Some Shore and Wading Birds

American Coot
Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, Willows, CA; NOV 2020

Today I am sharing some birds we find foraging around the shore of our lakes, ponds, rivers, and sloughs. Some of these birds can be found here in the Sacramento region year-round but most are much more prevalent from late autumn to early spring.

Please click on caption to see image at higher resolution.

Spotted Sandpiper, Juvenile or Non-breeding Adult
Wm B Pond Park, American River Parkway, Sacramento, CA; NOV 2020
Sora
Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, Willows, CA; NOV 2020
Greater Yellowlegs
Wm B Pond Park, American River Parkway, Sacramento, CA; NOV 2020
Black-necked Stilt
Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, Willows, CA; NOV 2020

Please visit my website, www.earthwatcher.us to see my collection of landscapes and wildlife.

These and other images are available to purchase by contacting larry.klink@earthwatcher.us.

Wild White Geese

Snow Geese
Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, Willows, CA; NOV 2020

The wildlife refuges in Northern California are one of the wintering over spots  for our two varieties of wild white geese: The Snow Goose (Chen caerulescens) and the Ross’s Goose (Chen rossii). They are 2 species that look almost alike and hang around together. In fact they do inter-breed so hybridized geese can be found. There is also a darker morph of both species which can sometimes be found in the flock. The darker or “blue morph” of the Snow Goose is sometimes called a Blue Goose. The head of the Ross’s Goose is smaller and more rounded than the that of the Snow Goose. The Ross’s Goose has a gray patch at the base of its bill. The Snow Goose has dark smile lines on the side of its bill that, I think, look like teeth.

It is amazing site to see these birds lift into the air. Entire fields full of geese will take off at one time making it look like a blizzard of white. On the day we observed them we were treated to an air show by many flocks. Thousands of birds were flying in large “V” formations as far as you could see in all directions. It was amazing!

Please click on caption to se images at higher resolution!

Ross’s Goose, Northern Shoveler
Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, Willows, CA; NOV 2020
Snow Geese
Colusa National Wildlife Refuge, DEC 2016
Ross’s Geese
Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, Willows, CA; NOV 2020

Please visit my website, www.earthwatcher.us to see my collection of landscapes and wildlife.

These and other images are available to purchase by contacting larry.klink@earthwatcher.us.

Scenes from the Eureka Valley

Desert in Autumn
Eureka Valley, Death Valley National Park, CA; OCT 2020

On our last trip to the Eastern Sierra, we explored Big Pine – Death Valley Road. Twenty-five miles from Big Pine, CA, the pavement ends, and you enter Death Valley National Park.  The route took us through Eureaka Valley, over the Last Chance Mountains to Crankshaft Crossing where we made a right to continue on Death Valley Road. That led us to Ubehebe Road then to Scotty’s Castle Road and further to Stovepipe Wells. It was a fun trip through beautiful desert despite the tire shredding rocks and washboard grating on the road. If you ever take this route be careful. Have really good tires and plan your timing; there are many washes that cross the road. They were all in good repair when we took the trip in early autumn. But, they could be bad in other times of the year.

Please click on caption to see image at higher resolution.

A Sunrise in Eureka Valley
Eureka Valley, Death Valley National Park, CA; OCT 2020
View From a Wash
Eureka Valley, Death Valley National Park, CA; OCT 2020
A Wash on a Fan; Last Chance Mountains
Death Valley National Park, CA; OCT 2020
Crankshaft Crossing
Death Valley, Death Valley National Park, CA; OCT 2020

Please visit my website, www.earthwatcher.us to see my collection of landscapes and wildlife.

These and other images are available to purchase by contacting larry.klink@earthwatcher.us.

Scenes From Big Pine – Death Valley Road

Sunrise From Death Valley Road
Death Valley-Big Pine Rd, Big Pine, CA; OCT 2020

We spent some time exploring Big Pine – Death Valley Road. Along the way, we found some interesting things: A beautiful forest of Joshua Trees, and a wonderful White-tailed Antelope Squirrel. All of this set against the scenery of desert mountains. It was beautiful trip.

Be aware though, if you decide to explore this road, we have read that is one of the most dangerous roads in the country. We found the route to be in good shape but there are some things to consider. We found a lot of tire shredding rocks. There are numerous washes that cross the route so it could be flooded, or the road surface washed out. With photography stops, it took us 7 hours to get from Big Pine to Stovepipe Wells.

This post shares some images from the section between Big Pine, CA and the entrance to Death Valley National Park. I’ll share images from Eureka Valley and Death Valley in a future post.

Please click on caption to see image at higher resolution.

A Fan of Joshua Trees
Death Valley-Big Pine Rd, Big Pine, CA; OCT 2020
White-tailed Antelope Squirrel
Death Valley-Big Pine Rd, Big Pine, CA; OCT 2020
Joshua Trees at an Outcrop
Death Valley-Big Pine Rd, Big Pine, CA; OCT 2020

Please visit my website, www.earthwatcher.us to see my collection of landscapes and wildlife.

