Busy Bee

The bee escapes Tisen and lands on a flower

The bee escapes Tisen and lands on a flower

A word of advice:  trying to get a good macro shot of a flying bee is best accomplished without a dog on a leash attached to your wrist.  Tisen is not always the best photographer’s dog.  Particularly not when it comes to bees.  He is not fond of bees.

At least he didn’t eat my subject.

I sometimes wonder if I have an unconscious desire to make achieving the image I have in my head as difficult as possible if not impossible.  After all, you really cannot expect to get a good shot of a bee on a flower with a macro lens while you’re standing in the park with a dog trying to chase said bee.

I have a tendency to disguise creating obstacles as efficiency–I was both getting some shooting in and walking my dog at the same time.  Realistically, my dog didn’t enjoy his walk half as much and I didn’t come close to getting the images I wanted.

Once out of Tisen's reach, he flitted from blossom to blossom

Once out of Tisen’s reach, he flitted from blossom to blossom

It may have even taken more total time because I was constantly getting tangled in the leash and having to convince my dog to stop for a while in the midst of biting flies and mosquitos.  Perhaps I need to re-think my approach to time saving.

On that note, in case you noticed my blog posts have gotten a lot shorter the past few days, it is because I have started a second blog that has a simple photography lesson each day for want-to-be photographers who are using iPhones (or other simple cameras) and who don’t want to know any of the technical details.  Check it out at snapgreatphotos.com if that’s you.

It’s a fun challenge to work out lessons that aren’t technical at all. But, since I only have a small amount of time in the evenings to work on blog posts, I’m finding it’s tough to keep up on both, especially since I’m getting used to the second one.

For my friends who read my blog during breakfast, it should be a lot easier to get to the end of my posts before you finish your cereal now!  🙂

By the way, for my readers who are Tisen fans, Tisen is my main model for my other blog, so you can get your fill of photos of him there.  But, since he is my favorite model, here’s an iPhone image just for you:

Tisen modeling for me on a breezier day with fewer bugs

Tisen modeling for me on a breezier day with fewer bugs

 

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Playing Peek-a-boo

Blooms hiding amongst the leaves, waiting to burst forth at dawn

Blooms hiding amongst the leaves, waiting to burst forth at dawn

In my high-speed journey around the park grabbing macro shots Sunday (macro shots really should not be “grabbed”), I paused long enough between mosquito bites to notice a few surprises peeking through the lush greenery that seems to have grown to gigantic proportions lately.

A spider checks out some flowers about to bloom

A spider checks out some flowers about to bloom

Tisen did not notice any of these things.  He did, however, manage to catch a fly in mid-air while I was in the middle of trying to catch a spider.  I caught the spider, too, but only in an image.

Some bright purple blooms pop up out of the undergrowth

Some bright purple blooms pop up out of the undergrowth

In spite of their bright colors, these orange flowers were hard to spot from the sidewalk

In spite of their bright colors, these orange flowers were hard to spot from the sidewalk

Bright Whites

Tiny flowers looking fresh in the shade

Tiny flowers looking fresh in the shade

Sunday was one of those days when I woke up feeling like I’d rather spend the entire day in bed than getting anything productive done.  However, since Tisen ate a very late dinner, he needed to go out early.  I rolled out of bed and threw something semi-presentable on and took him for an early morning walk.

Then, I went back to bed for 3 hours.  All together, I got 8 ½ hours of sleep–the most sleep I’ve gotten in years.  Unfortunately, I still woke up feeling like I needed to sleep another 8 ½ hours.  But, it was a start.

I managed to rally and get a few things done that I’ve been procrastinating.  But by the time I was done, the day was gone and I realized I hadn’t been out shooting all weekend.  I also realized that Tisen was more than ready for his 3rd walk of the day.  So, I did what I keep trying to get away from doing:  shooting while I’m doing something else and not really taking my time setting up each shot.  The speed at which I shot was greatly increased by the ridiculous number of mosquitos who have hatched in the area following all the rains that we had earlier in the month.  I came home with a collection I might call “Shot While Swatting.”  These are blurred images of mostly grass and sidewalk that resulted when I got bit in the middle of taking a shot.  On the plus side, I probably have immunity to West Nile Virus by now.

