Natural History Photography Blog - Phillip Colla

Aerial Panorama of Point Loma, Cabrillo Monument and San Diego Bay

This is a highly detailed aerial panoramic photo of the southern end of Point Loma, with Cabrillo Monument and both old and new lighthouses visible. The original Cabrillo lighthouse is seen atop the bluff, while the new lighthouse is down near the water’s edge next to the green lawns. North Island Naval Air Station and San Diego Bay are seen in the distance over the top of the peninsula. The submarine reefs of Cabrillo State Marine Reserve are clearly visible through the clear water. The Coronado Strand stretches off to the right (south) toward Mexico, while the broken coastline of Point Loma and Sunset Cliffs stretches off to the left (north). This high resolution panorama will print 40″ high by 90″ wide. If you like this, please see more aerial photos of San Diego. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Aerial Panoramic Photo of Point Loma and Cabrillo Monument, San Diego, California
Aerial Panoramic Photo of Point Loma and Cabrillo Monument.
Image ID: 30847  
Location: San Diego, California, USA
Pano dimensions: 6195 x 13742
 

Aerial Panorama of the San Diego Coronado Bay Bridge

One of the images I wanted to add to my collection of San Diego aerial photos was a very wide, very detailed image of the San Diego Coronado Bay Bridge. I could have taken a single image with a very wide lens — such as this image taken a few years ago that has since paid for the flight many times over — and achieved a reasonable result, but as far as high resolution goes this approach has its limits. The wider the lens, the more distortion is present in the image (think “fisheye view”). Correcting such distortion reduces the sharpness of the details especially around the edges of the image. Also, a single photograph will be limited in resolution by what the camera can record — these days, 36 megapixels is typical. What I really wanted was an enormous, highly detailed, and rectilinear (straight lines, no fisheye distortion) image suitable for large reproduction in a space that would warrant it, such as an office lobby, museum, or the Oval Office. Equipped with the most expensive and high-tech ball head in the world, my daughter and I got up in the air and set about shooting the images. I later stitched them together on the computer using several stages and software programs. The result is this panoramic photo of the San Diego Coronado Bay Bridge, suitable for printing 50″ by 100″ wide with no interpolation.

Panoramic Aerial Photo of San Diego Coronado Bay Bridge
Panoramic Aerial Photo of San Diego Coronado Bay Bridge.
Image ID: 30789  
Location: San Diego, California, USA
Pano dimensions: 7503 x 14441
 

If you like this, please see my other San Diego aerial photos, or my collection of aerial panoramic photos. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Aerial Panoramic Photo of La Jolla Cove and Scripps Park, San Diego

Panoramic aerial photograph of La Jolla Cove and Scripps Parks (center), with La Jolla’s Mount Soledad rising above, La Jolla Shores and La Jolla Caves to the left and the La Jolla Coast with Children’s Pool (Casa Cove) to the right. The undersea reefs of Boomer Beach are seen through the clear, calm ocean waters. This extremely high resolution panorama will print 50″ high by 130″ long with no interpolation. If you like this, be sure to check out my always growing gallery of San Diego photos.

Aerial Panoramic Photo of Point La Jolla and La Jolla Cove, Boomer Beach, Scripps Park
Aerial Panoramic Photo of Point La Jolla and La Jolla Cove, Boomer Beach, Scripps Park.
Image ID: 30773  
Location: La Jolla, California, USA
Pano dimensions: 7744 x 20541
 

This is the second in my series of recent San Diego aerial panoramas, part of my collection of aerial photos of San Diego. Making an aerial panorama is difficult. The technique used in the sky is important and requires a good pilot and the right conditions. Lens choice is important as well, otherwise distortion will affect the resulting image considerably. And obtaining a perfect result, with no “stitching errors” or gaps, requires a degree of patience, several pieces of software, and some trial and error. I spent days assembling these panoramas, and hope to see them reproduced at enormous sizes once the right opportunity presents itself. Cheers and thanks for looking!

Aerial Panorama of Bird Rock and the La Jolla Coastline

Aerial Panorama of La Jolla’s Bird Rock, with surfers in the water at lower right. Submarine reefs, characteristic of the La Jolla coast, can be seen through the clear water. Mount Soledad rises above everything. This 180-degree panorama extends from Camp Pendleton in the extreme distance to the north to Point Loma in the south. The resolution of this image will permit it to be printed 80″ high by 200″ wide with no interpolation.

Aerial Panoramic Photo of Bird Rock and La Jolla Coast, with surfers in the waves.  Pacific Beach and Mission Beach are to the far right (south).  La Jolla's Mount Soledad rises in the center.  The submarine reefs around Bird Rock are visible through the clear water. This extremely high resolution panorama will print 80 inches high by 200 inches wide
Aerial Panoramic Photo of Bird Rock and La Jolla Coast, with surfers in the waves. Pacific Beach and Mission Beach are to the far right (south). La Jolla’s Mount Soledad rises in the center. The submarine reefs around Bird Rock are visible through the clear water. This extremely high resolution panorama will print 80 inches high by 200 inches wide.
Image ID: 30778  
Location: La Jolla, California, USA
Pano dimensions: 7948 x 20303
 

In March and April I made a series of flights to photograph many of San Diego’s prominent coastal features. (Yesterday I described one flight focusing on making aerial photos of San Diego’s Marine Protected Areas.) During their spring breaks, my daughters and I hired helicopters a couple times with the goal of adding to my collection of aerial photos of San Diego, trying something new. The pilots and I discussed the plans before taking off, and we gave it a shot. Making an aerial panorama is very difficult to get just right. The technique used in the sky is important and requires a good pilot and the right conditions. Lens choice is important as well, otherwise distortion will affect the resulting image considerably. And obtaining a perfect result, with no “stitching errors” or gaps, requires a degree of patience, several pieces of software, and some trial and error. I spent days assembling these panoramas, and hope to see them reproduced at enormous sizes once the right opportunity presents itself. This is the first of several I will post over the coming days. Cheers and thanks for looking!

