My Week, April showers, finally.
Starting out another week the same as always, sitting here drinking my coffee, looking back at last week, and pondering the upcoming week.
After the perfect weather and the bird bonanza yesterday, clouds have moved in for today. That may not be all bad, since I’m headed to Aman Park to photograph the wildflowers there. I still haven’t learned all the secrets to good macro photography, but one thing that I am learning is that bright sunshine may not be the best lighting as it is too harsh and casts too many shadows. I do need to remember to grab the LED panel light that I purchased for macro photography, along with the Gorillapod to hold it.
I haven’t begun working on a post from yesterday, I’m have a difficult time cutting down the number of photos to put into that post. It’s not as if the photos are all great, many are not, but I saw so many species, and caught so many of them engaged in interesting behavior that it is hard for me to whittle them down to a manageable number. I started with over 100, and I’m down to 70 right now, I have to cut that in half for a post, at least. But, how often does one see a blue-gray gnatcatcher building its nest, or a yellow-rumped warbler licking aphids from a twig?
My leg, which I injured at work (again) held up quite well yesterday, despite how long I was out there, and is feeling much better today. I’m not going to push it too hard today, I’ll get to Aman Park, take the short path to where most of the wildflowers are to be found, and photograph them. Then, if the weather holds, I’ll return to my car and drop off the macro equipment, and then do a little birding with just the new 300 mm prime lens.
I should stop at Cabela’s on the way back from the park. I looked for some of the items that I need for my vacation last night while I was grocery shopping, but Meijer’s has really cut back on their sporting goods department.
Well, I think that I have fooled around here long enough, time to get moving!
Even though I didn’t get the photos that I had hoped for, I did a stand alone post on my day today.
No rain yet, I’m beginning to wonder if we’re in for another dry year. Last year wasn’t, we had record rainfall in April, but it had been dry for several years before that.
There is a high wind advisory out for today, and it is cloudy, so that will limit my chances for photos of at least some subjects. And, today is also my short day, so I had better get moving.
I’m back, a light rain did begin to fall just as I was starting out. The rain never really amounted to very much, but any rain driven by 30 MPH winds seems much worse than what it actually is.
Because of that I didn’t think that I would be shooting any photos today, but of course, I was wrong. I wasn’t going to pull my camera out of its protective dry bag unless I saw something special. Well, I think that capturing cedar waxwings eating willow catkins was special enough for a few photos, even if the light was poor. Look closely, and you can see three of the waxwings in the first photo.
A few steps closer and some cropping yielded these. I have seen the waxwings in the willows before, but I thought that they were feeding on insects attracted to the catkins, wrong! I’m sure that the waxwings don’t mind any insects that they happen to find, but they eat just the catkins alone, plucking the catkins from the tree and consuming them like we would spaghetti.
I also spotted a male ruby-crowned kinglet displaying more of his ruby crown than they often do, but in the one image that I managed to get, he had the crown all but hidden again.
But, that gives me an excuse to use up a few photos from Saturday. If you’re at all familiar with kinglets, you know that they seldom stop moving, so I’m quite proud of these even if I didn’t get the best angle on the birds.
I have a lot of images of empty branches where a kinglet had been a split second before, along with blurry olive-green shapes in images, but I have to post one of those, as it looks as if the kinglet is dropping right into my lens.
They’re quick little buggers, let me tell you!
I hate to end the day with a bad photo, so here’s another from Saturday.
Since it’s Monday, time for a shower, then a visit with my mom.
I slept in a little later than usual this morning, since I worked a little later than usual last night. It’s just as well, the rain that had been falling this morning is exiting the area, and it should be dry, if cool, for my walk this morning. Best of all, the high winds of yesterday have diminished to a more reasonable level today.
We did get a good soaking rain overnight into this morning, which should go a long way to getting things to green up around here. Now, if we could only get temperatures to match the calendar on a regular basis, rather than just one or two days a week, with temperatures 10 to 20 degrees below average for the bulk of the time.
I’m not complaining, even if it sounds as if I am, that’s just a statement of fact, for I’d rather have a cool spring like this one has been rather than the very hot spring of two years ago! That year, we went straight from winter to summer, with very little spring in between. I may be in a hurry for all the sights, sounds, and smells of full spring to arrive, but in some ways, having spring drawn out is quite nice.
And right now, I’m going to get out there and enjoy it for as long as I can!
I’m back, and it’s late. I shot too many photos while I was walking, then, once I returned home, I shot a few macro photos of a flower opening on my house plant. I also entered one of the photos that I shot indoors in a photo contest co-sponsored by a local camera store and Sigma lenses. First prize is a Sigma 105 mm macro lens, and I doubt if I will win, but if I did, I could do some test shots with that lens compared to my Tokina macro lens, keep the better of the lenses, and sell the other. Here’s the photo that I entered.
