Weekly Photo Challenge: Muse

When it comes to my photography and what I choose to shoot, there is no doubt that nature is my favorite subject.  To narrow it down further than that, I would say that I prefer to shoot animals over landscapes.  For this week’s photo challenge, I am limiting it even further, this post is for the birds.

First, a short update on my chickens. I wrote back in May about a chicken that we were helping get back on its feet. Literally, one of the things we did was reset his legs, so that he could walk.  Although small, he seemed to be healthy, so we reintroduced him to the rest of the chickens.  We were a bit concerned that he would be too small to get near the heat lamp, but I guess we should not have worried:

ISO 800 14mm 0ev f/5 1/40

ISO 800 14mm 0ev f/5 1/40

Almost right away another chicken took him in and was helping him stay warm.  This photo, taken by my oldest child the day after his reintroduction, made me so happy.  With care like this, I think he will do well.

My other bird up date is on the robins:

ISO 1000 50mm 0ev f/6.3 1/125

ISO 1000 50mm 0ev f/6.3 1/125

We had a healthy nest outside our kitchen window this year, and all of the hatchlings made it to the relative safety of the hedgerow.  In addition to having a great time photographing them, one of my posts was featured on Freshly Pressed.  That particular post has approximately 500 likes on it; 100 likes is usually what my posts receive.  I’m happy to say that we have spotted these hatchlings a lot this spring.  It seems that a few of them have chosen to stay near the hedgerow, so it has been fun to watch them grow and thrive.

In addition to my bird stories needing an update, this blog needed one as well. All the extra traffic on my blog made me take a second look at my About page.  Turns out, I hadn’t updated it in about two years.  So I took a few minutes this week to make it a bit more current.  Take a look if you are curious, feel free to leave a comment there or here on this post if you like.

Cheers!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Roy G. Biv starts with R

I have been in Utah for a few weeks.  One thing Utah has in abundance is beautiful red rocks:

ISO 800 185mm 0ev f/16 1/30

ISO 800 185mm 0ev f/16 1/30

I took this photo at about 6:30am at Bryce Canyon National Park as the sun was starting to work it’s way through the rocks.  I used an f-stop of f/16 because I wanted to show detail in the rocks.  That required a fairly low shutter speed, but I wasn’t too worried about that because I was fairly sure my subject matter wasn’t going anywhere.  The light was the variable, shots taken a few minutes earlier on the same settings were much darker.

I bracketed this photo and when I edited it, created this HDR image in Photomatix Pro.  The individual photos turned out a bit flat as compared to what I was seeing in person.  I think this HDR version above is closer to what I saw.  I was thinking as I was taking pictures that this landscape just looked better in person than in photos.  So after taking my shots, I put my camera away and just stood for awhile watching the sun come up.

Have you ever had a moment like that where you just put your camera down, because you were sure the images wouldn’t do the moment justice?  This week’s photo challenge is Roy G. Biv, the colors of the rainbow.  I love taking photos with all sorts of colors, but I also think that sometimes the rainbow is best experienced without the camera.  What do you think? Feel free to comment below.

Cheers!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Life with Chickens

Enveloped, that’s just a polite way to say my life has been taken over by chickens right? In my case, this chicken in particular:

ISO 1000 50mm 0ev f/5.6 1/40

ISO 1000 50mm 0ev f/5.6 1/40

This little chicken, while cute, is not particularly healthy.  It was born in an incubator a few days before this photo was taken, but has a few problems that require fixing if it is going to go on an live a life with other chickens. It is part of a life cycles unit that a friend of mine teaches to second graders.  It’s a great unit in my opinion in part because it includes perfectly healthy chickens and those that aren’t.

In this case, you can see two problems from this photo:

ISO 1000 50mm 0ev f/5.6 1/40

ISO 1000 50mm 0ev f/5.6 1/40

The first is that wet bottom.  Chickens who are born with this problem die unless you clean them up.  This chicken was cleaned up fairly easily, it just required a few sessions with a sponge and mild soap.  The photo above was taken post bath, looking much cleaner.  With that taken care of, it will then eliminate waste normally and grow some more feathers back there.  The second problem is its legs, can you see how they are splayed?  It is visible in this photo as well:

ISO 1000 50mm 0ev f/5.6 1/50

ISO 1000 50mm 0ev f/5.6 1/50

Seconds later the chick flips over to its back where it is stuck, in part because its legs are spread wrong.  The problem for a chicken that gets stuck on its back is that its lungs are on its back and it will die if left like that for too long.  Also, we conduct this test on the chick:

ISO 1000 50mm 0ev f/5.6 1/50

ISO 1000 50mm 0ev f/5.6 1/50

We would like this chick to write an essay and he clearly wants no part of it.