Aerial Photographic Survey of San Diego Marine Protected Areas for Lighthawk

I recently made a special flight with my pilot friend Steve Parker in collaboration with Lighthawk. Lighthawk’s mission is “to accelerate conservation success through the powerful perspective of flight”. On this flight, we were trying to produce new aerial images of several Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) along the San Diego coastline for organizations involved with these MPAs to use in their outreach, conservation, research and legislative efforts.

Aerial photo of Batiquitos Lagoon, Carlsbad. The Batiquitos Lagoon is a coastal wetland in southern Carlsbad, California. Part of the lagoon is designated as the Batiquitos Lagoon State Marine Conservation Area, run by the California Department of Fish and Game as a nature reserve
Aerial photo of Batiquitos Lagoon, Carlsbad. The Batiquitos Lagoon is a coastal wetland in southern Carlsbad, California. Part of the lagoon is designated as the Batiquitos Lagoon State Marine Conservation Area, run by the California Department of Fish and Game as a nature reserve.
Image ID: 30569  
Location: Carlsbad, Callifornia, USA
 

I’ve flown with Steve many times, including previously for Lighthawk to document the impacts of the large wind turbines constructed on the landscape around Ocotillo, California as well as a number of times to survey blue whales in the southern California bight and the Channel Islands. On our San Diego MPA mission, we would be passing over several lagoons and rivermouths, various kelp forests, two submarine canyons, several stretches of coastal bluff, one peninsula and lots of urban elements surrounding and interspersed with these MPAs. Our goal was to produce imagery presenting, for each of the MPAs, at least the following: 1) the general setting of each MPA, so that viewers can quickly understand what and where it is, and 2) something unique, special and/or appealing about each MPA, to help viewers connect with and appreciate the MPAs. Steve’s daughter Roxanne accompanied us as second pilot as well as locating the MPAs and facilitating communication between Steve and me. Steve handled the primary piloting, and communications with air-traffic controllers in the area.

The Marine Protected Areas that we hoped to fly over were, from North to South in the order we would see them:

  • Batiquitos Lagoon SMCA
  • Swami’s SMCA
  • San Elijo Lagoon SMCA
  • San Dieguito Lagoon SMCA
  • San Diego Scripps Coastal SMCA
  • Matlahuayal SMR
  • South La Jolla SMCA
  • South La Jolla SMR
  • Famosa Slough SMCA (we missed this one, unfortunately)
  • Cabrillo SMR
  • Tijuana River Mouth SMCA

Time in the air is always limited and, frankly, it comes at a steep price. I wanted to make sure we had some variety of perspectives, and at least one or two good images from each of different MPAs. It is a challenge, in more ways than one, to pull off a successful photo flight like this. We had several long conservations with Lee Pagni at Lighthawk about the objectives, then Steve and I had to work out several possible flight dates given tides, position of the sun in the sky, etc. Our first slot was scrubbed due to clouds. When we finally met at Palomar-McClellan airport in Carlsbad, we already had invested some hours and energy. On top of that are the expenses Steve incurs operating the plane, which are considerable. So, I did want to leave any possibility of missing a photo due to equipment failure or simply having the wrong lens in hand. I would be shooting out the side of Steve’s Cessna 206 plane, with views from about 7 to 10 o’clock (the nose of the plane being at 12 noon). We also mounted a GoPro camera on the wing, pointed somewhat forward and down, in the hopes of obtaining some additional very wide images with a view that I was not able to get. We set the GoPro to take a picture every 5 seconds for the duration of the flight. I photographed with three cameras to give me quick access to a variety of focal lengths: Nikon D800 with 14-24 lens, Nikon D800 with 24-70 lens, and Canon 5D Mark III with 70-200 lens. The 24-70 is by far the most useful lens for this sort of aerial landscape. The 14-24 is typically too wide and sometimes catches a wing tip or strut in the corner of the frame, but it can produce beautiful aerials in some circumstances. Unless the air is exceedingly clear, 70-200 is typically too much lens for my taste and produces a flat-looking, low-contrast image even with a polarizer. (The 70-200 is, however, excellent for photographing whales while shooting straight down.) I also had two GPS units recording our positions every few seconds, producing a “GPX file” which I would later use to “geo-tag” all of the photos. (Good thing I had two, my older GPS produced a faulty GPX file and is now retired.)

Aerial Photo of Cabrillo State Marine Reserve, Point Loma, San Diego
Aerial Photo of Cabrillo State Marine Reserve, Point Loma, San Diego.
Image ID: 30641  
Location: San Diego, California, USA
 

Editing left me with 150 images, including a few of the GoPro ones that illustrated reef structure in La Jolla that I did not manage to photograph well with my “real cameras”. In particular, the GoPro stills are hard to use due to the fisheye-like view they produce, but in some cases the fisheye distortion can be corrected and a useable image results. Taking all of the GoPro images, correcting them all for distortion and then cropping them to a 9:16 perspective, allowed me to produce a sort of jerky time-lapse which gives a sense of the views we where working with. If you don’t see a Youtube frame below, you might need to refresh the page. Be sure to select “HD” when it starts playing:

When editing aerial images, the first thing I always do is “geo-tag” them. This simply means adding the location (latitude, longitude and altitude) into the EXIF information that is present inside of a digital photograph. I do the geotagging in Adobe Lightroom, using the GPX file created by my handheld GPS. (Some cameras, including the iPhone, geotag photos as soon as they are taken.) The raw GPX file is simply a dot-to-dot set of locations that, when plotted in software like Google Earth, shows the path of the flight:

Here are a couple zoomed-in-views, showing our flight paths over Batiquitos Lagoon State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA) (first image) and Swami’s SMCA and San Elijo Lagoon SMCA (second image):

These tracklogs are nice, but without the images they simply say “we were here”. After geotagging the images and producing a “KMZ file” to display in Google Earth, one can see the images at the location where they were made. The geo-information associated with each image is now of some value:

If you have Google Earth installed, you can work with the full KMZ file by clicking the next image. (It may simply download the KMZ file instead of displaying it in Google Earth.) It contains embedded within it small versions of all the edited images, appearing at their proper locations. If this does not work, you can download the raw KMZ file to your computer and try loading it into Google Earth directly.




click to launch this map in Google Earth

The full collection of images being made available to bon fide conservation organizations can be seen here. Please contact me directly if you have questions, or if you would like to make use of them.

