Joseph V Higbee.com P & M Intro

Photos and Musings

Volume Three

Page 1
October 15, 2010

Slow

Western Painted Turtles

   Turtles are generally considered to be slow. In the ten minutes or so that I watched these two they moved only their heads and, yes, slowly. The other thing about turtles is; they aren't going to get a lot faster.For them that's a natural thing and therefore is quite alright.
   In the case of myself, however, I regret the onset of having to move slower, not having the speed, agility and endurance of younger days. I still have the desire to go deep into the wild and photograph the 'denizens of the deep'. I haven't been able to get very far in that direction at any time since I retired but now it is becoming painfully obvious it's not going to happen. Each year I get slower and more inclined to just bask in the sun, when there is any. That has effect on what is here in my 'Photos and Musings'.
   I am traveling less and, as a consequence, taking fewer photos to muse about. At the same time, I am musing more, which is a natural thing to do while basking in the sun, if there is any. Sometimes I repeat myself which is also natural, I guess. Of course, sometimes I repeat myself for emphasis. Usually it isn't hard to figure which is which.
   But, I am going to keep taking photos of something, somewhere, and posting them in my photo galleries. Some of them will be on this page with musings more closely related to them than in the recent past. And I will try to remember to identify the subject of the photo, which in this case are Western Painted Turtles, probably a parent and young.

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October 17, 2010

Different

Song Sparrow

This Song Sparrow is more of a reddish brown than the usual ones in my yard. He is therefore quite noticable when he is out in the open. Different! Something to muse about.
   In the world of birders, an unusual bird is something to look for and find with gladness. If it is a different type than found in the area normally, it is often a cause for a kind of celebration. Of course, if it becomes more abundent, the difference becomes more common and the bird is noticed less. However, if it becomes over abundent and starts damaging the local native birds, either directly or indirectly, it is soon unwelcome and even a birder can have resentment towards the newcomers. The local birds themselves are usually over-powered by the newcomers and just leave the area, if they survive at all.
   This sparrow isn't like that. He fits in quite well with the other sparrows in the yard, pretty much doing as they do. Even though he is more brightly colored the other sparrows they don't seem to notice. He doesn't seem worried about his rights and the others don't begrudge his needs. Why can't they all be like that?

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October 23, 2010

The Usual

Song Sparrow

This Song Sparrow looks like what I am used to seeing in my yard. But now that I look at the photo of this one and the one from 10/17, pictured in the last musing, I'm not sure if it's a difference in the birds or just that I'm not used to seeing one in the sunshine. This day was typically cloudy. Even when the sun is out, these birds are more often seen in shaded areas than not. So, seeing one in the full sun may be the oddity and not the bird at all.
   There must be a lesson in here somewhere about judging too quickly, or jumping to conclusions, before considering all the pertinent facts of a matter. I was pretty sure I was seeing a notable difference in coloring while I was photographing the reddish looking bird. While preparing it for display, I still felt so. When photographing this latest bird I felt it was dull and processing didn't give me reason to think differently.
   Now, I just don't know. They are both fine looking birds, though.

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October 27, 2010

Charisma

Cedar Waxwing

Well, some have it, some don't! Webster defines it in part as "a special magnetic charm or appeal", so fewer people would have it than don't. OK, we got that figured out without sticking our neck out too far. (You notice I'm using the plural here so I don't get all the flack.) Is it a good thing or not? Should we admire it or regard it with suspicion? If someone has it, are they blessed or cursed? What in the world prompts such questions?
   For some reason I woke up musing about this personality aspect of some people I have known, and then branched off into pondering how they, and others I've heard about, have used this trait. Obviously they are usually well-liked, although those that don't like them can feel strongly inclined that way. Also, I have noticed, some that express strong dislike at one time felt the other way. Like the bird in the picture, I'm going to stick my neck out and make a few observations.
   One thing I have noticed in those I have known with this 'magnetic charm', is how they reflect a confidence in their own competence, and then treat another as their equal. If not in their area of expertise, at least in ones own. And they seem to really enjoy, even prefer, the company of each person they come to know. The 'magnetism' if you will. However, even as a magnet can only hold so many objects at a time, so it is with these individuals. As they meet and engage new ones, they have less energy for earlier aquaintances and let them 'drop' off.
   This can be a painful experience for some and can make the charismatic person seem to be one who uses other people and then casts them aside. Hence, the strong dislike of some as we mentioned earlier. Sometimes, I suppose, this must be the case. But, probably, not as often as thought. Consider........
   A magnet wants to pick up everything it is drawn to, it can't do differently. If it and everything else is static, it picks up so much, holds on to it, and lets what's left lay. If, however, it and the things it is drawn to are moving rapidly in many directions, some things will drop off even as new ones are attached. At times the magnet may very well pass a previously held object and re-attach to it for a time.
   What, then, are we objects to do? Inasmuch as we are also moving about as is the magnet, we can shield ourselves or keep away. Or, we can just watch and as it comes by grab on for a while and see where it takes us. We have a choice, maybe the magnet doesn't!

