Macro Lens Bird Photography

The swallows are all over the place at Huntley Meadows. They move swiftly through the air, their orange and blue colors shifting like the spectrum Edwin Hubble once saw. Their blue and white brothers are just as swift and try as I might, I consider it a lucky happenstance if I am able to capture a swallow in flight, at full speed. Luckily for me and other photographers, the swallows love to perch on the railings in the various overlooks at the wildlife reserve. They even perch on tree stumps by the water. Some swallows, perhaps to escape the heat, or perhaps to rest from their frenetic frenzy, sit on a small abutment of wood in one of the overlooks at Huntley Meadows. And so I had an idea. Try to get as close to a swallow as luck would permit and take a picture.

As luck would have it, the swallow was seemingly mesmerized by this black tube getting close to where it stood. For a brief moment, the lens was close enough to see the swallow closeup and capture the sense of wonder the swallow shares with all of us.

And a bonus picture. This time with the 200-600mm Sony zoom. A swallow in the middle of an in flight rotation. It happened so quickly that I didn’t even see it happening. Life is like that sometimes. Just go with the flow, with wings that take you to the air and beyond.

Where You Stand Matters

Being in the right place, at the right time, with the right subject, with the wind blowing in your face. Three out of four is okay, but sometimes you need all four things to get the shot you want. Still, good practice on taking pictures of an eagle diving for its meal.

More Practice Needed

I’ve always wanted to take a picture of a kingfisher diving and getting a fish. I stood around watching this kingfisher on a tree. It was fairly far, but I figured with some post processing I can get a decent picture of the bird catching a fish. I stood in a spot for twenty minutes. The kingfisher perched on a branch the whole time. Which tells you that I wasn’t that close to this skittish creature. Suddenly, the bird flew off the branch. Not towards the water and a fish, but towards me. Oh, I got a picture off. Turns out a kingfisher, head on, has little contrast between the grey and white colors of the feathers and the grey beak. And even though the shutter speed was at 1/2500 of a second, it was barely fast enough to stop the motion. More practice needed. And here is the kingfisher, calm as can be, a few minutes before it flew my way.

I edited the branches out of the picture. One day, the bird will be close enough, not be scared, and perch on a branch that is clear of obstructive details. Until then, post processing, when it doesn’t change the actual details too much, will have to do.

A bird and a snail

Picky, picky, picky.

There is a message here, I think. You must try, even if you don’t succeed. You may even find out that what seems enticing really isn’t for you. Not every effort results in a desired outcome, but effort always imparts experience. Which, in the end, is the key to success. And finding out what you are about.

Fall is Here

Can it be? It’s autumn in the northern hemisphere? Where did summer go? Heck, where did the year go? It has been a rather challenging year for almost everyone. With a scant three months before the page turns and 2020 becomes a memory, it is probably a good time to remember that the hardships and challenges we have endured are what life is about. It is not about jetting to some far off destination. Experiencing the delight of other places or tasting yet another new dish. Life is about living each day the best we can. To be kind and respectful. To watch and listen and learn. We don’t have to agree with what everyone says. Or what everyone does. We must do our part to not harm others. And this means respecting each other as if we are all borne of the same Father. That we are brothers and sisters in the most basic thing that defines each of us. Our DNA says so. Our RNA says so. Does our heart tell the same tale, or do we insist that enlightenment is only for the few? I tend to think it’s for the few. Oh. Check that. That kind of thinking, of allowing ourselves to think that we are better than the other only brings ruin to a community. If this pandemic wracked world has something left to teach us, let it be a simple reminder. A smile, even beneath a mask, still radiates warmth within. We cannot love everyone, but we can respect everyone. And in doing so, perhaps, that respect will become something greater. Something better. Perhaps.

Who Watches the Watchers

Years ago, in the third season of Star Trek the Next Generation, an episode with this strange title aired.  I had to look up the synopsis of the actual episode since I haven’t seen it in years.  Unlike my favorite Star Trek episode of all time, “The Inner Light”, I had only retained the most basic of remembrances of this particular episode.  And why bring this up now?

A few days ago, on an early Sunday morning, I took another early morning walk at Huntley Meadows.  There were quite a few photographers out there at half past six in the morning.  What were people taking pictures of?  Birds, birds, birds.  More specifically, egrets and herons.  I had the feeling that there would be quite a few people at the wildlife area.

The day before, I also took a morning walk at Huntley.  For a Saturday morning, there were more than a dozen photographers at the start of the day.  Normally, you see five or six photographers in the early morning but last Saturday was different.  Someone had taken a picture of a fox walking on a log to take a drink of water on the wetlands.  It probably happens quite a bit all over the world.  In suburban Virginia, fifteen miles from Washington, you don’t see that very often.  And someone posted the pictures in the Huntley Meadows Facebook page.  Needless to say, there were a lot of people looking for the fox.  Alas, we saw nothing that looked like a fox.  Saw quite a few birds, but the fox was AWOL.

Sunday came and I went back to Huntley to look for kingfishers.  The water is getting shallower as the rains have not come and the heat of the summer is taking its toll on the wetlands.  I heard the kingfisher’s call, but I could not find it.  There were, however, a lot of egrets and herons in the wetlands.  Like everyone else, I took a lot of pictures of a fairly large group of birds in the water.

About an hour and a half after I got to Huntley, I was looking at a group of photographers when one of them exclaimed “it got a fish!”  Instinctively, I walked over by the group of photographers and saw heron catching its morning meal (probably one of many).  A good picture taking opportunity, but the photographers were so engaged in photographing the bird that for five or so minutes, all we could look at is this heron with a fish.

The heron, with it’s catch.

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The fish was quite active and the heron wasn’t quite ready to eat its meal.  It lifted it up, as if to see if the fish was still actively moving.  It was.

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The heron turned around and started to brush the fish over the log.

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After a minute or so of this, the fish had “calmed” down and the heron was a happy fish eater.

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This was the first time I actually watched the whole sequence of “catch and eat.”  It was “fascinating.”

On an August Day

It was, for August in the Washington D.C. area, a relatively cool day.  In the midst of summer, it was time for a walk in the garden, to take the sun in, to find that even in the undulating continuum that we call life, beauty always beckons, just waiting for us to find it.  We need not look far.  It is always within ourselves, if one decides to live a life not solely for one’s self but also for others.  Happiness comes not from selfish abandon but from selfless generosity.

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