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The Pantanal – Jabiru Storks

First light on the Jabiru Stork nest.  Three young ones watching the adult fly about.

First Light on the Jabiru nest
© 2019 Bob Harvey

© 2019 Diane Kelsay

© 2019 Diane Kelsay

© 2019 Diane Kelsay

© 2019 Diane Kelsay

 

This young one thinks flying looks like fun, getting restless.
© 2019 Diane Kelsay

WooHoo, flying!
© 2019 Diane Kelsay

Coming in for a landing.
© 2019 Diane Kelsay

The adult takes off again to find some goodies to bring back.

Adult heading to the marshy area.
© 2019 Diane Kelsay

Returning with goodies from the marsh.
© 2019 Bob Harvey

Our guide tells us they bring back wet vegetation, adding it to the nest to cool it down.  It also has some good stuff to eat like fish and snails.

© 2019 Diane Kelsay

Enjoying a fish for breakfast.
© 2019 Bob Harvey

© 2019 Diane Kelsay

© 2019 Diane Kelsay

© 2019 Diane Kelsay

The Jabiru is the tallest flying bird in South and Central America. Come join us in 2021 to photograph this nest and other Jabiru sightings in the Pantanal of Brazil.

Link to our Pantanal Wild Photography Adventure

 

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Birds!

Colors! Textures! Shapes!  Serious birders, don’t leave.  There is more to photographing birds than grabbing a shot and checking a list.

Feathers of a Shining Sunbeam. You only get a glimpse most of the time. It takes patience to see all the colors.
© 2019 Diane Kelsay

It’s been a month since my last post – I have been in Ecuador’s Chocó Cloud Forest and then on to the Pantanal in Brazil.  I’m sharing some of my thoughts and photos from Ecuador in this post.

Racket-tailed Puffleg
© 2019 Diane Kelsay

This was my 4th time in the last 16 months in this region and I was determined to improve my skills for hummingbird photography.  It’s a challenge! They move fast. For the above image, I concentrated on the background I chose and with the depth of field I wanted.  I had my exposure right where I wanted it and then just waited for a bird to fly into my “zone” for focus (that would be the place it would hover and wait for its turn at the feeder).  I was lucky enough to capture several birds.  (I also got a few out of focus or parts of birds – ok, more than a few).

Andean Emerald
© 2019 Diane Kelsay

With this cutie, I captured it with a dark background (forest in shadows) and used the bounce-light from a wall behind the feeder to add the necessary fill light for an otherwise backlit bird (sun was to the right).

Violet-tailed Sylph
© 2019 Diane Kelsay

Violet-tailed Sylph
© 2019 Diane Kelsay

Using multiple flash certainly brings out the colors.  This is my favorite hummingbird.

Crimson-rumped Toucanet
© 2019 Diane Kelsay

Crimson-rumped Toucanet
© 2019 Diane Kelsay

While the bird is clearly named for its backside, which is quite beautiful, I just love the way the turquoise feathers play over the lime green in a graceful curl.

Toucan Barbet
© 2019 Diane Kelsay

This Barbet was dancing all over the place trying to get attention. It was a workout to get a position to show all the colors.  Gorgeous bird.

Blue-winged Mountain Tanager
© 2019 Diane Kelsay

Flame-faced Tanagers
© 2019 Diane Kelsay

Black-capped Tanager © 2019 Diane Kelsay

Masked Flowerpiercer
© 2019 Diane Kelsay

My favorite time was sitting at the reflection pool, watching birds come and go.  Every so often one lined up “just so”.  And oh yeah, I broke that famous rule about horizon lines going through the middle.  When I did, it was the most exciting composition for that scene.  And yes, I managed to ID the birds in this blog (newbie birder), but I’m still a “break the rules” artist first.  You can join us in Ecuador to improve your bird photography skills and bring home lots of exciting images (you might even learn a few names).  Our groups are small and our Ecuador guide is an expert birder.

Link to our Ecuador Birds Photography Adventure

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Elephants!

Mt. Kilimanjaro emerges from the clouds,  just as this mom and baby step into the scene.
© 2019 Diane Kelsay

It’s always nice when such a majestic animal arrives in great light to complete your landscape composition. OK, I had the driver/guide move forward, then back, then a little forward… Depth of field and lining things up “just so” was important.

Amboseli National Park, Kenya
© 2019 Diane Kelsay

It’s fun to catch elephants at the waterhole. Fast shutter speeds captured the drops and splashes of water.

Baby elephant
©Bob Harvey

© 2018 Diane Kelsay

© 2018 Diane Kelsay

And they do love water.  They also like to add dust and/or mud after cleaning up in the water. That helps control the insects.

© Diane Kelsay

© Diane Kelsay

© 2019 Diane Kelsay

Rubbing up against a muddy wall – a mud massage.
© 2019 Diane Kelsay

How great they look after their mud bath.  And not so much appeal to insects.
© 2018 Diane Kelsay

It’s nice to combine all sizes, showing various stages of maturity. A panorama crop omits the boring parts of the scene and brings to attention the parade of different sizes.

