2015—So Much For Bee Guards

When I went out to refill the hummingbird feeders, I noticed that all of the plastic flowers were clogged with honey bees jostling for position to get the remnants of sugar water deposited on the bright yellow bee guards. So much for bee guards. The hummingbirds actually had to find nectar in a single pineapple sage flower stalk while the bees swarmed around their feeders. A couple of the bees seemed to be grappling and they finally fell off the edge of the flower, still clinging to each other.

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Once again, hummer activity at the fountain drew my attention. I opened the door and stepped outside with Big Bertha. Then, I heard a buzz near one of the feeders closer to me so I turned to focus on this male, beak and neck dappled with pollen, watching me warily from the perch on the feeder. The first is cropped to eliminate lots of blank space, although there is still quite a bit here. I didn’t want to move closer because I knew he’d fly away if I did. I cropped the second shot to a vertical 8X10 image. It’s interesting to me that the gorget in the first shot appears orange and coppery and pink while in the second, it’s more fuchsia colored. I watched the colors change through the viewfinder so it wasn’t the flash that changed the colors.

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2015—Golden Orb Weaver

While looking back at some of my photos from Costa Rica, I ran across this one I’d forgotten about and that I’d never processed. We were out shooting birds one afternoon along a rural road. We photographed toucans and macaws and other species that afternoon. I noticed Diane, one of the other photographers in the group, aways down the road, not focusing her camera up into the trees but aiming her lens at something near the ground. I wandered over and found this huge spider, a golden orb weaver (Nephila clavipes). Females make large aerial webs and they usually perch in the center waiting for prey. The tiny male is visible near the center top of the shot. The females range in size from 24 to 40mm. I don’t remember how big this one was, but she was pretty darn big. I was glad my camera and lens were between me and her!

I made a few adjustments in Lightroom and then edited it using a High Pass filter and blended it using Soft Light in Photoshop to make the spider stand out a bit more, not that she needed intensifying. I took this shot with the D800, 80-400 mm lens with a 1.4x teleconverter attached. It is not cropped.

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2015—Dream Rose

My miniature rose, Winsome, always seems ready to pose when I want to take closeups. A perfectly lovely tiny bud was opening Wednesday when I stepped out to survey the situation. I wanted to try out some new camera toys I just acquired. One of the camera club members was paring down his collection of camera gear acquired over many decades of photography, including many years as a television camera man. Dick Black is in his early 90’s and still takes photographs frequently and, just as frequently, his photographs are top rated when it comes time to judge at the club. I hope that when I am his age, I’ll still be taking photos and submitting them for critiques. He was giving away some filters and other things and selling a lens. What caught my eye were a few 77mm filters which fit a couple of my lenses. One is called a “closeup” filter. It screws on just like a regular filter but its shape is convex and it magnifies things and allows the lens to focus more closely than it otherwise would.

The other new item that I acquired from Dick was a Nikon 24-120mm f/4 lens. I had been looking at one of these lenses to use for travel; it’s a little more versatile than my 24-70mm lens, my current “walk around” lens, because it extends to 120mm. This lens was a steal. Dick sold it to me for a quarter of what I would pay new. It was in perfect condition. I cleaned the lens with my “Moose Juice” and it works perfectly. I decided it would make its debut with the “closeup” filter, so here it is.

What I love about the first image is the dreamy quality around the edges. It reminds me of my friend Melinda’s Lens Baby photos. The second shot, with exposure compensation at -1.3 to make the rose pop and the background recede, was as close as I could focus without the “closeup” filter. I took both shots at 120mm using a tripod positioned to allow the lens the closest possible focus.

With Closeup Filter:

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Without Closeup Filter:

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2015—Please, Can’t I Have Just One Lick?

When I visited Melinda in Prescott, AZ in late August, I sat behind a man, his dog, and his ice cream cone at an outdoor concert one evening. I was fascinated by the interaction between the dog and the man and the ice cream cone and I took about 40 shots over a ten minute period while I watched through my viewfinder for just the perfect moment. At the time, I was waiting for the dog to lick his chops. I posted one of my favorite “chops-licking” shots then, although I edited the shot rather poorly in retrospect by creating a sepia tone look. I have reviewed those shots many times since my return to California and I regret my choice of editing. I must have had too much wine that evening.

When I reviewed the photos again I decided I liked them so much I wanted to submit one of them to the Placer Camera Club for critique but knew that I had to edit the photo differently. As I looked at the shots, I found a much better shot which I overlooked at the time because I was so focused on getting the dog’s tongue. This shot is much more emotional and tells a better story, I think. I submitted it with minimal edits, adding a vignette and cropping it to eliminate most of the feet at the top of the frame, although they appeared as bokeh due to the large aperture I used.

Tuesday evening was the Placer Camera Club meeting with critiques by judge Byron Hindman who judges fairly, and whose critiques are succinct, to the point, and instructional. I always learn whenever he judges at our club. I was a bit nervous when he started to comment on my photo because he criticized the distracting blobs at the top of the frame (the feet bokeh). I agreed with his comments; I should have cropped it a little tighter. When he announced my score, I was thrilled to hear him give me a 12, the top score in our critiques so the image proved strong enough to withstand the distracting busy-ness at the top of the frame. When I got home, I changed the crop to eliminate the distraction and decided it was worth publishing here.

