Visioning

photography and digital scrapbooking


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Autumn Winged Things

Changes are in the air and the winged things are even more delightful to watch. Hummingbirds are frantically active; chattering and fighting over the feeders we provide for them. They are molting at this time of year. We sometimes see tiny feathers fall as they hover near the feeders. I found one and saved it.

Carpenter bees are desperate to find the last grains of pollen. They especially like the sedum and basil flowers. This female worker was aware of my presence and constantly adjusted her position to face me and stay a comfortable distance. Persistence on my part paid off when she let down her guard for a moment.

Yellow leaves have already begun floating into the yard. We will have a lot to rake or blow into piles and bag. But I don’t mind. I like the exercise and being outside in the cool autumn air.

Numerous butterflies were a constant and welcome sight this summer. They are still visiting the butterfly bush from early morning until almost dark.

Summer went by quickly. But autumn is my favorite season, so I am welcoming it and getting ready to make some changes myself. Enjoy your week and remember to peek at the little winged things if you have them nearby!

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Photographing a Male Ruby-throated Hummingbird: A Simple Strategy

Our feisty Ruby-throated hummingbirds arrived a little late this year. We put the feeders out in April and faithfully filled and cleaned them all summer. Finally in July, three birds decided to claim our yard as their territory. We love watching them fatten up for their long migration next month!

Today the cloudy sky created good light, so I set up my tripod, attached the remote shutter release, and carefully considered my camera settings. Determined to photograph the male hummingbird, I felt it would be easy since he was feeding and zipping around the yard all morning. I soon realized he was chasing other birds more than eating, so I needed a strategy. I decided to place all the feeders on the porch except the one in front of my camera. Then I added a misting spray of water from the garden hose to make the remaining feeder more interesting. The strategy worked and the male finally posed in all his orangey-red-throated glory!

Click photos to view in higher resolution.

All photos: Canon 60D, aperture priority, RAW format, AI Servo AF, continuous high speed, partial metering, ISO 2000, 200mm, f/11, 1/250 for the perched photos and 1/400 and 1/500 for the flying photos. Exposure compensation: -1 to help produce a proper exposure of the lighter hummingbird on the darker green background. I set the focal point on the right flower port. When the hummingbird came into that plane of focus, the f/11 aperture allowed his eyes and most of his body to remain in focus. In post processing, I was able to retain most of the light feather texture, even after increasing the exposure by about 1 stop. I experimented with reducing noise in Nik Define 2.0, but ultimately decided to accept the noise generated from ISO 2000.


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Eastern Box Turtle and Baby Birds

Thanks to my neighbor, Yvette, I was able to photograph an eastern box turtle today! She found him on her patio and gave him water while she waited for me to arrive. Our guess is that he was searching for water. Rainfall has been scarce this spring and judging from the turtle’s eager approach to the water, he was thirsty.

I placed the turtle on a large rock and shot the photos from various angles. I used a macro lens and handheld the camera. After the photo shoot, we returned him to the shade and his much-needed water.

Our baby cardinals are five days old. They will be ready to fly in six or seven days! They briefly woke when I gently moved the branches back and snapped two photos with my compact camera. Amazing how wild babies are so aware of their surroundings and how quickly they grow! I hope to take at least one more photo before they leave the nest.


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Watching Winter Birds

The window feeder is getting a lot of traffic these days. At various times of the day I check out the activity and photograph the birds as the light changes. The House Finches are fun to watch. The female sometimes feeds the male. I included three photos showing him waiting, leaning forward for seed, then seed hulls around his beak. I was shooting high-speed continuous, but missed the exact moment she gave him the seed!

When I saw the black areas around the American Goldfinch’s head, beak and eyes, I thought he might have Avian Pox, a common disease of finches and other feeder birds. But after doing more research and comparing photos, I think those areas are due to molting which happens in late winter and again in late summer.

A Carolina Wren visits, but she is so fast I miss her every time. Cardinals are checking out the feeder, but are reluctant to land. Maybe they will get braver over time. A Cooper’s Hawk sat on our fence last week and ate his catch. I was not able to get a photo, but enjoyed watching him through the binoculars.

Have you seen interesting activity at your feeders this winter?

All photos Canon 60D.


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Tufted Titmouse and Carolina Chickadee

Little birds are visiting our window feeder this winter. Peanuts and a few dried cranberries added to the seed mix have kept them active, especially mornings. The cloudy, rainy weather has been a photography frustration since attaching the feeder. But I was able to take a few photos and plan to try again when different birds visit and the light is better. A male cardinal flew in for a closer look, but has not actually fed from the feeder, as far as I know.

I learned from researching these birds that the Tufted Titmouse nests in tree holes and stores seed and nuts in winter. They shell sunflower seeds before hiding them. Normally found in the eastern half of the United States, Tufted Titmouse pairs remain in their territory through the winter.

Carolina Chickadees live in the southeastern United States. Pairs bond in small flocks and defend their territories against other flocks throughout the year. These tiny birds excavate a tree hole, or choose a cavity for nesting. They normally choose seeds and nuts from a feeder and carry it to a branch to eat. Tufted Titmice associate with the Carolina Chickadees, but are dominate over them.

Photos: Canon 60D, tripod mounted.


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Wild and Cultivated

This has been a difficult summer for my photography. Blazing bright sunlight, temperatures that rarely dipped below the mid 90s, and serious allergy symptoms made the prospect of nature photography undesirable. When I did venture out, it was mostly in my backyard. Luckily, I have a bit of color there and recently captured some of my favorite wild and cultivated subjects.

Click on the photos to enlarge.

male Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Male Eastern Tiger Swallowtail enjoying the nectar from my Sweet William plants. He was not as calm as the female I photographed a few days ago, but finally paused long enough for me to take a handheld macro photo. f2.8,  ISO 200, shutter speed 1/640.

homegrown heirloom tomatoes

A cooperative effort this year produced our tasty heirloom tomato varieties. I started seeds in February and nurtured them to the seedling stage. Then Larry took responsibility for watering, pruning, natural insect and fungus control, and harvesting. I cooked two large batches of spaghetti sauce to freeze, many entrees and salads using fresh tomatoes, and batches of roasted tomatoes that we enjoy adding to heirloom bean dishes. We also gave tomatoes to several neighbors every week.

squirrel

The squirrels in our backyard are mostly a nuisance; eating the birdseed and sometimes chewing the feeders. But they are cute and I caught this happy guy munching sunflower seeds.

sweet william blossoms

I started Sweet William plants from seed this year and decided to plant them in large pots. They bloom continuously in pretty shades of purple, pink, white and a multi-colored blossom of pinks. We keep them in the shade most of the time because of the heat, but they bloom well with morning sun and little other care except watering. Their lovely fragrance is one I have not enjoyed since childhood.