2016—D5—The Unboxing

Wednesday morning Melinda from Action Camera called to tell me my new Nikon D5 XQD had arrived.  I couldn’t rush right over because I had just returned home following a session with my trainer and I needed to jump in the shower first.  It was probably one of the quickest showers I’ve ever taken!  Within the hour I was on the road.  As I write, I have only just unboxed the camera, I’ve done nothing else.  Battery is charging.   I had thought of doing the kind of “unboxing” that seems to have become so popular with photography enthusiasts when they receive new equipment. I had just watched a hilarious “unboxing” video purported to be a D5 unboxing with everything but the D5 coming out of the box …even a kitchen sink, I think. I decided that was just too much work.  So I took a couple selfies using the Df, a miniature camera by comparison, on a tripod.  I am one happy camper! And on Thursday, I’m going with my friend Bruce from my Camera Club up to an area called Bear Valley near Williams for wildflower and, I hope, some wildlife photography so I’ll get a chance to try it out in the field.

Here’s as much of the “unboxing” as I could muster. And now that the battery is fully charged, I decided to record the sound of the shutter.  It is one fast shutter, but I’m not sure how it compares with Canon’s EOS 7D Mark II, which I had the pleasure of using last year when I visited my friend Connie in Texas.  It got me my first in focus photographs of roseate spoonbills in flight.  But I’m sure my friends Connie and Richard, who also has one, will let me know how the Nikon D5 compares.   I set the the shutter speed to 1/8000.  That was 132 shots taken in 11 seconds.  Now I wonder how many photographs I’ll be taking on any given outing?




2016—And The Winner Is…

Since  Spring 1992 when the roses I planted along my driveway first started to bloom, I have declared a winner of the “first to bloom” rose competition.  Back then, I had more roses and more color varieties.  Over the years, as roses have died or I have removed them for failure to flourish, I would replant with what I could find at the time I felt compelled to replace the rose bush.  Since then, I have replaced very few and the remaining roses all seem to have similar color palates.  One of these days I’ll get around to planting roses with different colors, like my all time favorite rose, the delicate and fragrant lavender floribunda, Angel Face.  But until then, most of my roses have a golden peachy color with coral or red accents.  Two were actually tied for the first rose to bloom this year, Sheila’s Perfume a floribunda with a gorgeous fragrance, and Betty Boop, another floribunda with almost no fragrance but that seems to grow a bouquet on a stem.  I didn’t like the shots I took of Sheila’s Perfume so I am giving Betty Boop the 2016 “First To Bloom” award.


2016—Aptly Named

The aptly named cattle egret spends its time among herds of cattle, feeding on insects in the grass disturbed when the bovines move about.  This herd of Brahman cattle in Costa Rica keeps the cattle egrets surrounding them very well fed and the cattle egrets are quite agile and maneuver expertly among the cattle, avoiding hooves and swishing tails as they fly around the crowded pasture.

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2016—Eagle Panning

I’ve been thinking about Haines, Alaska for the past couple of days because the judge at the last camera club meeting talked about it and has a trip planned there this fall.  My trip to Haines last December was my first real field experience using my new 600mm lens.   I had  trouble panning and keeping birds in focus as I panned.  The lens would go in and out of focus depending on lots of factors.  Of course the primary problem was operator error and my frustrations with using the lens and my poor long lens and panning techniques led me to a one on one session with Moose Peterson a couple of weeks after I returned from Alaska.  With expert guidance and more experience using the lens under my belt…trips to Yellowstone, Costa Rica, and Florida…I’m confident that when I go to Haines again, I’ll be more consistent.

I took thousands of photographs in Alaska and I was so frustrated and disappointed with so many that I haven’t carefully reviewed all of my photos from the trip.  Since I’m still finding gems from Costa Rica and Florida, I decided I should start reviewing Alaska again.   I picked just one day of the trip.  My original assessment at how poor my photos were was not too far off.  However, I gave up too quickly then.  In my recent review, I found that every few frames the focus improved on some and a few were in good focus.  I still have many more photos to go through but this series stood out for me.  The entire sequence lasted 11 seconds and consists of 48 photographs.  As the eagle flew closer, I maintained focus more consistently but the background changed to snow causing the exposure to change and the resulting shots were very underexposed so I didn’t include them.

