Day 31—Day 10, Port A—Three Scoops

I flew home from Port Aransas today. This morning, before I left, we walked on the beach. It was overcast, foggy, and misty. I took a few photos of the beach today but I was unable to get good exposure in the overcast, fog, and mist.

When I got home to Antelope an hour or so ago, I reviewed my photos and found today’s shots to be a bit lackluster. But one that I took at Scoopy’s, the ice cream shop adjacent to Snoopy’s on South Padre Island, where we had lunch on the way to the Corpus Christi airport, (I had fish and chips; the fish was corvina, a kind of sea trout, and it was wonderful) fits the daily challenge topic which is “three.” It turns out to be the most interesting photo I took today, along with a farewell shot of my wonderful hosts, Susan and Chris.

Day 30—Day 9, Port A — Fishing in Texas

Today is my last full day in Port A. I fly home tomorrow afternoon. We went fishing. Chris and Susan both caught fish, but all were undersize and were returned to the water. Between them, they caught 4 redfish and two sheepshead, as well as a few trash fish, but that is a poor fishing day for them. I caught nothing, but I did document some of the events of the day.

Buddy, walking himself to the boat:

A cormorant taking off near our boat:

Prickly pear growing atop metal moorings:

Susan’s redfish was not legal size so she threw it back:

A dancing great white egret:

Susan holds the sheepshead that Chris caught; check out those teeth; it, too, was returned to the water:

A brown pelican sits on a piling, watching as boaters return to port.

Day 28—Port A, Day 7—Farley Boat

Port Aransas, Texas is a fishing village that in the early 20th century, began to attract anglers and tourists from across America for tarpon fishing. However, because of the choppy waters around Port Aransas, access to the Gulf Coast was restricted because the boats of the day were not designed to handle the rough Gulf Coast waters and storms. The Farley Family began building the Farley boat in 1915 in Port Aransas.

Today, concrete planters made to represent Farley Boats, are everywhere in Port Aransas. The Port Aransas Garden Club created the Farley boat planters as a fund-raising project and to add local landscaping interest to residences, businesses, and public areas. The planters are an artistic reproduction of the original Farley boat and a reminder of historic fishing and boat building in the early 1900’s in Port Aransas, Texas. Today’s daily challenge topic is “craft” and I think the ubiquitous Farley boat planters qualify as craft. This Farley boat, by the Port Aransas Community Center and as yet unplanted, shows a local crafter’s artistic hand.

Focal Length 34mm
ISO 100

Day 27—Port A, Day 6 — Poling Cutter’s Loop

I wish I could say we kayaked Cutter’s Loop but the low tides required us to “pole” our way through the mud flats. The kayak rental guy, Hector, tried to dissuade us from kayaking today because the tides were so low, but we insisted because we wanted to see the shore birds up close in the little shallow areas that we can’t access by Chris’ boat. We spent close to two hours alternating between poling through the mud, being sucked into the mud when we got out of our kayaks to pull them free, and occasionally, actually paddling. We were restricted to one small area across the Port Aransas channel from the launch area. It was the only real paddling we did all afternoon.

I didn’t take many photos today because I was worried that I might get my camera wet. For most of the outing, I kept it in a dry bag in the kayak but did take it out a couple of times. Once, to document our folly of a trip, and once to take a couple of photos of a bird I’d never seen before, a Reddish Egret.

In the first photo, Susan is in the distance, actually paddling through a deep spot of probably 8 inches, Chris is to the right, portaging his kayak across the mud, and I, or more accurately, my Keens, as I sat still, unable to move, stuck in the mud.

This Reddish Egret was not afraid of us and it was delightful to watch as it danced and ran through the shallow water after fish.

Day 26—Port A, Day 5—Sunrise

Today was the first day since my arrival here that broke without fog or overcast. We threw on some clothes and rushed down to the beach to watch the sunrise. It was beautiful and the look of the sunrise changed minute by minute. It was all over in less than 15 minutes.

