I’ve haven’t been out photographing for a while, so when Kevin M. invited me to ride along with him yesterday I was eager to go. It was one of those beautiful Florida winter mornings – clear, bright, a little windy, and perfect shirtsleeve temperatures.
Three Lakes WMA is a quiet area with dirt roads through varied habitats including pine forests, grass fields, and some hardwood stands with streams and lakes. There were several RVs and campers parked near the entrance, but they were sleeping in and we had the place mostly to ourselves at first.
A road less traveled – Infrared, black and white, panorama
Whenever we stopped the car to scout for wildlife, it was so quiet, all we heard were birds and the breeze blowing through pine needles. What a peaceful, non-urban setting!
I’ve been by the Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area three or four times looking for the Red-cockaded Woodpeckers that nest there (read about previous trips here and here). And yesterday, I finally saw one. Kevin knew exactly what to look for and spotted this one (that I missed) on my side of the car – thanks Kevin!
It really helps to go out with someone familiar with the place and the species you’re looking for. Kevin mentioned that he’d been through with our local Audubon group and they pointed out many areas and what to watch for in each.
I have seen Bobwhites before, but this one running across the road was cute!
And I’ve seen Eastern Bluebirds before, but didn’t have a good a photo of one.
We also saw a raccoon, a couple of deer, Brown-headed Nuthatches, Meadowlarks, Eagles, Swallow-tailed Kites, Snail Kites, Hawks, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and many other birds. It was quite a trip!
Kevin M. and I knowingly and by chance violated many photography thumb rules yesterday morning. My first example:
Sunrise over the pasture
As landscape photos go, it breaks rules: It’s not all in focus; I didn’t use a low ISO to minimize noise; I used a long lens (so I could keep power lines out of the frame), not a wide-angle ; And I didn’t use a tripod. But I like how it turned out. I’m pleased by the composition and colors. It also has a bit of mystery with the fog, and the cows that are a bit hidden. Florida does look like this.
Next up are some bird photos. In Florida, July is one of the hottest months. Most photographers know this and many choose to stay inside – because the birds know this too and many of them also seem to disappear when it’s this hot. So what did we do? We went out looking for birds.
When we were photographing sunrise, we heard Bobwhites calling and spotted this one on the fence by the pasture. It was very patient and waited with us for better light. But I still had to violate one of my thumb rules and shoot at ISO 3200 to get a decent photo. By the way, let me just say again that technology today is wonderful. This image was at a focal length of 600mm, with a shutter speed of 1/50 second, hand-held!
The Burrowing Owl was a little way down on the same fence line. By this time the light was somewhat better and I could shoot at ISO 1600 and 1/100 sec. Still pretty impressive stabilization and sensor performance.
We did spot some other not so common birds including Brown-headed Nuthatches, Common Ground Doves, and Eastern Meadowlarks.
On the way back, we went by a farm where one of Florida’s Whooping Cranes hangs out. I’ve been there several times looking for it without success. Until this time:
Whooping Crane and two Sandhill Cranes
This is more of a record shot than a great photo. The light is harsh and the birds are beyond the range limit for this lens so it’s cropped in. And the July heat was making waves too, harming the image quality. But I still like it. Thumb rules? Who needs stinking’ thumb rules!
Until the 1930s, Whooping Cranes occurred naturally in Florida (see this article on the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation site). There have been efforts to re-introduce them by leading them with ultra-light planes on migration routes (see this site). In January 2016, the US Fish and Wildlife Service announced they’d “stop supporting the use of ultralight aircraft to help young whooping cranes migrate from Wisconsin to Florida each fall”. Studies show that interacting with humans has a negative effect on the birds. I’m pretty sure this particular Whooping Crane is a survivor of the program. It’s banded yellow over green on its left leg, but a short google search didn’t turn up any info.
So rules of thumb are good – especially if you understand them and know when to break them. Breaking the rules led me to a sunrise photo I like and four life-birds yesterday (thanks Kevin!). By the way, you can click on any of these for larger versions on Flickr.
And thanks to all of you for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, go make some photos!
I don’t know about you, but this often happens to me when I’m trying to make photos of birds. And if they don’t hurry into the bad light, then they usually turn away from the camera. The backs of birds are not as photogenic as the front. Yesterday the birds were a little slow and we managed to catch some of them in very good light and not facing away!
Into the light
I wish I hadn’t been framed so close on this Bald Eagle. I would have loved to catch it in full flight. They’re seen down there often, so I’ll have to try again.
The meadows along the roads were full of Eastern Meadowlarks. And when we couldn’t see them we could definitely hear them.
There were signs posted at the Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area with results from recent hunts. And the deer we saw were definitely very wary. These two stared at us for a while before running off into the trees.
Two wary deer
All in all, it was a good day for photography. And the banter in the car was quite entertaining too.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!