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November 1, 2010

Time to Sell the Big Lens

Black-capped Chickadee

It's a sad fact of life but the 'golden years' are short ones. Mine still have a nice warm glow but as it dims I find many things are no longer what they once were. Where I once scrambled up a hillside, I now slowly and carefully make my way finding it advantageous to have both hands free in case I stumble. Where once I could carry considerable weight on my shoulders, they now hurt to think about it. Such changes require other changes to accomodate them. A painful one for me is the need to quit carrying the 500mm lens, that I love so well, and settle for shorter and lighter lenses.
   The picture here is one taken with a 300mm lens in the yard as I was trying to decide if I can function, photographically, without the 500mm. As you see, it is a fine shot. I had to be closer, of course, and even acomplishing that, the picture is less than what can be had with the 500mm. Both lenses are known for their sharpness but the 500mm has a slight but noticable edge. The background blur with the 500mm is usually more pleasing. While the 300mm is lighter and can be handheld, the 500mm, once set up, seems easier to find the target with, and focus is a bit faster. But, at least for a time longer I hope, life goes on. And being as how 500mm lens make poor and expensive paperweights, mine is now officially for sale. I'm going to miss it!
   Going forward, I surely won't be posting as many photos as I have, but I hope this helps me to branch out into other areas. Landscape has become a major interest and I would like to experiment a little more with ways to improve sharpness and resolution as well as composition in that field. Then there is macro, architecture and even people (ugh, ptooey) and with these new cameras, video. How would that be? You could click on this photo and watch him move and scold me, which is mainly what he was doing when I caught this pose.

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November 3, 2010

Moving On

Pileated Woodpecker

Well, the big lens sold so fast I didn't even get it wet from crying about it. I really liked meeting the guy, and his wife, who bought it. I think they will enjoy it in much the same ways I did. Those long lenses add a dimension to photography that I would hate to have missed out on.
   So now I have to figure out how to enjoy my hobby without one. While playing with another lens I have, a medium telephoto zoom, this fine fellow dropped in for a snack from the suet feeder. He is a little larger than what I designed it for but still he is welcome. Unlike the Steller Jays and Starlings he isn't greedy. He stayed long enough to get a good bit and then left. The others will keep coming until the feeder runs dry. He comes back from time to time but often it will be months between visits. That's the nice part about having a bird friendly yard, there is always something to practice on.
   That's what I was doing. The camera I have has a live view which works like the small digital pocket cameras. It uses a different focus system in that mode and I was trying some aspects of it to see if it would be of use in my photography. It requires several changes in the way I normally work, so it will take a while to even decide how much use it will be. Looking at the LCD on the back rather than through the viewfinder makes it much harder to find the target. Maybe that won't be the case after I use it enough. Focus is slow, painfully so. That will probably keep me from utilizing that feature on that camera. But, there is a new camera that is designed specifically for that type of use and supposedly focuses on a par with my current one. It and the lenses it uses are lighter in weight, also. So far they don't make any 'long' lenses for it but do have some that are almost equal to what I now have, in focal length not necessarily in quality. Did I mention they are lighter? So how much would I have to sacrifice to further lighten the load? A question I will be investigating.
    But whatever the tool, I hope to remain active in photography of some kind. A little slower pace, a little more time thinking about details and methods, and all that other stuff. A passing thought; It sure is nice to have choices!

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November 9, 2010

Familiar is Good but New and Different Can Be Too

Song Sparrow

A couple weeks ago I posted pictures of two different looking song sparrows. I was commenting on how the one was quite different than what I was used to seeing in the yard. Then I noted that the second one while different, wasn't as much so as I thought it should be.
   Well, here is what I usually see, especially during the winter months. The lack of sunshine probably makes it appear darker but even so, it is different. The color, the markings, even the size, this one is smaller, is different.
   I like this one but the others were also nice to see. In fact, differences in things is part of what makes life interesting. But we do need to be careful not to disregard old things too quickly. This little guy is shyer than the other, staying more tucked into the undergrowth. Also more serious in looks and habit as he scratches for food. Not one to be caught sunning himself too often.
   Camera systems can be like that also. I have used Canon stuff for some time and it has been serious workhorse equipment. But now I'm looking at a different system. Not as serious but still enjoyable it would seem. Lighter weight, mid-level quality; it has it's own merits. I haven't purchased yet but it's coming. The question that interests me is whether it will be a compliment to my current stuff or if it will replace it. We'll have to wait and see.

