Ridgway, Colorado
May 15
A sometimes artist and photographer, sometimes I write too.  


Editor’s Pick
AUGUST 28, 2009 8:56AM

drive-by shooting

Rate: 51 Flag



barn swallow

Barn swallow Hirundo rustica (probably H. r. erythogaster) See this beauty in a larger size here.


This is a shorter than normal post for me, but at least it's themed.


I've noted before how difficult it is to get a decent shot of birds. They seem at times to live in a parallel universe in how they move—in a way that their sense of time and space doesn't mesh with ours. Occasionally, out of the hundreds (maybe thousands) of shots I take of these fleeting slices of avian time, I get lucky.


The swallow above is such a bright gem. They don't stay put for long, and their movements are lightening fast. This was pure luck on my part, though I did have my camera ready. I was driving by in a golf cart after a round in the Wasatch Mountain Golf Course in a recent trip to meet friends in Utah and play for a few days. I played well that day, but getting this shot was the highlight of the day.




drive by shooting

Northern mockingbird Mimus polyglottos The state bird of Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas. See a larger version of this beauty here. 


I was stuck at a traffic light for the mockingbird shot. My son, the third of three, was with me in the car. I had my cam ready in its usual perch in my car—atop a folded towel on the floorboard between the two front seats. I rolled down the window and took a series of shots not taking the time to make any adjustment settings. Luckily it had a narrow depth of field already set at f/2.0 which rendered the background and foreground colorfully muted and out of focus.


I had picked up my son from school late and we were navigating our way home, getting off the freeway because it was clogged shut. We came upon the mockingbird at a traffic light. I took the shot and the 3rd of 3 said "What a geek." He meant it as a mocking bad thing, but I took it as a compliment and laughed, much to his consternation.




Turkey vulture

Turkey vulture Cathartes aura If you look at the original size here you can see his neck folds and even look right through his nostril holes.


I often see these guys on my solo photo road trips as I hate driving on the Interstates when I travel. I saw the flock of them on the ground by the side of the road as I crested a hill and got my window down and cam in hand. As I drove up, they all took off and this guy was the last to leave. It's not perfectly framed but I love the wing spread and I'm happy enough with the shot.


They are mixture of ugly and grace. You can't deny the simple beauty of how they move in the air, rarely flapping their wings, conserving their energy as they soar on thermals and drafts. But they are startling in their appearance when viewed close up. Make sure you look at the larger version for the neck and head details.


What is the collective noun for a flock of vultures? A colony of vultures? A buzzing of buzzards? A committee? A congress? A wake?


That's it! Have a great weekend friends. And always have your cam at hand and ready.



all images copyright © 2009 by barry b. doyle • all rights reserved















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You are the BEST kind of geek!
Love the fluffy-sweet birdies, but the turkey vulture is awesome.
Dinner in the foreground adds to the drama. ::hurk!::

(thumbified for great drive-bys!)
I am just a fledgling photographer but am definitely learning to keep the cam handy.
I awoke to the sound birds this morning and it was so nice. Thank you now for the sight of birds.
Beautiful bird shots, Barry! Thank heaven for the technology that allows us to afford the thousand not-so-good frames to get the few great ones.
Oh my! What a beautiful shooting... these pictures are divine! Thank you for sharing.
Great shots, bbd. I can't get used to your avatar for some reason. Are you sure thats you?
Great Post~~Rated~~
I can't help but marvel at your candid shots! It's unbelievable especially when you think about being in a car and how quickly you would have to move to take these. You may be a "geek," but you sure are one hell of a "geek!" A very talented one....and nice looking on top of that! :)
Fine stuff. Animals pass unnoticed by so many people, yet they are there. You need the eye, the awareness, to see them. Much appreciated!
JK, thanks for your comment and for being a bird lover too. Make sure you see my first (not my only one) bird post here: link. Thanks so much.

Jodi, I didn't mention that hunk of road kill, but glad you caught it. I couldn't tell by the time I got there what it had been, but I think it was small, like a rabbit or hare. Thanks for your other sweet comments though.

LiG, "fledgling photographer" is quite apt for this post...Thanks Sharon, life is indeed good.

