife photography it was woefully short. And I could walk through a park without a single person casting more than a cursory glance on the gear that I had.

Fast foward two years and four months and I am schlepping my 600mm f/4 down the trail that I walked for so long with the 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII and it doesn't seem like I can get out of the parking lot without someone saying "WOW...that's a big cannon of a lens". I do have to say that the 600mm f/4 is a great conversation starter and it's enjoyable. Because people do one thing when they talk to you. They don't talk to you about the weather, about politics or something that you have absolutely no interest in. They talk to you about photography.

So for those of you bearing the focus of that lens envy. It doesn't matter how many people come up to you and talk to you about your lens. Just remember that you may inadvertently give a child an inspiration to follow in your footsteps. And that may be all the difference in the world that it takes for a young child to find their calling in life. And for those of who are having a problem with that little green-eyed monster called "lens envy"...just remember. Save what you can. Start developing a plan to save and slowly eventually you will succeed. Your day will come.

Happy Shooting.

A Morning At Green Timbers with the 600mm.

Busy with a lot of photography and utilizing that wonderful string of good summer days to do it in. It's fun being able to utilize the 600mm f/4 and be able to capture images of mallards which far beat out anything that I've done so far.

Green Timbers Urban Park has a lot of people coming through even at 9:00 in the morning. To get a quiet park all to yourself, you need to be up by 6:00 or 7:00 and that's a late start for a wildlife photographer. So here are a few of my shots from this morning.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

A Pretty Front Yard Flower And A Stroll Through Hawthorne Park.

Photographed this daylily (yes, the daylilies are out again) during the time that my wife was out with Storm at Hawthorne Park. It was nice to see the deep orange blossoms.

The mallards were enjoying the pond in the diminishing light. We got there about 6:30PM.

We also saw a (domestic gone feral) Muscovy Duck. The things have such beautiful plumage and a hideous face.

Hawthorne Park has a resident or transient osprey but I missed the opportunity of photographing it.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Video Slideshow Set To Music.

My "TEST" rendition of the FalconRose Photography Birds portfolio set to music. Got rid of the Xilisoft copyrighted slideshow by creating this slideshow on Microsoft's Windows Movie Maker. Utilizing Telemann's Sonata in A minor in this one. But the one that we hope to utilize is Telemann's Trumpet Concerto in D major. Daeyong and I will be doing the actual soundtrack playing the trumpet; me doing the pianoforte utilizing a score, unless I can manage to get a harpsichord before then...and the photos will be in different order (and hey...there may even be MORE of them...depending on what I can do with the 600mm f/4.). Baroque music is probably one of the best background music that you can give for a nature video...unless it's actual nature sounds. We also have a video that we have to do for his YouTube Channel of the "performance". As a former musician going back to playing music as well as a nature/wildlife/landscape photographer, it's kind of nice to be able to do my own soundtracks to my videos.

Two Photos From Boundary Bay Regional Park

I practically forgot about these two bird photos which I luckily managed to find in my Google+ Photos folder that I forgot to upload from way back in January 2013.

A male Northern Pintail Duck

These are three Greater Scaups (photo mislabelled. You can identify them by their extremely long beaks and particular plumage. They're beautiful birds and I was extremely lucky to capture them with the 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Rumor: D400 to be announced either September/October?

It is rumored that Nikon is considering the release of its long-awaited DX semi-pro camera, the D400 in September/October, which would put it in the last quarter of the year when a lot of cameras are announced. For sports and wildlife shooters who have been hanging on for any news that the D400 will be coming out, this is potentially a bit of good news. The old D300s is getting long in the tooth with a 4 year period The D300s was released in 2009 and a replacement would have been expect in 2002 at the very latest. Most upgrades or new camera announcements to the semi-pro type take place every 2 years.

As a wildlife photographer, I've looked into the D800 as a reasonable cost alternative to my D300s and the possibility of going full-frame. However for action shots such as birds flying, one needs the framerate up and the D800 fell short on that with 5fps as opposed to 11 fps on the D4. The consumer grade full-frame cameras came no where near on the buffer space that one would be able to shoot at Continuous High mode. So with the retail price of the D4 at $5,899 or higher, the upgrade to a full-frame professional body was out of the question. Hence the reason I have been waiting for the D400.

I expect the D400 to have at least a framerate of 9fps with the battery grip (which I hope will be the MB-D10 - it is a pain in the butt to have to change battery grips every time you change cameras so the more unifying features that Nikon can sustain the better) and 7 fps without; a sizable buffer that will allow me to get at least 36 frames continuous before delay to write. In wildlife photography, one has to capture action shots and hopefully, the D400 will meet if not surpass wildlife photographer expectations.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Heron Portrait - June 30, 2013

Quickie Trips: Colony Farm and Iona Beach Regional Park.

On June 30th, 2013...we went to Colony Farm and Iona Beach Regional Park today for a little bit of birding (in order to get the heck out of the house)...

The view from the parking lot

The view of the mountains from the parking lot with the 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII+TC-20EIII@400mm

The first of our Great Blue Heron sightings for today was at Colony Farm.

Because my daughter would not cooperate, we packed up over at Colony Farm and decided to go to Iona Beach Regional Park.

I think the Great Blue just about nearly wet itself when it saw the 600mm. I think "What the hell is THAT???!!!" was a front-runner in the contest of "What Would The Heron Say...when it saw the 600mm lens?" contest.

The Three Amigos...stood in the water pretty much there the whole time I was 'clicking shutter'.

One of the rare clear shots that I got of the GBH flying or landing. Pretty much had the ISO too low and couldn't get the shutterspeed up. OK...OK...I completely got too engrossed in what I was doing and forgot to set the ISO and shutterspeed up to 1200 ISO and 1/1250th of a second. My stupid mistake!

The B777 coming into land on Runway 26R @ YVR and the blurry herons in the foreground pretty much combine my love of wildlife photography and aviation photography - aviation being a hobby rather than the wildlife photography. Both are equally matched in my interest to both subjects.