Decision: The Nesting Tree

To buy or not to buy! To use or not to use! That’s my dilemma!! I’ll start at the beginning. For wildlife photography, I’ve been using an old, used prime F/4 300 mm lens on my Nikon D7100. It’s a bit heavy, hard for me to hold steady and the Nikon is not that good in low light. I finally decided to buy a used Fuji 100 – 400 mm lens for, of course, my Fuji XT3. It worked great and was easy for me to hold steady, but the barrel was tight when I zoomed. It’s in the return process. Question: should I get another one? Or just keep using the Nikon set up?

Here are some images from the Fuji set up taken at what I call the nesting tree in nearby Lincoln.

Great Egrets and Great Blue Herons nest each year in these trees. It’s a treat to sit and watch the activity. They fly off and bring back food and nesting materials to the nest. These next pictures were taken with the Nikon set up. Since I photographed mostly egrets on my previous visit, I was trying to photograph more of the herons. The trees are not close and I had to do a lot of cropping with these pictures for both set ups.

Do you see much difference? Both sets were processed in Lightroom and Topaz Sharpener AI. There is the handling ease, but that comes with about a $1,500. cost for a good used lens. I don’t think I need a new one because I don’t do that much wildlife photography.

So that’s my decision and dilemma! What do you think I should do?

Oh, if you want to see amazing Great Blue Heron Photography visit Babsje’s blog for wonderful stories and images. She is totally dedicated to the herons.

Lugging the long lens: Point Reyes National Seashore, part 1

Cabin fever for me means I have to get away outside my local area to photograph, and I had it. So, when Laura asked me if I wanted to go to Point Reyes National Seashore in Marin County, I immediately said YES! It’s about 2 hours and 20 minutes away, so that was a perfect getaway.

I was armed with my Fujifilm for landscapes and my Nikon and the F/4 300 mm lens for zoning in on the animals. I was not disappointed. In my few trips to Point Reyes, I didn’t see Tule Elk at the preserve. However, it pays to go with a true nature photographer, Laura, who knows the area. She picked me up early in the morning, and we found the elk. A first for me! The early bird does get the worm!!

Next we drove to where the elephant seals were. When we arrived, Park rangers were on the beach and we were able to get a great view of the seals.

Along the shore, we spotted a brown pelican who performed for us: swimming, flying, landing and diving!

So far this was a great adventure, but it’s not over. The rest will be in part 2. Stay tuned!

Catching up, part 2: Christmas Lights

Yes, I’m still back in December 2021. On the 27th to be exact! Donna and I went out locally to photograph some Christmas lights. The conditions that night were perfect: not too cold and clear.

Last year I had some trouble with my Fujifilm camera. It was the first time using it for this function and I couldn’t get the lighting right. This year I knew it was okay to pump up the ISO. What a difference! This camera handles a high ISO so much better than my Nikon 7100 did.

Here are some of the results. Now pay attention to some of the snow men!

Did you see the great robbery in progress? And the robber’s weapon? If not, look again! As you can see, I also had fun with some slow shutter speed and zooming the lens. Thanks for visiting!

Catching Up: Swans at Mather Lake

Things happen and sometimes get us off track. I realized that I haven’t been keeping up with my personal posts that I do on Wednesdays. So….I’ll make up for lost time.

Mather Lake is a small lake, and part of the Sacramento Regional Parks System, at the southern end of Sacramento. It’s a great place to photograph swans and other small wildlife like beavers, etc. So I said I’d go and crossed my fingers, hoping there would be swans more in the middle of the lake so I could capture them with my 300 mm lens.

Again, I will thank my friend Ray who made me a short monopod for my heavy lens. Wow, what a difference! We walked around the lake and I was happy. There were many Mute Swans, and some were by the shore! Here’s some of what I captured.

We didn’t see any other critters, but I was happy with these swans. I think they are so graceful in the water. On our way back to our cars, I spotted a juvenile swan. I looked it up and it was a juvenile. It was by itself so maybe it was mature enough to be on its own.

This is not my “Swan Song.” There will be more catching up posts, in addition to my regular LAPC weekly post, soon.

Lens Artists Photo Challenge #179: Serene

This is serendipitous, my photo outing today brought our small group to Mather Lake— a swan habitat in Rancho Cordova. And, Patti’s challenge was SERENE. Perfect!

I find swans relaxing. They swim so gracefully. And I like it when their wings are up. Even though it was foggy, drab, cloudy and cold, I found warmth in the swans presence.

And I was lucky. I’m somewhat stymied by having a short telephoto lens, for my Nikon 7100, that’s a 300 prime. This means that wildlife has to be close enough for me to capture them. Fortunately, some of the swans were lakeside and others were swimming in the middle. Even typing this, I feel serene. This is what I’ve edited so far.

This swan was close enough for me to photograph it and its shadow.

Next I have a series of a swan fishing (I think!). It looks under the water with its head fully submerged. Next it’s still skimming the water before looking up. Last, with head up water drips from its beak.

They are also graceful in flight. It’s always a surprise when they take to the air. They didn’t fly too far off the water. I do wish they would yell, “Hey photographer, I’m going to fly now!”

I almost thought I’d have to leave without an image of a swan swimming with its wings up. As I was walking back to the car, there it was! Happy! Happy!

These swans cheered me up on a very drab day, bringing me serenity and joy. Thanks Patti!

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!