Okay, for my outdoor photos, they are of familiar subjects, but I just love the photos that I shot today.
That image is full framed, not cropped at all. It’s seldom that a duck looks directly at me like that, and I like the expression on his face.
Next is a series of photos of a robin taking a shower, and part of the reason for including them is to remind me to say once again how much most species of birds love water, and not just for hygiene purposes. Many insect-eating birds stick close to water as that’s where they find the most insects to eat.
And, I hate to do this, but here’s a few more chickadees. In the first two, the setting is the major reason for my including them.
And, these next ones show that this chickadee has a bald spot.
The bald spot could be because the chickadee bumps its head going in and out of small holes. 😉
A flower with water drops.
And finally, a goldfinch. I had a couple of fair photos of one preening after it had showered, but this is a better photo, so I’m including it instead.
I suppose that I shouldn’t have used so many photos of the chickadees again, but that gets back to the question of do I hold off posting photos until I see if I get better ones or not?
Having good camera gear is creating a dilemma for me, actually, a couple of them. The quality of images that I’m now deleting on a daily basis is still difficult for me, as most of my “bad” photos now are far better than my “good” photos from just over a year ago. I still see improvements in my photos, and I’m doing less cropping than ever, which results in larger file sizes when I save the images.
I’m using up the free storage space that WordPress gives us at a much faster rate, even though I’m trying to conserve that space. I’m also filling the hard drive of my computer at an increasing rate.
And, I worry about boring people with so many photos of the same species of birds, but that seems to go in cycles. Right now, I’m getting great photos of chickadees and waxwings, a month ago, it was cardinals and song sparrows. It will soon be orioles and grosbeaks, I hope. 😉
I could have left out the photos of the chickadee on the fence rails, but they are almost full frame, and technically, some of the best images of chickadees that I have ever gotten. I love the two of the chickadee surrounded by the burgundy leaves of the crab apple tree, just as I loved the previous ones of a chickadee in front of a green background, so where do I draw the line?
The quality of the images that I now get on a daily basis were not only impossible for me with my old camera, they were unimaginable to me just over a year ago. (It was just over a year ago that I purchased my new camera) So in some respects, I’m like a kid with a new toy that just wants to play with the new toy, on the other hand, I have become much more serious about improving my skills as a photographer.
I know, I’ve said that before, so I am repeating myself again, but I think that it bears repeating. Maybe I’m bragging, but it seems to me that every month, the quality of images that I post improves, and I want to continue that trend. I also need to pound that into my head, so that I don’t shoot so many photos that I know that I’m going to delete when I get home. I’m getting better about that, doing it right or not at all, which does save time for me to concentrate on getting even better photos when I do decide that a subject is worth photographing.
That’s all just some disjointed ramblings as I try to pull some thoughts together, I should have worked out my thoughts better before heading down that path. And, speaking of paths, it’s time for me to head down the one outside.
I’m back, and I know what my disjointed ramblings were leading up to.
It was early April of last year when I purchased the Canon 60 D camera and the Beast. (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) The 70-200 mm L series lens soon followed, then the 15-85 mm, the Tokina 100 mm macro, the Tamron 1.4 X extender, and finally, the 300 mm L series prime telephoto lens just last month. Each piece of equipment has come with things for me to learn in order to get the best image quality from it.
However, the biggest learning curve has been digital photography overall. Everything that I thought that I had learned while using my old camera was wrong, as it was a very poor camera as it turns out, and the lens I was using was even worse.
So, I have spent the year concentrating more on photography than what the subjects I was trying to photograph were doing.
To go along with that, I began the My Photo Life List project last year, and I was in a hurry to add species to it so that I didn’t look like a complete fool to have started such a project, and only have a couple of common species of birds completed in that project. I know that every one doing something similar has to start somewhere, but it bugged me more than it probably should have to not have many species completed.
So, now we come to the present time. I think that I have a pretty good handle on the photography aspect, not to brag, but my photos have come a long way in the past year, a very long way.
I’m also approaching the half-way point in the My Photo Life List project, so I don’t feel the need get photos of new species of birds everyday, or at least every week. I know now that I’ll eventually get the bird. 😉
I think that one of the “claims to fame” of my blog has been my ability to get close to critters, and to photograph them doing things most people never get to see. That part of my blogging slipped a bit last year, as I was too busy learning my equipment, and chasing new species of birds.
It has dawned on me slowly over this past month that I’m getting back into my old groove again, I’m getting more images of birds and other critters in action again. The waxwings eating willow catkins from earlier this week is just one example. Who knew that waxwings slurped down willow catkins like we would slurp down noodles? I didn’t.
