Brackendale Bald Eagle in Flight : Nikkor 200-500 f/5.6 VR Lens

Squamish Bald Eagles

I was eager to try out my new Nikon 200-500 f/5.6 VR lens that I received for Christmas from my lovely wife.  I knew that Bald Eagles were likely still in Squamish as I had been there previously.  I ventured out one very old morning to see what I could capture.

The sun was rising as I pulled into Squamish and I noticed it was illuminating Mount Garibaldi.  I decided to see how the lens performs for a long distance landscape shot.  Nice detail despite the distance.

The rig

Squamish Bald Eagles : 2016-01-02 : Nikon D810 & Nikkor 200-500 : Shot with iPhone

The shotSquamish Bald Eagles : 2016-01-02 : Nikon D810 & Nikkor 200-500 : Mount Garibaldi Sunrise

I then walked around one of my favorite spots in south Squamish and did encounter a few eagles.Squamish Bald Eagles : 2016-01-02 : Nikon D810 & Nikkor 200-500 : Flying High

Squamish Bald Eagles : 2016-01-02 : Nikon D810 & Nikkor 200-500 : Eagle and Crow Buddies

Squamish Bald Eagles : 2016-01-02 : Nikon D810 & Nikkor 200-500 : Squawk

Squamish Bald Eagles : 2016-01-02 : Nikon D810 & Nikkor 200-500 : Eagle in Tree

Squamish Bald Eagles : 2016-01-02 : Nikon D810 & Nikkor 200-500 : Eagle In Tree Black and White

One thing I realized is that I have a lot to learn about wildlife photography, especially birds. Learning how to use a telephoto lens has a fairly steep learning curve, and trying to capture birds in flight makes it even harder.  I took a lot of shots but only have a few keepers and even those I'm only mildly satisfied with.  Having said that, the combination certainly does help in comparison to shooting with my iPhone.

Eagle shot with iPhone

Squamish Bald Eagles : 2016-01-02 : iPhone Eagle Shot

Same eagle with a Nikon D810 and Nikkor 200-500 f/5.6 VR lens.  Anyone claiming "gear doesn't matter" hasn't tried to shoot wild eagles.Squamish Bald Eagles : 2016-01-02 : Nikon D810 & Nikkor 200-500 : Eagle Playing Rooster In Tree

I relocated several times but had a hard time finding eagles.  I found out later that there are much higher concentrations of eagles in early December and by January they have started to depart as most of the salmon that they are feeding on are gone.  It was still a beautiful day so I made the most of it by shooting some landscape shots.  Even some with my iPhone.

Squamish Bald Eagles : 2016-01-02 : iPhone Landscape

Squamish Bald Eagles : 2016-01-02 : Nikon D810 & Nikkor 14-24 : Sunrise in Squamish

My trusty Tacoma, it never disappoints.

Squamish Bald Eagles : 2016-01-02 : Nikon D810 & Nikkor 14-24 : Toyota Tacoma Glory

Squamish Bald Eagles : 2016-01-02 : Nikon D810 & Nikkor 14-24 : Frozen Landscape

This was actually a hand-held shot with the Nikkor 200-500 lens.  Shutter speed was relatively long but the VR system helped me get an acceptably sharp shot.

Squamish Bald Eagles : 2016-01-02 : Nikon D810 & Nikkor 200-500 : Telephoto Landscape Long Exposure

After more driving around and looking in a few spots I have never visited before I did find a few more eagles.  Didn't get the focus or composition right in all of the photos, but I did get a lot of practice in tracking eagles in flight.

Squamish Bald Eagles : 2016-01-02 : Nikon D810 & Nikkor 200-500 : I See Something

Squamish Bald Eagles : 2016-01-02 : Nikon D810 & Nikkor 200-500 : Surveying the Land

Squamish Bald Eagles : 2016-01-02 : Nikon D810 & Nikkor 200-500 : Going Somewhere

Squamish Bald Eagles : 2016-01-02 : Nikon D810 & Nikkor 200-500 : Just Missed Flight Shot

Squamish Bald Eagles : 2016-01-02 : Nikon D810 & Nikkor 200-500 : Eye on Me

Finally, a comparison of iPhone vs Nikon.  See that moon in the top right?

