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)

Animal Eye-Detect with the Nikon Z9

As most of you know, Cami has a HUGE heart and absolutely adores loving on every dog she meets!

This week, she’s been watching over Callie & Jax, whos owners are away for a much-needed vacation. She asked me if I wanted to come over to their house tonight to take a few pictures of these beautiful dogs for the owners. Not having had a chance to test out the Animal Eye-Detection mode of the new Z9, I jumped at the idea! Don’t worry, I didn’t do it for free…Cami rewarded me with a delicious Thai dinner, asparagus, and quinoa with brown rice. 🙂

But I had to earn my meal. So we went out to their back yard and I got to work. With the Z9 set to back-button AF, using Dynamic Area Auto-Focus mode, and choosing Animal Eye-Detect, any time I pointed the the camera towards Callie or Jax, it immediately snapped right onto their eyes. It was absolutely magical! The early evening light was spectacular. And we came away with some fun images for Callie & Jax’s owners to enjoy when they get home. 🙂

Nikon Z9 + Nikkor 70-200 f2.8 VRII + FTZII adapter

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!!!

Bird Songs at Center for Birds of Prey

Over the weekend I had the pleasure of photographing an intimate event called “Bird Songs” at the Center for Birds of Prey!

This special music event has become one of Charleston’s most anticipated experiences with Nashville singer songwriters performing in the round on the Center’s beautiful campus. Held in a relaxed and comfortable setting on the, surrounded by trees in the Owl Woods, this event has sold out every year. Past performers have included Grammy nominees, chart-topping performers, and some of country music’s most promising new stars. Guests enjoy an intimate and personal musical performance as well as a well-appointed open bar and a satisfying Lowcountry supper. One attendee described it this way: “Just like Austin City Limits in the woods!”

This year’s performers included:
– Phillip Lammonds, who has penned numerous tunes for and with artists like Darius Rucker, Lee Brice, Edwin McCain, Blake Shelton, and Hootie and The Blowfish
– Aaron Raitiere, who is an amazing lyricist, performer, and visual artist from Danville, Kentucky.
– Singer / Songwriter Barrett Baber who gave millions of viewers an unforgettable introduction to a rising new artist when he appeared on Season 9 of The Voice.
– Emily Brooke, who is a country/pop artist who has opened for nationally- renowned artists like Kelsea Ballerini, Old Dominion, Ryan Hurd, Charles Kelley, Craig Campbell and Randy Houser.

It was an absolutely magical evening! I would HIGHLY recommend getting your tickets for next year as soon as they become available!!!

“Tack Sharp Photos of Birds-in-Flight”

I’m super honored and very excited to have been featured in the popular blog, Travel Notes & Storytelling: https://www.travelnotesandstorytelling.com/tack-sharp-photos-of-birds-in-flight/?

Marie Goff is the talent behind this informative and entertaining blog site. It was her love of adventure and learning that led Marie to join the military. After a long career with the National Guard, she continues that love of adventure and learning through her travels and her writing.

“I travel, take pictures, and write stories, to learn and inspire others. Near or far, every destination is unique, exhilarating, and fresh. I strive to capture these in every story, especially highlighting people and places, and current events that shape the experiences.”

Wanting to improve her photography techniques for photographing birds and other wildlife, Marie joined my workshop at the Center for Birds of Prey this past fall: https://www.thecenterforbirdsofprey.org/visit/special_events/instructor-led-photography-workshop/. We all had a fantastic time learning tips and tricks to improve our capture-rate of these beautiful creatures. Marie’s blog post shares about her experience, her success, and what she learned.

I hope you’ll visit her blog and subscribe to her email list. Enjoy!

Avian, Avian Conservation Center, Bird, Birds of Prey, Center for Birds of Prey, Charleston Center for Birds of Prey, Charleston Nature Photographer, Charleston Wildlife Photographer, Chris & Cami Photography, D5, D500, Eagle, Falcon, Feather, Flight, Hawk, Kestrel, Kite, Mt. Pleasant Nature Photographer, Mt. Pleasant Wildlife Photographer, Nikkor, Nikon, Nikon Love, Nikon Pro, Nikon USA, Owl, Wing, Blog

Wildlife Workshop at Center for Birds of Prey

I had the pleasure of leading another fun workshop at The Center for Birds of Prey last weekend! 🙂 Many thanks to Mandy Feavel for all her hard work putting it together. And what a treat to work with the amazing educators, Jessie Curry and Natalie Hendrickson, again!!!

“Join expert photographer, Chris Smith of Chris & Cami Photography, for an in-depth workshop focusing on the photographic study of birds of prey, both in motion and while perching.”

A special thank you also goes to THINK TANK PHOTO and RetouchUp for their support with some generous door prizes. And a HUGE shout out to all the attendees. You guys were AWESOME!!!

I’ve included a bunch of the behind-the-scenes shots from the day. Please feel free to share, tag yourselves, and enjoy these images of you in action!

Avian, Avian Conservation Center, Bird, Birds of Prey, Center for Birds of Prey, Charleston Center for Birds of Prey, Charleston Nature Photographer, Charleston Wildlife Photographer, Chris & Cami Photography, D5, D500, Eagle, Falcon, Feather, Flight, Hawk, Kestrel, Kite, Mt. Pleasant Nature Photographer, Mt. Pleasant Wildlife Photographer, Nikkor, Nikon, Nikon Love, Nikon Pro, Nikon USA, Owl, Wing

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…

500mm, 500mm f5.6 PF, Audubon Swamp Garden, Bulls Island, Charleston Nature Photographer, Charleston Photographer, Charleston Stock Photographer, Charleston Wildlife Photographer, D500, Kiawah Island, Magnolia Plantation, Nikkor, Nikon, Nikon Pro, Nikon USA

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!

Beach, Boneyard, Bull Island, Bulls Island, Cape Romaine, Charleston Model Photographer, Charleston Nature Photographer, Charleston Portrait Photographer, Charleston Stock Photographer, Charleston Wildlife Photographer, D500, D850, National Wildlife Refuge, Nature, Nikkor, Nikon, Nikon Pro, Nikon USA, NWR, Off-Camera Flash, SB-5000, Wildlife, DJI, Mavic Pro, Charleston Drone Photographer, Charleston Aerial Photographer

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!

Charleston Winter Wonderland

During the recent Charleston Winter Story, schools were closed, businesses shut down, and law enforcement asked everyone to stay off the streets!

Having lived through the brutal winters of Michigan and Ohio, I’m quite comfortable driving in snow. But I wasn’t about to place my life in the hands of other drivers on the road, some of whome may have NEVER seen so much of the fluffy white stuff in their lives!

I obediently stayed at home. But I had lots of beauty to observe and enjoy out of my office window! It may have been cold outside. But the fluttering and flirting of the wide variety of beautiful birds in my back yard warmed my heart! 🙂

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. 🙂

Ella at Magnolia Plantation

One of the many joys in my life is teaching and inspiring others who share my love for the art of photography.

This weekend I had the priviledge of mentoring Ella Crawford as she shadowed me for her 8th grade career day project in school. Since she loves wildlife, we spent the afternoon at Magnolia Plantation and it’s amazing Audubon Swamp Garden.  This beautiful young lady is more mature than most high-schoolers I know. She has a deep passion for art in its many forms. And she DEFINITELY has a gift!!!

Thank you for spending your afternoon with me, Ella! I wish you all the happiness in the world as you follow your heart and fulfill your dreams, whatever they may be.