photography and digital scrapbooking


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.


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.


Afternoon at Serenbe

Serenbe is a 900 acre eclectic community southwest of Atlanta, Georgia. The surrounding area is known as Chattahoochee Hill Country and incorporates portions of four counties. Development in this 40,000 acre area emphasizes smart growth, also known as sustainable living. Curious about this secluded area, we decided to check it out yesterday. From our home it was a 45 minute drive. The last five minutes were on a long, winding lane through fenced livestock pastures.

We started our exploration of Serenbe with a delicious brunch at The Hil. Later, we spoke to some friendly residents who invited us to walk the nature trail (not a public area) and gave us a map and brief orientation. For a short stretch the trail borders a pasture, but unfortunately no horses were present. The round-trip hike took us about two hours and provided some interesting sights and much-needed exercise.

The homes at Serenbe are mostly upscale and each has a custom design. Greenspace includes vast wooded and pasture areas, stables, a lake, and organic gardens. We are looking forward to the Saturday Produce Market next spring when strawberries are available.

We enjoyed the brief glimpse of the Serenbe lifestyle. When we return, we plan to visit the interesting shops and bakery we missed during this visit.


Snow Photos and Tutorial

Snow Photography Tutorial

My first attempt at snow photography went fairly well. I attached an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS lens to my Canon Rebel xti and headed out for a neighborhood walk.  Checking my camera manual for tips, I realized a camera’s light meter can be fooled by large expanses of white; producing snow that looks gray. The goal was to find subjects with a bit of color and capture snow that looked white.

  • The weather was mostly cloudy and many shady areas are on my walking route, so I set ISO to 400 (on the back of the camera).
  • Because a tripod was not being used, IS (image stabilization) on the lens was set to ‘on’.
  • Automatic Focus mode was set to ‘one shot’ (on the back of the camera), because still objects would be the subjects of the photos.

When preparing for your snowy photo shoots, the basic settings above may need to change depending on available light, the use of a tripod, and your choice of subjects.

After the photo shoot, I processed the RAW photos in Lightroom and Photoshop. Art Grunge#4 photo texture from Shadowhouse Creations was used to give the photos a bit of texture and a border. My tutorial on using photo textures.

Step by step techniques for your snow photography:

  1. First, turn the mode dial to aperture priority (AV) so you can control the depth of field for each photo. The camera will set the shutter speed automatically.
  2. To help achieve white snow, set the exposure compensation by pressing the shutter button halfway, then pressing the AV button on the back of the camera. Watch the viewfinder on the back of the camera and turn the main dial to the right to set positive one third stop. During your photo shoot, you can experiment with higher settings, possibly up to + one or two full stops.
  3. On the back of the camera, set the metering mode to ‘partial’. This setting will allow the camera to read the light from a small area of the scene.
  4. Next, go to the menu and set automatic exposure bracketing (AEB) to maximize your chances of getting a good exposure. Using AEB provides a standard exposure, a darker exposure, and a lighter exposure. Then set the shooting mode to ‘continuous shooting’, so you can rapidly take the three different exposures by holding the shutter button down.
  5. When you find subjects you want to photograph, point the center focal point at a neutral gray area in the scene and take a meter reading. While still holding the shutter button halfway, press and hold the * button (exposure lock) with your thumb. While continuing to hold the * button, release the shutter button, aim your camera at the subject, and compose the shot. Press the shutter button halfway to focus; then all the way to take the shots.
  6. You can also experiment with the techniques above by setting exposure compensation (#2) to a negative setting, then metering (#5) from the snow instead of a neutral gray area in the scene.

Exposure compensation, auto exposure bracketing, and exposure lock can result in much whiter snow than you can achieve with your camera’s auto setting!