Sunday, August 30, 2015

Moving Day!!

I waited on the front porch of our double wide at Birdsong for birds to come to the clearing.  It actually acts as a great blind, due to the large overhang. I refuse to get the porch screened in because I want to be able to get better pictures of birds than I would be able to if I shot through a metal screen. It is August, and not spring, so the birds are being a bit lazy and staying hidden in the top of the trees behind the leaves.

But there are always squirrels.  I try to find them doing something interesting, because squirrels being squirrels can get a bit boring. But wait!  Here is a squirrel!  What does it have in its mouth??  It is something pretty big. Last time I saw a squirrel with something that big in its mouth it was a slice of pizza, which came from a trash can at Centennial Park in Nashville. And why did the squirrel look like it had white fur on its face?  I knew this wasn't a piece of pizza because the squirrel came down from a tree, and the likelihood of a piece of pizza being up in a tree was not great.  I know the suspense is killing you.  Here is my best shot of what I saw.
No, I have never seen a squirrel carry a baby around, much less gotten a picture of it.  If it weren't for that white paw I still don't think I would know what it was the squirrel was carrying. Anyway, I was sort of dumbfounded.  But the best was yet to come. Three times the squirrel took a different baby from the original nest at the top of one tree, to a new tree several yards away, and climbed it, and dropped the baby somewhere out of my view. This was no easy task. The squirrel was clearly exhausted, and it was taking her forever. Every time she stopped to rest at the first limb of the tree with the original nest. And she panted!!  This was actually a little painful for me to watch.  I wanted to help.  I actually left after the squirrel went back to the original tree. I waited for her to bring a fourth baby down but it was taking so long I finally left. 

Here is the squirrel resting on the limb of the tree.  

I don't claim that these are wonderful photos, but I was very glad to get this documented.  There must have been some sort of emergency at the old nest.  Wow! Let's hope the babies are safe and sound in their new digs tonight.  

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Season's Greetings from the Germantown Greenway

I took a bit too much of a respite from both photography and posting, as I prepared for the sale of our house where we lived since the early 80s, and moved to a condo one half the size! This condo was chosen because of the proximity to the Germantown Greenway, which links to the Shelby County Greenway, and the much longer Memphis and Shelby County Greenline. This opened up a new hobby for me--bike riding, as yet again I return to the interests of my youth.  Fortunately I was able to find a decent bike on Craigslist. Perfectly vintage, but I had to buy a basket for the camera.
The Greenway is better suited to bike riding than photography. While there are both willing and unwilling subjects (various animals), most shots are backlit, as the lakes bordering Humphreys Blvd. are south of the trail.  The Wolf River is to the north, but most of the wildlife is around the lakes.  The above lake is at the end of the trail in Germantown, TN, at Neshoba Lake. 

There was a big whodunnit on the trail this Christmas, as various Christmas decorations eventually led to a sort of nativity scene consisting of two concrete beavers and a make believe beaver home.    

A few bushes over several miles had these ornaments on them.

 Pretty cute hat and fishing pole, for a beaver.
 A manger scene with no occupants.
 Not to be outdone by the upright concrete beaver..
Although most bike rides produce no great photos, since I can easily bike to this six mile long trail, I go often enough that I get some decent photos.  This isn't either a concrete or a real beaver, but some sort of nutria or muskrat, I think.  Note the paws!
Yes, I know it is a little late in the season to go bike riding, but here in the mid south, we get occasional winter days like this.  On this sandbar people like to pretend they are at the beach. 
It was taken ona day when the sun was shining and the sky was blue. 
And, yes, of course there are green herons, blue herons, hawks, and geese galore. 

In the spring, when it is warmer, and the constant construction at Shelby Farms ramps down, I plan to venture off the Greenway, and into Shelby Farms, which is just one bike bridge away from the Greenline.  Here is a photo taken along the path.
Here is to more adventures in a New Year--2015!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Whidbey Island

This purpose of this particular blog entry is twofold: 

1. to prove that I do occasionally get out of the state of Tennessee, and
2. to engage in a little self indulgence as I display some vacation photos.  And there may be a lesson or two about photography along the way.

First of all, photography took a definite back seat to visiting family and friends.  But when I am alone, my camera IS my friend, and I did get to do a bit of sightseeing at our rented vacation home on the Puget Sound beach.

I wanted the clouds to show up well, so I pointed my camera towards them to get the exposure.  The foreground was too dark, so I lightened it using a mask in Photo Director.
Morning and evening are better times to take photos than mid-day.

As a frequent visitor to the Gulf Coast, I know a jellyfish when I see one!
Above Roxie is posing for the camera!  Below are my token bird photos from the trip, including a couple of flying eagle photos!  I learned how to gauge when the eagles would come on the beach.  The seagulls would all warn each other with squawking, and would fly away.  Then the eagle would come soaring and land on the beach.  Learning this was helpful back in West Seattle, where we stayed at a friend's apartment when she was out of town.  It was on a cliff overlooking the sound near Lincoln Park (we had to negotiate about four flights of stairs down from the street to get to the apartment).  I heard that same squawking there, and I rushed to the kitchen window and saw one eagle soaring with a bunch of seagulls around.  I later told the friend about this experience, and she said she never had seen an eagle from the apartment.  Well, she obviously wasn't trained to the squawking noise.