Here’s another example from Saturday in Palmer Park, a yellow-rumped warbler closely eyeing tree branches, then licking what was probably small insects such as aphids off from the branches. It may not show up well in the smaller sizes of these photos, so you may need to click on the images to see what I’m talking about.
I can’t say for sure if what the warbler was licking off from the tree were aphids, or even insects of any kind. However, she was definitely closely scrutinizing the tree, she was licking something off from it, and there is a small translucent something on the end of her beak in the last photo. I suppose that what she was finding could have been tiny spiders that had just hatched, or some other tiny insect, the warbler wouldn’t let me get close enough to shoot a macro of what she was eating. 😉
Those photos aren’t great technically, but given the backlighting that let me see the warbler’s tongue and that there was something stuck to her beak, I don’t think that I did too badly as far as photo quality. The year it took me to learn to get any shot under those conditions was well worth it! The warbler would have been nothing but a black blob in any photo that I would have tried with my old gear.
Okay, on to today’s photos, nothing noteworthy, just a few good photos, and a few so-so photos for the record.
I’ve posted a few red squirrels lately, but once again, my photos are improving, so I have to post this one.
This next one is a blue jay playing peek-a-boo with me, it is full frame, not cropped at all.
I normally wouldn’t post this one, but, it shows that I’m getting better at getting a focus with the new lens while birds are trying to hide from me, and, it shows the tiny little “horns” that towhees have over their eyes, similar to the horns of a horned lark.
I missed a shot of the female towhee, better luck next time.
This next one was a mistake of sorts, the blackbird looked like it was about to fly, so I was getting set to try for a bird in flight photo. Instead, he broke out in song. As I was checking to see that my settings were right for perched birds after the first shot, he flew off, so I didn’t get a shot of him in flight.
Well, that’s it for today, nothing special, but overall, not bad.
I managed to fool around far too long this morning, it has felt good to just waste some time for a change. It has seemed like I’ve been very busy the past two weeks, with not much to show for all of my scurrying around.
The weather outside is just as gloomy as it has been all week, and just as windy, although the wind has finally shifted direction as the low pressure area that has been just to the west of here all week is finally starting to move. That’s also brought much cooler temperatures with it, which will stick around into the weekend.
Sunday looks like my best chance of seeing the full bloom of the trillium going on in Aman Park, so that’s on my schedule for Sunday. Saturday is still up in the air, but I’m thinking either Palmer Park or Pickerel Lake to do some birding, it will depend on what the weather is going to be like. Maybe if the wind finally drops off, I’ll just stick around home and play with my macro lens for most of the day.
I have been playing with the macro lens indoors, since we’ve had very windy conditions since last Sunday when I went to Aman Park. In fact, one of the ways that I’ve wasted time this morning was by shooting a few extreme close-ups of my houseplant blooming. I haven’t downloaded the images from my camera yet to see how well they came out, I’ll do that after my walk. I used the macro lens and the extender to see just how close that I could get to things this morning, something that I hadn’t done yet, so we’ll see once I do download the images.
For right now, it’s time for a walk.
I’m back, it was a rather raw day today, with wind-driven rain most of the time. The rain did let up for a short time, enough for me to shoot a few photos, but I only saved two from today.
I learned two things from this morning’s macro photos, one, that it was time to clean the lens, and two, that I can still get camera shake even with my new tripod. But, it isn’t the tripod’s fault. A simple thing like leaving the camera strap swinging slightly while the shutter is open can foul up what otherwise would have been a good photo.
So, I just got done re-shooting the ones from this morning, making sure that there would be nothing to mess up the images other than my poor compositional skills. 😉
Here’s the entire flower….
…and this is as about as close as I can get to the center without cropping.
I did a side shot, but I didn’t like it. It was sharp enough, and I was a little closer, but I simply didn’t care for it. But, I do know now just how small of an object that I can get to show up well in a photo.
I have to admit that getting objects that are close to being microscopic in size is pretty cool, however, I prefer the photo of the entire flower. And, that’s what I really bought the macro lens for.
Since that’s only four images from today, I’m going to throw in a few more from Saturday to use them up. Since there are flowers from today, I’ll do butterflies and insects from Saturday, these were taken with the 300 mm prime lens.
I had to go to manual focus for the hoverfly, but I got it!
That’s it for today, as I spent too much time on the macro photos today.
Well, I didn’t think that it was possible, but it’s even gloomier today than what it has been all week so far, as it’s foggy today to go along with the cool temperatures and occasional rain. That’s OK, I still prefer a long, drawn out and cool spring over a quick and hot one.
