Birds in the Snow

Cardinal, Female

Cardinal, Female

Santa Baby was amazing this year and gave me a new Canon 500mm f/4.0 L IS lens for my birding photography. Yeah Santa !

We’re having a small snow, sleet, rain storm on the bay today, and it was a great photo opportunity to capture Birds in the Snow. So I set up my new lens, with my Canon 7D, and the used Gitzo G410 tripod I found on ebay. Using an affordable gimbal type head made by Manfrotto 393 Heavy Duty Lens Support, I stood just inside an open doorway.

Without first checking, my first images were out of focus. The shot above is wonderful, but out of focus ! Leaving the aperture wide open at f/4.0, I see wonderful bokeh, or shallow depth of field. But I had forgotten to use the center weighted focus points, so I quickly changed that setting, and added +2/3 exposure compensation due to the gray day.

Dark Eye Junco

Dark Eye Junco

I was having a charming time photography these sweet song birds and all of sudden there was a huge flutter. All of the little birds scattered and in swooped a hawk. Just moments in the tree, it then took off. Of course..I missed the shot. 😦

Still wanting to get the birds in the snow, I then opened up a side window so that I could get a different perspective. Mind you, this is a very old house, and the windows were painted shut a while ago. So with a screw driver, and a hammer, I was able to open it.

I also set out some fresh bird feed on the bench to encourage the little song birds to return. That it was safe and no big bad hawk was going to get them today. Of course, one of the first visitors was one of my big fat squirrels. Now my squirrels are starting to get really fat as I have feed set out for them daily. They waste no time to get into the food, but that still doesn’t stop them from planting a few seeds in case they need them in hard times.

Does anyone know any good squirrel recipes?

My Big Fat Squirrels

My Big Fat Squirrels

The goldfinches are also starting to hang around in droves. They too are getting fat as I watch them eat constantly throughout the day. I have plenty of feeders out, but still need to refill them every other day.



My favorite ones of course are the Cardinals as their bright red stands out in the winter storm.

Cardinal, Male

Cardinal, Male

Cardinal, Male

Cardinal, Male

Both the House Sparrow, and Purple Finch refuse to be outdone by the red cardinals and show up to share their bright color.

House Sparrow

Purple Finch

Purple Finch

Purple Finch

But the biggest group of little birds at the manor are the White-Throated Sparrows. They also eat all day, dodging in and out of the bush and prefer to eat on the ground.

White-Throated Sparrow

White-Throated Sparrow

I had great fun playing with my new lens, and can’t wait to practice more with it. Lots of photos were out of focus (sigh) but at least I had the exposure right ! Aperture Priority, ISO 1000, f4.0, +2/3 exposure compensation, daylight white balance.

However, I wasn’t too much of a fan of the Manfrotto gimbal type head. After experiencing the high dollar Wimberley Gimbal Head when I rented it in November, I found the Manfrotto to wobble a bit. Next photo shoot will be with a Wimberley Side kick and ball head mount. Let’s see if more photos are keepers from that set.

Have a wonderful wintery day and hope your Santa was as great to you as mine was to me.

57 replies »

  1. Wow! What a Merry Christmas you are having! A 500 4!! Holy Crap! What a great lens! Lucky you!
    I’m sure you will enjoy it greatly and get many wonderful pics with ti!
    So…when are you going to start shooting in Manul exposure? 😉 😀 😎

  2. Wonderful photos! Could it be that the wobbly gimbal type head allowed some camera motion as the mirror locked up and the shutter did its thing which caused the photos to seem a little out of focus? I went tripod shopping the other day, and was not impressed with either the ball head or pistol grip heads of any brands they tried to sell me. I went for the traditional head for a solid mount for my camera to prevent any motion.

    • I do think that is what happened. When you loosen up the panning knob of the Manfrotto wimberley type head, it rocks side to side, so I tightened it a bit, which help. The pics got better after that.
      It’s so hard to find the perfect tripod setup for what you are doing. I have more than one tripod based on what type of photography I’ll be doing.

  3. Emily, you are so lucky!! Or should I say lucky us 🙂
    These pictures are incredible. When I saw the first one, my mouth dropped; glorious! Then I kept reading and scrolling down and could not believe how gorgeous every shot was. Thank your for taking the time from your window in the cold & snow and sharing these with us. Absolutely delightful and beautiful!!

    • Thank you so much Judy ! I love the first shot too ! Just wish it was in focus. I’m going to have to wait for the next snow storm to try again. All of the snow is gone already. I did go and add clothing as I was hanging around in my workout gear..brrrr.

  4. What a super series of shots. Way to go Santa indeed! I was interested thread that you hired a tripod. I too like to hire before I buy. It avoids expensive mistakes! I am currently trying the Sony NEX-7 as I am looking to buy a more lightweight camera for hiking.

    • Hi Rachel ! I can’t wait to see what you think of the Sony NEX-7 – by all means post a review will you? it looks cool and fun.
      I love the Gitzo, but talk about HEAVY ! I got so lucky and found a gently used one for only $200 on ebay. Now I may need to save pennies for the Wimberley Gimbal head. I really liked it.
      Thanks for you compliments on these photos. It’s a work in progress.

    • Oh you have no idea ! I am just giddy with happiness with this new lens and can’t wait to really take it out on lots of photo field trips. You are sweet with your comments, I’m trying to get photos like the glorious ones I see in magazines. practice, practice, practice will get me there.

  5. Beautiful set of photos, I particularly like the ones of the red admiral – the colours really stand out against the snow.

  6. SO lovely… Purple finch, I’ve never seen one! What a cutie-patootie! And CONGRATS again on your most magnificent lens. Wooooo-hoooooo! Let’s put that baby to good use. 🙂

    • I hope the Purple finch stays throughout the year as their red becomes much more purple. They are easily confused with the House Sparrow. I’m scheming to bring the lens baby to St. Augustine in April – we’ll definitely play with it!

  7. These are wonderful, Emily. You are certainly putting your Christmas pressie to good use. The first shot doesn’t look out of focus at all, but then what do I do know? They all look fantastic to me!!!

  8. Congrats on getting the new lens. I have the same set-up, except I have the Wimberley head. A solid tripod is a must, of course. Personally, I use auto-white balance and auto-ISO. The 7D has been doing it’s job and so far it has worked okay for me. I also try to keep my shutter speeds on the birds as close to 1/2000 a I can. That lens should be giving you tack-sharp images. Also, check out the adjustment on that little black-wheel by the view-finder on your 7D. I forget what it is called as I don’t have the book in front of me, but it does help to have that adjusted properly., (I think). 🙂

    • Hi Bob ! Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting. It’s the diopter that you’re referring to. Yes, I yearn for the Wimberley head, it works so much better. I was using Auto white balance a while and have decided to have more control and it’s been working well. I also use Auto ISO with poor lighting conditions, but like to bring it down as much as I can when I have a sunny day. Thanks for your insight.

      • Yes, it was the diopter that I was thinking of. I had a senior moment there. 🙂

        I may start experimenting with the White Balance. I do also bring the ISO down sometimes when I remember in the bright sun.

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