Rocky Racoon? or maybe a long-lost cousin.

I mean, these aren’t exactly the Black Mountain Hills of Dakota.

But this little one didn’t mind at all.  The roadside vegetation — and whatever insects hiding therein — was just fine! A brief but enjoyable stop while on my way to Montezuma.

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The light was fairly harsh, and he was blasted with toplight, but I got some nice rimlight around the ears and a glisten in his eye.  Love this little guy!

There were ten of them!

Saw them near Montezuma today.

Such beautiful birds!  Could use a little post-processing, maybe, just to correct the color (these are jpgs, so were processed in-camera), but I think their natural beauty shows through without it.

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Photos Gone Wild

Wildlife.  It’s all around us.  All you have to do is look 🙂

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Well, yeah, that’s true for the easy ones, like squirrels or chipmunks in the backyard.  Hawks are easy, too, sitting atop utility poles, as are turkeys pecking in harvested cornfields, ducks bobbing on the lake, and the occasional deer grazing along the roadside are good practice.  Most of them –except maybe the deer — will stay fairly still long enough for you to fiddle with the camera settings and compose your shot.  But there’s a world of lesser-seen animals all around us, too, if we know how to find them.  How do you know where they are?

Two of the best ways (for me) are to look and listen.  Look up all the information you can find on wildlife and their habitats.  There are so many books and YouTube videos on birds that I couldn’t begin to list them all here, but that is the best way to start.  Oh, I suppose you could do a google search, but you can get a good idea of what to search for by reading a few books first.  Besides, there’s nothing like the feel of a real book in your hands, one that you can go back to for reference without it disappearing into cyberspace.

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Eagle watching the sun rise at Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge.  September 28, 2019

Anyway, I like to shoot life, and lots of life begins (and ends) at the marshlands, both in it and in the vegetation around it.  I had already been hanging around wetlands for about a year before I found Wetlands of North America by William A. Niering (1991) at my local thrift store.  From it I learned about the varieties of wetlands and the different wildlife they support.  The photographs (Bates Littlehales) are clear, bright, and perfectly exposed.  This is a book you can learn from!  Best $1.50 I ever spent.

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“. . .gotta kiss myself, I’m so pretty!”

If you like to shoot birds of any kind, there are literally thousands of books from which to choose.  Anything by Crossley or Sibley is excellent, both as reference and as learning guides, and they aren’t too expensive, either — especially if you shop as thrift stores or used-book shops.   There are also websites such as Cornell’s AllAboutBirds.com and eBird.org to help with identification and even hot-spot locations for birding in your area.  There is also a Facebook group called What’s This Bird, whose volunteers are at the ready to identify that strange bird you just can’t find in your resources.

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“Walk this way. . .”

Of course, this assumes that you already know how to handle your camera.  Even if you have memorized the settings suggested in your users’ guide, it’s always helpful to see how the experts do things.  For this, I would recommend anything by Brenda Tharpe or John Shaw.  They have been around since the film-camera days, and sometimes you can find their early and now-out-of-print books on nature photography in the second-hand market.  They have both written updated guides. Tharp’s Expressive Nature Photography and Shaw’s Digital Nature Photography are both excellent and are the ones I go to most often for review.  That’s because my BetterPhoto Guide to Digital Nature Photography is falling apart,  Jim Miotke writes a good book with lots of useful tweaks and tricks, but he’ll spam you with requests to join the BetterPhoto web$ite.  That’s okay, you can ignore it until it stops. . .or pay the fee and see what more he has to offer.

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Bye-bye, Birdie, it’s almost fall!

Once you feel confident with both your camera and your hotspots, it’s time to listen.  Listen to what YouTube has to offer regarding your camera, settings, and wildlife.  Listen to other people who have been there, done that, and have a lot to share.  Meetup groups can be good for this — or not, as the case may be.  I discovered (the hard way) that the fearless leader of the Nature Photography Meetup in Rochester [NY] does not welcome newbies, just saying.  Although they advertise over 500 members, only about 12  or so showed up at the group excursions I attended; maybe 20 or so were at the monthly gatherings.  But give it a try, you may have better luck in your area, https://www.meetup.com/

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However, there are many other places to meet people and share your work.  Hiking groups is an option as is attending any lectures, demonstrations, or classes sponsored by your local library or nature center.  Nature photography websites and Facebook pages abound all over the ‘net, and some of them hold real-time group meetings or hikes.  The problem with the ‘net, though, is the same problem I encountered in the Rochester meetup — some of them are for the expert photographer, so you will have to weigh the benefits (of posting your photos, making new contacts, and finding new hotspots) against the possible downside (of being judged too harshly or having your submissions ignored) before you commit to membership.  I don’t know which sites would be best for you, but the best sites for me are those that offer helpful suggestions, not criticism, and share their photos for inspiration, not praise — although who can’t help but admire the wonderful photos that are posted by some truly talented people on these sites?

