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Posts tagged ‘Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge’

New Bird in Town – D810 Comments

I’ve blogged here on numerous occasions about urban wildlife such as the blue heron’s that frequent Elm Park.  (Elm Park is located in downtown Worcester, Massachusetts).  Today, however, we found ourselves confronted with a heron of a different color, white.


I did a bit of quick research upon returning home, looking at questions such as “what is the difference between a heron and an egret?” and “what is the range of the white egret, or heron?”  Alas, my efforts were somewhat frustrated.   According to Wikipedia the difference between heron and egret is largely terminological rather than biological.  Egrets tend to be white.  If you google the two terms and check on images, you’ll see the same kinds of images.  My bottom line question really was:  are they new in town?  Memory tells me yes.  They are very common in the mid-Atlantic and further south, but I don’t recall seeing too many in New England.  Someone educate me if my memory is off, it wouldn’t be the first time.

Photographing these birds is relatively easy.  You can get quite close if are are respectful and quiet. After all, this was in a downtown park, not exactly the middle of the marsh.  Herons also don’t seem to be easily distracted from their work, which is fishing.  Unfortunately for this fair specimen, he was having little luck.  We watched him for quite some time and he was coming up empty beaked, every time.  Herons are usually better at their jobs than that.  This one may need to step up his game.  The best shot is often one with them flying in or out, or exhibiting their catch.  This guy stood there and though his forays into the water were very graceful, if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.


It was tough to get another interesting shot until a well timed flock of geese flew across the scene.  He was actually startled for a second, but the incident did give me some background that was badly needed.




It will be interesting to see if his presence in the Park is a trend or an outlier.  Or, as I mentioned above, is only of interest because of my failing memory.  Regardless, I do wish him good luck fishing.  He needs it.

Tech Note:

Much as I dislike the kind of photographic gear discussions that take place on the internet, I did want to mention that these shots were taken with Nikon’s newest DSLR, the D810.  I’ve been a Nikon user for many years, and really enjoyed the image output from the D800.  If you print large for exhibitions, all those pixels are useful.  Plus, the D800 has incredible dynamic range, very useful for nature work.  However, it always felt to me like it was really a studio, tripod camera, and handled more like the medium format cameras it has been replacing.  I also like to shot more spontaneously from time to time.  The D810 now makes that possible.  In many different ways, Nikon fixed things that weren’t broken, but made it hard to really relax with the D800.  The grip is better, the shutter is much quieter, the shutter mechanism does not create vibrations that undermine the high resolution power of the images, the video features are improved, etc.  In this case, all those pixels allowed me to crop heavily into the image.  These are all the equivalent of a 100% crop.  Obviously I should have had a longer lens, but alas, I did not.  I could go on and on, but others are doing a much better job of actually reviewing this piece of gear.  If you have a D800 though, it may not look like a worthwhile upgrade.  It actually may be for some people, particularly those desiring to make the D800 a real “go to” camera.  Again, I dislike tribal gear discussions.  All cameras these days are quite good.  It really boils down to trying to find the one that does the job you need, and with which you can be most comfortable.  That is likely to vary from person to person.

Photographers of Planet Earth

I was recently honored by having been asked to submit my favorite image and some accompany text explanation to an interesting blog, Photographers of Planet Earth.  After agonizing over the question, which one is my favorite, this one got the nod.


It’s actually been posted here before, so I guess I really do like it.  The question though as I say got me thinking.  They wanted my favorite, not the ones that others might like.  It’s actually a useful way to reflect on your work.  If you click over there, you’ll see what I had to say the choice, so I won’t bore you here.

If you like nature oriented photography, I’d encourage you to have a look at Photographers of Planet Earth.  They don’t seem to be selling anything at this point, so you only stand to risk a bit of your time.  Thanks for stopping by.

UPDATE:  Speaking of selling something,, I just went to preview my blog, a common act before publishing it, and found that in the preview WordPress was warning me that my visitors would be seeing advertisements, over which I had no control.  So it could be some horrendous political garbage or other kinds of crap, which would for me hurt the experience of the viewer.  It’s enough that you have to put up with my rants, you shouldn’t be exposed to worse.  So, I purchased the “No Ad” upgrade.  I didn’t really mind, WordPress has been hosting this blog for quite some time for no charge, they have to make money and selling ads is the way to do it.  The bottom line is, you shouldn’t see any ads on this site.  If you do please let me know via the comments.  Thanks.

Bird Convention – The Movie

Several friends who viewed the previous blog post about the incredible bird convention that we witnessed at the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge in May wanted to get a better sense of what it was like to bump into this mass of birds hanging around on the side of a busy road.  The new breed of Digital SLRs gives us the ability to shot videos as well as stills.  That doesn’t make it easy to do, nor does it ensure a high quality outcome.  After some work and hand wringing, I decided to post this one minute video to fill out the story a bit.  I’d suggest you watch it on the HD setting, as the quality is significantly better though it may take a minute to load. The sounds you hear are the same sounds the birds heard.  This is a busy road, leading to a beautiful beach, on Memorial Day Weekend.  The birds were not particularly impressed.

