Backyard photography

Photographing the January 2019 Lunar Eclipse!

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Last night was a total lunar eclipse. Or as the media touted it, a super blood wolf moon eclipse. Here in Central Florida, not only did the sun, Earth, and moon align, but a few “stars” as well: the eclipse happened on a clear night before a day off from work. That clear night was a result of a cold front, which left Rich and me shivering in 40 degree weather with 15mph winds. But it was totally worth it!

Lunar Eclipse Composite
Lunar Eclipse Composite

The last time I got to photograph a lunar eclipse was in 2014. Last night I used many of the same techniques, but with a more Beastly lens. As the shadow first starts moving across the moon, it’s fairly easy to photograph. There is plenty of light and the camera’s auto-focus works easily. Closer to the totality period, the light level is much lower. Then it’s harder to focus, and higher ISOs and longer exposures are needed to capture the detail in the shadows.

Last night’s moon was directly overhead, so I used the tripod to aim the camera straight over my head. It must have looked like I was balancing the Beast on the tip of my nose!

Lunar Eclipse Composite
Lunar Eclipse Composite

The eclipse started around 10:40pm and went till about 2am. During that time, I used my phone timer to take pictures every 5 minutes as the Earth’s shadow traversed the moon. Today I edited the images into a time-lapse, which I liked a lot better than the one I did in 2010.

The next total lunar eclipse isn’t for another couple of years. Hopefully that one will be visible from Florida, and maybe on a warmer night, which would lend itself to more patience for sharp totality images.

I think I’ll sleep well tonight! :)

Beyond the Backyard

Ash-throated Flycatcher Up Close at Lust Road

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Last weekend I visited the Lust Road entrance of the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive. I had intended to do the drive, but I ended up spending the morning just walking around photographing the little birds at the gate. The Ash-throated Flycatcher is back this year, and he posed nice and close…

Ash-throated Flycatcher
Ash-throated Flycatcher

All morning I heard the happy calls of American Goldfinches. There was a small flock of them gathered in the grass. They haven’t turned their pretty bright yellow yet, so they blend in easily to the vegetation.

American Goldfinch
American Goldfinch

As I was stalking goldfinches, I spotted this photogenic little Palm Warbler. He seemed to know that he was beautiful in the golden morning light.

Palm Warbler
Palm Warbler

The Lust Road gate is a great place to look for sparrows. My first bird of the morning was a Swamp Sparrow…

Swamp Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow

I spotted a Grasshopper Sparrow, but he stayed deep in the bushes. Unlike this Savannah Sparrow…

Savannah Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow

I heard the Painted Buntings before I saw them. I then spotted a couple of greenies and a male. The male didn’t want to pose for the camera but the greenie’s feathers sure did glisten in the morning light. :)

Painted Bunting "Greenie"
Painted Bunting “Greenie”

The wind started to pick up and I began packing up my camera. A cute little Blue-gray Gnatcatcher popped out to say goodbye . I’ll never get tired of photographing these tiny clowns. This guys is starting to show the dark line on his face that’s part of his breeding plumage. That’s a sign that spring is on its way!!

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Beyond the Backyard

Birdy Morning at the Orlando Mudflats

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It was my last morning of my Christmas vacation. The first sunny day in a week. I went to the Orlando Wetlands hoping for Roseate Spoonbills and a sunrise like this…

Orlando Wetlands at Dawn – Taken in 2012

But sadly, I encountered a very different sight – a mud flat! I didn’t realize that they are de-mucking one of the best cells in the wetlands as part of a wetlands renovation project. It’s valuable work that isn’t particularly photogenic…

Sunrise at the Orlando Mudflats!

There was a bright side, though. It was very easy to see the Wilson’s Snipe that were hanging out in the mudflats. Usually these timid birds are harder to find and photograph out in the open.

Wilson's Snipe
Wilson’s Snipe on Mud Flat

This Glossy Ibis certainly showed off his colors in the bright morning sun.

Glossy Ibis
Glossy Ibis on Mud Flat

My target bird of the morning was Roseate Spoonbill in flight. But most of the good birdy activity was on the side of the path looking straight into the sun. So I ended up walking some paths that I’ve never explored and enjoying the little birds who surprised me, like this Savannah Sparrow who perched so nicely out in the open.

Savannah Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow

I found a Great-crested Flycatcher who lurked in the depths of a distant tree and refused to be photographed. Then this Gray Catbird hopped out and said “meow!”

Gray Catbird
Gray Catbird

When I least expected it, a pair of Roseate Spoonbills flew in and landed in a tree. They are so pretty at this time of year in their bright pink and orange breeding colors. I stood watching them for a long time, hoping they would fly closer. They didn’t. But at least I got to see them!

Roseate Spoonbill
Roseate Spoonbill

I think I took the most pictures after I got back to my car to leave. There was a flock of American Goldfinches feeding in the tree above my car. I love their cheerful happy calls that sound like “Potato chip! Potato chip!” I love watching them hang upside down at my bird feeder, and it was fun to watch the same behaviors out in the wild.

American Goldfinch
Upside-down American Goldfinch