In these photographs, the background is nicely blurred, and the bird is in focus.  Settings I used in the shots:  focal length 1000mm (600mm lens + 1.7x teleconverter); ISO 1600; f/6.7; shutter speeds varied slightly: 1/125 and 1/100.  The first two shots are not cropped.  The third shot is the second shot cropped first to 8X10, then to a 9X16 ratio to eliminate the excess background.
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2016—Taking Shape

I spent close to an hour on our last afternoon at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm in Florida hoping to capture the elusive, for me anyway, egret heart formed by the two egrets bending their necks and facing each other when the male returned to the nest with a stick to present to his mate.  I did manage to get a couple of so-so hearts on other days (previously posted in this blog) but just not the heart shape I was looking for.  Knowing that I was determined to try for the heart, Moose directed me to an active pair of great egrets and helped me set up for the shot.  This pair was in great light with few distractions around them but they rarely left the nesting area.  Twice, one bird, the male I suspect, flew off and returned to the female with a stick but the male’s back was to the camera and his outspread wings hid both their heads.  The rest of the time, they preened and performed what I suspect was a modified courting ritual.  I reviewed hundreds of shots I took of the pair, every one in focus I might add.   Nothing even resembling a heart was in this group of photos.  At first I was disappointed but then I realized that, while there are no hearts in this group, and the egrets are not facing each other in any of the shots, the shapes their white bodies created against the dark background are beautiful in their own way.  They almost  appear as if they share one body.  I think these photographs give hints to the bond that these great egrets share.

In the first shot, I had the 1.4X teleconverter attached to the lens so in effect, I was shooting at 850mm.  I removed the teleconverter because I was afraid that if they performed the elaborate courtship dance I would be too close and part of the birds’ bodies would be out of the frame.   They never did perform that dance I was waiting for.  Maybe they were past that stage of their relationship.

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2016—Taking Flight

As with my Costa Rica photographs, I’m still reviewing the photographs I took in St. Augustine, Florida last month.  Most of the shots were of the gorgeous great egrets with their elegant mating rituals and stunning plumage.  Here are a couple of shots of one of the egrets just at the moment of take off.  I took these with the 600mm lens (which I used on all of the shots in St. Augustine) without an extender and without using DX mode and without cropping.  I was lucky to keep the bird in focus as I panned (at least for two frames) and completely in the frame for two frames.   None of the other photographs in this sequence contains an entire bird.

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2016—A Target Rich Environment

To use the words of my friend Connie, the grounds of the Luna Lodge in Costa Rica are a target rich environment.  The target, of course, is birds.  Connie wasn’t along on this trip but she used that phrase on other trips I’ve taken with her and it stuck with me.  I took  so many photographs of so many different species of birds in this target rich environment that I overlooked the first image. I had viewed it only as a thumbnail and passed it by because I thought it was a Red-legged Honeycreeper and I already had lots of good shots of that species. On inspecting the full size image, I realized this brilliant blue bird is a male Blue Dacnis.   The Blue Dacnis is about the size of the Red-legged Honeycreeper but its blue feathers are a very different blue than that of the honeycreepers.   I’m glad I discovered it and could share it here.   The bird is beautiful.  The second shot is a female Blue Dacnis which I had also overlooked.  Without close inspection, I assumed it was a female Red-legged Honeycreeper because she was bathing in the bromeliads with Red-legged Honeycreepers.  I still have yet to review, and with a more careful eye,  all of the shots I took in Costa Rica. Expect more.  

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2016—With The Greatest Of Ease

They flew through the air with the greatest of ease…and they didn’t need a trapeze to help them.  A troop of white faced capuchin monkeys that we encountered one afternoon  in Costa Rica, needed to get across the road.  As we watched in awe, one after the other climbed to the chosen “launch” branch then effortlessly leapt  across the chasm landing in a tree about 15 feet away.  Monkey after monkey sailed across the road without a mishap.  What a fascinating spectacle to watch.  In the last shot, a family unit is reunited after mother and child leapt across the span together.


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2016—Meanwhile, Behind The Scenes

When I took the freesia shots Friday, I wanted a black background and the north light so I put a piece of black mat board on the window seat and propped another piece vertically on top of it for the background.  Of course the ever curious Bobo came over immediately to check on things.  While I adjusted flowers and camera settings, I heard Bobo’s cackling but since she does that so often, holding a pepper in her beak, I didn’t think anything of it until I looked behind the vertical board.  Bobo had abandoned her pepper for the more interesting cardboard to shred.  Then,  she surveyed the mayhem to see what other havoc she could wreak.





2016—The Scent Of Spring

Lots of things make me think of spring.  The yellow wild mustard I featured here a couple of days ago is a visual blast of spring.  Freesia, my favorite spring flower, is an aromatic blast of spring.  It has an unforgettable scent that fills a room.  I planted freesia years ago and it comes up every spring in reds, yellows, and whites.  Friday, I noticed it was in full bloom in my front yard and because it was raining hard, I picked a bouquet so it wouldn’t be completely destroyed before I had a chance to enjoy it.  I chose one yellow sprig to photograph.  A few raindrops are still clinging to it.