2014—No Jive

When the last Smothers Brothers’ Comedy Hour was televised in late 1988, Tommy Smothers was Yo-Yo Man. I was captivated by his feats of Yo and I bought cheap plastic yo-yos and tried to learn how to walk the dog and a few other amateur yo-yo tricks. A dear friend, hearing me talk incessantly about Tommy Smothers and the yo-yo, one day presented me with an official Tom Kuhn No-Jive 3 in 1 Yo-Yo, the same model that Tommy Smothers used on his show. I was thrilled. The Yo-Yo is in perfect condition with its original box, string, a spool of extra string, and a couple of yo-yo how-to booklets. I don’ know if Tommy Smothers is still into “YO” but I know that Tom Kuhn still makes yo-yos in San Francisco because I follow him on Facebook. I don’t exactly know why I follow him because I haven’t Yo’d myself in 25 years but when I saw that a recent Flickr challenge was “string” I couldn’t think of any better string to photograph than the one attached to my Yo-Yo.

I set my No Jive 3 in 1 Yo-Yo on on a mirror in front of a window with a diffuser behind it. The problem I had was that from the angle I took the shot, the yo-yo looked as if it were tipping forward so I rotated it 90°. Obviously, the reflection is on the left.

D800, Focal Length 70mm, ISO 100, f/13, 1/2 sec. shutter speed

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2014—Skewbald Beaked Ferruginous Ferrum Corvus

I took the opportunity to work on increasing my comfort level using higher ISO settings for bird and wildlife photography. I have the perfect bird species on which to practice these settings nesting in my own backyard: the rare Skewbald Beaked Ferruginous Ferrum Corvus. I upped the ISO to 800 because they were in deep shade. They are rather inept at feeding their young as this photograph shows but I’m very happy with the exposure and the resulting photograph and if there is noise in this shot, it doesn’t bother me. I have to completely rethink my approach to photography. The only modification I made to this shot was to increase the vibrance a bit. I’m anxious to try increased ISO settings on the very real and not so rare bird species that also nests somewhere in my yard, Trochilidae Calypte Anna (Anna’s hummingbird).

D800; 155mm focal length (70-200mm lens); ISO 800; f/5.6; 1/125

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2014—I Picked a Pair of Packham Pears

I picked a pair of Packham pears at Whole Foods the other day. I’ve never had a Packham pear and this photograph looks nothing like a Packham pear because I added a crackle texture in Perfect Photo Suite 8. Of course my pair of Packham pears was inspired by my Flickr challenge group; Monday’s challenge was “A Pair.” After taking a very high key shot with each pear supported by an overturned wine glass against a white diffuser in front of my north facing window seat window, I thought the shot needed a little more interest, hence the crackle. I liked the effect and added a bit of a vignette to tone down the white.

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2014—Red Tail

It was a gorgeous day at the Golden Gate National Recreation Area Tuesday. The Point Bonita Lighthouse, our original destination, was closed so we wandered among the concrete bunkers that once housed gigantic guns defending the San Francisco Bay. As we stood atop one of the bunkers, we noticed a banded, red tail hawk, kiting above us in the stiff wind. The hawk was virtually still and only about 20 feet above us for almost 2 minutes. Of course I didn’t stop to consider my exposure and immediately started triggering the shutter. The bird was backlit at midday and every shot was underexposed. Thankfully, Lightroom allowed me to recover a few of the shots. I had my 70-200mm lens on the D7100.

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2014—International Stack

My friends at Vaneli’s Handcrafted Coffee gave me some burlap coffee bags to use as backdrops when I took some photos for them for their blog. When Sunday’s Flickr challenge was “stack” I knew I had to use the bags for this challenge. These bags contained green coffee beans from Tanzania, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Colombia, and Brazil. A few of the beans clung to the inside of the bags so I scattered a few to bring a little more interest to the photo.

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2014—Seeing Stars

I tossed a handful of small star shaped brads onto the black granite window seat and took some macro shots. In post processing, I completely desaturated the greens and yellows which were reflected in the black granite and I thought detracted from the stars. I’m not sure what was reflecting on the one star that looks orangey red. The only thing it could have been is the cabinets which are stained a reddish “golden oak.” Once again, the gods of Serendip have graced me with their presence. As a result, along with the blue stars reflecting the sky outside, the few that are their natural silvery white color, and the lone, reddish one, I ended up with red, white, and blue stars. My subject was inspired by my daily Flickr challenge group.

