It’ll Take a Lifetime!

How many things do we put our mind and body into wanting to accomplish even if the “thing” would take a lifetime? Continued education on many subjects has always been of interest to me, just as my dedication to the many thousand tennis strokes, hundred pickleball strokes and other activities I wanted and needed to learn. In college I thought my basketball and field hockey skills would be fantastic if only I took a lifetime working on them! Instead, we pick and choose what and where we wish to put our energies. For me, at the moment, it is to learn about birds and bird photography. (To this day my basketball and field hockey skills are not good.)

I was thinking about things that seem to take forever to actually happen … does everything require a lifetime!?! I had been on the trail and people would always ask, did you see that bird or did you see this bird? No wonder it is a life list to record the birds you see … it’ll take a lifetime! Are my birding skills getting better? Am I at the best locations and at the best time to see certain birds? My very early morning hours where when I was younger and needing to be at work. Now do I really need to be up with the birds? I guess I need to dedicate myself to the process and get up early too! Or may be not.

Thank goodness I discovered the other day that an early morning rise was not necessary to see a bird I have been looking for the last few weeks. It was 3:30pm, late afternoon in my book. Besides enjoying the birds I saw few human beings, another plus! A cinnamon teal made an appearance.

Cinnamon teal

A bird usually heard from the cattails and never seen was now dipping its head into the stream’s water. The bird is a sora!

sora

But the bird everyone else observed the last few weeks and I had never seen in my lifetime was the wood duck. I visit Sweetwater Wetlands whenever I am on this side of town and I look for these birds. I could only envision their beautiful look from what I had seen on postcards and field guide books. With each person asking if I saw the bird, I was determined that my sighting will come. It did and it was late in the day, not like 7:30am as others mentioned was the time they had seen the ducks.

Wood ducks swim away.

Black-crowned night heron flew in so the wood ducks swam away. What a fortunate sighting for me and it did not take a lifetime!

Black-crowned night heron.

I think the Audubon bird life list is about 9,000 birds. There are some people who travel the world looking for specific birds to add to their list. I remember one woman wanting to see a California condor while she was on a hiking trip I was guiding at Grand Canyon National Park. The following week she was flying to the west coast of Africa to see some of the 150 birds not yet on her life list. (She did see the condor.)

I saw 100 birds along the Amazon River in Peru in 2017. I wonder where I have the list of them; maybe in my travel journal? And what about the birds seen before I started my current life list? I understand I can add historical sightings… hmmmm…maybe I will. I have to be sure to add in the Eastern USA common loon I saw in the late 1970’s. I hiked in 4 miles to an Adirondack lake just to find and to see that bird. It took a few times before I did see the bird, but it was worth it. All the other times I had only heard the loon’s haunting call while I was tenting on an island in another lake. And now I see some loons do winter in Arizona, yet they do not have the call of the loon as the one on the east coast. Interesting. With all the birding done in my lifetime so far, I may be lucky to record 300 birds? Who knows, but when I read about people viewing thousands of birds, wow! I have a lifetime yet to fill, so I best get going!

A Relaxed Great Egret!

Birds at local parks are often comfortable with activity around them. A bird will find and look around to be sure it is in a good spot. As a bird photographer, this allows me a chance to capture a photo and anticipate the bird taking flight to possibly capture another photo! Okay, good luck with all of that! My plan, a return visit to Lakeside Park to see and photograph some birds.

Across the lake, I see a great egret. It is standing there. Will it fly toward me at some point? No, it flies about 20 feet to a slightly higher spot further from the water’s edge. No problem, I can wait as I anticipate it will fly at some point in time across the lake!

The great egret is relaxed, looking around, in no hurry and I am thinking I may not be seeing this bird move or fly in the next hour, if I was to remain here so long … which I could not. I’m looking around too and noticing the American wigeons, mallards, and western bluebirds.

After 20 minutes the great egret is in flight! Not the best light, but I am here to practice my photography skills so I get a few photos!

The great egret lands and gets comfortable in this new spot. I take a peek at my photos and discover a couple of them seem okay, plus it is time for me to go! It was a productive three-quarters of an hour, yet not as relaxing for me as it was for the great egret.

Learn With Barn Swallows

One of my many photography goals is to photograph birds in flight. Finding the correct location to take such a photograph requires knowing the bird’s flight plan, where the sun is in the sky relative to that info, what the water’s edge looks like, reedy or open so a photo can be taken from lift-off or only in the sky, handhold the camera or use a gimbal on a tripod, and what camera settings to use.

The other night I spent more than an hour at a local place watching ducks fly in and fly out a couple of times. Plenty of photos were taken as I figured out my camera settings, lighting, and guessing whether that bird was about to fly. Out of all, I was lucky to capture one good photo of a mallard duck.

Mallard duck.

