Photography unrelated, but…

My son just got his Master of Music Degree, from the University of Manchester, UK, where he has been residing for a few years now.He is working on his PH D and needless to say I am a very proud mother today. He is a gifted musician and hope he will reach all of his dreams.

His wife, Angela Guyton, also a very talented artist, filmed this video tutorial for the program he is enlisted in now. It’s located at:

Happy Holidays to all!

Never say never: The people project!

If you know me at all, you are aware that I have never been interested in photographing people, especially if they are posed. But with the little camera NEX 7, I had the best time of my life playing incognito paparazzi at Epcot last weekend.Some of them are processed like old pictures, some of them regular. I don’t think any of the subjects were aware and I have no plans to put them in the market. Public place fun only, looking for expressions or character in the faces.
All of them were taken with the Sony 18-200 (effective 27-300) that is being replaced for the Sony older version that has better quality and IS. All of them at ISO 1600 and the maximum focal lens as not to interfere with the subjects.

Time for a change

Not that we are getting away from bird photography.Not really.
But sometimes I feel like I need something different and explore new venues and roads to keep the imagination working. Nothing like facing a challenge to keep your mind alert and chumming.

1/200, f32, ISO 400 @ 48mm

Our new toys are Sony’s NEX7. A very small and light mirror less camera, that will take Sony’s E lenses, other Sony lenses with an adapter, and you can also get another fancier adapter to use Zeiss and Leica lenses. Not that I plan to spend a fortune on a new system, but let’s face it. How many of you get tired from rolling a cart full of gear or a heavy backpack anywhere? With a one pound lens that goes from 18 to 200mm (effective 27 to 300) with this diminutive 24 MG jewel, we used a lot of 1600 and 3200 ISO with just a little Lightroom cleaning.
Other than walking light, we enjoyed doing some street and people photography, without intimidating or freaking anyone, because who’s afraid of a little camera?
I used the latest Sony release for that focal lens and it’s on its way back to BH as I write this. It’s rumored to be made by Tamron for Sony and it is outdone by far by the older version, 2 ounces heavier and $50 more expensive. The older version is much sharper, it is usable to the full focal lens (The newer fails extended at 200mm even on a tripod) and it is not as sharp. Plus the minimum focusing distance is half a foot longer, and it made all the difference in the world trying to do close up of flowers. We exchanged lenses now and then for comparison.
There will be other entries as pictures get processed, but we had a joyful week-end, played like kids with people or detail images and really think it is an alternative to carrying 50 pounds of equipment around. Allshots were hand held.
This post is just about the images I made of Spaceship Earth, Epcot, my first attempt at architectural imagery.
Hope you enjoy!
1/13, f/22, ISO 200, hand held
Focal length 33mm, with a 1.5 crop factor

1/250, f10, ISO 400 @ 48mm

1/400, f22, ISO 400 @ 19mm

1/50, f10, ISO 400 @ 19mm

1/160, f10, ISO 400, 18mm

1/1000, f11, ISO 400 @ 22mm

Zoo Miami

Not bird season for us down here in Miami, but fortunately, I am teaching classes at Zoo Miami on Sundays, so, although I’m not exactly a fan of captive animals, they are so well taken care of, and so beautiful, that it is easy to enjoy spending time there.

Last week-end they had a Trick or Treat week-end, with ghosts and displays, and animals getting pumpkins and orange treat bags filled with fruit. It was great to see all the kids dressed up for Halloween and the air of festivity was all around.



Today, the day was slower, although I got to see the females lions for the first time, and they are outstandingly beautiful, plus we had an incident with the mountain gorillas. JJ is the alpha male and it is very hard to get him to do anything or even show his face. He likes to sleep, feet up covered by a palm frond. Today, such a beautiful day, he was out, sleeping, of course, when someone threw a whole bag of pop corn to the ditch in front of the exhibit. A young and agile female went right for it, but this didn’t go unnoticed. JJ got on the move and we were ready for some action.


Well, as in humans, when a male is in love, he is lost. He would go near her but got happy such by getting the pop corn she dropped. Not an ounce of aggression towards her, although another older female that was close by got to feel his anger and rejection. At some point, this young female had the audacity to throw two punches at him, which he took willingly, and after that, she sat on top of the highest rock and pounded on her chest, Tarzan style. Go know…


When she was finished and plastic bag was licked, she threw it to JJ!!!! The ultimate humilliation.

I’m sure he had his reasons, but we had such a great time watching the behavior.


Animals be animals, whether they are captive or not, and you can never tell when you are going to get a good image, so the key is patience, wait for them to be in even light if possible and make sure you have enough shutter sped to avoid camera shake if you are in working them in the shade (always recommended).


Going on a Diet Monday, how I made it

How a made “Going on a Diet Monday”

Puffins are one of our favorite birds, and we planned a trip to England to try and visit some of the nesting islands. And I said try because getting to land is totally weather dependent. Puffins are seabirds and only come to land in the summer, to nest in burrows, and when the offspring are ready, they go back to the ocean, where they stay until the next breeding season. Chicks follow on their own a few days after the adults, and will not come back to land until they are ready to breed themselves, which could be from two to four years. They are nick named “clowns of the sea” because of their colorful and funny appearance.
At the end of the breeding season, they have a family to feed and will come to land with a mouthful of sand eel (in the case of England), otherwise they feed in the ocean. They have serrated bills, so they can stack fish after fish on it. Of course, this is the time most photographers prefer to visit the islands.

This image was captured at the Farne Islands, where there is a huge colony of Puffins and other birds. I had hoped to be able to get close-ups and flight images, and took a couple of cameras and lenses, as most nature photographers always do. This day was on the tail end of the trip, and carrying heavy equipment around for several days in a row can get to me. Since the birds are really close to you at some parts, I decided to go with just the hand held lens and tele-converters.

