Sunday, September 10, 2006

Fog on Little Cat Feet

The fog comes on little cat feet. It sits looking over harbor and city on silent haunches and then moves on. Carl Sandburg
In the Ohio River Valley, fog can limit itself to hovering over the water only, or covering all the roads until you reach the river itself. Last weekend, only the river was hidden in the fog.

Walking along the bank, I knew the birds were all there, but even the Killdeers were silent and invisible. A fisherman, not to be stopped by a little fog, had built a small campfire along the shore. I doubt he was cold, but the smell of wood smoke added a pioneer touch to the air - the scent of smoke meant that people were nearby, though unseen. The water lapped softly along the muddy bank, and I listened to it without competition from other noises. All my senses seemed to be narrowed, focused to the small area visible in the fog. A jet went overhead, its roar muffled, in another unreachable world from my land of fog. As time passed, the fog lifted slightly, and I could see a little farther along the shore. Had I stood there long enough, the entire bend would have come in to sight. Appearing silently out of the clouds, an Osprey glided to the top branch of a dead tree. When you can't see the water, fishing is pretty useless, so he decided to just take a rest. Of course, my telephoto lens was back in the car, so I took a few photos and crossed my fingers. I doubt the lens would have made much difference. If you didn't know this was an Osprey already, you probably would not recognize it. But what can you do in the fog....

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Long Distance Photos

The problem with bird photography at the Falls of the Ohio is the distance involved. The best shore birds are found about half a mile across the river, in the quiet water along a long stretch of the dam's wall. I finally ordered a telephoto lens to go with my camera, and couldn't wait to try it out, even though the day was cloudy and threatening rain all morning. For this distance, I guess it's OK, since these Herons look about the way they look through the scope. I'd need a truck to hold a lens long enough to get close ups from this distance!

I carried the tripod mounted camera down along the path, just to see how sharp I could get closer subjects. My tripod sat in the corner for a long time, and needs another good treatment with WD-40 to make it swivel easier before we go to Chesapeake Bay in a few weeks. Nuthatches can be hard to see with your eye at all, and even harder to find in a camera lens, being little birds that move around a lot. Here's a great shot of the nuthatch in its typical upside down position. Notice how this little guy looks more blue than gray. The nuthatch at my feeder (I didn't know they even ate sunflower seeds) will land on the roof, swing upside down, then hang down to grab a seed and fly away with it. My Panasonic Lumix camera has a monitor that comes out and swivels around from the back of the camera, so I could compose and focus, even when the bird was at an awkward angle for a camera on a tripod to point at. Ah, but it's tough to get old. I have to take my bifocals off to see the monitor clearly at all.

I'll have to take a self-portrait of the Dennis Birdwatchers, decorated with hats, binoculars, spotting scope, tripods and cameras. Dick is using the Olympus point and click camera and has lots of fun working with the digital pictures of his own. Certainly, that camera takes a lot less muscle on vacation. Maybe I'll let him be in charge of carrying the spotting scope on its tripod! Our photography hikes may be shorter than those for just the watching, with all this equipment to cart around. I guess that's a choice you have to make. What is more important, the watching or the photos? If you don't take the camera though, Murphy's Law guarantees you will have a perfect opportunity for the perfect shot.