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2014—Breakfast Treat

While I was eating breakfast Saturday morning, I was treated to the antics of a flock of tiny bushtits treating themselves to a breakfast of whiteflies on my crape myrtles. One of the little guys appears to be missing a leg. I got catch lights in all the eyes but the birds were too busy scarfing down white flies to look at me.

Focal Length 400mm (effectively 640mm on D7100)- ISO 320 – f/5.6 – 1/320

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I stepped outside with my 80-400mm lens to photograph a male lesser goldfinch bathing in the fountain Friday evening. In order to get a decent exposure with the fountain in deep shade at that time of the evening, I set the ISO to 1000 which is way outside my comfort zone…ten times outside my comfort zone, in fact since I almost always use ISO 100. I had a discussion with Ed Rotberg, an outstanding bird and wildlife photographer who was the judge at my camera club meeting the other evening. He suggested I use the higher ISO settings that would allow me to get a better exposure, especially in shaded or dark areas. He also suggested that the most successful wildlife photographs featured the subject’s eyes that not only have catch lights but that look at you from within the photo. I was pleased that this little goldfinch, who is not much bigger than the Anna’s hummingbirds that also visit the fountain, kept his eye on me most of the time I photographed him. I realized that the photos without that eye contact were not nearly as interesting despite their having catch lights.

Focal Length 400mm – ISO 1000 – f/5.6 – 1/320

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I picked up a lovely bouquet of Star Gazer lilies the other day at Costco. Only a couple of flowers were starting to open when I bought them and they now fill my house with their lovely, intoxicating aroma. As the buds began to open, I realized that the lilies have been modified a bit; at least those buds that were open when I brought the bouquet home. Their stamens were removed to keep the orangey-yellow pollen from staining everything around them. Some of the pollen rubbed off on the petals when the stamens were removed. A recent Flickr challenge was “modified” and I think this qualifies.

I took this shot in early evening light in a north facing window. The light changed so rapidly this is the only shot I managed to get with decent lighting. I also used the Expodisc again to set my white balance and it is perfect for the scene but those few extra seconds setting the custom white balance kept me from getting more than the one shot. It’s a trade-off, I guess.

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“But Officer, I Can’t Read.” These would have to be the words out of the mouth of anyone nabbed by the Citrus Heights police for car theft in the vicinity of this sign so prominently announcing a local sting operation on Auburn Blvd. on Wednesday afternoon. I did a double take and drove around the block to get the shot. I guess there must be some candidates for “American’s Dumbest Criminals” in my area!


2014—Flame Skimmer

As I sat on the patio early this afternoon, camera and Monster Lens in my lap, appreciating the coolish breezes and the respite from the high temperatures we had last week, a lone Flame Skimmer dragonfly (female, I think, based on its brownish orange color) landed on a twig near me. I was ready…or at least I thought I was ready. It was only after the flame skimmer had skimmed off and I had downloaded the photos to my computer that I realized I had neglected to return the Vibration Reduction switch back to the “on” position. I hand held the Monster lens but I didn’t remember that I had turned off VR when I last used it yesterday afternoon. Once I realized that I had no VR to offset my shake while hand holding the camera, I decided I was pleased with the relative clarity of this shot without any help from the VR feature.

What did I learn today? When I put my camera down, I should always return settings to the setting I’m used to using. You’d think after all this time that would have become my habit, but obviously it has not. Another reason to love this lens: despite my stupidity, it still does a pretty awesome job.

Focal Length 400mm (effective 560mm on the D7100), ISO 200, f/6.3, 1/320

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2014—Is Nessie A Grebe?

I couldn’t help but be struck by the similarities between this mother pied-billed grebe and Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster, with only her head and neck showing above the water. All those murky photographs showing only Nessie’s head and neck don’t look much different from this mother grebe in a pond by the Levee Road a few miles from my house, except my photos aren’t too murky although the focus isn’t quite tack sharp. I was out testing my new 80-400mm lens when I encountered the grebe family and I hand held the camera which compromised my focus a bit. The baby grebes haven’t yet figured out how to hang below the surface like Mom does but they sure are adorable. Oh, and thanks to my Sibley’s guide AND Google (I love Google) I was able to identify the grebe family. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a pied-billed grebe prior to today. I’m still loving this lens but I have an awful lot to learn about using it.





