When I was a little kid, my older brother Artie set up a model train layout on a 4X8 sheet of plywood supported by saw horses in his bedroom. His first train was a big Lionel and later he had an HO Gauge set and I remember being fascinated by the lights, the town he built, and the train chugging along the tracks. At age 5 or so, I was never allowed to touch the controls but I still enjoyed watching the action. And now, 65 years later, Arthur is once again venturing into the model railroad arena and building his own model railroad setup at his home in Bend, OR. I thought of him the other day when I visited the model train display at the California State Railroad Museum in Old Sacramento. One display case features replicas of the same Santa Fe engine in sizes from the tiny Z Gauge up to Large Scale with HO Gauge falling in the middle. I took this shot from the side of the display case so I could see all the models head on. I used my Nikon D850 with my Nikkor 105mm f/1.4 lens at f/1.4 and focused on the HO Gauge engine so that the smaller models in front and the larger models in back are completely blurred out and just the HO Gauge model emerges, appearing to move directly toward the camera.
A male Painted Bunting cools off from the Texas heat with a drenching bath. Taken from a blind at the Santa Clara Ranch in South Texas.
Nikon D5, Nikkor 500mm PF lens.
Female Northern Cardinals are so similar to male Pyrrhuloxia that it is sometimes hard to tell which is which. The most obvious sign is the color and shape of the beak which is bright yellow and has an angular look in pyrrhuloxia while Northern Cardinal females have a bright orange beak.
This female Northern Cardinal came to the water feature at one of the blinds at Santa Clara Ranch in South Texas to drink and bathe. Her bright orange beak is the telltale feature that distinguishes her from the male Pyrrhuloxia.
Nikon D5, Nikkor 500mm PF.
One of the major challenges of shooting at Magee Marsh is the thick canopy that allows the warblers and other birds to hide. There are so many twigs and branches going every direction that much of the time, small birds, like this adorable Ruby-crowned Kinglet, are obscured from view. But, despite the twigs and leaves that cover much of its body, that wide, round eye is quite visible, peeking through the branches.
Nikon D500, Nikon 1.4 Teleconverter, Nikkor 500mm PF lens.
At the Orlando Wetlands Park in Orlando, Florida American White Pelicans form small flotillas and maneuver around the shallow waters in a kind of scrum, forcing small schools of fish together so that the pelicans can use their massive, flexible beaks to scoop up the fish and whatever else has accumulated beneath them. We witnessed this behavior over and over during our visit in February of this year.
Nikon D500, Nikon 1.4 Teleconverter, 300mm PF lens
What is it that makes some birds sound like cats? My Red-lored Amazon parrot says what many people interpret as “meow” but I think she is actually saying, “well.” But, perhaps after twenty years of believing she’s saying, “well,” I could be wrong. There is another bird that makes a “meow” sound, too. It is a Gray Cat Bird. I saw them and heard their distinctive “meows” in South Texas and in Ohio at Magee Marsh. Hmmmm. Maybe Bobo is saying “meow” after all.
My recent trip to South Texas introduced me to many bird species I hadn’t seen before, including two kinds of Thrasher. These are Curve-billed Thrashers.
Nikon D5, Nikkor 500mm PF lens.
A glimpse of bright red through the willows at Magee Marsh revealed a gorgeous brilliant male Scarlet Tanager in full breeding plumage.
Nikon D500, Nikon 1.4 teleconverter, Nikkor 500mm PF
After listening to Moose Peterson’s Podcast #135 I took up the Self-Assignment challenge he describes in that podcast, one he had years ago in photography school:
Each day for a week, take a new photo of a salt and pepper shaker, with no two photos alike except that each photo must include the same salt and pepper shaker.
I thought this was a great way to challenge myself to improve my photography, and, as he put it in his podcast, to compete against myself, not others. I used three different lenses (105mm f/1.4; 105mm f/2.8 Micro, and 70-200 f/4); manual mode so I could completely control all aspects of exposure; a tripod because the shutter speeds were slow, ranging from 1/30 second to 4 seconds; and except for the first and last shots, one or more flashes. I had a great time planning and executing each shot but the challenge forced me to stretch well outside my comfort zone. The challenge helped me better understand placement of external light sources to achieve the effect I sought. It forced me to figure out what it takes to create certain optical illusions. It illustrated the need to think “outside the box” so that the photographs would be unique and perhaps provocative. For all but one of the photographs, I had to create a “studio” setup instead of using a natural setting and natural lighting as I normally do.
Here, then, is my take on “A week in the life of Salt ‘n’ Pepa:”
Day 1 (Nikon D850, Nikkor 105mm f/1.4 )
Day 2 (Nikon D850, Nikkor 105mm f/1.4, SB 5000×2 )
Day 3 (Nikon D850, Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 Micro, SB 5000)
Day 4 (Nikon D850, Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 Micro, SB 5000×2 )
Day 5 (Nikon D850, Nikkor 105mm f/1.4, SB 5000×3 )
Day 6 (Nikon D850, Nikkor 70-200mm f/4, SB 5000×2 )
Day 7 (Nikon D850, Nikkor 70-200mm f/4)
South Texas is home to lots of beautiful and colorful birds. This is a young male Bullock’s Oriole. Mature adult males are orange. Females are also yellow but they lack the black patch under the beak. Its colors make a striking contrast to the whitish leaves of the plant it perches on. I am not sure what this plant is. My searchs of native shrubs and trees in South Texas came up empty.
Nikon D5, Nikkor 500mm PF