Better Pix with Sunlight…

It was sunny (but cold) today.  I headed down to Celoron Park to practice some more with the 500mm lens Norm loaned me.  I only saw Canada geese and gulls.  The geese were floating out on the waves.  The gulls were closer and very cooperative – just sitting there waiting for their portraits.

Ring-billed Gull

And here’s a juvie:

Juvenile Gull

I’m no Jim Gilbert (*sigh* My Hero).  But I’m improving, wouldn’t you say?

Holiday Projects – Part One – Felting!

Well, it’s that time of year.  Time when I just have to make things… things to sell, things to give away, but basically just things to keep me busy ‘cuz it’s too darn dark outside to take photos!  Ha!

Felted SoapsOne of my favorite things to make is felted soap.  It’s a bar of wonderful Yardley glycerin soap all wrapped in its own wool washcloth.  Great for exfoliating!  Maddie and I make them to sell at Imagine! in Bemus Point.  The shop owner even talked us into offering a workshop so others could join in the fun.  (I hope this doesn’t mean that our soaps won’t sell anymore… hmm…)

We had a blast teaching 4 new friends this fairly simple technique.  I don’t have to tell you the technique, because you can google it and find lots of instructions…  Though some of the sites give far more complicated instructions than we do… You’ll just have to take the class to learn our easier way!

Barb and Gina Felting SoapOnce we all understood the basic technique, we applied it to new items.  We felted jingle bells – to fashion into ornaments or let the cat play with.  We felted some old Christmas ornaments.  (Be careful when you rinse… a big change in temperature can cause the delicate glass to break!)

To make the ornaments a bit sparkly, I sewed running stitches with silver thread adding beads every few stitches.  I think they’re gorgeous!

Felted Ornaments in the Making

I’ll re-attach the ornament hangers after I’m done beading.  Or maybe not.  Maybe I’ll just put them in a basket or bowl on the dining room table!

What are your holiday projects?

Gulls and Lenses

I like this one's pink feet.I was in Bemus Point the day before Thanksgiving.  It was another gray day… threatening rain, but I wanted to practice more with the lens I had borrowed from Norm.  Took 100 photos … only saved 3… not sure those were worth saving.  But hey…  Gotta document my progress during the learning curve, right?

I don’t know my gulls at all.  Gulls are hard because they change so much from juvenile to adulthood.  To be honest, I went over to the Cornell website for a few moments, but then decided I didn’t care enough about what species they were or how old they were.  (If it were April or May and I was getting ready for Birdathon, then I might care.  Today, I only care about how to take better pictures with this lens!)

The gulls were a blast to watch, so comical in their preening, so graceful in their flight.  None of my photos were as crisply focused as I would like.  It’s a manual focus lens.  I was using a monopod, which helped.  A tripod with remote shutter would have been better (hint to Santa).  While the temperature was just about perfect – high 50s – a little less cloud cover might have helped, too (hint to weatherman).

Probably a first year something or other...   Probably a full grown adult...

If you know any of the species, please enlighten us!  Thanks!

A Walk

I hadn’t been on a nice long winter walk, alone (with the dog), with my camera… for quite some time.  I had forgotten how very relaxing it is.  Oh, the first few minutes aren’t…  Getting the dog taken care of, changing into my muck boots, putting on the hat and gloves, clipping the keys into the pocket so they can’t get lost, arranging the camera with the lens and monopod and slipping it around my neck…  walking to the woods…  That’s all very tense.

FruitThen I see something that begs me to use the camera…  I fuss around getting the settings “right” (guessing at the settings is more like it).  Deciding on the composition.  Snapping one, two, more…  Then, keep on walking.

Into the woods and finally the stress starts to drop off.  My steps slow down.  I notice more things.  A flock of juncos, a mixed group of chickadees and tufted titmice.  There are still hundreds of hickory nuts on the forest floor.

FlowersI think about this day.  Thanksgiving.  I think of all the things for which I am so grateful.  I think about Roy, who no longer walks this earth.  I didn’t know him well.  But I remember his smile, his talent, his kindness.  I think about Roy’s family and hope that despite this terrible loss, they can find comfort in each other.

The juncos dance around before me.  One sits long enough for a portrait…  then flitters high up into the trees to join the others. I wander back to the car and then home again to join my family for Thanksgiving Dinner.

Tomorrow will be another day with family, friends, and strangers…  When I look into their faces, I will wonder what thoughts are on their minds…  what things they celebrate, for whom they grieve…

Junco

Much to Learn

Part of my Thanksgiving with the Birds talk included the story of how Jeremy Martin loaned me his 300mm lens and I broke it.  Despite that story, another Audubon friend, Norm Karp, offered to loan me his lens to see how I like it.

