Casual Birding in New Mexico

The birds we saw in New Mexico varied from what we’re used to in Florida (of course).  I saw 12 life birds while we were there.  And this was really with just casual birding. I’m sure my more serious birding friends (thinking of you Kevin M.) would have found many more!

NM birds: Gambel’s QuailGambel’s Quail – Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge

MK wanted to visit White Sands National Monument.  I did too, but I’d heard a lot about the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge so we agreed to get up early and stop by there on the way.  I was really glad we did!

NM birds: Black-chinned Hummingbirds and Broad-tailed HummingbirdBlack-chinned Hummingbirds and Broad-tailed Hummingbird (on the left) – Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge

The volunteers at the Visitors Center were very helpful and pointed out where to look for the Golden Eagle.  We would have missed it without their help.  At first glance, I mistook it for a vulture!  They also apologized since there were no Sand Hill Cranes (they migrate through in the winter).  I assured them that we see plenty in Florida.  Hopefully I can go back when it’s cold.  Seeing huge flocks of cranes would be an experience!

NM birds: Golden EagleGolden Eagle – Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge

MK was an excellent spotter.  We found the Caissin’s Kingbird when she stopped to look at a road side field on the way home from White Sands.  She also found the Yellow Warbler at the top of Sandia Peak – thanks MK!

NM birds: Caissin's KingbirdCaissin’s Kingbird – Carrizozo, NM

I’ve called myself a “beginning” birder for too long.  Maybe it’s time to change this to “casual” birder.  I like birding and enjoy finding / seeing new birds and figuring out what they are.  But I mostly enjoy the photography and get a bit disappointed if my images are poor.  So, from me to you, here are my…

Birding hints from a casual birder:

  • Take advantage of travel.  New locations can be an easy way to add to your life list.
  • Consider going even if it’s a slow time of year.  Bosque is well-known for its Festival of the Cranes in November.  But we found lots to see even in the middle of summer.
  • Research the local hot spots and add some to your itinerary.  Find and check local sightings or species lists so you’ll know what to look for.  I read through this wildlife list on the Bosque web site before we went (PDF).  It lists bird species by month observed and was a big help.
  • Try to look at the right times of day when birds are more active.  We saw the Yellow Warbler near dusk on Sandia peak, and had good luck at Bosque early in the morning.  I strongly doubt we’d have seen as much in mid-afternoon.
  • Stop by the Visitors Center and talk to other birders there.  The volunteers at Bosque were very helpful.
  • Don’t let birds you’re familiar with fool you.  I might have missed the Golden Eagle and the Neotropical Cormorants if I hadn’t been looking for them.  They look similar to other birds I’m familiar with in Florida.
  • A second set of eyes is very helpful.  With two of us looking, MK and I saw more than we would have by ourselves.
  • Birding friends are helpful too.  I probably could have figured out what all the life birds were on my own, but it was faster with Kevin helping.  And having a second opinion is good too.
  • Photograph everything you see and confirm later.  I wasn’t sure about the Golden Eagle until I enlarged the image on the back of my camera.
  • If you think you might be birding, bring your long lens.  I didn’t and regret that.  Thinking back on it, I should have left my ultra-wide at home and taken my longest lens instead.  You can always stitch multi-frame panoramas to get a wider field of view.  But you can’t get a longer focal length in post processing without losing quality.

I never expected to see so much – it was a great trip!  Here’s what we saw:

Life birds:  Golden Eagle, Gambel’s Quail, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Broad-billed Hummingbird, Ring-necked Pheasant, Neotropic Cormorants, Swainson’s Hawk, Cassin’s Kingbird, Say’s Phoebe, Black Phoebe, House Finch, Yellow Warbler

Other birds: Blue Grosbeaks (M & F), Crows, Common Ravens, Brown-headed Cowbirds, House Sparrows, Mockingbirds, Red-winged Blackbirds, Road Runner, Barn, Tree, and Cliff Swallows, Wild Turkeys, Canada Geese, Blue Wing Teals, American Coot, Pied-billed Grebe, Great Blue Herons, Turkey Vulture, Mourning Dove, Robin, Grackles, …

Other wildlife: Prairie Dogs, Snakes (no ID, although one roadkill might have been a Rattlesnake), Deer, Rabbit

You can see more of my New Mexico images here:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157685850604925

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go do some casual birding, and make some photos!

