Gina and the Magnolia Warbler

This Magnolia Warbler remains perched all day

This Magnolia Warbler remains perched all day

The next hardest part after getting someone to agree to pose for you is to find a setting to shoot them in.  Lucky for me, the ravine at the end of Gina and Gill’s street provided a lovely backdrop.

After seeing the critters that had been collected in the ravine that day (see yesterday’s post), we paused to check out Gina’s bird under the overpass.  A group of people had gotten together to raise money to have a mural painted under an overpass in the ravine.

Gina's Magnolia is a bit bigger than life-sized

Gina’s Magnolia is a bit bigger than life-sized

The idea was less about making it pretty and more about preventing people from touting whom they love in the not-so-public forum of graffiti on rarely seen walls.  Interestingly, graffiti artists do not usually graffiti over top of someone else’s art.  So, putting a mural on a space that gets graffitied a lot can be effective when it comes to combatting the problem.

I am particularly fond of the bird mural in Gina’s neighborhood ravine.  Gina and Gill sponsored the painting of a Magnolia Warbler.  They didn’t know they were sponsoring a Magnolia Warbler until after it was done and they were informed of what type of bird they had funded.

What's that birdie on your shoulder?

What’s that birdie on your shoulder?

The Magnolia Warbler is partially responsible for growing my interest in birds sufficiently that I started learning more about them.  My mom had tried to get me interested in birds for many years.  I did have some interest, but not enough to go out and learn much beyond feeder birds.  Then, I met a woman at work who asked me to sponsor her in a fund raiser for the local chapter of the Audubon.  This is when I first learned to open my ears and eyes and see birds I would have sworn I’d never seen before.

With a little more flash

With a little more flash

One spring, I was working from home back when my office window looked out into several trees.  As I sat at my desk diligently working, I looked up briefly–just long enough to notice a beautiful small bird sitting on a branch.  I watched it as long as I dared.  I was torn between running upstairs for the bird book to identify it and staring at it for as long as possible so I could sear the image of the bird into my brain and identify it later.

Creating a little drama with a Snoot

Creating a little drama with a Snoot

Realizing I didn’t really know (yet) what to look for and probably would have forgotten the bird by the time I got to the bird book, I decided to make a run for it and see if I could get the book and get back before the bird flew away.  I didn’t, but I did manage to remember what it looked like.  Of course, it took both looking it up in a bird book and talking to my friend the next day to confirm that it probably was a Magnolia Warbler I’d seen before I believed it.

It was such a surprise to learn such small, beautiful birds are really a common sight.

What a beautiful day in the park

What a beautiful day in the park

New Flash

Tisen looks nicely lit for this quick-and-dirty shot with the flash on camera

Tisen looks nicely lit for this quick-and-dirty shot with the flash on camera

 

I recall working pretty darn had to get a decent exposure with my manual flash

I recall working pretty darn had to get a decent exposure with my manual flash

 

I’ve been doing well on holding steady with the photography equipment I have.  I had the small splurge on small accessories for my iPhone along with a few dollars worth of apps for my iPhone, but otherwise, I haven’t bought anything for quite a while.

Then, I got frustrated with my inexpensive manual flash unit when I last pulled it out.  First, it doesn’t have an auto-focus assist function for low-light focusing.  Second, I have to take about 3 shots to figure out the right power settings on the flash (or buy a light meter).  Third, it won’t do high-speed sync (meaning I end up with black bars on my photos if I have too fast a shutter speed and my only option is to choose a slower shutter speed even when that’s not what I want.  Finally, I can’t do rear-curtain sync.  This is a feature you don’t think about until you try to shoot motion in dim lighting.

So, having these irritations right about tax return time combined with the realization that the price of the Speedlite I’ve been lusting after has dropped significantly since I last fantasized about owning it led to one of those late-night purchases that made me feel a little queasy when I woke up in the morning and realized what I’d done.

I put the card up to create catchlights in the eyes--another feature I was missing--but Tisen refused to look at me and even closed one eye

I put the card up to create catchlights in the eyes–another feature I was missing–but Tisen refused to look at me and even closed one eye

While it’s not the most expensive piece of equipment I’ve ever purchased, I tend to think of things as being “expensive” or “inexpensive” based on how much use I get out of them.  My tripod had a higher price tag, for example, but I use it all the time and it will last the rest of my life.  I feel the same way about my lenses.  While camera bodies are expensive and quickly out-dated, they last years and the camera body is the one piece of equipment I use for every shot I take.  A flash, on the other hand, is an occasional add-on accessory for me, not something I need 80% of the time.

In any case, I decided I should start learning how to use the thing immediately in order to increase the odds that I will be happy with having purchased it.  I tried to get Tisen to help me work on using rear-curtain sync, but he was resistant and seemed to think I was mad at him because I kept coaxing him onto one side of the room, making him sit, and then, when he started walking, pointing a big, black machine at him that kept flashing.  When he started cowering when I called him, I decided I needed to enlist Pat’s help.

Not quite what I was going for--was working on a trail leading up to a solid Tisen but me-thinks I have some learning to do

Not quite what I was going for–was working on a trail leading up to a solid Tisen but me-thinks I have some learning to do

Pat was not more cooperative and I didn’t have any better luck getting the image I was looking for.  But, I was pleased with how nicely the automatic abilities of the flash unit to choose the exposure worked.  I got far better exposures with ¼ of the effort.  That’s encouraging.

 

Pat got a little more solid, but he's still see-through

Pat got a little more solid, but he’s still see-through