Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Bird ID Help Needed

While photographing a flock of Killdeer bathing in the shallow water along the lake shore I happened to notice a much smaller bird feeding nearby.  Before I could swing to camera the mystery bird flushed along with the killdeer.  Watching the flock land a couple of hundred yards away I approached them again with the boat and this time everything went my way allowing me to move into about 50 feet.

I am familiar with the spotted sandpipers and solitary sandpipers but am unsure as to the identification of this particular bird.  It appeared to be alone and spent the morning hanging out with the killdeer.  I would estimate the bird to be about 6" long.

In trying to identify my mystery bird the closest match I have came up with is the Semipalmated Sandpiper.  If any of you can give a positive identification I will certainly appreciate it.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Whitetail Casuals

Whitetail Family

Seldom does a doe and her fawns line up for a family portrait but when this family did I needed a shorter lens.  I like everything about this shot except that the fawns are cropped too tight.  A little more body and perhaps some leg would have greatly improved the shot.

The abrupt end of a nursing session causes a fawn to squint as it tries to avoid mom's flailing hooves.

With summer beginning to wain the deer are shedding their thin red summer hair; replacing it with a soft velvety gray hair that in the coming months will grow into a thick warm coat for winter.

For more Critters of all Kinds
Visit Misty

Friday, August 26, 2011

Canning Pickled Beets

Nothing says summer better than  the bounty of the harvest

After previously harvesting, cleaning, cooking, and skinning a wheelbarrow load of red beets; the other ingredients necessary for delicious pickled beets are arranged in the kitchen.

While the pickling ingredients simmer in the kettle

It's time to pack the jars

Packed and ready, the beets are waiting...

for the pickling brew.

Thirty minutes in a waterbath canner completes the process

Using a recipe handed down through the family we canned 35 quarts, enough to last my wife and I through two years.  And of course, when some of the jars are emptied of the beets, boiled eggs will be plopped in to soak. 

Keeping up a few of the traditions from my youth are important to me; traditions like vegetable gardening, home canning, freezing, and butchering our own meats.  Too many people today have lost the knowledge and comprehension of where food comes from.  By keeping up some of these traditions I am able to keep in touch with an indisputable fact; the fact that we all live off the land no matter how distanced we become in a world of factory farms and prepackaged food.

I recently listened as a right-wing talk show host ran our president down for a remark he had made about the environment by stating that if we followed his path that we all would soon be living off of the land.  As I listened I marveled that someone so well educated, a person with a law degree, could make such an insane comment.  And I wondered, could it really be that insulated from reality, living in a concrete jungle amid the most powerful people in this country, could it really be that this lady who proclaims to know what is best for America doesn't even realize that every bite of food she takes comes from the land?  Can she not realize that without the land humanity ceases to exist?

Scary to say the least!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Shenandoah National Park seldom disappoints the photographer seeking wildlife photos. 

A healthy, human acclimated, whitetail herd provides viewers and photographers alike with ample opportunities for close-up encounters.

Long lenses however helpful are not required to capture wildlife photographs in this wildlife Mecca.
And sometimes less commonly seen wildlife will appear for a photo op.
This was one shot where the 400mm saved the day.  The coyote was trotting through the meadow when it sensed a mouse or vole.  Stopping momentarily it then reversed direction and bounded into the air in an unsuccessful attempt to capture its tiny prey.  Fortunately I was tracking the coyote through the lens and was able to hit the remote capturing the action as the coyote burst into the air.

Monday, August 22, 2011


Shortly after full dark a thunder storm began lighting up our eastern sky.  Attaching a 24-105mm lens setting the focus manually to near infinity, dialing in a F5.6, ISO 2000 and setting the mode to bulb I was ready to go.  I made the following images handheld with the shutter depressed allowing the strobe effect of the lightening to make the exposure.  After each bolt of lightening I released the shutter momentarily before depressing it and waiting for the next flash. 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Shooting at 12800

Always looking for another image I took the Canon 60D along to the Fulton County Fair.  A demolition derby was the main attraction.  The track lights were more than sufficient for viewing but it left much to be desired in the photography department.  Trying to milk the most our of my gear I pulled up the custom function menu and activated the ISO expansion allowing shooting at 12,800 ISO.  Having never used this high of a setting I really didn't know what to expect.  The first image was shot with the the 100-400 lens hand held, F5.6 1/20th second. 

The digital noise was very evident in the images but the noise tools in PS5 camera raw was able to calm the worst of it making these usable images.  I found that a luminance setting of 70 provided the best balance between visible noise and sharpness. 

