Waxwings on a blustery day.

Thought about driving to a mountain known to be good for migrating Golden Eagles, but decided to stay home and begin the day with a nice walk around the neighborhood.  Seemed like a poor day for photos and too much uncertainty about whether I would even see birds.

So, off I went for a brisk morning walk.  Rounding the last corner on my way homeward, I spotted Robins and Cedar Waxwings eagerly feeding on small crab apples.  Rushed home, added some extra layers before assembling the camera on tripod with a flash. The birds were feeding in a determined manner and cared not that I was only 20 feet way.  Neighbors on their morning walk stopped to chat without any effect on the birds.  They were just hungry on this windy and cold day.  Best two photos of the day were:

Acrobatic Cedar Waxwing

Cedar Waxwing feeding.

I lasted about 1-1/4 hours before the finger tips got sluggish.  Really happy with this, in large part because the birds are so quick.  You have to anticipate the image; waiting until you see the pose will give you a photo of something that happens 1/4 second later.

Pushed the ISO to 800 and used luminance noise reduction. Exposures were as slow as 1/100 second with fill flash to help freeze the motion.

More photos of Cedar Waxwings and Robins in the Perching Birds gallery of SmugMug. Select the gallery in  http://pschmitt.smugmug.com/ . Hope you enjoy.

Regards,

Paul Schmitt

Near or far ?

There is always the feeling that the best photo opportunities lie some distance away and close to home the subjects are limited.  This weekend was an example to challenge that.

I’ve long wanted to get to Hawk Mountain near Allentown, PA because of its storied reports of large raptor counts on peak days. This place is central to the story of raptor protection and the Audubon Society’s history.

I could not get there earlier last week, and had  to stay close to home. On a neighborhood walk on Wednesday, I’d stopped to chat with a new neighbor when a flock of Cedar Waxwings quietly invaded his crab apple trees with their faint piping calls. They’ve been on my  list of difficult birds to photograph.  So, I gathered my long lens, tripod and flash with some eagerness.  It was only two houses away, but by the time I returned, they’d had their fill and were gone. Returning Thursday afternoon a little before the time when they’d appeared before, I waited and was rewarded with my long sought opportunity. The big challenge is finding them low enough to see something but their bellies.

Meeting with this success, our departure on Friday for Hawk Mountain seemed destined for more success.  After all, the weather report was for brisk north winds of the sort that deliver large numbers of migrating birds, maybe even Golden Eagles. We arrived about 11 am and hiked out to the first overlook on Kittinny Ridge. It is a beautiful vista.

I only carried my 70-200mm lens, knowing it unlikely the birds would come very close, and knowing the weight of the big lens would too much for the rocky trail 3/4 mile from the parking lot to the best overlook.  It turned out to be a slow day only highlighted by the sight of a Northern Goshawk folding its wings and going into a power dive.  Not one bird photograph.  I was reminded that the Cedar Waxwings were only two houses away from my front door. Still, the views and the wonderful birders we met were some reward.

Saturday’s forecast was for another north wind; cold early for sure.  Had colorful male Ringneck Pheasant on the highway as we drove in. By noon it was clearly a bust.  We decided toabandon the watch  for the warmth of the visitor center.  We noted a raptor program scheduled for midday with a few of their captive birds and decided it would be interesting.  The volunteer had a Great Horned Owl and a Redtail Hawk. It was a nice program and afterwards we stayed to talk and I got a few close images of the birds that made the day less of a disappointment.

Great Horned Owl-  I moved in close so the handlers glove was not shown.

Redtail Hawk- The bird’s right wing is injured, so I positioned the camera to leave that detail unseen.

So, was it worth the trip?  … or would I have done just as well at home?  Well, yes and yes.  I made some new friends, found a good wildflower location for spring, and can plan a return trip with prior knowledge.  Just as the Cedar Waxwings were not predictable, it is not predictable as to when the raptors will move past Kittinny Ridge.

More photos at my Flickr page:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/pschmitt_at_flickr/

Paul Schmitt

Autumn Lotus

The robust leaves of the lotus are slowly changing color and fading. They will soon be brown after the frost and will decompose in the pond over the winter. This truly amazes me because there is a huge amount of leaf biomass in the pond behind my house.  There must be about 500 plants that bloomed this summer and will renew their growth in the spring.  Here are a few samples of the leaves as they are found in October.

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Color Pops on Cloudy Rainy Days

fall color 1

For so many years, Kodak encouraged us to pick a sunny day for our picture taking. “Put the sun over your left shoulder”. Film was slow, cameras were simple, and our memory filled in the blanks. With the sophistication of today’s equipment and the development over the years of digital processing, sensitive sensors with high ISO’s and low noise, you can almost shoot in the dark and get good images. Canon’s new 1Dx body is capable of ISO’s as high as 204,800. Of course it costs $7,000. But such is digital technology today. That being said, what about fall color?

fall color 2

fall color 3

The reality is that sunny days are not the best days for shooting fall color. Actually a day like yesterday with clouds and light occasional sprinkles of rain are ideal days for capturing fall color. The woods are dark and deep, the light is diffuse and even with no harsh contrast, and the rain helps to intensify the color on the leaves. So grabbing the gear and driving around my own neighborhood, I took a little afternoon time to go out and capture a bit of the beauty still evident in this colorful season.

fall color 5

fall color 5

fall color 6

Posted by George Cannon.

All images are Copyright © George Cannon.

Welcome to the CNP Blog.

So Hello CNP members.  This is your new blog. Hopefully you received an email telling you about its existence and the log in information if you are a member current with your dues. You are invited to become a blogger and write about where you’ve been, what you’ve seen, show your recent photos, offer advice on deals you have found, equipment you like, or even let members know you have equipment to sell or trade. Anything you feel might be of interest to members. So share your nature photo news with us all, and enjoy this forum.  Also feel free to leave comments on things others post. It’s easy. Be sure and sign your posts at the end so we know who the author is.

Fall Color Has Arrived

Driving home this afternoon, I was keenly aware of how rapidly, almost overnight, it seems the fall color has arrived.  I’ve certainly seen it creeping up. A few trees here and there, the asters at the road side, the sumac reds. But this afternoon it seemed that almost the entire ride home along Rte.89 to Trumansburg was simply alive with new color. Maybe I’ve just been too busy to notice, maybe my mind has been on too many other things, or maybe the change was really that rapid. Regardless, fall is here in all its glory and it’s time to take the cameras and hit the road to revel in autumn beauty. The assignment for the next CNP meeting is “Fall Color”. So let’s go get. Enjoy!

roadside asters

taughannock creek

abandoned house

red tree

red sumac

Posted by George Cannon. All images are © George Cannon.