Tuesday of this week, I had an opportunity to spend the entire day in a one-on-one session with Moose Peterson at his home in  Mammoth Lakes, California.  I wanted to learn why my panning had gone so wrong in Alaska and how to keep the subject in focus while I panned.  I know Moose from several photography trips I have taken with him in the past three years and I have improved my photography significantly in that time.  But I still have so much to learn and so much to improve.  My day with Moose was intimidating to some extent because we spent the time in his office surrounded by huge color prints of his photographs which are spectacular.  I know from experience that he asks questions of photographers under his tutelage about why they are doing something and I couldn’t always answer his questions.  But, he determined that the problem I was having was  caused by me…operator error.  With some instruction about how auto focus works and when and why to use various auto focus options I came home with lots of techniques to practice for my many upcoming photography trips.

The plan was to put everything we had discussed into practice in the afternoon and to give Moose an opportunity to evaluate my shooting technique.   When I arrived, the feeders surrounding Moose’s balconies were crowded with nuthatches and chickadees and flickers and grosbeaks.  There were ravens and doves and woodpeckers.  But at some point in the late morning, a sharp shinned hawk appeared, drawn by the potential bounty, and all the birds disappeared.  When it was time to shoot, there was not a bird in sight.  Enter Sadie, Moose and Sharon Peterson’s 10 year old English Beagle.

With my Nikon Df and Moose’s new 300mm super lightweight prime lens, we went outside to his snow covered front yard and Moose tossed treats for Sadie so I could practice focusing and panning.  What I found is that my stance is not well balanced and my grip, Moose believes, is what has caused most of my focusing problems while panning because I tend to grasp the lens touching the focus ring and pressure on the focus ring can cause auto focus not to focus.  The same holds true for my 600mm lens on the tripod because he observed that I rest my hand on the focus ring (and the neoprene lens cover, which is now gone, also contributed to the problem).  I took more than 500 shots of Sadie.  About 3 were marginally in focus.  A few had Sadie entirely in the frame.  Moose looked at every awful shot, tips and tails, blurs, and bad crops.   We found one shot, this shot, that was decent although Sadie probably needed more space around her, but Moose agreed that it was my best shot…he didn’t say it was a good shot, but it was my best in that session.  And, his critique of my eagle and wildlife shots in Alaska was less than complimentary.  All in all, my session with Moose was brutally eye opening for me.

But I am determined to improve, to learn from my mistakes, and to learn how to focus and pan successfully.

Here’s adorable Sadie:


2015—Em Kay Zee

Meet my brand spanking new 2016 Lincoln MKZ in Bronze Fire.  I fell in love with this car after spending several days in my Texas friend Connie’s MKZ while we roamed the Galveston area in search of birds to photograph last spring.  When Consumer Reports rated the MKZ higher than the Lexus in the luxury sedan group, I made up my mind that I would own this car.  Finally, with a little help from Costco’s car buying service, Ford’s year end incentives, and 0% financing, I struck a deal and picked up the car on Sunday afternoon.   During the negotiation process, Future Ford told me that Bronze Fire MKZs were hard to find and they didn’t have any cars in my color in stock.  When I told them I had to have that color, they found one at another dealership but it didn’t have the retractable panoramic roof I wanted.  When I came to my senses and realized that I would probably never use such a feature in Sacramento’s hot summer weather, I “settled” for the moon roof. But as it turns out, I didn’t “settle” for anything, really.  Just what doesn’t this amazing vehicle do?   It came with bells and whistles I didn’t even know were options so when I found them on my new car, I was astonished.   I have much to learn about my new wheels, including its top of the line sound system and its heating, cooling, AND massaging seats!  When I saw the car Sunday for the first time, I realized the Bronze Fire color is almost the same copper color that I loved in 1969 Pontiacs and back then I had wanted that color in my first ever new car, but sadly for me, the 1969 Firebird didn’t come in that color so I bought a gold one instead.  While I loved my Firebird and drove it for 27 years, I think the Lincoln MKZ has taken its place in my heart!  I love my new car.

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2015—Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!  I got an early Christmas present because my Nikon D800 was fixed sooner than I expected it to be.  I picked it up late Wednesday afternoon, fighting Sacramento rush hour traffic to bring it home.  On Christmas Eve I had to try out the repaired camera and its new Mirror Box with the 600mm lens.  It worked perfectly and the male Anna’s hummingbird cooperated by posing for me at the feeder with his gem-like gorget radiating its glorious colors.

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This little ruby crowned kinglet has been enjoying the nectar at the hummingbird feeders, much to the chagrin of the hummingbirds who stage unsuccessful attacks against the kinglet and its mate who aren’t much bigger than the hummers.  This has been going on for a few weeks and I thought these little birds were the lesser goldfinches until I realized when I looked closely at the bird in this shot that the little interlopers are kinglets.  What this close up shot tells me, though, is that I need to clean my feeders and that I need to adjust the perches so they align better with the feeding stations.

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2015—Small Birds

Most of my bird photos the past couple of weeks have been of eagles so Tuesday afternoon, I went outside with Big Bertha and my new Nikon Df to photograph some of the tiny birds that frequent my yard:  hummers and bushtits.  My D800 is in the shop and needs a new mirror box so I decided to buy the Nikon Df, a camera that I’ve been thinking about getting for almost a year now… it is essentially a Nikon D4 without video.   So far, so good.  I like it!


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2015—Carrières de Lumières

The Carrières de Lumières, a former limestone  quarry in Les Baux de Provence, France, produces art-based multimedia shows that project images of famous paintings set to music.  When I was in France in late 2014, we visited the Carrières de Lumières to see Klimt en Vienne, a show that included Gustav Klimt masterpieces as well as some of his Viennese contemporaries.   Seeing these magnificent works of art projected onto the walls and floors of this enormous quarry, and being completely surrounded by them, is an unforgettable experience that is almost impossible to describe.  Over the weekend, I watched Woman in Gold starring Helen Mirren, one of my favorite actresses, and was reminded that Klimt’s Woman in Gold, which is actually titled Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer,  was one of the masterpieces featured in the Carrières de Lumières show we saw.  I have never featured any of the photos I took there in this blog, so I created a slide show set to Ave Maria by Franz Schubert.  The slide show can only hint at the incredible awe-inspiring experience of a show at the  Carrières de Lumières.   I had to use a high ISO and slow shutter speed to capture these photos and some aren’t in sharp focus.  Many of the people seen in these shots are blurred silhouettes as they moved past my shutter but my traveling companions Joe, Donna, and Charleen appear in a few of the shots and there are even a couple of silhouettes of me as I snapped photos.