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Thread: 2 birds from today's camo stakeout

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    FlyingSquirrel's Avatar
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    2 birds from today's camo stakeout

    Pulled the camouflage out today, and set up a little stakeout on a small shrub in the marsh. Remained very still, and played the waiting game. After about 15 minutes the yellow guy showed up, then 10 minutes later the Anna's hummingbird had a turn.

    Definitely not the best backgrounds in these photos, but most of my plans today did not go well (it was one of "those" days ) ...so I will take what I can get.

    I just noticed a bit of a halo around the yellow bird; I think I over did the LCE by mistake. Oh well, I'm too tired to fix it Does anybody know what the yellow bird is? Edit: I believe I have identified the yellow bird. It is called a "common yellowthroat"...imagine that! It would be a female and/or immature specimen, lacking the black eye mask that mature males would have.

    C&C appreciated. Thanks

    2 birds from today's camo stakeout

    2 birds from today's camo stakeout
    Last edited by FlyingSquirrel; 9th June 2013 at 06:27 AM. Reason: add bird id

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    Re: 2 birds from today's camo stakeout

    A couple of nice poses, matt. Can't help with the bird ID....................pretty little bird though.

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    Re: 2 birds from today's camo stakeout

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve S View Post
    A couple of nice poses, matt. Can't help with the bird ID....................pretty little bird though.
    Thank you, Steve. Appreciate the comment.

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    FlyingSquirrel's Avatar
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    Re: 2 birds from today's camo stakeout

    Update. I believe I have identified the yellow bird. It is called a "common yellowthroat"...imagine that! It would be a female and/or immature specimen, lacking the black eye mask that mature males would have.

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    Re: 2 birds from today's camo stakeout

    Two nice shots. I like the framing of the first in particular.

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    Re: 2 birds from today's camo stakeout

    I like the first photo especially, though they're both good. The background goes with the bird so I wouldn't beat myself up that its not perfect if I'd taken the shot so don't think you should either.

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    Re: 2 birds from today's camo stakeout

    Very nice. The Hummingbird shot is awesome. I really like the angle and the detail in the throat.

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    Re: 2 birds from today's camo stakeout

    I really like the first shot. The lines are nice and the background doesn't bother me. And it's always a bonus when the bird has a bug!

    The second one is really clear and detailed but I don't prefer the angle of the shot. Always fun to see the differences in personal preference.

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    Re: 2 birds from today's camo stakeout

    Love the detail in the first shot. I have never seen the females. The only males I have had the chance to see are so jumpy they never sit still for more than half a second. Good job on these. What camo set up do you use? I bought a sheet of camo cloth from Cabela's but haven't got around to doing anything with it yet. It is my next project.

    I was thinking of cutting a hole for the lens in it and just draping it over me in the weeds...with a small lightweight stool, a tripod and cup of coffee...snacks...and patience Sound about right?
    I just do not like the idea of not being aware of my surroundings. Do you leave the back end open?

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    Re: 2 birds from today's camo stakeout

    Thanks to everyone for the comments. I always appreciate feedback and advice.

    Terri, I agree with you, I don't like the angle of the hummingbird either. From where I was positioned, I had to shoot upward at it because it was on the top twig in the bush. Wildlife photography is TOUGH!

    Also, yeah, it's awesome when animals have something else going on in the shot like feeding, nesting, or breeding behavior (or, my personal favorite, when they are in a cute or silly pose ) This yellowthroat bird had a cluster of bugs. In some other shots of it, I can see all kinds of different bugs mushed together (eeeeew lol). It's crazy that they can grab so many bugs and keep them in their mouth at the same time!

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    Re: 2 birds from today's camo stakeout

    Quote Originally Posted by flyingSquirrel View Post
    Wildlife photography is TOUGH!
    I think only the dedicated really know how difficult it is to get that perfect shot. I have way more throw aways than keepers...thank goodness for LightRoom!

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    Re: 2 birds from today's camo stakeout

    Both very nice, but I love the yellow bird for it's a beautiful capture of a special moment.

    PS I was photographing some baby geese this weekend... I was real close and the Mom bird was just fine with me being there until I decided to follow your advice and lie on the ground. Mother Goose did not like that one bit and chased me away. Nevertheless I'll try again on another day and another species of bird.