I would like to thank Lighthawk, Christine Steele and Lee Pagni of Lighthawk, and my pilot friends Steve and Roxanne Parker for helping to make these photographs possible. I will be posting detailed information about selected images from this flight over the coming weeks. If you reference these images, they should be credited “Phillip Colla / Oceanlight.com / Lighthawk.org”.

Aerial photo of Batiquitos Lagoon, Carlsbad. The Batiquitos Lagoon is a coastal wetland in southern Carlsbad, California. Part of the lagoon is designated as the Batiquitos Lagoon State Marine Conservation Area, run by the California Department of Fish and Game as a nature reserve
Aerial photo of Batiquitos Lagoon, Carlsbad. The Batiquitos Lagoon is a coastal wetland in southern Carlsbad, California. Part of the lagoon is designated as the Batiquitos Lagoon State Marine Conservation Area, run by the California Department of Fish and Game as a nature reserve.
Image ID: 30563  
Location: Carlsbad, Callifornia, USA
 
Aerial Photo of San Diego Scripps Coastal SMCA. Blacks Beach and Torrey Pines State Reserve, La Jolla, California
Aerial Photo of San Diego Scripps Coastal SMCA. Blacks Beach and Torrey Pines State Reserve.
Image ID: 30622  
Location: La Jolla, California, USA
 
Aerial Photo of South La Jolla State Marine Reserve
Aerial Photo of South La Jolla State Marine Reserve.
Image ID: 30638  
Location: La Jolla, California, USA
 

Lunar Eclipse April 4 2015 from Joshua Tree National Park

I went up to Joshua Tree National Park to watch the lunar eclipse of April 4, 2015. Photographically, I was not sure what I was going to do. I’ve made a series of lunar eclipse sequence images (lunar eclipse October 8, 2014 and April 14, 2014 version 2 version 3). While these images are visually appealing and challenging to make well, I really wanted to do something different for this eclipse, push the creative comfort zone so to speak. Fellow photographer Garry McCarthy and I mulled over some ideas on the drive up to Joshua Tree but after arriving I was still at a loss. I deliberately left my 500mm lens at home so I would not fall into the trap of trying to photograph closeups and sequences that way. In fact, I brought my fish eye lens to force myself to look for something different. We headed to the arch, a spot we often go to for night photography and the place at which Garry (with some help from me) originally planned and executed the “Milky Way Arch over Arch” photo, which we have subsequently re-photographed in many variations over the years. A little pondering, a pause for a Santana’s chicken burrito, some crawling around on the rocks looking for angles, and then thankfully I had finally had an idea for a different kind of sequence and a different angle on the arch. At least something to try.

Lunar Eclipse Sequence through Arch Rock, April 4 2015, Joshua Tree National Park, California
Lunar Eclipse Sequence, the path of the moon through the sky as it progresses from being fully visible (top) to fully eclipsed (middle) to almost fully visible again (bottom), viewed through Arch Rock, April 4 2015.
Image ID: 30713  
Location: Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA
 

I wanted a composition that told the story of the entire eclipse from start to end in one photograph, and in which the Joshua Tree NP setting was clearly evident. I recalled the exposure settings I had used during the last eclipse and realized that the variation of the moon’s light is too great to capture with just one exposure setting, but that could work to my advange in depicting the entire smooth path of the moon through the sky. I took a wild-ass-guess at the best aperture, shutter and ISO to use, set up my camera on a small tripod wedged into some rocks, turned on the intervalometer and let it go all night. The result is the following composite image, depicting the moon from about 1am until 6:30am, including the lunar eclipse from when it began at 3:15am until it set behind the rocks in the distance. The frame is “Arch Rock”, but in an unfamiliar angle. 890 individual images were taken to make this image. The stars and eclipsed moon are shown at about 5am, when the eclipse was at its “peak”, the moon being in its “blood red” phase and lit only by indirect, refracted light passing through the Earth’s atmosphere. The color of the moon is indeed red in the full res version but its hard to make out on the web. The path of the moon is flared toward the top due to high altitude clouds which were passing by, but as the eclipse began the skies cleared and the moon’s path through the sky becomes smoother.

We also realized that during the eclipse, the milky way would become visible, something that is typically impossible to see during a full moon. In fact, the strength of the moonlight would gradually fade in such a way that we could wait for it to exactly match the milky way and starlight above, allowing us to photograph the arch lit by a perfect amount of moonlight, right at astronomical twilight when blue just begins to appear in the sky, without resorting to using any artificial light at all. The result was this image: Milky Way over Arch Rock during Lunar Eclipse of April 4, 2015. (Note: I think this is the highest quality panorama of this scene I’ve ever photographed, and I’ve practiced it many many times. It will print 4.5′ by 7′ with no interpolation.)

Milky Way during Full Lunar Eclipse over Arch Rock, Joshua Tree National Park, April 4 2015
Milky Way during Full Lunar Eclipse over Arch Rock, Joshua Tree National Park, April 4 2015.
Image ID: 30717  
Location: Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA
Pano dimensions: 8903 x 14184
 

We were also treated to a 22° lunar halo an hour or so before the eclipse occurred. Often mistakenly called “lunar corona”, the lunar halo forms when moonlight refracts through hexagonal high altitude ice crystals. As no light is refracted at angles smaller than 22° the sky is darker inside the halo. It formed a complete circle for about 45 minutes. We were freezing our asses off and, while this was a superb distraction, once it was gone we still had to wait and freeze until the eclipse began. Why is it still so cold in the high desert in April?

