Except for family shots at Thanksgiving, I had not taken any pictures since getting back from New Mexico…almost two weeks! I admit I was not inspired by the rainy early winter weather in Southern Maine. When we woke, yesterday, to an inch or so of fresh snow, I knew it was time to take the camera and get out. The weather forecast promised sun for later in the day, but at 7 AM, the sky was still closed with the last of the snow clouds. I knew the snow on the trees would not survive more than a few moments of sun, so it was now or never…no time even for breakfast.
I brushed the snow off the car and headed down toward the beach. Here in Southern Maine you never know if there will be snow right at the shore. Often the closer you get to the great heat sink of the ocean, the thinner the snow gets. Not so yesterday. Even right at the shore, the Beach Roses were well coated. After a half hour or so photographing the snowy marsh and beach, I headed down Route 9A to see what else I could find. By now, the clear sky of the cold front was attempting to push the snow clouds out to sea, and the sky was wonder…with dark clouds breaking up, and light breaking through the edges. There was not enough snow on the ground to keep me from pulling off at what I call Back Creek Pond #2. It has featured in these posts many times before. It is right by the road, but it has the look of somewhere truly wild in every season.
I framed it every-which-way, but this is one of my favorites…a low angle with enough zoom to get just the narrow end of the pond and a patch of that wonderful sky…with the snow laden trees overhanging the frosted ice.
I don’t know about you, but I find the Brown Creeper to be a difficult bird to see. I can count my sightings over the past 30 years on the fingers of one hand! And that is odd, since they must be, logically, much more common than that. They must have been in every wood I have walked through in that 30 years, just about. On the flip side, I have seen them across much of North America. New Mexico, Texas, Ohio, New Jersey, Maine. That is certainly a wide geographic range. In fact, if you take a look at the range map at All About Birds, you can see that the Brown Creeper is found pretty much everywhere there are trees in North America.
This bird was at the Nature Conservancy’s Beanery property in Cape May, New Jersey, and was, like all my Creeper sightings, a chance encounter. I just caught movement on the trunk of the tree as I passed. By the time I found the bird it was out on limb and moving rapidly, in challenging light, but I managed a few shots.
Canon SX50HS in Program. -1/3 EV exposure compensation and iContrast. Processed in Snapseed on the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014.
Back in Texas again, this time at Estero Llano Grande State Park and World Birding Center. This Common Paraque is the most reliable and the most regular…and therefore the most photographed…bird in Texas. It roosts, generally with one of its fellows close by, right beside the Alligator Lake trail…so close the park has had to build a small brush barrier to keep people from accidently walking on the bird. Seeing the bird, on the other hand, always takes effort. Because it is so well camouflaged, it has taken me up to 20 frustrating moments to find it, even though I know it is there, and that it is in one small 12 foot square patch of ground. And, on several occasions I have missed the second bird altogether, though it was within feet of the first. This year we managed to find both, but only after getting directions from someone who had seen the second bird before us. (Knowing the second bird is actually there is half the battle.)
Samsung Smart Camera WB800F. ISO 320 @ 1/90th @ f5.8. 408mm equivalent field of view (which tells you just how close I was to this bird. The Paraque is not much bigger than a Blue Jay. Processed in Snapseed on the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014.
We will drop back a few weeks to my trip to the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival. The trouble with November is that I get to go to two of my favorite places for photography…the lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas and Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico…and when you consider that both these trips closely follow a few days in Cape May, New Jersey during fall migration…well, the images just kind of pile up. It is part of my photographic discipline to process as I go. It is a very rare day when I have not selected and edited and uploaded the images I want to keep from that day’s shooting, but then there they are, on Google+ at least, and often on Smugmug as well, waiting for their moment in the sun when I post them publically. Of course only one in ten actually gets posted. In November and on into December (when I generally do not travel), I have to make a conscious effort to go back and pick up the more outstanding images from the previous trips.
This shot is from the National Butterfly Center south of Mission Texas. It is a Giant Sulpher butterfly hanging on Turks Cap. The Turks Cap is a native species in Texas, and goes by many other names…Wax Mallow, Mexican Apple, Bleeding Heart…etc. I like the shot in part because of the tiny beads of moisture on the flower (it was early in the day), and the way the brightly lit flower and bug are set off against the dark background. And, against all odds, it is correctly exposed! The Giant and other Sulphurs are among the hardest butterflies to photograph in the sun as the yellow will often block up completely and all detail will be lost.
Canon SX50HS in Program with -1/3rd EV exposure compensation and iContrast. ISO 250 @ 1/1000th @ f6.5. Processed in Snapseed on the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014.
I found a program in the Google Play Store the other day called Photo Painter. As the name suggests, it takes a photograph and renders it in various artistic styles…quite a few painting styles, and several sketching styles. You can then apply a realistically rendered 3D frame. I have used a similar program on the laptop called Dynamic Auto Painter. I am still exploring the features of Photo Painter, but the results so far are promising…if you like this kind of thing.
I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, you can produce some nice effects…on the other what you have created is neither a painting or a photograph. At best it is a photograph processed to look something like a painting. “Ah,” you say (or at least I think) “but is it art?”