These and other images are available to purchase by contacting larry.klink@earthwatcher.us.

Photographing a Burn Scar

A Mountain Woodland
Rt 89 above Topaz, CA; SEP 2020

On our day trip to the mountains, we decided to visit and photograph a burn scar; a section of burned forest from a fire a few years ago. The burned trees were intriguing with their swirls of white wood and black charred wood. The grasses had repopulated the area and the Rabbit Brush was blooming. It was a fun time.

Please click on caption to see image at higher resolution.

Scene from an Old Burn Scar
Rt 89 above Topaz, CA; SEP 2020
Scene from an Old Burn Scar
Rt 89 above Topaz, CA; SEP 2020
Scene from an Old Burn Scar
Rt 89 above Topaz, CA; SEP 2020
Scene from an Old Burn Scar
Rt 89 above Topaz, CA; SEP 2020
Scene from an Old Burn Scar
Rt 89 above Topaz, CA; SEP 2020

Please visit my website, www.earthwatcher.us to see my collection of landscapes and wildlife.

These and other images are available to purchase by contacting larry.klink@earthwatcher.us.

Infrared Camera Conversion, My Journey – Part 2

I was able to resolve the issue preventing me from creating Raw files. The Fuji XT series has the menu option “Image Quality” and that is where you tell the camera to produce Raw files. I’ve been shooting with Fuji since 2014 and am well aware of that required step. I checked that menu item 3 times over a period of several days and the menu item wasn’t there. The 4th time I checked it, the option was there. I assume it was the pesky squirrels that raid our bird food.

Selecting the proper white balance can impact the output of post processing significantly. My experience with my Fuji XT-3 follows. The first thing I noticed was that, in my camera, the Temperature and Tint settings on the Raw file were shifted far to the left; so far, in fact, that I had little room to adjust. The JPEG file had those settings pegged at zero. I have seen suggestions to set-up a specific color profile in the camera. In my experiments with a custom white balance color profile, the setting modifies JPEG files properly. However, it does not modify the Raw files even though it appears to when you look at the pictures in playback mode. That seemed a bit strange to me because I sometimes choose the daylight or cloudy day preset when I shoot in the visible light range. Oddly enough, when I chose the Kelvin, “K”, preset and adjusted the temperature manually, the change was reflected in the Raw file. After experimenting with different setting, I decided that I would just keep the white balance on auto.

I also discovered that the best white balance setting is obtained, in Lightroom and Photoshop, by using the Eyedropper Tool and selecting a spot on the image that I know is white. If I don’t have a white spot to select, I choose something close and adjust by dead reckoning.

When using color infrared, there is a step that needs to be added in post processing to get those beautiful false color infrared images. The step is called color swapping. It is important to do the white balance adjustment before you color swap. I did the color swap in Adobe Photoshop. After opening in photoshop, you choose Layer>Adjustment>Color Mixer which opens a box that lets you change the amount of red, green and blue in each of the red, green and blue color channels.

The simplest is a red/blue swap. In the Red Channel, set red to 0 and blue to 100 while in the blue channel, set red to 100 and blue to 0. There are other tutorials that suggest other formulas for color swapping. I have done some experimenting but have found the simple swap to work well. Once you’ve swapped colors, you can make other adjustments to tweak the image to your own liking.

Thanks for sharing my journey, to this point. If you are considering an infrared conversion, I hope you can learn from my early mistakes as I attempted to climb the learning curve. Now, it’s time for me to start getting some interesting images and honing my skill.

Raw Image, Camera White Balance Set to Auto
Raw Image with White Balance Adjustment from Crape Myrtle Flowers
Image After Simple Red and Blue Color Swap
Image After Color Swap that included Swapping Green Channel

Please visit my website, www.earthwatcher.us to see my collection of landscapes and wildlife.

These and other images are available to purchase by contacting larry.klink@earthwatcher.us.

Infrared Camera Photography, My Journey

I recently started my journey into Infrared Photography. Most of my fellow photographers will know what that means. But, for my friends and followers that do not, here is a simple explanation. The sensor in the camera, the one that contains the collection of megapixels upon which the image is recorded, is covered by a filter that allows it to only record light in the frequency range we can see. Infrared cameras can record a broader range of frequencies by including heat radiation. Think of the wildlife documentaries that get those cool night shots of exotic animals. The broader range of frequencies creates some very interesting pictures. So, I am excited to begin this journey.

From this point forward, the discussion is more geared to photographers and includes some technical discussion which I will try to simplify.

My goal was to get some interesting landscapes but also to see if I could get better low light images of birds. I chose to convert my Fuji XT-3 mirrorless camera. I chose LifePixel Infrared to do the conversion. I chose the XT-3 because it has faster focusing speed than the XT-2 I had also considered.