The half-time show was a fun contest between three teams competing in an appliance race.  The goal was to load five appliances with only 100ft of rope to secure the load and to complete a number of laps around the track.  Bumping, ramming etc were perfectly acceptable tactics to defeat an opponent.  I produced this image for the winning team.  While lacking fine detail in my opinion ISO 12,800 created acceptable images for this type of event but probably will not prove useful in my wildlife photography.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds

It's difficult to pick a favorite but of the hummingbird photos I have captured this one of a female visiting the canna lily bloom is my favorite.  If you haven't already visit my earlier posts from last week to see other captures of these diminutive birds in flight.

Unsuccessfully attempting to capture a mature male flashing his brilliant throat patch I did manage to photograph this immature male; note the two red spots of the birds throat.  As noted by fellow blogger Tom Dorsey the males throat patch can appear black one moment and a bright iridescent red the next.   

For more Critters of all Kinds
Visit Misty

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Lakeside Captures

 After getting the boat launched Wednesday morning I took a moment to look around spotting this Great Blue Heron standing in the muck at the water's edge.  Slowly moving the boat closer I maneuvered for an good lighting angle to take advantage of the early morning sun as it began to burn through the fog.

Spotting another Heron later I again motored in closer and was surprised to see a feeding pair of immature wood ducks as they rounded the point.  After a few minutes the ducks and heron came into alignment allowing me to capture all in one photograph.

 The heavy dew glistens like jewels on the grass.  One duck looks for its next morsel as the other stretches is wings.

Plucking a blade of grass
And demonstrating the "Duck Step"

The pair were oblivious to me sitting nearly motionless in the shallow water with the boat rammed against a couple of stumps.  Wood ducks at this location are normally very wary but with the bright sun at my back they didn't seem to notice me until they had moved some distance away.

Fishing was slow as expected.  The Heron and Wood Ducks were "The Catch of the Day"

Monday, August 15, 2011

Whitetails, Just being Whitetails

A doe nuzzles her little family in the cool of the morning.

The morning was nearly cloudless promising strong harsh light once the sun had crested the horizon but before sunrise the soft diffused light was simply perfect to photograph this tender moment of whitetail interaction.

Also shot before sunrise, the fawn curiously and hesitantly approaches the big buck.  Soon it was bounding off returning to its mother's protection but not before it had a sniff of the bucks impressive antlers.

A doe and her twins take time out for a short nursing session.  Still photography cannot capture the frantic suckling of the rapidly growing fawns.

Nursing sessions are short, seldom lasting more than a minute or two, and usually end with the mother walking away.  This hungry fawn is trying to get the last drop as mom abruptly ends the nursing.

With my background rooted in consumptive hunting I am drawn to pursuing bucks and particularly adult bucks carrying impressive headgear.  However as time goes by I find myself looking more and more for opportunities to capture whitetail interaction.  Fawns with their attractive spotted coats and a heaping helping of curiosity are great subjects as they interact with other deer and explore their environment.

For more Critters of all Kinds
Visit Misty's

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Hummingbird Photos: How its Done

Yesterday I posted photos of female/immature Ruby-throated Hummingbirds with the promise of following with a post of how it's done.  Photographing a hummer at a flower brings with it the problem of how to get the birds coming to the one flower where you are set up.  Trying to chase these little speedsters around while they go from flower to flower would be a futile effort.

The setup began with a red Canna Lily placed in a mason jar set in a well lighted location.  Hummers are attracted more so to red than to any other color.

Spritzing the flowers with sugar water added to the photographic appeal of the flowers and made the flowers irresistible to the tiny birds.  Occasional spritzing throughout the shoot kept the flowers fresh and inviting. 

After giving the hummers a couple of hours to find my single flower it was time to set up and begin shooting.  Using the Canon 60D and 100-400mm lens at nearly minimum focus distance gave an acceptable image size.  All photos were shot at ISO 500 and F5.6 in order to achieve a shutter speed of between 1/1500 to 1/3000.  Even at 1/3000 the shutter was not fast enough to completely stop the rapid wing beats.

Below are more shots of these incredibly agile little birds.  Enjoy! 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Hummer Heaven

Yesterday while doing chores around the house I noticed a Ruby-throated Hummingbird feeding at a Day Lilly.  The sighting reminded me that I did not have any good hummingbird photos in my archives that really pleased me.  Since I had the majority of the afternoon free I decided to attempt to remedy my image deficit.

Good Hummingbird images taken at a well placed feeder are certainly nothing to be sneezed at but with my goal of capturing wildlife in a natural setting I had no choice but to attempt to capture the hummers feeding on flowers.

The following images are a few of the better shots from the afternoon's photo shoot.  

Note the hummers clear tongue extended into the flower

In a later post I will give the details on the setup that produced these outstanding results but for now enjoy the tiny but magnificent acrobat of the sky, the Ruby-throated  Hummingbird.