Then too, I am fresh from an encounter with a software expert for one of the makers of image processing plug-ins, who claimed that he turned his images into paintings using the software he was demonstrating because he was such a bad photographer. He seemed proud of the fact. That is just sad, and I, personally, do not want to go there. I promise I will never try to save an image by processing it as a painting.
This image, however, stands on its own as a photograph (imho). Processing it as a painting does not make it better…only different.
Samsung Smart Camera WB800F in Rich Tone mode. Processed in Snapseed and rendered as a painting in Photo Painter the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014.
Oh, and it is Cascade Falls in Saco Maine.
And for those who are wondering, here is the image with standard processing.
Despite the cloudy, and even snowy, weather, I did get some good flight shots from Bosque del Apache this year…including two different panic sequences. This one happened on our very first round of the tour loop, the first afternoon we spent there. We drove up on the corn fields at the North end of the loop just in time to see the geese rise and swirl in the air for a good 10 minutes. They were far out in the fields, but with the reach of the Canon SX50HS, I could still fill the frame with geese.
I like the multiple layers of geese here. If you have seen this happen you know that the geese rise in mass, but soon sort themselves into something like a circular holding pattern…so you have geese passing any point in the sky in at least two different directions…one group in front and one behind. It can get more complex than that as individual geese jockey for leadership of the flock…and groups break away from the main body to follow…but the swirling motion predominates until they all serial down to settle once more in the fields.
Canon SX50HS in Sports Mode. About 1150mm equivalent field of view. ISO 800 @ 1/800th @ f6.5. Processed in Snapseed on the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014.
Okay, the title is somewhat esoteric, but most birders my age will recognize it as one of the great cross-agency, private/public, conservation organizations and efforts of the 90s. A check on the Web shows that it is, in fact, very much still active, and still fighting the good fight, though it has dropped off at least this birder’s radar…and I suspect most others. And, of course, as a title, it is apt for this image even without the reference.
Sandhill Cranes coming in in close formation at Bosque del Apache NWR. The light during this whole trip was a challenge, and I was happy to get what I could, especially in flight shots, but technical issues aside (noise limits the detail in the image), I am very pleased with the form and elegance of this shot.
Canon SX50HS in Sports Mode. ISO 1000 @ 1/320th @ f6.5. 1200mm equivalent field of view. Processed in Photo Mate R2 (which is essentially Lightroom for Android) on the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014.
They say “any landing you can walk away from is a good landing.” I have flown enough over the past 10 years to appreciate the sentiment. Watching Sandhill Cranes and Snow Geese land can only reinforce the truth of the statement. Snow Geese, and Cranes especially, seem always on the brink of disaster as they land. Of course it complicates matters that they will land in the middle of feeding flock…never at the edge…and never with anything like a clear runway. They always set down in just enough space to stand up in. It is just the way they are made, I assume, since there are certainly easier ways to get on the ground.
This is a Sports Mode shot from the Canon SX50HS on a morning with snow on the ground and still in the air. ISO 640 @ 1/1250th @ f6.5. Processed in Snapseed and Photo Editor on the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014.
And for the Sunday Thought: there must, actually, be saints, who, like the Cranes and Geese, always look on the brink of disastor. Landing among their fellows, coming in from celestial flights and realms of glory, they always seem, to the casual eye, to be frantically backpaddling wings, and concentrating on getting their feet down safely. It runs counter to the image of the Saint…the person at peace in perfect knowledge of the divine…but I suspect that we miss seeing a good number of Saints because they have not mastered anything that looks to us like a graceful landing. And that would be sad, since of course, any landing you can walk away from is a good landing…whether we are speaking of airliners, Cranes and Geese, or saints.
Even on a year with mostly overcast weather, the Sandhill Cranes at Bosque del Apache NWR stand out against the gold of the ripe grain of the fields planted on the Refuge with corn, oats, and wheat. This bird, coasting in for a landing, catches some of the size of the Crane. These are big birds: tall with a huge wingspan, and a relatively heavy body.
This shot is also a demonstration of the quality of today’s small sensor Point & Shoot cameras. I used Sports Mode, for its ability to lock focus on a moving target, and because it is optimized for high shutter speeds. This is ISO 1600, at 1/250th @ f6.5. While there is noise in the image, as is expected, it is still amazing considering what would have been possible even a few years ago with a small sensor camera.
Canon SX50HS. Processed in Snapseed on the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014.
Leaving Bosque del Apache for the moment, just taking a break, here is something for #floralfriday and the day after Thanksgiving…aka Black Friday. A little color to break the shopping gloom (shopping madness?). I always love Bird of Paradise. It is such an outrageous plant. I was, therefore, delighted to find one in bloom outside my hotel room in Harlingen Texas while there in early November for the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival. I generally only see them in San Diego in February and March. And this plant, with just a few blooms, was well exposed and easy to photograph, unlike the often tangled masses of BofP in Southern CA. Had to do it.
Samsung Smart Camera WB800F in Macro mode. f2.9 @ 1/45th @ ISO 100. 28mm equivalent field of view. Processed in Snapseed on the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014.