Oh deer look at the swans: Effie Yeaw & Mather Lake

Living in the Sacramento area offers two nearby places for photographers to capture nature: Effie Yeaw Nature Center and Mather Lake. Both are less than 1/2 hour from my home. One March morning Ray and I went to both places.

First, we met at Effie Yeaw along the American River. The deer are very accustomed to humans and let us get close enough for me to use my 55 – 200 mm lens easily. This morning, unfortunately, we didn’t see any bucks, but there were a lot of does grazing.

We also saw turkeys and a tree branch that looked like an animal with a long neck. Do you see it too? Maybe a dragon?

After walking the trails in the nature center, Ray and I met Richard at Mather Lake. I wanted to practice carrying and shooting with my Nikon d7100, the prime 300 mm lens and new short monopod Ray made for me. This is a small lake and popular fishing spot. I had to walk to the back of the lake before I found swans close enough for me to photograph. At least I was able to carry the equipment easily.

It was a lovely morning of camaraderie, practice and exercise.

With a little help: The Nesting Tree

Yes, with a little help we can accomplish what we thought we couldn’t. One of the reasons I bought a mirrorless camera was the need for a lighter camera. I could still hold my Nikon D7100, but with some lenses it was getting heavy, and I’m not getting younger. I currently use my Nikon for two types of shooting: ultra wide and telephoto.

The last time I tried shooting with my Nikon and an old prime (meaning metal casing) 300 mm, my photo buddy Ray saw I was having difficulty holding it steady. It was more than that, I couldn’t hold it steady. So, he made me a short monopod to anchor the lens.

I wanted to show him what I call the nesting trees in Lincoln and he wanted me to try out my new small, hand-held monopod, so off we went. And guess what, it worked. With just a little help from my friend I can now use a telephoto on my Nikon. If I ever get a telephoto for my Fuji, it would also help. The birds were across a small gully and a stretch for any 300 mm lens, but I was able to photograph them and really crop in.

The second bit of help also came through Ray. He let me know that Topaz was having a sale. Now I can’t resist a sale, can I? I bought Topaz Sharpen AI and DeNoise AI. I used Sharpen AI on all the birds and it was amazing.

We didn’t stay long. The egrets’ and herons’ mates were not flying back with food/nesting material. But I was able to get a shot of one flying in without branches and twigs in the way.

I’ll be going back to the nesting tree with my new monopod soon! Thank you Ray!!

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.

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!

Lens-Artist #113: A Labor Of Love

When I first saw this challenge given by Rusha Sams, my immediate thoughts went to raising children. They are conceived in love, raised with love and then their children are loved. Beyond that, when I was traveling, I wasn’t taking pictures. It’s only in my senior years that I discovered photography as a form of self-expression and a passion.

So, bringing “A Labor Of Love” down to very basic terms, I chose to show an activity that is a labor of love for participants and fans alike. My topic: Hot Air Balloon Festivals.

I’ve only been to two Hot Air Balloon Festivals. The first was in September, 2012 when I bought my Nikon D3100. I chose an entry level camera to start because I wasn’t sure about photography. It didn’t take long before I upgraded to the D7100. I heard about the balloon festival in Windsor, California. So, off Richard and I went in our 5th wheel trailer, staying two nights in what they set aside as a campground. I was warned that the show started promptly at 4 a.m., and it did.

I woke up to the announcer on the loud speaker saying, “Good morning Windsor!” I jumped out of bed, got dressed, grabbed my camera and ran out the door to be greeted by total darkness. Once on the field, I realized I hadn’t set my camera! I saw the green “A,” turned the dial, and ran toward the “Dawn Patrol” that had just set up. The rest is history. I had a great time. I loved the challenge of getting the shots, lying on the ground as the balloons went up in the air, kneeling down to catch a picture of the balloon being blown up. It was an exhilarating morning. Here are a few of my first shots with my camera.

Fast forward to September 2017 when I was shooting with a Nikon D7100 at the Reno Hot Air Balloon Festival, Reno, Nevada.

Linda and I decided to stay one night at a hotel and waking up at 3:30 a.m. rather than waking up at 1 a.m. and driving 2 hours. It was a smart move for two seniors! This was a larger festival and just as much fun.

