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
To say its been an unusual winter in coastal and eastern North Carolina would be an understatement. To say its been an usually warm winter would not be. Many mornings, its seemed more like late summer than winter with clear blue skies and temperatures in the 70’s to the low 80’s. When we’ve had clouds, more often than not, its been all clouds, overcast with no sun. Those kinds of days are not conducive to spectacular dawns like the above.
I’ve often thought that we have more picturesque mornings when colder weather prevails in advance of a front which brings clouds and precipitation and that was the situation heading into this weekend. A heavy frost and broken clouds welcomed the dawn with a fabulous show. I took 20 shots or so as the sun moved closer to breaking the horizon. The shot above was number 10 and marked the zenith of the light show that morning.
There isn’t a lot of prep. I have an app that tells me the position of the sun, the time of the dawn and sunrise etc and I always check “Weather Underground Radar” for the zip I’m in. A walk to the field takes maybe 10 minutes. I seldom use filters on morning shots. Sometimes if the dawn is very bright, I’ll use a split neutral density filter. As for settings: As low an ISO as possible, f/22, manual exposure and spot metering particularly after sunrise. I also remove the UV filter from my lens. It helps cut down on the number of sun flares on the glass. The most important setting is probably your alarm clock. You’ve got to be there before the show starts. There’s a very short window for getting good dawn shots. If you see it happen before you’re on location, its over. Thanks for the read and the look.
Cherry Blossoms here on the farm on a very windy day. Given the conditions, I had little choice but to use Shutter Priority Mode for this shot. I dialed up the shutter speed to either 1/400 or 1/500 for this shot which was enough to grab these blowing blooms with a reasonable degree of sharpness. Waiting another day was not an option. We’re expecting a very hard freeze tonight. The weather people are evening forecasting a good chance of snow flurries overnight. April first is our average last day for a hard freeze here on the coast so I suspect, I hope, this will be winter’s last stand. It’s not leaving without a fight. Thanks for the look and have a great weekend.
It’s the time of year when we really get the best pre-dawn skies. Probably something to do with the clouds, the warmer air and the cold ground or vice versa. This one has the look of an artist who has dabbed pink highlights on the gray clouds that had moved in from the ocean to the east. Of course the sky is the star of the show. There’s nothing but the stubble of last year’s cotton crop on the ground. When it looks like this though, the sky is enough I think. Have a great weekend everybody and thanks for the look.
Nikon D600/ 35mm lens.
Another shot from the recent ice storm here. This Dark Eyed Junko was waiting to dart down to the ground below this River Birch Tree where I had spread a healthy amount of black oiled sunflower seeds. I was maybe 10 feet away in a makeshift bird blind with a Nikon D7100 fitted with a 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G lens. I use the D7100 for most bird photography I do because of the crop factor involved in using a full frame lens on the small sensor camera. I’ve tried the Nikon 18-300mm but find the 70-300 far sharper.
The ice lingered for about a day until warmer temperatures brought more rain. What the Northeast has gotten in snow, we have gotten in rain. Eastern North Carolina to the coast is a virtual swamp because of the nonstop rain so other than during the ice event, I haven’t been out much working instead on a backlog of images. I’m hoping for a dry spring but it seems unlikely. Thanks for the look and have a good week.