Full moon with 22-degree lunar halo, Joshua Tree National Park.  The lunar halo (not to be cofused with lunar corona) forms when moonlight refracts through high altitude ice crystals. As no light is refracted at angles smaller than 22-degrees the sky is darker inside the halo
Full moon with 22-degree lunar halo, Joshua Tree National Park. The lunar halo (not to be cofused with lunar corona) forms when moonlight refracts through high altitude ice crystals. As no light is refracted at angles smaller than 22-degrees the sky is darker inside the halo.
Image ID: 30711  
Location: Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA
 

Cheers and thanks for looking!

Moonflowers - Desert Wildflowers at Night

Filed under: California, Desert — Tags: , , — on 3/12/2015

“Moonflowers” - with a nod to my favorite rock band, and the best guitarist of all time. Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and the small community of Borrego Springs contained within, have had a reasonably nice wildflower bloom this year. That’s great news, since it has been awhile since the last nice bloom there that was not adversely affected by the black mustard plant. Alaskan photographer Ron Niebrugge kindly kept us up to date on the bloom from his winter location in Borrego Springs, and I managed to get out and try my hand at wildflower photography five times over the course of a week.

Dune Evening Primrose and Full Moon, Anza Borrego, Oenothera deltoides, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California
Dune Evening Primrose and Full Moon, Anza Borrego.
Image ID: 30497  
Species: Dune primrose, Oenothera deltoides
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California, USA
 

Anza-Borrego is only 75 miles from my home in Carlsbad, and the entire mountains along the way are beautiful right now, including the oaks on Mount Palomar and the rolling hills around Lake Henshaw, so the drive itself was fun each time. My first visit was actually a detour on the way to Death Valley, so I really just went to scout and find the densest, healthiest patch of flowers I could find, free from the hordes of caterpillars and footprints that had overtaken DiGiorgio Road a short time before. I did have some great evening storm clouds over the flowers, and managed a few photos. I found the best area well to the north of Henderson Canyon Road. From just before before a big rain, to a few days after the rain and then into a dry hot spell, I was able to watch this one patch of flowers flourish with moisture, rise out of the sand and bloom, only to be overtaken by moth caterpillars and dry conditions and soon reduced to virtually nothing in 9 days. Having not had a chance to really photograph my favorite wildflower — the dune evening primrose (Oenothera deltoides) — in some years, I tried photographing it in as many ways as I could think of, knowing it will probably be some years again before I see such nice displays. I shot these commando, working quickly and in one instance shooting handheld, while the moon rose (top photo) and fell (bottom photo). Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Dune evening primrose (white) and sand verbena (purple) mix in beautiful wildflower bouquets during the spring bloom in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Oenothera deltoides, Borrego Springs, California
Dune evening primrose (white) and sand verbena (purple) mix in beautiful wildflower bouquets during the spring bloom in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.
Image ID: 30502  
Species: Dune primrose, Oenothera deltoides
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California, USA
 

Elephants (Three Different Ones)

I am starting to post my images from a fantastic safari experience in Kenya in September, and searched on the term “elephant” in my own stock files and found these three came to the top. I immediately thought “Elephants (Three Different Ones)”. Yes, I am a Pink Floyd fan, naturally. And no I don’t mean that kind of pink floyd. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Elephant arch and stars at night, moonlight, Valley of Fire State Park
Elephant arch and stars at night, moonlight, Valley of Fire State Park.
Image ID: 28435  
Location: Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada, USA
 
Bull elephant seal exits the water to retake his position on the beach.  He shows considerable scarring on his chest and proboscis from many winters fighting other males for territory and rights to a harem of females.  Sandy beach rookery, winter, Central California, Mirounga angustirostris, Piedras Blancas, San Simeon
Bull elephant seal exits the water to retake his position on the beach. He shows considerable scarring on his chest and proboscis from many winters fighting other males for territory and rights to a harem of females. Sandy beach rookery, winter, Central California.
Image ID: 15458  
Species: Elephant seal, Mirounga angustirostris
Location: Piedras Blancas, San Simeon, California, USA
 
African elephant herd, Amboseli National Park, Kenya, Loxodonta africana
African elephant herd, Amboseli National Park, Kenya.
Image ID: 29531  
Species: African elephant, Loxodonta africana
Location: Amboseli National Park, Kenya
 

Paradise in February: San Diego

Filed under: San Diego — Tags: , , , , — on 2/18/2015

President’s Weekend was nice here. The rest of the country is freezing, yup that’s pretty bad. Southern California is in the midst of a bad drought and our Sierra Nevada is missing its usual snowpack which is going to hurt in the coming months, but at least the warm winter makes for clear skies and very nice temps. Here are a couple photos from President’s Day’s weekend, all depicting a few of my favorite scenes and all including the Pacific Ocean which was flat calm and glassy much of the time. Cheers and thanks for looking.

Broken Hill and view to La Jolla, panoramic photograph, from Torrey Pines State Reserve, sunrise, San Diego, California
Broken Hill and view to La Jolla, panoramic photograph, from Torrey Pines State Reserve, sunrise.
Image ID: 30469  
Location: Torrey Pines State Reserve, San Diego, California, USA
Pano dimensions: 6212 x 12960
 
Gray whale raising fluke before diving, on southern migration to calving lagoons in Baja, Eschrichtius robustus, San Diego, California
Gray whale raising fluke before diving, on southern migration to calving lagoons in Baja.
Image ID: 30463  
Species: Gray whale, Eschrichtius robustus
Location: San Diego, California, USA
 
Gray whale raising fluke before diving, on southern migration to calving lagoons in Baja, Eschrichtius robustus, San Diego, California
Gray whale raising fluke before diving, on southern migration to calving lagoons in Baja.
Image ID: 30464  
Species: Gray whale, Eschrichtius robustus
Location: San Diego, California, USA
 
California Brown Pelican head throw, stretching its throat to keep it flexible and healthy. Note the winter mating plumage, olive and red throat, yellow head, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla
California Brown Pelican head throw, stretching its throat to keep it flexible and healthy. Note the winter mating plumage, olive and red throat, yellow head.
Image ID: 30449  
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA
 
