Significantly for 2016, I purchased the cropped-frame Sony a6300 for backpacking, video and added reach in bird photography. I then discovered the image IQ was as good as my Canon 5D III at moderate ISO’s, so I used it preferentially for landscapes. The proof is below, where seven of eleven favorite images came from the little 14-ounce Sony.
Overall my photography shoots were down again this year, and, by choice, I didn’t kayak all summer, instead choosing to hike and backpack. Still, it was fun assembling the favorites. Thanks so much for looking.
Flight. A January visit to the Seattle Arboretum by kayak gifted me this image, two male Wood Ducks taking flight. I like the quartering angle of the foreground bird. The out-of-focus water splash, caused by a third bird that is out of frame, is a bonus. Tracking birds in flight with a 500mm f/4 lens while seated in a kayak isn’t easy; you get a lot of failures.
A Jewel. On a neighborhood birding walk, I discovered this male Anna’s Hummingbird. His territory was a viburnum hedge that he defended from two photo-friendly low perches. One was this rose bush, and by careful positioning I got a pleasant green wash background. What followed was repeated visits from January and on into March. I got many outstanding images, this one my favorite.
Palouse Lightning. In May, Rich B and I visited Palouse Falls. To our dismay, the park was closed the first night because they were blacktopping the entrance road, so we missed our first photo-op. Campground open the next day, and in the evening the distant sky exploded with lightning. I wisely shot the falls in a long exposure before it got completely dark, and then held the shutter open in repeated attempts to capture the strikes. This image is a composite of three, one for the falls and canyon, and two from the sky.
Threefer. This Seattle Pileated Woodpecker nesthole often had three begging chicks poking their heads out when mom or dad arrived with food. I photographed many feedings, but only captured one that showed all three chicks with eyes open wide and heads outside the hole. A rather heavy crop presents the clan up close.
Family. Also in May, I photographed an Anna’s Hummingbird nest along the dog park trail at Marymoor in Redmond. It was eye level, with clean, unobstructed sight lines and a distant background (notice a pattern?). In this image the chicks are 19 days old, the day before they fledged. This family is also the subject of my first nature video. I’ll post my experience with that soon.
Brood. Caught early June from a kayak in an eastern Washington lake, an American Avocet parent is lifting up off two chicks it was brooding in morning chill. I’m not disappointed I cut the adult’s head in half, because really, the chicks here are the stars. Shot with my old Canon 500mm f/4 lens, and with a Sony a6300 and Metabones converter.
Flight Track. In late June, Dan S and I travelled to BC near Kamloops for bird photography, first at Logan Lake and then Lac Le Jeune. The first evening scouting we discovered a Flicker nest in a live aspen. The adults were actively feeding chicks close to fledging. In the morning, over-the-shoulder sun lit the site, perfect for freezing flight when a parent approached the nest. By keeping a distance away─ and with good timing─we not only got two to four shots of flying birds in frame, but we got a green bokeh background as well. And the birds were amazingly tolerant. I couldn’t imagine a better setting.
Bunchberries. Late June, and Kate and I camped at Takhlakh Lake to get sunset kayak photos with a Mt. Adams backdrop. Bunches of bunchberry carpeted the forest floor around the lake. I love this floral arrangement, enhanced by adjustments in Lightroom to darken and de-saturate the surrounding ground.
Skyline Descent. After sunset on knoll five (or six?) at Skyline Divide (Mt. Baker), my friend Rich descended with a trekking pole aid back to camp. I got that shot, then trained my camera north to the blue Cascade ridges with an orange sky glow. Months later in Photoshop, I extracted Rich from one image and re-positioned him descending N instead of NE, for a more colorful and engaging backdrop. Separately both images are saleable and can stand on their own, but I like the fanciful composite much more. It has mystery, risk, and arresting color.
Crop. Wife Kate planted sunflowers on the sunny south side of the house, and by September they were 12 ft tall with large seed heads. I beat the squirrel to harvest for a few of them, and set the cut heads on the back deck railing, hoping for Steller’s Jays. Soon enough, the wary Jays arrived. I wore camo, and shot through an open window using the house as a blind. One after another, Jays filled their crop and departed, then returned for more. An easy shoot for this hard to photograph bird.
November Blues. In Vancouver, WA, for Kate’s November conference, I hiked Columbia Gorge canyons seeking solace from a disturbing election. Well past the peak of fall color, I came up with something different at Punchbowl Falls, shooting through a tangle of mossy maples. Thanks to Nick Jurich for suggesting I stretch the right-hand tree rightward in Photoshop, to better lead the eye.
Happy New Year!