I hope that you have a prosperous and happy New Year.
Take a close look at this Tufted Titmouse. Yes, those are ice crystals on this little guy.
If you are coming in from the Wild Bird Wednesday link, I encourage you to go to my home page and scroll down to see the recent wild birds I have posted over the last few days. And check back throughout the next few days. I am in Palm Springs, California and I’m meeting up with some old friends; Rock Wren, Costa’s Hummingbird, Hutton’s Vireo, Western Bluebird and Virden, just to drop a few names. I’ll begin post from California on Wednesday.
Be sure to visit Wild Bird Wednesday this week!
The American Tree Sparrow is one of the more unusual sparrows that we get in the yard. At this time of year, we have a lot of Dark-eyed Juncos, a few resident Song Sparrows and some White-throated Sparrows. The American Tree Sparrow is a hit or miss species. I’m always happy when I see them. Below is the same sparrow on a particularly overcast day.
Now everyone loves a sunny day however if you don’t drag your gear out on an overcast day, then you don’t know what you are missing. Even lighting on feathers and fir make for great animal portraits.
This is one species that I’ve been gunning after for a long time. Dark-eyed Juncos are not uncommon, in fact they can be downright plentiful. The challenge is getting close enough to the to get the shot. They are a winter bird here in Massachusetts, which means that I have the challenge of taking an image of a black bird in white snow. Adding insult to injury, we get the “Slate-colored” race.
But it’s all good. After a stormy day I had the time get into an area where they were feeding and after a while, they just went about their business. The male Slate-colored males are darker than the females. The first two photos are of a male, the rest are female.
I’m rather happy with these images. I hope you like them too. What’s the tech to get a black bird in white snow? Juncos are twitchy birds. I increased the ISO to 320, which is on the edge of how far I’ll push this camera. I increased the exposure for the whole shoot to +1.3 EV. Why?
Take a look at the American Tree Sparrow to the left. I took this in the exact same conditions as the Juncos above, except I had the EV compensation set to 0.0EV. (Okay, I was shooting off the snow at a more neutral scene when this Tree Sparrow jumped out and rather than get nothing, I took a shot and then set my compensation. Since I shoot in RAW, I could pull this image out of the dirt.)
My camera tried to make all that snow look like 18%, which made the birds look like black blob. Since snow is not 18% gray, the answer is to increase the exposure. If it seems wonky to increase your exposure when shooting snow, think of it this way. Your camera is looking at a lot of white and it is programmed to make a perfect exposure of an 18% gray card. If you take a picture of an 18% gray card with your camera on auto pilot, it will look 18% gray. If you take a picture of an snow bank, it will look 18% gray. If you lengthen the exposure the snow bank will come out white. Give it a go.
Now about shooting RAW. If the above was a JPG, I’d be tossing it onto the cutting room floor. Below is the same photo increased by 1.3 stops. Bada-boom bada-bing. I got my photo. RAW gives me a little more exposure forgiveness. Yes, I could fix the photo, but getting it right in the camera is important to me. It saves me work in the darkroom when I can see a image downloaded that is closer to the finished product.
If you ever spent much time watching birds you may have noticed one thing…bath time is contagious. Once one starts splashing around, they all join in. One wouldn’t think that a duck would need a bath, but they need to keep their feathers in tiptop condition. Bathing flushes out foreign material and helps align the structures of the feathers.
One of the oddest bathing episodes I witnessed was three male Bobolinks, a very competitive bird species if ever there was one, cooperate at at a bath spot. Male Bobolinks will chase each other out of their territories and compete for females by chasing them down when ever one is spotted. In this case, one male started splashing and two others came by. They took turns standing watch and once bath time was over, it was “back to business”.
Here we are at the very beginning of winter. The first few hours of the darkest day of the year here in the northern hemisphere. Today the sun rose at 7:10 am and will set at 4:12 pm. We live half away to the north pole from the equator in New England. Well, a little less than half way.
However, I know that I have folks in the far north that stop by for time to time. Our day must seem long to them, as long as our nights are short to them in the summer.
This, of course is due to the tilt of the earth’s axis in relationship to the plane of its orbit around the sun. We are also fortunate to have a pretty cool moon that helps stabilize the wobble of that axis as we whirl around in space. This provides some stability as our pole now points towards the star Polaris and in another 25000 year will point towards Vega. Without the moon, this wobble would be more pronounced and radical.
As we spin about that axis at 1000 miles per hour, revolving around a star that is gravitationally bound in a rotating galaxy which in turn is dancing with our nearest galaxy neighbors in a universe that is traversing aimlessly through space, take time to remember that we are taking a journey and that all this motion would be confusing if we didn’t have this wet rock as our home.
What’s my point? You have to think quickly. As I was walking through the house, passing by an east facing window, I noticed the moon rising over the salt marsh. It was blood red with clouds passing in front of it. I dashed downstairs and grabbed my gear and looked for a good place to shoot from. By the time I got set up, the color was shifting.
Shooting the moon is always a challenge. If your exposures are too long, then you will get fringing around the moon as it moves across the frame. If you metering is wrong, you get a big white ball. Do I need the moon to be the feature object or the scenery? All these decisions to make as we are spinning, rotating and revolving through space and time.
The moon does not wait and as I fumbled with my camera in the dark, images were passing by. My fingers were starting to go numb and the moon was now high enough that it was shining white. Confident that I had put some good images in the can, I went into the house to sit down. After all, with all that rotating, spinning, revolving and gyrating, I was tuckered out.
A year ago, we had an irruption of White-winged Crossbills. Here are a few previously unpublished photos. First up is juvenile.
Two males working over a cluster of cones.
Finally a female.
Be sure to visit Wild Bird Wednesday this week!
I drive by this house in Ipswich every day. But my admiration for this door goes back to when we moved into Essex county seven years ago. Earlier this week they changed the decorations from autumn harvest to Christmas greenery.
Those that follow me may remember last October I put up a post about a 39 Buick Special that I saw at a car show?
Well, here I am below wrenching on my ‘39 Buick Special Sedan. There are some clues in the photo that tell me that I had graduated from high school and would soon be off to college. One of the clues is that I am 20 lbs lighter in the photo.
If you look off to the right, you can see a sign, “CAUTION HOT VAPORS”. That is on the door of the dark room that I built in the corner of the garage. It must have been all of five feet wide by four feet deep. Just enough for a sink and a counter for the enlarger. It was a good thing I was 20 lbs lighter or I would not have been able to turn around in there.