Really harder than it looks

Flying birds and photography.  Seems easy enough.  Point the camera at a bird as it flies by and hit the shutter.

Yeah, right.

I’m starting to be really envious of the great bird photos I see.

Think I need to hunt for slower birds….

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Holiday wanderings

Nice Labor Day weekend visit to the International Crane Foundation near Baraboo, WI.  They’ll be closing down for winter in a month or so and I wanted to make some more images there this year.  It was a cloudy day so the light was even and not harsh.  Their exhibits are well done and fun even if you aren’t a crane fanatic.  There are quite a few endangered crane species in the world and the Foundation works to preserve habitat as well as repopulate birds.  They hand-rear various species for relocation around the globe.  Hurricane Harvey did quite a bit of damage to their facility near Houston, which is involved with whooping crane research and repopulation.  You can contribute to their efforts by clicking on the link above.

Black Crowned Crane, International Crane Foundation

Whooping Crane, International Crane Foundation

Thought I’d practice with fast moving birds a bit but the gull population down by the lake was absent, with very few birds flying down the beach.  Pretty odd – maybe they had filled up on tourist snacks earlier in the day.  With the good weather, however, there were several fast moving objects on the water the practice on.

425mm, f/5, 1/1000sec

After waiting a bit and enjoying the sailboats gliding around the harbor I finally got this guy cruising the area.

425mm, f/5, 1/1600sec

The gear is all working as I hoped but I still need to work on the continuous focus system in my camera.  It doesn’t always react as fast as I think I need and it sometimes doesn’t focus on the subject I’m seeing.  Just need more birds flying by.

Blaze of glory

A summer that at times hardly felt like its promise of heat and humidity is starting to wind down.  Erratic trees are showing signs of fall colors, flowers are blossoming out as if for one last fling, migratory birds are grazing continuously as if on a time clock counting down to the trip south.  Across it all the colors of summer are brilliant.

All images around Horicon Marsh in Wisconsin.

Side of the road – someone sharing job

Pending summer end

Lunch

Passing through toward south

Waiting for a bee

Purple veil

More fun from a distance

I keep returning to Horicon Marsh searching for a whooping crane.  Now that I’ve got the gear to reach out and touch this rarely seen bird, he seems to be avoiding me.  Just have to keep it up, I guess.

Not that the time there is a waste.  I’m learning more about the terrain, the roads, the wildlife.  Seems the swifts that hang around one of the viewing stands are starting to get used to me.  Not that they are any happier about my presence.

My photography colleague Steve Russell is building quite a portfolio of macro images – you should take a look the result of his effort.  His technique is usually the traditional approach – macro lens, solid tripod, lots of patience to get the subject framed and exposed to his liking.  I’m not as good as Steve at getting close nor as patient to wait for the right moment.  Fortunately with my 300mm lens I can stand back and fill the frame.  Great for getting tight with a subject you can’t easily get to.

Sure, I could have been like Steve and gotten to this with a macro lens but it would have meant wading through a foot of marsh whereas I was able to stand on the boardwalk and get just as close as I wanted.  Like I said, Steve is better at this than me.

The swifts are an interesting crowd.  They zip around the boardwalk chasing each other (or invisible insects) all the while chatting about something.  For a break, they sit on the rope banister for the boardwalk and chat with each other.  Must be lots of gossip to keep up with in the marsh.

At the other end of the activity scale are the egrets and herons.  Patiently waiting for the right snack to appear, not getting in a rush for anything.  It seems they even take their time talking with each other.  Maybe they are sticklers for using just the right sentence structure or word choice.

The marsh serves as a very large nursery each year, as parents raise kids to be a part of the huge avian world.  This time of year the youngsters are showing some post-adolescent plumage as they look forward to following their parents south to escape the chill that will cover the marsh with ice and snow.  This young sandhill crane, not yet with his red skullcap, is strolling through the fields with mom and dad.