Then I heard about auto ISO and how it is useful with bird photography. I decided to try my newly discovered camera setting on some ducks, hopefully in flight, the next day. I re-read various photography papers about auto ISO and consulted my camera’s on-line manual. So with the auto ISO sensitivity this brings my birds in flight challenge to a different level and somewhat easier, I hope!

I was at a different local place the next morning and the ducks were more interested in eating their meal than flying. I watched barn swallows quickly fly over the water, snatch insects at the water’s surface and then fly off…so fast!

Was I up to the challenge to use what I learned about auto ISO with these fast-flying barn swallows? Why not? I thought if I can capture some good photos of these fliers, then auto ISO will become another tool I can use with my photography! So with camera on the gimbal on the tripod, shutter speed and aperture settings ready and auto ISO on, the shooting began! Barn swallows fly fast in the sky and near the water’s surface. Trying to keep up with them was almost impossible! I took some photos, changed the shutter speed for some photos, and here were the results.

Wow, I actually had some okay photos within my numerous attempts; I am talking at least 100! A good first lesson. I look forward to using auto ISO when the need arises, and hopefully with something that moves a bit slower! Or maybe not; this was fun!

Green Heron, My Model!

Did I tell you I am working on my photography skills while social distancing from every human being I know? Thankfully the fauna and flora I see while outdoors on walks or drives has kept me challenged!

My favorite bird of the moment is the green heron I saw at Sweetwater Wetlands in Tucson, AZ! This bird was so focused on eating while standing in a quiet stream, I could focus on him and his behaviors. He looked around, high and low; zeroed in on prey and caught small fish and other creepy looking things!

My challenge was to capture it all in photos, in focus, and with some success I did! Photos below to prove it. My future challenge will be to capture birds not so accommodating! Give me time, I will get there! In the meantime, I love my green heron!

Green heron looking around.
Green heron looking around.
Green heron looking in the other direction.
Aha, green heron got the fish! I got the photo!

Wonder What He’s Thinking?

Hmmm...
Hmmm…

Photography is my new goal…or maybe not so new, continued goal…I keep hoping it takes a lifetime to learn…just like tennis is a lifetime sport! Anyway, I like photos that are not the usual. I wonder what this guy is thinking?

Maybe:

Am I done for the day? Am I really ready to ride home on my bicycle with my surfboard? That ship really should not come any closer! Are the waves getting bigger or is that my imagination? Did I really need my full wetsuit today? Is it really necessary to be on my way or do I have another place to stop? Hmmm…

I know this guy had a great day! Did you? I did!

Photo 101: Pop & Color

I missed the “full bloom” this year at Death Valley National Park; however, I did see plenty of color compared to another time at the park. No disappointment to report.

Yellow flowers; purple flowers; plenty of white salt at Devil’s Golf Course and Badwater; Dubai sand-colored dunes; green-colored riparian areas; and the changing sky.

Color is wonderful to see after so much salt and sand dunes!
Color is wonderful to see after so much salt and sand dunes!

Photo 101: Natural World & Leading Lines

I was fascinated by this old river on the bed of Death Valley, and to its end point where salt accumulated. This area of the world is unique. I often imagine what early travelers must have thought as they came to the area now known as our Death Valley National Park! I appreciate the fact our country’s land is protected so my niece, nephews and grand niece can enjoy the national park when they grow older and visit. If you have not been there, go; take caution during summer months!

An old river at Death Valley National Park
An old river at Death Valley National Park.

When’s Your Golden Hour?

I am figuring this “golden hour” out for myself because my time seems to fill and often burst with to many things to do in short time. I think I should have a golden hour … what would it involve and/or look like? I wondered too if others have a “golden hour”, or does time just fill with no special acknowledgment, but instead the usual work, play, cocktail hour?

Within my American Red Cross course, I am reminded of the medically-referred golden hour: when prompt medical care must be provided someone within an hour or less of their medical emergency to hopefully prevent his/her death. And then too, within my photography work its reference to the golden hour: time shortly after sunrise or before sunset when a photographer hopes to capture a softer, redder daylight compared to time when the sun is higher in the sky.

That’s it! I need an hour or less when it is imperative to react to a behavior, or to act on a regular basis to a specific time of day. When working, I had limited time in a day so I felt there was little precious time for myself… just do and do … and occasionally catch my breath for the relaxing moment. Now with so much available time, other things fill my time: volunteering, tennis, road bicycling, tai chi, reading, etc and yet I believe I should have a golden hour each day. Does anyone agree?

My golden hour may be time to think with no interruption. A quiet, reflective time; maybe even meditative. I am not sure yet, but I plan to chisel a time per day, at a minimum, to listen to my brain. I have ideas that need sorting; thoughts that need encouraging; nonsense that needs deleting. I do not want to do these things while I fall asleep at night. I need a golden hour.

When’s your golden hour? Are you a reactor creating your time, or do you act each day at the same time with a special activity? Please feel free to comment. I am interested in your ideas.