Nikon New Year

Nikon New Year

Jan 6, 2017 ~ My new gear arrived on 12/28 so we made a quick trip to Baytown Nature Center the next day. It was so much fun and such a productive day, we went back on New Years Day. Both days were cloudy and overcast so I got to test the Nikon D810 in low light situations. And I am impressed! Have you been to the Baytown Nature Center? It is fairly close by and it is a sure location to find Ospreys at this time of the year.

And Seniors get in for a dollar!

Osprey taking his dinner to a more private dining room
Nikon D810 with NIKKOR 500mm f/4E FL ED VR + Nikon 1.4x TC ~ 1/2000
sec f/6.3 ISO 1600

Since the park is surrounded by water on three side AND there are numerous dead trees, snags and old piers, you can find Ospreys flying overhead plus perched and eating if you keep a look out. And I would not be surprised to find Bald Eagles but we didn't see any. A telephoto lens is recommended for the Ospreys as they are not going to pose for you very close in. The image above was rather small in the frame and has been generously cropped. The beauty of a 36mp camera is that you can crop a substantial amount and not lose image quality.

Snowys trying to find room
Nikon D810 with NIKKOR 500mm f/4E FL ED VR + Nikon 1.4x TC ~ 1/2000 sec f/8.0 ISO 2000

There were scads of adult and juvenile White Ibis all over the park. Mixed in with the ibis were Snowy Egrets and Great Egrets. They congregated on the roads, in marshy areas and suddenly took flight for no apparent reason which made for some fun shots. And I was thrilled to be able to have a high shutter speed AND a high ISO.

One is not like the others, can you spot the imposter?
Nikon D810 with NIKKOR 500mm f/4E FL ED VR + Nikon 1.4x TC ~ 1/2000 sec f/6.3 ISO 2000

The White Ibis and Snowys moved from one side of the road to the other as they startled and flushed from passing cars and trucks. They would wheel around through the sky and settle in any available trees. Winter is wonderful for this kind of photography; not as many leaves and foliage to obscure your shots. The image above reminded me of a composite, but I assure you it is not.

Young Snowy Egret playing top of the mountain
Nikon D810 with NIKKOR 500mm f/4E FL ED VR + Nikon 1.4x TC ~ 1/2500 sec f/6.3 ISO 1250

I love the white-on-white high-key look you can get with overcast days. I know, most of you are blue-sky guys but hey, there is room for all of us. You can tell this is a youngster by the yellow stripe up the back of his legs. Once they are fully adult their legs are black but the yellow feet remain.

More White Ibis action
Nikon D810 with NIKKOR 500mm f/4E FL ED VR + Nikon 1.4x TC ~ 1/2500 sec f/6.3 ISO 1600

This group had been startled by a big garbage truck; the driver was gesturing and apologizing to us for scaring the birds off the roadway, but actually he did us a big favor by provoking flight. A lot of my crowded flight shots didn't come out as (1) you can be too close with a telephoto and (2) it is really hard to pick one bird to keep in focus. Wide angle lenses can be fun for those close-in crowd shots (like on the ferry with the gulls).

Osprey with really bloody fish
Nikon D810 with NIKKOR 500mm f/4E FL ED VR + Nikon 1.4x TC ~ 1/2000 secf/6.3 ISO 800

This Osprey was minding his own business out on an old pier in the bay. We edged closer and closer and finally he decided to move on. Bill Maroldo and I try to separate a bit in these cases so at least the angle of the shot is different, otherwise we have practically identical shots. He used both his Sony rig and the Nikon D810 with 600mm lens that day. It is surprising how often one of us misses the action; he can get out of the truck much faster than I can but sometimes one of us is checking settings or not quick enough and doesn't get the shot.

Probably a Savannah Sparrow
Nikon D810 with NIKKOR 500mm f/4E FL ED VR + Nikon 1.4x TC ~ 1/2000 secf/6.3 ISO 2500

I *think* this is a Savannah Sparrow but I am not really sure. That identification is my default Winter sparrow call unless it is really different and distinct. We get about 17 different species during the winter and you can even take Sparrow Identification Classes if you want to become an expert.

Brownwood subdivision that used to be: the red line shows the Gate-you-enter-at-your-own-risk (Click to embiggen)

On our first trip a gate near the pavilion was open and we got to drive around Wooster's Point and to areas on the south side we had never seen before. There are small blinds with cut-outs to watch the birds, although I think they were cut for binocular birders since a big lens won't fit. And we noticed a great unobstructed view of the Fred Hartman Bridge. I was already thinking about a wide-angle night shot when I saw that!

On our next trip, the gate was securely locked. We stopped at the office on our way out to inquire about when the gate would be open again... and found out it was a mistake it was open that day! It is perfectly alright to walk that road and area, but they don't want car traffic disturbing the wildlife. And we were told we were very lucky it was still open when we exited that area as people have been locked in on several occasions. 

Lone Brown Pelican sentinel at low tide

Lone Brown Pelican sentinel at low tide

Photo: Darrell Davidson, © Houston Chronicle

Photo: Darrell Davidson, © Houston Chronicle

And lest we forget why there is a Baytown Nature Center. The image above is the remains of someone's waterfront home now destroyed by subsidence and the elements. It is about 50 feet out into the bay but was built on dry land that has sunk and disappeared. And it looks a lot like this old photograph; the spacing of the brick columns looks the same. I wrote about the history of the Brownwood subdivision in Taking a Gamble last year. Each time we go I think about the lost dreams of the people that made this their home.

Have you been to Baytown Nature Center? Did you know about Brownwood's tragic end? And most important, what do you think about shooting high ISOs and high shutter speeds? Let me know in the comments below.

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