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Short Stories - Sept 2019

Short Stories - Sept 2019

September 20, 2019 ~ Wow! Did not expect this week to be so rainy! Imelda really surprised us and for a while the coast got most of the action. It has been so hot and dry the rain is welcome - just not so much all at once!

I will just poke around in my files to find somethings to share and write about.

Downtown Dallas under a relentless sun.. .
Nikon D850 with Laowa 12mm f/2.8 ~ 1/320 sec f/11 ISO 400

Whoa. That is not a bird! We made a trip to Dallas last weekend and managed to squeeze in a bit of wide-angle work downtown. It was hot and sunny and did I say…hot? And, did you know they even have hills downtown? Well, even a slight incline looks like a hill to a flatlander. We saw tons of young people on those little electric scooters. There were groups of scooters neatly parked for the taking and evidently you can just park/drop the thing when you are done. From the articles I read, you use an app to turn it on and off.

We were not tempted one bit.

Inside the chapel at Thanksgiving Square…
Nikon D850 with Laowa 12mm f/2.8 ~ f/11 ISO 640 HDR

One of the places we wanted to check out was Thanksgiving Square. It is a small park with some water features and this spiral structure that houses a chapel. Bill Maroldo was thinking it was GIANT sized but it is actually rather petite. We were doing hand-held 5-shot images for HDR processing; I shot this laying down across the chairs and looking up.

Looking at you…
Nikon D850 with Laowa 12mm f/2.8 ~ f/11 ISO 400 HDR

And the other place on our downtown Dallas list was this… Giant Eyeball. It is kinda cool, but it has a fence all around it and this is as close as you can get. I wanted especially to get right up on it with my 12mm ultra-wide but it was not to be.

Public art on private property. Oh, I understand there would be the homeless and their tents camped out on that nice grass but it was creepy having to shoot over and around the wrought iron fence.

We didnt do any birds or even take any other photos; it was just a quick family thing.

Pretty little Tricolored Heron
Nikon D850 with Nikkor 500 f/5.6 PF VR ~ 1/2000 sec f/6.3 ISO 1600; hand-held

On Monday we stopped at Cullinan Park on the way to Joann Fabric (more on that later) and found a Tricolored Heron just about the same place as the preening Little Blue Heron from the last adventure. I LOVE when we can find the birds on the railings; it puts you at eye level and a chance for a lovely blurred background. The water in the lake is very low now and the dead lotus/lilies make for horrible settings. Plus, it is hard to make a bird look good when you are shooting down on them.

Great Egret with dragonfly
Nikon D850 with Nikkor 500 f/5.6 PF VR ~ 1/2000 sec f/6.3 ISO 1250; hand-held

Dragonfly down the hatch

On this trip it was cloudy, then sunny and then sprinkly. During a shower we stood under the trees on the boardwalk and even hurried over to get under the observation tower for a while. I just put my camera under my shirt and hunch over if the rain is short and intermittent.

During one of the sunnier times the Great Egret was walking around in the shallows near the front. He was stalking and catching dragonflies.

I saw I had this shot but not until I got home did I realize he was swallowing a dragonfly. Go ahead and click to embiggen.

Green Heron doing a stretch
Nikon D850 with Nikkor 500 f/5.6 PF VR ~ 1/2000 sec f/6.3 ISO 1600; tripod

Bill caught this young Green Heron flying in and landing on the branch, but I missed all that. He did do a lot of stretching and preening for us. I think a dragonfly might have caught his eye, too.

And now for a scratch
Nikon D850 with Nikkor 500 f/5.6 PF VR ~ 1/2000 sec f/6.3 ISO 1600; tripod

This is a young one, note the brownish back and wings instead of green. He has more stripes on his neck and throat than a full adult. There are several hanging around; mostly we have seen them at the back part of the boardwalk, but once we had two feeding in the front pond. The water is only a few inches deep and they are perching on the dying lotus stalks to get little fish or dragonflies.

Well, it was shallow before all this tropical rain started but Sugar Land was spared a lot of the storm.