Surf and spray during Santa Ana offshore winds, San Diego, California
Surf and spray during Santa Ana offshore winds.
Image ID: 30461  
Location: San Diego, California, USA
 

The Original Wind Surfers: Pelicans, Waves and Surf

Filed under: Birds, Pelicans, San Diego — Tags: , , , , — on 2/16/2015

Wikipedia describes the origins of wind surfing in the 1940s and 1950s. It couldn’t be more wrong. For as long as they have existed, sea birds and their ancestors have plied the oceans, riding the updrafts of surf, waves and sea swells to gain efficiency and a free ride. My favorite practitioner of this skill is the pelican, although the wandering albatross is a close second. I have been watching pelicans cruise the coastline of my southern California home with a graceful effortlessness my whole life. This winter I made it a goal to shoot some images of brown pelicans surfing and skimming waves. Here are a few of my favorites, photographed in Carlsbad, Encinitas, Del Mar and La Jolla. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

California Pelican flying on a wave, riding the updraft from the wave, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
California Pelican flying on a wave, riding the updraft from the wave.
Image ID: 30257  
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
 
Brown pelican flying over waves and the surf, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla, California
Brown pelican flying over waves and the surf.
Image ID: 30199  
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
California Pelican flying on a wave, riding the updraft from the wave, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
California Pelican flying on a wave, riding the updraft from the wave.
Image ID: 30262  
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
 
California Pelican flying on a wave, riding the updraft from the wave, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
California Pelican flying on a wave, riding the updraft from the wave.
Image ID: 30275  
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
 
Brown pelican flying over waves and the surf, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla, California
Brown pelican flying over waves and the surf.
Image ID: 30193  
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
California Brown Pelican flying over a breaking wave, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla
California Brown Pelican flying over a breaking wave.
Image ID: 30353  
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
California Pelican flying on a wave, riding the updraft from the wave, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
California Pelican flying on a wave, riding the updraft from the wave.
Image ID: 30277  
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
 
Brown pelican flying over waves and the surf, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla, California
Brown pelican flying over waves and the surf.
Image ID: 30194  
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
California Pelican flying on a wave, riding the updraft from the wave, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
California Pelican flying on a wave, riding the updraft from the wave.
Image ID: 30278  
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
 
California Brown Pelican flying over a breaking wave, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla
California Brown Pelican flying over a breaking wave.
Image ID: 30364  
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
California Brown Pelican flying over a breaking wave, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla
California Brown Pelican flying over a breaking wave.
Image ID: 30374  
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
California Pelican flying on a wave, riding the updraft from the wave, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
California Pelican flying on a wave, riding the updraft from the wave.
Image ID: 30273  
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
 
California Pelican flying on a wave, riding the updraft from the wave, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
California Pelican flying on a wave, riding the updraft from the wave.
Image ID: 30314  
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
 
California Brown Pelican flying over a breaking wave, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla
California Brown Pelican flying over a breaking wave.
Image ID: 30352  
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
California Pelican flying on a wave, riding the updraft from the wave, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
California Pelican flying on a wave, riding the updraft from the wave.
Image ID: 30264  
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
 

I photograph brown California brown pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis). If you like these, please see more California brown pelican photos or a little PDF e-guide about photographing California brown pelicans in La Jolla.

Killer Whales (Orca) attacking California Sea Lion

Filed under: Marine Life, Sea Lion — Tags: , , , — on 2/9/2015

I saw Wild Kingdom in action yesterday: killer whales preying upon California sea lions. Classified as Biggs transient orcas, these individuals are well known (CA51) for terrorizing other marine mammals along the Southern California coast. “Biggs transients” are one of four distinct populations (some insist they are species) of killer whales, characterized by predating upon marine mammals and occasionally sea birds as opposed to ground fish or salmon as do other coastal orcas. Coming upon the five killer whales as they finished toying with and consuming one predation (likely a sea lion), we watched them proceed to take at least two more sea lions over the next hour. In each of the following photos there is a sea lion although in some it is hard to find. The first image depicts the first hit that one of the adult orcas put upon the sea lion. I knew it was coming but still nearly did not get the lens on the sea lion in time. Several other hits took place and the sea lion was clearly panicky and stunned. In the third image, one of the females passes by the sea lion but what is not obvious is that there are two other orcas just below and in front of the sea lion, the pinniped is literally surrounded. There were two subadult orca in the group and it may have been a case of the adults allowing the subadults to learn how to hunt; in practical terms the pack was toying with its doomed prey. In the fifth photo you can see how close to shore this took place. In the final three images, the sea lion is 1) barely able to avoid being pushed under by one of the females, 2) hammered sideways by one of the adults, and 3) gasps for breath before being finally pulled under for the last time and consumed. I don’t photograph killer whales often, but have photographed other whale species including humpback whales and blue whales and some dolphins: Cetacean Photos. For my diving buddies who might be wondering: this was purely a topside trip. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Killer whale attacking sea lion.  Biggs transient orca and California sea lion, Orcinus orca, Palos Verdes
Killer whale attacking sea lion. Biggs transient orca and California sea lion.
Image ID: 30425  
Killer whale attacking sea lion.  Biggs transient orca and California sea lion, Orcinus orca, Palos Verdes
Killer whale attacking sea lion. Biggs transient orca and California sea lion.
Image ID: 30426  
Killer whale attacking sea lion.  Biggs transient orca and California sea lion, Orcinus orca, Palos Verdes
Killer whale attacking sea lion. Biggs transient orca and California sea lion.
Image ID: 30427  
Killer whale attacking sea lion.  Biggs transient orca and California sea lion, Orcinus orca, Palos Verdes
Killer whale attacking sea lion. Biggs transient orca and California sea lion.
Image ID: 30428  
Killer whale attacking sea lion.  Biggs transient orca and California sea lion, Orcinus orca, Palos Verdes
Killer whale attacking sea lion. Biggs transient orca and California sea lion.
Image ID: 30429  
Killer whale attacking sea lion.  Biggs transient orca and California sea lion, Orcinus orca, Palos Verdes
Killer whale attacking sea lion. Biggs transient orca and California sea lion.
Image ID: 30430  
Killer whale attacking sea lion.  Biggs transient orca and California sea lion, Orcinus orca, Palos Verdes
Killer whale attacking sea lion. Biggs transient orca and California sea lion.
Image ID: 30431  
Killer whale attacking sea lion.  Biggs transient orca and California sea lion, Orcinus orca, Palos Verdes
Killer whale attacking sea lion. Biggs transient orca and California sea lion.
Image ID: 30432  
Killer whale attacking sea lion.  Biggs transient orca and California sea lion, Orcinus orca, Palos Verdes
Killer whale attacking sea lion. Biggs transient orca and California sea lion.
Image ID: 30433  