I spent a fair amount of time determining which infrared filter to choose. Our eyes and our digital camera sensors can see frequencies between 380nm and 750nm. Below 380nm, you get ultraviolet while above 750nm you get into infrared. I did not want to get a filter that restricted me to black & white. I do not do much black & white and I can always do a black & white conversion in post processing. Looking at the choices and having no prior experience, I discussed my objectives with the support group at LifePixel and settled on their Super Color filter, a 590nm filter. That allows me to get infrared plus some visible light. By the way, you can buy an infrared filter to mount on a standard lens but, to block visible light, they are very, very dark; might be good for an eclipse.

I failed to research some other pre-conversion considerations, one of which caught me by surprise.

The biggest surprise was lens considerations. I shot my first images with XF18-55MM lens and got a hot spot in the center of the lens. I found that I also got hot spots with my XF80MM and XF100-400MM. My XF55-200MM lens works well. The hot spot on the XF100MM-400MM lens and 1.4X Teleconverter is faint and disappears in foliage, so I might be able to make it work. It also appears to get fainter at F11 and F16 so that will be subject to test. Despite not researching that, I can still do landscapes and probably do birds in the forest canopy. There are places, like LifePixel’s website that lists lenses, by manufacturer, that produce hot spots.

Infrared Photo with Hotspot; Fuji XT-3, XF18-55MM Lens.

I dodged the bullet on focus considerations because I have a mirrorless camera. Infrared light has longer wavelengths, e.g. it includes wave lengths above 750nm. DSLR’s autofocus ability is limited to the visible spectrum, so you need to manually focus. Mirrorless cameras rely on the sensor itself for focusing as well as the rest of the capture process. So, it adapts to the infrared frequency.

The final surprise was not explained anywhere that I saw. After the conversion, I was locked out of the ability to create camera raw files. I don’t know if this is exclusive to Fuji proprietary raw files or is true across the board. It produces only JPEG. I set my camera to produce the largest JPEG it will produce.

In my next installment, I will discuss what I am learning about post-processing. Spoiler alert: white balance is critical. Infrared light is very warm.

Information Sources

  1. Digital Camera World, Article by Phil Hall, March 17,2020: https://www.digitalcameraworld.com/buying-guides/best-infrared-filter
  2. LifePixel Infrared Website, Getting Started Section: https://www.lifepixel.com/introduction
  3. Robert Riser, The Infrared Photography Tutorial: A Guideline for Your Ideal IR Solution: https://robertreiser.photography/infrared-photography-tutorial/

Thick Billed Fox Sparrow

Thick-billed Fox Sparrow
Loon Lake, El Dorado National Forest, California; JUN 2020

I was fortunate enough to observe a Thick-billed Fox Sparrow (Passeralli iliac megarhynchaon) on a recent visit to Loon Lake in the Eldorado National Forest. This large sparrow is a fall to spring visitor in our area but not one that I have recognized before. So, it was a treat. Now that I Observed and identified it, maybe I’ll see some in this area.

Please click on caption to see image at higher resolution!

Thick-billed Fox Sparrow
Loon Lake, El Dorado National Forest, California; JUN 2020

Please visit my website, www.earthwatcher.us to see my collection of landscapes and wildlife.

These and other images are available to purchase by contacting larry.klink@earthwatcher.us.

Summer Vignettes Along the American River Parkway

Landscape with Canada Geese
Effie Yeaw Nature Center, Sacramento, CA; JUN 2020

I am sharing a few early morning scenes from the banks of the American River. I walk the trails along the river several times each week for several hours at a time. I am grateful that the people of the Sacramento area cared enough to build a buffer area against flooding and to turn that almost 40 miles of buffer into urban green space available to all.

Please click on caption to see image at higher resolution.

Summer Scene on the American River Parkway
Willow Creek State Recreation Area, Folsom, CA; JUL 2020
Summer Morning Scene on the American River
Sailor Bar, American River Parkway, Fair Oaks, CA; JUL 2020

Please visit my website, www.earthwatcher.us to see my collection of landscapes and wildlife.

These and other images are available to purchase by contacting larry.klink@earthwatcher.us.

California Scrub Jay

California Scrub Jay Eating Dragonfly
Effie Yeaw Nature Center, Sacramento, CA; SEP 2019

I was fortunate enough to observe a California Scrub Jay (Aphelocoma californica) in the process of eating a dragonfly. It used its beak and talons to position the insect, then picked it up with its beak and swallowed it.

Please click on caption to see image at higher resolution.

California Scrub Jay Eating Dragonfly
Effie Yeaw Nature Center, Sacramento, CA; SEP 2019

Please visit my website, www.earthwatcher.us to see my collection of landscapes and wildlife.

These and other images are available to purchase by contacting larry.klink@earthwatcher.us.