Elephants crossing the dry lakebed, Amboseli National Park, Kenya. The water behind them is a mirage.
© 2019 Diane Kelsay

But what can be cuter than a tiny baby dwarfed by the size of adults next to the baby.  This strategy of enclosing the baby is done to protect them, but it gives a chance to create unusual and artistic photos. You don’t have to always show the whole animal, try some tight crops.  In these photos, the tight crops emphasize the size of the adult legs and the smallness of the babies while making creative compositions.

© 2019 Diane Kelsay

© Bob Harvey

Elephants along the banks of the Chobe River.
© 2018 Bob Harvey

An early morning stroll. They look very content.

© 2019 Diane Kelsay

Taking the time to learn about the animals, as well as watching their behavior, will help capture interesting images.  Join us on one of our Africa trips and we will spend time helping you choose the right settings and suggest compositions.

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World Rhino Day

Last week we visited Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya.  It was great to see and photograph so many rhinos roaming about in a natural habitat protected from poachers. They are doing a fabulous job with rhino conservation and we are happy to support that.  Join our Kenya Adventure and you will be supporting this too.  More on Kenya later as well as a lot from the Mara Crossing Adventure from Tanzania. We were a month out in the field, but we will catch up on this adventure with many stories and photos.

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Stars

Stars are everywhere, but better to view and photograph some places than others. Where are you on the Bortle Scale? And timing with the moon is essential, as is noting the Milky Way season and direction from where you are located. Then there is weather and dust in the air. Lots of things to consider.

Milky Way, Jupiter, and a meteor. 2000 ISO, f2.8, 20 seconds. 
© 2019 Diane Kelsay

We know this lake well, it’s where we kayak most frequently. We knew the directions to look and moved around the lake until we found just the right place that the light pollution from a city 40 miles away lit up the lake enough to show the reflection.  It’s not a merged image.  We prefer to add light if needed with flash or ambient light.  Sometimes a silhouette is more dramatic.  Play with it all and see what you like.  And use a compass if you don’t know the area.

Namibia. Subtle flash on rock.
© 2018 Bob Harvey

Inca Trail. Headlights inside tents – adjusted in brightness and direction for this shot.
© 2016 Bob Harvey

© 2018 Bob Harvey

Morocco, Sahara Desert. 2 candles lighting the tent.
© 2018 Diane Kelsay

City lights 40 miles away providing color on the horizon. A yard light at a farm lighting the trees. And a frenzy of meteors during the exposure!
© 2019 Diane Kelsay

Peruvian Amazon – no light pollution!
© 2015 Bob Harvey & Diane Kelsay

Our house. A long enough exposure to get a nice tail on a meteor, and a natural starburst with Jupiter.
© 2019 Diane Kelsay

Know your twilight zones (ha, not the show) – Civil, Nautical, Astronomical.  Experiment shooting in all and see how the Milky Way shows up in each compared to total darkness.  Conditions where you are come into play.  Most of the time it doesn’t work, sometimes it does.

Morocco, Sahara Desert. Nautical Twilight. Note the layer of dust above the dunes.
© 2018 Diane Kelsay

Iceland
© 2018 Diane Kelsay

Learn more and enjoy photographing the night sky with us.  Places on our menu of adventures that are good for stars: Tanzania, Kenya, Patagonia, Turkey, Iceland Aurora.

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Animals in Motion

It’s fun and pretty easy to capture an animal by freezing the action with a fast shutter speed.

© 2017 Bob Harvey

But what if you want to blur the image and feel the motion?

© 2015 Diane Kelsay

I find that using a medium long lens works the best for me.  Long primes like a 500 are a little more difficult to manage.  Wide angle doesn’t do much.  The above photo was taken with an 80-400 mm lens (at 240mm) at a shutter speed of 1/30, ISO 64, F22.

shutter speed 1/25
© 2017 Bob Harvey

Shutter speeds to accomplish this motion usually range from 1/15 to 1/30.

shutter speed 1/25
© 2015 Diane Kelsay

How fast the animal is running, how long a lens you have, all play into what shutter speed to use. I’ve taken photos at the same speed as above, but the legs were totally blurred into the background – animal was running faster.

shutter speed 1/15
© 2015 Diane Kelsay

Get into position when you see the opportunity coming toward you. Focus on the running animal and pan with it – release when the moment is right and follow through.  Think of hitting a tennis ball.  You will get nice background blur by doing this.

Wildebeest running hard, panning at 1/30 second.
© 2015 Diane Kelsay

Chose a path where the animal will always be in similar light – not in and out of the shade/sun which requires different exposures.  If the background changes from light to dark, auto exposure could be tricked. Manual focus or single point auto focus and manual exposure are needed to avoid picking up information from the background.

We will be working on this technique on our upcoming trips to Africa.

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Photographing The Forest Canopy

What do you expect to find from this unique perspective?  What do you hope to find?

Hmmmm… let me think about this © 2018 Diane Kelsay

Monkeys and birds of course! So it is nice to be prepared with a long lens while you are walking along the trails and out on the bridges and platforms.  You get that face to face view instead of looking up.

