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 caught this couple down near the Wetlands here on the farm. I like how they give one another a little space, perhaps the key to a successful relationship in all species including us. Have a Happy Day and thanks for the visit.
I could almost sense the thought balloon hanging over his head. “What on earth are you doing down here in this miserable weather?” It was pretty nasty. We’d had a good smothering of freezing rain and sleet Friday and a ton of rain overnight. Saturday brought high winds (45-50 mph gusts here on the farm) and a pretty good dusting of snow showers. The flakes were still stirring when I trudged down to my make-shift bird blind near the wetlands here with camera and a sack of sunflower seeds in tow. The bird blind is nothing to write home about. A jury rigged shack really, pieced together with old tobacco sticks, burlap and wire ties. It serves to keep me behind the curtain so to speak. My thought was the leaden sky and the random snow showers would be conducive to some bird shots. No sooner had I spread a handful or two of sunflower seeds around the river birch than Mr. Cardinal showed up and gave me that look before flapping off, no doubt spreading the word that some lunatic was giving away sunflower seeds on the edge of the swamp. .
I was using the Nikon D7100 camera with a 300mm lens, which on the small sensor D7100, lengthens its reach to 450mm, more than enough to crank in the birds which take their sunflower seed up into the River Birch to crack open. I used the usual settings save for one change. With the high wind, and the nervous nature of the birds, I switched from Aperture priority to Shutter Priority, setting my shutter speed to 320 and the lowest ISO I could get away with. I have but two gripes with the D7100. One is the small buffer. The other, and the one that really bugs me, is the location of the quality button. I am forever hitting it by mistake during shooting unknowingly changing the quality from RAW to one of the JPEG configurations which I am loathe to use. My other cameras have the Quality button tucked away in a less precarious spot. It’s one reason why I’m giving the just announced Nikon D500 a close look. There’s much to like, including the location of the quality button, and speed. The D500 is rated at 10 frames per second. It’s also pricey at two grand. The XQD memory card it uses is also pricey: a 32gig will set you back more than a hundred. As I said, I’m thinking about it, just as Nikon wants me too. Stay warm everybody. See you next time. Jh
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.
It was just a trace. Barely enough to coat the ground. But it was snow, something we have not seen here in several years. By Wednesday afternoon it was pretty much gone except for a few patches of “seed snow”. Perhaps it will spike the clouds and give us another taste.
I ventured down to my makeshift bird blind here on the farm before sunrise, spread some sunflower seeds around and hunkered down for the Cardinals to arrive. For me, the sight of a scarlet red Male Northern Cardinal in the snow is a special treat. It didn’t take long for them to show up. I fired off over 150 shots. This is one of them.
I used the small sensor Nikon D7100 and a 300mm full frame lens which on the small sensor translates into a 1.5 crop factor. In effect, it makes the 300mm lens a 450mm. More than enough to crank the image of this boy from about 25-30 feet away.