Backyard birds – again

I find that I am posting photos to Google+ much more than I am to this blog.  Posting to G+ is quicker but does not allow me to write much about the photo(s) or the backstory of the images.  I enjoy much of the interaction I get from people around the globe who view my photos on G+ and I hear (occassionally) how people enjoy my photos and writing on this blog.  I’ll continue to use both and will try to make the writing part of the blog more interesting and informative in the future.  This blop post, however, will be short.

We have a two station feeder support on our patio.  One side has a hummngbird feeder and the other side has a traditional seed feeder for the variety of birds in our area.  We occassionally put out suet to draw in a woodpecker or two but it seems the ravens get that more than the targeted birds.  So, most of the time we supply sunflower seeds and a bit of nijer thistle for the goldfinches and nuthatches.  I hooked a couple of branches to the top of the feeder support stand so the birds have a place to perch as they approach the feeder.  The whole assembly is positioned so that birds that sit on the perches will have a background of our neighbor’s shrubs when viewed from our kitchen doorway.  The view of the perches is to the east so birds are backlit in the morning and front-lit in the evening.  Since we are in Portland much of the time the light is diffused by clouds which, by the way, I think gives the best light for photography.  No surprise.

At this time we have a fairly standard mix at our feeders.  This includes Anna’s hummingbirds, Dark-eyed junco, house finch, Black-capped chickadee, Red-breasted nuthatch and a few Spotted towhee.  Very infrequently we get a Sharp-shinned hawk that strafes the area in pursuit of a snack.  When the weather is decent I set the camera up in the kitchen and focus in on the perch area.  I can stand a reasonable distance from the perches and the birds tend to ignore me after awhile as long as I don’t move around too fast.  I tend to use the D800 camera body set to DX mode so the lens length get multiplied by 1.5.  With the 200-400 that gives me up to a 600mm reach at f/4.  If I attach a 1.4x to the lens I get 840mm of reach.  I tend to use AutoISO when the light is dim and set the camera to manual, 1/500th second (or faster) and f/5.6 – f/7.1  When the light is brighter I shoot in aperture priority at f/5.6 to f/7.1 and at the lowest ISO I can set and still maintain a shutter speed of at least 1/500th.  High ISO image files get processed using Imagenomic Noiseware software in Photoshop.  I still don’t think you can beat this noise reduction routine.  Images are cropped as needed, a border is put around the photo using a Photoshop action and I add my little watermark for vanity purposes.  Then the image is saved, resized for the web and saved again to a “web” folder.  I import the web images into Lightroom and apply sharpening as needed.  I find that the sharpening routine in Lightroom, with it’s masking capability, is really a great application.  Once the file is sharpened I export it to a G+ folder for posting.  How’s that for workflow in a nutshell?

Over the last few days I’ve collected several shots of the birds that seem to be well received on G+ so I thought I’d share them here as well.  I know some will think that this is “shooting fish in a barrel” and not something to really be proud of.  I have to say, until you try it you can not really appreciate how challenging it is to get a sharp shot of these quick moving birds.  Plus, you have to stand there patiently waiting for a bird to land on the stage.  I know, I know… yes, I am retired and I enjoy the time watching these remarkable creatures and the challenge of getting them recorded well.

Anna's hummingbird
Anna’s hummingbird
Black-capped chickadee
Black-capped chickadee
Dark-eyed junco
Dark-eyed junco
House finch
House finch
Goldfinch
Goldfinch
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