La Jolla Birds

Filed under: Birds, La Jolla — Tags: , , , , — on 2/7/2015

La Jolla birds as of this morning. I had until 8:45 before catching the end of Sarah’s practice so I went down the coast highway. There were some waves in Encinitas but nothing special. Spectacular clearing mist at Torrey Pines at sunrise. In La Jolla the light changed much and often, wisps of fog passing just to the east in front of the sun. There was no workshop or crowd at the bird spot this morning which meant lots of birds and whisper quiet. Pelicans are at peak plumage, the cormorants have quite a ways to go. All in all a great morning. All photos are handheld with Canon 200-400. Cheers and thanks for looking!

Ring-Billed Gull, Larus Delawarensis, La Jolla

Filed under: Birds — Tags: , , , — on 2/6/2015

Once in a while I will photograph seagulls. I really should spend more time on them, since they can at times be beautiful in the right light and when in good condition. Unfortunately, gulls often they look like crap, and when I see them out on the water I invariably think “sky rat”. I only photograph the ones I see in La Jolla, so along with the Heermann’s Gull I posted about a few days ago, I also like the Ring-billed gull (Larus delawarensis). Hopefully in a few months I’ll have more images of this gull to add to my collection. Cheers, and thanks for looking.

Ring-billed gull, Larus delawarensis, La Jolla, California
Ring-billed gull.
Image ID: 18304  
Species: Ring-billed gull, Larus delawarensis
Location: La Jolla, California, USA
 
Ring-billed gull, Larus delawarensis, La Jolla, California
Ring-billed gull.
Image ID: 30355  
Species: Ring-billed gull, Larus delawarensis
Location: La Jolla, California, USA
 
Ring-billed gull, adult non-breeding, in flight, Larus delawarensis, La Jolla, California
Ring-billed gull, adult non-breeding, in flight.
Image ID: 28990  
Species: Ring-billed gull, Larus delawarensis
Location: La Jolla, California, USA
 

Royal Tern Breaking Its Fast, La Jolla

Filed under: Birds on 2/4/2015

This Royal Tern (Sterna maxima) manages a Exorcist-worthy head twist as it reaches for a small bug. See the tiny black bug? La Jolla, morning. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Royal tern eating bug
Royal tern eating bug

Heermann’s Gull, Larus heermanni

Filed under: Birds — Tags: , , , — on 2/1/2015

The Heermann’s Gull (Larus heermanni), photographed when I am out and about in La Jolla and North County. Lately I have been trying to frame seabirds against blue water, or have the ocean horizon in the image to anchor the composition and help tie the animal with the ocean. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Heermanns gull in flight, Larus heermanni, La Jolla, California
Heermanns gull in flight.
Image ID: 30348  
Species: Heermann's gull, Larus heermanni
Location: La Jolla, California, USA
 
Flock of Heermanns gulls in flight in front of a big wave, Larus heermanni, La Jolla, California
Flock of Heermanns gulls in flight in front of a big wave.
Image ID: 30359  
Species: Heermann's gull, Larus heermanni
Location: La Jolla, California, USA
 
Heermanns gull, presunrise purple-pink glow in the distant sky, Larus heermanni, La Jolla, California
Heermanns gull, presunrise purple-pink glow in the distant sky.
Image ID: 23656  
Species: Heermann's gull, Larus heermanni
Location: La Jolla, California, USA
 
Heermann's gull, immature, in flight, Larus heermanni, La Jolla, California
Heermann’s gull, immature, in flight.
Image ID: 28991  
Species: Heermann's gull, Larus heermanni
Location: La Jolla, California, USA
 
Heermanns gull, moon setting, sunrise, Larus heermanni, La Jolla, California
Heermanns gull, moon setting, sunrise.
Image ID: 18272  
Species: Heermann's gull, Larus heermanni
Location: La Jolla, California, USA
 
Heermanns gull in flight, Larus heermanni, La Jolla, California
Heermanns gull in flight.
Image ID: 30312  
Species: Heermann's gull, Larus heermanni
Location: La Jolla, California, USA
 
Heermanns gull in flight, Larus heermanni, La Jolla, California
Heermanns gull in flight.
Image ID: 18273  
Species: Heermann's gull, Larus heermanni
Location: La Jolla, California, USA
 

La Jolla Reefs, Surf and Clouds

Filed under: La Jolla, Photo of the Day, Surf — Tags: , , — on 1/31/2015

This morning in coastal La Jolla was lacking in color but there is always something of beauty in the way waves come ashore and wrap around rocks and reefs. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

La Jolla Surf, Reef and Clouds
La Jolla Surf, Reef and Clouds
La Jolla Surf, Reef and Clouds

Blue Whale Full Body Photo

Filed under: Blue Whale, Icons, Underwater Life — Tags: , , , , — on 1/29/2015

Blue Whale Full Body Photo

For more, see Blue Whale Photos, Balaenoptera musculus

I made my first underwater photo of a blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) about 18 years ago, and over the intervening years I have struggled to make a perfect image of an entire blue whale, rostrum to fluke, one with which I am entirely satisfied. This image of an adult blue whale underwater, which I made while out on the water off San Diego with friend and fellow photographer Mike Johnson, is a good example.

