December 5, 2013
Galahs (Eolophus roseicapilla) are a wide spread species and almost exist everywhere in Australia. They often hang out in parks or on sport fields. Usually they can be seen in groups of 3-50 birds.
At a certain football oval near my old home, I could witnessed a special behavior every year. Just before the breeding season lots of Galahs would gather on the field for a couple of days. Besides feeding on the grass seeds and roots, they often got involved in little fights and some birds even lay down on their backs with their feet up in the air! I managed to rob quite close to them and was ale to capture the action
The key to success here was a slow and low approach. I also made sure that I had a green hill in the background so that I would have a nice smooth background, even when the birds jumped off the ground.
1D Mark IV
600 L IS
ROFL (“rolling on the floor laughing”)
December 4, 2013
In May 2012 I traveled all the way up the Cape York Peninsula to photograph the endangered Golden-shouldered Parrot (Psephotus chrysopterygius). These beautiful parrots breed in termite mounds. every year they chose a new mound, in which they dig their nesting hole. During the wet season, the termite stops building their mounds and the rain softens them. This enables the parrots to dig a hole into the mount and raise their chicks, without risking that their chicks a being locked in by termites trying to close the hole.
Golden-shouldered Parrots (Psephotus chrysopterygius) prefer quite small mounds. This one was particularly small and only about 1m tall. Nest entry to the nest was just 30cm above the ground!
The making of looks a bit funny, because it’s taken through my blind. The red arrow marks the mound and the spot where the bird perched. The difficulty with this bird was that it only came to the nest 2-3 times a day and only one of these times was good for photography. Which meant that we had to stand in front of the nest for about 2 hours. Then out of nowhere the birds would come in, perch on top of the mound for about 2-3 seconds and then fly into the hole. If you missed this one chance, you had to wait till the next morning for your next chance!
1D Mark IV
600 L IS
Golden-shouldered Parrot (Psephotus chrysopterygius)
December 3, 2013
When photographing ducks, there are a few simple rules to follow. First of all you need to find a lake with many ducks, secondly you need sunshine and thirdly you need a low perspective. A distant background, so that it will look smooth in the images, won’t hurt either. If you are lucky to find a lake with relatively tame ducks, it’s often enough to just lie down on the ground and some ducks will swim by eventually.
Here in Melbourne, Pink-eared Ducks (Malacorhynchus membranaceus) are relatively rare and very skittish. However, when I visited Perth some time ago, my mate showed me a quite small lake, that had one pair of Pink-eared Ducks on it. They were still much more skittish than all the other ducks. All I could do, was to lie down and sort of hide in the reeds and hope that the ducks would swim by. After some time, they really did and I managed a few shots
In the making of you can see, how I am NOT pointing my lens at the ducks, instead I point my lens at the “sweet spot”, which is the area where the sun will be in my back and the water will be nice and blue. Had I pointed my lens at the ducks prematurely, I would have ended up with a worse image, where the ducks would have had some shadows on their bodies. Or even worse, the movement of my lens would have flushed them, before they reached the best area for a nice photograph. I often notice that many people go crazy as soon as they can see their target and wildly point their lens at it and start snapping away, even if the images will be bad. Why risk to scare of your subject, before it is in a good spot? For me, there’s no “safety shot”. It’s all or nothing.
1D Mark IV
600 L IS
Isn’t this a crazy looking bird with it’s massive beak and pink ear!?
December 2, 2013
A good mate of mine tipped me off on a Purple-crowned Lorikeet (Glossopsitta porphyrocephala)nest, not too far from where I lived. Usually Purple-crowned Lorikeets (Glossopsitta porphyrocephala) live and breed in the tree tops, but in this case the nest was only about 3m above the ground.
You can see how the angle is quite steep, but the long lens and the position of the Lorikeets make it look almost like eye level in the final image. It obviously took many hours of waiting and a great portion of luck to get a shot in which all birds posed perfectly
You can see how I positioned myself in a certain way, so that the background would be the tree and not the ugly bright sky.
1D Mark IV
580EX II + Better Beamer
December 1, 2013
Christmas is approaching fast and I thought for every remaining day, I will post a Making Of shot and one or more final shots taken at that scene.
A while ago I found a few cool looking dead trees along a river bank and noticed that quite a few Red-rumped Parrots (Psephotus haematonotus) and Galahs (Eolophus roseicapilla) frequented that spot. One branch in particular caught my eye and I decided to visit this spot a few times in the next couple of weeks hoping to get a bird perched on that cool looking branch. The first few times I set up my camera and waited for some time, but nothing happened. A few weeks later I set up my camera and waited again. This time a Red-rumped Parrot pair flew in the tree and started inspecting possible nesting holes. They began at the bottom and slowly made their way up. When the female flew higher up to inspect a small crack in the tree, the male decided to fly all the way up and perch on the branch that I had wanted it to be on! Finally I got some cool images! What happened next, I wouldn’t have dared to even dream about. Once the female had finished inspecting the potential nest site, she decided to fly up as well. Because the male blocked the top of my favourite branch, the female had to land on a little piece on branch just below the male. This created an absolute perfect scene and I could take one of my all time favourite images!
The red arrows mark where the birds were sitting. The final image below is full frame.
1D Mark IV
600 L IS
580 EX II + Better Beamer
More images of the Red-rumped Parrots taken on this tree, you can see HERE
November 4, 2013
I have just uploaded 132 new images to my website. It’s part II of the big duck update. It’s some old and some new files, including many I have never shown before.
