2015—Another Morning Bath

I haven’t shot my hummers lately and now that Mady’s here and uses the fountain as her water dish, the hummers tend to avoid it and scold Mady from afar. This morning I noticed one of the hummers bathing (I think it’s the female) and since I already had the camera on the tripod, I walked outside with Mady close at my side. I plunked the tripod down in a way that prevented Mady from heading straight to the fountain to drink. The hummer looked at me, then continued bathing. I’m pretty sure there’s a nest nearby but I can’t find it.

The most interesting thing about these shots is that the shutter speed was 1/25 so I’m lucky that any are in focus.

Focal Length 400mm (on D7100, equivalent of 640mm); ISO 200; f/5.6, 1/25





2015—You’re Welcome, Mady!

Mady’s with me for ten days. And, she’s on a diet! She has to shed a few pounds so she’s eating some kibble mixed with cooked carrots or other vegetables. I had some frozen butternut squash that I thawed and cooked and smashed and added to her kibble with a little unsalted beef stock. She seems to enjoy the new food but, typical of Mady, when she’s frustrated by something that doesn’t quite go her way, she backs away from it and barks. The moist kibble sticks to the sides of the dog dish and that’s something she’s not used to happening so I had to stir the kibble several times so she could finish it. I ended up just holding the bowl and turning it so she could eat it all. You’re welcome, Mady!


2015—White Azalea

I was admiring the white azaleas behind the fountain in my backyard which are in glorious full bloom when I noticed the bees were enjoying them, as well. The modest rain we had here a few days ago caused brown spots to appear on some of the blossoms but that didn’t deter the bees.




Immediately upon my return from Texas and Arizona, I had to make a quick trip to Santa Rosa. I stayed with my brother John and met his newly acquired kitty, Choppie, short for Chop Stick. Choppie recently made his way to Santa Rosa from San Diego where he had been a neighborhood cat, owned by no one in particular but fed and tended to by my nephew Michael who was moving to New York City and couldn’t take Choppie along. Michael felt the best solution was to move Choppie to his parents’ house to live with their other cat, whose name escapes me at the moment but I think is called Black Kitty. John and Pam have adopted so many strays over the years that names like Mama Kitty and Baby Kitty (who at 18 was still called Baby Kitty) and Gray Kitty were the rule, not exceptions like the late “Geraldine” and now, Choppie. When I arrived, Choppie had only recently been allowed outdoors and they were pleased that he has acclimated and stays in the yard. His one foray into the next door neighbor’s yard was immediately abandoned when the neighbor’s dog announced his presence. Pam wanted a photograph of Choppie so that if he strayed, they could have a photo of him to put on “lost” posters. He has been microchipped but a photo is always a good option. Choppie was very wary of the camera. I got only one in focus shot and I lucked out because he was looking directly at me. The orange reflection in his eyes is the bright orange shirt I was wearing. He bolted seconds after I took this shot.



I still need lots of work on my panning technique but I did have a few successful results from my trip to photograph the Texas Spring Migration last week. At the High Island Rookery, I took this sequence of six shots of a flying roseate spoonbill in a three second burst with my Nikon D800. After seeing these shots, I don’t plan to defect to Canon any time soon.

Galveston-2015 Day 1-344-2

Galveston-2015 Day 1-345-2

Galveston-2015 Day 1-346-2

Galveston-2015 Day 1-348-2

Galveston-2015 Day 1-349-2

Galveston-2015 Day 1-350-2

2015—Double-Crested Cormorant

Melinda, Lonnie, and I ventured out to Lynx Lake near Prescott to spend Sunday afternoon seeing what we could see. Melinda and I were anxious to try out recommendations from Moose about the best way to keep focus on birds in flight using Auto Area Focus and all 51 focus points. I haven’t yet mastered using this setting but I had only a couple of chances to try it out because there weren’t many opportunities to capture birds in flight as there were few birds flying on this bright afternoon. We tried photographing shovelers and mallards that were paddling on the lake with a bit more success but the ripples in the water seemed to distract the auto focus system and kept it from tracking on the birds. As Moose has suggested to me, the answer to my poorly focused flight photos is to practice, practice, practice my panning technique.

We came across a dead tree filled with sunning double-crested cormorants. Their turquoise eyes are startling and seem almost surreal.


2015—Kill-dee! Kill-dee!

I flew from Houston to Phoenix on Friday, leaving one photography buddy for another. In Prescott, my Arizona photo buddy, Melinda, and I walked along Willow Lake this morning. I managed to capture a couple of in focus shots of a killdeer, including one in flight. I cropped these shots.

I still haven’t reviewed all of my Texas photographs yet so there will be more, taken with my Texas photo buddy, Connie, in the coming days.



