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!

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.

Hunting with a camera: Effie Yeaw

We were hunting deer when we went to Effie Yeaw Nature Center in Carmichael. The nature center is about 15 minutes away and is on the American River. It’s a beautiful natural wooded area surrounded by the river and a golf course. It’s rutting season for the deer and we were hoping to shoot some–with a camera!

While we didn’t see any males rutting, we did see a lot of deer that were close enough for me to get with my 55 – 200 mm lens. It was a great morning. When I complained that I was out lensed with my photo buddies’ 400 mm or more, one said that I shouldn’t complain since they were so close! But, I like to complain!

Here are some deer shots from that successful morning.

And Effie Yeaw never disappoints with its beautiful environment. We got there early enough to watch the last of the fog glisten in the sunlight.

Just a few more!

And finally some log art.

It was great fun hunting with my camera!

Lens-Artists #114: Negative Space

I’ve noticed that some people like negative space and create a minimalist lifestyle, and others like their surroundings busy (I won’t say cluttered.). I’m somewhere in the middle. My surroundings may be full, but it is neat and tidy. However, I’ve never thought about how the concept applied to how I take my photos.

Thank you Amy (The World Is A Book) for this weeks’ challenge. It helped me realize that I truly do not consider negative space when I shoot. Yes, I have skies that take up 2/3 of an image, birds in large pools of water, etc. But, these shots were never planned for negative space and its impact. I usually crop in close in camera. Even my landscapes are cropped in camera. Planning for negative space is something I should work on!

So, here are some of my inadvertent negative space images.

Thank you Amy!

Road Trip: Levee Road

It was time to venture out with my friend Jean for a short road trip. California is beginning to open up, but I’m still cautious. News: I thought my photography had reached a level where I needed a better camera. Because of my age, I needed something light (not full frame). Mirrorless was an obvious choice.

I bought a Fujifilm XT3 and was anxious to try it out. It was just the two of us, both healthy and not exposed to anyone with COVID 19 so off we went. It was great to be on a road trip with no destination in mind.

We drove for a short time up the Levee Road north of Sacramento when I saw these terrific reflections in the rice paddies.

As we drove on, I spotted a sign that directed us to a boat ramp. Jean said she wanted to shoot near water so wouldn’t a boat ramp be perfect? It was a great stop. We came upon pelicans, fishermen and a beautiful section of the Sacramento River.

We made some more quick stops along the way: to shoot a farm across the road, some thistles going to seed, and another house. I was doing okay with my Fugi, having to change the lens a couple of times and shooting on manual. Typically with my Nikon 7100 I use an 18 – 200 lens so I don’t need to switch lenses in the field, but Fuji doesn’t make that lens.

We ended up in Yuba City in Sutter County where I took pictures of the Hall of Records building built in 1831. What a beautiful building.

I had a great time and was happy with my new camera. At least until my next outing which will be the subject of my next post. Be careful and stay safe everyone!

Four in a row: Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge and 3 more!

Honestly, I’m not much of a birder, that is a photographer who loves to photograph birds. But I do like to get out during the season and do my best to capture some of our feathered friends. A great birding day, for me, is when I can photograph our amazing bald eagle. I recently went on an all day outing with Laura, who is an amazing nature photographer, to four wildlife areas within 2 hours from home.

First stop was the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge in Willows. Wow, just one drive around and we saw eagles, hawks, and sandhill cranes. Here are some of my images:

From there we went to Llano Seco Wildlife Area near Chico. We had never been there and were surprised to see just one viewing platform. I took the opportunity to do some landscape photography:

From here things get blurry in my brain. I should post these blogs when I’m fresh from the activity! We were out on January 11! I think these birds are from Colusa National Wildlife Refuge. It’s much smaller than Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, but there were photographic opportunities:

Our final stop was Gray Lodge Wildlife Area in Gridley. The sun was beginning to set and we caught a golden glow on the birds and landscapes. The mountains in some of the landscapes are the Sutter Buttes. For sunset, we went to our favorite spot in the area to photograph a spectacular sunset:

So this was the beautiful end to our fantastic day! Could it get any better?