Blue whale 80-feet long, full body photograph of an enormous blue whale showing rostrom head to fluke tail, taken at close range with very wide lens, Balaenoptera musculus, San Diego, California
Blue whale 80-feet long, full body photograph of an enormous blue whale showing rostrom head to fluke tail, taken at close range with very wide lens.
Image ID: 27967  
Species: Blue whale, Balaenoptera musculus
Location: San Diego, California, USA
 

This photograph illustrates the snake-like proportions of an adult blue whale as well as the curve of the upper lip bone (the largest single bone in the animal kingdom), the thin ridge on top of the rostrum that leads to the splash guard in front of the whale’s blowhole, and the curious skin mottling that characterizes the species. But technically this image has some problems, the sort that drive underwater photographers nuts. I do not exaggerate when I say trying to photograph an 80′ or longer animal underwater in typical California water conditions is a real challenge! The water is often cloudy or hazy, as can be seen in this image by a “glow” or “halo” that surrounds some of the brighter parts of the subject, particularly around the dorsal ridge and caudal area of the whale which are close to the surface and thus reflecting a great deal of light. With film this haloing was at once less objectionable but nearly impossible to deal with in post processing. With today’s digital tools, the computer operator can attempt to suppress the haloing somewhat but at the risk of adding too much artificiality to the image. So my decision is that it remains. Above water our eyes and lenses are accustomed to seeing things clearly in the range of miles. Underwater, our range of vision is crippled tremendously, measured in just feet. This begs the question: How does one photograph a subject whose dimensions are greater than the distance one can even see? For whales, water visibility must be excellent, 60′ or better, or else much of the leviathan is depicted without detail. In this image, note the whitewater at top left: it is the point where the blue whale left the ocean surface and began its underwater glide but, at about 120′ away, it is rendered with no detail at all. The leading 1/3 of the whale is sufficiently near the camera that it is rendered with plenty of detail, but is not so close that it is distorted by the fisheye lens I was using. The open ocean, miles from shore, is normally the best place to find clear and blue water. Recently, though, the ocean off our coast has been a veritable soup of zooplankton. Abundant salps, sea nettles, filamentous and particulate-like critters float about in an explosion of spineless life. This occasional summer phenomenon is very cool to experience, and in the past I have even stopped to photograph these small weightless water-filled wonders. But on the day I shot this photo, such things are effectively obstacles to photographing much grander subjects. The only way to deal with the situation is to shoot as many photos as possible hoping that, upon review later, one is lucky to have some frames in which the jellies do not obscure the whale. Of the 10 frames I shot while the animal passed by me, rolling on its side to look at us with one eye as it did so, this was the only frame that did not have zooplanktons screwing it up. I experimented with using a silver color conversion on this photo to better accentuate the sunlit whale against the dark, bottomless void of ocean below, and I thought this rendition looked pretty appealing. I do not get out on the ocean much anymore. In fact this may be the only photo of a blue whale I take all year! So I consider myself lucky to have seen it and be able to share the experience with you. Thanks for looking, and cheers!

Stars, A Galaxy and … Wind Turbines?

On a lark one evening in 2014, my buddy Garry McCarthy and I headed out to the desert to do some night photography with only one caveat: try someplace new (in other words, not Joshua Tree again). We headed east and somewhat south with sort of a plan but really it was mostly the blind leading the blind. Eventually we got on spot, broke out the lights and flashed them around while clicking away with the cameras and what followed was one of the most industrial, industrious and unconventional photography sessions I’ve had. Thanks to Garry’s mad lighting skillz acquired on many landscape astrophotography trips, we came away with some creative and fun images. How big are these wind turbines? About 250′ tall at the rotor’s axle, and another 185′ for the blade, for a total reach of 435′ above ground. Pretty damn big! Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Wind Energy Turbines, at night with stars and the Milky Way in the sky above, the moving turbine blades illuminated by a small flashlight
Wind Energy Turbines, at night with stars and the Milky Way in the sky above, the moving turbine blades illuminated by a small flashlight.
Image ID: 30239  
Express Wind Energy Projects, moving turbines lit by the rising sun,
Express Wind Energy Projects, moving turbines lit by the rising sun,.
Image ID: 30242  
Express Wind Energy Projects, moving turbines lit by the rising sun,
Express Wind Energy Projects, moving turbines lit by the rising sun,.
Image ID: 30248  
Stars rise above Wind Turbine power generation facility, with a flashlight illuminating the turning turbine blades
Stars rise above a Wind Turbine power generation facility, with a flashlight illuminating the turning turbine blades.
Image ID: 30227  
Express Wind Energy Projects, moving turbines lit by the rising sun,
Express Wind Energy Projects, moving turbines lit by the rising sun,.
Image ID: 30246  
Stars rise above Wind Turbine power generation facility, with a flashlight illuminating the turning turbine blades
Stars rise above a Wind Turbine power generation facility, with a flashlight illuminating the turning turbine blades.
Image ID: 30224  

Photographing the Head Throw of the California Brown Pelican in La Jolla

Filed under: Pelicans — Tags: , , , — on 1/23/2015

I photograph brown California brown pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis). A lot. I love them, they are at once both graceful and awkward. They surf. They dive. They eat fish. They live along the coast of California. All things I like to do too! Here are some of my favorite images, showing how beautiful these birds can be: California brown pelican photos.

California Brown Pelican head throw, stretching its throat to keep it flexible and healthy, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla
California Brown Pelican head throw, stretching its throat to keep it flexible and healthy.
Image ID: 30304  
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA
 

There is one peculiar behavior that pelicans exhibit that is quite challenging to photograph: the “head throw“. Also known as a “bill throw”, it occurs when a pelican throws its head up and back, way way back! The head throw is thought to be a way for the pelican to stretch the skin of its gular pouch — its throat — in order to maintain its flexibility and health. The California race of brown pelican exhibits striking mating coloration in winter, including a colorful red and green throat, yellow head and breast patch, and a bright white or deep chestnut brown hind neck. When a California brown pelican tosses its head back into a bill throw, the rich olive and red colors of its throat are really on display. This year I decided to focus my photography on a couple aspects of these birds that I had not yet photographed to my satisfaction in the past, one of which was the head throw. (The other is surf, which I will share in a few days.) I had plenty of head throw photos before, including some very nice ones, but I wanted to make some new really top notch ones, real keepers. I now have dozens of head throw sequences captured by my camera this season (thank you Canon) but only a few that I feel are really perfect, framed well with super light, rich color and sharp as a tack.