Now, if you have made it this far into my vacation photos, you get to see another one of those minor tourist attractions that I love so much.  The photos below are all taken at Greenbank Farm.  There were some horses and riders there practicing for the upcoming Loganberry Festival.  The horse routine, which I saw several times, was done to the music "It's raining men."  Yes I did get a video of part of this but I may have accidentally erased it.  If I find it I will definitely upload it and post it here.  In the meantime here is the photo.  I was trying to get the connection between the song and the Renaissance costumes............By the way a loganberry is a cross between a blackberry and a raspberry.  Be sure to get a loganberry pie if you go to Greenbank Farm.  My mouth is literally watering just writing about it.

I love to take photos in rising fog!  Plenty of this at Greenbank Farm.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013


You just gotta ignite the light and let it shine, Just own the night like the 4th of July, Katie Perry
Art at its best is inspiring, and Katie Perry's Firework is certainly inspirational. 

And fireworks owned the night the Fourth of July at Birdsong Resort.  Capturing the mood photographically isn't a matter of point and shoot.

First of all, let me tell you how to shoot fireworks.

1.  Open your favorite web browser.
2.  Go to your favorite search engine.
3.  Type in "how to photograph fireworks".
4.  Go to the first web pages that aren't advertisements, and read them.
5.  Now you should know how to photography fireworks.
6.  Here is what I came up with: How to Photograph Fireworks

I'm not a technical camera person, but I do know that you can't use automatic settings on fireworks, that you really should have a tripod, and that you need a long exposure time to capture the movement of the light. On the Fourth of July, we were treated to a pretty amazing fireworks display in Camden, Tennessee. It seemed as if the whole town was at the boat dock, and surrounding land, with dozens of boats in the creek waiting for the show, and a festive atmosphere.  While this should have been a fabulous photography experience, it was something less than that for me. I was there with family, and the one mainly in charge of my six year old grandson, who seemed to get too much sensory overload and wanted to watch the fireworks from the window inside our double wide. Also, my tripod was in Memphis!  While I knew the basics of how to shoot fireworks, I did not know the details or how to translate that to my camera.

But, I persevered and did my best in the face of obstacles.  I resorted to my fallback position--experiment, snap a lot of photos, and hope some of them turn out.  Here is another non award winning fireworks photo, taken under the somewhat adverse conditions:


More fun was taking photos of the festive crowd before and during the display as well as throughout the weekend of festivities.


My camera seems to automatically point at birds no matter the other content available.  However, this particular weekend there was a bit too much activity (and smoke from campfires!) for birds anywhere but the boat.  Herons even seemed to hide!.  The one place to predictably find birds are on the various mile markers for barges on the Tennessee River, because ospreys nest on every single one, as far as I can tell.  I feel a little guilty getting the osprey all upset when the boat gets near their precious nests on the mile markers, but it does make for some interesting photos. I figure if my husband can catch his beloved bass, hurt their mouths by catching them with a hook, and then save their lives by throwing them back, then my getting near the ospreys isn't such a big deal.  

Okay, these people were out in the creek without waders.  I am not particularly afraid of snakes, but I am not sure I would have done this.  Other than creatures, this actually seems quite pleasant.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Beyond a Shadow of a Doubt

To contemplate is to look at shadows.  Victor Hugo

Until I took up photography as a hobby, I had not given much thought to shadows for decades.  Kids in particular are fascinated with shadows, and I began remembering my own experiences with shadows as a child.  When I contemplate shadows now, I remember the room where I grew up, which was on the southwest corner of the house. There were windows on both walls, so I grew up with a lot of afternoon light streaming through my blinds.  I can still remember the way the blinds created shadows on the walls, and, in particular I remember the way those shadows changed when summer turned to fall.  I could almost mark the days until school started like a sundial could mark hours.  Of course, ancient peoples studied science,  universal laws, and seasonal changes by measuring the length of shadows.  

Another experience with shadows was the finger shadows that we made on the home movie screen that we had.  That was much more entertaining than watching the home movies of vacations that my Dad made.

So, this week I was using the front porch of the Tennessee River double wide we have as a "blind", just watching for birds, getting a bit bored, and I noticed the shadows of some leaves on the trees.  The shadow had a "French bow" appearance, even though the leaves were about the same size.  Here it is:


It was not a remarkable photograph, but it did start me thinking about shadows again.  I started pondering not only about the role of shadows in photographs, but the use of the word shadow in our language, and even the metaphysical reasons for having the concept of shadows at all.  Let's see, we have the shadow government, the shadow banking system, beyond a shadow of a doubt, "shadows" that are people who attend class with autistic kids, or follow people around for other various reasons, etc.  And, of course their are lunar eclipses, when the earth casts its shadow on the moon.  This takes on importance in literature, such as in The Return of the Native but Thomas Hardy.  The word shadow sometimes takes on ominous and mysterious tones, as in  "shadowy characters".  So even though we may no longer dance with our shadows as we do when we were children, or make finger rabbits on screens, we are never far away from the concept of shadows.   

