2019—Pygmy Nuthatch

Pygmy Nuthatches are tiny, adorable birds that, according to the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, live almost exclusively in long-needled pine forests and are particularly closely associated with ponderosa pines.  I’m pretty sure this is a Ponderosa Pine and I’m certain this is a Pygmy Nuthatch.  Taken at the Red Canyon Lodge in the Flaming Gorge area of Utah with Nikon D5, 500mm PF lens and 1.4x Teleconverter (700mm).

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2019–Saved by a Nuthatch

It’s not the first time a nuthatch has saved the day for us. Once in the Blue Mountains of Oregon with no Great Gray Owls in evidence, a pair of nesting Pygmy Nuthatches made perfect subjects for our small band of photographers. And, this week it has happened again. After three days in the Flaming Gorge area of Utah with only a few distant sightings of a small band of our target Bighorn Sheep which were too far for away for decent photographs, we were itching to photograph some critters. The Red Canyon Lodge where we’re staying outside of Dutch John, UT, has some bird feeders so we decided to try our luck there. First to appear were our old friends, Pygmy Nuthatches but their cousins, the White Breasted Nuthatch, also were great subjects to focus on. They are frequently seen on the trunks of trees, often like this one, heading straight down.

2019–Some Things Haven’t Changed

One hundred fifty years ago, John Wesley Powell left Green River, Wyoming to begin an expedition to explore the Green and Colorado Rivers. On this journey, in May 1869, when he was awed by the sight of the red rock bluffs ablaze In color from the sun, Powell named the area Flaming Gorge. How satisfying it is to see that some things haven’t changed. The sunrise still turns the tops of the cliffs fiery red.

Nikon D5, Nikkor 8-15 Fisheye at 15mm

2019–Cart Creek Bridge

Searching for Bighorn Sheep in Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area in Utah led us to the Cart Creek Bridge which is a suspension bridge that crosses a portion of the Flaming Gorge Reservoir. We were taken with its charm and the shadows it created on the ice below it, not to mention the cobbled together rope hanging beneath the span in clear defiance of the ban against jumping off it, considered a Class B misdemeanor offense.

I used my Nikon D5 and Nikkor 8-15 Fisheye lens at 15mm to capture this view.

2019—Interrupted Preening

One of a quintet of Ruddy Turnstones looks up as its flock-mates continue preening on Huguenot Memorial Beach near Jacksonville, FL last month, oblivious to whatever alerted him.  I took this with my Nikon D5 and 500mm PF lens with the 1.4x teleconverter attached and high speed crop set to give me an effective reach of 1050mm.  I was laying flat on the beach with my camera affixed to a panning plate mounted on a Frisbee.

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2019—Waiting to Play

My continuing light painting challenges are indeed that.  Challenging!  This assignment required the use of at least one flash as well as light painting in a one minute exposure with a focal length of 24mm or less. The photograph had to include a person but the person couldn’t be the subject.

I created the background from two lengths of white seamless background paper because mine was only 52 inches wide and I needed a width of 8 feet.  I taped them together and attached them to a stand in my garage.  I positioned the Nikon D850 with a 14-24 mm lens vertically on a tripod at an elevation of about 2 feet.  I set the camera to a focal length of 22 mm, ISO 64, aperture at f/8, and Bulb to get a 60 second exposure.  I used the Nikon WR-R10 to coordinate the flashes and trigger the shutter and used the timer on my iPhone to signal when to end the exposure.  I used two flashes set to 1/8 power.  I opted not to use the Long Exposure Noise Reduction setting which I used in my first two light painting attempts.

My friend Jesse graciously volunteered to be “the person” playing second fiddle (pun intended) to the guitar.  I set up the flashes with colored gels, one placed behind the guitar, one attached to a leg of the stool.  The flash came at the end of the one minute exposure and it colored the otherwise white background and silhouetted Jesse at the same time. Aside from assembling the background which was a one-woman comedy taking hours, the light painting was the most difficult part of making this photograph. Unlike painting the Stanley No. 46 plane with light, which did not have a distant background, I had to be careful where I positioned the light so as not to create a shadow of the guitar on the background.  Creating a diffused pool of light under the guitar also proved to be a challenge until I realized that if I sat down on a stool near the end of the exposure, I could focus the light correctly.  But, most difficult of all was lighting under the brim of Jesse’s hat.  Because of the long exposure, I could stand in the frame behind him to light the brim and I wouldn’t appear in the photograph but I had to be careful that the camera didn’t pick up the beam of light if I moved it beyond his head which created light squiggles.  In the end, this photograph had the best combination of lighting effects.


