Grasshoppers for Lunch

Grasshoppers for Lunch

In early July, Kim Hosen, Executive Director of the Prince William Conservation Alliance (Virginia)  suggested that it might be a good idea to make a video about the Bluebird Trails monitored by PWCA volunteers. I thought it would be a great project and volunteered to produce it. When I returned from vacation, Kim had arranged for for a couple of the volunteer monitors to take me out as they made their rounds checking the boxes. For those of you who do not know, the Alliance has placed 11 nesting boxes at Chinn Park, in Woodbridge, Virginia and 16 boxes at Merrimac Farm WMA. The boxes have to be checked frequently for activity and maintenance.

The video is to be about the birds, trails and the volunteer monitors. The working title for the video is The Family in Box 12: The Prince William Conservation Alliance Bluebird Trails. The name comes from the couple in the photo (at top) who are raising 4 chicks in box #12 at Merrimac Farm. The photo is a crop of one of the frames in a video clip that I shot on August 6.

So why am I bringing this up now, four to six weeks before the video is complete? Because I need your help. I am planning on ending the video with a series of still shots of these beautiful little birds. I have a few good singles that I have taken and Kim, her son Eli, and Steve Tabone have offered some great shots, but I need a few more (no more than about six.) If you have a nice shot or two of an Eastern Bluebird and would like it to be included in the video, I sure would like to see it. To be usable, I need a 1920 x 1080 JPEG image without a watermark. (Resolution is not an issue if the file is that size.) Send it to ernie@americanwildbird.com. If you have a limitation on the file size that you can send through your email account, let me know by email and I will give you a web address at AmericanWildBird.com where you can send it to me without a problem. There’s no compensation offered, but all photographers will be credited at the end of the video.

Whether or not you have a photo that you want in the video, I hope that you will see and enjoy this little story when it is ready towards the end of September. You’ll hear about it right here.

What Others Are Saying: July, Week 4

Every week we collect the blog posts and announcements that we think are worth passing on to you. Most will be concerning the business and craft of photography. We’re not spoilers, so you will have to click on the links to see the articles.

Tutorials & How-to
Steve Russell has a very informative post titled 9 Tips for Photographing Sunrises and Sunsets. He includes some nice images to illustrate his tips.

DIYPhotography has a very concise, but complete The Comprehensive Guide To Macro Photography.

Digital Photography School has a guest post titled Getting Published in Photography Magazines – An Editor’s View for those of you who are interested in having your stories and photos published. Earlier they had an article by Valerie Jardin titled So You Want to Sell Your Photography? Warning the second paragraph of the post is: The reality is that there has never been a better time to show your work to a wide audience, but there has never been a worse time to try to sell it… Don’t despair, keep reading!


Bill Schmoker has written a post for the ABA Blog on photographing birds in flight titled:
Flight Photography: Stacking The Odds in Your Favor. For most of you this will be a review and you will enjoy the photos used to illustrate the story.

Books
New eBook Available: ANDES, The Print & The Process Series. Using both film and digital capture, Andrew Gibson captures the natural and majestic beauty of places like Machu Picchu; as well as, the rich culture and struggles of the Incas and their mountain lifestyle in a raw and intimate journey that is as much about photography as it is about adventure. Andrew is a gifted teacher and photographers will learn from this journey if they’re willing to join him. ANDES is available now as a downloadable PDF for just $5USD.

Gibson has divided the book into three sections: The Print, The Process, and a detailed description of each photo of how it was shot. If you love black and white photography, you really need to get this book. At $4 or $5 it is a real bargain – you can’t get better art and information at this price.

Special Offer on PDFs. For the first five days only, if you use the promotional code ANDES4 when you checkout, you can have the PDF version of ANDES, The Print & The Process Series for only $4 OR use the code ANDES20 to get 20% off when you buy 5 or more PDF ebooks from the Craft & Vision collection. These codes expire at 11:59pm PST August 6th, 2011. 