I have a small problem with my camera. The past two days, some of my photos have been marred with a piece of lint that appears in some of them, including the upper right of the first sunrise photo. I cleaned the mirror and the lenses but didn’t get rid of the lint. It must be on the sensor so I’ll have to try cleaning the sensor next which makes me nervous even though there is a setting on the camera to perform this function.

7:18 AM



Day 25—Port A, Day 4—Jelly Bellies and Other Oddities

We saw an odd variety of creatures and things today. The beach had lots of jellyfish, including Portuguese Men of War, cannonballs, and moon jellyfish. Later, at the Port A birding center, we saw a northern shoveler with an itching problem, an American alligator (my first in the wild) lurking in the reeds, a monarch butterfly, and later, shopping for Bubba Gump’s shrimp, an irritated shop owner’s sign.

Portuguese Man of War:

Cannonball Jellyfish:

Moon Jellyfish:

Northern shoveler with an itching problem:

An American Alligator tail:


And finally, how they do it in Texas:

Day 23—Port A, Day 2 – B-b-b-bird, Bird Bird, Bird Is The Word

Today, bird was certainly the word, for me anyway. We went fishing and I actually caught a fish, a junk fish that was quickly returned to the water. But I was more interested in photographing birds than fishing and I took hundreds of photos today and quite a few were actually in focus. I saw and photographed an incredible variety of birds including brown pelicans, cormorants, laughing gulls, lesser terns, little blue herons, great blue herons, tricolored herons, ibises, lesser yellowlegs, great white egrets, cattle egrets, an osprey, grebes, pintail ducks, and roseate spoonbills.

Here are some of my favorites from today. Some are SOOC, some are cropped, some required exposure adjustments. The sky was overcast today and I had my ISO set to 320 for much of the day, because I forgot to reset it. I used both manual and aperture priority settings and left the white balance at automatic.

A Common Tern looking for something to eat.

A pair of ibis looking searching for food.

A pair of roseate spoonbills, beautifully colored but very goofy looking up close.

A roseate spoonbill flying along side our boat.

A brown pelican who hung around waiting for us to throw him a morsel, including the occasional piggy perch that we caught.

The same pelican, staring intently at me.

Day 22—Port A, Day 1

I’m settling into the Port A routine. Susan, Buddy and I took a morning stroll on the beach as the dense fog lifted. The air is humid and warm despite the deep cloud cover and the fresh salt air is exhilarating. I was happy to see my favorite shore birds, the sanderlings, darting through the surf and a group of brown pelicans flying overhead in a Vee formation. There were willets and laughing gulls and royal terns adding to the beach ambiance. A great blue heron stood vigilant in the surf, waiting for an unsuspecting fish to swim by.

I set the white balance to cloudy but when I downloaded the photos they had a distinct yellow cast so I changed the white balance to daylight. I also cropped the photos and made some curves adjustments to brighten them. Here is the great blue heron waiting, then flying off with his catch, then waiting again. And a royal tern flies overhead.

Day 21—Jackson Pollock??

This is what happens when you’ve had just a couple hours of sleep and spend the day in airports and on airplanes. Since I didn’t like any of the handful of photos I took today I decided to try a night photo from the balcony in the house in Port Aransas, TX where I’m staying with my friends Susan and Chris. The balcony view was uninteresting until I purposefully moved the camera around and got a photo that reminded me of a Jackson Pollock painting.

Focal Length 40mm
ISO 100
5 seconds

Day 20—The Brave Heroes Association

During California’s Gold Rush, Chinese pioneers settled in Auburn, CA and a burgeoning Chinese community thrived there for more than a century. The Ling Ying Association, when translated means The Brave Heroes Association, was a Chinese social and cultural organization housed in a building known the Joss House which survives today both as a museum and Chinese history center. I was in Auburn this afternoon and because today’s challenge topic is “oriental” I thought the entrance to the Joss House, which fittingly faces east, made a perfect subject for the challenge.

Today was the first day of real rain in months and the sky was dark and gloomy. I bumped the ISO up to 640 so there is considerable noise in this photo but it was still so dark I needed to apply Curves to brighten it and I added a vignette for interest.