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2018—Beyond the Barns

We visited the Mormon Barns in the Grand Tetons in October and after taking some photographs of the barns with the Grand Tetons in the background, I decided I wanted to feature the Grand Tetons in my photographs without the barns.  I must have looked perplexed as I tried to decide whether I should walk behind the barn.  Afterall, there were other photopgraphers to consider who didn’t want me in their photograph.  Moose came over to ask what I was photographing and when I told him I wanted the mountains, he marched me to the field behind the barn.  And, the rest of our group followed.  There was an interesting low cloud formation that was surrounding the Teton Range that I wanted to capture.

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Bobo has a new friend, Coco—that’s right—her new friend’s name is Coco.  And, no, I didn’t get another parrot. Coco, a 9 month old Red Headed Amazon, lives next door and looks almost like Bobo.   I knew my next door neighbor Liliana, age 11, got a baby parrot for her birthday a few months ago but I’d never met Coco until Friday when Liliana appeared at my door with Coco who’d injured his leg.  Liliana asked if I could fix it.  Well, I couldn’t.  But, my friends at the Roseville Bird & Pet Clinic could and they put a “cast” on Coco’s broken leg.  Coco’s been over to visit a few times since the injury but Bobo isn’t too keen on having green competition.  Bobo is curious about Coco but I’m not sure what she’d do if she were to get close so I don’t take a chance.   Bobo’s influence is felt, though.  Coco seems interested in hot, dried peppers just like Bobo is.  I sent him home with a bag of the spicy “chew toys.”





2019—More Adventures in Light Painting

The second part of my Light Painting challenge was to create an outdoor Light Painting. Another Dave Black video that I watched inspired me to feature the situation of a broken down car as my first ever outdoor light painting project.  Two of  my friends, Royetta and Tommy, graciously agreed to help me. Besides modeling, my dear friends helped me during our two hour shooting session on a dead end road in the dark, by offering suggestions about everything from vehicle placement to moving our single safety cone to a more visible location to calling out to me to remind me which areas I needed to make sure I hit with the light.

Light Painting is new to me.  I’m trying to figure things out as I go along.  It was not all smooth sailing and everything didn’t go as planned,  but it was a fun adventure. To create this photograph, we’d moved the truck after taking several shots a few feet away because someone in the distance turned on outdoor lights that ruined subsequent shots by creating a distracting blotch of light.  With the change, the END sign moved from our original position in front of the truck to the back of the truck but the overall composition was much improved. I loved the END sign and knew it had to be in the photograph.  I decided to light the trees to help give the scene a bit of depth.

Although I’d already tried the flashlight I used for the light painting, it didn’t respond as it did while I practiced with it.  And, the snoot I made out of gaffers tape to better focus the beam of light still let out too much light so I was constantly squashing the snoot between my fingers.  The exposure was long, one minute. at f/8, ISO 64.  I used my Nikon D850 and my Nikkor 24-70mm VR lens set to 48mm, and my Vello Shutterboss so I could trigger the long exposure, with 10 second delay, remotely.  As Dave instructed, I had the Long Exposure Noise Reduction set in camera, even though I was at ISO 64.  That setting requires the camera to take an equal amount of time (i.e., one minute) at the end of the original exposure before producing an image.  After each 1 minute exposure, we anxiously waited another minute before we could see the results.  As I viewed each attempt, I could see where I needed to change my lighting and then I had to try to remember which areas I was giving too much light and which I’d missed and make those changes in the  next image.

I took a total of 21 photographs between 7:50PM and 9:30PM.  Each shot was unique because of the lighting.  I had to remember to light the hood, the side panels, under the tires to help anchor the truck, to spotlight Royetta and Tommy and her feet and the tool box.  The brake lights lit the END sign.  Last I lit the trees.  I ran out of time in more than one photograph.  I over exposed the models’ faces a couple of times.  This is the last photograph I took and it was our favorite of the night.  We were getting tired and a little rummy by this time.  And, there was no guarantee that I would remember to light everything I needed to light if I  tried again.  Best to call it a night while we were ahead.