Other
Have you ever participated in a photowalk before? Scott Kelby has announced the dates of his Scott Kelby’s 4th Annual Worldwide Photo Walk™. This year the event will be held all over the world on October 1-2, 2011. I was on the first of these photowalks in 2008 and it was a lot of fun. I got some decent images and made some new friends. Check it out.

That’s it for this week. If you see something that you would like to share, please send me a comment.

What Others Are Saying: July, Week 3

Every week we collect the blog posts and announcements that we think are worth passing on to you. Most will be concerning the business and craft of photography. We’re not spoilers, so you will have to click on the links to see the articles. This week I have to do a little catch up since there was no post last week (Believe it or not, I rented a beach house without WiFi!).

Dennis S. Davenport visited Ridgefield NWR (lower Columbia River in southwestern Washington State) and includes 19 photos from a great day of shooting. Click here to read about his day. He also has some great shots of a Spotted Towhee in this post.

Are you like me and a little confused about what Google+ is? The Wix.com Blog has a good introduction to what it is and what it can do for you. Frankly, I’m not sure we need another social network, but if Google is involved, I think I need to at least know what they are up to. Click here to read the post. If you do think that it is something that you might be interested in getting involved with, Digital Photography School is starting a Google+ network of photographers to talk photography and share pictures.

In an earlier post I reviewed (micro)Stock: From Passion to Paycheck
by Nicole S. Young, a book about getting into the stock photography business. On July 8, Yuri Arcurs, the world’s top-selling stock photographer, re-posted an earlier article that he wrote in December 2009 about selling photos online through stock photography. Since many of you sell prints online, you might benefit from his advice and information. Read it here.

Like pelicans? Of course you do – everybody likes pelicans! In the 10,000 Birds blog, Larry Jordan reports on a trip to Eagle Lake where he observed some American White pelicans. His story, photos, and a video showing a group of the birds working together to heard some fish to shore are here.

The last link that I have for you this week is not to a blog, but to an offer that I received through an e-mail. I have written several e-books that have been sold through my other website and through Amazon. It is a great way to generate a steady, often small, income stream with little to no effort once the documents have been completed and placed online. If you have knowledge and/or can research and write about a niche topic, I highly recommend that you consider creating an e-book and put it into the market. You can do as I did and write, format, and publish the book yourself or you can save a bunch of time and get wider distribution by using a service. This link will take you to a new service, called BookBaby, that specializes in e-book publishing. I have not used this service, but the reviews that I have read have been positive. Currently they have a contest for a free publishing package and they also offer a free guide to publishing e-books.

That’s it for this week. I hope that you are in a cooler place than Northern Virginia is right now. It is a good time to stay inside and process those images that you took last spring and just haven’t had time to get to.

Columbia Insect Blocker Technology: It Really Works!


Columbia Sportswear Long Sleeve Backcountry Shirt makes the claim that it can repel bugs even after 70 washings! I don’t know about 70 washings, but I can tell you that after one washing it kept away green head flies and mosquitoes in a swamp that was full of them. Here’s what Columbia says about their bug repelling technology:
“Insect Blocker technology is a revolutionary defense in the battle against bugs. Using a synthetic version of a naturally occurring insect repellent found in certain types of chrysanthemums, it offers protection that is integrated directly into clothing and gear to keep mosquitoes, ticks, ants, and other biting insects away, so you can enjoy a bug-free adventure. Insect Blocker requires no re-application or special care of any kind and is so tightly bonded to fabric fibers that it retains its effectiveness for up to 70 washings. Insect Blocker turns clothing and gear into long-lasting, effective insect protection to keep bugs at bay so you can enjoy the greater outdoors in peace.”

In the past I have relied on the DEET found in OFF! Deep Woods® to keep the mosquitoes and flies from eating me alive. It has been very effective, but I hate putting chemicals all over my skin. Additionally, you must be careful to keep the spray away from your eyes and hands. On a recent trip to Chincoteague, the OFF!® kept the hoards of mosquitoes off of my arms and legs, but the little pests easily feasted on my back right through my T-shirt. That’s when I decided I needed a new approach. I had heard about the Columbia shirt before, but was skeptical about how effective it could be. The Chincoteague experience convinced me that it was worth $60 to try a new approach.

