Allen's Blog

Posts tagged ‘birding’:

New York’s Latest Celebrity… and With No Attitude!

Central Park on a perfect fall weekend is always crowded, but a rare event has recently brought thousands of additional visitors, most of them with cameras.

The object of their attention (and affection) is a Mandarin duck, not seen in these parts of the world and, by our best understandings of migration, not supposed to be here. This guy’s appearance is straight out of Disney (or an artist with unlimited imagination). Can you spot him?

crowd of photographers in Central Park observing a Mandarin duck

He’s been hanging out in one corner of the park, along with all the other duck varieties, and eager to oblige anyone with optics ranging from an iPhone to a DSLR mounting a 600mm f/4 (and everything in between). My wife and I are bird lovers, so we made the pilgrimage to see for ourselves, and we were not disappointed.

a photographer with a telephoto lens making images of the Central Park Mandarin duck

close up on a camera back displaying the Central Park Mandarin duck
There was a bit of a panic earlier this week when he seemed to have disappeared, but he was spotted again yesterday. Don’t miss out – make a plan to see him this weekend! Who knows – you may find yourself drawn to the timeless hobby known as birding.

Birding Seems More Popular Than Ever

With the proliferation of DSLR cameras for both still and video imaging, and the instant gratification that comes with shooting digital, it’s easy to see why birding is a growing activity. I’m not big on statistics, but I’ve known for many years that the number of casual and serious birdwatchers in the U.S. alone is in the millions.

Last weekend, my wife and I had dinner with friends who had recently come back from a bird-watching trip to Cuba, arranged through The Connecticut Audubon Society. Of course their trip was not just about birds but also a chance to tour a country somewhat frozen in time. Also in the past few days, the Weekend edition of The Wall Street Journal  ran a great article about a number of field guides for birding.

Steadybag with spotting scope and birding field guide

Whether in the backyard or on another continent, a lot more people have the tools in hand in make great photos. Of course, it helps if you can afford a high-speed telephoto lens, but not everyone has a spare $4000+ (though it’s surprising how many do).

Since birders typically use long lenses — whether taking photos or just observing through a spotting scope — it’s important to have a good stabilization platform. We’ve been making our Steadybag® for a long time, and it’s used by thousands of photographers and professional video shooters. It really is a great tool for support both cameras and spotting scopes on any surface —  less bulky and a lot quicker to set up and put away than a tripod.

Click here to learn why Steadybag is better, and buy directly with PayPal.

One more quick tip: most new DSLRs have a lot less noise at higher ISOs than they used to. Don’t get fixated on using a low ISO setting if gaining a faster shutter speed (or the depth of field of one more f-stop) will produce a better image. Birds and other creatures (even your kids) have that terrible habit of not waiting around for everything to be “just right.”

Wildlife Photography on the Gulf Coast

The Steadybag Junior supporting a 300mm lens

A couple of weeks ago, I took a phone call from Charles Stutts in Louisiana, a shooter who does a lot of long-lens bird and wildlife photography. Even when you’re using a heavy-duty tripod, once focal lengths get beyond 300mm, it’s good to have some additional lens support, and Charles had decided to order some of our Steadybags.

It was a quiet time of the day here, and we got into a long conversation about his work. Charles frequently uses Nikon’s very fine 200-400mm f/4 zoom, frequently with a Nikon extender. So shooting on a D300, what he ends up with can be more like an 800mm. I was interested in seeing his images, so he pointed me to a YouTube video he posted in 2008. It’s a lovely slide show of the wildlife from Lake Peigneur in Louisiana, titled ‘Jefferson Lakes and Rip Van Winkle Gardens’:

While we talked, I pulled up his video and saw that Charles, while not a professional photographer in the sense of earning his living by taking pictures, knows very well how to make great images. The irony in all this is that just a few days later, recent events in the Gulf of Mexico had put the birds–as well as all wildlife and vegetation along the Gulf Coast–in great peril (to say nothing of the economic harm to many thousands of workers and their families.) Coincidentally, Lake Peigneur itself was the victim of an oil rig disaster some 30 years ago.

So in light of what’s happening right now in Louisiana, you might well enjoy taking a few minutes to appreciate at his fine images of some newly-endangered species.