July must end so that August can begin.
Somewhere in the yard, a pair of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks managed to raise a few chicks. They frequented the feeding station. We have a single silo feeder optimized for smaller birds to keep down the numbers of undesirable birds. A Red-bellied Woodpecker figured figured out how to feed from it as well as our resident Blue Jay. The Common Grackles have no trouble hogging the feeder and will empty it. Our cure for that is to only fill it one third full (or leave it two thirds empty depending if you are an optimist or pessimist). This allows the feeder to empty quickly and the Grackles move on. They gotten the hint and don’t wait around for me to fill it, which I will do twice per day.
Getting back on track, the male had a difficult time figuring out how to feed on the silo designed for smaller birds. After a few weeks, he got the knack Now he’s a pro. They make great neighbors, don’t bully the smaller birds and have a wonderful American Robin like call that is just a little bit sweeter.
Be sure to visit Wild Bird Wednesday for other birds from around the word.
Today, I want to show you a little point of interest just outside of Saratoga Springs, New York. Lester Park has two pretty cool features. On one side of the road is an exposed section of a 490 million year old sea bottom that was fossilized. Across the road is an old limestone quarry. Both are accessible, just hop out of the car and step on the seabed!
Below are pictures of fossilized blue-green algae blooms called stromatolites that I took after a rain.
Across the road are the remains of the kiln used to make agricultural lime. The area’s soils are very sandy and acidic and the lime helps condition the soil for growing crops.
A photo of the quarry.
Be sure to visit Our World Tuesday this week!
There is a backstory to this post. In my younger days, way before it was considered cool and sexy, I was shooting birds. I spent a big chunk of my stipend as a grad student on a Bogen tripod with a ball head. I kept that tripod for years. Along came other interest and family and I dropped out of film photography. When I got into digital, I went out on a photo shoot with that damned Bogen tripod. Yes, it was cursed at because the damn thing kept shedding parts. The feet would fall off, the legs would loosen up and it drove me nuts. But is was rock solid with the ball head. It was build for the studio, not for the trail.
Well as I said, along came the digital age and I dug up the tripod and took it out to a photo shoot one winter’s day. As happens when you get too cold, you don’t think too good, and bordering on hypothermia and hyperhunger, I left the tripod on location. By the time I thawed out and got some chow down and my senses kicked back in, I realized I better go get my tripod. But by the time I got back on location, it was apparent that someone though it was a cool find that some idiot left behind. Yes, my damned tripod was nowhere to be found.
So I picked up a inexpensive tripod to get me through the grieving period while I saved up for another on. That was six years ago. Six years at swearing at an inexpensive, overworked, overloaded tripod that was doing the best it can. I mean come on. You wouldn’t put a Chihuahua in the lead position of a dogsled team would you? That’s what I did with that tripod. Every time I swore at that tripod, I knew deep down that I was swearing at myself for losing my good one. But look on the bright side. At least it didn’t drop bits and pieces along the trail that I would have to go back and find.
Well, the inexpensive tripod and I worked out an agreement. It would work for me as long as I used my remote to trip the camera. That’s all it asked of me.
That’s the backstory. Well, I had a life’s realization a couple of weeks ago as I was futzing around setting up a shot and muttering something obscene as the weighty 300mm f/4 taxed the limitations of the head, “Dude. You can afford a better rig.” And the storm clouds parted, voices came down from on high, “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!” Yes. I can afford a better rig. But I’m not getting a frigging Bogen. (You will see the irony in this statement later.)
So I started doing my research and went for the best bang for the buck. Now I know that there are kick-ass carbon fiber tripods out there, but here’s the skinny on that. 1) I’m seriously in need of an upper body workout. 2) The industry’s dirty little secret. Shhhhhh. Don’t tell anyone. Carbon fiber shafts are cheaper to make that aluminum shafts. No S&^t. But we’ve been conditioned the pay a premium price for carbon… and they are not lighter enough for me to pay 3X.
So I bought a
Bogen…oops Manfrotto 190XPROB tripod with a 496RC2 ball head. I’m digging it. So far, nothing has shaken lose, the head is rock sold with my gear and it really is a nice rig for the do-re-mi. (If you’re not up on the little joke, Bogen later became Manfrotto. They probably had to do an identity makeover as the the world became littered with Bogen bits and pieces. Doh!)
Well, the Manfrotto rig has become the favorite break hangout of one of my best models. Here he is munching on a deer fly.
Okay, brake’s over, finish your snack and get back on the set. (Skimmers. They are such prima-donnas.)