Focal Length 22mm
ISO 640

Day 19—A Favorite Thing

I was hoping to photograph raindrops on roses for today’s challenge, “A Favourite Thing” (the group admins are Aussies and Kiwis, hence, the addition of the “u”), but the anticipated rain hasn’t yet materialized and, even if it did, I discovered that my roses are no longer in bloom. With no rain and no roses, I tried photographing a black olla that I picked up in Mexico more than 40 years ago and, that has been on display in my home ever since. However, despite my affection for this large blob of a pot, I discovered that it is not particularly interesting nor is it remotely photogenic.

Fortunately, another of my favorite things, a hummingbird, materialized outside at the feeder. I went out and set up the tripod, smugly prefocused the camera on the feeder, and set the remote shutter release so I didn’t need to recheck in the viewfinder. That was a big mistake. After a couple of shots when the hummer did return, I realized that the focus was on the feeder, not on the bird so the resulting photos were fuzzy. I refocused and rechecked the shot through the viewfinder and managed to get two in focus shots. Then a few raindrops fell so I ended my day’s quest for the perfect hummingbird shot.

I wish I’d remembered my 2012 Day 1 hummingbird shot where I successfully used the on camera flash because today was much darker than that day and the resulting shot, without flash, was a little dark. I bumped the exposure up +1.5 and cropped the shot. However, the hummer is in focus and since birds and, in particular, hummingbirds, are among my most favorite things, I think it worked out pretty well for me, despite my cavalier approach today.


Focal Length 300mm
ISO 400
Cropped/Exposure +1.5

Day 17—Stanley

Today’s challenge is “masculine.” To me, tools are very masculine. This is a Stanley No. 46, an adjustable dado and plow plane that was made more than one hundred years ago. It is listed in the 1902 Sears Catalog at a price of $4.55. Its value today is considerably more. It belonged to my husband’s father, Jay Smith, who was a cabinet maker. The plane was handed down to Jay by his father, George Smith, who was also a cabinet maker. They plied their trade near Tulsa, Oklahoma in the early years of the twentieth century.

I decided that this old plane would look best rendered in black and white so I experimented with actually taking the photograph as if I had black and white film in the camera, instead of changing it later on the computer. In the Shooting Menu, I set the picture control to monochrome and experimented with various digital filters, settling on the red filter. I took several photos with various apertures and shutter speeds to achieve various effects. Despite the setting changes I made in the camera however, and despite the fact that they show black and white when viewed in the camera’s LCD screen, when downloaded to the computer, their color returned. This is too much of a puzzle for my brain to handle today. Did I just fall down a rabbit hole? What happened here? Oh well, I’ll just go with what I got. This photo is in color, but it is almost monochrome in the color it has so I’m happy with it.

Focal Length 35mm
ISO 100
.4 second
Camera set to monochrome, red filter. Hmmm.

Day 16—Just Ducky

Today’s daily challenge is to “use a prop.” I decided to use the little rubber ducky that lives on the granite shower ledge. This is my only bathroom decor and I thought it would be perfect for the “prop” challenge. As I fiddled with posing the little guy, I realized that the purpose of the “prop” is to enhance the subject of the photo, not to BE the subject of the photo. What now? Aaah! I needed a prop! I remembered I still have a bunch of little paper drink umbrellas from some long-forgotten project (or maybe from my mai tai fiasco, but that’s another story) so I got one, affixed it to the ducky with, appropriately enough, “Duck Brand” duct tape; and now my prop, which is now the subject of the photo, had a prop. I experimented with different apertures because I was trying to decide whether to have the drops on the glass become bokeh or still be obvious water drops. I think this pose looks as if the rubber ducky is noticing I forgot to squeegee the shower and the obvious drops still are sort of bokeh-ish.

