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.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Cedar Waxwing

Until this spring, I never recall seeing or identifying a cedar waxwing, and only have a bare recollection of even hearing the name of the bird.  So, after more than three years of photographing birds, I go from no photos of cedar waxwings to dozens of them.  I almost entirely missed Memphis spring photos this year due to funky cold weather.  I love photography, but I don't love getting cold.  

I was on a walk in Audobon Park when I saw dozens of cedar waxwings descend on a tree with buds.  The birds were everywhere, flocking and eating the buds.  I took a few photos and had to go home to make a positive identification of the bird.  I was thrilled to have a photo of a different bird species.  Robins and mockingbirds are just a bit too common.  Here is one of my first cedar waxwing photos: 

But that was just a precursor for a cedar waxwing experience to come.  My study looks out onto a patio where there is a large pyracantha bush with red berries.  Well, it USED to have red berries on it.   There was a frenzy of cedar waxwing activity on this one bush, and they managed to completely strip the berries off the bush within one half hour.  I felt as if I was witnessing an astonishing event.  Fortunately I happened to have my camera, and shot these photos through a somewhat dirty sliding glass door.  This event probably is not rare, but it was rare to me, so I just thought I would share these photos.  For the most part, I don't think the dirty glass on the door affected the photos all that much.  I didn't want to scare the birds by opening the door. 

So, I documented few flower buds this spring, and ended up with cedar waxwings.  When you are a nature photographer, you have to discard expectations and just take what nature gives you!  And, you just never know.   
This photo must have been taken through smudged glass.

This is a bit clearer

It was easy getting photos of berries in the mouth!

As you can see they are starting to do a number on the berries!

Three of them finishing off the remaining berries.

Bye, bye, berries!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Snowless Winter, but COLD!

We probably had one of our coldest winters here in Memphis, but all without snow or ice.  We might have had half a day of ice, but not enough for wintry looking photography.  Since most of my photography is outdoors, that means a drought, because I braving like cold, gray, and windy days less than I like photography.  I did manage a couple of brief trips over the winter, and there were times when I managed to get outdoors.  I don't have a consistent theme for this post, other than "here are the few things I was able to do with photography over the winter."  One of the quick trips was to New York City, where I briefly lived decades ago.  I managed to get a photo of one of my favorite places in NYC--the Museum of Modern Art.  If you go there, start at the top floor where you find the Van Goghs, the Picassos, etc.  Here is the patio area.  I would have liked a wide angle lens for these photos of buildings, but am glad I at least got some blue sky in New York.

Photography takes a back seat on most of my trips, and it certainly did on my trip to Japan, where I greeted my newest grandchild.  Here is my self portrait (with an iPhone), which I now use as my Facebook profile.  Can you understand that most of my photography in Japan involved my new grandkid? 

Well, we certainly can't leave out Shelby Farms photos or heron photos, or other bird photos.  One fairly nice day I captured my first reflected heron with a fish, and my best reflected flying heron.  Oh, let's not forget other birds, and a nice dawn with the Patriot Lake Isand. 

Now, from Audubon Park, a junco 

 Although we had no snow, I did get a photo of a migrating snow goose in Shelby Farms.
On a particularly cold weekend at the Tennessee River, I happened to get my best photos ever of a northern flicker.  I took these through a window because I was not going to brave the thirty degree windy weather.  Did you know that the northern flicker is the only type of woodpecker that sometimes feeds on the ground.  They do make a racket in trees, though, too. 

 I do very little indoor photography, and when I do, it mostly has to do with family.  I was the photographer for my grandson's sixth birthday party, and it was much more fun than any of the other duties I might have been assigned (cutting and serving cake, hanging up coats, passing out pizza, cleaning up).  Flash generally isn't needed indoors any more.  My camera is not really quite up to getting good action photos in low light though, so I do lack photos of kids jumping on all the equipment.  

It is finally warmer, and I am ready for action, and hopefully some spring photos!