A final word about shooting with a tripod. Check out the detail in the eyes and face of this Blue Dasher. In order to get a shot like this, you have to be rock solid. This was done 1/200 sec at f/7.1 and ISO 250. Dead nuts.
Actually, I put the Blue Dasher in just to keep the Slaty Skimmer in check. He was trying to up his modeling fee. He threatened not to sign his photo release. I swear. Skimmers can be prima-donnas.
Be sure to check out the other Camera Critters from around the world.
Ya, no kidding. This one should have hit the cutting room floor. I saw this White-tailed deer on the opposite side of a meadow. She was in the shadow and the sun was striking on the vegetation. But I can’t help myself. I just got to take the picture to see what would happen. Once I saw that the dynamic range was too great, I just put my camera back in the pack and headed down the trail. When I got home into the dark room, this was what was on the card. Pretty horrible! So why am I showing you this?
Because I want to drive home a point. If you like taking pictures and you don’t shoot your camera’s RAW format, then you cannot salvage crap photos like this! This one is so tweaked, that my normal workflow does not apply. And quite frankly, it is the worst (I hope it is the worst) photo you will see on SMU.
This will never be an award winning composition but I wanted to see if I could salvage the tonal qualities of the photo. First, cut down the exposure to get the deer at a proper level.
Next, drop the shadows by a tad bit. This one is subtle.
Next, drop the whites down and adjust the white clipping down.
Next, I dropped a graduate filter over the bottom quarter of the photo and dropped the exposure down by a 1.15 stops
Finally, add a little clarity and bada-boom, bada-bing I made a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.
I’m not a big PhotoShop guy. I wish I was, but I’m not. I am pretty handy with Lightroom. My point is this. If this was an important photo that I botched and I shot it in JPG, I never would have been able to recover the data. RAW formats capture all of the data from the sensor. They are large files. JPG are compressed and enhanced based on what your camera thinks the picture should look like. The RAW format will give you more artistic freedom. There are a bazillion helpful tutorials online. Think about it.
But if I got it right in the camera, I would have put it through my normal work flow lickity-split.
Now swear that you never saw this photo!
My nemesis. I have them in the yard. They scold me for getting to close to their brush piles. Yes. This little trouble maker is a prankster. He’ll taunt me in the sunlight until I get my camera into position and then he’ll jump into the shadows. Well, today I got the upper hand.
Photographing Common Green Darners is a real challenge. These feisty hunters are always on the wing taking down other flying insects. Sometimes you can find them resting in low vegetation. However catching them in the act of depositing eggs is right up there in the top ten photographic experiences that I’ve had!
Yah, go for it! In the aquatic environment, their larva will hunt down and devour mosquito larva. That’s why I’m so jazzed about dragonflies. Not only are they fun to photograph they are great to have around. When I go into dragon country, I’m very rarely pestered by mosquitos even though I don’t use bug spay!
I’m sure you figured it out, but that is the male in the front and the female in the back. She’s ovipositing her eggs down onto aquatic vegetation. Although I have only seen one new dragonfly this year, I’m having a great dragon year. Twelve thousand monkeys never got it so good.
I have visited the Saratoga Performing Art Center many times with my parents. This is an open air venue that hosts the Philadelphia Orchestra, New York City Ballet and hundreds of big name artists in music and dance. As you walk across the footbridge from the parking lot to the theater, if you look down to the right towards the Geyser Creek, you will see a nob jutting out of the bank. I always wondered what it was, so on my recent trip I sought it out.
I started out from the SPAC parking lot. When I got close the smell rotting eggs floated downwind. There was the spring, spitting and fomenting away.
Orenda Spring is one of the many found in Saratoga Springs. I tasted the water in this one. It is not for the novice! Highly carbonated, highly mineral and quite pungent , the spring was (and still is) thought to be a curative. I happen to subscribe to such to such opinions. After all, sulfur is good for skin ailments and the water is loaded with minerals. Many of the springs in Saratoga Springs are quite tasty and refreshing. This one, well no. But I’d love to soak in it.
The water spills over the bank and as the gas evolves and the water evaporates, a tufa deposit is formed. Tufa is a type of limestone formed by the precipitation of carbonate minerals from water.
You can walk up to and along the tufa deposit. There is the bridge to the SPAC complex.
As the water flows over the tufa, the minerals deposit.
A walker strolls past by the deposit.
Some of the minerals do not adhere to the tufa formation and become a fine sand. These are continuously washed down the path and into the creek. You can see this in the lower left of this image.
A scene just upstream from the tufa formation.
Afterwards, I went into Congress Park and got a jug of water from one of my favorite springs.
Be sure to visit Our World Tuesday this week!