Bird photography is pretty much a cold weather thing with me. For one thing, aside from the beach which is nearby, there’s not a lot of competition for subject matter during the winter. And, of course, finding and photographing birds is far easier when the trees are pretty much devoid of their foliage. So why now? Well, the jet stream decided to detour to the far north leaving us and much of the country in the throes of super heat we don’t usually see until late July and August. Tromping outside in 100 plus heat and dripping humidity is not my idea of fun. So for this little “outing” I set up my rig in the air conditioned comfort of my house. We have a large single pane window in our bathroom that offers a wide view of the backyard and woods beyond. I cleaned the window outside and in and got to business. I used a Nikon D750 and a Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 lens mounted on a tripod with no UV filter. I decided to forego another piece of glass to preserve a little clarity. The time of the shooting was between 3 and 4:30pm. Here’s a sample of what I came away with.
This female House Finch was perched in a Sycamore tree about 20 feet from the window. I used my usual settings for bird photography. Spot metering, Aperture Priority set to f/8 and lowest Iso I can get away with. In the shade that was about 160.
This male Northern Cardinal was eyeballing a platform feeder about 10 feet away from his perch in a River Birch Tree. His mate was on a nearby limb preening after a shower earlier in the afternoon.
Aside from shooting out an airplane window years ago which yielded mixed results, this was my first attempt from inside the house and judging from these results, it won’t be the last. Thanks for the look. Feed the birds! See you next time.
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.
My “New” Nikon D700 arrived this past week. I had owned one before but sold it in order to buy the replacement D750. While the 750 is a fine camera with unbelievable resolution and twice the megapixels of the D700, it lacks the older camera’s heft and professional build. There is also something to be said about spreading 12.1 megapixels across a full frame sensor. The “New” D700 had been hardly used. It came in its original box with all the bells and whistles Nikon usually includes with new cameras: battery, charger, software, strap, Manual and so forth. The shutter had a grand total of just over 8 thousand snaps on it. Nikon Warranties the shutter for 150,000. So how did it do in the field.
The camera has always been noted for performing well in low light situations. This was shot at the break of dawn with an ISO setting of 400.
Taken the next day in much brighter light that came with sunrise and the usual haze from the morning ground fog, the ISO setting was 250.
Finally, the Autumn colors of the farm grape vine was a nice test of the white balance of the D700, though its true test will come with the color red. Recent Nikon’s tend to render true red with an orange tint which can be corrected by under exposing by a half to full stop. My rationale for buying a used D700 came from my long desire to just shoot full frame cameras. Maintaining a small sensor camera and its dedicated lenses seemed a bit much. If you have a similar hankering and shoot Nikon cameras, I suggest the D700. There are lots of them on the used market these days and more than reasonable prices. I got mine from B and H Photo Video in New York. Whatever you shoot, enjoy the season and thanks for the visit. Happy Shooting! See you next time.
This sunrise shot on the beach along the Southern Bogue Banks of North Carolina is without question the best I have taken here since I first started coming down here ten years ago. Suffice to say, it was a keeper and I went to my usual lengths to make sure I held on to it.
If you’ve ever had a memory card get corrupted, and I have, you quickly learn not to take chances. I learned a long time ago to always format memory cards in the camera I’m going to use. It’s probably overkill, but I even go a bit further. I dedicate memory cards to specific cameras even though all are Nikons. One set lives with the D750, another set with the D800e, and a third with the D7100. If you shoot with more than one brand of camera, and these days it’s not unusual to see a Sony or a Fujifilm in the same bag, do yourself a favor and always reformat the card for the specific camera you are going to use. There is no bigger bummer than to spend an entire day shooting and wind up with a corrupted card and nothing to show for the effort.
It was my last chance to shoot some pictures on a vacant beach and my back had finally decided to cooperate, agreeing to get itself back in sync. I was on the beach road by 4AM and on the point at Lands End within a hour. My timing could not have been better. The tidal flats were laid out in front of me as the dawn reached its zenith. I got low, stretched out the screen on the D800E allowing me the live view you see above. The fellow dawn watchers far up the beach were a bonus. They gave the scene scale.
The forecast had been partly sunny meaning a few clouds and that is exactly how it was. A perfect morning for shooting a sunrise scene. I used my usual formula” Spot Metering taking the exposure reading away from the sun and locking the exposure, iso 400, manual exposure, and an aperture of f/16. I took three shots. This one utilized a # 6 graduated neutral density filter shade the glaring sun while leaving the ocean and beach in natural light. I don’t use this filter much but it was the right choice for this situation. Certainly worth having one in your bag.
In addition to the D800E, I was carrying my D750 fitted with a 70-300mm Nikkor lens. If you have two DSLR’s, I suggest fitting one with the requisite wide angle and a telephoto on the second. You never know what will come up without warning like the council of shore birds further up the beach which decided to head south. I grabbed the 750 and caught them in the southeast sky. complimenting that marvelous pink cloud that looked like the famous Nike Swoosh (trademark). In all that morning, I grabbed more than 140 keepers. I’ll share more with you over the coming weeks and leave the beach to the refugees from the North who need more Vitamin D than I. Have a great holiday weekend everybody.
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.
The moment of sunrise at Duck, North Carolina along the Outer Banks.
I’m beginning the new year with a new camera, the Nikon D750. Well, it’s new to me anyway. The 750 has been out a while but I wasn’t drawn to it initially because I didn’t think it was a true successor to the D700, which to this day I wish I had not sold. I was chasing megapixels back in those days. The D700 had 12. The norm now is about double that but the D700 was still one of the best digital cameras Nikon has ever made. My humble opinion! The 12 megapixels plus the full frame sensor made for incredible photographs. It captured the nuances of light uniquely. It shined. The 700 also had a pro body. It was a tank just like the Nikon film cameras. And, like the old Nikon F’s, it was just a still camera. No Video. My kind of rig. I’ve never shot one frame of video on any camera since and I wish I could still buy a camera without it. Easy, I’m 71. I’m old. Still photography is still my only bag. Instead of the then new D750, I bought the Nikon D600. Within a year, it was back at Nikon getting a new shutter because of oil splatter. They fixed it well and I put upwards of 75 thousand snaps on it before selling it this fall. Why? Well, Nikon was out with refurbished D750’s at a price I could not refuse. It was a bit faster and, better in low light. Having used it for a month, I have only a few gripes — apart from the fact that it is also a video camera. First, it has the cheap Nikon eyepiece that is forever coming off. Why Nikon cannot engineer its consumer cameras with the same round eyepiece it puts on its pro models is beyond me. Perhaps they are making too much money selling replacement eye pieces. I have to keep a supply on hand because they are always coming off the camera. I wish it had an auto focus “On” button paired up with the AF/ AE (E for exposure) lock button on the back of the camera. True, there’s a work around using the “fn” button on the front, but it’s awkward. And i wish Nikon would move either the ISO button or the Quality button to the top of the camera. I keep hitting the “quality” button when I go to change the ISO and I don’t realize it until I go to process the file and discover its not a RAW file. One of the reasons I didn’t go for the 750 when it first came out was the pop out tilting monitor on the rear of the camera. I was certain it would prove to be a weak point. I have been proven wrong. I suffered a serious fall while on a photo outing in December. I took a beating but the 750 which crashed to the pavement with me suffered nary a scratch. So with the few gripes I have listed, I love the camera. The resolution,quality, clarity, sharpness, improved grip, weight etc are off the charts. I’m looking forward to 2017 with it. I will also watch my step.
My best wishes to all who venture here every so often for a joyous, healthy and prosperous 2017. Blue Skies and Green lights everybody and thanks for the look. See you next time.