On the Fourth of July, I tried out my MIOPS Lightning Trigger for the first time. My subject was (illegal) neighborhood fireworks. In Madera Canyon last week, I got a chance to test the MIOPS on real lightning and there was nothing illegal about it. And wow! It really works. I set up the camera on a tripod, manually focused, and the MIOPS did the rest. Every time it sensed a lightning strike it took a photograph. Despite it being Monsoon season, I didn’t capture any dramatic cloud to ground strikes but the MIOPS senses cloud to cloud lightning as well. This is one of the shots I got on my first attempt on our first day in Madera Canyon. It was also one of the first times I used the Nikon Z7 Mirrorless camera and the Z 24-70 f/2.8 lens. What a great combo.
Most of the hummingbirds surrounding us in Madera Canyon last week were Broad-billed Hummingbirds. The brilliantly colored feathers of the males make them seem like flying aquamarine and emerald jewels.
Nikon D5, Nikkor 500mm PF.
On the way back to the Santa Rita Lodge after dinner in Green Valley on Wednesday, we went out intending to photograph lightning but before the lightning show began, we were treated to a beautiful striated sunset with intense oranges and deep reds. I used my longest lens, the Nikkor 500mm PF and the Nikon Z7 with FTZ adaptor. The scene reminds me of photographs depicting atmospheric depth, only with clouds not mountains (except for the single stratum of mountain range at the bottom.
A visit to The Nature Conservancy’s Patagonia and Sonoita Creek Preserve south of Madera Canyon on Wednesday was quite an experience. We spent most of the day at the visitors center where the patio’s hummingbird feeders attracted lots of gorgeous hummers. This Violet-crowned Hummingbird was most cooperative and he had attitude! He appeared to be the dominant hummer in the area and for most of the day, he was the only Violet-crowned hummer there. Most of the other hummers there were Broad-billed hummers. When another Violet-crowned perched near one of the feeders, this tough guy stared him down and ultimately chased him off. Here he is, with his tough-guy stare, stretching and drying off after an incredible monsoon downpour that flooded the patio. Thunder was so loud after one lightning bolt that we all flinched at the sound. It must have struck something very close.
We took our hummingbird photo rigs with us to Patagonia. Nikon D5, 500mm PF lens, two SB5000 Speed lights with Impact soft boxes.
It’s been a Zwonderful week! I got a chance to try out my new Nikon Z7, Nikon’s new mirrorless camera. Until last week, I had no plans to get a Nikon Z mirrorless camera but circumstances change and I am now convinced that it is a perfect addition to my camera bag. I hadn’t planned to use the Z for wildlife but on Thursday, Moose convinced me to try it. And, I am pleased with the results.
I’ve been in Madera Canyon in Arizona. We saw at least a half dozen different species If hummingbird, including Broad-billed Hummingbirds, Rivoli’s Hummingbirds, Violet-crowned Hummingbirds, and a first for me, the Blue-Throated Hummingbird. The Rivoli’s and the Blue-throated are two of the largest hummingbirds in the US. We stayed at Santa Rita Lodge in Madera Canyon and we did most of our shooting in the patio areas between our cabins. The Z7 won’t replace my Nikon D5 as my primary wildlife camera but it served me well on this trip and I captured some marvelous photographs using it with my Nikkor 500mm PF with the FTZ adaptor. In fact, one of my favorite shots from the trip is of a species that I saw for the first time, the Blue-throated Hummingbird.
On our first day in Montana, we visited the Old Sedan Church which, according to the sign in front, was established in 1898. It was on a slight knoll and the area was very sparsely populated. We were on a main road in the area but only a couple of cars drove by. I used my 14-24mm lens at 14mm to show the vastness of the threatening Montana skies and the isolation of the small church.
White barns seem to be all around Bozeman, Montana. This one stood out because of the field of giant white dandelions in front of it.
The sun was rising quickly and I was facing north concentrating on a landscape shot near Big Timber, MT. My colleagues were behind me taking turns shooting east on the railroad tracks as the sun rose perfectly centered between the tracks. When I turned around, I could see that I was missing the shot, and further realized that there was only room on the railroad track for one shooter. I was just a little late and I thought I was out of luck. When everyone else walked away, I took a shot anyway, knowing that the sun was no longer centered over the tracks. It wasn’t THE shot but I liked the scene. Lucky for me, that afternoon, we had a Digital Darkroom session, and Moose came to the rescue. He showed me how to use the clone stamp in Photoshop to nudge the sun back to dead center of the railroad tracks.
If you saw this blog yesterday, you might have noticed that I posted the identical photograph that I’m posting today. Well, it has been pointed out to me that the photograph I posted yesterday and claimed to be a sundown photograph is really a sunrise photograph. I took this photograph at 6:00 AM, MDT on July 10, 2019. I am actually facing north with the rising sun to my right. So, to set the record straight, I am reposting the same photograph with a correct title.
