Photo of the Week - July 24, 2015

Three juvenile Purple martins poke their heads out
of the nesting box while an adult male keeps watch

Port of Olympia
Olympia, WA
July 24, 2015

Breeding season is beginning to wind down on Budd Inlet in downtown Olympia. Many of the juvenile Purple martins have fledged in the last week. The air is rich with birds flying and foraging for insects. 

At least one box has 3 unfledged juveniles. They take turns poking their heads through the opening of the nest box. As soon as they spy an adult heading their way, their mouths gape open in anticipation.

Female adult Purple martin flies in with a dragonfly
to feed a waiting juvenile

With luck, their parent brings a large, freshly caught dragonfly. The insect is consumed within one second of its arrival at the nesting box. Adults arrive every few minutes with more food for their ravenous youngsters.

Male adult Purple martins approach the nest box while
juvenile begs to be fed

Male adult Purple martin flies towards the nest box
while two juveniles wait for food

Photo of the Week - July 14, 2015

"zebra" car in supermarket parking lot

July 14, 2015

Photo of the Week - July 12, 2015

Purple martin dive bombing a Belted kingfisher
while defending its nest

Budd Inlet
Olympia, WA
July 12, 2015

During breeding season, birds are very vigilant when it comes to protecting their nest. While observing the Purple martins nesting on Budd Inlet in Olympia, I was able to see several instances of the small birds warning off much larger birds, including crows and gulls. 

In this sequence, a male Purple martin swoops down and frightens a Belted kingfisher who has perched on a piling near the martin's nest box. The kingfisher took flight and did not return again that morning. 

Crow being dive bombed by a Purple martin

Photographing Fireworks

Photographing fireworks

Here are some tips for photographing professional fireworks shows on the Fourth of July.
You can also use them as a starting point for home fireworks, but you will probably need to adjust your shutter speed.

General Tips:
  • Support - Use a tripod, counter top, tree, or other solid surface to support the camera. Handheld fireworks photographs are usually blurry due to camera movement.
  • Focus - If you have a camera that has manual focus, turn off the auto focus and set the focus to infinity manually. An easy way to do this is to autofocus on something very far away and then turn the autofocus off.

    For Canon and many newer Nikon SLR lenses the manual focus switch is on the lens. For older Nikon and many other SLR lenses, the manual focus switch is on the camera body; look for it on the front of Nikon cameras on the lower left hand side.  Set the lens to MF while taking firework shots. Be sure to return it to AF when you are finished. On most point and shoot cameras, your focus is set to infinity automatically when in the fireworks scene mode. If you are shooting your point and shoot camera using manual exposure instead of the Fireworks scene mode, look for manual focus (MF) under the function menu, on a MF button, or under the same button used to set the camera to close focus (macro)

Photographing fireworks with a point and shoot camera

  1. Scene Mode - Find the scene mode dial or button on your camera. Set your camera to the fireworks mode, which can usually be found under the SCN, Scene, or Function buttons or under the regular menu.
  2. Support your camera while depressing the shutter button to take photos. If you are using a tripod consider using a remote for less camera shake.
What your point and shoot camera does in the fireworks mode:
  • sets the focus to infinity
  • sets the ISO automatically
  • sets the shutter speed to one or 2 seconds
  • sets the aperture automatically
  • sets the white balance automatically

Photographing fireworks with a digital SLR or advanced point and shoot
  1. Focus - Set your focus to manual and set your focus to infinity.
  2. Mode - Set your exposure dial to M.
  3. Shutter Speed - Change your shutter speed to 2 second (2"). This is normally the number which appears in the left of your viewfinder and lcd display.
  4. Aperture - Set your aperture to f/ 5.6 or f/8
  5. ISO - Set your ISO to 200 or 400
  6. (Optional) set your white balance to daylight.
  7. Take photos with support. Support your camera while depressing the shutter button to take photos. If you are using a tripod consider using a remote for less camera shake.
  8. TEST - Take a test shot. If your photo is too bright, change your shutter speed to 1 second. If you need more light or longer fireworks trails, set your shutter speed to 4 seconds.
Once you are finished, reset your camera back to autofocus, auto white balance and your normal shooting mode.

© Michele A. Burton

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