There has to be something fundamentally wrong with a place that is so hot you sweat at 5:30am – so began my day, standing in the shade of a tree trying to photograph the Goldfinches with sweat running into my eyes and down my back! It is surprising how personal comfort affects concentration and technique – it was something I was aware of as I was shooting and it was re-inforced when I uploaded my images at home. No matter, practice is practice I reckon – and so, here are today’s selection:
…so said Roy Orbison! I’m not a living legend, but I have had to change plenty of flat tires! But it has never taken as long to change a flat as this week. Somehow I managed to cross-thread the scissor jack in my car which made it extremely difficult to lift the car off the ground (40 minutes to be exact). In the effort I bent my jack handle too – which meant it took another 20 minutes to lower the car back to the ground! Not much fun in temperatures of 100F! So this weeks outing cost me the price of a new tire and a new jack, and an enormous amount of sweat… and cursing!
Anyway, the trip was not a total failure… I got some shots of my usual suspects and also some new ones, plus I had an ‘up close and personal’ experience with a goose who was very friendly and not at all timid. He waddled up the bank towards me, stopped just in front of me to stretch his wings then carried on past me – he almost had to hop over my legs to get past!
My new sightings today were a King Bird and a Black Phoebe. The King Bird was a very distant sighting, so no images… but here is the Black Phoebe and a few others.
I had some great feedback this week from two bird photographers that I consider to be experts.
“Really nice Alex. Your photos just keep getting better.” Ron Woolridge. (www.ronwooldridgephotography.com).
Ron is a member of photocamel.com and last year he advised me to upgrade my lens. I cannot describe the difference that his advice made… both in the quality of my images and also in the increased enjoyment I get from my photography now that I am not having to struggle with every image. He has made a real impact on the improvement in my photography. Check out his website to see some first class images.
“I think that you did pretty well here. And your exposure looks perfect. The image is sharp, and I like your angle to the subject.” Arthur Morris. (www.birdsasart.com).
Artie is a member of birdphotographers.net and is an accomplished author and teacher. Many people consider him to be the pinnacle of bird photographers, myself included. It is an honour for me to even know that he has looked at my work, let alone give me such positive feedback.
Both comments were made about the ‘Snowy Egret with Fish’ posted on the 10th August on this blog.
For a while I have been looking for a longer reach with my equipment. With a maximum focal length of 420mm a lot of shots can be missed. A prime lens in the 400 to 600mm range is quite an investment, with used pieces selling from $1500 – $9000. A new 600mm lens will set you back close to $11,000!
For a long time I have supplemented my 300mm f4 with a Nikkor 1.4 x teleconverter, which gives me 420mm f5.6. I looked at a 1.7 or 2 x teleconverter to add to the set, but had always been dissuaded by the thought that the automatic focus would be affected (as warned in all the literature). At $400, that would be an expensive mistake… and I don’t really want to become such a purist that I only use manual focus!
So this week I was perusing eBay, as you do, and found a seller with a 2 x teleconverter that had been bought in error. Although it is not a Nikkor item, it is aimed to fit Nikon AF lenses. The seller wanted $50, I offered $35 and won the item! Not such an error in purchase if it fails to work!
Today I tried it with my 300mm f4. The teleconverter stops me down significantly, so I get 600mm f8, but at least I have the reach that I wanted… and in the bright Arizona sun f8 is not a horrific aperture to work with.
I tried my new kit this morning from 6:30am to 7:30am, taking pictures of the house finches at the back yard feeder. All were taken using the teleconverter (all at 600mm), and the aperture ranged from f8 to f11. The backgrounds all came out on the dark side, but the subjects were exposed satisfactorily. Here is a selection:
All the characters were out this morning at the Riparian Preserve; a mallard that sounded like he was laughing maniacally, the Elvis Egret – who had the Elvis knee wiggle down to a fine art, the nervous Snowy – who would try and grab a fish and then run away from it, and the angry Great Blue Heron – who would not let any other bird near him without chasing them off. It was very entertaining watching them all. The weather was not too hot, but the lighting was very tricky – ripples reflected onto the bird made them look like they were wearing striped pullovers and the water seemed to lose a lot of colour today, as you will be able to see in the following selection of shots:
…so I headed out to Gilbert. This time I wanted to try my luck with Hummingbirds and Goldfinches (of course the usual Egrets and Herons were there too). Here is my pick of today’s shots: