WARNING: Not for Sensetive Viewers

After capturing a beautiful proposal at White Point Gardens, I had a few extra minutes. So I decided to stay and photograph the famous Black-crowned Night Herons. I wish I hadn’t!!!
 
During each hot and humid Charleston summer, the live oaks in White Point Gardens (also known as Battery Park) become the nesting grounds for Black-crowned Night Herons. Seemingly unafraid of the public, they start acting like they own the place, making them easy to approach and photograph. Even though the park is said to be haunted, the night herons don’t seem to mind. In fact they nest in the very trees that the pirate Stede Bonnet and his men were hanged from!
 
In all my years photographing wildlife, I’ve only ever witnessed one other occasion so brutal and violent. While I was wandering around, a major disturbance began unfolding overhead. A mother decided to reject one of her chicks. Ejecting it out of the nest, pecking it to near death in the branches, and then pushing it out of the tree…the poor chick plunging to certain death below. The mother then returned to tend to it’s other chicks as if nothing had happened.
 
Why do birds reject babies? The main reason is to enhance the survival probability of her other chicks. It’s believed that the mother senses something is wrong in the development of that chick. Or they realize they don’t have the resources to raise all of their young successfully. Eliminating one mouth to feed is their only solution.
 
Knowing this doesn’t make it any easier to witness such a seemingly violent act. But such are the laws of nature! Fortunately, I was able to ease the conflict in my soul by photographing a few other herons peacefully preening as the sun began to fade.
 
(Nikon Z9 + FTZII + 500mm PF)

Boone Hall Plantation

I had the privilege of being at Boone Hall Plantation after hours this weekend. It was neat to basically have the place to myself…so peaceful and beauituful without all the tourists running around. 🙂

(Nikon Z9 + Nikkor 24-120 f4 S)

Wildlife Workshop with Kiawah Island Photo Club

This week I had the great pleasure of working with the Kiawah Island Photo Club as their instructor during a private Wildlife Workshop that was held at the Center for Birds of Prey!

Under the care of Stephen Schabel (Director of Education), we had a fantastic time learning about these amazing hawks, falcons, kites, storks, kestrels, vultures, and owls. It was very rewarding for me, helping everyone figure out the best settings and techniques to capture these beautiful creatures. But the most amazing part was seeing the wonder and awe on the participant’s faces as they experienced these majestic birds up close and personal!

After a fun day together, we all set our cameras down and enjoyed an insightful behind-the-scenes tour of the operating rooms and rehabilitation facility.

Many thanks to Kimberly and Gordon from the Kiawah Island Photo Club, as well as Mandy, Stephen, and Katie from the Center for Birds of Prey for organizing this fabulous program!!!

Aerial Photos for Trident Construction

I love my job!!! Sometimes I get to do the coolest assignments.

Yesterday I got to photograph aerial photos for one of my favorite clients, Trident Construction. I’ve done a lot of aerial photos for them with my drone. But we needed a few shots from a higher perspective than the drone legally allows. So we went flying in a helicopter!

Many thanks to Robert at Fly in Helicopters for setting us up, to our pilot Randy for an exceptional flight, and to Elizabeth for helping coordinate and direct the shoot!

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Nikkor 500mm f5.6E PF ED VR

My good friend and AMAZING photographer, David Archer (www.davidarcherimages.com), was kind enough to loan me his new Nikon Nikkor 500mm f5.6 PF ED VR lens for evaluation!

Unfortunately it was during a busy time of year. So I didn’t get to do a full review or a comparison video against it’s younger sibling, the 300mm f4.0E PF ED VR. Hopefully I’ll have time to get back and do that with David.

But for now, let me just say that I am VERY impressed!!! In fact, I’m probably even more impressed with this lens than when I bought the 300mm PF, which I thought was absolutely ground-breaking! This new technology Nikon is throwing into their ultra compact and light-weight Phase Fresnel series of lenses is just magnificent!!!

I really enjoyed shooting with this super lightweight, wickedly sharp, and extremely portable telephoto lens. Most of the time I used it on the Nikon D500, giving me an effective focal length of 750mm. I even tried some with the TC14eIII 1.4x converter, giving me 1050mm of reach!

300PF
300mm f4 = 420mm f5.6 with TC14eIII
300mm f4 = 450mm f4 on DX
300mm f4 = 630mm f5.6 with TC14eIII on DX

500PF
500mm f5.6 = 700mm f8 with TC14eIII
500mm f5.6 = 750mm on DX
500mm f5.6 = 1050mm f8 with TC14eIII on DX

All total, I probably only had about 90 minutes of actual shooting time with the 500mm PF in less-than-optimal lighting conditions. Here are some of the results. I can’t imagine what I’d be able to capture if this lens somehow found a permanent place in my bag…

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Shem Creek Infrare & Aerial Photography

By commission of a client of mine looking for artwork to go in her new home, I went out to photograph some images of Shem Creek a few weeks ago.