Squamish Bald Eagles : 2016-01-02 : iPhone Landscape

Now a little closer with the telephoto.

Squamish Bald Eagles : 2016-01-02 : Nikon D810 & Nikkor 200-500 : Moon Landscape


Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Lonely Road in Alberta - Big Sky Country

A Visit To Alberta

I decided to make a short visit to Alberta to see family and friends. Weather was good and I did some fishing, some hiking, and a lot of eating. On the way from the Edmonton airport, I stopped to take this photo of a lonely highway. There are many of these quiet secondary roads where you won't see a car for ages.
Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Lonely Road in Alberta - Big Sky Country

 

My first destination was Saint Paul, the area has a lot of farmland with old and abandoned buildings. These make for great photos, especially at sunset.

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Old Farmhouse Sunset HDR

 
One of the reasons I like shooting here is because the clouds are often interesting and completely change the composition. Montana is referred to as Big Sky Country but it certainly applies to Alberta as well.

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Old Farmhouse Sunset HDR 2

 

Next day, my dad and I went fishing to Bellis Lake. The fish were not biting but I did see a large Osprey nest so I went to investigate. Not as majestic as the Bald Eagles I shot in Brackendale, but I managed to get some photos of these amazing birds. There was a pair of them, and they seemed most displeased that I was walking around their nest. After a few photos, I left them alone.
Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Osprey in Flight

 

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Osprey in Flight 2

 

I also saw this Volkswaken Bus in the parking area, so even though we didn't catch any fish I left with some interesting photos.
Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Volkswagen Bus at the Lake

 

We left Bellis lake and decided to check out Hanmore Lake. A beautiful, clean lake where we each caught a Northern Pike and I went for a swim.
Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Hanmore Lake

 

My brother arrived and we decided to head out at sunset to find more abandoned buildings. There are a lot of them, and I'm sure each one has an interesting story to tell. They all have a lot of character.
Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Old Farmhouse Sunset HDR

 

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Old Farmhouse Interior HDR

 

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Old Farmhouse Interior HDR 2

 

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Old Farmhouse HDR

 

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Old Farmhouse HDR

 

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Old Barn Doors HDR

 

Sometimes it is not just houses that are abandoned.

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Old Farmhouse and Abandoned Car HDR

 

On our way home, as the sun was setting, we stopped to look at this little valley. There is a beaver lodge in the middle, hard to imagine a better paradise for those guys than this spot.

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Beaver Paradise

 

The next day, I set up the camera close to my parents hummingbird feeder. These are Ruby-throated Hummingbirds and they are FAST, and hard to capture, though I did get a few decent shots.

 

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Ruby-throated Hummingbird at Feeder

 

Somewhat easier to capture when they sit still for a second, but she didn't stick around for long.

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Ruby-throated Hummingbird on Branch

 

I also took the opportunity to eat a ton of berries from the yard. The yellow raspberries are my favorite.

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 - strawberries and raspberries

 

The next day, it was time to move on. My brother and I drove south towards Calgary and on our way out of Saint Paul we saw some good ol' redneck ingenuity.

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Redneck Ingenuity

 

We stopped in Lamont to take some photos of the limousine 'sculpture'. Odd, but every town in the area has its own claim to fame.

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Lamont Limousine Sculpture

 

We drove through Elk Island National Park hoping to see some wildlife. We did see some bison, though none were close enough for a shot. Overall, the park was a bust but worth going as the wildlife are always on the move.

 

On my final full day in Alberta, we made the most of it. We first drove out to Dinosaur Provincial Park (DPP) which is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. My brother (who lives in Alberta) enjoyed telling me that there are four UNESCO sites in Alberta and only one in BC.

 

DPP is in the badlands of Alberta, an arid region full of snakes and dinosaur fossils.