The Flickr challenge from a few days ago was “swirl” and I knew I’d find something to meet the challenge if I rummaged in my box of Port A shells. I found a Common Baby’s Ear with a prominent swirl in its shell. I actually took the time to get perfect white balance using my Expodisc and then edited the photo in Perfect Effects 8 where I added a little color burn as well as a grunge filter so the delicate pink of this shell, which I so carefully exposed, transformed into a much more interesting photograph with a few tweaks and little grunge.



And it was lunchtime, not quite 12:30 and I was finishing a salad for my own lunch when I noticed a hummer at the feeder. I opened the door and the hummer retreated; I’m pretty certain there’s a nest because it always disappears in the same area of the shrubs. I leaned against the door jamb, holding the Monster lens and in a few seconds, the hummer returned. It was quite comfortable sitting and drinking, then pausing, then drinking again. I would fire off several shots in a burst, never able to anticipate when it was going to fly off , but I liked the shots I captured today for their clarity and, in this one, its tiny tongue is visible; I am very impressed with this lens. And, of course, I bought it for photographing birds. It’s doing its job.

I was about 18 feet away from the hummingbird and was able to hand hold the camera to get this shot. ISO 100, Focal Length 400mm (effectively 560mm with the D7100), f/5.6, 1/250

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2014—Invasion Of The White Flies

I noticed that the house sparrows were eating something on the crape myrtle trees on my patio so I thought I’d practice with the long lens again, this time, from inside my house, standing in the doorway. The return of the glorious Delta breeze has brought the temperatures down 20 degrees so I can keep the door open without worrying that all the cool air will escape. After downloading the half dozen shots I took of the house sparrow family, I could see what they were eating and I realized I have an invasion of white flies which could explain why my crape myrtles are so pathetic looking.

And I realize the composition of this shot isn’t great, what with the sparrow disappearing out the bottom of the shot but I did crop out the excess green at the top of the shot. Today’s experience taught be another thing about my new, monster lens: it is so heavy that if I need to adjust it on the tripod, I have to really be careful and take my time so I don’t lose control and have the camera, lens, and tripod all fall over. Adjustments aren’t as easily made because of the heft and bulk of the lens. Better to lose a shot than the camera and lens! OK, house sparrows. Keep up the onslaught!

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2014—The Man In The Moon

The Man in the Moon looked down on me tonight, as I took a few shots with my new monster lens with its 1.4X teleconverter, making it an 840mm lens since I was using the crop frame D7100 camera body. I am discovering that with this lens, I can’t be quite as cavalier as I’m used to being when I take photos. Besides composition and exposure settings which I’m pretty comfortable with, some thought about steadying the camera is necessary. A tripod is almost always needed and I took these shots in the “mirror up” setting to eliminate camera shake as well as using the wireless remote shutter release. Alas, the very welcome Delta Breezes kicked in so, while I’m not complaining, the slightest whisper of a breeze caused some movement of the camera and lens. I think I will need to get a monster tripod and ballhead to keep this lens rock solid. I did crop this shot although the with the 840mm lens, it was fairly large in the frame.

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2014—A Cool Drink On A Hot Day

It was 102° (but it’s a DRY heat!) outside and I was itching to test the new lens that I bought at Action Camera a couple of days ago specifically for bird photography. I plan to take it with me in January on my next Moose Peterson adventure, photographing birds in Costa Rica. The focal length of this lens is 80-400mm and, when attached to my D7100, a DX (crop sensor) body, the lens is effectively a 600mm lens. Wow, I can’t wait to see what will happen with the 1.4x teleconverter attached. It would then be an 840mm lens.

At about 4PM, at the time of almost peak temperature, I ventured outside with my glass of iced tea and the new lens on the D7100. But, because of the length of the lens, I could sit in the shade right outside my back door. Almost immediately, a hummingbird appeared at the edge of the fountain to get a drink. I took a few shots, hand holding this monster 3.5 pound lens. Immediately after the hummer flew off, a house sparrow landed to take a few sips. After that bird flew off, I set up the tripod but no birds returned after that. I posted both cropped (same crop) and uncropped photos. Needless to say, I am very happy with the new lens.

Settings: 400mm (effective 600mm) f/7.1 1/125 ISO 200


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As shot:

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As shot:

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2014—A Big Fan

The super hot weather has descended upon us and its oppressive temperatures will be with us for several days. I decided to stay indoors today playing a lady of leisure with a frosty glass of iced tea and a fan. . .except that i don’t have a fan. I turned to my unsophisticated collection of mostly broken seashells from Port Aransas, Texas in search of something to photograph with my macro lens, I realized that the scallop shells, none of which are broken, reminded me of fans. So, I was feeling cool when I took this shot.

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