This past week I was at Pea Island NWR and the Alligator River NWR; both places provided a good testing ground for the shirt. At Pea Island there was a mixture of mosquitoes and green headed flies. I wore the new, unwashed shirt with a pair of jeans and a wide-brimmed hat and I did not apply any OFF!® Although other photographers I saw on the trail were complaining about being eaten up, I didn’t have a single bite.

Two days later I took my kayak to Alligator River NWR. This time I was wearing shorts, a ball cap, and the shirt which had been washed the night before. I was immediately attacked by green head flies all over my legs. I quickly pulled out the OFF!® and sprayed only my legs. A few flies would land on my shirt and even my glasses, but still not one single bite! I paddled all through the swampy area without a single bug problem.

The shirt also offers sun protection which is useful for a long day of paddling. I kept the sleeves down while in the field, but they roll up and can be fastened in place when full protection is not needed. The shirt is light, vented, and dries quickly. It is available in three colors and I found that the size ran a little large. The Backcountry shirt is only available in men’s sizes but they do offer another insect blocker shirt for women.  The company also offers a pair of pants and a floppy hat made with the same technology. I have both on order. If you’re going to be in damp areas in the spring and summer, I would highly recommend this product.

Do you have a favorite approach to managing pests?

Dad Brings Ants Home For Lunch

Red-naped Sapsuckerby Julia Flanagan

Red-naped SapsuckerI spent about 12 hours over 3 days photographing this male red-naped sapsucker and his mate faithfully bring meals to their young. Tucked down in the nesting cavity in this black cottonwood I could hear two chicks ceaselessly calling for their parents to bring them food. Their cries were met with frequent meals of beetles, insect larvae, spiders, earthworms and ants. Rarely would 5 minutes pass without one parent or the other bringing in a meal. In this image the male has arrived with a mouth full of ants. I couldn’t imagine how the bird could keep perhaps a dozen or more ants in its mouth all at once, and if you look closely you might even see one ant on his lower bill that seems to be getting away. But later I read that woodpeckers (sapsuckers are a kind of woodpecker) have sticky saliva that helps them extract and keep a hold of their sometimes mobile and slippery prey.

Overcast skies enabled me to photograph well into mid-day without fear of too much contrasting light. Unfortunately it also kept the shutter speed low. But after hours of practice I became more adept at firing off shots in the second or two between the bird landing at the nest hole and when he or she quickly lunged head-first inside to deliver the goods. This pair had chosen to nest in a campground, actually in a campsite and very close to a campground road intersection. Their habituation to people enabled me to approach and set up my camera without disturbing their routine.

Photographed with a Nikon D2X body, Nikkor 300mm f2.8 lens with a 1.4 teleconverter. 1/125s at f4.5, ISO 160, Nikon SB800 flash set to ‘fill flash’ (probably at -2 2/3 exposure value) with a Better Beamer. Tripod and Wimberly Sidekick. Processed in Adobe CS2.

To see more of Julia’s bird photography click here. Do you have a favorite shot that you would like to tell us about?

Green Heron Has Frog For Lunch (This was no social event.)

green frog

In better times....

While waiting for the check in time for our cottage at Nags Head, NC, we visited the Nature Conservancy’s Nags Head Woods Preserve. The refuge is almost 1100 acres of coastal forest and wetlands open for hiking, jogging, photography, and nature observation. I had my 70 – 300 mm lens and was concentrating on shooting frogs as they sat in the green water. My wife Val thought she saw a green heron we had spotted earlier fly into a tree next to a small pond. By the time I got over to where she was, the heron had flown to the opposite shore of the pond. When I looked through the lens I realized that the bird had something large in its mouth. At first I assumed it was a snake, but it quickly became apparent that it was actually a rather large frog. I was able to click off a half dozen shots before he flew off with his lunch. I would have loved to see exactly how he got his large meal down, but he planned this as a private affair – no observers permitted.