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    Re: 2 birds from today's camo stakeout

    Quote Originally Posted by BCrose View Post
    Love the detail in the first shot. I have never seen the females. The only males I have had the chance to see are so jumpy they never sit still for more than half a second. Good job on these. What camo set up do you use? I bought a sheet of camo cloth from Cabela's but haven't got around to doing anything with it yet. It is my next project.

    I was thinking of cutting a hole for the lens in it and just draping it over me in the weeds...with a small lightweight stool, a tripod and cup of coffee...snacks...and patience Sound about right?
    I just do not like the idea of not being aware of my surroundings. Do you leave the back end open?
    Please take the following advice with the understanding that I am still relatively new to this type of thing, and Iím always experimenting and trying to improve my fieldcraft. That said, I have found some things that seem to work, or not work, for me so far. Hopefully this isnít too much info, but I like to type and share, so here we go...

    When I first started, I tried the camo sheet draped over me technique. It was Hunter Specialties camo leaf blind material (has die cut oval shapes in a lightweight fabric). Itís a great fabric (Iíll mention it again, in a bit) however, I have found after a number of times, draping the fabric over yourself is a very frustrating and ineffective technique. The negatives are: You can not see anything around you, and that includes the subject. Just as you mentioned, it makes it difficult to be aware of your surroundings. You have tunnel vision basically, only what you can see through the lens, which is useless with a telephoto since the angle of view is so small, you canít track anything. Additionally, when you move, the whole sheet moves. Sometimes the sheet moves or snags on something or the wind blows or you turn your head, and your cover is blown, either because the sheet physically uncovers part of you or your gear, or because the entire sheet moving spooks the animal. And since you canít see anything, itís hard to tell if you and your gear are completely covered at any time. This technique was maddening at best, and so I put that down on the ďnever try againĒ list. That said, I have not tried to make any kind of hanging setup or framework, which would likely work OK but then you are dealing with the setup, and also a breeze will still likely move the fabric too much and cause a spook-out.

    Moving on, here are a few things Iíve found that do work well. I use some of these techniques on occasion, depending on the location and what Iím trying to accomplish:

    The camo leaf blind material that I mentioned is great for a number of things, including concealing your camera bag or other gear, extra clothing, tripod, etc. I cut up a number of small (several feet by several feet) pieces for various gear. When I set my camera bag or something else down next to me, I put the camo fabric over it and wrap the edges under, and/or put a couple rocks/branches/leaves over it to hold the sheet down and make it blend in more.

    Iíve also made a ďtripod skirtĒ which is a piece of the fabric that I wrap around the already positioned tripod and clip the edges together to hold it on. Then I try to throw some grass/twigs etc around and on it to blend it in more. I have another piece which I throw over my camera and lens that hangs down all the way to the tripod skirt; I clip it on underneath the lens in a few places. I also generally throw some foliage/grass/twigs over the top of the camera and lens (keeping the front of the lens clear, of course). The advantage of this setup, besides actually breaking up your gear outline and color, is that when you are behind it, it almost is like a mini blind for your body.

    One of the best things I have purchased, that I absolutely am in love with, is the Lenscoat Raincoat camouflage cover. Itís amazing. It is camo, waterproof, conceals, protects, etc. I use it all the time, regardless of location or weather. Even in places where animals are accustomed to people and cameras, the camo cover makes things less intimidating IMO, and also makes people less likely to walk over and say ďnice camera!Ē :P

    And now, to conceal yourself. A blind can be good, but I have not yet used one (though I own one) because I havenít found the ideal location. I shoot at parks mostly so I donít want a big blind drawing attention. Also, moving it around is likely to be a hassle. So, to my most effective tactic yet, the camouflage suit. The best camo clothing is the 3D type, meaning, it physically has leaf-like elements which hang/drape off it at random angles to break up the outline of everything. I wear a Cabelaís Ghil Leaf jacket, a leafy head net, thin camo gloves, and a waterproof pair of camo pants (the pants are not 3D since they would tend to snag on everything and are not usually too visible to the animals). The ghil leaf camo is absolutely insane and one of the best camo patterns Iíve ever seen; when you wear everything as I have described, and get down low, you basically melt into a pile of leaves (visually, that is). By the way, I have found that a mesh facemask is best because it lets my breath out, instead of forcing it up and out by my eyes which would fog the viewfinder. I had that problem when I wore a stretchy type of facemask with no mouth opening.

