White Throated Sparrow

White Throated Sparrow

Canon 30D, 70-200 f/4L, ISO: 200, aperture: f/5.0, shutter: 1/250, filter: no, tripod: no

I was so excited to see my first White Throated Sparrow this spring and even happier to capture several nice photographs of this vividly marked backyard visitor.  We have at least 10 feeders in our backyard so it’s a busy place with a good variety of ‘frequent flyers’, especially in spring and fall. We’re going through 20-30 pounds of seed a month these days so we stay busy refilling feeders and chasing cats away.  The busy air traffic provides a lot of opportunity for photography.

Here’s a few photo tips I’ve picked up from my backyard safaris: 1) Keep your shutter speed up.  Birds move very quickly so a fast shutter is really important in capturing a good portrait.  Bump up the ISO if you need to and open the aperture.  2) Make sure there are plenty of natural staging areas near your feeders.  Bird photographs will look much better if the subject is perched in a tree rather than on a feeder.  The above photo is a good example of that.  The feeder is just outside of the photo. 3) Shoot when there is plenty of light.  The auto focus on my camera and lens combination really struggles in low light conditions.  An f/2.8 lens would help, but is cost prohibitive for most of us.  Also, take your filters off, so your lens captures as much light as possible.  That’s it for today… good birding to you.

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North Umpqua River, Oregon

North Umpqua River near Steamboat, Oregon

Canon 30D, 17-40 f/4L, Tripod: yes, Filter: circular polarizer, Post: Lightroom

The North, as the locals refer to the North Fork of the Umpqua River, is one of the most beautiful reaches of river in Oregon.  Fall is a wonderful time to capture the golden reflections of riparian vegetation in quiet pools.  Much of the North is accessible from a state highway so finding a good photo point is not a problem.

The above capture was taken on a cloudless day so the photo had lots of blue color cast in the shadow areas.  The grey rocks in the river had really absorbed the blue from the sky.  After the photo was imported into Lightroom I used the targeted adjustment tool (TAT) in the HSL panel to desaturate the blue and restore a more accurate color balance.  As I have mentioned before in this blog, the TAT is a very slick tool to adjust color, saturation, luminance, and the tone curve.  For this photo the TAT was also used to bump up the color saturation and adjust the luminosity to make the yellow and orange colors pop.  The photo below is the original out of the camera, note the color of the rocks.

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South Umpqua #2

South Umpqua River, Roseburg, Oregon

Canon 30D, 17-40 f/4L, Tripod: yes, Filter: circular polarizer, Post: Lightroom 3

For the most part Oregon doesn’t have the spectacular fall colors like the northeast part of the country, but we do have areas that provide plenty of seasonal color, like along our waterways.  To provide good balance in a landscape photo find something interesting to put in the foreground, in this case, the tuffs of grass provide a nice foreground subject.  Colors were saturated using a polarizer filter during capture and in post vibrance and luminance were increased in Lightroom.

Fall is a wonderful time to capture fall colors with the camera, it’s also a great time to watch for salmon as they migrate from the ocean to their spawning areas.  These large anadromous fish can weigh 30 pounds or more and provide some interesting and challenging photo ops.

Here’s a photo of a coho salmon ready to spawn.  Like deciduous trees, these fish put on fall colors too.  This fish is in the 5-7 pound range.

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Summer Lake, Oregon

Summer Lake, Oregon

Canon 30D, 17-40 f/4L, ISO: 100, aperture: f/11, shutter: 1/13 second, tripod: yes, filter: ciruclar polarizer

I posted a similar photo of Summer Lake back in August.  This area is rich in wildlife and stunning panoramas.  There are many opportunties here for viewing and photographing migratory birds and beautiful landscapes.  Sunset is a nice time to capture colors and patterns in the sky and their reflection in the shallow lake water.  A polarizer filter is essential for images that include water and clouds.  Using a good sturdy tripod will help ensure a tack sharp image, even with slow shutter speeds.

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Steens Mountain #2

Fish Lake #2, Steens Mountain, Oregon

Canon 30D, 17-40 f/4L, ISO: 100, Aperture: f/11, shutter: 1/8 second, tripod: yes, filter: 2 stop soft edge graduated ND

The same, only different from yesterday’s post.  This image captured just a few minutes later, but without the sun light on the distant ridge.  The sky and lake reflection are still nice, but the photo lacks the ‘pop’ that comes from the warm light on the far shoreline, as seen in yesterday’s post.  For me these two photos teach a lesson in timing and how quickly the light changes at sunset.  As I look at these photos I think of the fish I caught on a dry fly and how beautiful the light was on the lake.  I can’t wait to return and repeat the experience.  In that way, both images work for me…it’s the feeling that counts.