Focal Length 35mm
ISO 100

Day 15—Flyin’ High

Today was the red-tailed hawk’s final creance session. I was assigned the task of attaching the leg straps and jesses. Although I have helped with this task during the other two sessions, today I had complete responsibility for it so I was a little nervous. One needs finger dexterity in order to attach the straps and jesses so gloves cannot be worn. When I failed to hold the first leg strap correctly, in a flash, three of my bare fingers were in the grip of those incredibly strong and sharp talons. My first instinct was to jerk back but that merely results in tightening because the talons ratchet closed and cannot readily reopen. Thankfully for me, our team leader today, Liz, is an experienced falconer who remained calm and managed to slowly pry the talons off my fingers. I don’t know how deep the talon went into the pad of my baby finger but thanks to those dang baby aspirin, blood gushed everywhere. What a way to start the session! I rinsed my hand off, stanched the flow of blood, and twisted on a bandaid that Liz brought to me, and we left the flight chamber.

Despite my earlier hiccup, I worked as the handler for most of the session once we were out in the field. Our little hawk did great. We launched him high today and he shows that he can fly strongly and is ready for release. When it was my turn to serve as recorder, I took a few photos and set the camera to Shutter priority and the shutter speed to 1/640. The shots aren’t great but I’m managing to get the hawk in the viewfinder and, my focus, while not perfect, is better with the higher shutter speed. While I’m learning the creance technique, I’m also starting to understand what I need to do to capture a bird in flight. I’m not there yet, but I’m working on it.

Focal Length 18mm
ISO 100
Cropped and Curves

Day 14—A Little Sheepish

Well, I’m feeling a little sheepish. None of the photos I took today were remotely satisfactory but, I took another look at the sheep I’d photographed earlier, when I pointed my camera directly into the setting sun. I liked the silhouette created by the sun behind the wool, but the photo was, overall, lackluster because the bright setting sun colored the entire photo, a pale yellow with white highlights. Then, in Aperture, I applied the curves auto setting and a preset called Intensify. Et voilà! A photo of the day! I don’t think the people at Recording Images would approve, but technically it meets the “backlighting” challenge that is still on until midnight. Hmmmm. Maybe I should submit it and brace myself for another honest critique.

Day 13—Angry Bird

This morning, I participated in my second creance session with the red-tailed hawk I featured on Day 10 of In Focus Daily. My vet, Vickie Joseph, who founded the California Foundation for Birds of Prey and at whose home the creance sessions are held, led the team. The hawk is flown up to ten flights in a session, or until it starts breathing through its mouth. Today, the hawk flew ten times and only started mouth breathing on the last flight. However, it held its mouth open most of the time it was being handled by one of the team members. The creance training’s purpose is to strengthen the bird’s flying ability but because these creatures are wild, they do not understand being man-handled and show their stress and anger with an open beak and exposed tongue.

Today I handled the hawk several times and under Vickie’s tutelage I improved my technique for retrieving the hawk after its flight. I am feeling much more comfortable after four more launches today. I also redeemed myself with the creance line, but not before getting my glove caught in the line and jerking the poor hawk up short about 50 feet into its flight, almost a repeat of the other day’s faux pas. I exchanged the bulky glove for a sleeker one, received counsel on what I did wrong and how to avoid it, and then managed the line four times without incident including for the bird’s longest flight of 125 feet.

With the opportunity I have now to be near these magnificent birds, one of the things I hope to do is improve focusing shots on fast moving raptors. I took a few today as the hawk was launched, using shutter priority but I didn’t have a fast enough shutter speed to get good focus. Also, it always happens so quickly, framing the bird completely in the view finder is a challenge. At least I will have more opportunities to try. I hope I succeed.

Here are a few shots from today’s session.

I took this photo from outside the flight chamber through the netting that surrounds it. The team inside the flight chamber caught the hawk in a large fishing net and here they are extricating it from the net.

The team examines the bird’s wings and feet before every training session. Here they are noting the health of the wing feathers and identifying any that are broken or damaged.

I included this photo because of the reflection in the hawk’s eye. I’m reflected at the left of the pupil and its feet are reflected to the right of the pupil; the red at the base of the reflection is the handler’s glove. Click on this photo to increase the size for a better view of the reflections.

This is one angry bird. If there are any green pigs around, they better watch out!

Here the hawk is launched with the jesses trailing behind attached to the creance line.