It doesn’t snow here often, maybe once every two or three years, if that, so, it’s a pretty big deal when it does. Even a few inches will close schools for a week and empty the bread and milk shelves in the grocery stores. And, if there’s freezing rain involved, the power usually goes out for several days. Armed with my “hunker down list”, I made a supply run to stock up on, among things, gasoline, to keep the generators running in the event of a blackout. ( The power stayed on and the gasoline wound up in my truck.) The storm which came overnight, topped out at between 3 and 4 inches. It was more than enough to cover the ground and pile up on the evergreens. I packed up my camera and headed out with a sack of black oil sunflower seeds in hopes of catching a few bird shots. Birds must have some sort of Twitter thing that allows them to instantly communicate with other birds. A few scattered sunflower seeds on the ground below my favorite River Birch Tree brought them out in droves.
The smaller birds like the Dark Eyed Junkos and House Finches were first on the scene, loading up before the bigger birds muscled in.
The Northern Cardinals, male and female, who mate for life, usually show up together. It’s interesting how they take turns swooping down to the seeds, pick one up and fly back to almost the same spot in the tree to crack it open and eat. After about an hour, the tree was overrun by Common Grackles. These birds appear to be all black at a distance, but are actually highly iridescent with colors ranging from blue to purple depending on how the light strikes them.
My Nikon D750 was back at Nikon in New York getting its shutter repaired in a recall so I used the trusty D700 to capture these, using a 70 to 300 mm lens which I have had for well over a decade. I had to get close to avoid extreme cropping with the D700 which packs only 12 megapixels. I was right pleased with the results. Maybe by the next time it snows here, I’ll have one of those big telephotos that are all the rage. Maybe! At 72, I’m not one to look too far ahead. Thanks for the visit. Have a good week.
Big Snow storms in Eastern North Carolina are rare but this time around, the TV weather readers were pretty convincing with all their dopplers, models and statistics. Rain, they said, would turn to freezing rain as the temperature dropped. Then sleet would pile on followed by snow. In all, two to four inches would accumulate before the storm petered out. Doesn’t sound like much but 4 inches here is a pretty big deal. Snow removal here is the month of July. I’m an aging radio news veteran from the days when news on the radio was actually quite the norm and I remember well the hype that kicks in when snow appears in a weather forecast, but this time, even I bought in. I rushed out and bought five gallons of gasoline for our generator. Freezing rain almost always means power outages in the rural area where I live.
The gasoline went in my truck. The storm fizzled. We had maybe a trace of snow and sleet but that was it. No eye popping winter vistas. So, I ventured down to my makeshift bird blind and spent the day with the birds.
A little snow on the River Birch Tree would have been a nice enhancement but you dance with what brung ya. A sack of sunflower seeds scatterred on the ground around the trees always works and soon the Cardinals and the Gold Finches et al were grabbing them and flying into the tree to crack the shells and munch away. So I got some pretty decent shots. One or two might find their way onto my web site. Not bad for plan B.
Here’s the gear list on these shots: Nikon D750, 70-300mm telephoto, Aperture Priority, Spot Metering, f/11, iso 200. Slik tripod. See you next time.
I start thinking about the birds around this time every year when my Christmas Card comes to mind. My attention wanes during the spring and summer when I am more focused on what we’re growing here and of course the beach and the sound which are always uppermost in my mind.
I use a photograph of a Cardinal on my Christmas Card every year which I send to old friends and clients and what bird better conveys the holiday season than a male Northern Cardinal in his new red suit. These guys are my choice for this year. They were braving the cold snap in a bare River Birch Tree here on the farm. I caught them with a Nikon D7100 coupled to a Nikon 70-300 mm lens which on the small sensor D7100 is the equivalent of a 400 mm plenty of power to bring him up close and personal. My cards won’t go out until the second week of December but for all of you, an early peek.
Need I say this photograph and the entire collection of Cardinals and hundreds of other shots are available for cards or prints or framed shots etc via my web site. Just click on “John Harding Art Prints” and off you go.
I’ve been spending a lot of time this winter photography birds. For one thing, I get absolutely starved for color in the drab winter months. Especially so now that the bitter cold has wiped out all of the Camellia blooms. That plus the fact that the birds of winter are at their most colorful during the colder months. It’s hard to top the brilliance of the Cardinal’s scarlet red, the vibrant yellow of the Goldfinch, the deep grays and browns of the Chipping Sparrow, the subtle blue of the Tufted Titmouse and so on… Plus, there’s no foliage to shoot around. I caught these Cardinals and a Sparrow in a River Birch Tree here on the farm. Group shots are a challenge for me but I was right pleased with the overall sharpness of this take. Click on the photograph for a larger view.
As for the gear: Nikon D7100 with a Nikon 70-300mm f/3.5-5.6 lens. I’ve tried the big 400 and or 600mm lenses from various makers and found all of them wanting in the sharpness department when fully extended. I have yet to find a reasonably priced telephoto lens that is sharper. As I have pointed out before, The D7100 is excellent for wildlife shooting because of its high resolution (24mp) and small sensor which gives you a 1.5 crop factor turning the 300mm lens into a 450mm. As for settings, Auto White Balance, Spot Metering, Aperture Priority Mode,f/11, and the lowest ISO I can get away with. In the shot above that was 160. More coming. Stay Tuned.
Thanks for the look and have a terrific Sunday Evening. Hope your team wins.
The Azaleas were blooming. So was the Periwinkle and all of the other harbingers of Spring. Until the big freeze moved in. This Cardinal seems to be thinking “this too shall pass.” Hope its warmer where you are. Thanks for the look and have a great evening. Click on the photograph for the full Monty. Nikon D7000 with a Nikon 70-300mm telephoto lens.
Not to wear you out with bird shots but I loved the natural light play in this shot and thought it worthy of a little internet fame. The female Northern Cardinal seemed to be enjoying a little late afternoon quality quiet time perched on an icy River Birch tree at the end of a snowy day here. This shot was taken as a RAW image with a D7000 and other than converting to a jpeg file in Photoshop Elements, it is unfooled around with. The male Cardinals always seem to steal the show with their bright red winter suits particularly in a snowy scene but when the light is right, I find the sublime beauty of the female absolutely breathtaking. If you have a minute, click on the photograph and have a look in large. Thanks for the visit and have a great evening.