I like to DIY. It’s satisfying and certainly much cheaper than purchasing something new. And if I have a potentially good item, I'd rather repurpose it. Lately, I’ve been looking for a camera backpack. Some I've tried are too big, too small, too expensive, or the straps fit weird (too many are designed for a man’s chest, not a woman’s - I’ll go into that at another time).
So I decided to make my own. I came across padded insert options which allow you to create your own full sized bag/backpack or to carry a small camera in a purse or shoulder bag, and my lightbulb went off!
I have this backpack from the Sierra Club that I really like but have only used a few times. So I thought this would be the perfect use for it. I took inside bag measurements and rather quickly came upon this insert by Selens on Amazon.
The Selens insert is padded along the sides and the bottom and includes 2 large and 4 small velcro’ed dividers so I can design the bag the way I need it.
I still have room in the top of the backpack for a sweatshirt and/or rain jacket (it is springtime, you know). And my Sierra Club backpack has these nice pockets around the front that can easily hold smaller gear like a cable release, filters, lens wipes, etc. Repurposing the backpack worked out wonderfully.
While researching the wildlife I might find around Acadia National Park, I discovered that several trails were closed due to Peregrine falcons nesting. Peregrine's are one of my favorite raptors. I was very excited to have the chance to see peregrine falcons as they were one of the many raptor species whose population of severely decimated by the use of DDT in the 1950's. Since it's ban, thanks to Rachel Carson's eye-opening book Silent Spring (1962), Peregrines and other raptors such as the Bald Eagle have slowly been increasing their populations. During the summers at Acadia, there are several nesting pairs using the cliffs around Mount Desert. Hiking trails to these areas are closed during nesting season to allow minimal disturbance. I went to one of the trailheads via the island shuttle for the Ranger Talk. The nesting pair at this cliff successfully had 2 chicks who were practicing their flying and hunting skills. Peregrines are very territorial. This cliff was only "big enough for the two of them", that is the nesting pair and their two chicks. They were so high up the cliff that I could only see "a bird" flying. The rangers verified it as a young peregrine. They had a large scope fixed on the cliffs and were able to zoom in much more than I could even with my large camera lens. It was very exciting and special to see (and at least attempt to photograph) a young peregrine falcon.
Puffins resting Flying Atlantic puffin
I had the opportunity to go back east this summer with the kids. The kids were having a vacation with their cousins & grandparents at a lake house in New York (parents weren't invited - not in a rude way - they just wanted to hang with the younger crew of grandkids - 7! They are brave souls - before they all went off to college and ended up all across the country like their older grandkids. Or across the Pond which is where my oldest niece is). So I took the opportunity to visit Acadia National Park. Our family was back east a few years ago, and I completely had forgotten to add that stop to our itinerary, so I felt that this was my chance to see it.
Acadia was the first designated national park on the east coast. The island had first been inhabited by the Wabanaki Native Americans about 5,000 years ago. French and English explorers started to arrive, well before the Pilgrims arrived, battles ensued and in the early 1800's French and English were starting numerous fishing, farming and lumbering settlements. During the mid-1800's, artwork of the island was getting around which started drawing people to the island. It didn't take long for the prominent people to build luxurious cottages around the island. A few of the prominent owners were Rockefellers, Fords, Vanderbilts, and Astors. We owe a huge thank you to Rockefeller, though, who, concerned for the possible overdevelopment of the area, encouraged the other large land owners to donate their land which was then designated Acadia National Park in 1916. Many of the prominent families still have a presence on Mount Desert Island today and continue to help preserve the lands in and surrounding the park.
Bass Harbor lighthouse. The most photographed location on the island and in the park.
The Bass Harbor lighthouse is the most iconic landmark of Acadia National Park, and a very busy place to photograph. The sun was going down just behind the cliffside, which was great because I would not have the bright sun shining directly at me, but I would still get the setting sun's glow. Slow shutter speed and small aperture will catch the decreasing light and give the water the blur of motion. (ISO 100 f/22 1/8sec) I love the blur! Note on the lighthouse light: This one has a pattern of 3 seconds of light and 1 second off, so I was able to time it to catch the light in the image. We visited another lighthouse in Oregon this summer, and I learned that each lighthouse has its own light signal. So if you're photographing lighthouses, watch for each specific light pattern.
Like I said, it's a really busy place to photograph. I was as close to the water as I could get without the waves splashing me with another photographer next to me, and several behind us. Tip - arrive early, especially here (there). There is a very small parking lot (12-18 parking slots) given the number of visitors. I lucked out on my timing for my visit. It being a week day probably helped, too, because I tried to go again at the same time on the weekend and it was overflowing. Well, this guy didn't seem to care about anyone else being there. We heard him climbing down the rocks (huffing and puffing) and then watched him jump in front of everyone and out to this rock, snap a few shots and then he was gone as quickly as he came. I'm convinced he had a "things-I-must-see' list and was just running to each site so he could check it off his list of 'to-do's'. Planning a photography trip to a populated location takes some extra planning, maneuvering and patience. I found that arriving earlier or later than the general visitor population is most helpful to get the image you're after.