©2017, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Sky City, New Mexico

MK and I went out to New Mexico for a short visit over the July 4th holiday.  I’d been there several times on business travel but never got to see much of the state.  This trip fixed that!

One place we very much enjoyed was the Acoma Pueblo (also known as Sky City).  It’s a lovely spiritual site, and provides a glimpse into what Native American life was like as long ago as the 13th century.  The Pueblo is about 60 miles west of Albuquerque – it’s a lovely drive.
Mesa EncantadaMesa Encantada – Along Route 23 just east of Acoma Pueblo (visible in the distance on the right). According to Acoma Pueblo oral history, it was their first home before they moved to the current location.

If you enter “Acoma Village” in your GPS, it will try to lead you up on the mesa, which you can’t get to unless you’re on a tour.  Search for the visitor center instead!

Looking up at Sky CityyLooking up – This B&W IR view of Acoma Pueblo is from about 360 feet below, just across the highway from their visitors center

At the visitors center you can learn about the culture and history of the area.  Their tour includes a bus ride to the top of the mesa and a guided walk around the pueblo. Also included in the tour price is a “photo permit” for one camera.  You’ll have to buy more permits if you want to use multiple cameras.  I decided to just bring my Olympus Pen F with the 24-200 mm equivalent lens and it worked for most situations on the mesa.  I used the extra space in my camera bags for two bottles of water.  Nice to have while walking around in the hot sun!

The horno is a traditional outdoor, wood fired oven.  People were selling bread made in these ovens in the pueblo.

Homes, horno oven and wood fuelHomes, horno and wood fuel

Even though there’s no electricity or running water up there, many of the homes on the mesa are still lived in.    I liked how occasional colorful paint accents contrasted with the tan walls.

Door and windowsDoor and windows – One of the homes on the mesa

Our guide told us that the Acoma adopted Catholicism from missionaries in the 1500s but they still practice their own spiritual traditions too.  Although they’re very private about this, outsiders can attend celebrations during the Feast of St. Stephen(September) and at Christmas.

Acoma Pueblo Kiva (religious chamber)Kiva – The Acoma concealed their traditional worship places inside homes and entered via a ladder through the smoke-hole in the roof.

As you’d expect, the views from the mesa are spectacular and the visibility is awesome.

View north toward Mount Taylor (on the horizon, about 40 miles away)View north toward Mount Taylor (on the horizon, about 40 miles away).  Ponderosa Pine used to build the mission was hand carried from Mount Taylor and up to the mesa.

Photography isn’t allowed in the cemetery (to the left of the mission) or inside the church itself.  This spot is about the best vantage point I could find.

San Estevan del Rey Mission ChurchSan Estevan del Rey Mission Church – Built between 1629 and 1641.  According to Acoma oral tradition, their people were forced by Friar Juan Ramirez to build the mission.

Many have photographed in Acoma and some of the images are in the public domain.  It’s interesting to compare the older photos with contemporary views.  Both Edward S. Curtis (in 1904-5: http://www.loc.gov/pictures/search/?q=acoma%20indians&co=ecur&sg=true) and Ansel Adams (in the 1930s and 40s: https://www.archives.gov/research/ansel-adams) photographed here.  They both stood very close to the spot where I made this mission photo.

You can find more information about Acoma at these links:

And I’m collecting my New Mexico images here:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157685850604925

For those of you that are wondering why I haven’t posted any bird or wildlife photos in a while, please be patient.  We did some birding while we were in New Mexico and I’m planning to blog about that next.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2017, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Lake Monroe Wayside Park

Some mornings, sunrise isn’t very special. Maybe nature’s tired and saves up energy for one of those truly spectacular dawns we get occasionally.  What do I do when that happens?   Just go ahead and make photos anyway – rehearsing is a good thing too.