Wildlife? Mather Lake

Sometimes things don’t turn out the way you expected like our May outing to Mather Lake in Sacramento County. We expected the typical wildlife that we’re used to finding there, but we only found swans and fishermen! But, we’ve learned to make the best with what we get.

I was there with my Tuesday group, and we walked as far as we could around the lake. I was carrying my Nikon D7100 and my F/4, 300 mm lens. I do need to go back to using two cameras. I also need to get to the gym so I can do it! This left me sort of handicapped for landscape or wide focus shots. I made my Fitbit happy by taking some extra steps backing up to get a good compostion. While I like the results from my 300 prime lens, it is limiting,

Sometimes, when you’re not busy shooting, you experience the most outstanding interaction between birds. A swan was protecting his mate and his cygnets from a goose. The interchange was hilarous. Too bad I couldn’t catch it. My lens was too long and my reflexes too slow!

Take a look at what I saw that morning!

Betwixt and between: Yolo Bypass

We’re still not moved yet. I can’t say this is the worst move we ever made because the move to this house was equally traumatic. Moving is about the most emotional change you go through. There’s sadness about leaving a home you loved and happiness about building a life in another. Right now, I do feel betwixt and between. Richard and I talk about “home” and have to qualify which one!

In the meantime, I’m able to go on photo outings. This blog is about Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area (also known as the Vic Fazio Wildlife Area). I was there a month ago, but each time is different. On this trip, the hunting area was open so Laura and I drove through it. We saw more wildlife than on the regular driving route. Maybe they knew they were safe at the time!

Right now, photography gets me away from a house that’s missing furniture, a house that’s being painted and floors being put in, and the stress of it all. I did pack my camera cases, but not my cameras and gear. Yes, for me photography is great therapy for the moving blues!

Here’s the latest from the Yolo Bypass. Again, my bird book is packed, so no captions!

Blog neglect: Vic Fazio Yolo Wildlife Area, Davis California

It takes a lot of time and effort to get a house ready to sell. If you’ve ever sold a home you know what I mean. We had pictures taken today and have a few days before the listing goes live, giving me the time to write this blog and go on a photo outing tomorrow.

Today’s post is on the Vic Fazio Yolo Wildlife Area–we locals call it the Yolo Bypass. This close-to-home wildlife area that covers 25 square miles and is home to nearly 200 species of birds. I’ve never seen 200 birds, but it’s close to home and usually we can spot a few species. Unlike other wildlife areas, we are allowed to get out of our cars to photograph the wildlife.

However, the last couple of times I’ve been there, the wind was blowing so hard that even the birds were having trouble. This recent outing was a challenge for me to hold a heavy camera and lens while bracing myself in the wind.

Still, it was fun and I’m looking forward to the break in the house selling effort to attend my Tuesday group’s outing to the Historic Old Sacramento City Cemetery. Marlene is spicing it up with a scavenger hunt.

We’re not moving far, just downsizing. When you’re in your mid 70s, it’s best to think ahead and buy a home without stairs, etc.!

This and that: Two Mandarin ducks and lunar eclipse

It’s not that the duck and lunar eclipse have anything in common–except for me and my camera. Oh, it could be the fact that one was planned and didn’t turn out well and the other wasn’t planned and turned out successful.

First the Mandarin ducks at Elk Grove Regional Park in Elk Grove. This was a planned outing for 9 a.m. By the time we got there and I drove around to the other side of the lake, the ducks needed to nap. It seems they like swimming in the fog! Those of our group who got there about a little earlier and parked in the right lot, got beautiful shots of them swimming.  I still got some of them napping and standing. And, I did get some fog shots. We get the Tule fog in Sacramento. I love the moodiness of fog.

These are some of the ducks and moody fog images:

For the lunar eclipse, I decided to sleep in if I could; but if I woke up in time, I would just shoot the triple lunar event from my backyard. I woke up at 3:45 a.m. (Darn my internal clock) and tried to go back to sleep. At 4:15 a.m., I got out of bed, gathered my camera gear, set up and opened my back door. Now this is the way it should be done–in PJs, bathrobe, coat, drinking tea and set up right outside my back door! I didn’t get cold!! I did try several lenses before I ended up with my fixed 300mm. These were the best of all the shots:

So there you have it. Planned or unplanned, I had fun!