2021—Yellow Freesia in Graphite

This yellow freesia looks stunning rendered in Nikon Z’s creative Graphite picture control. I am fascinated by which colors pop and which colors recede with this creative picture control. I’m looking forward to trying this on other colors as more spring flowers emerge. Red seems to darken intensely and some yellows darken, like a Meyer lemon I experimented on was darker, unlike this bright yellow freesia. It seems to depend on how pure the yellow is or if it has tinges of red. This is a single, 15 second exposure at f/32 in natural light, taken with my Nikon Z6II and Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 micro lens.

2021—Welcome Spring

Today is the first day of spring and I welcome spring with open arms. It rained yesterday so I plucked a sprig of freesia, my favorite spring flower, and photographed it and its raindrops with the Nikon Z6II and my 105mm macro lens using the #18 Graphite picture control setting. This is a pure white freesia which lent itself perfectly to the Graphite picture control. It creates subtle shading in the veins of the petals and the raindrops. This shot is similar to the “Flowers of the Pandemic” photographs that I have taken over the past year, but instead of focus stacking several images together and using flash in a darkened room, I took a single 13 second exposure at f/40 using natural window light.

2021—#18—Graphite

Bobo, my Red-lored Amazon, is covered in feathers of brilliant greens, reds, yellows, and blues. Normally I photograph her in color. But when I recently saw an image of a bird taken with Nikon’s creative Picture Control setting #18, Graphite, for Z mirrorless cameras, I knew I had to try it on my #1 test model. Over the years she has become acclimated to camera lenses pointed at her and I test cameras and lenses on her because she is readily available for such duty. What I love about this setting is that the background disappeared into darkness even though there was considerable light in the room. The other fascinating thing to me is that her brilliant red forehead turned almost black and her white eye ring and yellow cheek blended together. This image is straight out of the camera. I opened it in Nikon’s NX Studio and saved it. If I were to open it in Adobe Camera Raw, I would need to apply a preset to return the image to what I captured in the camera, something I will have to create. I love the effect that this creative picture control has on the image. It is very dramatic and I have already tried it on flowers and even delicata squash. But, so far, my favorite results are Bobo peering out from the opening of her cage.

2021—O Canada jay

The Canada Jays at Sax-Zim Bog are deceptively adorable. In this photograph, the jay looks small. Canada jays are not small. They are the size of the California Scrub Jay, over 11 inches and just as gregarious and just as aggressive. But their sweet faces and shorter beaks make them appear less belligerent and more endearing. Don’t get me wrong. Scrub Jays are my favorite bird. If I lived near Canada Jay territory, I’m sure they’d quickly become one of my favorite birds, too. I certainly enjoyed photographing them last month.

2021—Feasting on the Cattails

This Black-capped Chickadee was feasting on seeds from exploding cattails near one of the feeding stations at Sax-Zim Bog in Minnesota. This tiny bird was taking a break from the feeders and foraging for natural nutrients nearby. Cattails grow in the kind of marshy land that comprises most of Sax-Zim Bog. It’s easy to get an idea how tiny the chickadees are when you see this one clinging to a cattail’s seedpod. Tail and all, they’re about 5 inches.

2021—Sexual Dimorphism

Many birds are sexually dimorphic which means that males and females have very different plumage characteristics. An example is the Pine Grosbeak. Males stand out from their surroundings. They sport brilliant red feathers and dark wings with white wing bars. This distinguishes them from the less brilliant, though no less beautiful, female Pine Grosbeaks that tend to blend in more with their surroundings.

2021—Harbinger of Spring

To me, the harbinger of spring is freesia. Years ago I planted some freesia corms in my front flower bed and without fail, freesia is the first flower to appear in my garden in spring. The heady aroma is my favorite floral fragrance and to me, it means spring is almost here. It rained on Wednesday and a few raindrops still clung to the blossoms even after I clipped them and placed them in a vial to photograph them. A power outage that lasted most of an hour Wednesday evening gave me a chance to photograph them in complete darkness so there were no light leaks. I’d already set up the three flashes I used so all I needed was a flashlight to guide me back up to where I’d set up the flowers and to focus.

2021—Backyard Birds

I’m looking forward to spring when the flowers will start blooming profusely again and I will be able to sit on my patio waiting for birds to visit my feeders and fountains and photograph them. Once again I’ve been inspired by my friend Moose Peterson, a Nikon Ambassador, who last night gave a Nikon-sponsored Webinar at B and C Camera in Las Vegas, NV about backyard bird photography. Not only did I get some great tips and suggestions for improving my backyard bird photography, I was thrilled and honored that he used several of my images to illustrate the possibilities for a backyard bird photographer. Since Anna’s Hummingbirds are my favorite backyard birds to photograph, I wanted to revisit some of the images I took last year that were possible because I followed some of Moose’s backyard birding suggestions, like putting a correctly sized perch near one of the hummingbird feeders. I had previously determined that the background would be uncluttered and out of focus if I placed the perch in one of the flower pots near the feeder. All I needed to do was wait for the hummer to land on it. I was ready when he did.