Saturday, March 30, 2013

A Burrito and a New Duck

March is by far the earliest month that has ever found me in a sea kayak, but I have heard that we get Harbor Seals, and I figured, having seen them before in Maine, I should try to see them before they depart for colder climes in April.

I checked out lots of the little islands off of Stony Creek, but I didn't see any seals. I did, however, see these American Oystercatchers. I've seen them before, though not balancing on one leg to conserve warmth like this pair is.
As I circled some of the small islands, the Oystercatchers circled a few times. I do my best not to disturb them and to shoot from a respectful distance with a telephoto lens, but they still moved about a bit as I searched for a place to stop and have a snack.
The gulls took off en masse before I even got close to this island, the first unowned rock that offered enough downwind shelter for me to disembark. That's a bit of a trick with an expensive camera and a kayak whose cockpit is only a few inches clear of the water. I do keep the camera in a drybag in case there are any wayward splashes, but even so, I needed some shelter from the two-foot swells in order to pop off the deck without being swamped.
Before I embarked, I stopped off in downtown Branford to fill my thermos with some coffee from Common Grounds. I also grabbed a burrito from Tacuba. Despite the fact that it took me over an hour of paddling to find a suitable island, the burrito was still warm and completely delicious.

I set up the camera on a mini-tripod and used the remote shutter control to stage a little self-portrait of myself enjoying my goodies.
I had never even heard of Long-tailed Ducks until today, but on my way back to the boat ramp, I saw this little male, still in his winter plumage. I was completely lost in terms of IDing him on the spot, but I was able to capture a good enough photo to look him up from the comfort of an armchair later on. That's one more duck on my life list.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Brave Little Birds

After literally years of saving up, I sprang for the 100x400 Canon L-glass lens I've coveted for ages. My friend Jill uses hers all the time and takes extraordinary pictures of dogs for her own enjoyment and also for her business, PoeticGold Farm.

This morning, instead of setting up a remote-shutter system to take pictures of skittish Goldfinches, I shot some braver birds, these Black-capped Chickadees.

They're brave little guys, more likely to chide you and hop from branch to branch than they are to hide in a nearby bush and wait for you to leave. In fact, in almost three quarters of the pictures I took this morning, the Chickadee is keeping a careful eye on me.

And they were very helpful in offering me an opportunity to practice my quick frame-and-focus skills with the new lens.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Last Snow on the Ground

It seems like much more than a month ago that we got three feet of snow and all our favorite trails were completely buried. It was truly only a month, though, and now it smacks of spring more than winter. The dogs were as happy as they've ever been to be out on a trail. They love snow, but they also love the panoply of smells and mud puddles that come with spring.

This may turn out to have been the last day that there was any snow in the woods. The banks left by plows may linger for a week or two more, but in the woods, there are only traces where dells shade the ground for most of the daylight hours. And so the year marches on.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Shooting Finches from the Couch

I've mentioned the remote shooting capabilities of my new camera before. Essentially, there's an iPhone app that allows me to see what's in the frame, adapt several settings from the iPhone (ISO, shutter speed, focus behavior), and activate the shutter.

I've been plotting for weeks to stake out the Goldfinches at the thistle feeder, and I finally managed it this morning. I set the camera a few feet from the feeder, got the feeder in frame, focused manually on the feeder itself, and went back in the house.

It took the finches about fifteen minutes to feel safe enough to return to the feeder, and by that time, I had my coffee and was sitting on the couch, watching the feeder on the phone.

There's a bit of delay between triggering the shutter from the phone and the actual snap at the camera, but by taking lots of exposures ( about ninety over the course of a few minutes), I was able to get a handful that were really nice.

The shutter on the 6D isn't at all loud, but I think all the clicking did occasionally cause the birds to look over quizzically, because there are more than a few shots in which at least one bird has cocked a head at the funny box.

I'm also very much enjoying the full frame sensor on this camera. For remote shooting, it allowed me to keep the whole feeder and a good margin in frame, and then I could crop very aggressively—as I did below—while still keeping great clarity and detail.