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November 12, 2010

Photographs Just Happen

Sharp-shinned Hawk with prey

All photographs, especially the good ones, happen. They are not always there just waiting to be taken. Even when the photographer has done everything right, even if the subject is right, there is just that one moment when it happens. All the stars align, so to speak, the shutter is released, and the photograph happens. That's it! It can't be done over. More photos can be taken but that one has happened.
   That is particularly true in wildlife photography. This picture is one of several exposures but this one is the moment that makes this photograph. I had been sitting there for a couple hours, camera set, waiting for something. The hawk flew in, grabbed a finch and landed about ten feet away. I snapped a series of shots and within that time and series this photograph happened.
   This was a wildlife shot, but the same thing would hold true if it were a rock. The light and how it is reflected by the rock, the ground beneath, the sky overhead, position of the sun, the position of the photographer and the choices he has made in preparation all come together in one moment and in the space of one shutter closing the photograph happens. Good or bad, it's done. It will never be repeated. It just happened.

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November 15, 2010

Sassy!

Steller Jay

And a bully! He comes swooping in and the smaller birds scatter. But at the slightest hint of danger he runs away. He thinks he should have anything he wants, especially if it is food. Sunflower seeds, poultry scratch, suet, he eats them all. Traveling in a gang, they take turns filling their crop from one feeder and then the other. If you try to chase them off they sass you, from a safe distance of course. Then as soon as you are gone, they are back at it.
   They are always gone before a hawk appears and scold the cat from on high. If the feeder runs out they disapear completely but return within moments of it being refilled. They are the only thing in the world that rivals a squirrel at locating peanuts. Other than being such a pretty bird, I can't think of any reason not to exterminate them.
   Except I would miss them!

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November 22, 2010

Hard at Work

Fox Sparrow

"If you want to eat, you have to work." And yet we older citizens often take our 'retirement' as a right. Something that is due. But is it? It's true, many of us have worked hard for forty or even fifty years and dutifully paid into social security and group retirement plans sponsored by unions or employers and such. Some have built considerable personal savings toward retirement.
   I don't think anyone would question ones right to what they have personally saved. But what about these other programs? Has the fact that we worked hard over the years entitle us to 'our due' no matter the hardship it may put on others? Should the present generation have to work harder and longer to support us than we did to support the one before us?
   I'm just musing here so I don't want to go into all the whys and wherefores and what ifs. I have thought though, over the years since I retired, that maybe I'm not entitled to all I receive, and to how, even though I am retired, I want to be a contributor to society as well as a beneficiary.

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November 27, 2010

To Print or Not to Print

Downy Woodpecker

Many, perhaps even most, of my photos are not 'print quality', but are still very suited to viewing electronically on the web or even hdtv. Every now and again, though, there is one I feel really needs to be seen printed to be fully appreciated. I have most of the available wall space at home filled with many of these. But what about the rest? What to do when I get the next one that just has to be printed? Print it or forget it? Oh, woe!
   The last several years, I have been printing with a 13" wide format printer, the Canon i9900. It's not fine art quality but close and overall a very good machine, but I have had problems getting photos to print consistant in color. The lack of paper profiles, the instructions to the printer on how to render colors for a given paper, has been part of the problem. A bigger part has been the lack of any instructions. Canon wouldn't think of it and there is little or no third party info available. So, after wasting many dollars in paper and ink, I'm going to retire it and buy what those in the know use, Epson.
   An Epson Stylus Pro 3880 17" wide format to be precise. It is the bottom rung of the professional printers, but still a bit above the consumer models. It is used by a number of professional fine art photographers and is well spoken of by all. There is a lot of support, both from Epson as well as third parties, so information on setup and interfacing with computer and software is readily available. It's taken me two years to finally decide to make the switch, but I'm there.
   This will not answer the questions posed above. I wonder how much wall space my friends and relatives have?

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December 3, 2010

Wonderful Winter Weather

Varied Thrush eating Snowberry

I put a similar picture in the galleries the other day but saved this one for here because of the snowberry. I remember someone asking one time what, if any, birds eat snowberries. It isn't a berry that they fight over for sure but, as seen here, some do eat them. I have observed other birds, towhee, junco and song sparrow, also taking them at times.
   I really like this and the other similar picture. The colorful bird and berries against the snow on the branches is a refreshing change for those of us in western Washington. I took several photos during the snow that will show up in the galleries over the next few days. Just yard birds, and not technically great shots, but pleasantly different from the norm.
   The new printer I spoke of in my last musing has arrived. I have it running but am still working on adjusting everything to work together. The first two prints I made were very dark. In researching the why of this, I find the recently added monitors needed to have the luminence turned down. I have previously adjusted for color but didn't know about this part of the adjustment process.
   I think I have a fair amount of technical ability but it surprises me how often I am unable to quickly obtain the results that others make sound so easy. Then when I look for an answer, for some reason most don't work for me. Or they don't quite apply or there is a small detail missing. The critical one, of course. At least to me. Or the solution worked on the model before mine but..!
   So, it takes me a little time and a lot of patience, but eventually I achieve acceptable results and can move on to the next endeavor, which will hopefully be mastering a new camera system.

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