Tisen was not any more patient.  He was getting bit by both flies and mosquitos while I was trying to capture mushrooms and flowers and various bugs.  Perhaps I should have tried to get a macro shot of a mosquito sucking my blood.  I think I would have needed a tripod for that.

From this whirlwind shoot, I have culled some of the images of white things.  There’s the mushroom that has started melting away as it degrades, but created a rich bed of nutrients for the clover and flowers growing through it.

Melting mushroom

Melting mushroom

Then there are the tiny white flowers I don’t recognize growing right next to the mushroom.  They are looking fresh and new for a late July bloom, hanging out in the shade of the stump of a tree.

Neighboring flowers

Neighboring flowers

There’s also the queen anne’s lace, which is undaunted by the summer even when it’s much hotter.  I used to love this flower when I was a child.  It seemed so sophisticated next to the dandelion.

Queen Anne's Lace looking regal

Queen Anne’s Lace looking regal

Finally, there’s my boy, Tisen.  Recovering from his walk.

Tisen chillin'

Tisen chillin’

Bright whites are something we seek when it comes to laundry and teeth.  But one of the photographic challenges is exposing something white, especially in a dark setting, so that the white doesn’t loose all of its detail.  I didn’t succeed in all cases–especially not with Tisen (shot with the iPhone). But, I got some practice in.

Final Curtain

Elvi and Bo

Elvi and Bo

One final post with guest photographer Patrick Murray (aka, my husband).

This will be the last post from the Raptor Experience with my husband’s aunt and uncle.  It was a great experience.  They came on a visit from Germany and the birds helped bridge any language gaps (at least for me–my husband speaks German just fine–it’s his first language).

Horst and Dante

Horst and Dante

Bo and Dante, the Harris’s Hawks, got to spend a little time learning German.  They normally don’t participate in raptor educational programs these days, although one of them may be making a debut soon, but during the raptor experience, they get to spend a little time visiting with participants.  Bo and Dante normally sit out on perches in the yard.  One of the first questions people ask is “what about coyotes?”  Bo and Dante don’t sit out on their perches unattended.  If no caretaker is going to be close at hand, they go back into their enclosures where they are safe.  But, they enjoy hanging out under the canopy of trees and are quite content.  They are also content to sit on a glove and look beautiful.

Elvi, Cayce, and me assisting

Elvi, Cayce, and me assisting

Harris’s Hawks are not found in the majority of the US.  Texas is the most likely place to find them, although they are also seen in New Mexico, Arizona, the most Southern part of Southern California, Louisiana, and, occasionally, Oklahoma and Nevada.  To see two in Tennessee is quite a treat–they truly are beautiful birds.  They’re also quite intelligent hunters.  They hunt in a cooperative fashion in small groups.  This has made them a favorite among falconers and they work very well with hunting dogs.

Elvi and I confer while Cayce heads off the other direction

Elvi and I confer while Cayce heads off the other direction

I have never seen a Harris’s Hawk in the wild, although they are not considered endangered or rare.  The just have limited territory in the US and I haven’t been where they are.  Just as I wouldn’t expect to see an Anna’s Hummingbird in Columbus, Ohio, it would be silly to think I’m going to spot a Harris’s Hawk in Chattanooga.  Sometime I’m going to make a trip back to Harris’s Hawk territory when I have time to go birding.

Cayce flies up to Horst's glove

Cayce flies up to Horst’s glove

As usual, in spite of the charm of the owls or the flying of the Red-tailed hawk, Cayce stole the show.  She refused to fly from glove to glove.  Instead she hopped along the ground, only flying up to a glove for a treat.  She’s a funny girl.  I wore my boots just in case she decided to try to bite my legs.  She chased me briefly, snapping at my calves.  I was happy I had my boots on.  I don’t know exactly what makes Cayce so universally lovable.  Maybe it’s just the surprise of getting to know a vulture and discovering that they’re so cool?  What ever the reason, Horst and Elvi appeared to enjoy Cayce’s antics just as much as if we were all speaking the same language.

