Thursday, March 16, 2017

Pic of the Day

Osprey, Pandion haliaetus:  Sanibel Island Causeway; Fort Myers, Florida
    While I was photographing Sanderlings on the Sanibel Island Causeway Osprey were soaring over the water looking for their next meal.  This bird flew close enough for a shot, but I had to hand hold the camera as it was attached to my sandpan camera mount.  Fortunately the shutter speed was fast enough to get a sharp image.

Nikon D800, Nikkor 500mm f/4, 1/2500 second @ f/8

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Pic of the Day

Roseate Spoonbill, Platalea ajaja:  Saint Augustine Alligator Farm; 
Saint Augustine, Florida
    The natural rookery at the Saint Augustine Alligator Farm is quite active even though most of the birds have not arrived.  Great Egrets, Woodstorks, and Roseate Spoonbill are building, some have built and have eggs and some already have chicks.  This pair of spoonbills appear to have eggs, as the female was sitting all morning.  This particular nest is in a good place for photography, though it is quite far from the boardwalk.  This cropped to about half of a full frame.

Nikon D800, Nikkor 500mm f/4, 1/320 second @ f/8

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Pic of the Day

Sanderling, Calidris alba: Sanibel Island Causeway; Fort Myers, Florida
     I found a small flock of sanderlings running along the shell strewn beaches of the Sanibel Island Causeway a few days ago.  The sun was setting, and the birds were bathed with its warm light.  As I lay on the beach the sanderling ran past my camera so close that I could not focus on the them.  Finally a few stopped a dozen or so feet in front of me and began to preen.  The sun was sinking fast, but I was able to catch a few frames before it disappeared.  This particular bird struck an awesome pose as it zipped the feather barbels together on a primary.  The day had been pretty slow as far as photographing birds, but this little sanderling made everything perfect.  

Nikon D800, Nikkor 500mm f/4, 1/1250 second @ f/8

Friday, March 10, 2017

Pic of the Day

Anhinga, Anhinga anhinga (male in breeding plumage):  Viera Wetlands; Viera, Florida
     After a great NANPA Summit in Jacksonville, Florida last week I headed south further looking for birds to photograph.  At the Viera Wetlands I found this male Anhinga drying its wings.  But, what really caught my eye was the contrast of the delicate light colored feathers on the anhinga's neck.  This bird was decked out in prime breeding plumage and very ready for his close up.

Nikon D800, Nikkor 500mm f/4, 1/250 second @ f/7.1

Sunday, February 19, 2017

The August 21, 2017 Total Solar Eclipse

     I am sure that most of you know by now that a total solar eclipse will occur on August 21, 2017.  I have been looking forward to this event for more than four decades and cannot believe that the eclipse is almost upon us.  I remember as a teenager thinking, “I’ll be sixty-two years old when this eclipse occurs.  I’m going to be a really old man.  I hope I live long enough to see it.”  Well, my perception on old age as changed considerably since I was a teenager, and hopefully I will be around at least another seven months and then I will have lived long enough to see the GREAT AMERICAN ECLIPSE.

     Now, if the weather cooperates all will be just great.  I’ve been doing a lot of research over the last year on where to be.  My decision is, or was to be near Hopkinsville, Kentucky near the point of Greatest Eclipse.  However, sites are now coming online with information on cloud cover from previous years and predictions of this August 21st cloud cover percentage.
     Though Hopkinsville is my first choice, I plan to be flexible and prepared to drive as far west as necessary, or east for that matter.   Current predictions, and satellite images from previous years indicate that the further west, the better the chances of a cloudless sky.  I am certainly keeping my options open.  Hopefully the entire continent will not be socked in with thick clouds, what a bummer that would be.
     I have only seen one total solar eclipse in my life, and that was the February 26, 1979 eclipse.  The “79” eclipse enter the US on the Washington coast, then crossed in to Canada at the North Dakota border, then onto Greenland.  I was a young man then, and my wife and I drove from Michigan, to 120 miles west of Winnipeg, Manitoba to be near the center line of totality. 

     It was a breathtaking experience!  Once the Sun’s photosphere was covered the brilliant solar corona shown bright against a starry velvet backdrop, not day nor night, but somewhere in between.  Totality only lasted a short two and half minutes or so, but it was one of the best two and half minutes I have ever experienced.  It was an event that is still vivid in my mind and one I have longed to have again. 

     Of course my goal is to photograph the August 21st eclipse, and do it better than I did in “79.”  Back then I used a Nikon F2 camera and a Nikkor 500mm mirror lens with a homemade 2x teleconverter.  My wife and I had only been married for eight months, and we were really living on a tight budget.  I could not afford a teleconverter so I took an old, non working 35mm lens and took some of the lens elements out and placed them between a couple of extension tubes.  Much to my surprise I got something close to a 2x converter.   The photos above were taken with that setup.
     Back in those days I was shooing film and my favorite film was Kodachrome 64.  At that ISO I was shooting some pretty slow shutter speeds.  What I did was bracket exposures, starting with /12000 of a second and then shoot a photograph with every shutter speed down to 1 second.  It worked, and I got some semi-decent photos with my homemade rig.  This time I’m going after the eclipse with better equipment and higher ISO’s.

     The eclipse can be photographed with just about any camera and lens.  My preference is a 800mm to 1000mm on a full frame camera.  These focal lengths provides about a 6mm image size of the Sun and show detail in the solar corona. I do not have an 800mm so I will be using a 500mm with a 1.4 teleconverter.  The effective focal length of the 500mm with the 1.4 converter is 750mm.  To capture various aspects of the eclipse a wide range of exposures will be necessary.  Check out the exposure guide chart on this site:
     I do hope that you plan on seeing this eclipse.  It is an astronomical spectacle that will live with you for the rest of your life.  It is a must see event.  If you are like me and are planning on photographing the eclipse, don’t forget to take a few seconds to stop and see this spectacle with you own eyes, and not through a camera lens.
     Below is a list of website that will help you if you plan on visiting a site on the path of totality and photographing the eclipse.  Though I have listed some of these sites under charts and illustrations in this post, the live links are at the bottom of this post.

My favorite site when it comes to exposure recommendations.  This is a must see site:

This is an excellent website for exposure guide through the various stages of the eclipse.  It is a Shutter Speed Calculator for Solar Eclipses. 

Another good site with an exposure chart and good photography information:

If you are using a point and shoot camera visit this website:

For details on the path of totality:

For map of average cloud cover go to:

Excellent site to see cloud cover on the eclipse path over the last several decades and the current cloud cover predictions.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Pic of the Day

Penumbral Lunar Eclipse
February 10, 2017

    This is a composite of 5 exposure of last nights penumbral lunar eclipse. The sky had a thin layer of clouds, but it was not possible to expose for the wide range of values of the clouds. Thus I made different exposures to capture the various values of glowing clouds from the moonshine. 

Note: Though I am from Alabama, the term moonshine here refers to the light of the moon, not the home grown elixir made from corn.

Penumbral Lunar Eclipse
February 10, 2017
(the above image is a composition of 5 different exposures combined in photoshop)
Nikon D800, Nikkor 500mm f/4 lens

Penumbral Lunar Eclipse
February 10, 2017
Nikon D800, Nikkor 500mm f/4 lens with 1.4 teleconveter making an effective 750mm lens