Finding Africa close to home

Some homework assignments are more fun than others. Learning to use my new 600 mm lens called for a trip to the Pittsburgh Zoo. I have wanted to “get closer” to wildlife in Florida while photographing birds and alligators. And I definitely want to be ready for puffins I will see in Iceland in July. I know I will get the best results from practice.

Mounted on a sturdy monopod and attached to my Nikon D800, my new lens focused on the African lion and tiger today, and brought home these images for you.

#pittsbughzoo, #zoo, #tiger, #wildlife. #lens, #600mmlens, #nikond800
This images shows the tiger’s markings.
#lion, #zoo, #Pittsburghzoo, #600mmlens, #nikond800, #nature, #wildlife
Sleeping male lion. Peaceful.

Pennsylvania cherry blossoms

Americans associate cherry blossoms with the iconic Tidal Basin in Washington D.C., but they are harbingers of Spring in western Pennsylvania too. On this cherry tree in Edgeworth, white and magenta flowers bloom side by side.

#cherryblossoms, #pennsylvania, #spring, #easter, #selectivefocus, #nikon
White and magenta cherry blossoms herald Spring in western Pennsylvania.

Focus on the Eye

Standard advice when shooting wildlife: focus on the eye.  Not always possible, such as when the subject is moving, and the photographer is panning. On this day in the Florida Everglades, I had enough time to focus on the great blue heron’s eye while hand holding my Nikon D800 with a 200mm lens.

#blueheron, #greatblueheron, #heron, #bird, #profile, #wildlife, #nature, #florida, #everglades. #sharakvalley, #nikon, #nikond800, #eye
In this close up of the Great Blue Heron, you can admire the delicate feathers of the neck, the plume, the eye and the well worn beak.

Good night, Pelican

If this sounds like a good title of a children’s book, you think like I do. I would like to write a sequel to “Goodnight Moon,” and use my photos of pelicans getting ready to say “good night.”

#pelicans, #landing, #rookery, #sunset, #naples, #florida, #birds, #dusk, #nature, #wildlife
Pelicans get comfortable on a rookery island, safe from prey land based prey, as the sun sets.

This close up photograph shows a pelican landing to join many others settling in for the night on a rookery island near Naples, Florida. They can rest and refresh themselves here, safe from raccoons and other land-based prey. This image was taken just minutes before sunset.

Blue Heron Landing

Recently in the Florida Everglades, I shot a series of images of this blue heron as it took off and landed. I was pleased to see this magnificent bird with its wings outstretched. In order to freeze motion of wildlife, I usually increase the ISO on my camera making the sensor more sensitive to light. That way, I can still get a good exposure with a very fast shutter speed of 1/1000 of a second. In this case, I increased the ISO to 2000, anticipating the bird’s flight. (I was just explaining this formula to my daughter who will be traveling to Africa to enjoy a safari in a few days.)

I also made a conscious choice for the f stop setting. A lens is usually at its sharpest in the mid-range (f/7.1 here), and the depth of field is forgiving — keeping the bird in focus for the split second between the time I focus and the shutter releases. Had I opened the lens aperture wide (to counter balance the fast shutter speed), it would have been very difficult to keep the flying bird in focus. You can see, the image is successful, as long as you don’t mind a little grain, resulting from the high ISO. I will share some of the other photos in the series in subsequent blog posts.

#blueheron, #wings, #blue, #flight, #sharkvalley
This blue heron in Shark Valley spread its wings as it came in for a landing on this tree.

Egret ballet

Watching this graceful American egret in the evening light, my mind went right back to Lincoln Center and the vision of a ballerina dancing Swan Lake. The egrets lines were so beautiful as she moved ever so slowly, and her reflection in the wading pool accentuated her grace.

#egret, #nature, #florida, #wadingbird, #tropics, #wildlife, #naples, #relfection
An American egret and her reflection in the evening light.