Nikon D850 with Nikkor 500 f/5.6 PF VR ~ 1/3200 sec f/7.1 ISO 1000; tripod

On Wednesday we found several Green Herons working to reduce the dragonfly population. This young guy was not close at all and it is a real challenge to stay focused on him with all those reeds swaying in the wind. We had been trying to get one grabbing a dragonfly over and over but I was still surprised to see this image.

It was bright overcast (ISO 1000), he was very active moving forward and back and even dipping down toward us (I chose f/7.1 for enough depth of field) and did I say how fast they can move? (shutter speed 1/3200 sec). Just in case you want to shoot fully manual… :-)

Posing among the Lovely Dead Crap
Nikon D850 with Nikkor 500 f/5.6 PF VR ~ 1/1600 sec f/6.3 ISO 1000; tripod

Here is another young Green Heron WAY out in the lake. You can see what I mean about messy backgrounds. The dying lotus leaves and short grass mar any cool reflections and often obstruct the bird.

At the right is a screenshot from Adobe Camera Raw and my processing for this image. This is a substantial crop and is not suitable for printing but looks fine on the web. The original shot was 45.4 MP or 8256 x 5504 pixels. I cropped it to 3.9 MP or 2268 x 1701 pixels. After that, I reduced the image to 1000 pixels on the long side for saving as a jpeg and posting on the web and my blog. I am telling you all this and the steps/math because I just read a post at DPReview this morning on “How frequently do you crop photos? Good or Bad Thing?

Check out the post and read the comments. Some of them are Virtue Signalling Big Time about how they always get it right in the camera and never crop. Obviously those folks don’t do birds. Others want a different crop ratio and some just don’t like to process images at all. A lot of folks just want to be out taking photos and do not enjoy the post-processing chores.

Mirror image of lotus leaf…
Nikon D850 with Nikkor 500 f/5.6 PF VR ~ 1/1000 sec f/11 ISO 800; hand-held

But then you don’t get to experiment and create weird stuff :-) Photoshop is definitely good for days you can’t get out and shoot. The above image started out as a three-shot panorama but then I copied half of it, flipped the copy horizontally to create a mirror image and then played around with some Topaz Glow.

Insert to be folded around sides of bag with separate bottom piece

Recently I had another little project. I had a great little bag for carrying a couple of lenses, batteries and such but it didn’t have any padding. They do sell inserts, but nothing would fit my bag. So, I just built my own. I found some 1/2” foam sheets leftover from some forgotten project and Bill and I got some cool green variegated fleece at Joann Fabric with a 20% off coupon (Thanks, Sylvia!).

The fleece was a perfect choice as it would stretch just enough to fit snug around the padding squares.

I am still using my 1970s Singer Genie sewing machine. While I was looking at fabric at Joann’s Bill discovered all the fancy expensive sewing machines. He was aghast that some cost as much as a telephoto lens!

This little bag holds the Nikkor 500 PF with room for several other lenses plus cards, batteries and other necessary items like rain gear and such. I needed something small and I am no good with backpacks. I have a great Think Tank roller bag for airline carry-on; this is just for lens changes on day trips.

Speaking of trips. We are going on one so don’t be alarmed with no blogging or FB activity for a while. Not saying where but it involves passports so we are pretty excited. I am sure I will have lots of photos to share when we get back!

What have you been doing during the rain? I read that as of Wednesday Sept 18 Quintana was reporting 18” of rain so far! I saw some photos from Surfside showing flooded streets. Maybe those dry ponds at Brazoria Natl Wildlife will fill up. Anahuac is closed due to weather and it isn’t over yet. Thursday turned out to be just horrible with widespread flooding. We were fine here in Sugar Land except I lost my internet. I had to publish this from my phone without a final proofreading so excuse any mistakes! Let me know how you fared during Imelda’s surprise visit in the comments below:

Costa Rica - Do You Like Toucans?

Costa Rica - Do You Like Toucans?

Little Blues and Green Herons at Cullinan Park

Little Blues and Green Herons at Cullinan Park