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 - Snakes on the Road

 

We took a short hike next to the river to look at the ancient cottonwood trees. These things are several hundred years old, gnarly and deformed. They have seen a lot of things in their many days.

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Dinosaur Provincial Park Cottonwood Tree

 

We also walked the Badlands Trail, where you can see some of the interesting geology of the area.

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Dinosaur Provincial Park Badlands Trail

 

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Dinosaur Provincial Park Badlands Trail

 

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Dinosaur Provincial Park Badlands Trail

 

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Dinosaur Provincial Park

 

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Dinosaur Provincial Park

 

After a sufficient baking in the mid-day sun on the Alberta badlands, we went to the metropolis of Brooks for lunch before heading to Newell Lake. The lake is actually a man-made reservoir created after construction of the Bassano Dam. My brother tried his luck at fishing while I took a few photos. Found this Double-crested Cormorant taking off not far away.

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Double-crested Cormorant Taking Off

 

This beaver also cruised by and didn't seem too bothered by our presence. I couldn't get close as there were a trillion ants on the bank of the lake and if you got anywhere near them they immediately covered you.

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Beaver

 

We decided to go for a drive around the lake instead of fishing as the fish were not cooperating. We were just killing time waiting for sunset and the real fishing to begin. These cows were worth stopping for.

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Cows

 

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Cow Tongue

 

Not much farther we saw a mule deer.

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Mule Deer

 

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Mule Deer

 

Finally the sun was starting to set so we found a nice spot to set up in. While it was a beautiful area, the mosquitoes were horrendous. We both covered ourselves with bug spray but it didn't seem to help much. There couldn't be a better breeding ground for these things and often I was standing in a few inches of water with my tripod getting completely attacked while setting up for a shot. I fought through it and managed to get some of the shots I wanted.

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Sunset at the Newell Lake

 

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Sunset at the Newell Lake

 

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Sunset at the Newell Lake

 

This is a shot taken with my iPhone 4S showing my D800 set up for the sunset shot.

Sunset Newell Lake, Brooks, Alberta - iPhone 4S

 

The resulting shot from the D800 turned out to be my favorite shot from the trip.

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Sunset at the Newell Lake

 

As the sun went down, it was time to explore the real reason we came to Newell Lake in the first place: crayfish! These are like small freshwater lobsters, and invasive in many waters in Alberta. They are best to catch at night, just walking through the water with a flashlight. When you see one, just grab it and throw it in a bucket. We caught enough for a feast.

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Live Crayfish at Newell Lake

 

Ready to eat.

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Cooked Crayfish at Newell Lake

 

As you can see, they are just little guys, but tasty!

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Cooked Crayfish Just a Little Snack

It was a fun trip to Alberta, I covered a lot of miles but saw a lot and caught up with friends and family. Here is a link to the general route map. I flew into Edmonton, and out from Calgary covering over 1500Km in the few days I was there. Certainly made the most of it :)
Alberta Trip Route Map


Acadia-Beach : 2012-07-10 : Bald Eagle 6

Birds At Acadia Beach in Vancouver, BC

Took a short walk with my dogs on Acadia Beach today.  The best time for birds, especially Great Blue Herons, seems to be on the rising tide early in the morning.  The Herons like to walk around in the shallow water and pick off smelt and other small fish who are too dumb to notice a three foot tall bird.

I didn't get any stellar shots today but did see a Bald Eagle, a few Great Blue Herons, Geese, and a few of the usual suspects as well.   Overall, a fun day and always nice when an eagle is around.  The birds were quite far away so these are crops from much bigger images shot with the Nikon D800 and 80-200 f/2.8D lens.  In cases like this, a longer lens would sure be nice.  If an updated 80-400mm VR becomes available I may be tempted to sell the current zoom and go for the bigger reach.  Teleconverters do not work with the 80-200.  There was also a strong backlight so I had to dial up the shadow recovery introducing some noise.

I definitely got some better shots when I went to Brackendale to shoot the Bald Eagles with a borrowed 400mm f/2.8.

