Springtime, cloudy weather continues as I arrive at Ridgefield. It’s about 7:45 a.m. as I get my gear ready for today’s shoot. I know I soundlike a broken record regarding the weather but dang it’s been tough to find a bright day so far in 2011. Pretty soon, when it does warm up and brighten up, then I’ll be complaining about the mosquitoes! I guess there is always something to make this hobby a challenge!
Speaking of mosquitoes, I recently bought a piece of gear that I hope will help reduce the misery that mosquitoes can bring while out in the woods and marshes. I purchased “The Original Bug Shirt Elite Edition online. I wore it for the first time today although it was not needed yet for bugs. It can be worn whether there are bugs or not. It is a very light shirt made of tightly woven microfiber material that bugs and their stingers can’t penetrate. It also has a fine mesh material from under the arms down the sides to the waste, to ventilate. It is hooded with a zipper face mesh to keep bugs away from your face. The waste and wrist areas have a draw cord that can be tightened as needed. It appears to be of high quality and is made in Canada.
Today, I did take a few minutes to test the shirt with the hood up and face mesh zipped up closed. I looked through the camera viewfinder and was surprised how well I could see the shot. It’s meant to wear next to the skin or else over a t-shirt. Because it’s still cool in the morning, I wear several layers of jackets and vests over the bug shirt. The face mesh can be unzipped and the hood layed back out of the way anytime it is not needed. The shirt has a fairly large zippered pouch in the lower front which serves as a storage pouch for the shirt if carrying it. As the season progresses, I’ll report back as to how the shirt performs in real world conditions and as the temperatures warm up.
The truck is ready and I start on the 4.2 mile auto tour that winds through marshes, woods, and fields. As I get to post #2, there’s a female Red-winged Blackbird to the left of the road, hopping around on some of the branches that barely stick out of the water. She’s finding quite a few morsels to eat as she hops from branch to branch. Flash assist on these 1/800 of a second shots.
[Please click on the thumbnails for larger views of each shot!]
And another RWBB in the reeds a few hundred feet down the road.
Just a short ways down the road near post #3, I’m searching for the Virginia Rails and Sora that so many folks are getting fine shots of. In one of the shallow pools of water inside of the reeds, there’s a Pied-billed Grebe trolling quietly. Just his head peaks out from behind the reeds and as I take the shot, the bird immediately dives. One shot was all he gave me!
Between posts # 9&10, I see a couple other cars blocking the road in front of me. They were taking shots of this Great Horned Owl that was perched in a tree across the water to the right. The bird looked right at me for a couple of bursts and was almost all unobstructed except for the one branch. The owl seemed to be showing off its beautiful feather detail of the wing.
Approaching post #10 near the end of the woods section, I hear the familiar call of the Marsh Wren to my left. I stop and wait for a few minutes, and can see the reeds moving where the sound is coming from. All of a sudden the wren emerges and jumps up on a cattail stem. He gives me 3 seconds to shoot. Here are three of the eight frames I took.
I finish loop one and start my second loop. Between posts # 6&7, I spot a scrub jay hunting for food on the edge of the road to the left. The bird paid me little mind as I shot .
Rounding the curve at the metal gate where the Ducks Unlimited sign is, there’s a Northern Flicker perched on the gate and she let me drive to within about 20 feet.
I drive through the Ash tree forest and before I’m just about to emerge from the woods there’s a female House Finch at a good distance off to my left. I’m not sure what she’s trying to accomplish but she continually is clutching a branch in her beak. Possibly she is scraping some kind of organism off the branch for food.
Now heading down the stretch toward the three trees, between posts #12&13, there’s an American Bittern on the far side of the canal to my left. He is busy working on a snake that seems to have its tail tied to a weed. I don’t know how long the bird has been working on this snake but the snake appears nearly deceased by the time I get there. I watch, take stills, and shoot video of the action for the next 13 minutes. Here are a couple of stills and a link to the YouTube video.
Video Link: http://youtu.be/-FwKPGMCosM (This video is also included in the Videos section of this site as an April 3, 2011 posting.)
(after the swallow and on to the next meal).
That completes the 2nd loop. I’m now back at the beginning of the Ash tree forest where the pink algae is still thick on top of the water that is to my right. A couple of Hooded Mergansers make their way through the pink stuff seemingly nervous about my presence.
I decided to park in front of Rest Lake (where I saw the bittern on the last loop around) and take some Cackling Geese coming in for a landing where many other geese were already on the ground. These birds have an interesting landing style!
Moving on a few hundred feet I arrive at the three trees. It’s so quiet I can hear the swarming of bees on the tree to my right. I take a few shots and leave quickly!
On the home stretch heading for the parking lot and a Red-tailed Hawk flies overhead against the gray sky.
At the parking lot, I take a few minutes to pack my gear. But not before I take this shot of a Great Blue Heron in the field not far from my truck. The fields are greening up nicely for backgrounds!
One change I made in all of these images compared to previous images posted on The Blog is that these were all processed in Adobe Lightroom 3 (LR) only. None of the above shots were brought into Photoshop for additional work like all my previous images were. For me, the jury is still out on whether I’m getting equal or better results in LR. Targeting specific selections is more difficult in LR than Photoshop, but I did save time by doing the post processing in LR. I’m going to keep working at getting better in LR to make sure I give it a fair chance. There will also be images that will need the tools that Photoshop offers from time to time, so I certainly won’t stop using Photoshop, no matter how well LR works for me.
I also noticed that LR3 runs a LOT slower than LR2.7 did. It takes longer to display images, import images, and export images. It even seems to bog down my fairly robust computer while it is completing these tasks to the point where I need to wait until it is finished to continue using other programs. I had none of these issues with LR2.7 on the same PC. I won’t stop using LR3 due to these issues because I like so many of the features it has. But I was surprised to find how sluggish it can be. Some folks say that speed is the price you pay for the better processing engine of LR3. This may be true!
Until next time, happy shooting!