Sunrise at the old bridgeSunrise at the old bridge

This park is on the river side of 17-92, just past I-4, heading toward Debary.  They’ve left part of the old bridge there and I thought there might be interesting compositions to work with at sunrise.  I was hoping for clouds and color too, but it wasn’t meant to be.  This is one frame I like, but  I don’t love the sky.

Oh well – next time.  Photography Philosophy:  Practice and persistence will prevail!

Other St. Johns River images:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/sets/72157624991879878

Other Lake Monroe & Sanford images:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/sets/72157656060285125

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2017, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Three things

Three more or less unrelated things to discuss today…

1. Image Stabilization

I’ve used Olympus micro four thirds cameras for a while and I’ve watched their capabilities get better and better.  Their latest image stabilization is truly amazing – Olympus claims five to six stops.  This means that if you can normally shoot at 1/100 second handheld without inducing camera shake blur, then with IS, you may be able to shoot at 1/3 to 1/2 second.  Truly a huge difference, as long as subject motion blur is not a problem.

Rapidan RiverRapidan River – This is the view just behind President Herbert Hoover’s cabin at the Rapidan camp retreat in the Shenandoah Mountains.

The settings on this photo are: focal length equivalent of 28mm, ISO 64, f/8, at 0.5 seconds, handheld.  Using the (1/focal length) rule of thumb, I should have exposed this at 1/30 sec to prevent camera shake.  But I wanted to use a slower shutter speed to blur the moving water.  With IS turned on in camera, I could hand hold at a half second and still keep all the non-moving rocks, etc. completely sharp in the frame.  And I like the way the water looks.

It’s a nice option to have if you don’t bring your tripod.

2. Workflow Experiments

I recently bought an SSD (solid state device) disk.  The main advantage of these is that they’re faster than spinning hard drives.  I wanted to speed up my photo processing workflow.  So I moved my 2017 image file directory and my Lightroom catalog to this drive and sure enough, Lightroom does seem faster.

But then it occurred to me that when I travel, I can  take the SSD with me on the road and use it with my laptop.  All I have to do is add a folder for the images from the trip.  When I get home I can just move it back to my desktop computer and any work that I’ve done on the road will come across with the SSD.  I won’t have to export / import, etc.  This should definitely save time when I get back.

There are some things to be careful of.  I’m backing up the SSD drive using Apple’s Time Machine in case there are any glitches with the SSD.  And I’ve had to re-arrange the image folders across the different disks and tell Lightroom where everything is.  I also need to make sure that preferences and presets are all accounted for.

After a week or so, it all seems to work ok.  I’ll let you know if I discover any other gotchas.  If you have questions about this setup, leave a comment and I’ll try to answer.

3.  Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge update

You may remember this blog post from March:  http://edrosack.com/2017/03/19/morning-glory/.  I posted a photo then of cracked mud on the bottom of a dried out pool.

I haven’t been back recently, and when my friend Howard T. wanted to try out a new camera, we decided to see what’s going on over there.  I’m happy to report that the water is back to normal (or even a bit high).  I can’t really recommend it for wildlife photography yet – the birds and animals still seem to mostly be elsewhere.  Maybe they’ll read this blog and return when they find out conditions have improved.

Black Point Wildlife Drive – The drought has eased – there was a lot of water there last week.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2017, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

A few more DC photos

Last week’s post went over my usual three photo budget.  So here are even more images that I didn’t include (and again I’m over budget!).

The Air Force MemorialThe Air Force Memorial.  (ISO 200, f/5.6, 14mm equivalent FL, 1/640 sec.).  I was glad I had an ultra-wide lens.  It all fits into the 14mm field of view from a close distance.

The Potomac River at Great FallsThe Potomac River at Great Falls.  (4 frame panorama, ISO 200, f/4.5, 28mm equivalent FL, 1/1600 sec., color image converted to B&W in Lightroom).   Although I grew up near Washington DC, I don’t remember ever hearing about the park until Lynn mentioned it on this trip.

