Tag: wildlife

Would you like a coffee with those hummingbirds?

It’s not often I get to enjoy a cup of coffee or a good book while photographing. Usually I’m on the trail or in the canoe swatting at mosquitoes or horseflies. But, today, rather than being in the field, I’m on the deck at the family cottage watching hummingbirds.

For some years now, our neighbour and my parents have put up hummingbird feeders for the summer. We’ve enjoyed watching their antics as they zip back and forth across the lawns, twittering away at each other. At times,it becomes violent as males defend their territories. It’s amazing how a hummingbird can fly almost silently, like a librarian humming a tune under their breath so as not to disturb their patrons. Then, they spot a rival male, and turn up the volume of their flight to sound intimidatingly ferocious. We’ve watched them swoop in on another male, straight down from above and actually make contact with him, driving him downwards. Imagine! Hummingbirds! It’s been interesting to watch the juvenile hummingbirds these last few days. They are much more tolerant of us and will come to the feeder when we are sitting too close for the adults. Ahhh, the cockiness of youth, throwing caution the wind!

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)So, as I was sitting reading the other day, enjoying the afternoon sun, I realized how perfectly lit the hummingbirds were as the visited the feeder. This got me thinking photography. Now, I’m not much of a wildlife photographer; I’m more of an opportunist. The photos I’ve made this year of “our” local heron and osprey were the result of canoeing in the evening with my wife Laurie. Rather than being a determined effort, we happened to be in the right place at the right time, stealthily approached and photographed. This is true of all of my wildlife photographs. One gets lucky over the years, and with enough years, accumulates a few good photographs.

Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)I realized early on I didn’t have the patience of the professional wildlife photographers. Their determination of watching wildlife for days before choosing a location for a blind, then spending days setting up the blind so as not to spook their subject, then sitting for hours, even days, in the blind to get that perfect photograph. Nope, not for me. Robert McCaw once related his story of waiting days in a blind through all kinds of weather until he finally captured the photograph of Golden Eagles. I have a lot of respect for photographers like him.

Me, I need to have my mind occupied with something more than watching wildlife or I’d fall asleep! I can spend hours reading a book or tweaking photos or building a website, but not sitting in a blind. So, back to the deck on a summer afternoon…

With the lighting so good, I took a closer look and noticed two other important factors working in my favour:

  1.  The hummingbirds would often hover a few centimetres away from the feeder before and, sometimes after, feeding. To me, this is important because I didn’t want a photo of the hummingbird on the feeder, but rather off-feeder hovering.
  2. The cedars behind the feeder are a good 5m away and in shade, providing an ideal, soft, green background to the birds.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird II (Archilochus colubris)A few minutes later I was set up. The 300mm was on the tripod with camera attached. I added the polarizer, which did a beautiful job reducing glare on the feathers, and set the Exposure Compensation to –2 as the background, which filled all of the frame, was significantly darker than the lit hummingbird. The –2 was an estimate which proved to be correct. I decided against using spot metering as the hummingbird wouldn’t necessarily be in the centre of the frame.

I pre-focussed on the plastic “rest” where the birds would alight to feed. It seemed to be in about the same plane as the hummingbird would be as it hovered in front of the feeder. I was about 2-1/2m away, close enough to get a shot with enough pixels to keep it sharp (I would definitely need to crop – the beauty of 36mp!), but far enough not to spook the adults.

The one setting that would have helped me right away, but being an inexperienced wildlifer only thought of later, was switching the AF mode from single-point to 3D-tracking. (I should have thought of it from my sports photography, but I had stopped using it as it would sometimes pick up other players nearby, rather than the main subject.) What an improvement! Once focussed on the bird, the AF point followed it around keeping amazing focus.