2015—Canon Rocks!

I shoot Nikon and until Thursday, I’d never shot a Canon DSLR. When I started having issues with one of my cameras acquiring focus, Connie let me use her new Canon EOS 7D Mark II, a Canon with superb autofocus capabilities. Wow! A few bursts (and the burst mode is truly burst mode) and the roseate spoonbills finally came into focus for me. Getting a tack sharp in-flight shot was one of my goals for this trip but I didn’t expect to get it with a Canon! Does this mean I’m going to go over to the “Dark Side?” Well, not quite yet because I captured the second shot hand holding my D800 with the 80-400mm lens——not an inflight shot but a “just landed” one——so there is hope for me. But, I have to say “Thanks, Connie! Thanks Canon!” for helping me achieve my goal.


Connie Day 3-254-2

2015—Dancin’ On The Treetops

Today Connie and I visited Smith Oaks (High Island) Rookery on Bolivar Peninsula near Galveston, Texas. We saw hundreds of Great Egrets and Roseate Spoonbills that were in the process of building nests and mating. I was excited because the birds were just 50 feet away from us and were not disturbed by our presence across a narrow creek. The egrets were carrying twigs and sticks to enhance their nests and we even saw two eggs in one of the egret nests but it was too early for any of the eggs to hatch. This egret had just delivered a twig to its mate to add to the nest and it appeared to be dancing in the treetops.

Galveston-2015 Day 1-68

2015—Thar Be Emerging Dragonflies

It’s going to be in the high 70’s here while I’m gone next week so I went outside to water plants on my patio and to make sure the fountain was filled before I left. I noticed several largish bugs on the inner edges of the base of the fountain, just above the water line. I’d never seen these bugs before and suspected they might be nymphs of some sort. Then I noticed one bug that looked suspiciousy like a dragonfly. Dragonfly nymphs. Ah. I think they eat mosquito larvae. They couldn’t be here at a more opportune time but I don’t think mosquitos lay eggs in moving water. This dragonfly seemed to be trying to shed the last of its exoskeleton before emerging as an adult.

I retrieved my macro lens from my already packed camera bag and thankfully my backup tripod was available and at the ready. I had a hard time with lighting because the slight breeze had the fan in my pergola moving on its own and as the blades swept by, the dragonfly went in and out of deep shade. I took a few photos in aperture priority then switched to manual mode to much more satisfactory results. The dragonfly was working hard to extricate itself from its old skin, moving its body up and down. Its wings were covered with drops from the splashing fountain. It was moving very slowly up the side of the fountain base. I went inside to look at the photos I’d taken and realized that in the best shots, the eye closest to the camera was not in crisp focus. I went out again, but in those few minutes, the dragonfly had reached the edge, its exoskeleton was dangling, and then the dragonfly dropped into the weeds below and disappeared.

This is one of the few shots I got, sadly with only its head, and not the closest eye, in focus. The bright midday sun created a stark shadow and it was difficult to tell when the shot was in focus because I forgot to adjust the diopter setting on the Hoodman Loupe which would have shown me when the shot was in focus. I best pay better attention when I’m with Connie on the Texas Spring Migration trail next week.

Focal Length 105mm, ISO 160, f/11, 1/320s



After my trip to Costa Rica, I realized that a photograph of a bird is just, well, just a photograph of a bird, unless that bird is doing something. And that something must be more than sitting on a perch looking like a bird. Friday evening when I went outside to pour some charcoal on the grill, I saw the female hummer perched high on a bare branch seeming to enjoy (I know, anthropomorphism) the late afternoon sun. That meant she was backlit but I brought my camera outside and watched her. After several minutes of her just looking around, she put our her tongue, scratched her neck, and splayed her tail feathers. Ah, finally some gestures! Of course when she decided to fly off, I was busy with dumping charcoal onto the grill so I missed the “in flight” shot I will get someday.





2015—Got My Buzz Back

This morning, Josh from Vaneli’s Handcrafted Coffee installed my brand new La Scala Macchine per Caffè Espresso. The instructions are even in Italian! It does say “Butterfly” on the front but I suppose they opted to use the English word instead of the Italian ‘farfalla’ which might have made us Americans think it was a pasta machine.

I have missed my morning shot of espresso since before Christmas when my other espresso machine, a slightly used La Scala Eroica that I’d had for a year, partially flooded my kitchen; this after many fix-it visits from Josh. I decided I needed a brand new machine and this morning, Vaneli’s made that happen.

Here is my first shot (after a number of test shots that Josh made). That double shot gave me my buzz back.


