2018—Only as Big as Your Thumb

I have been busy printing photographs to go on display along with those of other members of my camera club at a local hospital.  We’re hanging photographs under the Art Can Heal program so the prints have to have subject matter that is not disturbing.  I will be hanging 13 prints, mostly birds and a few landscapes.  While considering what I might print, I revisited my files from my last year’s trip to Costa Rica.   At first, I thought I’d print this adorable, no bigger than your thumb, Spurrell’s Leaf Frog  (also known as Spurrell’s Flying Tree Frog).  He is irresistibly cute to some, but I have a good friend who is terrified of frogs so he fell off the list just in case someone else is as afraid of frogs as she is.  Then, another friend wondered if I was going to make a blog post today because it was noon and I hadn’t posted one yet.  So, since the files were at hand, here he is, along with a shot of him to prove that he’s no bigger than a thumb.


Spurrell's Leaf Frog.jpg


Spurrell's Leaf Frog on thumb



2018—“Hey, Is That the Bird You’re After?”

Before I went to the gym on two mornings last week, my camera and I were at the city’s Mahany Nature Preserve, which is next to my gym. There are acres of dried grasses, a creek, a seasonal pond, a small grove of blue oak trees and some birds.  A Cooper’s Hawk watched from atop a stump.  Mourning Doves perched in the limbs of cottonwood tree.  Western Bluebirds flew in the distance.   A Western Kingbird observed from the top of a dead oak tree.  Scrub Jays scolded from the treetops.  Anna’s Hummingbirds buzzed by my head.   Lesser Goldfinches flitted around tall grasses near the creek.  A white-breasted Nuthatch scurried down a branch.  Acorn Woodpeckers announced their presence with rat-a-tats.  Aha!  That’s what I was there for.  And, when I espied a pair high in a dead tree, I left the trail and slowly approached the tree, keeping my eyes on the birds as I walked.  I hoped to get a better chance at a good shot if I got closer

“Hey! Is that the bird you’re after?” a harsh voice shouted at me.  The woodpeckers  flew off and I glared in the direction of the voice.  The voice was from a man I had encountered when I entered the preserve.  He had asked me lots of questions about my camera and what I was photographing in the preserve.  We kept pace for 50 yards or so and I tried to ignore him but admitted I was there to photograph birds.  I was relieved when a “Y” in the trail allowed me to go left  in the direction of the woodpeckers when he veered right.  But, a few minutes later, he found me again atop a grassy knoll,  as I looked up into the tree at the woodpeckers.

And, “no” this photograph is not a photograph of an Acorn Woodpecker which is the bird I was after.  This is a Black Phoebe that landed on a fallen limb behind the woodpecker’s tree, just as I turned away from the annoying man on the trail.  Serendipity.

Black Phoebe PS

2018—Panting at 107°

We’re in the middle of a summer heatwave with daytime temperatures ranging from 103° to 110° in the region.  At my house Wednesday evening, it was 107° when I went outside to revive the wilted plants on my patio.  I saw an Anna’s Hummingbird fly away from the fountain and watched him perch on a twig above the fountain.  He was panting, a behavior I’ve seen hummers do only a few times, always in the midst of intense heat.  I’m happy that my fountain is working and the cool water is there for the birds in my yard.

Anna's hummingbird panting-1.jpg

2018—On the Fence

This is a Western Fence Lizard…I think.  I’m not too up on my lizards but found this guy when he emerged to sunbathe yesterday morning in Mahany Park next to my gym in Roseville.  He’s sitting on a log not a fence and there was a small patch of sunlight on the side of the log that attracted him.  He tolerated the sounds of my shutter for a brief time, then he scurried away and I didn’t see him again.

Western Fence Lizard.jpg

2018—Shadow Self-portrait

Friday morning we were at Horseshoe Lake on Mammoth Mountain.  U.S.G.S scientists detected naturally occurring Carbon Dioxide (CO2) gas in the vicinity of Horeseshoe Lake and other areas on the Mountain in 1994.  Since then they have been monitoring the gas, measuring the concentration and rate of gas discharged from the ground.  The higher than normal concentrations of CO2 are responsible for killing approximately 120 acres of trees next to Horseshoe Lake and elsewhere on Mammoth Mountain.

I guess the high levels of CO2 coupled with the altitude (6,550′) caused me to take this photograph of some of the trees killed by carbon dioxide creating a shadow portrait with shadows of the trees and me in the middle.  I used my D850 and my 10.5mm fisheye DX lens to create this image.

Shadow self portrait.jpg

2018—Flight Posture

One of my goals in photographing hummingbirds is to capture different postures.  When the birds hover, they tend to keep the same straight pose as they face the feeder or flower they’re feeding on.  Because they’re hovering, they’re relatively still and only their wings move so it is possible to capture in focus photographs.  When they move up or down or change direction or fly to or from the feeder, their posture changes.  However, it is more difficult to capture that motion and get the bird’s eye in focus when they’re not hovering.  This is one of the rare “in flight,” as opposed to “hovering,” shots that I got in Madera Canyon.

Madera Canyon Day 4 00246-1.jpgMost of the hummers we saw and photographed in Madera Canyon were brightly colored males, especially the jewel-like Broad-billed Hummingbird.  There were, however, lots of females who tended to surround the feeders when the dominant males were gone temporarily.  This is a female Black-chinned Hummingbird, flying to the feeder.

2018—Change Is Good

Change is a good thing.  We made several positive changes to our flash setup and settings for photographing hummingbirds in Madera Canyon this year.  These changes helped me improve my hummingbird photography and I came home extremely satisfied with my performance this year; considerably better than I did last year.

Madera Canyon Day 2 Black chinned.jpg

This is a male Black-chinned Hummingbird.  We had very few of these birds compared to large numbers of the more aggressive Broad-billed Hummingbirds.  When the Black-chinned Hummers came to the feeders, they were harassed and chased away so I got only a couple of photographs of the Black-chinned.

The main change that allowed me to improve was the use of Manual Mode on the flashes instead of using TTL (Through The Lens) technology.  Although TTL makes automatic adjustments to flash output, TTL uses lots of battery power so the flash needs time to recover before firing again in order to put out the same amount of light.  If you depress the shutter release immediately after firing the flash set to TTL, the flash doesn’t have time to replenish and the next and subsequent shots are dim.  Using the manual setting in the flashes, we were able to adjust the power output of the flash based on our ISO, the higher the ISO, the lower the power output needed.  Recovery was quick and that allowed us to use Continuous High release mode on the camera so we could take multiple bursts without losing flash power.  It also helped that we used auxiliary battery packs for each flash as well.

Madera Canyon Day 2 female black chiin-1And, this is a female Black-chinned hummingbird.  I was able to get many more in-focus photographs using Continuous High release mode.