Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Midnight confessions

Yesterday I posted a photo of a Snowy Egret that I had taken while in Florida last month.  Much to my surprise, this picture has garnered more "likes" on Google+ than any other picture that I have ever posted -- 273 after just one day on the Birds4All community.

Snowy Egret (Egretta thula) is preparing for takeoff: seat back and folding trays are in an upright position.

The thing that I hate to admit is that this is a PhotoShop retouch job.   Here's the original:

Try as I might, I couldn't do a motion de-blur well enough to fix the head around the eyes and beak.  So I did what any other art department flack would have done -- I pasted in a head shot of the same bird from a different photo.   Sue me.  At least it was the same bird.

In my continued effort to justify my re-touching, I recognized that it was a pretty nice picture.  The bird was in a springing position, about to take flight.  I had unfortunately missed getting the tips of the wings, but for the blurred head, the rest of this shot is quite nice.  I can get away with the blurred wings, as they impart the right bit of energy to the shot.  But a blurred head with two eyes is a no-no.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Little Wolf's Foot

On the 4th of July, I decided to give myself a heart attack by hiking the trail to Raven Rock at Coopers Rock State forest.  Sadly, I failed and survived.

The effort wasn't entirely wasted, as I managed to get a bunch of interesting photographs.   One of the first camera stops was to shot a stand of Lycopodium digitatum, otherwise known as groundcedar.

Here's a moody shot taken from low to the ground:

According to a Wikipedia page on Diphasiastrum digitatum,
Its common name is due to its resemblance to cedar boughs lying on the ground. Its leaves are scale-like and appressed, like a mature cedar, and it is glossy and evergreen. It normally grows to a height of about four inches (10 cm), with the spore-bearing strobili held higher.
More interesting, at least to me,  is that this species was once the principal clubmoss species used for collection of Lycopodium powder, used as a primitive flash powder.
Lycopodium has been used in fireworks and explosives, fingerprint powders, as a covering for pills, and as an ice cream stabilizer. Today, the principal use of the powder is to create flashes or flames that are large and impressive but relatively easy to manage safely in magic acts and for cinema and theatrical special effects. Lycopodium powder is also sometimes used as a lubricating dust on skin-contacting latex (natural rubber) goods, such as condoms and medical gloves.
Here's a very interesting Youtube video, Lycopodium Powder - How to get / make it!   I'm really going to have to try this.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Canon FD 50mm f/3.5 MACRO

Some months ago, I purchased a Canon FD 50mm f/3.5 Macro lens from the auction site.  It was part of a package, which also contained an old FD telephoto lens and a set of three macro adapters in a nice case.

Everything that I'd read about this lens indicated that you got a lot of bang for your buck with it.  This is a typical blurb that you see for it on auction sites:

"Optically excellent Canon Macro lens. This lens is believed by many enthusiasts to be among the sharpest macro lenses ever made for the Canon camera."

Here are a couple of shots that I took last evening:

The hardest thing with this lens is having to manually focus.  As you can see above, however, it can be done.

I'm keeping the 1x macro adapter on this lens to protect it and keep it clean, so these two shots aren't simply with the "pure" lens.  It's weird as far as lenses I've had.  The front has a deeply recessed cavity, so protecting the lens itself really shouldn't be an issue.

I've been thinking of selling this lens and the adapters on eBay, but I think that I want to play with it for a while longer.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

More Bird Watching

Last weekend, I went back to the little pavilion at the Coopers Rock trout pond, and this time I brought along a flash unit for the camera.

Results are a little better, I think:

This one is my favorite, as it captures a barn swallow with a fly in its mouth.

Here's where the bugs go:

Thank goodness for telephoto lenses... and for tripods.  For without those, I never would have gotten this distant shot of a cedar waxwing.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Bird Watching

I went to the trout pond near Coopers Rock State Forest the other day and spent a little time stalking the wily Red-Winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus).  This is supposedly one of the most abundant living land bird in North America.  I had to think about that statement for a moment.  Are there abundant dead land birds?   Perhaps they meant zombie passenger pigeons.

Anyway, red-winged blackbirds are not at all common for me, so I was happy to catch a few good shots.

The next on is also a red-winged blackbird, but it doesn't have the red wings.  From what I've read, that indicates that it's an immature male.

I don't speak blackbirdese, so I couldn't tell off-hand that his tweets were immature.

Finally, there's a little pavilion by the pond, where there must have been at least half a dozen barn swallows nesting.  After waiting for several minutes, a few of them began returning to their nesting area.

They're actually pretty colorful birds.  Unfortunately, this shot doesn't show off the blue upper back.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Oh Happy Day

The majority of my "social" activity is doubtlessly my posting photographs to Google Plus.  One of the communities to which I like to post is the Landscape Photography Community, which has periodic themes for their submissions.   Their current theme, event #105, is "Oh Happy Day."  The theme is supposed to be a landscape photo that evokes that emotion (for the photographer, at least).

I had to go all the way back to December 1, 2014, for my Happy DayTM, and that's probably a stretch.

On that day, I was at Englewood Beach on Florida's Gulf Coast.  I had recently bought a Canon EF 70-200 f/4L telephoto lens, and I had been trying to get shots of the various birds and things at the beach.

To the uninitiated, the "L" (Canon Luxury Lenses) series of Canon lenses is their professional line of SLR photography lenses.  Ever the poor boy, I got the bottom end of the best -- a 200 mm lens with no image stabilization (IS), which would have added a couple hundred more dollars to the price tag.

Even when I was just laying on the beach sunbathing, I couldn't keep from futzing with the camera.  I rolled over on my blanket and saw this group of Royal Terns congregating between me and another sunbather.

It was so bright out on the beach that I was able to shoot at the lowest ISO (100) and stopped down to f/16 at 1/100 of a second, hoping to get the best depth of field beyond the birds.  I didn't exactly succeed in that regard, but the results are still nice, maybe even more aesthetic by virtue of keeping the bikini-clad sunbather slightly out of focus.

Still, after all this time, I can appreciate the quality of the lens.  I went back to the camera raw image file and gave it minimum adjustments for brightness and color balance.  The rest is straight out of the camera.   Those are some sharp looking birds in that picture.

So, that's my happy place:  wildlife, a sunny beach on the ocean, a nice lens, and a little incidental eye candy.  That's a nice place to be.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Happy Fascination of Plants Day

Fascination of Plants Day is today!

And I have so little prepared in the way of remarks on this solemn day.

Let me introduce you to Jack-in-the-Pulpit then. Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) is a native to eastern North American woodlands.

The bloom consists of a green and reddish-brown striped hood, which conceals a spadix.

It's probably hard to see it in this picture, but there's a tiny little crank down on the right-hand side of the base of the hood.   When you turn the crank for several revolutions, out pops "Jack," or the spadix.

Later in the summer, the spadix turns into a cluster of bright red berries, which often get eaten by birds and mammals.