HL, You got that right. I don't know what kind of hole I'd be in now if I had to pay for film and developing.

SM, thanks so much!

Scanner, yes indeed that was me, but now I've changed my avatar. I hope it's a better one...but Deven/Tequila hates it when I don't show my chin.

Patricia, you're always so kind and generous with your comments. Yeah, I'm quite happy being a geek. Thanks so much.

Thanks Dave! It's so true we take so much for granted.
Barry, I am viewing this on the new MacBook that arrived yesterday. The photos are even crisper and more of a 3-D nature than any monitor I have viewed your photos on before. I have photographed a few things from my car over the years but I can tell you that the results fall far, far short of the quality you are able to achieve.
Thank you for this, brother. Makes me feel much better about the mediocre shots I get with my learning camera. See, I have always maintained it's hard to get bird shots, and I was talking to a guy in a camera store last week about possibilities for me. He recommended I upgrade to a D300 and get a 400-600mm lens for birding.
I was a bit chagrined, because there's no way in hell I can afford a D300 much less a telephoto of that size. It's not in the budget for the forseeable future.
So when I see the marvelous shots you get (I know what you use), it reminds me that one day I will have a higher end camera with bigger glass, and I'll get results like this.

They are marvelous, and I like the turkey vulture shot myself - you put it absolutely perfectly, the picture of grace and ugliness.

Thumbed. Oh, that swallow shot is sheer perfection.
We have a lot of Turkey Vultures in our area - and you are so right - ugly and grace. They are often unbelievably large - I almost ran over one as I crested a hill on a country road, but skidded to a stop just in time. The vulture was enjoying a lovely repast of a flattened raccoon, and looked at me as if to say - "if you touch my meal, I'll come back for you."

Then it stretched and took off. The bird's wingspan looked like it took up at least half the width of the road. Needless to say, I left the roadkill alone.
Incredible drive by shootings! I'm an avid bird watcher and loved every one of these!
You do birds so well. They take patience and, as Bill noted, some big glass. I have neither. So I must content myself with enjoying your marvelous captures. I love the swallow. I admire the turkey vultures daily on my trips to and from work. This is a great one. Thanks, Barry.
Your shots are marvelous. And you're absolutely correct that birds occupy a parallel universe. A really good bird photo is an accomplishment.
The photo of the barn swallow is stunning. As is the turkey vulture. Ugly and grace, indeed.

My last month has been filled with yellow birds (gorgeous little things) and brilliantly red cardinal sightings. All of these birds strut on our balcony rails while George is safely closed indoors. Of course, he is pressed against the glass, impotently chattering away, giving the birds what for and threatening to tear them limb from limb if given the opportunity. Then, I open the door, and the birds take flight as George backs further into the house, terrified by the possibility that he might have to make good on his threats.
Beautiful photos, Barry. I am also a backroader, from back when I had a convertible sports car, but even now in a van. I take them for the wildlife - actually all life - that interstates don't show.
John, that's a curious coincidence. I just got my brand new MacBook Pro 17" and the brightness and clarity is just stunning. I use this image here as a desktop image from a recent OS post of mine, and as an indication of my devotion to OS in a continuation of that metaphor of OS being a place for our collective graffiti. Thank you so much for your kind comments...for your consistent kind and generous comments.

Thanks brother Bill. I think the guy was steering you wrong with the recommendation of a lens that long. It takes a long, long time to get good shot out of a lens that long. The swallow above was taken with a 50mm f/1.4 lens. That lens is a beauty and runs about $470 on Amazon. (Nikon lens prices have just gone up about 20% in the last month or so.) The mockingbird shot was taken with the amazing and estimable 85mm f/1.4 lens. It's an extraordinary piece of glass. It's wonderful for taking portraits. You can see an example of it's use as a portrait lens from this shot of mine seen here. But that comes at a steeper cost--currently at about $1,300 on Amazon, though I got it for under $1,100. The vulture pic was taken with one of the best lenses that Nikon produces, the wonderful 70-200 f/2.8 that has VR--vibration reduction technology. Currently at about $1,900 I was able to get it a few years back for about $1,600. Prices will continue to rise. The D300 is currently running about $1600 for the body only, and has been out long enough that it's price will drop a bit more in the next year. It's an amazing performer and one that anyone will be happy with. I think it's a good step for you. I'm trying to figure out how to get my hands on the Nikon D3x body...with it's 25mpxl engine...but I won't shock you by mentioning the price here. Maybe if the book does well--due out next month!!