After my first twenty minutes of sitting, I had a series of photos. Not using the 3D-tracking yet, meant that all were blurry except for the last two, which were bang on. Success, at least for the juvenile who has not yet developed the ruby throat of the males. The next day was less successful. Perhaps it was because as I was waiting for the hummers (they appear about every 15 to 20 minutes) I was reading a book. But really, I just couldn’t keep the focus on the bird moving in and out of such a narrow depth-of-field. That’s when I remembered the 3D focus.

My third afternoon out was much more successful. The male’s ruby throat was showing nicely and the 3D focus was great – not perfect, but definitely better than not using it. Exposure worked out to be near-perfect so only mild tweaking was needed. All tolled, I spent about three hours waiting and another hour or so importing and processing. Each frame required capping to about 3000×2000 pixels – plenty large enough for most uses. Maybe I could get into making wildlife photographs….Naaa – I still prefer landscapes and the odd wildlife photograph.

New Book! Super-Natural South Florida

Super-Natural South Florida
Super-Natural South Florida

Following on from our trip in March, I have published a fine art, limited-run monograph of 31 colour and black-and-white photographs: Super-Natural South Florida (ISBN 978-0-9813705-3-8). It is available on Amazon for USD$109.95, but for a limited time, I am making the book available directly to family and friends for CDN$87.50 (hand-delivered or shipped for $12.50 more).

The easiest way to make this purchase is by either sending a cheque for the full amount (there is no tax) to:

Terry McDonald
79 Vanier Drive
Guelph, ON  N1G 2K9

or by directly making a deposit to my PayPal account (you do not need PayPal to do this):

For one book, no shipping Buy Now Button with Credit Cards     or for one book + shipping Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

The photographs in Super-Natural South Florida are beautifully presented, one photograph per page, in a large, 12″x12″ format hard-cover book with dust jacket. Included are landscapes from dawn to dusk and photographs of the myriad unique wildlife of South Florida.

Why “Super-Natual” South Florida?

Florida is well-known for its abundance of beach-front condos and hotels and all the touristy sites of the Orlando area, not to mention the hundreds of tourist traps across the state. Equally well-known but often ignored, though, are the beautiful natural features. Laurie and I were planning this trip, it dawned on us that the South Florida region is unparalleled in the eastern US for its wilderness and wildlife value – not just the well-known Everglades, but all the protected areas around them:

  • Fakahatchee Strand,
  • Corkscrew Swamp
  • Big Cypress National Preserve
  • Rookery Bay National Estuarine Reserve
  • Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge

amongst many others. More importantly, these areas have been made reasonably accessible from trails, boardwalks, even the road.

When we started exploring these areas on foot, we were amazed by how accessibility the wildlife really is: birds, reptiles and flora were all “right there”. It was like being back in Tanzania with the wide-open landscapes and the sense of serendipity, never knowing what we would find around the next bend. The photographs depict this rich and diverse natural beauty: the landscapes, the wildlife and many of the details that make this sub-tropical paradise so unique.

If you enjoy the beauty of Florida, you will enjoy the photographs in this book. Have a look at this Blurb preview and consider purchasing a copy for yourself, for your favourite Snow-Bird or for your favourite Floridian!

Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario

Just back from 5 days of canoeing in Algonquin this past week with my daughter Allison. WAe canoed in to Biggar lake via North Tea and the Kawawaymog (Round) Lake access point. Great views of moose, sunrise mist, clouds, thunderstorms, etc. Check out the pics at my Flickr site (for now). Here’s one to get you started:

Photo Safaris Tanzania Site Launch

Cheetah, Serengeti - Photo Safaris Tanzania
Cheetah, Serengeti

www.photosafaristanzania.com is live!

We are ready to go with our photo safari schedule for the coming year. Set aside dates in October 2010 or February 2011 for the best photo safaris available. Seven days tracking the amazing and diverse wildlife of the Serengeti Plains, Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Manyara and Tarangire National Parks. We’ll also visit Olduvai Gorge and visit with the Maasai who live around Ngorongoro.

