2017—Peppers And Onions

I had company for dinner and the menu included chicken fajitas, cooked on the grill in foil packets, hobo style so it was easy and gave me time to visit and enjoy the slushy watermelon margaritas with my guests.  Here are the peppers and onions ready for the chicken and spices before being folded into foil packets for grilling.

N.B.  The foil kept the chicken and peppers from getting grill marks and the smoky flavor that a charcoal BBQ gives to food.  I won’t be trying this on the grill again.  Sounded appealing.  It wasn’t. The slushy watermelon margaritas were delicious. Definitely something I’ll make again.

 

peppes-and-onions-2.jpg

 

2017—A Few Of My Favorite Things

Forget about raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens.  These are a few of my favorite things.  And the best part about this kind of “favorite thing” is there are so many favorites to choose from!

I used the “Bloody Mary” dramatic filter in Luminar and it enhanced the red wine stains on the corks exactly to my liking.

Corks 3.jpg

2017—Dunlin on Bolivar

On my last full day in Texas this past April, Connie and I visited the Bolivar Peninsula to do some Beach Panning.  It was cold, overcast, and rain threatened but we went in search of shorebirds.  There weren’t great numbers but there were enough that kept us busy for a while.  The birds were coming into their breeding plumage and this Dunlin was sporting his finest feathers.

Dunlin Breeding plumage

2017—Coming In For A Landing

I spent most of the yesterday working on the newsletter for the California Foundation for Birds of Prey (CFBP).  Their Open House was in May and I took some photographs during the free flight demonstrations.  I found a couple of shots I’d forgotten about, including this one of Mariposa, a Harris’s Hawk I’ve featured in my blog in past years.

harris hawk.jpg

2017—On Hudson’s Bay

 

It was appropriate since we were in Churchill, Manitoba, Canada, on the edge of Hudson’s Bay that we were able to photograph a pair of Hudsonian Godwits at the Granary Pond one evening.  The Hudsonian Godwit is a large shorebird that breeds in the Arctic and winters in southern South America. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, its remote breeding and wintering grounds at such northern and southern extremes make it one of the least known of American shorebirds.   We were able to photograph this pair in full breeding plumage  as they preened and searched for food along the edge of the pond.

 

hudsonian godwit male

hudsonian godwit female preening

 

 

2017—On The Rocks

The rocks stretched out before me for more than 100 yards, coming to an abrupt end at the edge of Hudson’s Bay where giant ice bergs floated and shorebirds and gulls landed on them to rest and eat the fish they had caught.  We were there to photograph those birds.  But to do that,  I needed to get as close as possible to them.  To get close meant I needed to walk on those rocks—that unsteady, wobbly carpet of rocks—while I carried my 22 pound camera rig on my shoulder.  I took slow, deep breaths trying not to hyperventilate.   My heart was in my throat with each step.  I wondered if each rock I chose upon which to place my foot would be steady enough and solid enough to bear  my weight without shifting.  Despite the arctic cold, my face was flushed and I was dripping in sweat.  I was scared to death.  I tried.  I really tried to walk across those rocks.  But with each step and each wobble my terror intensified.  I just couldn’t do it.  I had to turn back.

For most people, walking across a field of rocks requires nothing more than paying attention to where you’re stepping.  For most people, the thought of walking across a field of rocks is not a frightening prospect.  For me,  walking across a field of rocks holds sheer terror.  My fear is unreasonable, irrational, and illogical, but it is very real.  Until that experience, I had no idea that I was afraid to walk on rocks.  I was uncomfortable with the thought of it but didn’t for a moment think I’d have the reaction I ultimately had.  Apparently,  I lack sure-footedness, the confidence it takes to walk on uneven surfaces without fear of falling down.  This field of rocks was my nemesis.

My companions helped me maneuver the rocks back to solid ground and my equipment and I returned safely without my fears coming true.  But, I felt as if I’d failed to accomplish what I’d set out to do.  And, much to my chagrin and because of me, my three companions also abandoned the photo shoot.    Now I felt even worse.  Because of me, my friends lost an opportunity to capture some incredible photographs.  We did find other birds to photograph that evening, including a relatively uncommon Hudsonian Godwit so all was not lost.  And, my friend Moose pointed out to me that far from failing at something, I was wise to know my limitations.  That made me feel a little better and at least I’d tried to do it before deciding where my limit was.