Owl, that's so cool about your vulture story. They are enormous indeed...and ubiquitous.

Fab, thanks so much for your comment.

JK...I knew you'd like that post. xo

Julie, thanks so much. You have some great bird shots!

Stim thanks for that comment. I think you know how true that is, that a good bird photo is something to be proud of.

m. a.h, I love it when you come by. I love that story of George, the cowardly bully. It's an experience I've had with my cats too. So funny. Thanks!

Ardee, It's a better way to travel for sure.
These are great shots, Barry. I was wondering about the depth of field in the second shot (whether it was done afterwards), just as I read your explanation. It's remarkable how well you captured that little guy.

As for the parallel universe that birds live in, sometimes I've wondered the same thing about the pets we have and the little creatures that scurry around in our yard. They sense more than we do in some ways (and of course much less in other ways), they pay attention to different things, and some of them have reaction times that we'd consider super-human. The other day I happened to be looking up at the top of a tree that was perhaps four stories tall and I saw a squirrel (that is, I think it was a squirrel) jumping from one swaying branch to another. No fear of falling, no obvious difference in behavior between up-near-the-sky and down-near-the-ground, just leading a squirrel's life. Most animals don't conceptualize the world they live in, but even if they could I suspect we'd have a hard time communicating with them.
I'm pretty sure I was a turkey vulture in another life. Beautiful photography delivered as only you can. xo
Thank you for the lack of woodpeckers.
And I am *so* happy it wasn't the other kind of shooting. Beautiful birds, Barry!
That barn swallow is adorable.

You take such lovely photos, Barry.
What beautiful photos. That photo of the mockingbird sitting in the holly is incredible. Wow. You've got some eye.
You are so generous to publish here. You give the amateur a gold standard to shoot for.
i love the turkey vulture. cool birds and great pic. :)
I'm just going to throw my camera away...
I especially like the mockingbird shot. Lovely.
Barry, your photos are excellent. Completely with you on how difficult it is to photograph birds. I'm a bird nut too!

Concerning turkey vultures and their flight, one way to tell a very distant turkey vulture from possibly more interesting birds of prey with the naked eye: while it is soaring, look for little side to side tipping motions that make them look a little wobbly in flight. If it wobbles, it's a turkey vulture. If it's flight is perfectly smooth, it might be worth it to pull out the binoculars and see what it actually is.

One of my favorite birds to watch for in-flight acrobatics is the raven. We don't have those here, but they were all over the place in NM.

Your mockingbird and swallow shootings are just magical! The way the focus is on the mocking bird with the colorful blurry background, came out beautifully. And that swallow's got some serious personality captured there. Thanks for sharing these!
Interstates are the Walmart of travel. Spectacular pics!
Still jealousing over that barn swallow. :)
Love your photos. How did I live in Utah for nine years and manage never to see a barn swallow? Amazingly gorgeous. Thank you.
This is a very sweet piece! I like the idea of birds living i a parallel universe....they do, and the motion they initiate is sometimes invisible.
Barry, the Turkey Vulture is stunning. Thank you for your generosity in posting your beautiful photos.
Love the title! That mockingbird is precious! Great photo journey, as usual. Love your posts!
“I've noted before how difficult it is to get a decent shot of birds.”

Tell me about it! I’ve had to rely on an iPhone and a Canon A70 (and a general lack of natural sunlight indoors) for snatching shots of Franny and Zooey, so it has indeed been a challenge. And I am so glad you linked back to that spectacular October post—otherwise, I would’ve missed all that sumptuous gorgeosity!

“I was stuck at a traffic light for the mockingbird shot.”

This may be the only time I have ever been grateful for traffic!

Thank you again, Barry, for sharing these glimpses of beauty through your eagle eyes and kingfisher’s soul.