2015—Soon To Be Garlic Smashed Potatoes

I guess I’m still on Standard Time. It was well past 6PM and I had not thought about fixing dinner and I hadn’t even poured myself a glass of wine. I had a piece of halibut that I could grill but I needed something more. Aha! The refrigerator revealed some small red potatoes and one last head of roasted garlic…just what I needed to fix garlic smashed potatoes. Yum. As I was cutting the potatoes, I realized I hadn’t taken any photos yet so I thought these ingredients would make as good a shot as anything else I could come up with.


2015—Taking Steps

On Monday, I attended the final presentation of Scott Kelby’s nationwide “Shoot Like A Pro” tour in downtown Sacramento along with several hundred other photography buffs. I learned a few new things and it’s always fun to watch Scott who is a very entertaining and captivating presenter. Because I was seated in the front row, I even got to participate as a “prop” in one of his demonstrations and I ran into three photographers I know, one from my camera club, one from my camera store, and one who was a neighbor of Famous Mo’s, so I had a fun day.

I spent my lunch break wandering through Capitol Park across the street from the hotel where the workshop was held. I hadn’t visited since Governor Brown implemented water conservation efforts that include reducing or eliminating landscape watering in the park. Although squirrels still cavorted in the trees and dashed across what remains of the lawns, and cherry trees and azaleas where in bloom, the lawns were sparser and there were bare patches where in past years they have been green and lush. Signs explaining that the State is “Taking Steps” to conserve water during the drought were posted throughout the grounds. I included the shot of the capitol dome just because I like the capitol dome.



2015—As The Worm Turns

So does the robin. I took these shots early Saturday morning through the open patio door as this robin searched for breakfast, cocking its head to look for worms in the damp grass. I was lucky to get any shots at all, though. Good thing the camera was on the tripod. I had the camera set to Aperture Priority and I because I used manual mode for so long, I am not used to the dramatic change that the Aperture Priority setting can have on shutter speeds when exposing a photograph. Because I had the 1/4x teleconverter attached to the 80-400mm lens, its maximum aperture was f/8. At that time of the morning and in the deep shade in the garden, the camera returned a very slow shutter speed of 1/20 second. Any movement by the bird meant blur. I was lucky the robin was so intent on searching for worms that it kept still enough for a few adequately focused shots. I noticed the slow shutter speed only after I downloaded the photographs and the robin was long gone so I didn’t make any exposure compensation adjustments. Obviously I need to pay attention to what’s going on in the camera and make adjustments if necessary before I take a bunch of mediocre, poorly focused shots.

In the first shot, the robin’s attention is diverted to something in the grass in front of the fountain and and it heads in that direction. In the second, it cocks its head to locate the worm. In the third, it continues searching. In the last shot, it’s back on the fountain for more water and a bath after a snack.





2015—Yikes-Another New Bird?

My camera, with the long lens attached and on the tripod, was at the ready Saturday morning, facing out the open patio door. When the hummer appeared on the fountain, I got up to take some photos but was distracted by a new bird call, “f’Bee, f’Bee.” That’s bird book lingo for the sound this bird makes. I know, I know. It doesn’t really sound that way but how do you phonetically write a whistle, a warble, a peep?

When I downloaded the photos, I thumbed through my bird books to see if I could identify it. Eureka! I found it! It is an adult Black Phoebe, a type of flycatcher. It’s apparently a year round resident of the Sacramento Valley and the Northern California Coast but I’ve never seen one anywhere let alone in my yard. According to one of my books, during winter, they scatter throughout suburban areas instead of their usual wet woodland habitat. I watered Saturday morning for the first time in months but it was probably just a coincidence that he showed up here. 😀


2015—Costa Rica—Green Kingfisher

On our second kayak outing on the lagoon in Costa Rica, I saw a male green kingfisher, the second smallest of the kingfishers and a bird I’d not seen on our previous outing. I maneuvered my kayak into the water plants so that I was just a few feet away from him. Mindful of Moose’s admonitions about composition (keep the subject out of the center of the shot); background (be aware of what’s behind the subject); and gesture (capture an interesting movement or action from the bird) I photographed this bird for about ten minutes hoping to get it right. I took 113 shots of in that time. He hardly moved. According to one of my bird books, kingfishers are “sit and wait plunging predators” and this was one very patient kingfisher. In a one second period, however, I did capture three frames as he turned his head and looked in my direction. That was the only “gesture” he made so I finally abandoned my hopes of capturing his take off or his plunge into the lagoon and paddled away to photograph the more lively jacanas. I think my composition is good with a leading line from the reed, and the background is uncluttered. But sadly, there isn’t much emotion or interest in his modest gesture.

Costa Rica 2015-022-544

Costa Rica 2015-022-490