I was going to do something silly today, and take all of my photo gear with me, but the forecast for tomorrow is much the same, so I’ll postpone my silliness until then. 😉 That may be a mistake, as there will probably be more wind tomorrow, but I’ll take that chance. The past few days there have been times when I wished that I had the macro or wide-angle lens with me, but the subjects that I wanted to shoot don’t move, so they’ll still be there tomorrow.
I’ll spend most of the day outside around here tomorrow, since the weather will be iffy, but Sunday is looking good for Aman Park and the trillium and other wildflowers.
Just one week of work left until my vacation starts! That’s the good news, the bad news is that the local meteorologist is talking snow for the first week of my vacation. No! It can’t be!
Well, if that does happen, I’ll find things to do closer to home, I’m sure that there will be some stretches of weather nice enough for me to spend some quality time up north. No matter what the weather, it will be good to have an extended time off from work to play around.
I’m back from my walk, and the weather tried to fool me. As I started out, it looked as if it was getting brighter, and there didn’t seem to be much wind. I almost came back for all my gear, but then the wind began to pick up, which cleared the fog for a while. It didn’t really stop raining, there were always a few drops falling, and by the time I started for home, the rain was steady, and the wind made it feel worse than it was.
That didn’t stop me from getting a few photos though.
If only those small branches hadn’t been in the way!
Nothing spoiled this next one though.
My new nickname for cedar waxwings is flying goats, as they will eat just about anything it seems. I couldn’t get anything more than a poor photo of them in action today, so here’s a fair image of one letting his lunch settle.
One part of the flock of waxwings was in the top of a cottonwood tree, eating the cottonwood catkins, and great quantities of the catkins. The waxwings have been pigging out. They’ve stripped most of the highbush cranberries that were left on the bushes, the crab apples that made it through winter, yesterday they did a number on the willow catkins, and on it goes. Maybe I should call them pigs with wings, as they sure do eat a lot, and don’t seem to be too particular about what it is that they are eating.
The next two images are of white-throated sparrows, because they won’t be around much longer.
I have a few more photos from today, some are actually good, but I’m not going to post them now. They are to remind me of what to look for tomorrow when I have my macro lens and tripod with me. They are mostly flowers and lichens, if I mess up tomorrow, I’ll use the photos from today.
So, with time and space left, here’s a few more from last Saturday at Palmer Park.
I have several of deer from Saturday, but that’s the only one that I’m including, as I caught her walking daintily as deer often do. Sometimes it’s hard to remember how strong and powerful they are, if I had spooked her, she could easily have covered 10 feet in her first bound from a standing start, and that takes a lot of strength!
The rest are birds, starting with a phoebe and a gnatcatcher.
The rest are flickers that I caught doing their spring thing.
That’s it for today, I’ll decide later when this will get posted.
Unlike my usual routine, I allowed myself to sleep in this morning, due to the weather. The storm system that has been parked over the area all week-long is finally moving away from here. Already this morning, there have been periods of both sun and rain, and it looks as if sunshine may win, at least for right now.
Since it is the weekend, and I can, I’m going to change-up my routine even more. I’ll do a quick version of my daily walk with just the new 300 mm lens, then return home for lunch. If the weather is still cooperating, I’ll load all my camera gear into my Forester, and go on a bird hunt at a location not far away, looking for trumpeter swans and an American Bittern. On my way home, I’ll stop back at the park that I walk daily to see if I can get some good photos of the early spring flowers. Wish me luck!
I’m back from round one, a bit later than I expected. I bumped into the person who verifies the rare bird sightings for eBird, and we had an extended conversation, and exchanged cell phone numbers.
I’m going to throw in the photos from this morning, as there aren’t many, then call this one done before I head on out for my bird hunt for the swans and bitten.
At least I think it’s a violet, I hope for better photos this afternoon.
Here’s two more images of a kinglet, as it spots me taking its photo, which it apparently didn’t like.
What this turkey was doing in the ball field in the park, other than running at full speed, I have no idea. Maybe it was running the bases for exercise. I thought that the turkey would be a good chance to test out the action mode of the IS of the new 300 mm lens, that works great, but my timing needs to improve. Oh, let me tell you, turkeys can flat out run when they are spooked out in the open like this one!
My best photo of the day.
I probably didn’t need to post this next one, as it’s just a male mallard.
But, having spotted him, I knew that there had to be a female close by, and after some careful investigation, I found her on her nest.
I think that I have excellent eyesight, but it took me a while to spot her, since she blends in so well with the background where she chose to build her nest.
So, that’s it for right now, and this post. I have already installed the Beast on my camera for my hunt this afternoon. The 300 mm prime lens may be extremely sharp, but it missed a few birds this morning, including the first Baltimore oriole of the year. I’ll live with the quality of photos that the Beast turns out in order to be sure of getting the bird if I see it, especially when I’m after a bittern, which are extremely wary birds from what I’ve heard.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!