HDR Fun Adds to Bird Photos in Bosque del Apache

I'm reposting this post from a few weeks ago because some folks asked me about other photo ops in Bosque.

Yes! Bosque del Apache is a mecca for bird photographers. The snow geese and sandhill cranes are a sight to behold.

But there are other great photo ops in Bosque.... especially if you are into HDR photography.

Today Juan Pons, Chris Klapheke and I took our workshop students on a cool HDR shoot in a junkyard.

When it comes to HDR photography, you'll get the coolest images when shooting in a high contrast situation - such as shooting from indoors to outdoors, which includes shooting from inside a car.

Above is one of my favorite images from our HDR shoot. I used the Canon 8-15mm fisheye lens on my Canon 5D Mark II. I created the image in Photomatix with a touch of Topaz Adjust (to bring out the grain in the leather seats). Below is another Topaz Adjust image.

To learn about HDR, see my post: HDR Must Know Info.

To $ave on Photomatix and the other plug-ins I use, click here.

Above is another HDR image I shot today. I could have brought out more of the details in the shadows, but.... shadows are the soul of the photographs, shadows are your friend... and light illuminates, shadows define.

If you like HDR, check out my iHDR apps.. for the iPad and a Mac!

So what about the birds today?

We saw tons of birds. Above: I used my Canon 400mm DO lens on my Canon 7D.

Tips: Crop creatively; crop out the dead space. Use focus tracking (AI Servo) when photographing moving subjects.

Shoot silhouettes. Use Nik Color Efex Pro's Gradual Filter to change the color of the sky. Again, see my plug-ins page to get a discount on the plug-ins I use, including Nik.

Leave some room in the frame into which the subject can fly.

Shoot with both eyes open so you can see other subjects that can enhance (or ruin) an image. Watch the background, too.

Explore the light,

P.S. Before I go, here is an image I created using the Midnight filter in Nik Color Efex Pro.

Packin' Up for Shootin' in Bosque

Heading to Bosque del Apache this year for the world-famous "blast off?" If so, you need the right gear to capture the action. Here is what I'm packing for my 2015 and 2016 workshops.

My camera gear and laptop are shown above:

- Macbook Pro

- Canon 5D Mark III

- Canon 7D

- Canon 400mm DO lens

- Canon 100-400mm IS lens

- Canon 70-20mm f/4 lens

- Canon 24-105mm IS lens

- Canon 17-40mm lens

- Canon 1.4x telecoverter

- Tiffen polarizing filter

- Two memory card wallets packed with 16GB and 32GB Lexar cards

- Head-mounted flashlight

- Small flash light

- Wireless mic set to record sound for some videos.

All of that gear fits snugly in my Lowepro Pro Roller Lite AW. The AW stands for all-weather, as the bag has a built-in "raincoat". On site, I transfer my gear to my backpack.

 In my other carry-on bag, my briefcase, I have:

- Charger/power supply for my laptop

- Chargers for my camera batteries

- Two 500GB G-tech portable hard drives

- Two Lexar card readers

- Extra 5D Mark III camera body

- Airplane power adapter.

I'll pack my tripod in my checked luggage, along with plenty of hand warmers.

We all look forward to shooting with our workshop participants next week. It will be great fun! Stay tuned for posts.

Explore the light,


Some Tips for Photographing Birds in Flight

Photograph by Chris Klapheke
If you will be attending one of my 2011 Bosque del Apache workshops, which I am leading with Juan Pons and Chris Klapheke, go ahead and bookmark this page and read it again before the workshops. You'll also find several useful links at the end of this post.

Photo Tips:
Photograph by Rick Sammon
• Bring wide-angle and telephoto lenses so you can "tell the whole story" of the adventure.
• A 400mm lens may be long enough for your shot. You get very close to the birds.
• For sunrise and pre-sunrise shots, you'll need a tripod.
• Set you camera up for back-button focus, so you can focus and shoot independently from each other.
• Bring a flashlight (head mounted flashlights are best) so you can see what you are doing during the pre-dawn hours.
• The "blast off" happens at dawn. Don't miss it. However, there are plenty of other bird photography opportunity throughout the day around the ponds.
• During the midday hours, shoot HDR in and around Socorro, where you'll most likely be staying.
• Use slow speeds to add a sense of motion to your pictures.
• Use a shutter speed of 1/1000th of a second to "freeze" birds in flight.
• Take bird portraits and environmental portraits.