The original request was for some of my fineart infrared photos. For those I use a special camera. It’s a Nikon Coolpix A, which is a compact rangefinder camera with a large DSLR sensor in it! The camera has been converted to see IR light by a company called Kolari Vision. It was a beautiful day and I got some great Infrared shots, which the client ended up hanging as 40×50 Acrylic prints in her home.

If you have an old digital camera you don’t use much and would like to convert it to Infrared, here’s the link:  https://kolarivision.com/?ref=74.  For a $10 OFF discount, use Coupon Code “chrissmith” at checkout.

While I was there, it was just too perfect a day not to fly the drone. I just couldn’t resist!!! 🙂

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Sunrise on Bulls Island

Sunrise at the boneyard beach on Bulls Island turned out to be meh. But Jamie Clark and I salvaged it with a fun impromptu modeling shoot for her beautiful daughter, Katie! Many thanks to my friends and amazing photogrpahers Kim McManus, Mary Wessner, and Cary McDonald for making it a fun morning. And a HUGE shout out to #coastalexpeditions for this incredible opportunity. This is the second-to-last sunrise expedition the company will be offering to Bulls Island. I feel lucky to have been able to experience this protected barrier island’s wild majesty one last time!

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Photography Day at the Center for Birds of Prey

Last month I had the privilege of being a part of a limited number of photographers that were granted access to photograph some beautiful birds at the Center for Birds of Prey. What an INCREDIBLE experience it was to be up close and personal with these majestic creatures!!! This was not my first time. But it’s an experience that never gets old, and always holds new and exciting challenges!

This time, I went with a light-weight and portable setup. All images were shot on either a Nikon D850 or Nikon D500, using either a Nikkor 70-200 f2.8 VRII or a Nikkor 300 f4.0 PF VR lens. I didn’t use any tripods or monopods, just hand-held shots. I carried one camera on each hip using my dual Spyder Holster, which allowed me to quickly switch to the ideal focal length for the shot.

Later this fall I’ll be teaching another Wildlife Photography workshop at the center, where I’ll be sharing my tips, techniques, and settings for successfully capturing these gorgeous animals: http://www.thecenterforbirdsofprey.org/visit/special_events/instructor-led-photography-workshop/. I hope you’ll and come out to join me!

Many thanks to my good friend and fellow photographer, Ferris Kaplan, for the behind-the-scenes shots of me in action!

2017 Eclipse

After months of planning, I was honored to be invited to join a small contingent of photographers that were given permission and granted access to photograph the 2017 eclipse from the private grounds of the Center for Birds of Prey.

Located in Awendaw, SC, this amazing organization includes an Avian Medical Center, an Oil Spill Treatment Facility, and a very active Environmental Education Department. They are only open to the public on the weekends. However, they happened to be located in a prime spot near the center of the path of Totality!!! So it was a special treat for us to be invited to photograph from their grounds that day.

In spite of all our preparations for the big day, weather happened! I had visions of capturing every stage of the process and creating a wonderful composite showing the entire sequence. But the dark, low-lying cloud cover only allowed us a few glimpses through to the dramatic events unfolding behind them. At 9 minutes before totality, we saw our last sighting of the sun and moon. We never saw Totality or any of the phases following.

At first I was disappointed. All my photography friends started sharing post after post of clear views of the eclipse from other parts of the state. But pretty soon all their shots started to look the same. Suddenly, I realized that my twist of fate had landed me with some very interesting and unique images of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  The foreboding clouds encircled the sun and moon to create these wonderfully ominous and moody images!

Here are a few of my favorites.

Vancouver, WA

We’re in Vancouver, WA, where I’ll be photographing a conference this week. Strangely enough, my oldest brother and his wife moved here last year! So we flew in a few days early to spend some time with them and do a little sight-seeing. 🙂

Charleston Center for Birds of Prey

Beautiful weather…beautiful birds…I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day at the Center for Birds of Prey!

I’ve been attending their Photography Day events for several years now. These events sell out fast, and never disappoint!

Most of these were shot with the new Nikkor 300mm f4 PF on either a Nikon D500 or a Nikon D4.

Kudos to the staff and volunteers at the Center for Birds of Prey for putting on such an AMAZING opportunity for us photographers to get up close and personal with these incredible creature.