The only shot I got before turning back was of a Ring-billed Gull perched at the edge of Hudson’s Bay where the rocks met the water.    When I got back to safety, I took a couple of photographs of the rocks that had foiled me.  Because I had my long telephoto lens on the camera, I couldn’t capture a wide angle shot that showed the extensive field of rocks.  The other photographs are in essence detail shots of the rocky terrain my fears and I faced.

rocks and gull.jpg

Rocks 2

Rocks1

 

 

 

2017—New Find

The Sapphire-throated Hummingbird is listed in The Birds of Costa Rica (second edition) as rare in Costa Rica, with its first confirmed sighting in 2008 in an area near the Osa Peninsula.  The bird isn’t listed on Luna Lodge’s bird listing.   We saw and photographed what I’m convinced is a Sapphire-throated Hummingbird on the Sunday we arrived at Luna Lodge and again on Friday, our last full day at Luna Lodge.  My conclusion is based on the color of its beak (the underside is pink), feather color (glittering blue-violet from chin to upper breast and brilliant green on crown), tail shape (noticeably forked), and size (4 inches).  According to information on the Internet, sightings of this bird in and around Golfito, near Luna Lodge, are increasing and since it’s information from the internet, it must be true!

There is lots of porter weed, a relative of verbena, that attracts butterflies and hummingbirds in the area where I took this photograph on the Luna Lodge grounds.  The hummer is perched on a dried twig of the porter weed and a cluster of its purple flowers is visible at left.  It’s too bad I didn’t have the flash setup I used in Madera Canyon, AZ to photograph hummingbirds there.  The flash would have made the colors glimmer.

Sapphire-throated hummer 3.jpg

2017—Where To Find A Roadside Hawk

Roadside Hawks are very common in Costa Rica.  The name at first seemed an odd choice to me but it lives up to its name.  It’s always alongside a road, usually perched on a branch or fence, watching for prey.

One day during an afternoon rain deluge, I saw this Roadside Hawk, not surprisingly on the side of the road.

Roadside hawk in the rain.jpg

2017—Beep Beep Beep Beep

Melinda’s roadrunner seems to enjoy her patio.  He spent about ten minutes with us on my last morning in Prescott while we were outside on the patio.   We watched this guy catch and thrash a lizard to death on a rock, return to the fountain to drink, take a sun bath, and rush to and fro across the rocks in search of another lizard to murder.  He did all this while we were within 6 to 8 feet of him depending on where he was roaming at the time.  He was not bothered by our camera clicks and while we stayed fairly still, he didn’t seem to mind when we moved slightly or talked.  This was a surprise to Melinda and me because I took the previous roadrunner photo that I posted here  through the sliding glass door never dreaming we’d be able to get this close outside.

Roadrunner 2.jpg

2017—Up, Up And Away

One of the highlights of my 2011 visit to Italy was a hot air balloon ride over the countryside in the Piemonte region of Italy where we spent three days in a 12th century  castle, Castello di Sinio.  The balloon ride began late in the afternoon and ended with an uncontrolled — well, I have to say more of a crash — landing in a harvested cornfield a couple of hours later.  We were told to crouch down as the basket hit the ground so I was unable to get any photographs of the actual landing.  But, a two century old French custom to toast the end of a  hot air balloon ride with champagne found its way to  Italy with Prosecco served instead of champagne, a welcome and perfect ending to a wonderful adventure.

This is a video slideshow I prepared for my camera club’s July slide show night even though I took the photographs 6 years ago.  I bought my Nikon D90  and 18-200mm lens the year before in anticipation of this trip to Italy.  I’d love to go back and try this again with my improved knowledge of photography.

2017—Hello Gorgeous

Many of the Broad-billed hummingbirds I photographed in Madera Canyon were getting new feathers and the white spiky pin feathers protruded from their necks and chins detracting a little from their jewel-like appearance.  I don’t know how I overlooked this shot until now.  This male Broad-billed hummingbird doesn’t have any visible pin feathers and his iridescence is stunning.  Hello, Gorgeous!

 

Broad Billed hummer.jpg

2017—Ardmore, OK

Monsoon season started a month late in Arizona and I just missed it by a week.  The storms have started in Prescott, AZ now, though and I was reminded of my storm-chasing adventure last year through the Midwest in late April.   Clouds are fun to enhance in Photoshop Plug-ins and I’ve been learning Luminar, the plug-in that seems to have become most photographers’ preferred choice since Google discontinued Nik earlier this year.  I decided to edit some of the photographs I took last year on that storm-chasing trip and I found this dramatic image that I took just outside Ardmore, OK.

Luminar Clouds.jpg

2017—Back To Basics

I really struggled on my last photography outing in Madera Canyon, AZ to photograph hummingbirds.  While I came home with a few memorable photographs, I also came home with the realization that I needed to work on some photography basics.  In Madera Canyon, Moose asked me if I had done the “Teddy Bear Exercise.”  I looked blankly while I thought about it, trying to recall if I’d done it and whether I’d used a stuffed parrot I had instead of a teddy bear.  Moose didn’t wait long for me to think about it, saying that I’d remember if I’d done it.  I filed that information away and when I got home, I discovered that Moose has used the Teddy Bear Exercise as a way to teach exposure compensation for years.  I was embarrassed to discover that my own autographed copy of his book Captured also contains detailed instructions on how to do this exercise.