Have you seen frogs or snakes come to this kind of end?

What Others Are Saying: July, Week 1

Every week we collect the blog posts and announcements that we think are worth passing on to you. Most will be concerning the business and craft of photography. We’re not spoilers, so you will have to click on the links to see the articles.

Stephen L Tabone, a contributor to AmericanWildBird.com has posted a story about a very productive day photographing birds at at Leesylvania State Park in Virginia. This park is located on the shore of the Potomac River and has a history dating back to colonial times. You can read about his day and see some of his images at  Northern Virginia Birds.

Digital Photography School has a post written by guest blogger Elliot Hook on the Importance of ‘Enough’ Depth of Field in Wildlife Photography. The article is illustrated with a couple of nice bird images.

Moose Peterson shares some nice images of a grouse family and some tips on shooting in low light here and here.

Reaction has embedded a YouTube video that doesn’t have anything to do with birding or photography, but I thought it was pretty cool and wanted to pass it along. Check out Swings: Los Angeles.

That’s it for this week. I’m headed to the Outer Banks of North Carolina for eight days with the family. I hope to spend a bunch of time shooting at Pea Island MWR and the Alligator River NWR. If I capture something worthwhile I’ll post it soon.


Microstock: Worth Your Time?

In 2000 Bruce Livingstone created iStockphoto as an alternative to traditional stock photography agencies. This was the beginning of what became known as microstock photography. Microstock opened the stock photography business up to tens of thousands of photographers who had never sold a photo before and greatly reduced the cost of photography for publications, websites and other media. It also resulted in a significant loss of income and jobs for thousands of stock and staff photographers. This major paradigm shift created opportunities that you may want to take advantage of if you haven’t already.

If you have an interest in looking into microstock and not sure where to start or what to expect, Nicole S. Young has written a pretty good e-book, (micro)Stock: From Passion to Paycheck, on the subject. As a successful stock photographer she has hands on experience in the requirements and rewards of this niche industry. Young covers all aspects of the business from determining what to shoot, how to prepare your images, and the things that you can do to help get your photos found by buyers. I found the section on image preparation to be particularly helpful. She also includes some interesting case studies about other successful stock photographers.

Of course what everybody wants to know is how much can you make? Young is a little evasive on this question. She does say that it took her almost three years before she was making enough to cover her living expenses and she says that she enjoys a good income now. But that’s about as specific as she gets. She shoots exclusively for iStockphoto which has a commission schedule on their site where I learned that non-exclusive photographers are paid 15% of the licensing fee for a photo. Images offered on an exclusive basis earn from 22% to 45% depending on the overall volume the photographer’s images generate. Photos are sold based on the size of the image and start at about $3 each for the smallest size. Needless to say, you have to sell a lot of images to make a good living, but for the photographer looking to make some extra money to supplement their income or to buy equipment, this is certainly a viable means.

(micro)Stock: From Passion to Paycheck is 38 pages and sells for $5. It is well worth your consideration if you have an interest in selling your work through a stock service. Do you have any experiece with microstock that you can share with us?

Creating a Photography Website: Part 1 Choosing a Domain Name

Having a professional looking website has become an essential part of a professional photographer’s marketing plan. This is true whether your business is targeting your local market or the world. The web is where many people start their search for goods and services and you have to be there if you want their attention. This is not news to most of you. Some of you have already created a site to show your work and generate income from the sale of prints, workshops, and even assignments. However, there are those of you who want to have your own site, but just don’t know where to begin. This series of articles will introduce you to the tools and programs you can use to create a site you can be proud of and that will, if you want, put a few bucks in your pocket.

