Boats & Planes, Old Town Waterfront

Boats & Planes, Old Town Waterfront. Nikon D200, Tokina 11-16 2.8 @ 11mm. ISO 100, f/8, 1/500 sec.
Boats & Planes, Old Town Waterfront. Nikon D200, Tokina 11-16 2.8 @ 11mm. ISO 100, f/8, 1/500 sec.

A Victorian-style riverboat, dramatic clouds, and vivid colors—then a plane flies through your photo—and it couldn’t get much better.

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Great Egret, Dyke Marsh

Great Egret, Dyke Marsh. Nikon D200, 75-300mm AF @300mm, ISO 400, f/8, 1/500 sec.
Great Egret, Dyke Marsh. Nikon D200, 75-300mm AF @300mm, ISO 400, f/8, 1/500 sec.

Dyke Marsh is a little retreat just south of Old Town. There’s a short walking path that leads out into the heart of the marsh, with nice views of the Potomac. In order to get this photo of the egret, I wandered off the path a bit. The backlighting was beautiful at this time of day and I hung out in this cove for a while, enjoying my time with this graceful creature.

Violinist, King Street

Violinist, King Street. Nikon D200, 105mm f/2.5 AI, ISO 100, f/8, 1/200 sec.
Violinist, King Street. Nikon D200, 105mm f/2.5 AI, ISO 100, f/8, 1/200 sec.

Sometimes the light is so good you can’t believe your luck. Other times, the light stinks and you need to create your own luck. For the latter, I usually carry around a small flash.

But in the photograph above, the sun provided all the luck I would need. This musician was standing right on the edge of some great late afternoon golden light. The sun was at the perfect angle to create interesting shadows and reveal texture in the wall.

It was almost as if the violinist positioned himself perfectly for a photograph, but I’m sure he was just trying to fend off the fall chill.

Northern Cardinal, Franklin Street

Northern Cardinal, Franklin Street. Nikon D200, 75-300mm AF @200mm, ISO 200, f/8, 1/500 sec.
Northern Cardinal, Franklin Street. Nikon D200, 75-300mm AF @200mm, ISO 200, f/8, 1/500 sec.

I’ve discussed the difficulty of photographing small birds before. Even with a 300mm lens (combined with the D200’s 1.5x crop factor for an effective reach of 450mm) you have to be pretty close to the bird in order to fill the frame with it. In the instance of this cardinal, I was shooting from my bathroom window.

That’s right, my bathroom window. I was standing in the tub.

I had been wanting to get a good photo of a cardinal for a while because it is my mom’s favorite bird. I spent all winter trying to get close to them at Huntley Meadows, and while I had a few decent pictures, none of them were really all that close. I had to crop a lot to get the bird larger and then ended up with less than ideal image quality.

Then one day later that year (in July, my EXIF data tells me), I was practicing in the empty upstairs bedroom (it’s not empty any longer), and I saw it! A male cardinal hanging out in the tree right outside the window. The thing was sitting in full sunlight about 15 feet from me. Pretty ideal conditions for sure, since harsh sunlight tends to help bring out detail in birds’ feathers.

After getting my camera out he had (of course) flown away, but it gave me time to get set up in the bathroom window. That window was even closer to the tree where he was perched and it was also easier to remove the screen from the window in that room. Once set up, I waited.

I didn’t take long before he was back and I was able to take a decent number of shots. Some of my favorites were right after he had puffed his feathers out and was preening. It’s almost like he knew he was being photographed, and decided to put on his best airs.

Thank you Mr. Cardinal. I appreciated it.

Street Musician, North Union Street

Street Musician, North Union Street. Nikon D200, 105mm f/2.5 AI, ISO 100, f/2.8, 1/250 sec.
Street Musician, North Union Street. Nikon D200, 105mm f/2.5 AI, ISO 100, f/2.8, 1/250 sec.

I was sitting on the steps at the corner of King & Union when this singer/guitarist started setting up and playing. The light wasn’t all that great, but as I sat there a little longer it started to get more interesting.

It’s not luck that I had my camera on me, as I try to carry it as much as possible these days. I made a quick lens swap and then snapped several frames of the musician. This was my favorite of them—a thoughtful, quiet moment.

Red-winged Blackbirds, Huntley Meadows Park

Red-winged Blackbird Singing, Huntley Meadows Park. Nikon D200, 75-300 AF @300mm, ISO 800, f/8, 1/500 sec.
Red-winged Blackbird Singing, Huntley Meadows Park. Nikon D200, 75-300 AF @300mm, ISO 800, f/8, 1/500 sec.

My first love in photography was shooting landscapes. By extension, I became interested in shooting wildlife: birds, in particular. There’s something thrilling about tracking down a bird, stalking it, and then shooting it. It’s sort of like hunting except without all of the—you know—death.

I’ve had mixed results in my bird photography exploits. Most of my more successful shots are of larger birds because I don’t have a massive telephoto lens (which is practically a requirement for filling the photo frame with a smaller bird). If anyone would like to donate $17,000, I promise it would go directly towards an 800mm lens.

Luckily, the red-winged blackbirds at Huntley Meadows are super patient. The best time to photograph them, typically, is late afternoon. The sun is at a more flattering angle, the light is warm in color, and these little guys are content to just perch and sing. I’ve been able to get really close to them and most of the birds don’t seem to mind at all.

Red-winged Blackbird, Huntley Meadows Park. Nikon D200, 75-300 AF @300mm, ISO 400, f/6.7, 1/500 sec.
Red-winged Blackbird, Huntley Meadows Park. Nikon D200, 75-300 AF @300mm, ISO 400, f/6.7, 1/500 sec.

The photo directly above was actually taken during late morning, but I like the muted color palette in contrast to the golden hour shot taken at the top of this post. I also like the superbly dreamy background, thanks to the good amount of distance between the bird and the trees in the distance. Like I said before, these birds have been really patient for me so it’s fun to hang out with one for a while, and capture their range of poses and emotions.

Autumn Colors, Huntley Meadows Park

Autumn Colors, Huntley Meadows Park. Nikon D200, 75-300mm AF @112mm, ISO 400, f/6.3, 1/100sec.
Autumn Colors, Huntley Meadows Park. Nikon D200, 75-300mm AF @112mm, ISO 400, f/6.3, 1/100sec.

Autumn is my favorite season, with winter being a close second. I love the holidays during these times of year, but I also relish the crispness in the air, the smell of wood fires, and the abundance of color.

Going through some older photos, I discovered the picture above. I took this last autumn in Huntley Meadows Park, one of my favorite retreats here in Alexandria. Huntley Meadows is somewhat of a hidden gem, nestled amongst strip malls, car dealerships, and apartment complexes. Once you enter the park, however, all of that melts away and you are in an oasis of wildlife and quiet refuge. I’ll be posting more Huntley Meadows photos soon, as I have a good deal of wildlife images from my adventures there.