Video can do things that stills can’t, so I’ll be working on my technique and equipment a bit.  The challenge of course is that doing two things at once can mean that you do neither terribly well.  In this case, I was using a stills tripod, and it shows.  Video tripods allow for smooth movement, stills tripods are built to make it nearly impossible to move the camera.  On a technical note, this video was edited in Photoshop CS6, which has a significantly improved video capability.  It’s also quite easy to use.  I suspect that we’ll see quite a few videos being edited,  on the fly as it were, in what was once a purely “stills” oriented software.

Mobile viewers:  You may not be able to see the video thumbnail (though it seems to be working on my iPhone, which would indicate that WordPress may have been working on the problem).  If you don’t see the video, please click here. Sorry for any inconvenience.

Timing Is Everything

Just back from another adventure at Chincoteague, Virginia.  Chincoteague is a nice, relatively quiet island on the Atlantic side of the Eastern Shore of Virginia.  We’ve been several times and enjoyed the sites, though they tended to seem rather modest at the time.  We wanted to give it another try, and as they say, timing really is everything.  Our room looked out on beautiful sunsets.  (Click on the images for a better, view.  There will be lots of them this post and in a number of them, the subjects were quite far away.  So click!)

But we never felt very alone.  In fact, the gulls were of the “in your face” variety.

We quickly made our way to the main show, Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge.  Chincoteague Island is really best known for the book Misty of Chincoteague, by Marguerite Henry, which was subsequently made into a movie as well.  The book tells the supposed story of a horse family that lived out in the marsh land in what is now the Wildlife Refuge.  In fact, the family was actually a domesticated lot, and the horses that live on the Refuge are probably better taken care of than any group of wild horses, anywhere, in the world.  This of course is all thanks to Misty and Ms. Henry. The horses are rounded up each fall and some are sold at auction, bringing an absolute fortune. There’s a touch of Hollywood in all that, but maybe that’s OK, if the horses are well cared for, and if it sensitizes people to the value of the Refuge.  In a previous blog I told of having never gotten a good shot of the horses on the march, because they tend to be, well eating.  Got lucky this time.  Again, timing…

These two families, at least that’s what I surmised, were heading from one protective clump of trees and tall grass to another.  The little ones just loved to run and play, which was quite a nice sight. Unfortunately, they were too far away for my lens to catch anything meaningful when playtime came. But wait, there’s more.  Two days later, we hit the jackpot.  Chincoteague also lies on the Atlantic flyway, and is a stop over, resting place, and all around inviting locale, for perhaps millions of birds each year.  Again, timing is critical.  If  you aren’t there when the large numbers are, you’re out of luck.  Not so this time.

This image captures only a fraction of the gathering that day.  There are several different species of Egrets, as well as Ibis, Terns and several different kinds of Gulls.  They were fishing.  No one was feeding them.  And for them, the timing was right as well.  Some would fish while others took a break.  Even the trees were filled with birds.

This was shaping up to be a pretty good day.  The photographic challenge though was to come up with interesting shots that conveyed something of the beauty of the groupings.  That was more challenging than you might imagine.  Catching an Egret in isolation is one end of the spectrum. Massive group shots are at the other end.  Both interesting, but the later in particular wer limited by the angle of view that was available.  They were gathered along a stream that ran parallel to the road.  Venture too far off the road, and you’ll scare even these rather dispassionate birds away.  I began then to focus on smaller groups and how their movements in relation to one another gave one the impression of a dance.

Nature provides us with powerful graphics if we stop to notice them.  Again, timing. You have to wait for some of these to unfold before you.  That wasn’t a problem in this case as the scene was absolutely hypnotic.

Occasionally the dance had a more provocative undertone.  There were a lot of folks fishing out there.  Perhaps too many for one spot, at times.

Largely though, in spite of the numbers, and the variety of species, and the finite amount of fish (worms and other assorted goodies) in the water, things were surprisingly peaceful.  It is interesting to contemplate the nature of these individual creatures, adaptable, tough and beautiful world travelers who ultimately have to make it on their own.

(The image above has was taken from a rather severe crop, but I thought his pose was so interesting, and vulnerable, I decided to include it in spite of the grain.)  While at the same time, they work so well with each other.

Perhaps we could learn a few things from them.  It was a good day in the field, timing wise in particular.

Tech note:  The images from the Refuge were largely made with a  Nikon D4, 70 – 200 mm VR2 lens, and a 1.7 teleconverter.  I was pleased with that combination overall.

To Those Who Make it All Possible….

Happy Mother’s Day!

Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge.