A handheld monopod adventure: Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.

I started writing this blog last Wednesday. Then the unthinkable happened. I couldn’t continue after the U.S. Capitol Building was stormed and taken over by an angry, hateful, destructive mob. This resulted in an insurrection against the U. S. Government. Worse, was to see these people on the news wearing t-shirts that spewed out hate and urging killing of more people. (Five died that day.) My heart broke Wednesday. It’s been a week, and I realize that we must go on.

I did write a post for Lens-Artists on Saturday, and that helped. Fortunately, that was written and approved before the insurrection. The response brightened my days, and now I can do this post. So let’s talk about the monopod success!

Richard and I drove up to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge a couple of weeks ago. Photo buddy Ray was kind enough to make me a short monopod for my Nikon and 300 mm, F/4 lens in hopes I could handle the weight better. With Richard as driver and spotter, we went forth.

The hand-held mono pod helped me a great deal. The camera didn’t shake when I held it up. It was amazing. Thank you Ray!!

Here are some images I was able to capture:

I’m so proud that I was actually able to spot a lot of these, but having Richard drive freed me to move around in the car. You can’t get out of your car on the one-way route.

My great monopod adventure was a success!

Lens-Artists Challenge #130: It’s a Small World

Think big! Don’t sweat the small stuff! Did you want to super-size that? In today’s world, we are taught to think BIG. We go for the big SUV, the big sale and the big burger. In photography, we learn to shoot large landscapes with a wide-angle lens. 

Donner Lake in Winter

But what about thinking small? Let’s talk about macro photography.

What is macro photography? What is micro photography? Are they different from close-up photography? Have I confused you? I’ll give you a hint, two are the same and one is different. Let’s delve into the subject.

Close-up photography takes a subject and zooms in on it. Usually the subject is small, like a plant or an insect, but it could also mean getting close to someone’s eye or face as a subject. The picture is taken with any lens. I’ve taken close-ups with a nifty fifty on a crop sensor camera.

A close-up image taken with an 18-200 mm lens, shot at F/5.6.

Typically, these types of images fill the frame. However, I’ve put flowers or part of flowers off to the side. Shooting with a 200- or 300-mm lens can give you almost macro quality.

This flower was shot at 200 mm at F/5.6.

Macro photography refers to a picture taken with a dedicated macro lens yielding a magnification ratio of 1:1. Meaning, the image depicted on your camera’s sensor is in its actual size. When printed, the subject appears life-sized. This type of photography is used especially when we shoot something exceedingly small or want to capture an extremely small part of it.

Hint: If you want just part of a subject in focus, use a lower F stop (meaning F/number) to get the entire macro subject in focus, use a higher F stop.

The praying mantis in this image appears life-sized as does the part of the flower it’s feeding on. It was shot with a 105 mm macro lens at F/16.

The leaf in this image was shot with the same macro lens, but at F/2.8 creating a more shallow depth of field.

Micro photography is the same as macro photography. Camera manufacturers use the terms interchangeably. You might say that a macro lens takes a picture of a micro subject! I borrowed that last phrase!

One big difference between close-up and macro shooting is breeze. For close-ups you can shoot in a slight breeze because the regular lens isn’t as sensitive as a macro lens. When shooting with a macro lens, any movement in the subject will result in blur. Often, I’ll just take my 55-200 mm lens out when there’s a slight breeze. I can still get nice close-ups.

Oh, yes, everyone says you need a tripod. Confession, I’ve never used one for macro. In fact, I hardly use one at all. However, you will need a steady hand and fast shutter speed.

Now we’ve covered the macro, micro and close-up differences, and you are wanting a macro lens, let’s talk about options. Macro lenses are expensive but there are less expensive alternatives. Extension tubes or reverse ring adaptors to turn your regular lens around are much less expensive options. Personally, I decided against either option and bought a used macro lens for my Nikon D7100. When buying used, be careful. Buy from a store that will let you return it within 90 days if not satisfied. Also purchase one that will give you a 1:1 ratio.

For my Fujifilm camera, I treated myself to a new macro lens, knowing I would use it a lot. It’s a prime 80 mm but still shoots at a 1:1 ratio.

So, which two are the same and the other different? The answer: macro and micro photography are the same and close-up photography is different!

This week’s challenge is to take your camera for a walk around your yard or home and shoot some close-up or macro shots. Too cold, too wet, too busy? Feel free to choose some images from your archives. Be sure to link your response to my original post, and to use the Lens-Artists TAG to help us find you. I’m looking forward to seeing what you come up with.

Thank you Tina, Amy, Ann Christine and Patti for this amazing guest host opportunity!

Lens Artists Challenge #129: Favorite Images of 2020

This challenge from Tina Schell of Travels and Trifles seemed easy at first, but when I started digging through my photos, the challenge became emotional and difficult. The pandemic wove its way into our lives touching all aspects even photography. There were fewer outings, no lunches afterwards, less day trips. Picking the favorites out of a challenging year was tough.

The year 2020 started out great with one of my best sunsets taken at Gray Lodge Wildlife Area, and an eagle shot at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge. I didn’t make it back to either place that year.

Before the first lockdown, we did make it to Mare Island (A former Naval installation) where I spotted the perfect natural frame for an old brick building. I do love structures.

I did win an honorable mention for this photo in the McKinley Rose Garden contest.

Our photo shoots mainly consisted of meeting at the designated place shooting masked and then going our separate ways. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial at the World Peace Rose Garden in Sacramento reached deep into my soul since my husband served in Vietnam. This piece particularly touched me. A prisoner waiting for what?

I did take two longer trips. One with husband Richard as we searched for the beautiful California poppy and one with my friend Jean as we looked for Fall color, but instead found this beautiful lake.

Out again with our small group, we searched for Fall color before it disappeared. As we were going home, we came upon this.

But my favorite is the simple love of a child for her mother. In this case the child is Glory, 6-weeks I think when this was taken, and her mother. This was taken at the Sacramento Zoo. I call it, “This is MY mommy!”

And so, we are now two days into 2021 and things are looking up. We have vaccine choices in the works and hope. Take care and stay safe!

Merry Christmas: Lights

We’re getting closer to the second miracle of this season. First was Chanukah and now it’s Christmas. I love to take images of the decorated lights on houses and in yards. So Jean and I went out for my second round of taking photos of lights.

I thought this house sent the religious message of Christmas along with some fun snow men, plus a snowman zoom.

This next display starts in the front yard with a patriotic theme and ends with a “Frozen” theme on the side yard and around the corner. It was well done. Of course, I’m thinking of power and how much it costs to run the lights. But, this was an enjoyable exhibit.

Last, I’m showing you the first display we saw. It was simple and beautiful. And, yes, I had to zoom!

Have a great Christmas. Let’s hope next year let’s hope for another miracle and we’ll be back with families and friends! Stay safe everyone.

Lens Artist Challenge #128: And Here Comes The Holiday Season

Ann Christine’s challenge propelled me back in time and brought me back to the now. As a kid, I didn’t look forward to this time of the year. Most of my friends celebrated Christmas, and my Jewish friends celebrated Chanukah. Each received wonderful gifts. My family didn’t have money for gifts, but we had a family menorah (or Chanukkiah). I remember we’d light the candles each night, but going to school and hearing the other kids talk about presents was tough.

This is why I started collecting menorahs, and gave each of my children, their spouses and grandchildren their own Chanukkiah. At our Chanukah celebrations, we’d light them all and turn off the lights. I delighted in watching the candles burn. When I see these lights, I’m reminded neither Christmas or Chanukah originated with gifts, but with love and hope.

Now we have a blended family and I get to participate in both Chanukah and Christmas. I love to go and photograph decorated homes.