    While it is always helpful for your camo to match the surroundings as close as possible, it is not always necessary. For most animals, the main goal of your camo is to just ďbreak upĒ your shape, outline, and colors, just so you donít look human. Even if you donít match the color and pattern of your surroundings completely, they still donít see you as a threat (though they may be cautious just because itís something new). What works for animals may be mere child's play for a human to detect. However, I still like to blend in as much as possible for the most realism and to avoid the possibility of the animal being suspicious of me, but in practice thatís rarely feasible, since I am just going to local parks and trying to find random spots to hide. Among the many advantages of a camo clothing setup, is the mobility factor. I can walk around and find a spot, throw the jacket/facemask/gloves on, cover my gear, and boom, instant stakeout. Try that with a blind!

    Whenever possible, I like to have things at my back, like trees, bushes, etc. The two main reasons are: 1: Safety- You are covered at your back so there is less to worry about (other people, other animals, etc), and 2: You blend in more when youíre against some other structures, versus being a blob out in the open. The parks I go to do not have bears or mountain lions, so I feel safe in that aspect. I do plan on going to some national parks soon, that are a couple hours away, and going ďoff trailĒ to try some of this, but there could be large carnivores, so Iím a little on the fence about it. I do have bear spray, but that wonít do any good if the bear is standing right next to me before I know it, or the mountain lion has pounced on me.

    One of the most important things, that I have found, is to be as low as possible, and avoid having your head up and especially try not to have your head above the level of the camera. The head up shape is a good way to make animals keep their distance. I prefer to lay on my stomach when possible, or at least get on my knees, wearing knee-pads. I keep my head low, and my arms up on the camera so Iím ready to shoot. All of these postures are physically demanding, so occassionally I slowly move around and take breaks. But Iíve found that the more I am in position with my hands on the camera, the more likely it is that I will be able to get a shot; Iím ready for action if the bird or whatever is there only for a few seconds, and also if my hands are down, I would have to move very slowly to get them back up on the camera, and could risk spooking the subject.

    As you can probably tell, I like camouflage. Aside from my belief that it really works, I will admit that I personally find camo and field craft to be very fun. I figure, if Iím having fun and it is working, Iím going to do it. I get plenty of good shots just walking around in drab clothing at parks, but for some animals, to get closer, the camo has helped.

    Patience, as you mentioned, is critical. Sitting still for 15 minutes can seem like ages, if nothing is happening. But I remind myself what I am trying to do, and itís unreasonable to expect things to happen instantly. Sometimes if there are birds around when I arrive, it takes a while for them to leave and new ones to come in, or for them to decide Iím not there anymore. Sometimes, just when Iím about to give up and move somewhere else, Iíll decide to give it two more minutes, and in the last minute something will show up. Itís happened a number of times, hence the old adage ďpatience is a virtue.Ē That said, I still need to get better at finding good locations where there is a better chance of things showing up; this will take more experience and knowledge on my part, and couldnít hurt for me to go somewhere other than local parks.

    Hope this has helped; and just for fun, here are a few shots of some of my set ups. These are crappy iphone pics, and obviously Iím not in position at the camera, so itís not as enlightening as to how awesome the concealment is.

    2 birds from today's camo stakeout

    2 birds from today's camo stakeout

    2 birds from today's camo stakeout

    2 birds from today's camo stakeout

  14. #14
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    Re: 2 birds from today's camo stakeout

    Quote Originally Posted by Christina S View Post
    PS I was photographing some baby geese this weekend... I was real close and the Mom bird was just fine with me being there until I decided to follow your advice and lie on the ground. Mother Goose did not like that one bit and chased me away. Nevertheless I'll try again on another day and another species of bird.
    Christina, I am sorry that my advice led to an animal attack!

    The closer you are to the creature when you move from a standing to a prone position, the more they will feel like it is a predatory movement. Also, if you are in a location where the animals are accustomed to standing people, then getting low could cause an adverse reaction (it will depend on a variety of factors of course, such as what species, what you are wearing, proximity, etc). And then, as you found out, when there are parents with young, extra caution needs to be taken.

    I try to think the way the animal would think (which is why itís good to research your subjects). Therefore, I tend to do things like avoid eye contact, face slightly away from the animal, move parallel sometimes instead of always directly toward it, stay low, move slowly and smoothly, occasionally waiting for several minutes before making any movements, etc. Basically, try to give off a feeling of ďnot caring about the animal,Ē like you are there for some other reason. Animals can sense this. Their survival depends on them paying attention to body language and overall sense of what is happening.