So, the Infamous Teddy Bear Exercise is underway.  The exercise involves using a black and a white stuffed bear as the subjects in various outdoor lighting scenarios using differing amounts of exposure compensation to give the exposure that best conveys the story that the photograph tells.  I thought I would be able to complete the exercises quickly but the heat drives me inside long before I’m finished and so far I’ve only managed to complete a couple of scenarios each day.  After reviewing the images and how exposure compensation affects each image differently depending on how much sun is in the image and whether I’m focused on the white bear or the black bear and whether both are in the image, I can see that I have much to learn from this exercise.

Nothing I’m learning is new to me  but I never thought about applying exposure compensation in such an explicit way.   As I take each set of photographs in each scenario, I think about the different places I’ve taken photographs and what the light was like there.  As I’m starting to really see the light, I’m looking forward to applying my new-found understanding to new situations and, If I’m lucky, to return to some of the many places I’ve already had an opportunity to photograph wildlife and improve on my exposure.

Here are my two new photography teddy bears.  They are posed in Scenario #1, full shade on subject and background, exposed as the camera suggests, with no exposure compensation.  After I finish the first round of the Infamous Teddy Bear Exercise, I plan to do it again, next time adding flash.  Yikes!

black bear white bear 1.jpg

2017—What’s In A Name?

The Chestnut-mandibled Toucan is now called the Black-mandibled Toucan.  While its body feathers are black, the rest of this bird is anything but black, with a  bi-colored beak of chestnut and gold; a yellow throat; a green eye ring; a few red tail feathers; and blue feet.  I’m hard pressed to figure out how the bird was renamed the Black-mandibled Toucan.  The thing is, the bill really is chestnut-colored not black.  And the throat really is yellow, so I could go with its alternate name of Yellow-throated Toucan or  maybe it could be the Blue-footed Toucan, or even the Green-eyed Toucan but the Black-mandibled Toucan?  I think not.

Whatever its called, though, the toucan with the suspect name  is really very adept at using its huge, unwieldy-looking chestnut-colored beak to feed itself.  In this series of shots, the toucan first plucks a fruit from the Cecropia Tree, flips the fruit down its craw, and swallows.

Black Mandibled Toucan.jpg

Chestnut Mandibled Toucan 1

 

 

Chestnut Mandible Toucan 2Chestnut mandibled Toucan 3

 

Chestnut mandibled toucan 4

2017—Hello

Since 1984 when I test drove my first Macintosh computer, I’ve lost track of the many Mac models I’ve owned at home or used at work. I waited a year to get my first Mac in early 1985 after  we learned that a bigger Mac (512k vs. 128k) was imminent.  I was fascinated by the graphics capabilities of the Mac and when I saw an article about it in Newsweek in late 1983, before the infamous “1984” Super Bowl ad, I knew I had to own one.  My Fat Mac died on its first startup before I even got a chance to try out MacPaint.   That didn’t deter me and I had a replacement within the hour.  I’ve loved every Mac I’ve owned and I’ve dazzled people with my output, including a boss who, after seeing a trip report complete with vector graphics I created with Adobe Illustrator 88 that I’d printed on a borrowed Laserwriter, authorized me to get two Macs for the office in 1987.  I was even the office IT person for quite a few years after our stable of Macs grew to about 20 but that began to take up too much of my time so the office hired a real IT person and I went back to writing bureaucratic gobbledegook  full time.

Although I once knew everything there was to know about Macs and their operating systems, technology has advanced far beyond my brain’s capability to understand it and my interest in knowing those details has waned.  These days, I just want my computers to do what they’re expected to do.  So, in recent weeks, I had an inkling that I would be in the market for a replacement computer when I noticed that my primary Mac had slowed considerably and had occasional startup issues.  In the past two days, starting up has been a real problem and while I can hear the startup chime and the hard drive spinning, the screen remains black.  After consulting with my friend Emerson who is a computer expert and who recently acquired the latest MacBook Pro, I decided to buy one as well.  It has bells.  It has whistles.  And most importantly, it starts up!

Introducing my new MacBook Pro ala Apple, with just a little “so you know it’s me twist” added.  Hello!

hello new mac.jpg

 

 

2017—Vintage Poppy

An Arizona native, the Prickly Poppy was in bloom everywhere on my recent visit to my friends Melinda and Lonnie in Prescott, AZ.  While we savored Barnstar Brewery’s Chocolate Porter in the shade of a huge oak tree in nearby Skull Valley, I noticed this poppy.  It was very bright when I took the shot of this white flower in the harsh midday sun and I’m sure the couple of glasses of the delicious chocolate flavored brew clouded my judgment about taking a photograph in this glaring light, but take it I did.  I actually got a decent exposure but decided to give it a vintage look using a vintage preset in Luminar.

prickly cactus enhanced