American CrowIt’s a Minitel-M Spiratone 1:8 f=500mm Mirror Lens.  Boy do I have a lot of learning to do!  Two things in particular:  It doesn’t have auto-focus, so I have to really pay attention to that…  Also, I usually work with Aperture priority with my other lens…  but with this one, I will have to set shutter speed instead.  I don’t have a tripod (yet) and can’t hold the camera steady enough when I set the aperature and let the camera pick the shutter speed!  Not with this lens, anyway…

I took it out Tuesday, a gray November day, for a short walk as the sun was going down.  I took 50 or 60 photos.  This American Crow was kind enough to sit quite still while I fussed with camera settings It’s the only photo I felt good enough about to post. (I kept hearing a Pileated, but he wouldn’t sit still.)

I’ll keep practicing, though, and see what I can come up with.

Thanksgiving with the Birds

I started visiting the Audubon Center and Sanctuary in the 1970s.  I took my children to Saturday programs and camps 10 or 15 years ago.  I’ve worked there for the past nine years.  Still, it took until this year for me to make it to one of Audubon’s oldest traditions – Thanksgiving with the Birds.

Making the soup... Tim Eckstrom adds his contribution...In the early days, before Jamestown Audubon Society had any property, the event was held at Allegany State Park.  Once the property on Riverside Road was acquired, the dinner had a home – outside at first… now mostly inside.

It all starts at 11:15 when the fire is started for the (in)famous soup pot.  The recipe?  It’s sort of a variation on Stone Soup, I guess you could say:  As folks arrive, they dump a small portion of any-kind-of soup into the pot.  Well, not any-kind-of…  They are supposed to avoid cream soups.  Broth soups only.

Jennifer Tries the SoupIn years past, not all have obeyed the no-cream-soups rule.  I know… I’ve seen the leftovers in the refrigerator the next morning…  not very appetizing.  So, understandably, I was a bit hesitant when it was time to sample the soup.

This year, it was pretty tasty… so tasty that there were barely any leftovers!

While folks enjoy soup outside, volunteers work inside decorating the tables and carving the turkeys.  A committee supplies the turkeys; all the side dishes are provided potluck style by the participants.

The Table Decorations Carving the Turkey

After dinner, there is always a program, often with slides.  Think about that.  People come and fill themselves with way too much food, including turkey with its supposed sleep-inducing  tryptophan.  Then we turn the lights down low, show some pretty pictures, and talk to them…  Doesn’t that sound like a recipe for disaster?  It did to me, the invited speaker!  (Yes, you heard it right… I wasn’t at this event as a fellow guest… I was on the clock!  I suppose my boss will tease me forever about how the only way she was able to get me to this annual event was to make me work on a Saturday!)

Watching the Birds

My talk was completely random.  Pictures made it into the slide show only if they were taken at the Sanctuary or of an official offsite event, and if they inspired an interesting story.  I gave prizes for people who were truly paying attention.  I think only one person snoozed a little during a two and a half minute stretch of 36 wildflower pictures that automatically advanced every 4 seconds or so…  Hypnotizing…

Anyway… I had a great time and might go back again – even if I don’t have to work that Saturday!  The food was great.  The company was great.  A fabulous way to kick off the holiday season. 

There are more pictures at Audubon’s Flickr Site.

Japanese Maple

Japanese MapleThis Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum) grows in my back yard.  I think I already mentioned that there are thousands of species of maples worldwide.  Only seven or so are true natives of my region.  People sure like to plant trees, though, so many species can be found here that weren’t here “originally” – whatever that means!  There are many subspecies and cultivars of this tree.  They are very pretty and used extensively in landscaping.  In its native habitat, it is an understory shrub or small tree.

I love this tree.  It is a nice, low-growing tree with lots of sturdy branches making it a great climbing tree.  My kids have both enjoyed that!  Best of all is the story our neighbors told us about this tree when we first moved in:

Hilda Carlson, the previous owner of our house, is reported to have yanked a little seedling out of the ground from Panama Rocks Picture from the Peek'n Peak Websitenearby Panama Rocks, where this species has apparently naturalized.  She planted it next to the garage and tended it carefully.  (I don’t know if the story is true or not.  I choose to believe it… just because it’s a cool story!)

It was already a sizable shade tree when we moved in.  It has continued to grow in heighth and overall diameter.  The leaves are a dark green with a reddish tint in summer and turn the most brilliant fire-red in fall.  I love this tree.  (Oops… already said that!)