Category Archives: Photography Technique

Photographing Bodie Island Lighthouse and the Milky Way



With a weekend forecast of clear skies and moonless nights, I decided to drive to the Outer Banks and photograph Bodie Island Lighthouse with a Milky Way backdrop.  So I loaded up the car and left home at 1:30 pm last Saturday. Arrived at Nags Head at 5:30 pm and, after a quick dinner, drove to the lighthouse to scout for the evening shoot. By nightfall, I had several shots planned. My favorites from the evening are shown.  The last shot of the series was a 3 1/2 hour star trail image, finishing at 4:00 am. Following a sunrise shot at Jeannette’s Pier, I was on my way home, arriving 22 hours after I had left.

Images only added, for now. Within a week I will add some information on the methods used in obtaining these images.

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Photographing the Eastern Screech Owl

Eastern Screech owl in flight

The eastern screech owl is a subject that I’ve wanted to photograph for many years, with no success whatsoever. Although I’d heard their eerie and distinctive song many evenings, I had never even seen one in the wild until this year. In late January I discovered one using several wood duck boxes on my pond as roosts and nocturnal feeding stations. The only photographs I took were of the owl asleep inside a nest box. My luck finally changed in April when I spent six nights over four weekends photographing an eastern screech owl nest at a local refuge where I do volunteer work. The nest was located about 100 feet out in a swamp, where the water depth was two to three feet. On four of the six nights that I spent with them, I used a Phototrap infrared beam tripper, three flashes and two cameras to photograph the owls. As the owls broke the infrared beam, the flashes would fire and the images automatically recorded by the two cameras.

To ensure that the equipment did not interfere with the nightly routine of the owls, I stayed awake the entire first night and used a red-filtered spotlight from a distance to monitor the owls. The flashes did not seem to disturb the owls. They even returned to the nest on two occasions when I was changing the batteries in my cameras about 20 feet away.  On the remaining three nights of Phototrap use, I either sat in a lawn chair or took naps in a sleeping bag at the edge of the swamp.

During the nights I photographed the owls, they visited the nest about every 30 minutes on average. The interval between feedings was much longer when larger prey were delivered. Prey items included insects and insect larvae, fish, crayfish, tadpoles, frogs and mice.

On the final two nights of photography I used a blind to try to photograph the nestlings at the cavity entrance. The first night I had to abort due to a severe thunderstorm that collapsed my blind. The second night I did have some success, capturing images of the nestlings and parents at the nest.

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Tamron 150-600mm f5.0-6.3 Lens Test: Part 2


In Part 2 of my review of the Tamron 150-600 f5.0-6.3 lens, I show the results of the controlled test I used to compare the Tamron lens to the Sigma 300-800, and Nikon 200-400 lenses. I used a 1951 USAF resolution chart test that I purchased from Edmund Scientific about 20 years ago. A check of their website revealed that they are still selling them. Some of the charts are quite expensive. I recommend the Resolving Power Chart for $35 at

or the Pocket 1951 USAF Optical Test Pattern for $6.00 at

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Tamron 150-600 f5.0-6.3 Lens Test: Part 1


Update—23 May 2017: There are better long telephoto zoom lenses available now than this Tamron 150-600. The choices include the newer  2nd generation Tamron 150-600mm f5- 6.3 G2, the Sigma 150-600mm f5-6.3 Contemporary, the Sigma 150-600mm f5-6.3 Sport, and the Nikon 200-500 f5.6. I personally would recommend any of the 150-600 zooms over the Nikon 200-500 simply because of the extra 100mm of zoom length. If there is one thing I have learned in the past 20 years of bird photography, it is that there is no substitute for reach; an extra 100mm of focal length is a big advantage.

Photographer Brad Hill extensively evaluated many of these long telephoto zooms in a series of blog posts between March and December 2015.  Here is a link to his blog. You’ll have to scroll back through the blog to find the posts on these lenses. The best performer in his opinion was the Sigma 150-600mm Sport. Based partly on his review, I sold my Tamron last year and bought the Sigma 150-600mm Sport.  It is extremely well built, quite sharp, and overall I have been very pleased with the lens. However I must admit that if I had read this review prior to my purchase, I may have opted for the lighter, less expensive Sigma 150-600mm Contemporary.





Although I received my Nikon mount Tamron 150-600 several weeks ago, I didn’t get to really test it out well until this past weekend. I decided to do field and resolution chart tests comparing the Tamron to my Sigma 300-800 f5.6 lens and Nikon 200-400 f4.0, ver 1 lens (with and without the TC14EII teleconverter). The camera used was a Nikon D800. All lenses had had their AF calibrated using Michael Tapes’ LensAlign. The field test consisted of photographing a Great Crested Flycatcher nest while the chart test utilized the 1951 USAF  resolution chart pattern. I post full frame and 100% crop images of the field test as well as 200% crops of the resolution chart images; so you’ll be able to judge lens quality for yourself. Bottom line: I was very impressed with Tamron 150-600mm lens. And surprisingly, I found myself retesting the 200-400 with the 1.4X teleconverter to try to determine why it was the poorest performer. Continue reading »

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Using Auto Exposure Lock

When I first started in photography, I used aperture priority mode pretty much all the time. Later I learned the advantages of using manual exposure mode in certain situations. However, I still felt more comfortable using aperture priority mode and preferred using it when possible. Eventually I devised a method of using Auto Exposure Lock as a substitute for manual exposure mode. I wrote an article on the technique in 2011 that was published in  Nikonians eZine, Number 51.  The article reviews the merits of automatic and manual exposure modes, then describes in detail how I use the Auto Exposure Lock Method as a substitute for manual exposure. If you photograph wildlife, sports or any other type of action photography, using Auto Exposure Lock has one big advantage over manual exposure. I’ve revised the article, adding more images and clarifying some points, and published it on this website. To view the article click  here.

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