Cayce lands on Horst's glove

Cayce lands on Horst’s glove

Cayce waiting for us to get our act together so she can hop onto Elvi's glove

Cayce waiting for us to get our act together so she can hop onto Elvi’s glove

 

Loaned Camera

There I am, sharp as a tack back by the car

There I am, sharp as a tack back by the car

Another post with guest photographer Patrick Murray.  I particularly like these images.  Why, you ask?  Well, I like the fact that while my husband had an incredible Red-tailed hawk flying right at him, he was focusing on me in the background.  🙂

But, for the budding photographer, there are several lessons here.  First, there is the “someone just handed me their camera and asked me to take pictures with it” lesson.  Had I planned better, I would have taken my husband’s camera, with which he is slightly more familiar.  Or, I would have at least turned off the back-button focusing setting on my camera, which was something my husband wasn’t used to (I am a huge fan of using back-button focusing instead of pressing the shutter button ½ way to find focus, but that’s another subject).

Yep, it's me again in focus in the background

Yep, it’s me again in focus in the background

I did think to put my camera in Aperture Priority mode (where you pick the aperture and ISO and let the camera pick the shutter speed) and set the aperture for what I thought would be a pretty good depth of field for someone who might not always focus exactly where I wanted him to.  However, I failed to change the focus point selection to a single focus point, which probably would have made it a little easier on my husband.

But then, he might have focused on the birds instead of me and I wouldn’t have gotten quite the same kick out of it.  🙂

I'm not really in focus in this one, but I have to laugh at me peeping around the corner!

I’m not really in focus in this one, but I have to laugh at me peeping around the corner!

I also set the camera in single-shooting mode when we started the raptor experience for my husband’s aunt and uncle.  This was appropriate because they were holding owls on their gloves who can’t fly.  These owls don’t move fast enough to justify continuous shooting mode.

But, this created a problem when we switched to flying the birds–he was getting finger cramps trying to press the shutter button fast enough.  Being in single-shot focusing mode also didn’t help.  Of course, since he wasn’t remembering to use the back button to focus anyway, using the continuous focusing mode wouldn’t really have helped in this case.  I guess that takes us to point 1.

Oh yes, there I am again

Oh yes, there I am again

I forgot I was enumerating the lessons, so let’s review.  If you’re handing your camera off to a novice and expecting them to do all the shooting of an up-close and person raptor experience:

  • Turn off back-button focusing if you normally use it
  • Set the focus point selection to a single focus point
  • Use an aperture setting that provides an appropriate depth of field (like f/8ish)
  • Select a high enough ISO setting that the shutter speeds won’t get too slow for the action shots
  • If the birds are perching, use single shooting mode
  • If the birds are flying, turn on high speed continuous shooting and continuous focusing
  • Try to stay out of the background
  • Be prepared to do a lot of editing.

Of course, if you’re not assisting in the raptor experience, you can take the photos yourself.

I just like this one--Elvi looks so happy

I just like this one–Elvi looks so happy

Speaking Owl

Artie looking very happy on Horst's glove

Artie looking very happy on Horst’s glove

Note:  my husband is once again the guest photographer for all photos of the Raptor Experience, including in yesterday’s post.

One of the great pleasures in life is sharing something you love with someone who enjoys the experience.  Think about it.  While on the one hand, we might respect that everyone has different tastes, there is something in human nature that causes us to gravitate towards people who appreciate the same things we appreciate.  And introducing someone to something that’s a personal favorite makes for a particularly enjoyable experience.  It’s like discovering a new food that makes you want to groan when you put it in your mouth and finding out that someone else has the exact same reaction–it’s something in common, creating a tiny bond.

Elvi speaks owl fluently

Elvi speaks owl fluently

I think that’s why I enjoy volunteering for Wings to Soar so much.  There aren’t many people who don’t enjoy getting up close to birds of prey.  There are a few.  I recently met someone who is terrified of birds–probably not a great idea to introduce her to the raptors.  But most people are pretty fascinated by getting to see a creature up close that they normally only get to see soaring overhead or perched high above.

Me assisting in the background in my Cayce-protecting boots

Me assisting in the background in my Cayce-protecting boots

It’s interesting how this interest crosses cultures and language.  I may not be bilingual, but I’m pretty sure the owls are.  They seem to recognize their admirers in any language.