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The other evening, I attended an Open House at Vaneli’s Handcrafted Coffees as part of Sacramento Specialty Coffee Week where home brewing methods were demonstrated, an espresso bar offered every variety of coffee drink, and cupping was featured in the roasting room. Cupping is the process developed in the coffee world to critically analyze coffees. Roasted coffee beans are ground and placed in a glass cup which is then filled with hot water and left to set for a minute, after which the surface crust of ground coffee and foam is pushed aside and coffee is spooned out, tasted, and flavors are analyzed.

This shot shows water being poured into the cups with ground coffee. I liked the abstractness of this shot.

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2015—Back To The Hummers

My friend Connie suggested I break out the Better Beamer so I wouldn’t have to use such a high ISO as I did the other day on my hummer photos. I decided to try it Monday morning. I went out on the patio and I positioned Big Bertha (BB) with the Better Beamer (BB,too) attached to the speed light facing the fountain, and waited.

The main drawback to the BB,too is the flash reflection in the eye. It’s not exactly red eye. The eyeball turns a milky white where the flash reflects. I noticed the same problem with bird photos I took in Costa Rica when I used BB,too. So, I darkened the exposure on the eyeball. Other than the eyeball, these photos are unretouched. And I really like them. Thank you, Connie! Now I have to try a smaller aperture so more of the hummer will be in focus because the depth of field is extremely shallow with a telephoto lens and the larger the f/stop, the shallower the depth of field.

Manual Mode, ISO 500, f/4, 1/400s, speed light and BB,too

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2015—Electric Mady

Mady is staying with me for a week or so and we took a walk late Monday afternoon, just as the temperatures peaked at about 90°. I tried to keep Mady in the shade as we walked along the trails at Dry Creek Community Park but they’ve cleared away lots of the vegetation since I was last there and although there are still trees shading Dry Creek, much of the trails are in sun with bare ground and short stubble where the vegetation was trimmed away. Mady spent much of her time staring up at the trees. I supposed she expected a squirrel to come running down a tree trunk but nothing came our way this hot, dry, sunny fall afternoon. I did manage to capture a few in focus shots of Mady as she concentrated on whatever she saw in the trees. In this shot, she was momentarily distracted by someone walking on the trail. It was a good shot of Mady but I wanted to add some drama so I edited it in Topaz Glow to electrify the scene.


2015—Hummingbird Flowers

Just when I thought this long, hot, and very dry summer was never going to end, I awoke Saturday morning to clouds and actual precipitation that might even have been measurable. It remained cool and cloudy much of the day. The pineapple sage has finally bloomed in the overgrown raised garden bed and I’ve noticed the hummers hovering around the red tubular sage flowers instead of fighting the honey bees for a place to sip at the feeders. Late in the afternoon, I brought Big Bertha outside. The combination of Big Bertha and the gimbal head is still quite a challenge for me so when the male hummer finally flew to the clusters of sage flowers, my shots were all over the place, composition-wise and focus-wise. Controlling the gimbal head precisely is a skill I have yet to master and maintaining focus on a small bird in the midst of leaves and branches that tend to pull the attention of the autofocus mechanism away from what I want to focus on makes this challenge even more difficult. I do use the manual focus override but I’m not yet used to fine tuning focus moving the focus ring with my left hand while coordinating movement of the gimbal head with my right. Despite the obstacles I encountered, I was pleased to see that most of the shots were in focus but in all but one, the composition was way off with the bird and flower in the top third of the frame, and in quite a few with only feathery wingtips and tails showing as the hummer exited the frame.

The one properly composed shot also had good exposure and sharp focus. It needed no cropping. The tip of the hummer’s tongue is even visible. And, it’s a shot of the hummer in flight, hovering at a flower, not at the feeder. I included three other shots I liked, as well, but I had to crop them, using the 16X9 ratio to move the subject away from the top of the frame. I am finally realizing that if I raise the ISO high enough to achieve proper exposure so that the need for post processing is minimal, the resulting noise is also minimal. I took these shots at ISO 4000, f/5.0, 1/800sec. shutter speed.

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2015—The Tower Bridge

I’ve lived in the Sacramento area for more than 40 years. I’ve driven across the Tower Bridge, which spans the Sacramento River, countless times when I was working in downtown Sacramento. I’d never walked on it until Tuesday evening. The bridge is a “vertical lift” bridge, which allows the center portion of the bridge to raise up to allow tall boats to pass under it. My friend Cindy and I were scouting out shooting locales for an upcoming engagement photo session for a friend of Cindy’s. The engaged couple love the Tower Bridge and asked if we could use it as a backdrop when it was lit up at night. We found lots of possibilities for the upcoming session.

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2015—Late For Church

When I saw this praying mantis sitting atop one of the bollards in front of the Roseville Sports Center Sunday morning, I couldn’t resist taking some photos. I loved how the shadow enhanced the illusion that the mantis was hurrying someplace…late for church, perhaps? After all, it is a praying mantis.

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