Tag Archives: egret

Fun With A Big Honkin’ Lens

Becky And The Lens

I’m going to be traveling to the Katmai Peninsula in Alaska later this year to photograph the brown bears (aka grizzly bears) during the salmon spawning season. You’ve seen those photos of the bears standing in the waterfalls while the fish literally jump into their open mouths, right? Well, that’s where I’m going. Needless to say, I am totally stoked (and near broke after paying for the entire trip). Which is why I will be renting (not buying) a 500mm lens to take with me.

Oh, I’ll be taking other lenses too, but that 500mm is going to be special for me. It’s 100mm longer than my 100-400mm lens, and it’s a prime. Prime lenses (aka fixed-focus lenses) on the whole, tend to be sharper than zoom lenses (not always true, but for the most part, yes). This lens that I am renting is going to be a little on the weighty size and –well – it’s gonna be a big honkin’ lens that requires a special tripod head called a gimbal head.

I figured I should perhaps get used to working with such a lens, so I went to my favorite online lens rental outfit and plunked down the money for a 3-day rental of the Canon 500mm f4L lens. Now, this is not the lens I will be taking with me on my Alaska trip. That lens will be the Mk II version of this lens. However, even the rental price for the Mk II version for a 3-day jaunt was more than I wanted to spend at this particular point in time – I’d just paid for my Alaska trip, including airfare – which is why I also did not opt for renting the 600mm lens. Instead, I stuck with the original version of the 500 (which has since been discontinued but you can still rent it).

I wish now I would have measured the lens (with its lens hood) so I could add this to the description, but I was so excited when I received the rental package that I never once thought about anything other than attaching it to the gimbal head and taking it out for a spin.

What’s a gimbal head? Well, it’s a tripod head (just like a ballhead or a panhead) that screws onto your tripod legs. A gimbal head not only accepts the weight of a large and heavy camera/lens combo, but it allows one to move such a combo up and down and around with the lightest of movements. The thing about a gimbal head, though, is that – unlike a ballhead, which allows you to move your camera over all angles in order to get a level position even if the tripod legs are not level – you must get that tripod level to begin with, because the gimbal head itself is not moveable like a ballhead. Oh, I can pan the camera up and down and left and right, but I can’t make the minute sideways or oblique adjustments to get it level on a gimbal if the tripod legs are not already level. You’ll see what I mean from the following photos.

Yeah, so did I mention that the lens is heavy? It weighs 8.5 lbs. I attached it to my Canon 1-DX which weighs about 3.5 lbs. This combination is far too heavy to carry around my neck while walking along a path, so I did what I have seen other photographers do. I carried this combo on the tripod, which I hefted over my shoulder.

Becky Hefting The Lens

Carrying The Tripod

Yeah, I’m smiling for the camera in these photos.  In reality, the only time I was smiling while carrying this behemoth setup was inwardly at all the neat photos I planned on capturing.

After my three days were up, I noticed that my left shoulder and arm had quite a number of bruises on them, which were from traipsing around with this setup. I was also pretty sore from the shoulders down to the waist (I am 5’2” and not a bodybuilder). The weight issue was so worth it, though. So how am I going to be packing this for my Alaska trip? That will be a blog post for the future.

I probably would have never rented this lens for the three days except that I live so close to Brazos Bend State Park and the Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge. So, guess what kind of images I captured?

Bird On A Wire CROP

Bird on a wire.  Looks like a red-tailed hawk.  Maybe  juvenile.  Not sure.

Black Bellied Whistling Ducks and American Coots

Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks and American Coots

Killdeer On The Road

Killdeer

Little Yellow Mystery Bird

A Meadowlark, I think…

Turtle

Turtle

Sunning

Sunning.  The day before, there were several alligators near each other and their mouths were open and they were emitting this deep, reverberating rumbling noise to warn each other off. They also rumbled whenever a big bird got too close, and they always rumble whenever a human gets too close.  In this image, though, this guy’s mouth was open to help regulate its temperature (yes, alligators do that).  Apparently, those three reptiles were in accord for the moment.

Lets Rumble

Now this alligator was definitely rumbling at the other alligators.  And it’s the kind of rumble that you can hear quite a distance away, yet it sounds like it’s right next to you.   A bit unnerving unless one is standing high above the gator that is doing the rumbling.

Tree Shrooms

Tree ‘shrooms

Yawn

A yellow-crowned night heron yawning (well, that’s what it appeared to be doing since it wasn’t making any noise when it opened its beak).

Crawfish Lunch

An egret and a crawfish lunch.

Light Snack For A Little Blue Heron

A little blue heron with a crawfish almost as large as the bird!

The local “lunch stop” that is catty-corner to the observation tower on 40-Acre Lake in Brazos Bend State Park is a plethora of different birds.  Egrets and herons are quiet and stealthy and then suddenly, they lunge into the water and bring out some morsel of food.

Three Ibis And A Frog

Three ibis and a frog.  Ibis are not stealthy like egrets and herons.  They constantly move about the water as they poke their long beaks around in the water until they find something – like this frog (Nature:  eat or be eaten).  I was tickled with this image not only because of the frog catch, but also because I have a white ibis in three stages of feather pattern.  The ibis on the far left is a juvenile.  The ibis with the frog is in its summer moult, and the ibis on the right is an adult.

Quite A Mouthful

Quite a mouthful.  This crawfish was ready to do battle with the ibis.

Grebe

Grebe

Grebes

Harbinger

Redbird

Cardinals – harbingers of spring.  My mother calls them “redbirds”.

Walking Away From Me

The only great blue heron I saw that day…..walking away from me….