Acadia-Beach : 2012-07-10 : Bald Eagle 5

Acadia-Beach : 2012-07-10 : Bald Eagle 4

Acadia-Beach : 2012-07-10 : Bald Eagle

Acadia-Beach : 2012-07-10 : Bald Eagle 1

Acadia-Beach : 2012-07-10 : Bald Eagle 3

Acadia-Beach : 2012-07-10 : Bald Eagle 6

 

Impressive talons on this guy, wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of those.

Acadia-Beach : 2012-07-10 : Bald Eagle 7

 

The geese didn't seem to care that a top predator was in the area.

Acadia-Beach : 2012-07-10 : Geese

 

The heron also went about his business catching fish.

Acadia-Beach : 2012-07-10 : Great Blue Heron
I even managed to catch a crow in flight.

Acadia-Beach : 2012-07-10 : Crow Landing

 

The image above was rescued from a very underexposed shot.  The screenshot below shows the impressive dynamic range of the Nikon D800 which allowed me to recover the shadows and save the image, if only for web use.

Acadia-Beach : 2012-07-10 : Nikon D800 Shadow Recovery In Lightroom 4

 


George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary: Mallard in flight

A Visit to the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Today I paid my first visit to the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary located near Ladner, BC.  It's a great spot to spend a few hours and I'll definitely go back more than once to see what species of birds visit this park.  Cost is $5 to get in, well worth it.  Here are some of my photos from the day.

My first shot was actually taken in the parking lot, this girl was walking around in the grass right behind my truck (Mallard Duck).

George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary Mallard Duck

Not sure what this guy is, someone needs to help me identify it.

George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary Duck

Napping while standing on one foot, showoff (Canada Goose).

George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary Sleeping Canada Goose

I think this is a Northen Pintail, beautiful birds.

George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary: Duck

Just a common blackbird, but a break from the waterfowl photos.

George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary: Blackbird

The ducks are everywhere.

George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary: Ducks

I like how this guy shows up in camo, even a camo lens coat, and there are kids running around in pink and purple yelling.

George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary: camo dude

Managed only a couple of good action photos.

George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary: Mallard in flight

 

And the geese are all over the place too.  You certainly don't need a big zoom lens to get some good shots of birds here.

George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary: Geese on path

This guy was constantly hissing at me. Come to think of it, must be a female :)

George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary: goose hissing

Spring is here, flowers are popping up.

George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary: flowers

George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary: flowers

George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary: flowers

The first time I have ever been this close to Sandhill Cranes

George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary: Sandhill Crane

George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary: Sandhill Crane

George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary: Sandhill crane closeup

Not the most graceful creatures when they take off though.

George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary: sandhill crane flying

 

 

George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary: sandhill crane flying

The Sandhill fly-by, they almost look like jets.

George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary: sandhill flyby

Out of nowhere, a duck fight breaks out.  It was a ball of white water and feathers accompanied by a lot of noise.

[tag-gallery tag=duckfight columns=4]

This little guy was collecting all of the bird seed the visitors left for the ducks.

George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary: squirrel

And what landed in the water the carp would clean up.

George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary: carp

On my way out, I had to stop to take a few shots of these Snow Geese.  There were hundreds of them.

George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary: snow geese

I had to stop one more time as I was heading into Ladner as I saw these tow Bald Eagles in the tree.  Unfortunately, I couldn't get a good angle on them.  More eagle photos can be seen from my visit to Brackendale.

George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary: bald eagles

George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary: bald eagle

They didn't stick around for long.

George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary: bald eagle flying

I had my lens on manual focus as it was having a very hard time getting the eagles among the branches.  Unfortunately, when they took off it didn't make for a good shot.  Too bad, this would have been nice.

George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary: bald eagle


Brackendale Eagles Photo Trip

Bald Eagle Photography in Brackendale

I took a trip with my friend Andrew to Brackendale to find some Bald Eagles.  The eagles were not hard to find, but certainly not easy to photograph.  Most of the time they were quite far away, but occasionally they would fly by a little closer.  The eagles gather here to eat Coho Salmon that have died after spawning.  I guess eagles are lazy, and prefer to let dinner float by rather than waste energy catching it.