Mostly clear skies for sunrise at Seawall. ISO 100 f/20 5 sec
My favourite sunrise is the one below. I was moving around doing some different angles around the seawall, and these 4 guys were wandering around as well, and making sure they stayed out of my way. I had backed up on the seawall and saw the sun starting to peek over the horizon. Right as they were jogging out of my frame, I hollered, "Excuse me!" to them, and asked if they wouldn't mind going back where they had just came from and walk across the rocks again. They happily agreed and I got this great shot of them (the person sitting wasn't with them). It's very Abbey Road-like, don't you think? It's nice not being the only person up so early, and even nicer when others around you help you out.
Another fun colourful site I found were these picnic tables in Bar Harbor. Down the ramp from the restaurant and onto a floating pier, up they go with the incoming tide, down they go with the outflowing tide. Must feel like you're dining on a boat. I never saw anyone eating out there the few times I went by. It might have been because of the heat as it is super hot and humid in July.
Colorful picnic flotilla
Just outside of Bar Harbor is the Nature Center, and where you'll find the white birch trees. White birch is native to the northeast and has been used for numerous purposes, such as thread spools, clothespins, wood pulp, and wood fuel. The lumber is also used in cabinet making. The foliage remains green all summer, and in the fall turns to bright red, orange, and yellow. I want to plan a return trip in the fall. The tall canopy of the white birch tree forest provides a protective cover, making it a very peaceful place.
Boardwalk wandering through the Jessup Path in the White Birch Tree forest
Have you seen the Sandhill Cranes in West Richland? Maybe you went to the Crane Festival in Othello over the weekend. (If so, I would love to hear about it.) Well, I just went out this morning and they're still here, feeding on the fields, before they leave to continue their migration north. I estimated about 1500-2000 this morning, so I think there's a good chance they'll still be around for several days.
I'd like to invite you to come out and see the cranes with me on Friday &/or Saturday morning. Let's meet at 7am at the Indulgences Espresso & Delights (5449 West Van Giesen St, West Richland). And, yes, you'll have time to grab some java and a bite to eat if you so desire. They have a pretty good looking menu (www.dailyindulging.com). The cranes are just down the street, around the corner, and over the bridge, but it's just a lot easier if you follow me. Please message me if you'll be joining me so I know to look for you. Bring your camera &/or binoculars and dress warm. You can stay as long as you like but they tend to be flying in at roughly 7:30 (just after sunrise) for about an hour. And if the farmer shows up and drives out through the field, you'll get to see the mass flock in flight.
This Saturday I am bringing my work to the Unique Gift Gala in Hermiston. Many interesting vendors will be there. Click on the image and it will take you to their facebook page for more information. Hope to see you there. My daughter will be joining me but will have her own table selling her jewelry.
Every February I travel to Gilbert, Arizona, for a little R&R girls weekend with my Mother-in-law, sister-in-law and cousin(-in-law), although she had to miss this year. My MIL spoils us with a day at the spa and some serious unwind time hiking the desert and lounging in the pool. I've been going out a few days early before our official girls weekend starts to do some work. Birds flock to the area for their mild, typically 70's temperature winters. One area I've discovered (with the help of my in-laws) is the Gilbert Water Ranch. It's a haven for birds. And photographers. This past weekend I photographed 20 species, primarily shorebirds, but also an osprey, hummingbirds, turtles and rabbits. It was a very rainy weekend (which only put a minor crimp in our spa day - ok, I already admitted that we got spoiled). But the birds didn't mind and I had my umbrella (mostly to protect the camera and lens) so I didn't mind either. We even had a special visitor, a Cackling Goose. The Cackling Goose, which I was not aware of until my new friend, Babs Buck, informed me, looks just like the Canada Goose, only smaller. You can see that in the picture below. Actually, it's a newly recognized species, Branta hutchinsii. It's range doesn't even include Arizona, so what a special treat for a visit.
Another site that I discovered was a man-made habitat for burrowing owls at Zanjero Park in Gilbert, AZ. Just 6 feet away from the sidewalk are the entrances to the owls' homes. 100 burrows in all but not nearly that many birds. The few I did see were incredibly amazing. They do tend to stay there year round, raising their young in the spring. However, those that did not raise young may choose to migrate. One owl and I sat through a heavy rainstorm together. I thought he was going to fly off as he slowly spread his wings but he stayed on his perch and stayed there for what I can only figure to take a shower. And a good one it was.