Ceiling in the Library of CongressCeiling in the Library of Congress.  (4 frame panorama, ISO 200, f/4, 30mm equivalent FL).  Our tour of the US Capitol included a stop inside the Library of Congress.  I had to shoot from an awkward angle and stitch multiple frames together for this view. 

The Burghers of CalaisThe Burghers of Calais – Sculpture by Auguste Rodin, one of twelve original Bronze casts, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, National Mall. (Infrared, B&W, ISO 200, 34mm equivalent FL, f/4.5, 1/320 sec.).   I really like the way the IR  camera rendered this, especially  the bronze contrasting with the foliage.  There are some very impressive sculptures in the National Mall in DC.  You can read the fascinating background on this one at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Burghers_of_Calais.

Washington Monument at duskWashington Monument at dusk. (Olympus High Res mode, ISO 200, 62mm equivalent FL, f/5.6, 1/8 sec).  There were hundreds (thousands?) of people just behind me at the Lincoln Memorial.  I moved to the water’s edge to avoid most of the tourists and frame this view.  I like the way this square composition shows off the symmetry.  I also like the light and reflections – the last time I was in DC (2008?) the pool was a mess!  After we left this time, we heard reports  that the pool had been drained due to duckling deaths (www.washingtonpost.com/local/malls-reflecting-pool-to-be-…). 

More DC photos in this album on Flickr, – check ’em out!

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!


PS:

Happy Father’s Day!

My dad’s been gone for many years. It would be so wonderful to visit with him again, give him a big hug, wish him a happy day and enjoy his company.  And make a photo of us too.


©2017, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Washington DC photo hints

I grew up near Washington DC, and I’ve made many trips (both business and pleasure) to the area since then.  So I feel somewhat qualified to offer ideas on photo opportunities in our nation’s capital.

US CapitolUS Capitol

My most recent visit was last week.  Lynn and I went to Williamsburg, VA to see Caroline (our niece & god-daughter) graduate from high school.  We decided to go early so we could spend a few days as tourists in downtown DC.

"Uncommon Valor was a common Virtue"“Uncommon Valor was a common Virtue” – I was very happy when I saw how the light was falling as we arrived at the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington.  I couldn’t wait to get off the bus!

I probably don’t have to tell you that DC is a rich photo environment.  Monuments, memorials, museums, history, art, architecture, gardens, government, and more are everywhere.  But how do you get interesting photos, ones different from everyone else’s?  Here are some suggestions.

Try using an Infra-Red modified camera.  I really like the way mine renders buildings against foliage and the sky.

Smithsonian CastleSmithsonian Castle – Infrared, Black and White

Take an evening guided tour:  Lynn signed us up with the Bi-Partisan Tour Company for their “Epic Evening Tour” (thanks Lynn!), and we both really enjoyed it.  They took us around to great locations and allowed us to see them in a different light (dusk, blue hour, and night).  I think it added interest to my photos.

If you do take a tour, stay alert in the bus and watch for good vantage points as you ride.  I spotted the Washington Monument behind the Jefferson Memorial and rushed back to make this shot when we parked while everyone else went into the building itself.

Thomas Jefferson Memorial at duskThomas Jefferson Memorial at dusk – with the Washington Monument in the background

It’s almost always crowded.  You can try going in early on a Sunday morning, but if you’re there with everyone else you’ll have to use the people in your photos or find vantage points / ways to minimize them in your photos.  I don’t know how many were at the Wall when we were there – it was elbow to elbow and had to be thousands.

Crowds at the Vietnam Veterans MemorialCrowds at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

"Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope." Martin Luther King, August 28, 1963“Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.” Martin Luther King, August 28, 1963.  Ghostly figures move around the base of this long exposure photograph of the Martin Luther King Memorial at blue hour, with the Washington Monument in the background.

If you go at night, be sure to take your tripod.  It can be a pain, but my night tour images wouldn’t be nearly as good if I hadn’t taken mine.