I borrowed a huge 400mm f/2.8 lens with a 2x teleconverter from my boss, which was a huge help and allowed to me to get some good shots.  I wouldn't say any of the shots from the day were excellent, there was heavy cloud cover and relatively low light which meant a lot of the shots were at ISO 400 or even 800.   Add to that slower shutter speeds, and a lot of the shots just didn't turn out very well.  Considering this was my first time at this location, the first time shooting the 400mm, and the first time on a dedicated trip to shoot eagles I think I did ok.

Aside from the eagles, we were treated to a few nice views during the day.  Both shot with the 400mm, the darker blue image is a 3-shot HDR.

Portfolio Brackendale Mountains

Brackendale Eagles Photo Trip

These are some of my favorite shots from the day.  First, a juvenile eagle was flying towards me and about to land in a tree.  Of the 5 shots I got of him, this is the only one worth posting. (In case it's not obvious, you can click the photos to view the bigger version).

Brackendale Eagles Photo Trip

Another flight photo, this one I attempted to pan the 400mm to get some shots, most were blurry or had only a part of the eagle in the frame.  This one turned out better than I thought it would.

Bald Eagle in flight Brackendale BC Dec 2011

Sometimes, eagles are not the graceful and majestic creatures we think they are. When you have to go you have to go.

Brackendale Eagles Photo Trip

Some shots of the equipment used.

Brackendale Eagles Photo Trip

Brackendale Eagles Photo Trip

Brackendale Eagles Photo Trip

Brackendale Eagles Photo Trip

The following photos are not great, but I thought I'd include them as they capture a flight sequence and my attempt at capturing the eagles in flight.

Brackendale Eagles Photo Trip

Brackendale Eagles Photo Trip

Brackendale Eagles Photo Trip

And more, not good due to slow shutter speeds, but capture a moment when an eagle swoops in to steal the salmon away from the others.  Incoming!

 

Brackendale Eagles Photo Trip

Brackendale Eagles Photo Trip

Brackendale Eagles Photo Trip

And the rest of the images from the shoot worth posting.  They include a Great Blue Heron, which often go ignored when the eagles are there but they are no less interesting nor any less beautiful.

Brackendale Eagles Photo Trip

Brackendale Eagles Photo Trip

Great Blue Heron Brackendale BC Dec 2011

Bald Eagle in flight Brackendale BC Dec 2011

Brackendale Eagles Photo Trip

Brackendale Eagles Photo Trip


Bald Eagle in flight Brackendale BC Dec 2011

Brackendale, Sneak Peek

I took a trip with my friend Andrew to Brackendale today to find some Bald Eagles.  The eagles were not hard to find, but certainly not easy to photograph.  Most of the time they were quite far away, and occasionally they would fly by a little closer.  I borrowed a big 400mm f/2.8 lens from my boss, which was a huge help but a monster to try and pan as an eagles did a fly by.  Too tired to process photos today, but here are two from the trip.  More to come soon. another When we first showed up at the main viewing area, the eagles were far away but this fellow was close and didn't mind posing for a photo.  It's a Great Blue Heron, you can see a past photo I took of  a heron here.

Great Blue Heron Brackendale BC Dec 2011

 

I also managed to capture a couple of eagles in flight, this was one of the better shots.  The lens really is huge, so this is no easy task.

Bald Eagle in flight Brackendale BC Dec 2011


Vancouver Aquarium - 2012-05-01

Photo: Hyacinth Macaws at the Vancouver Aquarium

I always love to see the two Hyacinth Macaws at the Vancouver Aquarium.  They are loud, colorful, and always active.  In this shot it looks like they are good buddies.

Vancouver Aquarium - 2012-05-01


Homepage Heron

Photo: Great Blue Heron in Brackendale, BC

While waiting for a shot of the local bald eagles, I managed to get this shot of a Great Blue Heron in Brackendale, BC.

Homepage Heron