Most of all, I like to zoom the lights and rotate my camera while the shutter is open.

Although we didn’t get down there this year, my favorite place is California’s Capitol building and tree. The building is beautiful in its own right, and the tree adds a wonderful holiday feeling.

My wish for you is to have a safe and wonderful holiday season! We need patience and resilience in 2021.

Lens Artist Challenge #127: Precious Moments

Precious moments are those times that get us through the difficult times. Remembering them fills our beings, making the dark more bright. Amy’s choice of Precious Moments couldn’t have come at a better time. We all need to come out of the dark and into the light.

My precious moments revolve around my children and grandchildren. In this post, I’m sharing images of my wonderful grandchildren. I have two sets and they are far apart in age. I was at the same elementary school for 16 years! After adopting two boys, we had a natural child, a boy of course.

My oldest John, who passed away, left us with two wonderful grandkids. Madison and Christopher. Here are their prom and graduation photos.

Christopher agreed to have his picture taken before he left for his prom. With him right after graduation are his mom, Teresa, and sister.

Madison’s prom and graduation came 2 years later.

Madison and Christopher are now grown with homes and loved ones.

The younger set belong to my son Greg and daughter-in-law Jessica. We were so excited to welcome Ryan and Olivia to our family in 2011. We had a family party in celebration of Olivia’s first birthday. Ryan was three.

Two special moments I was able to capture was at the Sacramento Zoo in 2013.

Although older now, 11 and 9 years, they still are close siblings. Here they walk the zoo hand in hand.

We were across from the flamingos when Olivia noticed the plastic birds. Just from the look on her face, I think Olivia thought they were real.

My last precious moment occurred on Valentine’s Day 2015. The kids were spending the night with us while their parents went out. We prepared a small celebration with some gifts. Ryan used all his stickers on his grandfather. I thought that it was a generous share!

These children are my precious every things. They feed my heart and soul. It’s true, you have children so you can have grandchildren!

I should have asked questions: Sandhill Cranes

I know that Sandhill Cranes like to gather in the middle of a field which puts them out of reach for my prime 300 mm lens. I go to photograph them because sometimes they are closer to the road. In fact one year they were beside the road. I remember yelling at Laura to stop the car while we were in the middle of our side of the road. No other car was in sight and I got great images!

This time Ray and I were joining two other photo buddies at Woodbridge Ecological Preserve to catch the Sandhill fly in. I knew I would have trouble getting them even with my 300 mm lens. I actually thought since we were meeting at 3:30 p.m., we would be driving around for about 45 minutes, and maybe we could catch some of them closer to the road. We didn’t drive around!

We spent the entire time at Woodbridge. The Sandhills were there, but in the middle of the field. Too far for me. I tried with my Nikon D7100 which performs poorly in low light. That’s the camera the big lens fits on. I started taking pictures, but wasn’t happy with any of them.

So I thought, what’s 100 mm less? I learned it means a lot! But my Fuji is much better in low light, so I took it out and started shooting with a 55 – 200 mm lens. I would have gone home, but I wasn’t driving. Since I had both cameras on burst, I had a lot of bad photos to go through the next day! The Fuji managed to get a few okay Sandhill images and a nice mostly cloudless sunset!

So there you have it! Lesson learned; ask what the agenda is for the evening! Those pesky Sandhills.

Lens Artist Challenge #126: An Alphabet Challenge–Subjects That Begin with the Letter A

I love the letter “A” not only because it is the first letter of my name, but it’s also for Apple Hill in Placerville. That’s the first thing that came to my mind when I read Patti’s post that gave us this challenge.

Of course in Apple Hill they grow apples. Imagine that! Each year the Apple Hill Growers Association organizes this event. Growers in the area open their orchards/farms, a certain amount, to the public. They sell pies, cupcakes, jelly or caramel apples, anything apple. I don’t care for pie, but the cupcakes and donuts are delicious. I do bring home a large slice of apple pie for Richard.