Blowing In The Breeze

Jeweled Webbery

Natures Jewelry

Web In The Wind

Natures Jewelry

Natures jewelry:  raindrop bedecked orb weaver’s webs gently blowing in the wind.  I saw lots of these on the road leaving Brazos Bend State Park.

After processing the images from this lens, I must say I am impressed with the resolution quality. No, I don’t think the 500mm f4L original version is quite as sharp as, say, my 70-200mm f2.8L Mk II, but it’s pretty sweet nonetheless. And, if I am this impressed with the original version of this lens, I can only imagine how it will be with the Mk II version that I’ll be taking with me to Alaska.

Becky And The Lens_U9A9764-2

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Filed under Brazoria NWR, Brazos Bend State Park, Equipment, Photography, telephoto lens, Wildlife Refuge

An 80-Degree Winter at Brazos Bend State Park

You wouldn’t think it’s winter down here in southeast Texas.   It’s been in the upper 70’s (Fahrenheit) for the past few days.  Foggy in the morning, sunny and bright by mid-morning lasting into the evening.  Yesterday, it was 80 degrees.

I get every other Friday off.  During those Fridays, I generally don’t like to go anywhere (except on vacation, that is).  However, I’d scheduled a bone density test for this particular Friday off, so I decided I’d take along my cameras and spend time after the appointment at a state park to which I’d never been.

Well, I’ve still never been to that state park, and probably won’t ever get there.  You see, Google Map’s directions are not always spot-on.  I managed to get lost and spent the remainder of the morning never finding the park. But, I did see a lot of new area around the outskirts of Houston which I’d never seen before.  I’ve read that seeing new places helps your brain’s neurons (or whatever) create new pathways, which in turn keeps you from getting age-related dementia too soon.  So I guess the morning wasn’t a total waste.

By the time I finally found a highway that would take me home, I decided I might as well drive out to familiar ground instead of going back to my apartment.  So I found myself showing the park ranger my annual Texas State Park pass and I spent a few hours at 40-Acre Lake in Brazos Bend State Park.

H5T1290_Ibis

H5T1377_Turtles Reflection

H5T1418_Great Egret - Vertical

H5T1467_Leading Lines

H5T1549_Friday Afternoon Fishing

The weather was unbelievable.  For  a winter’s day, people were out in shorts and t-shirts.  There still wasn’t much bird life, but the American alligators were sunning themselves in numbers.

H5T1385_Sunning

H5T1403_Alligator Face

Becky was out sunning herself too.  Oh, and I was also testing my new Giga Pro T II wireless remote by Hahnel.

U9A7631_Becky at Brazos Bend

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Filed under Brazos Bend State Park, nature, Parks, Photography, Texas, wildlife

A Stormy Morning at Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge

Rain has been predicted for the past couple of days.  With that rain, I figured there might be some interesting storm clouds over at the Brazoria NWR.  I woke up this morning at 6AM, peeked out the window, saw some big puffy clouds, and was on the road to the refuge before 7AM.

The morning did not disappoint:  dramatic storm clouds, distant thunder, sporadic flashes of lightning, and hordes of  herons, egrets, black-necked stilts, terns, some roseate spoonbills in the background, and four different sightings of American alligators.

For photography with storm clouds (or any kind of  clouds, really), always make sure you have a graduated ND filter with you.  During the really dark part of the morning, I removed the circular polarizer.  However, as the daylight progressed, I placed the polarizers back on the lenses.  Polarizers make blue skies bluer, clouds more dramatic, and can darken water and either enhance or eliminate reflections, depending upon which way you turn the polarizer ring.

My first stop was the refuge center’s lawn, where I photographed a bunny that looked a little the worse for wear, bless its heart.

8012_Bunny

8049_Bunny

8076_Bunny Closeup

After that, it was a few hundred feet to the boardwalk over Big Slough (pronounced “slew”).

7699_Stormy Morning Big Slough

7702_Sunrise Over Big Slough

7705_Stormy Morning Big Slough

Before getting into the car to head to Olney Pond, I stopped to photograph this little mockingbird.  They are wonderful posers.

8084-2_MockingbirdCROP

As I closed in on Olney Pond, I could hear a cacophony of noise before I even saw the birds.  I couldn’t believe my eyes – it was a freaking heron and egret  convention (along with some stilts, terns, and one or two alligators in the mix).  So, if you ever are in the area and want to visit the refuge, I’d say the early morning is the best time to see the birdlife.  Oh, and make sure you have your bug repellant.  Those Cutter wipes are awesome.

7714_Stormclouds Over Olney Pond

8161_Breakfast On Olney Pond

8120_Herons and Egrets

8139-4_Herons and Egrets CROP

8149-2_Heron Reflection CROP

8220_Great Egret VERT

This guy was looking for breakfast, and no, it did not get the heron you see in the background.

8191_American Alligator

As the thunder rolled in the distance, and a teeny bit of rain sprinkled on the car, I continued along down the road and set up my tripod.

This is looking back up the road from whence I came.  I could see a “thunder bumper” beyond, as the storm rolled over and past me with but a few sprinkles.

7729_Looking Back

7718_Stormy Morning

7726_Looking Up The Bayou

7752_Stormy Sunrise

7771_Storm Over The Coast

By the time 8AM arrived, the storm clouds had departed the area and the sky was starting to get its typical hot, hazy look on a humid Texas day.  Plus, the mosquitoes were ganging up on me (but the Cutter wipes held true), and I wanted to get home to start working with my new photos.

All in all, it was a very good, stormy morning, at the Brazoria NWR.

7785_Bench With A View

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Filed under Brazoria NWR, Clouds, Landscape, Photography, Texas