Travel Tips:
Photograph by Rick Sammon
• Dress very, very warmly for the early morning shoots. It can be well below freezing.
• Pack hand and toe warmers.
• Gloves? A must.
• Dress in layers, because it warms up fast.
• Whatever you do, don't miss the Green Chile Cheeseburger at the Owl Bar and Cafe - on you way to and from the "blast off" area. Look for me there!
• Don't forget your sunglasses and sunscreen. And hat.
• Drive carefully on your way from Albuquerque to Socorro. The crosses on the side of the road illustrate why....

Here are some links to posts on bird photography and my some of my other workshops:
Photograph by Rick Sammon
Tips for photographing birds in flight

More tips and accessories for bird photography

Get the most out of a photo workshop

Photographing Birds in Flight

For great prices/service/advice on accessories, check out Outdoor Photo Gear.

Explore the light,

Friday's Fab Photographer: Chris Klapheke

Today's Fab Photographer (a weekly feature here on my blog) is Chris Klapheke. Chis will be our guest instructor/presenter/food finder (he knows where to get the best burgers) on our December Bosque del Apache workshop. 

Take it away, Chris.
• • •

Break out the short lenses, it’s time for bird photography!

Wait, did I really write that?

I’m a bird photographer (when I grow up and get really good I’ll be an avian photographer) and I’m usually lugging around a 600mm with a big old tripod and gimbal head. Of course, I’ll get comments such as, “What magazine do you work for?” Or, “That sure is a big camera!”

The comment I get most from photographers is,“I’d love to be a bird photographer, but I just don’t have a long lens to use!”

Don’t sell yourself short.

Not all bird photographs are close up portraits of our feathered friends on a perch.  You can make stunning avian images with your short lenses, even your wide angle.  I like to call them “birdscapes”.

The key to making great birdscape images is to get yourself to a place where you can find both pleasing vistas and a large amount of birds.  We’re talking beaches, fields, large bodies of water and such.  Chances are your back yard just won’t do.  National wildlife preserves will be your best bet.

One of the nice things about shooting birdscapes, in addition to not having to haul around heavy lenses, is that you don’t have to hunker down in camouflage or in a blind, hoping you don’t spook your subject.  You do however, still need to get up early in the morning or stay late in the evening, for best light.  If you want birds in full view, keep the sun at your back.  For silhouettes, just the opposite.

Keep in mind that your best birdscapes will be filled with flying birds, so in addition to light, you need to pay attention to the wind.  Birds take off and land into the wind, so if you don’t want images of a bunch of bird butts, keep the wind behind you!

Most importantly, still bring your tripod.  You can get wonderful shots with long shutter speeds.

Mentally, think of the birds as an element of your landscape.  Still pay attention to landscape features—foregrounds, skies, mountains.  Add the birds to these features.

Blurs of birds in flight can give you a beautiful abstract feel.  Start with shutter speeds around 1/15th of a second and experiment.

Watch for birds on the ground while other birds are flying about.  Long shutter speeds here can give you a cool combination of static and blurred subject.


If your birds are all hanging out on the ground, you can still get some cool shots.  Try a “zoom blur”.  Clamp your camera and lens down on a tripod, and select a long shutter speed like 1/10th of a second.  Focus manually, then trip the shutter while you are twisting your zoom ring.  Fun stuff!

Want to get some images like these?  Most of the photographs in this post were taken at Bosque del Apache, just south of Albuquerque, New Mexico. I’m honored to join Rick and Juan Pons (an accomplished avian photographer) as an instructor in their Bosque Workshop.  The first workshop is sold out, so they’ve added another. 

In my day job, I’m the proprietor of Outdoor Photo Gear, an online store that sells all kinds of gear for the mobile photographer.  Please check it out here:  Outdoor Photo Gear.

I am putting together an accessory list for Bosque shooters. Soon come.

Like Rick, we also maintain an informative and fun blog.

You can visit my personal photo website at:  Chris Klapheke Photography.

Hope to see you in December at Bosque!

• • • 

Thanks, Chris!

If you'd like to read more about photographing birds, click here. And, let me know if you to come on my 2012 Alaska workshop with Hal Schmitt. Just shoot me an email.

Explore the light,

Could Not Wait.....

Hey, I am teaching a workshop in Plymouth, MA and met a super-talented photographer (and super nice person), Betty Wiley.

Check out this amazing image at Bosque del Apache. I could not wait to share this photo with you.

Ahhhhhhh, this is one of the joys of teaching a workshop: you meet great photographers.

Explore the light,

P.S. Tech info:
Canon 1D Mark III
 10.1MP Digital SLR Camera (Body Only) 

Canon 500MM f/4