I am not a professional website designer, but I have created more than a dozen websites using a variety of programs and services. My most successful site has more than half a million visitors every year and enjoys very high rankings in Google for many keywords. That website was created using a simple to use, but now discontinued program created by Microsoft. Since then I have used several server based programs with mixed results. For AmericanWildbird.com I am using Dreamweaver supplemented with several third party extensions. In this series I will discuss the features and advantages/disadvantages of different ways to create a site.

But first things first, do you have a domain name? The domain name is the unique name of the site and identifies the address where the site resides on the Internet. You might think that with the millions of websites in existence there are no more left. Well if you’re looking for a very short name you would be close to right, but there are still millions of useful letter combinations available. You just have to find the one that best describes your site.

There are many companies that offer domain registration. Prices vary from less than $10 per year to more than $20 per year. I currently use Godaddy.com because they have low prices and they offer hosting services. They also offer a bunch of options that add to the cost, but I haven’t found a need for any of them. No matter which service you use, there will be a search box to determine if the name that you want is available. If your first choice isn’t available some services offer similar alternatives. Once you find a name you like, decide for how many years you want to secure the name (you will be allowed to renew before the term expires), complete some basic information, and pay for the registration.

A few thoughts about selecting your domain name.

  • Start thinking about getting the attention of the search engines from the beginning.  Many of you will decide to go with yournamephotography.com or something similar using your name. That is fine, but remember the most important element used for finding your site in the search engines is your domain name. If all of your other marketing is focused on promoting your name, then this might be the way to go. On the other hand if you have a special photographic or geographic niche that you are targeting then you might want to consider an alternative. A photographer who specializes in warblers might choose awesomewarblers.com or wonderfulwarblers.com (both are available) because it will get you closer to your targeted audience when they search for warbler photographers using a search engine.
  • Avoid hyphens, underscores and other non-alphanumeric characters. Some are allowed, but they are not easily remembered and do not seem to do well with search engines.
  • Even if you are not selling anything use the .com extension. You will perform better with the search engines.
  • Consider buying domain names that might be confused for yours. I registered americanwildbirds.com when I got americanwildbird.com. I have the server automatically redirect any traffic to americanwildbirds.com to the correct site. Believe it or not there are a lot of guys who make good livings off of creating website with names that are misspellings of popular websites.
  • You do not have to have a domain name to have a website. You can create a site by using a template provided by an Internet service provider or a photo printer. This method creates a sub-domain under the provider’s website and is used by many photographers.

Do you have any additional advice on selecting a domain name? Lets us know in the comments section. In my next post on this topic, I’ll discuss software available for creating your site.

What Others Are Saying: June, Week 4

Every week we collect the blog posts and announcements that we think are worth passing on to you. Most will be concerning the business and craft of photography. We’re not spoilers, so you will have to click on the links to see the articles.

Silber Studios has excerpts from an interview with Florian Shulz, an outstanding nature and wildlife photographer, where he discusses how to capture the best light. There is also a link to the full interview with Shulz as well as a link to the website where you can see some of his outstanding conservation project videos.

In the Moment: Michael Fry’s Landscape Photography Blog, Michael talks about a trip that he and his wife took to the redwood forest in northern California. In visiting a spot where he had taken a favorite photo eleven years before he thought about how to capture the mood of the place that is the subject of his work. As you might expect, it largely comes down to the light available at the time of exposure.

Refuge Watch has a nice article about the iNature Trail that has been completed at Ding Darling NWR. This is the first time that QR (Quick Response)codes have been used in the NWR system. Free downloads for an adult app and a children’s app can be used with a smartphone for an interactive trail guide. I plan on checking it out when we return to the refuge in January.

The Freiday Bird Blog has what to some may be disturbing photos of an egret having a seaside sparrow for lunch and we are not talking about a social event.

And I’ll end where I started, the quality of light, with 2011 Nature Visions blog entry from guest blogger Elijah Goodwin titled “Embrace the Twilight.” The information will be familiar to many of you, but a refresher might be timely.

As always, if you find an interesting article that others might benefit from, let me know so that I can pass it along.

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