March 23, 2108

Sunny, 25 Degrees, Calm Wind.

Oh what a nice morning this was for a walk in nature. It remains cold in the morning, but the feeling of early spring is unavoidable now. We’re having much more sunshine than we would in winter and the sun rises quickly and much higher in the sky. In winter, it skims along the horizon and makes morning last much longer, but now early morning is gone before you know it.

I awoke with the first hint of light and got out to the park with the sun still low in the sky. I returned to the same large meadow that I photographed yesterday, with the big oak tree in mind. I felt I had not gotten the best possible compositions and that perhaps a longer lens might improve things. Not very long, of course, just my 24-105mm versus my 17-40mm.

I cropped in here to get more detail on the cranes. They’re impressive in flight. 

With the low sun, there were some nice effects from the sun skimming low over the grasses and dramatically lighting anything that remained standing. I took a number of shots of just the flattened grasses themselves. They’re quite long and make interesting patterns on the ground.

At the tree, I worked more slowly to try to get better compositions than yesterday. It’s hard to tell if I did or not, but at least I got some different things to work with. The tree remains as impressive as ever. It’s just huge. I switched back and forth between the wide angle zoom and the medium zoom. I thought the medium zoom might pull the branches at the crown closer and make them more prominent in the compositions. We’ll see.

Nice play of light and dark and an interesting pattern. 

After shooting the tree, I was just moving out into the meadow when two Sand Hill Cranes flew right overhead. They didn’t make a sound, so I didn’t see them until they were passing. I fired off a few shots, but I had the wide angle lens on, so they’ll be quite small in the frame. I’ll crop in tight to make the best of what I got. That’s where 50 megapixels of resolution helps. It turns out the wide angle caught some of the overhead branches so it wasn’t all bad.

A solitary Sand Hill was standing on a ridge in the meadow. He called a couple of times with that striking squawk. I didn’t see a mate anywhere around. Maybe she’s on a nest somewhere. I took several pictures of him (her?) but I only had the medium zoom. I wasn’t carrying my 70-200mm lens. It’s just too bulky and I don’t use it much.

A very dynamic and asymmetrical shot of the big oak tree. 

With Jamie off leash, I didn’t try to approach the bird closer. I suspect he would have let me approach if Jamie were not there, but even with Jamie running around, he allowed us to get a little closer and didn’t fly off. It might be tempting to approach the bird and deliberately push it to fly off—it would certainly give me some great pictures—but this is an irresponsible thing to do to wildlife.

Making him fly off causes him to burn energy that he has to replace with scarce food. He may also be separated from his partner or who knows what other kind of disturbance you might cause. Don’t do it. Observe from a respectful distance and use a longer lens. Or, if you’re lucky, and you don’t have a dog with you, a pair of them might walk right past you as they did with me the other day.

The massive trunk. It gets even bigger down lower. 

I wish that changing lenses on a big DSLR were easier. There are a lot of parts to juggle. I’ve yet to find a way to do it quickly. You’ve got the new lens, the back cap, the camera, the button to release the first lens, trying to find a way to twist the original lens off without dropping the second lens or its back cap. Then you screw on the second lens and put away the first lens with both its caps in place. Whew! What a juggling act. If anyone has an easy way to do this I’d like to know what it is.

I worked my way across the meadow toward a big oak tree that had fallen. It looked like a shipwreck out there. The entire tree had crashed to the ground except one small branch. It was a big tree too. I noticed that the tree had all its leaves in place.

Not a great shot, but this illustrates the fallen oak tree. That big oak could collapse like this any time. You never know. Never, ever put off photographing something. It might not be there tomorrow. I’ve had many experiences of this in the past. 

Some species of oaks retain their dry leaves through much of the winter. This makes them vulnerable to ice and/or sticky snow. I suspect that’s what happened to this tree, perhaps even in the big snow we had earlier this month. I tried to get a shot that captured this tree in an interesting way, but I don’t feel like I did. I’m hoping that I did better than I thought.

From there, I wandered across the meadow and got a few more interesting shots where the sun was highlighting a particular feature. I think some of these might be nice. I think these images are likely to be of the type that help tell a story and have some real visual interest, but won’t be something that might be printed or sold.

An interesting play of light and shadow on the grass. 

I’m really liking taking this kind of photograph and having a place to share them. It makes photography so much more interesting. Not everything I shoot has to be wonderful. It just has to be interesting and tell something about the walk for the day, the season, and the weather.

Expanding my range to this park is a big plus for me. There’s so much more and different terrain than what I’d been limiting myself to. The meadow I’ve been walking is bigger than the entire woods I was walking, and there are miles of woods and fields to explore in this park. And a river to boot. Should make for some happy photography.

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