Below a little preview of what’s to see
Common Goldeneye – (Bucephala clangula) – Schellente
Common Pochard - (Aythya ferina) – Tafelente
Hardhead – (Aythya australis) – Australische Moorente
Long-tailed Duck and ducklings - (Clangula hyemalis) – Eisente mit Küken
Ring-necked Duck - (Aythya collaris) – Ringschnabelente
Tufted Duck - (Aythya fuligula) – Reiherente
Common Eider – (Somateria mollissima) – Eiderente
Surf Scoter - (Melanitta perspicillata)- Brillenente
October 18, 2013
July 19, 2013
When you don’t live in Australia, this might sound pretty strange, but down here are actually quite a few species that like to be close to the coast. One of the most beautiful ones is the tiny Blue-winged Parrot (Neophema chrysostoma). Last week I had to chance to photograph the Blue-winged Parrots in different spots along the coastline south of Melbourne. The Blue-winged Parrots were always sitting on a plant called “Fat Hen” (Chenopodium album) and fed on the tiny seeds of the dry plants.
Below you can see a few images.
This first image shows a striking male.
After getting a few tighter portraits, I tried to go for group shots. It sounds easier than it is, because for a good result the Blue-winged Parrots have to sit on the same plant and in the same focal plane.
First I captured two birds feeding on top of a dry Fat Hen.
At the very end, I saw a few birds that had all landed on the same plant and after approaching very carefully I managed to take a few images of a group feeding. What a great feeling to get a shot you had envisioned for a while. To get enough depth of field, I stopped down to F13.
I decided to write this blog post for two reasons. Firstly I get ask almost on a daily basis how I managed to get such smooth and clean backgrounds in my image and secondly I see more and more people swapping out backgrounds in Photoshop. I am not a big fan of that trend and want to show how easy it is to obtain a nice background. I am a strong believer that an image should be created when pressing the shutter button, not in Photoshop. I am by no means against using Photoshop, nor am I opposed to cloning out twigs or distracting out of focus elements. However, I do not believe in swapping out whole backgrounds and thus creating a new scene, which was not present like that when you took the image. I think there needs to be a healthy medium between using the resources Photoshop offers us and photographers still taking images instead of creating them. After all, I am a bird photographer and like to be out in nature and work hard to get my target species. To me a great image is one that only needed minimal adjustments. That’s not always achievable, but we should certainly strive for that.
Now the big question. Can this brick wall be a lovely background?
And what about this terrible looking gate?
How about this ugly wooden fence?
Well, what can I say? Yes they can and quite easily in fact.
The following image of an empty perch with a few flowers attached to it was taken by using the brick wall as the background.
Who would’ve thought that your neighbours ugly brick wall can provided such a nice background. To answer a few more questions. This image was shot at F11, not at F4 as some might expect.
To show that I am not cheating. Here’s a making of.
Since we can see the wooden fence in this making of as well. Here’s another image using the fence as my background.
As you can see, the camera has a harder time to completely smoothen the vertical lines of the wood, but it’s still quite nice. Shot at F 11. If I was shooting at F5.6 for instance, it would be even smoother. If I adjusted my camera a bit more, I could have probably gotten a smoother result, but I just quickly took these shots for this blog post. When I am out and about, selecting the right background and positioning myself accordingly takes up a large part of my photography.
Back to the side of the house and the gate. How does this work out as a background?
You will likely have guessed it by now. It also provides a decent enough background. If you just saw this image, would you have thought that the background is a gate in a backyard!?
Here’s the making of
Lastly, maybe something green?
What did I use this time?
Easy answer, just the weeds in the garden bed
These are just quick examples, but it shows how easy it can be to obtain great backgrounds even in a tiny garden. You just have to be creative. The most important thing is to being able to image what could potentially be a good background and how you have to position yourself in relation to it, to get a great image. If I can find 4 decent background in such a small places, imagine how endless the opportunities are when you are out in the wild!
I hope this post gives you an incentive to try harder instead of opting for the Photoshop way.
Often it can be one or two steps to the left or right and you get a lovely smooth background instead of a sky or busy background.
Here are two examples I posted a few weeks ago. By literally walking 2m to the side, I was able to get a great looking background. Had I just stood there without thinking about the background, I would have ended up with a bland sky background.
Again, I know that there are situations where you can absolutely not change your position and just have to take an image with a non-ideal background and maybe you have to alter it a bit in Photoshop, that is totally fine, but should not be the norm.
The result after just moving slight to the side. Much better!
I hope this posts sheds some light on the backgrounds you see in my images and shows that these backgrounds can be obtained in camera and don’t have to be photoshopped.
June 30, 2013
I have just uploaded almost 200 newly processed duck images to my website. Furthermore I added the gallery of my latest trip to northern Victoria.
The ducks, geeses and swans were taken over the last couple of years. Those 200 images show more than 30 species. I will keep processing images, so that eventually all the missing links on my taxonomic list can be activated. I hope to finalize the duck section soon. There’s still almost 30 species to be processed…
The updates can be found here:
Mandarin Duck (Aix galericulata)
Spießente (Anas acuta) Northern Pintail
Carolinakrickente (Anas carolinensis) Green-winged Teal
Red-crested Pochard (Netta rufina) Kolbenente
Australische Kasarka (Tadorna tadornoides) Australasian Shelduck
Brautente (Aix sponsa) Wood Duck