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    Re: 2 birds from today's camo stakeout

    Wow. Thanks for the detailed information. I truly appreciate this as will many more. This should be in the tutorial section...any moderators reading?...

    Yeah...the camo sheet over my head was not a pleasing thought. Glad I can trash that idea without ever actually getting the frustration level up.
    Thanks again, will re-read this when I am ready to do the camo thing. I have a spot where I simply cannot get close to a couple of Wood Ducks and I really want some good images of them.

    Does the shutter noise startle the birds?

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    Re: 2 birds from today's camo stakeout

    Quote Originally Posted by BCrose View Post
    Wow. Thanks for the detailed information. I truly appreciate this as will many more. This should be in the tutorial section...any moderators reading?...

    Yeah...the camo sheet over my head was not a pleasing thought. Glad I can trash that idea without ever actually getting the frustration level up.
    Thanks again, will re-read this when I am ready to do the camo thing. I have a spot where I simply cannot get close to a couple of Wood Ducks and I really want some good images of them.

    Does the shutter noise startle the birds?
    Thanks, Monte. I am glad I could offer some helpful information, and I really hope it helps you get some shots that you otherwise would not.

    I was considering making this post as a new thread somewhere, but I decided I don't have enough experience to call myself an expert, so I didn't want to pretend to be one.

    I have found that the shutter noise will sometimes draw a little attention from the animals, but it's usually not a deal-breaker. I try to shoot a few shots, wait a few seconds, fire off another sequence, etc. I have never used or heard the shutter on a professional camera body, but I assume it's probably quieter than my "pro-sumer" 7D. I have considered using the live view mode since the shutter in live view is much quieter, but it hasn't turned out to work well since I have to back away form the camera and view the LCD screen to track the subject and take the shots. As long as the animals don't associate the noise with any threat, they usually look around for a few seconds in a confused fashion, then continue with their activities.

  17. #17
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    Re: 2 birds from today's camo stakeout

    It was over as soon as I stood up, and a good lesson for me to learn. It took me by surprise because by then I felt like I was part of the family. Better a goose than a crocodile.

    Thank you for the extra tips...


    Quote Originally Posted by flyingSquirrel View Post
    Christina, I am sorry that my advice led to an animal attack!

    The closer you are to the creature when you move from a standing to a prone position, the more they will feel like it is a predatory movement. Also, if you are in a location where the animals are accustomed to standing people, then getting low could cause an adverse reaction (it will depend on a variety of factors of course, such as what species, what you are wearing, proximity, etc). And then, as you found out, when there are parents with young, extra caution needs to be taken.

    I try to think the way the animal would think (which is why it’s good to research your subjects). Therefore, I tend to do things like avoid eye contact, face slightly away from the animal, move parallel sometimes instead of always directly toward it, stay low, move slowly and smoothly, occasionally waiting for several minutes before making any movements, etc. Basically, try to give off a feeling of “not caring about the animal,” like you are there for some other reason. Animals can sense this. Their survival depends on them paying attention to body language and overall sense of what is happening.

  18. #18
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    Re: 2 birds from today's camo stakeout

    Quote Originally Posted by flyingSquirrel View Post
    Thanks, Monte. I am glad I could offer some helpful information, and I really hope it helps you get some shots that you otherwise would not.
    I was considering making this post as a new thread somewhere, but I decided I don't have enough experience to call myself an expert, so I didn't want to pretend to be one.
    Don't sell yourself short. This is great information. Not something we all might use 100% but certainly something we can all take from it.

    Quote Originally Posted by flyingSquirrel View Post
    I have never used or heard the shutter on a professional camera body, but I assume it's probably quieter than my "pro-sumer" 7D.
    Actually just the opposite. The shutters on many FX cameras can be quite loud. My D4 is very noisy. It has a quiet mode but you lose some other functionality when you turn that on so I never use it.

  19. #19

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    Re: 2 birds from today's camo stakeout

    Excellent captures and that pose in #1 is a classic.

    Camo shots - that is a cool setup.

  20. #20
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    Re: 2 birds from today's camo stakeout

    Thanks Bobo

    Quote Originally Posted by Bobobird View Post
    Excellent captures and that pose in #1 is a classic.

    Camo shots - that is a cool setup.

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