Saturday, June 23, 2012

San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge

We got to San Bernard after lunch.

San Bernard has a wonderful long auto loop and some very interesting looking trails.  I definitely want to come back in spring or fall when the weather is cooler to explore.

Lighting was harsh and I didn't take a lot of photos. However, I do want to share a couple.  This was only the second time I had seen purple gallinules and there were TWO!  It was interesting to watch them climb up to the top of this vegetation and then disappear into it only to climb back up again.  They were far enough away that no lens would be "big enough."  But I wanted a photo because I think they are SO beautiful with their beautiful shiny blue plumage and that bright red beak and the blue forehead!

Even with it being mid-day in the heat we saw 16 species!  And, of course, the alligators!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Atwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge

I've visited Atwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge three times now at different seasons.  While I've not yet seen the prairie chickens, it is always a good experience.  The best way to see the prairie chickens is to go during the Annual Prairie-Chicken Festival the 2nd weekend in April.

The main entrance is on the south side of the refuge, but we went down Prairie Chicken Lane for fun.  There were so many cottontails and a few jackrabbits that I thought perhaps it should be named Bunny Lane!

It had been a long time since I had seen Northern Bobwhites - so it was quite a treat to see them and to hear their cheery "Bob white!" call.

We have Crested Caracaras living near me in Hutto, but this was the closest I've gotten to photograph them in the wild. I was thrilled to get the chance to photograph one so close.

This black vulture also posed cooperatively for me.

It was truly a pleasure to drive through the restored prairie.  And I was pleased to find more dickcissels!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Summer birding

We have gotten off on a short trip. House sitter in place to care for Gambler. We left Tuesday and spent the night in Columbus to be able to get to the Atwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge early. We drove down Prairie Chicken lane but decided today it would be better named Bunny Rabbit Alley because we saw cottontails and jack rabbits everywhere.

Then we drove south to San Bernard NWR and from there to Brazoria NWR. My favorite birds of the day were the beautiful purple gallinule and the least bittern.

My next blog post will have photos of some of the birds we're seeing.

Here is my bird list for Wednesday:

Atwater Prairie Chicken NWR

Black bellied whistling duck

Turkey vulture
Black vulture
Crested caracara

Mourning doves
Northern bobwhite


Northern Mockingbird
Northern Cardinal

Great blue heron
Cattle egret
Snowy egret
White ibis

Red Wing blackbird


Non bird species
Jack rabbit

San Bernard NWR


Black necked stilt

Common gallinule (moorhen)
Purple gallinule (pair)

White ibis

Great egret
Little blue heron

Red wing  blackbird

Laughing gull

Black bellied whistling duck

Neotropic cormorant

Turkey vulture

Purple Martin

Great tailed Grackle

Brazoria NWR

Scissor tail flycatcher

American avocet

White ibis
Roseate spoonbill

Least bittern
Great blue heron
Snowy egret
Great egret
Juvenile little blue heron
Juvenile black crowned night heron
Juvenile yellow crowned night heron

Redwing blackbird
Laughing gull

Mourning dove

Crested caracara

Mottled duck
Black bellied whistling duck
Black bellied whistling duck w/chicks
Fulvous whistling duck
Fulvous whistling duck w/chicks

Common gallinule with chicks



Tern (Foresters???)

Great tail grackle

Non bird species


Saturday, June 02, 2012

Creating Dramatic Photos

I was going back to my 2009 Canada trip and working up a new blog post when I came across this picture.  I wanted to use it as part of the blog, but the lighting conditions at the time I was there didn't create any really great photos.  So I started playing with the image.

Here is the original:

My first attempt was to add a Layer>Overlay with a neutral density gray choice to brighten the whites in the lighthouse and hopefully to bring out details in the cloudy sky.  The image remained bland.

So I thought about my choices to give this image "pop" and went to my NIK Software HDR Efex Pro. Now I wasn't combining images here, I just wanted to do something to make this one shot more interesting.  When I went to the filter, I had 33 presets to choose from.  After checking all of them, I chose "Realistic (Strong)" as the look I wanted.  

I also like Topaz products so I went back and used Topaz Adjust to see what look I could get. I used the HDR Collection>Dynamic Pop II. Then I went over to Local Adjustments and used a brush to darken the sky more and to brighten up the lighthouse.

When I'm at a location, I strive to photograph photos that will stand well on their own without excessive post processing.  Sometimes, the weather and the lighting are not optimum, so I'm glad to have these tools to create an interesting image when the conditions were not optimum on location.