With so much to see there are opportunities for a little abstract, countering the soft, rounded edges of the marsh with man’s insistence on linear and angular.

I’m very pleased with the performance of this lens – it stretches me to be a better photographer for composition, exposure, focus and storytelling.

Surprise – there’s more there

I’m continuing to learn the capabilities of my 300mm lens, specifically how to capitalize on the sharpness.  A long lens take practice to “dial-in” as far as technique to use it at the limits of its design.  I know a few things to look out for and am learning more about set-up and handling.  Still, even with my novice skills I get surprised.

While sitting in a marsh recently waiting for waterfowl to come by I practiced focusing on this guy:

Red-winged Blackbird

Seemed like the image turned out pretty good so while in Lightroom I zoomed in to see how much detail I could find in the bird.  That’s when I noticed this:

What are all those spots?  I thought, “Oh no, the lens has something inside it” before realizing anything in the lens wouldn’t show up for the most part.  I zoomed in a little closer and discovered these are small flies hanging around this tree.  Which is probably why the bird was hanging around as well.

This is one of the aspects I really enjoy with telephoto lenses.  You get your image downloaded and starting looking it over only to discover there are elements in the picture you didn’t see.  Lots of fun.  Especially when things are sharp enough to make sense of them.

So I discovered the lens is sharper than I expected, something to keep in mind while reaching out to pull in a subject in the distance.

Marsh scenes – summer

Continuing to learn how to get best results from a 300mm lens I recently bought.  The Horicon marsh north of us is one of the best places around to see a variety of birds and scenery so I wandered around a bit to see what I could practice on.  Most of the images below are cropped from a larger composition.  Where I used it best, the lens is sharp enough to allow significant cropping and still render detail.  Great when the subjects you want simply refuse to get any closer.

Great Egret

This bird appears to have been resting from a feeding session in the marsh just below the tree.  I was able to get closer by creeping up behind other trees and shooting through open spots in the leaves.

Sandhill crane and red-winged blackbird

Earlier I was walking a dike with a small cloud of red-winged blackbirds around me, all screaming warnings to everything within hearing distance.  Experiencing that I realized they are pretty bold but didn’t realize what they would take on.  A pair of sandhill cranes were slowly feeding across a shallow marsh when they wandered into the nesting area of a group of blackbirds.  At least a half-dozen of the blackbirds were swooping around them, driving them away.  The most effective method seemed to be landing on the crane’s butt and screaming at it, like the one above.

Swallows

The swallow on the left was patiently waiting on the right one for something.  As the cleaning proceeded past the limit of the left one’s patience it reached out and grabbed the other’s wing.  That got attention.

Mallard family

Families are growing this spring, as parents have just a few months to train the kids on survival and migration.

Lily still life

Before the wind gets up there are nice opportunities for some quiet scenes.

Egret hunting party

This group of egrets slowing moved across this small marsh, vacuuming up fish, frogs and other aquatic life.

Muskrat

He appears to be gathering moss or reeds since he’s carrying a clump in his mouth as he makes his way back to a small island of cattails.

Great egret

Always good in a portrait session to have shots from both sides.

What you see is…what?

Speed makes all the difference

So they say seeing is believing.  But seeing what?  We want to believe the nature of reality is that it is perceiveable, that we can look out and see what is really there.  But what is really there?

The one dimension we think is unseeable is time.  The other three make themselves obvious with any three dimensional object, but time is perceived as the now, a unitary thing.  We can’t “see” the past or future, we simply see NOW.

Unless we have a camera.  Two shots above, one taken at 1/8th of a second, the other at 1/640th of a second.  Both of the same subject, within a minute of each other, both a NOW.

Which is the real fountain?  Photography enables us to “see” different versions by freezing time at a moment (or very short duration) and examine what’s happening.  I stared at this fountain for a bit and neither of these images was apparent to me – I saw something in between.  Yet here’s proof of a reality imperceptible to me.  So it must exist.

What else is going on around us that seeing doesn’t reveal?