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Steens Mountain

Fish Lake, Steens Mountain, Oregon

Canon 30D, 17-40 f/4L, ISO: 100, aperture: f/11, shutter: 1/13 second, tripod: yes, filter: 2 stop soft edge graduated ND

Steens Mountain in Oregon’s remote outback is an awe inspiring desert landscape.  The summit, at just under 10,000 feet, is the highest place in Oregon you can drive your car.  The scenery is spectacular.  Early fall is a great time to visit.  There are fewer people, the weather is good, fishing can’t be beat and the aspen trees are turning that wonderful gold color, all good for the landscape shooter.

This photo was taken after a day of fly fishing from my float tube.  I fish with a barbless hook so I can release most of the fish I catch unharmed.  The light of the setting sun on the distant ridge and clouds reflecting in the quiet water of Fish Lake make this one of my favorite images from this trip.

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South Umpqua River

Light Trails, South Umpqua River

Canon 30D, 17-40 f/4L, ISO: 100, aperture: f/22, shutter: 4 seconds, filter: circular polarizer, Post: Lightroom

As sorry as I am to see the summer go, I do love getting out and shooting fall colors.  I like to find a nearby river and look for color, reflections and moving water.  The South Umpqua near Roseburg, Oregon has all the right elements for a good capture.  Look for an eddy in the river with rotating foam bubbles.  Use a slow shutter speed for some interesting light trails.  You may need a ND filter in bright conditions to get a multi second exposure.  The polarizer helped reduce the glare on the water, revealing an interesting stream bed.

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Pacific Rim Revisited

Pacific Rim National Park, British Columbia

Canon 30D, 17-40 f/4L, ISO: 100, aperture: f/22, shutter: 0.6 second, filter: soft edge 2-stop graduated ND, tripod: yes

The trip to BC a few years ago yielded some nice captures.  I like to go back through my photo files and revisit my favorites.  It’s fun to relive the experience of being on those remote beaches with a beautiful sunset going on.  One of the things I like about photography is that when you put a camera on a tripod and look through the lens it forces you to really look at your subject.  When capturing something amazingly beautiful, like a sunset on a remote beach, I’m reminded how fortunate I am to be at this particular location at this moment in time… and that there are places like this preserved for me and you to enjoy.

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Oregon State University

Kelley Engineering Center, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon

Canon 17-40 f/4L, ISO: 100, aperture: f/22, shutter: 1/6 second, filter: circular polarizer, tripod: yes

I was on the Oregon State University campus this week teaching a class on the ESA and how it relates to highway transportation projects.  During the lunch break I did a walking tour of the campus with my camera and tripod.  The lighting wasn’t especially good, nor could I find an interesting, unique and inspiring perspective for a really creative shot.  So, I reverted to my old standby technique of using a slow shutter speed and zooming the lens during the exposure.  I didn’t have my ND filter so had to settle for 1/6 of a second exposure.  The result is what you see above.  I included a non-zoomed shot, below, to compare. The building is an engineering marvel, no surprise, since it is the main office, classroom and research facility for the School of Engineering at OSU.  The engineers I work with got all giddy when I mentioned the Kelley Center.

The inside of the Center is interesting with an open style architecture, glass panels and diversity of materials used to construct the building.

The photo below is the standard HDR image made by combining 3 exposures in Photomatix and editing in Lightroom.

Above: ISO: 100, aperture: f/22, shutter: 1/6 second

Below: ISO: 100, aperture priority: f/11, shutter: 0.4 second (middle shutter speed), tripod: yes, HDR: 3 exposures, one over, one under.  Remember to use aperture priority when doing HDR so the depth of field stays consistent.

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Cape Kiwanda, Oregon Coast

Cape Kiwanda, Pacific City, Oregon

Canon 30D, 17-40 f/4L, ISO: 100, aperture: f/16, shutter: 1/50 second, filter: circular polarizer, tripod: yes, HDR: 3 exposures combined in Photomatix Pro, Post processing: Lightroom 3

Every headland along the Oregon Coast is different.  However, most are tree-covered basaltic outcroppings.  The treeless sandstone of Cape Kiwanda makes this headland somewhat unique.  The cape is perhaps the most photographed on the coast and is often featured in calendars and coffee table books.  No surprise, the colors and patterns in the rock and ocean are inspirational.

The above photo was made from 3 images combined in Photomatix and further processed in Lightroom.  The HDR adds a 3 dimensional feel that any one of my single images could not.  It’s the part of HDR photography that is so captivating.

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