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Real or fake?   Read The Guardian to find out what happened to this award-winning photograph

Another thing about Facebook pages — be sure to choose a closed group.  You may have to answer a few questions before they let you in, but any photos posted therein, including yours, will be protected from unauthorized use.  It will also protect the animals you photograph by screening out hunters and poachers.  And you will be protected from fake nature photographs — if you don’t believe they exist, or if you think they are harmless, think again.  If you look up this group on Facebook — Truths Behind Fake Nature Photography. — then you may not be so shocked when you read about fakers and how they hurt and injure wildlife in The Guardian (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2010/jan/20/wolf-wildlife-photographer-award-stripped).

This is just a short list for now; I will add to it from time to time, so keep checking for new and helpful references.  And feel free to submit some of your own!

Newbie Alert: How to Buy a Polarizer

There are two ways to do this.

  1. You could pick one off the shelf.  Chances are you would end up with a nice accessory that will even out harsh light and glare to a very acceptable degree.  It may even leave you with change in your pocket.  Or,
  2. You could talk to Vicky at Rowe’s.

I highly recommend the Vicky option, and here’s why.  I didn’t realize how much I didn’t know about polarizers until I talked with her. What I found out is, it’s all about the glass.

The glass used to construct lenses (optical glass) is chosen for its ability to allow light to enter through the aperture to reach the camera sensor, hopefully with little-to-no distortion.  This involves properties like refraction, reflection, transmission, and absorption, things I should have learned — but didn’t — in undergrad physics courses.  Suffice it to say that any glass that is going to accomplish these things in the proper percentages is going to be very expensive indeed.  However, even that is not enough, according to Vicky, to ensure excellent lens performance. Most lens glass, she said, is multicoated to improve clarity, reduce reflection, and increase transmission of light so that more of it is directed to the sensor.

s-l640So, what does this have to do with a polarizer filter?  Everything.  Because once you have selected (and paid for) a lens equipped with the best glass you can afford, why ruin it by applying a filter made of inferior glass?  Any photo will only be as good as the glass it passes through, and that includes the glass used in any filters you screw on to the lens.  So, do your research and be sure any filters you buy are constructed of lens-grade glass,

I ended up with this really nice low-profile, multicoated Schott-glass filter by Promaster.  A little more than I wanted to spend, but not as much as what I *could* have spent.  Waiting for a bright sunny day to try it out!

DSCN6146Thank you, Vicky!

 

 

Here’s Me

I’m a short. round, opinionated old lady.

You can distinguish me from other short, round, opinionated old ladies because I’m the one dragging my camera and gear around in a polka-dotted Kate Spade bag.  When I am not roaming the Montezuma Wildlife Refuge or Sterling Nature Center or the marshes alongside Route 38, I am probably wishing I was.  I don’t know why plants and animals fascinate me so. . .but they do. 

kate_spade_largerlogoRight now that polka-dotted Kate Spade bag protects my most prized possessions — a Canon 77d — plus an extra battery and a variety of SD cards.  This is the first camera I could afford to buy brand-new, everything else I own is  previously loved.  I can get some fairly decent photos from it combined with a Tamron 150-600mm telephoto zoom, but I am limited by an unhealed hand injury from manipulating that heavy lens the way I would like to, and I find that it’s best just to roll down the car window and balance it on the ledge while traversing Montezuma’s Wildlife Drive. 

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Anhinga, taken in 2017 with the 1100d.

I’ve been shooting since November 2016, when my best friend in the entire world gifted me with a Canon 450d (in America, that’s an Sxi).  I loved that camera! It opened a brand-new world for me (more about that later).  I used it until it literally fell apart  😦  at which point I pestered the people at Rowe’s Photo to find me another just like it.  They did, but the successor was disappointing.  It was plagued by what I call “shutter shudder,” in that whenever you pressed the shutter button you could feel the entire innards wiggle and quake.  Still, I used that camera, too, until it met its final demise in July 2017, when a rogue cop slammed his brand-new Mustang head-on into my car, rolling it, my camera, and me head over heels into a ditch. 

Anyway, besides the 77d and that wonderfully long Tamron lens, I am blessed with the following:

  • Canon 7D, the original model
  • Canon 1100d, a real gift!  — only 9 focus points but I get amazingly sharp photos from it!
  • Tamron 70-300mm
  • Canon macro zoom 28-135mm
  • Canon superwide, 10-18mm
  • Gray cards (remember those????)
  • A Bogen-Manfrotto tripod (that I paid $3 for at Goodwill) with a Vanguard ball head
  • A Slik tripod with a Slik pan-and-tilt head
  • Unique and treasured “bean bags” (actually 1-pound bags of rice) and a customized pool-doodle pad for the car window (more on that later, too)
  • A Nikon Coolpix p900 (but only until my hand heals enough so that I can use the 7D and long Tamron lens)

So, what’s on your list?  What do you like best?  What are you hoping to get in the future?

 

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