We spend the day driving from place to place, exploring the grounds and buying fruit from the fruit stands. It’s a wonderful photo day. Because of the pandemic, we didn’t go this year. However, I do have images to show you from previous years.

People of all ages come to enjoy the grounds, pony rides and food.

The grounds at some of the orchards are simply beautiful.

There are also a few old trucks, museum sets, and flowers.

I’m hoping that the pandemic will be over next year. I did miss visiting Apple Hill this year, but didn’t want to risk the crowds. Take care and stay safe everyone!

Road trip: In search of Fall color, again!

Just say these words to me “road trip and camera,” and I’m ready for a fun morning. So off Ray, Marlene and I went, meeting Lucille and Gert along the way, to find some Fall color. We started outside of Lincoln, California in Placer County and drifted around the area. We saw touches of color during our drive, stopping where we could. I do wish farmers would create parking for us!

Here’s our first stop. The trees were bright red, but the lighting was not that good and a fence was prominent. They dying grape vines gave a nice orange hue.

I followed Lucille around the corner. This is what she found.

Our second stop was up the road at a county park that was already full. They let us in so we could use the bathroom. It was a long bathroom break!

Our third and last stop came as we were on our way home. We stopped when we saw orange blazing on the hillside.

So, while we didn’t find amazing Fall color, we did find amazing photographic opportunities. I love those road trips because you never know where you’ll end up or what photos are waiting for you to take.

Lens-Artists Challenge #125: You Pick It!

For me, this challenge is like giving a kid a bunch of toys and saying okay pick one! Which one do you pick? Why do you pick it? So, what subject do I pick? What photos do I pick? Yikes!

This challenge by Tina Schell of Travels and Trifles caused me to think about how my photography progressed through the years. I went back to 2012 when I bought my Nikon D3100. This was a used entry level consumer DSLR. I was closing my business and looking for a hobby and didn’t want to invest a lot into something I might not enjoy.

I took the camera on a Mexican cruise that year and had fun photographing the colored lights aboard the ship.

I was still using my 3100 in 2013 when I made my first visit to a wildlife preserve (Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge). Fortunately this little guy was on the ground and close. My post processing hadn’t reached the Lightroom stage yet.

In 2014 I had my first experience shooting light trails. I had upgraded my camera to Nikon’s D7100 which was Nikon’s highest level consumer camera. This was taken in Sacramento. I did have freeway shots, but I wanted to show you something more.

In 2015 I went to Bodie, a State Park and old ghost town, where I experienced my first bout with altitude illness. There I practiced HDR, popular then, on the old structures that were in danger of falling. By then I was processing with Lightroom and Photomatix Pro.

My first shot at the Milky Way came in 2016. I’ve had better success since, but astrophotography has never become a favorite of mine. This is strange because my husband is an astronomer!

Sometimes you take a leap of faith. This picture taken in 2017, provided me with an entry for what I thought was a small town photo contest my friend told me about. This was in Sonora in the Gold Country. Little did I know, the best of Sacramento were also entering. Two of my photos made it to the wall and one made it to the final choice table. My friend had one image make it to the wall. She was delighted to have been chosen among the talented photographers and so was I. This was the one that was so close to being a top winner in 2019. I didn’t enter that contest this year because it was nerve racking, and with COVID my nerves were already under pressure.

I love slow shutter photography and would go to our local mall when they had small carnivals to practice. I captured this in 2018.

While I’m not a birder, I can’t resist an easy shot. My friend took me to what I call the nesting trees. Egrets and other large birds choose to make their nest in the cluster of trees and put on a show for photographers. By then I got an old-used prime F/4 300 mm. Although heavy, it has clarity. So, here’s my 2019 entry!

And here we are in 2020, the year we thought we’d never experience. Photography is a little more difficult these days, but it still provides the relaxation and mental stimulation it always did. I’m so happy I started back in 2012. This has become my passion. I hope you enjoyed my photographic journey.