Snow day in DC means I have time to edit yet more Bald Eagle photos (and experiment with some new software too)!!!
I'm a big fan of LR/PS/MacPhun, but have been trialing PixelGenius Photokit as an alternative for sharpening. I discovered this Photoshop Plugin during a most educational online photo editing/critique session with Michael Milicia (if you want to understand what are your best photos and why, and how to make them look as good as they can, then contact Mike for a one-on-one web-based session).
The capture and output sharpener from PixelGenius I believe is the same engine as LR (under licence?), but I find it easier to apply in PS, with the benefit of being able to use a layer mask. You also have a particularly useful addition in the form of "creative sharpening", which is the main new tool I've been trying, applying it to select areas.
Added to experimenting with the new software, I was having one last look through too many Wilde Lake photos (what else does one do on a snow day?). Good job too, as I stumbled on what may well be my favourite!! In fact, so much so it has become my new Facebook banner photo - check out the fb page. Sometimes it's worth a second (or third, or fourth...) look through all those photos you fired off!!!
For a number of weeks now, bird photographers have been descending upon Wilde Lake in Colombia, Maryland. This small urban lake has been playing host to around two dozen Bald Eagles, who have been offering wonderful views. Thank you to the locals and gathered photographers who have all been very friendly and helped pass the time whilst waiting for the stars of the show to put in an appearance!
Here's a selection...
The Canopy Family has a number of properties across Panama. I tossed up between spending a few days at either Canopy Tower, an old-restored radar tower fairly close to Panama City, or the slightly more salubrious Canopy Lodge, 2 hours south west. I was mainly interested in photographing birds and, after canvassing views from birders and photographers, opted for the Lodge. Although Canopy Tower offers amazing tree level views, the feedback I received suggested the Lodge would offer better photographic opportunities, especially since they have a number of fruit feeders (due to potential issues with Coatis, at the Tower they only have hummingbird feeders).
The Lodge and staff are wonderful, and I certainly wasn't disappointed. There's also the option to take in good bird sites within an hour's drive (as is the case for the Tower). I ended up doing a mix of birding and photography during a 4 day visit in early December. I would have liked to visit the Tower too, but that will have to wait for a future visit.
The following is a list of the species that. with a bit of perseverance, you should be able to get shots of in the Canopy Lodge grounds, with an indication of how often they presented themselves in a good photographic setting (common/several times daily, unless stated otherwise):
There's also ever present Red-tailed Squirrel and Agouti.
The feeders are great for drawing in the birds, but present a less than pleasing setting for shots.
But guide Tino was a great help with getting a very simple set-up established away from the feeder stations, making for a much more natural look. Simply, a single bannana on a stick, with nearby perches. With more time (and experience) I may have been tempted to erect something more pleasing, but this was adequate for my needs. On the far side of the stream the distant foliage was often in sun-light, while the closer birds were in gentle shade - perfect for a kiss of fill-flash, being careful to retain a little natural shadow on the under-side of the subject - one of many Glenn Bartley flash tips I adopted. In the tropics, where you often have to shoot in low light situations, flash is your friend, and Glenn Bartley's Flash Simplified - A Guide for Nature Photographers was my go to reference - an excellent read, full of clear guidance and great tips, and highly recommended.
These are my favs from the trip, especially this Tropical Screech Owl that caused a very welcome interruption to dinner proceedings on the first evening.
The Lodge is set in lush grounds, the rooms are very comfortable, there's plenty of good food at every meal, and all in the company of happy guests and helpful staff (esp. the guides I was with during my stay, Tino and Danilo) - recommended.
Further details about the Canopy Lodge and their other properties can be found on their web site: http://www.canopytower.com/
Having found the morning light angle (see earlier post) to be less than ideal, I was optimistic about evening light. I was not disappointed. A number of the target ducks were where I'd hoped they'd be!! Getting into the water with the reflected autumn foliage (note in the image below my shadow pointing towards the subject). They actually never came into the really red and orange reflections, remaining off to the right - some 5 degrees off sun angle.
Ducks have been arriving in DC over the past few weeks, and with the autumn leaves still offering pleasant reflected colours on the water, I headed to the Constitution Gardens Pond for first light. Despite the pond's modest size, it always attracts a mixed of dabbling and diving ducks - this morning more noteworthy birds included Gadwall, American Wigeon, Northern Shoveler and Ring-necked Duck.
The pond is in a predominantly east-west orientation, with a little island that one can walk onto via a short wooden bridge. Shooting from this island with the ground pod, I was aiming for eye-level front-lit scenes. Not so this morning... the "more interesting" birds were hanging-out on the eastern side of the island where they were mostly back lite. If this continues to be their favoured "hang-out" then evenings will be a better option. That said, I was happy with a few shots while the sun was still quite low.
And then in the far western corner, a drake Gadwall and Mallard were posing together.
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