If you get down to southern Arizona in the winter, I highly recommend these two sites. The week after I met Babs, she went further south in Arizona to a small area called Patagonia for birding. She told me the birding was excellent. She will be posting to her blog soon. If you are interested, her blog address is www.babsbirdingexperiences.blogspot.com.
It's cold. Below freezing cold. And the snow and ice coverage not only makes it difficult for us to get around and for the kids to get to school (our summer is getting shorter already due to numerous snow days), this extreme weather is making it difficult for the birds to find food. The grasses are covered. The berries are gone. The worms are safe in the frozen soil. But we can help them out. If you already have a bird feeder, keep it full of seeds. Your local hardware and grocery stores will carry winter seed blends which have higher fat seeds that the birds are in need of to stay warm in this weather. Black sunflower seeds are especially good. Pre-made suet blocks also contains the high fat seeds that birds are in need of. I've been doing my own form of suet by putting sunflower seed butter on the branches of last years christmas tree cuttings that I've strategically placed across from our nook window and then sprinkle the surrounding area with seeds.
With all the snow, I've tossed extra seed on the snow around the cuttings. It's amazing how many birds have been visiting. Numerous dark-eyed juncos and white-crowned sparrows, and other sparrow (chipping, maybe?). And possibly a house finch. What birds are visiting your house and feeder? Let me know. It's interesting to find out which birds are wintering here.
And, naturally, this makes for a great photo op. No need to be out in the cold to get pictures of the birds at your feeder(s). Well, you'll need to go outside to put the seed out but then you can stay warm and cozy inside. Hopefully your feeders are positioned so the sun (when the clouds have cleared) will shine on them and not directly into your window and that they are within a good viewing distance from your window. It’s a good idea to not put the feeders too close to the window because that may increase the chance of a bird flying into the window and getting injured.
Set your camera on a tripod or table and books, if needed (like when you leave your tripod in the car and your husband takes that car to work). You'll want to place the camera so your lens is extended to the focal length you want and is flush with the glass. So adjust the tripod legs accordingly - the 2 front legs on my tripod were adjusted slightly lower than the third so the head was slightly forward (or pull your table in closer). If you pull the lens is away from the window or have it at an angle to the window, you may get some reflection from the glass. Try a couple of shots in several positions (close, away, angled) and see how they look. I also recommend adding a polarizer filter to cut down on glare from the snow and sun and also to protect the lens.
The camera settings ranged from ISO 800-1200 because of the changing amount of light when the birds showed up. My f/stop was at f/8 and shutter speed varied a little from 1/800 to 1/2000. Although the majority of the time my shutter speed was at 1/1250. I like that shutter speed because the action can be stopped in the image. Play with the settings and see what you like. If you drop you shutter speed a little bit, the bird will be stopped in flight but the wings will be slightly (or a lot) blurred to show the motion.
For more information on feeding birds in your area, contact my friend, Donna, at Donna@coloradonativebird.org
I'm so excited to announce my first limited edition exhibit - Images of northern Italy, vineyards and villages. Opening show will be Wednesday November 30th from 6-8pm at Frichette Winery (Benton City/Red Mountain). Please RSVP to assure we have enough wine and snacks. Images will be available in 3 sizes, matted and framed at the show, and limited to 25 printings per image/size.
We were so excited because neither of us had been to Yellowstone before. And since I didn't know the park and really wanted to find out the areas where the animals tend to hang out, especially the wolves, we had a private tour guide. Scott from Yellowstone Tour Guides was an exceptional guide. He has worked at the park as a guide for more than 10 years and knew where the animals were likely to be during that time of year. Definitely worth having him show us around the park. And, bonus, he knew where all the clean bathrooms were.
The West entrance had just opened that weekend (mid-April) so we were able to start our travels there, work our way up to Mammoth and then head east through Lamar Valley. We stayed over in Cooke City and managed to arrive 30 minutes before closing time at the only restaurant currently opened in town. Word of advise - bring something other than American Express. It's not accepted there. Luckily I had a backup.
Lamar Valley is where the wolves tend to be. In early spring, they are starting to den in preparation for birthing their cubs. We discovered a group of wolf watchers, and so appropriately named, standing alongside the road with their scopes fixated on the hillside which jutted up from the wide meadow. There was one wolf wandering the hill side and it could just barely be seen even with the strong scopes. So I partially met my goal for the weekend - I SAW a Yellowstone wolf, but did not get to photograph one.
The three of us did venture into the meadow to get a little closer to the hillside in hopes of seeing another wolf. It wasn't to be, only a few more grazing bison. At least we can rightfully say that we did a little backcountry hiking in Yellowstone. It was quite beautiful. The river twisted through the landscape and the vegetation was starting to come out of its dormancy.
You can view additional images from Yellowstone under the Portfolio heading. They have their own portfolio page. Because I will be returning to Yellowstone.