The safari starts with a flight from Arusha, across the Great Rift Valley and Crater Highlands to the Serengeti. We’ll spend the next 7 days making our way back to Arusha by following the chain of parks and wilderness areas. It will truly be a memorable experience with photo opportunities around every bend.

We’ve teamed up with Allan Phillemon. Allan is a Tanzanian who is best known for guiding the IMAX and National Geographic film crews up and safely back down Mt. Kilimanjaro to make the IMAX film Kilimanjaro: To the Roof of Africa. He will outfit us in his safari Land Cruisers with his best guides and we will be staying at both luxury tented camps close to the wildlife and lodges with the best views in East Africa.

Now that I’ve whetted your appetite, visit the website for the details – www.photosafaristanzania.com – or email me now with your questions or booking.

Oh yeah – you’ll want to know about the price. Allan has priced this really well for us on a sliding scale based on the number of people. All transportation, accommodation and meals and a few extras (like wine on every dinner table) are included – basically everything except personal spending and your flight to Arusha (Kilimanjaro International Airport – JRO – KLM flies daily from Amsterdam). By the way, we are using a minimum of two trucks to give everyone the elbow room they need for great photography. The fewest people we’ll go with is 4.

With 4 people split between two trucks, the price is US$ 6695 per person. If there are 5 or 6 people, the price drops to US$ 5695. With 7 or 8 people (which is the maximum) the price drops again to US$4995. Why the big gap in price? Having more people reduces the cost per person so we prefer to pass the savings on to you. I invite you to have a look at other safaris offered around the web. We are not a discount safari, nor are we scrimping on accommodation, meals, trucks or location. That being said, you’ll find these prices as good if not better than most other Tanzanian safaris.

For me, there is no better place in this world than being on safari in East Africa. It is absolutely exhilarating! I hope you’ll be able to join me. Have a look at the site and drop me an email if you have any questions.

Travelling to Africa is like going back in time…
Wildlife like you’ve never seen before.
Wide open spaces that seem to go on forever.
Photo ops around every bend in the road.
It’s the Africa you’ve dreamed of…

Tanzania Book – just in time for Christmas!

Tanzania - a fine art book of photographs by Terry A. McDonald
Tanzania

I’m just putting the finishing touches on my new book: Tanzania. It is a fine art book of photographs portraying the grandeur of Tanzania, its wildlife and some of the people who live there. My Introduction reads:

Using words alone, I find it impossible to accurately describe a wondrously complex country like Tanzania. While the photographs in this book portray the “Northern Circuit” they are representative of much of the country.

In every way it is a beautiful place, but it is also depressing, straight-forward yet enigmatic, inspiring yet frustrating, challenging yet easy-going. The romantic in me celebrates the wide-open landscapes and wildlife that are little changed in centuries – what Canada once was. The realist in me sees a people hampered by challenges much greater than their economy can solve. Yet Tanzanians are filled with the joy of community and friendship and a joie de vive unparalleled here in Canada. I lament the rapid changes fraught with conflict and tension, yet I yearn for Tanzanians to live their lives free of the afflictions that cause such hardships.

As a writer, this is as far as I go; I hope my photographs can more clearly reveal the grandeur of this great and wondrous country.

– Terry McDonald
November 2009

Tanzania is a beautiful, limited run, 8.5 x 11.25″, 46-page hard cover book with dust jacket and costs just $115 – including delivery  – an ideal Christmas gift for anyone who appreciates great photography and the wonders of Africa.

Featured in the book are images Mount Kilimanjaro, Arusha National Park, Tarangire National Park, the Rift Valley including Ol Doinyo Lengai and Lake Natron, Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area and Serengeti National Park. As well, I’ve included photos from the bomas of our Maasai friends Kalanga and Baraka showing their extended family. This was a very special time and place for us as their homes are in the real porini (wilderness) north of Monduli near Kitumbeini and the Matisiwi Escarpment – a spectacular area.

Anyone who has travelled to Northern Tanzania would not only recognize the places shown, but will begin to see these wonderful lands in a new light.