I was seating on a rock very close to the small dock of the first island, very close to the cordon they keep for bird safety, enjoying their behavior and waiting for opportunities. This little fellow landed on the rocks across from me and just sat there. I wished I had the 500mm with me then, but this was really no too bad.

Equipment and settings:
Canon 1d4, 70-200/4L IS plus 1.4X @ 228mm
f/11, 1/640, ISO 800
No flash/tripod was used
Light was poor, but not horrendous. Overcast days are perfect for this type of subjects because the tonal range can be captured easily with the low contrast.
I had been shooting in manual mode, at f/5.6, capturing flight to maximize my shutter speed. My pre-visualized image was a head on perspective and immediately knew that f/5.6 was not going to work for me.
The subject was relatively close to me, making depth of field smaller and I wanted a perpendicular perspective in relation to my sensor.
I had to close my aperture and still keep enough s/s to render a sharp picture without a tripod. The bird was not in a hurry. Apparently, he was waiting for photographers and birders to clear the path to his burrow.
My background was the ocean, quite far, so I had no penalty to pay for using a small aperture. f/11 seemed like a good choice, allowing me 1/640 speed, which was plenty, since I have a steady hand, plus digging my elbows firmly into my knees, created an “anatomical” tripod.
My only concern now was his pose. Considering the roundness of his head, I had to make sure that both eyes were visible in the shot. So taking more frames than I needed was my way of making sure to get the perspective I wanted.
After the fact, I find the image to be almost comical, with his rounded body being consistent with the amount of food, even if it was not for him. That’s when I decided on the caption. In web presentation, a catchy caption can help your picture get more views. Although I think the Puffin makes a strong image, most of us can relate to the thought of postponing the diet to a Monday that never comes.

Post processing:
This was converted from RAW in Lightroom 4, no exposure adjustment necessary.
Luminosity noise a few points over default, and a few point of sharpening (while holding the alt/option key that makes it B&W to see how the edges look).
Cropping off the sides, maintaining the vertical framing intact. Given the symmetrical quality of the subject and given that it is a vertical frame now, I chose to keep a centered composition.
Take the image to CS6, and check the noise @100%
One light pass of Topaz Denoise on a layer, masking the bird, to keep the background clean and in Nik Color Efex 4, the filter Darken/Lighten center, adjusting the position and size of the center and keeping the brightness setting there at 0%, only reducing the brightness of the edges.
For web use, resize and use Nik Sharpening as a brush, only on the subject.

Work your subject! Whenever you have the time, try different settings, consider and weight your choices, as in photography there are a lot of compromises to be made.
Never assume you got “the” picture, always take more for insurance, especially when you do birds in action, the tend to close the nictitating membrane, giving you a great picture with an unusable eye.
Although I am a big fan and enjoy spending time in the computer with my images, try to get the best possible frame at capture. You will have a better image all the time if the initial capture is the best you can possibly do. Do not rely on PS to fix technical flaws. It needs good raw material, no pun intended.

My husband and I are a shooting team besides a couple and we inspire and complement each other. We love nature, and specialized in birds. Although we are privileged to live in Florida, where there are plenty of subjects, we travel to foreign locations in pursuer of certain species.
I am a retiree, holding a part-time job as Adjunct Faculty at Miami-Dade College, where I enjoy pulling the photographer out of my students. Teaching is very rewarding and you get motivated as you motivate others.
Please visit our website at:

Arctic Terns feeding

Arctic Tern (Sterna Paradisea)

They are medium sized sea birds, with the longest migration known to any animal, from the Northern Oceans to Antarctica and back. They see more sunlight in a year than any other animal.
The long forked tails developed in the summer, are particularly attractive as they fly and glide through the air.

They nest every one to three years and perform most of its activities in the air. Juveniles are brown or grayish , resembling winter adults.
They are extremely vocal and protective of their nest, attacking visitors who venture into their colony grounds. They tend to return to the same nesting grounds.
They hardly fly while they are molting, resting in blocks of ice.

They can live of to 34 years and can breed at 3 to 4 years of age.
Their diet consists of fish and small marine invertebrates.

Arctic terns are slightly smaller than common terns, and have a shorter bill and longer tail. The rump is white, the underparts are darker and the wing lacks the dark wedge on the outer edge, which is a key identifying feature of common terns. During summer, the bill becomes bright red and lacks the black tip seen in common terns.
The Arctic Terns are considered threatened in certain states, and at the southern part of their range, the population has been diminishing.
There are approximately one million individuals around the world.

When you run out of subjects…

The summer is pretty slow for us bird photographers in South Florida. Water is everywhere and birds scattered, plus the heat and humidity make it unpleasant to be out in the field much. So it’s time to spend time indoors processing older images, or time to hit the ground!

I had noticed a patch of grass close to home, where little yellow wild flowers were growing, so we packed our macro gear this week-end and went for the gold before the grass was due to be cut.

ImageIt was itchy and hot at ground level, and the wind keep blowing hair into my eyes, so in spite of me using live view, a lot of the images came out out of focus, which would be immaterial for the effect I was going after. I worked wide open and back lit, camera to the ground to get some color wash. Next time i will bring a polarizer, because I did get some reflections from the grass, quite annoying.


I ended up with less than a handful of usable images, but this is only the beginning of a ground level adventure. Using textures and bokeh overlays, changing blending modes, transforming, twisting and tinting, I came out with playful images that challenged the creativity and the never ending discovery.

ImageMy favorite overlays come from the UK based Digital Heavens and you can find them here;

Have fun guys, inner child is having a blast!