I saw many of the same balloons in Reno as I did in Windsor. The pilots have such a love for this sport that they travel from festival to festival. Weather is a big factor on whether they can take their balloons up. The second day at Windsor, it was too windy for them to fly.

This was a nice memory to catch up on. Thank you Rusha!

Wearing suspenders and a belt: WPA Rock Garden

I love macro photography! I love the WPA Rock Garden in Land Park, Sacramento! But, do I love making mistakes? Not really, but I love learning from them.

The Rock Garden is an excellent place for macro photography so I brought my D7100 and macro lens. I also wanted to see how well the Fujifilm XT3 and its 55 – 200 mm lens would do close ups. My Nikon and 18 – 200 lens does close up photography beautifully.

First, I found out that my Fuji, like my Nikon, puts itself in various modes without telling me. It put itself in a different focus mode, making it difficult to focus. One mistake solved and learned from. Watch those fingers!

I saw macro opportunities and started shooting with my D7100 and macro lens. Best to do it while the breeze is down. Here’s the result:

Still wanting to use the Fuji, I wandered over to the small Land Park lake and saw lotus buds and leaves in the water. Yes! we would soon have flowers to capture in our cameras. Here’s where the second mistake occurred. I was having a difficult time shooting on manual with the Fuji and didn’t realize until I got home, loaded my pictures into the computer, and saw them on my monitor, that the images were super noisy. Looking at the data, I saw that some of them were shot at 12,000 ISO in sunlight! Did I mistake the ISO ring for the shutter ring? What did I do wrong? This was to be solved during my next Fuji outing! Here are some images shot with the Fuji:

Yesterday, I took pictures of a couple, Carol and Paul, I wrote about in for our community newsletter. I photographed them with the Fuji and the 18 -55 mm lens. They were beautiful. The shots and the couple!

So, lessons were learned. And, practice makes perfect as you’ll see in my next post.

Our new normal: My camera took me for a walk!

You know you’re addicted when your right index finger wants to press the shutter button and your left hand wants to steady the lens barrel. It was more than a week since our adventurous ride and I needed to get out and take some pictures.

So…. I my camera took me for a short walk around the neighborhood. The long 2-mile walks are reserved for dog walking. First, there are many front yard gardens with beautiful flowers. I made sure I didn’t go on property and just shot what I could from the road’s edge.

We have a lot of wild turkeys here, and the males are telling us it’s the season to show off. These two actually started to move when I lifted my camera, but stood still when I yelled at them not to move!

Last, are our current Canada goose family. These are the only geese to have goslings so far at our small lake. There will be more. And when there are, the dads will guard their families with fierce hissing and may actually run after you if they think you’re coming close to the goslings.

That was yesterday’s walk. My camera is calling me again. I think there’s more neighborhood and more pictures to take!

Just stopped for coffee: Murphys CA and more

Coffee was calling! So on the way to Big Trees State Park, we stopped in the small resort town of Murphys. This town was our lunch stop when we were shooting the Concours d’Elegance at Ironstone Vineyards. You can see that post here. Well, we got more than just coffee!

After our visit to the State Park, we stopped near a bridge to capture the scenery.

Last, we made a stop at Ironstone Vineyards just as they were closing. Jean had never been there. Fortunately, we had just enough time to see the grounds and shoot some flowers.

A bit of country: Clarence Scott Ranch, Winters, California

All the comforts of suburbia are great and I love it, but it’s nice to visit the country once in a while. Thank goodness for the Yolo Art and Ag project which gets us out into the country and on farms and ranches that we would otherwise not gain entry.

This was the case during a recent Thursday when we went to visit the Clarence Scott Ranch in Winters. This Ranch has a bit of everything and lots of scenery for photographers and artists. Hay and cattle are their predominat income sources.

I’ve begun to rely on just one lens when I go on a photo outing. It challenges me, and it’s easier to carry. And, at this point, less weight is important to me since this year has given me a few health challenges. My gear consisted of my Nikon D7100 and the Nikon 18 – 140 mm lens. It’s hard for me to grasp that my camera is OLD now and reduced in price for less than half of what I paid! But it’s the same for a car. Once it’s off the lot…….

On the way home, we stopped to photograph sunflowers and zinnias in Woodland. You’ll see these in my next post. Right now let’s look at the Ranch. The clouds were spectacular!

Artists and photographers were busy too!

I was also fortunate to watch a woman shoeing her horse. A first for me!