Artie, the Barred Owl, hopped on Horst and Elvi’s gloves and immediately settled down and looked content.  he wasn’t the least concerned about what language they spoke–as far as he was concerned, they spoke owl.

Theo hopping over to Horst's glove

Theo hopping over to Horst’s glove

Theo, the Barn Owl, however, might have been a little too settled–he was content to ride over to Elvi and Horst when we were hoping he would fly.  He sat on the perch and stared, occasionally acting like he was going to fly, but then waited patiently for Dale to come over and put him on her glove.  Dale walked Theo closer to Elvi and Horst in turn, trying to get Theo to a distance from which he would fly.  Theo looked longingly at the tasty piece of mouse on the destination glove, but he wouldn’t fly to it.  When Dale put her glove next to Horst or Elvi’s glove, he happily hopped over to their glove and munched contentedly.  He seemed perfectly happy; he just didn’t feel like flying.

Theo happy to join Elvi

Theo happy to join Elvi

Theo is a human imprint–he was raised by humans and doesn’t really understand he’s an owl.  I sometimes wonder if his reluctance to fly is because he identifies so much with humans, he starts to think it’s unnecessary.  But, then there are days when Theo doesn’t seem to want to sit on a glove at all.  He baits and baits and can’t seem to stay still.  I don’t know if it was the calming influence of Horst and Elvi, but I think he would have sat all day.

The 3-gloved approach

The 3-gloved approach

Speaking German

My husband with his aunt and uncle (this was a test shot when I was setting up my camera for my husband)

My husband with his aunt and uncle (this was a test shot when I was setting up my camera for my husband)

It’s been a pretty crazy week.  Last Wednesday, I left for a solo road trip to Columbus, Ohio.  I spent a few days up North and then met up with my husband’s family to pick up his aunt and uncle, who are visiting from Germany.  I brought them home with me to Chattanooga on Sunday.

As a typical American who speaks only 1 language with anything close to fluency, driving for 7+ hours with two people who speak little English introduced some interesting challenges.  We attempted to address the challenges with technology.  I downloaded the Google translator app on my iPad and handed it to Pat’s aunt so she could speak into the iPad and translate what she wanted to say into English.  The app will even read the translation out loud, which is perfect when you’re driving.

Horst takes a turn holding Buddy

Horst takes a turn holding Buddy

There were a few glitches, however.  Elvi, Pat’s aunt, had trouble getting it to hear her properly.  At one point, I heard her mutter, “Transfestite . . . transvestite . . . oh!  Transvestite!”  I looked over at her, smiling, and she said (in much better English than google managed), “Something I never said!”  I was just impressed she knew the word.

Horst meets Gilbert--they had no trouble communicating

Horst meets Gilbert–they had no trouble communicating

I learned that, in Germany, people are not allowed to talk on their cell phones while operating a vehicle.  Elvi was rather shocked when she saw a man driving by in what seems to be the common posture of 20-something American men:  slouched low in the seat, elbow propped on the window sill, cell phone held tight against his ear.  As he sped past me at something well over 75 mph, I wondered if it was physically possible for him to see out of his windshield, let alone his side windows or rearview mirrors.

I also learned that in Germany, passengers can drink alcohol while someone who is not drinking is driving.  I thought about this for a while.  Study after study has shown that people who are on a cell phone can’t drive.  Some studies suggest cell-phone-talkers exhibit worse response times and greater levels of distraction while driving than people who have a blood alcohol level that barely exceeds the legal limit.

Elvi and Buddy bonding

Elvi and Buddy bonding

I did not even try to explain why we Americans (except in a handful of states) think it’s our god-given right to talk on the phone while we drive, yet think it’s just plain criminal to let a passenger enjoy a beer as they ride down the road.  I picked up my cell phone and called my husband instead.

We made it to Chattanooga with what may have been a world record for the fewest words spoken during a 7 hour car ride ever.  I spent most of the journey trying to remember all the German words I once knew (not that there were a lot).  It wouldn’t have helped much–even if I could remember them, I wouldn’t have been able to pronounce them in a recognizable form.

I think Gilbert developed a crush on Elvi

I think Gilbert developed a crush on Elvi