Thursday, September 24, 2009

misty morning hop

another early weekend morning venture, but this time mist enveloped everything. it was so thick that the sun resembled the moon when it plays hide and seek with the clouds. it choked off the sound of the birds, their chirpy morning songs suffocated by the dense fog. nothing moved. nothing stirred, flitted, or twittered. it was as if the weight of the low-lying clouds could be felt by all of the little woodland creatures, and it pressed them down into their burrows, hidey-holes, and other nooks and crannies. no starlings on the baseball field. no crows doing their usual fly-bys. no cardinals, wrens, or finches chirping away from the tops of trees. nothing...

except for the spiders and their amazing webs.

this guy was hanging out between the slats in a wood fence, and the mist being as heavy as it was, darkening the sky as though it were 5 o'clock in the morning instead of 9, i had to break out my flash for this shot. 400 ISO, f/6.3, 1/250 shutter speed at 500mm added a lot of noise to the photos, but then i wasn't out to shake the wildlife photography world by the collar, and because of the mist, i had already resigned myself to just enjoy the walk.

then i saw this:

and this:

and it became clear to me that this would be the theme of my little weekend morning photo-walk. in fact, it couldn't really be called a walk, as i was only about 150 yards from my house and all i really had to was turn in a circle. they were all over the place; i was surrounded by these things. they were on every tree, and most trees had more than one; some had five or six.

the challenge was framing a decent shot with the zoom telephoto, so i did my best.

if you're wondering where all of this dramatic mist is — the one i carried on about in the opening paragraph — i color-corrected the heck out of these shots. all of the photos from that morning were muted and drab.

here's a shot of the sun i mentioned earlier, untouched by photoshop.

next up: great blue heron flight shots. taken on a very non-misty day at the lake.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

morning on the observation deck

sometimes i like to get up early on the weekend and set out on a walk. no breakfast (though a mountain dew of some sort is necessary); just get up, get dressed, grab the camera, and see where i'm led. it's strange…i never really have a set destination in mind. i just walk out the door and feel. one morning about a week or so ago, i started my walk out by visiting a couple of my usual haunts, one of which had previously turned up some great belted kingfisher action; the other, a green heron patiently stalking his breakfast (pictures of which are forthcoming).

but on that day, those locales were dry, so i just pointed myself up the road and walked, on toward the greenway. i stopped walking when i reached the observation deck—not because i was lazy, but because it felt right. so i turned, walked to the end of the deck, and waited. and watched. and listened. and waited some more.

just when i was drawing the disappointing conclusion that i either got up too early or got here too late, i spotted the green heron.

not sure how long he had been there, watching me while i waited for something to watch, but there he was, and in a couple of seconds he was in my viewfinder. i got a lot of pictures of him—stretching his neck and body, contracting back to his little compact shape, scratching his neck and chin with his formidable-looking claws (reminding me briefly of my cat), switching positions so that i got his good side(?), then back again—but unfortunately, i don't have the fastest lens, so those shots (and really, almost of my shots that morning) were between 200 and 400 ISO with the lens as wide open as it could get (6.3), and a shutter speed that needed to strike a balance between slow enough to let the right amount of light in and fast enough to take care of camera shake (i handhold everything for now...a tripod is a distant dream of mine). that combination did not really serve me well—inordinate amounts of noise resulted—but, as i've said before, it's not always about the picture. i caught a lot of birds that morning, and it was cool just to observe them.

ruby-throated hummingbird (female?)

downy woodpecker

great blue heron (vignetted through a very small opening between the leaves)

and a couple of things that birds like to eat:

more than a few of them need IDing (as i'm still a birding newbie), and they are as follows:

i saw this one on my way to the deck:

(a juvie red-winged blackbird? he was small...3 to 4 inches head-to-tail, at the most. my little arrows are pointing to some significant distinguishing features: the little mustache things; the red stripe on his neck; the buff-colored underbelly; the red streaks under his tail.)

and these on the way back:

here are a couple of flycatchers (or maybe the same one...):

(eastern wood-pewee? that's my best guess.)

this one made the aforementioned observation of the birds that morning very rewarding. seeing him launch into the air, performing his acrobatics while trying to catch the bugs, then landing again, making it all look so easy.

and this is a before picture (the arrow points to a little flying, it's not a spot on my lens!):

i'm sure if i looked through the succeeding pictures, the little flying bug would not be present...

birds i heard but didn't see: some sort of jay (blue jay maybe?); red-shouldered hawk; some crazy, amazon jungle-sounding thing that i would love to ID; chickadee; and a few more i'm failing to recall at the moment.

so all in all, despite the lack of "keepers," it was a good morning out on the observation deck.