© 2018 Diane Kelsay

But what about art!  The forest has trees and plants with gorgeous designs that you can’t appreciate from the ground looking up.

© 2018 Diane Kelsay

© 2018 Diane Kelsay

The scenery takes on a new look.  Having a wide angle lens handy is absolutely essential.

© 2018 Diane Kelsay

© 2016 Bob Harvey

And don’t forget to look at the plants right next to you, normally high above.

© 2018 Diane Kelsay

© 2014 Diane Kelsay

© 2011 Bob Harvey

It takes some practice to photograph on a hanging bridge that is dynamic (meaning when someone moves, it moves).

© 2011 Bob Harvey

So when we say long lens, we mean 70-200 or 80-400 range, not your 600 mounted on a tripod. You need to know how your camera performs at higher ISO’s so you can take advantage of higher shutter speeds. With wide-angle, you can use a much slower shutter speed, open the aperture and still get good depth of field and less movement. We help you learn and choose the best choices on our Costa Rica Adventure.

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Continuous Shooting

As I, Diane, explained in the previous post, I like to watch animal behavior and pick the moment.  That said, there are times when continuous is the best option.  Like the antics of a zebra taking a dust bath.  Sometimes events happen so quickly (like seeing a cloud of dust that might have action) it’s hard to follow with your eye, let alone pick the moment. And there were many to choose from, a real bonus.

Zebra taking a dust bath.
© 2017 Diane Kelsay

Bob writing, now… I was crouching on the edge of a cliff where puffins are flying in from the sea with little fish to feed their young in burrows very close to where I am standing, but also spread out along at least a kilometer of cliff edge.  Birds were coming in from the sea in a steady stream.  They knew where their burrow was, but I didn’t.  As they approached the cliff edge, they would suddenly pivot and fly parallel to the cliff, looking for an opportunity to land at their burrows.  They fly like little bullets.  From the time they make that turn to the time when all you can see is the backside is a matter of 5 to 10 seconds.  One has to “lock on” to focus as they approach, follow the turn, and then make a batch of continuous releases.  Assuming your follow focus holds (and it does more often than not with current technology) you’ll get to pick from several images.  If you get really lucky, like I did in this image, the puffin will make one more turn toward you to land at a nearby burrow.  Then instead of a sideways image, you get more of a head-on shot!

© 2018 Bob Harvey

 

It’s important to build your skills at recognizing and capturing unique moments. There are times when your eye can’t follow the speed of the action and continuous exposure is a great too.

Botswana, Fish Eagle coming in for the catch.
© 2018 Diane Kelsay

The next frame on continuous!
© 2018 Diane Kelsay

Alaska Bears – who gets the next salmon?
© 2018 Bob Harvey

Zebra wars
© Bob Harvey

Understand that there are times when you are in a quiet place and rapid fire could disturb the wildlife and/or your fellow travelers, causing you all to miss the shot.

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Ecuador Bird Photography

Last post I talked about birds eating.  Late morning my senses started kicking in, and I was ready for lunch. Our guide told me to watch the Velvet-purple Coronet that just came into the adjacent trees.  He said that after he lands, his wings go out for a second.  Ok, I’ve got this!  He lands on a branch right in front of me.  I missed.  I changed to manual focus, focusing on his favorite spot on the branch.  That works – nice wings, no head.  Then nice head, no wing action.  Then nice branch, no bird.  Out of the corner of my eye, I see the picnic table behind me – wow, what a spread!  Is that a platter of avocado slices?  My tummy rumbles.  Guide says “incoming”.  “And why don’t you just put it on continuous?” This is a game between us.

Velvet-purple Coronet sitting on the branch.
© 2019 Diane Kelsay

Finally the next shot is a winner and not on continuous. But then I get another one as he takes off, motion in the wings. This one is my favorite. Bob and I both got several good “on the branch shots”. Lunch was incredible.

Velvet-purple Coronet taking off.
© 2019 Diane Kelsay

When is it a good idea to pick your shot or use continuous? I do occasionally use continuous when I think it’s beneficial, but I mostly use single shot because I like to study my subject and try to capture the moment. I enjoy watching as much as shooting. I really liked “the look” in the second toucan photo.

Plate-billed Mountain Toucan
© 2019 Diane Kelsay

Plate-billed Mountain Toucan
© 2019 Diane Kelsay

We will help you learn when to use continuous and one-shot bird photography on our next Ecuador Birds Adventure.

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Ecuador Bird Photography

Some birds seem to play with their food.

Pale mandibled Aracari – playing with food? This catch was tossed about for a few minutes.
© 2019 Diane Kelsay

© 2019 Diane Kelsay

Some birds eat early – meaning we have to eat breakfast VERY early to get out and catch this one.

© 2019 Diane Kelsay

And some will enjoy their favorite treats anytime – and need to, so they can keep that energy up.

© 2019 Diane Kelsay

© 2019 Diane Kelsay

Join us in Ecuador for exciting bird photography.

See details here

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