A hidden gem near Bozeman, Montana is Hyalite Lake. It is uncrowded and pungent with the smell of pine. While we were there late in the afternoon of our last day in Montana, the glass-like surface of the lake reflected the nearby mountains. Then, a brief rain storm rippled the water’s surface, and a double rainbow appeared. As the storm passed, the clouds began to lighten and the blue sky appeared again. The drama came and went in less than 30 minutes.
A visit to Nevada City, Montana, one of the main centers of commerce during Montana’s placer gold rush in the late 1800’s, was a delightful step back into an old western town, complete with barber shop, saddle shop, opium den, sheriff’s office, and house of ill repute. The town was was reconstructed between 1945 and 1978 but the buildings were brought there from other places in Montana. The wooden buildings are weathered and worn, with wooden sidewalks and what’s left of wooden awnings. Curtains hang in some of the windows and the store is stocked with contemporary goods. This iron triangle dinner bell caught my attention. It hung from a post in front of the blacksmith shop as if waiting for a chuckwagon cook to buy it so he could summon cow hands or miners to dinner.
Nikon D850, Nikkor 105mm
I have developed a reputation among my photography pals for being attracted to idiosyncratic, quirky, often obscure subjects to photograph that under most circumstances no one else would notice. I guess I have done this often enough that my friends can now point out things to me that they think I would want to photograph. These have become known as “Carol Photos.” I took a new favorite “Carol Photo” last week in Nevada City, Montana after Moose summoned me to an area of the property that didn’t look too promising. As I walked around the corner of a dilapitated building, I knew instantly that Moose had indeed found a “Carol Photo.” The roofless building was filled with thriving wild mustard plants and one clump was perfectly framed by the white window.
One of the many charming characteristics of Black-tailed Prairie Dogs is the way they communicate in their Prairie Dog Towns. One of the more fascinating aspects of their communication system is what is often compared to The Wave as seen in sports stadiums around the world. It is contagious in the town and as one jumps up and flings its head back, others around the town follow suit. This is one of the Black-tailed Prairie Dogs at the Grey Cliff Prairie Dog State Park in Montana at the apex of his wave.
Nikon D5, Nikkor 500mm PF, 1.4 Teleconverter.
The lush green valleys in and around Bozeman, Montana are home to many white barns but I was particularly taken with this one with its weathered white paint and charming metal cupola with weather vane and lightning rod. White barns here really stand out from their green surroundings and the distant mountain peaks hint to their location.
Nikon D850, Nikkor 105mm f/1.4 Lens.
We spent Wednesday morning at the Grey Cliff Prairie Dog State Park near Big Timber, Montana. The Prairie Dog Town meadow was covered with wild flowers including huge swaths of bright Sweet Yellow Clover. Black-tailed Prairie Dogs poked their heads up here and there but besides a few sentinels and pups, we saw very few Prairie Dogs and we wondered why there were so few. This trio of pups ventured out of their burrow but stayed near the entrance hole in the meadow.
Nikon D5, Nikkor 500mm PF.
While photographing the Gallatin River from the concrete arch bridge over the Gallatin River on Squaw Creek Road in Gallatin County Montana on Monday, we noticed a couple of Cedar Waxwings flying back and forth across the river gathering bugs. Occasionally they would perch over the water near the bridge so I got my Nikon D5 and 500mm PF lens and waited for one of them to perch near me. I didn’t have to wait long. My tripod was in use with my NIkon D850 using slow shutter speeds to blur the river’s flow under the bridge so I handheld the D5/500mm PF combination. I love that I can handhold this lens.
Other frequent visitors to the blinds at Santa Clara Ranch in South Texas were Northern Bobwhites. But they were usually scurrying quickly across the back of the pond from one sheltered area to another. It was fun to be able to see and capture this male and his reflection stopped at the pond, drinking.
Nikon D500, Nikkor 500mm PF.
Shooting from the blinds in South Texas this past May was a rewarding experience. The blinds gave us a unique opportunity to see and photograph many different species of native birds that, without the cover of the blinds, we would have had only fleeting glances. Northern Cardinals were frequent visitors to the ponds near the blinds. I took many photographs of cardinals but none quite like this male Northern Cardinal whose distinctive red crest has been disrupted by a gust of wind giving him a really bad “hair” day. Nikon D500, Nikkor 500mm PF lens.
After a disappointing fireworks experience for me on Wednesday evening, I wasn’t expecting much in the way of fireworks at home on the evening of the Fourth. But, about 9PM I began to hear loud explosions outside so I ventured out to see what I could see. What I saw was neighborhood fireworks displays that rivaled the big professional displays, including the one at El Dorado Hills Town Center, only on a smaller scale. Fireworks were nothing like this when I was a kid. I got my camera and decided to try out my new MIOPS lightning trigger to see how it reacted to fireworks. I was not disappointed. I got set up near the end of the neighbors’ displays but the MIOPS worked perfectly every time reacting immediately and opening the shutter just as the fireworks triggered. This is a composite of three bursts taken over the rooftops across the street with the shutter open for 2 seconds.