Some other hints:

  • Contact your senators or congress person to arrange a tour of the capital (you’ll need to start months in advance).  If that doesn’t work out, there are commercial ones available that will still get you a guided tour inside.
  • Take wide or ultra-wide angle lenses.  Building interiors don’t fit in the frame with a standard zoom.
  • Before you go, practice making stitched panoramas.  You can use this technique in place of an ultra wide lens.
  • Stay in a hotel as close to the National Mall as you can.  Parking is scarce and expensive.  You’ll be walking or catching rides to get where you want to go.  Wear comfortable shoes and clothes, and use your light weight photo gear.
  • If you’re from Florida, you’ll appreciate the price of admission.  All of the museums and monuments are free.  Museum hours are usually 10am – 5:30pm.  Lines were typically short, but some will require reservations (check first). You can visit monuments 24/7, but rangers are only available 9:30am to 10pm.
  • You might have cooler weather in May or early June.  It’s not as pleasant to walk around later in the summer with the temperature at 95 degrees Fahrenheit.

You can spend many days (or weeks!) exploring DC.  But if you run out of things there, Photo ops abound in the surrounding area.  Two that I’d highly recommend are the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center just south of Dulles, and Great Falls Park about 30 minutes NW of DC.

I’m collecting Washington DC photos in this album on Flickr, and I’ll add to it as I finish processing images from this trip.  Please check it out!

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go to Washington DC and make some photos!

©2017, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Wildlife Tails: Seward, Alaska

Editors note:  Today we have another post from our roving correspondent MaryKate.  Her report includes some excellent wildlife watching tips and photographs. Enjoy!

In April, I escaped the Florida heat and visited my friends Monette and Jesse in their new home of Seward, Alaska.  This was my third Alaskan adventure with Monette, and while we stayed in one place for the duration of the trip (a rarity for our travels!), I enjoyed the beautiful vast views and wildlife that Seward, Alaska has to offer.

Alaska MoonriseAlaska Moonrise

While in Seward, Monette, Jesse and I went whale watching.  This was my second trip with Kenai Fjords and I’d highly recommend them.  Their boats are comfortable, there’s plenty of room for running around to view wildlife, the crew is very knowledgeable, they serve great snacks and refreshments (wine!), and they had awesome limited-edition Grey Whale Tour 2017 T-Shirts.

Humpback WhaleHumpback Whale

We were lucky enough to see Dall’s Porpoise, Sea Lions, Sea Otters, a Humpback Whale, and the first Gray Whales of the season returning to Seward!  Pacific Gray Whales migrate all the way up from Baja to Alaska every Spring, the longest migration of any mammal – quite remarkable!  You can tell Gray Whales and Humpback Whales apart based on their blow.  While Humpback Whales have a tall blow, Gray Whales have a shorter, thicker heart-shaped blow due to their double blow hole.

Gray Whale

Gray Whale Blow (short and puffy/heart-shaped)

Keep your eyes open when whale watching – constantly scan the horizon back and forth to look for blows.  You don’t want to miss any of these amazing creatures, and it’s really exciting being the first to spot them (as Jesse often does!).

Gray Whale

First Gray Whales of the season!

Once back on shore, we saw some other wildlife friends too, like this Sea Otter – who was anything but shy and really hammed it up for the “otterazzi” of cameras!
Sea Otter

Synchronized Swimmer

And there’s plenty of wildlife on the side of the road.  Like this Bald Eagle couple…Bald Eagle Couple

Bald Eagle Couple

Or this grazing moose…Moose

AlMOOSEt done with this blog post

Finally, I recommend swinging by the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center in nearby Girdwood, Alaska – this group is “dedicated to preserving Alaska’s wildlife through conservation, education, and quality animal care” and you can see many residents up close.  The Center takes in orphans and lost babies – this resident Black Bear is Kuma (or Uli?), and is unable to return to the wild:Bear Necessities

Bear Necessities

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go be amazed by wildlife and make some photos!

©2017, MK Rosack and Ed Rosack. All rights reserved