Beautiful - the turkey vulture looks like he is going to fly off the screen, even on my cheap laptop. To me, that swallow is looking a little sassy, very self-assured. Swallows line the banks on Lake Michigan, their holes are like polk-a-dots in the dunes right on the shore. Don't think I'll ever capture one as perfectly as you would but someday I'll have to give it my best.
Damn, you're good! I am not in your league, but I do have some shots you may appreciate. Birds are about the hardest thing to get a shot on other than insects. I will do a post about some recent pix I've taken and would love your opinion. You are the master.
Thank you Barry! Beautiful, of course.
One of my favorite things to do is watch birds. Lovely photos.
Beautiful, beautiful pictures! It's so hard to take pictures of birds and these are amazing.
Just. Simply. Spectacular.

I am so envious of your amazing talent... we're all blessed by it.
oh! I've been away for the weekend and there are now lots more comments.

Thanks to all who stopped by and for the lovely comments.

Some random responses:

Rob--I love your thoughts here and that you get the parallel universe thing. It's so true that squirrels, and some cats, have their brains wired differently re fear of heights and balance. Being so fearful of heights, I wonder at their abilities.

Tequila, I know you hate woodpeckers for the havoc they've wreaked on your lives.

Marcelle! thanks for the lovely comments. You too Donna!

Harry, don't you dare.

Terry, as always thanks for your lovely confirmation.

Dr Steve, I do hates the Interstates.

Christine, I love it when you stop by.

Gary, you've hit upon an incredible truth, one that includes Superman too I think.

Melissa, you've given me something beautiful with the kingfisher comment.

mamoore, I'd love to see the swallows on the banks.

Chuck, thanks so much for coming by.

SuznMaree, lovely words, thanks!

Sally, the feeling is mutual.
Nice shots. I don't think the vulture is cute; interesting, yes, but not cute. I especially don't like them when they are eating a squashed squirrel on my street. Kind of gross, but it keeps the place tidy.
You don't mention what camera you are using. I find many digital cameras are a bit slow, meaning the lag between pressing the button and the picture being taken gives the wildlife way too much time to move out of the frame. We saw a school of beluga whales in Alaska last year, and I took a bunch of shots which are mostly of swirly water where a beluga used to be.
BTW please don't follow Johnny Carson's son, Richard, into the wild blue yonder by driving off the road while taking your pictures!
Thanks for stopping by GeeBee. I agree that cute is not a word to describe a vulture, in any context. That's probably the consensus view since no one on this page referred to them as cute either. They do help the ecosystem speed the recycling efforts along though.

I'm using a Nikon D300, a DSLR that can take 6 frames per second if desired. And even more if a more powerful battery is used in the optional attachable MBD10 multi power battery pack.

If you click on any of the images it will take you to the Flickr hosting of that image, and you can get additional information if you click on "more properties" button. So, for example, the swallow image was taken with a 50mm lens at f/3.5 and 1/640 of a second. Those settings would be enough to freeze most action. Six frames or more per second means there is no distinguishable lag time, so I'm thinking your cam has some settings on it that need to be adjusted, or it's really old. Two ways to compensate are using appropriate f stops for the available light and using a faster shutter speed, again depending on light. Cameras that are set on Program only mode, or complete auto often can't do a scene justice. I usually shoot in Aperture priority mode which allows me a greater control of how to use available light.

And no, my drive-by shots are not taken with the car in motion.
Very beautiful shots. As a fellow dilettante I appreciate the commitment to not being committed to any one thing.
These are very cool.

I watch the finches and hummingbirds at the feeders each morning but I've never tried to take their pics. Thus, I'd never thought before about how tricky that might be. I enjoyed your description of taking each shot.
Wow, what a treat to come this way and discover new photos by you. the other day I showed my children the photos you have on the Net from the Botanic Garden: they were bored and restless, making lots of noise. I told them I´d take them to that garden, and as the photos slided and the music played... they slowed down... they became captivated... they were filled with beauty... and the were quiet! (the miracle of photography in action)
Thanks! Kisses,
These are gorgeous...I'm one of those casual bird-watchers...more like a three year old...when I see birds...I must immediately stop...ooohhohhhh! xox
Thanks for posting this and the reminder for us novice photographers.