While happening upon the French bow shadow was inadvertent, there have been many times when I have purposefully tried to incorporate shadows into photography.  Some examples follow.  Unsurprisingly a lot of these photos are of my grandson.  Perhaps this will motivate some people to begin contemplating shadows when they pick up their cameras. None of these are lunar eclipse photos, but maybe some day...........

My grandson having fun with his shadow..........

Although inadvertent, this reminds me of those shadow puppets!

I like the way the shadow of the tree angles at the roofline.
Holding Hands

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

It's a HAWK!

One of the best parts of photography is that it is such a fun way to learn, and not about photography, but about the world around us.  Having a camera in hand I am forced to pay attention to what is going on. Nowhere is it more evident than in the natural world.  I am the last person in the world who would want to sit down with a book and learn the names of different birds. I would be bored; it would be a chore; the memorization would soon be lost.   Nor could I learn just by being a bird watcher.  I would not have anything tangible to examine after looking through binoculars. I would most likely forget what I saw.  But experiencing different birds through observing the world around me, and then looking at the images, and cropping and other post processing. Now that is a fun way to learn!   Every time I look at one of my favorite photos, I actually relive the experience that I had when I took the shot.

To think that a few years ago I could not have identified a red tailed hawk! Sure I knew what a hawk was, but I had no idea what was what.  A funny note--my first photo of an eagle I thought was a red tailed hawk.  I thought all bald eagles had white heads, and my bird did not have a white head.  So, I proudly announced my find as a red tailed hawk, and oops, no, it was a juvenile bald eagle.  Apparently they don't get white heads until about two years old.  Reading about that in a book would not have the same impact as going through the experience.

There are many more red tailed hawks in Memphis than there are eagles, so a couple of different times I have managed to get decent photos of them. The most recent experience was last week, when I managed to follow one around Shelby Farms for about an hour.   In cases like this, I take as many photos as possible, and then delete all but the best dozen or so. Here are a few of the red tailed hawk photographs that I kept, and what I particularly liked about these photos. 

Have fun.  Oh, and this is a lot more fun than taking photos of animals in a zoo or otherwise in least for me.

First, I liked this one because it showed of its claws and was walking up the tree.
In general I would rather have a photo of a hawk in a tree than on the ground, but I liked the wings outstretched in this photo. 
This was a pretty easy choice. Who doesn't love a hawk turning his head around 180 degrees? 
Hawks can also look up!
This is also classic pose.  Furthermore, the hawk is in filtered sun, there are no limbs in the way, and there is decent bokeh (blur)  in the background.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Bird Photography: Comparison to Where's Waldo?

I was at Shelby Farms Park today, and it struck me that using the large zoom on my Canon PowerShot camera was a lot like looking for Waldo in those picture books!  First the differences, though:  

1. Waldo doesn't move around on the page.  
2. Waldo doesn't leave the page as you hone in on him.
2. Waldo doesn't make surrounding leaves flutter. 
3. You can find Waldo wherever you take the book, in any room in your house.  You don't have to be outside.   
4. Waldo doesn't sing. 

All of the above make it a lot more fun trying to get a photo of a bird than finding Waldo. In fact, I don't particularly like trying to find Waldo in a picture book, but I do like bird photography, particularly in the natural environment. Taking photos of birds at zoos or birds of prey shows lacks the challenge of nature photography.  All of my zoo animal photos and bird feeder photos come with an asterisk, and I favor my photos that do not have that mental asterisk.

Often the first hint that there is a bird around is that you see it flying and then landing. Otherwise you might not notice.  Do you notice the bird in this photo? All of the following photos were taken from the same location, with various stages of zoom in the lens.
Where's Waldo?

Sans the clues, most people would not notice the bird in the above photo. However, I had seen the bird, an eastern kingbird, fly into the tree. Would I be able to find it in my viewfinder before it flew away? Finding the bird in the camera viewfinder is a little like finding a particular piece of a jigsaw puzzle.  But, with a jigsaw puzzle, you can take your time.  Not so with a bird that likes to move around.

Luckily, by the time I found the eastern kingbird, it was still there.
Success!  The zoom lens honed in on the bird! 

The process is a lot of fun, but bird photographers often miss shots of birds, so it can be as frustrating as playing golf. The golf equivalent to having a bird fly away before getting a decent shot is something like hitting the ball into a water hazard! You don't want to take too much time finding the bird, but sometimes haste makes waste. It can take quite a bit of time to find a bird in the midst of limbs and leaves that all look the same. 

The moral here is that bird photography, like golf, requires a lot of patience. Now, if you use a bird feeder to attract birds, less patience is required. Since the challenge is lessened, however, the reward isn't quite as great.  Where's Waldo? would not be as much fun if there were arrows pointing to Waldo on the pictures in the book.