This photograph is far from perfect but I’m pleased with my first attempt at this kind of photography.  I can see that Light Painting can become addictive.  I’m already planning another scenario to shoot. Afterall,  this was just my first try.  Next time can only be better.

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2019—Stanley No. 46

My husband was a woodworker.  His father was a cabinet maker.  When Moose gave me an assignment to create a table-top light painting, I knew instantly my subject would be the Stanley No. 46 Combination Plane that Ron’s father used more than 85 years ago.  The plane might even have been Ron’s grandfather’s plane as he came from a family of cabinet makers.  The Stanley No. 46 plane was introduced in 1874 and the fancy floral design was discontinued during World War I so the plane dates back at least 100 years.   I completed the scene with Ron’s chisel and mallet, a cherrywood box Ron made for me, a sample dove tail joint he chiseled, and a few wood chips and curls I managed to scrape off a piece of soft pine using some of Ron’s other planes and spoke shaves.  The background is an oak tool chest.

Light painting is a photographic technique that uses a long exposure and an off camera light source such as a penlight to illuminate portions of a scene.   The light painting is done in a dark, unlighted place.  I chose the workbench in my garage.  This assignment was my first attempt at light painting and it is addictive.  In the beginning, it is mostly trial and error.  Learning where to focus the light, how bright the light should be, how close to shine the light, and how long to keep it lit takes practice.  Deciding what parts of the scene should be illuminated and from what angle is a challenge.  I learned how to do this by watching a KelbyOne video about Light Painting from Dave Black, who, like Moose, is a Nikon Ambassador.

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2019—Young Roseate Spoonbill

There’s just something about baby animals.  They’re always cute, even when they might grow into something very un-cute.  Take, for instance, the Roseate Spoonbill.  Roseate Spoonbills are spectacular from a distance.  Their feathers are pink and in flight, that pink is stunning.  On close inspection, however, the Roseate Spoonbill is one of the most homely creatures and in my view, the homeliest bird.  But,  even young Roseate Spoonbills exhibit that baby cuteness, even with that ungainly bill and face.

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2019—Fish–It’s What’s for Dinner

We were at the Helen and Allan Cruickshank Sanctuary east of Orlando on our last day in Florida to see the endangered Florida Scrub Jay.  Although we heard and saw a couple of jays in the distance, we did not get close enough to get good photographs.  The afternoon was quite warm and I had already finished all my water.  We were starting back down the trail when an Osprey with a fish landed in the tree next to where we were standing and tore into its prey.  We kept expecting the Osprey to take the fish to the nest where the female kept calling.  This Osprey was apparently not the mate and was not on nest duty.  We watched as it devoured the fish piece by piece for most of an hour ignoring the female’s cries.  When we began to wilt from the withering sun and lack of water, we left the bird to finish without us.   Fish–It’s What’s for Dinner

The event did give me an extended time to practice my manual focusing skills which were put to the test.  I had the Nikon 2x Teleconverter and the Nikkor 500mm PF lens on the Nikon D5.  With that combination, f/11 as the largest aperture and auto focus is not an option.   I managed to get good focus on more than 60% of my images which is better than I’ve done since I’ve had the 500mm lens, but I should be doing better.  On my return home from Florida, I discovered that my vision was adversely affected due to dry eyes that prevented me from focusing my eyes.  Treatment has rectified that problem but I discovered that my distance prescription has also changed further affecting my ability to focus manually.   In retrospect, I began to notice my compromised vision in October, at the same time I got my new 500mm PF lens, so I attributed my inability to get sharp images using manual focus to the new lens, not to my eyes.  I’m assuming that my cleared vision and new optical prescription will help me do better with manual focus when I use the 500mm PF with the 2x teleconverter.

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2019—Little Blue Heron?

Juvenile Little Blue Herons are anything but blue.  They hatch pure white and gradually turn blue through successive molts.  They are similar in size to Snowy Egrets and often mistaken for them, especially if they are wading.  But the Little Blue doesn’t have the distinctive yellow feet, black legs or black beak of a Snowy Egret.  This young Little Blue Heron has green legs and feet and its bill is blueish.

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