California Brown Pelican head throw, stretching its throat to keep it flexible and healthy, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla
California Brown Pelican head throw, stretching its throat to keep it flexible and healthy.
Image ID: 28347  
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA
 
California Brown Pelican head throw, stretching its throat to keep it flexible and healthy, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla
California Brown Pelican head throw, stretching its throat to keep it flexible and healthy.
Image ID: 30174  
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA
 

One key to photographing this behavior is to know where and when to find pelicans — that’s no secret. Another is to have ideal conditions. I live in the San Diego area so I can simply look outside to make sure the skies are clear — yielding perfect light for about an hour after sunrise — before investing the time to go shoot. Lastly, the pelicans need to be in the right mood — not bothered by people, dogs or big waves — and preening, drying and warming themselves in the sun. It is when they are relaxed and preening that they will do head throws. Once the pelican has lain down it is unlikely to do any more bill throws.

Brown pelican stretches its neck, to keep its throat pouch limber.  The characteristic winter mating plumage of the California race of brown pelican is shown, with deep red gular throat, yellow head and dark brown hindneck, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla
Brown pelican stretches its neck, to keep its throat pouch limber. The characteristic winter mating plumage of the California race of brown pelican is shown, with deep red gular throat, yellow head and dark brown hindneck.
Image ID: 23648  
Species: Brown pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA
 
Brown pelican head throw.  During a bill throw, the pelican arches its neck back, lifting its large bill upward and stretching its throat pouch, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla, California
Brown pelican head throw. During a bill throw, the pelican arches its neck back, lifting its large bill upward and stretching its throat pouch.
Image ID: 18044  
Species: Brown pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA
 

A challenge is anticipating when a head throw will occur, since they seem to be almost random for folks unfamiliar with pelicans. With lots of practice and 25 years spent watching this colony every winter, I’ve become fairly good at knowing when a bird is about to throw its head back, and can frame up the act and capture it reasonably well about 50% of the time. (Hey, even a blind squirrel sometimes find a nut!) It might help to think about the cat, that vile, irritable, nasty and vomit-inclined species of vermin. Cat owners usually have a sense when little precious is about to gack up a hairball or barf its last fetid, colorless meal. The creature stops licking itself, or tearing up the couch, or whatever it happens to be doing, and instead tips its head out at an odd angle, jerks its neck once or twice like something is wrong and perhaps a strange death-rattle sound eminates from its belly. Then, a few moments later - WHAM! — the cat does its thing all over your floor. It is similar with brown pelicans, only they are not so nasty. Often before one does a head throw, it will cock its head and neck at a odd angle, clap its beak once or twice, maybe even invert its throat (like sticking out its tongue) before it grows still. It may open its beak slightly as it pauses. Then, quickly, it raises its bill straight up and back, mouth open, then closing the mouth as it lowers it beak again. 2 seconds later, its over. But fortunately, a pelican that has just done a head throw is fairly likely to do it again in a few moments, so be ready to get it the second time if you miss it the first time.

Brown pelican head throw.  During a bill throw, the pelican arches its neck back, lifting its large bill upward and stretching its throat pouch, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla, California
Brown pelican head throw. During a bill throw, the pelican arches its neck back, lifting its large bill upward and stretching its throat pouch.
Image ID: 20284  
Species: Brown pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA
 
California Brown Pelican head throw, stretching its throat to keep it flexible and healthy, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla
California Brown Pelican head throw, stretching its throat to keep it flexible and healthy.
Image ID: 30297  
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA
 

A tip for photographers: don’t have too much lens! I like the Canon 200-400 (with built in extender) on a full frame body for all pelican photography in La Jolla these days. I see serious out-of-town bird photographers with 600 or 800mm, perhaps even on a crop body. Good luck with that. Perhaps the 800mm photographer is looking for head portraits - not that there’s anything wrong with that. But if you want full body flight and head throw shots in La Jolla, I recommend 300mm as a starting point, and sometimes will shoot a bit wider if there are lots of pelicans right up close to where I like to shoot from. With a 600 or 800, it may be hard to fit the entire bird when it is stretched out to its fullest during a head throw along with enough negative space, and there is a good chance you will clip the head or feet unless you are way way back. (I’ve even seen a few guys this year return to their cars to get a second setup because the 500mm they were using was too much for flight and head throws.) Yes, once you realize you have just clipped the feet during the head throw that you spent $4000 and travelled from the east coast to shoot, you could take several photos immediately afterward of the feet, rocks, etc and Franken-blend a composite using techniques learned in your last workshop. But natural history photographers can’t be cheaters in that way (just ask Nat Geo) and just see what happens when you submit that image to a major contest or a decent publication A rough rule of thumb I have when waiting for a head throw is to expect the composition to be about twice as tall as the bird is when it is relaxed and sitting.

California brown pelican, throwing head back to stretch its throat, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla
California brown pelican, throwing head back to stretch its throat.
Image ID: 26287  
Species: Brown pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA
 
California Brown Pelican head throw, stretching its throat to keep it flexible and healthy. Note the winter mating plumage, olive and red throat, yellow head, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla
California Brown Pelican head throw, stretching its throat to keep it flexible and healthy. Note the winter mating plumage, olive and red throat, yellow head.
Image ID: 30341  
Species: Brown pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA
 

If you like these, please see more California brown pelican photos or a little PDF e-guide about this choice spot. Cheers and thanks for looking!

Wild West Magazine - Shooting Star and Milky Way over Delicate Arch

A shooting star and the Milky Way over Delicate Arch at night, seen on the “parting shot” end page of Wild West Magazine. This is the first time I have had my work in Wild West which was nice! Cheers, and thanks for looking!


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Updated: May 30, 2015