Actually, what we are looking to see is if the chicken will grasp the pencil.  You can see that he does not.  So at this point we bind the legs:

ISO 1000 50mm 0ev f/5.6 1/125

ISO 1000 50mm 0ev f/5.6 1/125

That’s a band-aid holding his legs in a proper position.  At this point in life, the chicken’s legs are malleable, so setting them like this will hopefully get them into the proper position so that this chicken will walk properly.

So what’s next?  Hopefully the band-aid will be removed after about a day and this chicken will walk properly.  The next step will be to wait to see if it will grow properly.  This is a very small chicken, much smaller than its hatch mates. Once it grows a bit it will head on to the farm and hopefully have a nice chicken life.

It is my hope that this chicken will stay with us for a few more days and then be healthy enough to move on.  I am hoping to take more photos to document its stay with us, look to my Flickr and Twitter accounts for photos.  I will write a follow up blog in the coming weeks, so stay tuned.  Have any questions or comments? feel free to leave them below.

Cheers!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Forces of Nature

Last week this robin decided to move:

ISO 1000 50mm 0ev f/6.3 1/125

ISO 1000 50mm 0ev f/6.3 1/125

Out of the nest and into the hedgerow.  I was wondering what made him decide to go.  One of his siblings had left the day before.  It’s hard to tell from the photo above, but here is what he left behind:

ISO 800 f/2.7 1/320 0ev 4.33mm

ISO 800 f/2.7 1/320 0ev 4.33mm

These other two robins would wait an additional day before leaving.  When they went to leave one flew directly to the hedgerow.  The other decided to walk most of the way:

ISO 1000 f/6.3 1/320 0ev 200mm

ISO 1000 f/6.3 1/320 0ev 200mm

Here this last bird is, with an adult on the lookout as it makes it’s way to the hedgerow.  The adult offers up a snack as enticement:

ISO 640 f/6.3 1/160 0ev 195mm

ISO 640 f/6.3 1/160 0ev 195mm

Made it all the way to the hedgerow with a bit of coaxing.

So of the four birds this year, two flew directly and two walked.  I’m not an expert on birds but one difference I noticed was that the birds that walked seemed to have shorter and fewer feathers on their backside.  I was wondering though, given that they seemed to be a be leaving a bit sooner than they should have, what forces compelled them forward.  In past years we have had other hatchlings leave too early for obvious reasons.  One was forced out in a storm.  The other was the surviving member of an attack by a larger bird of prey.  The small bird was taken by it’s parents into the hedgerow at least two days earlier than it would have gone on its own, we suspect that it did survive.

So that is the end of the story for this year’s nest.  Thanks to all of you who followed along.  Let me know what you think of these final pictures.  Feel free to leave a comment below.

Cheers!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Intricate

The original post for this week’s photo challenge mentions a robin’s nest as a possible example of intricate.  I’m going to take that a step further and suggest that it is not only the nest that is intricate, but that those weeks of being an egg and hatchling are perilous and require a lot of intricate details go right for the young bird. Two years ago four of the five health hatches were taken away by a larger bird of prey, a simple example of what can go wrong for these young ones.  This year’s nest is doing well so far, four healthy hatches.  The nest is getting crowded as the birds are growing, here is the nest first thing this morning:

ISO 800 4mm f/2.7 1/200

ISO 800 4mm f/2.7 1/200

I have been taking a quick photo on the macro setting with my point and shoot every morning to get a beak count before I set up my larger camera.  I had taken this photo and was inside getting the chairs for my larger set-up when I heard a lot of squawking and looked outside to see that one of the birds was on the ground and hopping away.  Much to the distress of the adult birds the young bird was sitting out in the open like this:

ISO 800 200mm f/6.3 1/250

ISO 800 200mm f/6.3 1/250

The adults spent several minutes trying to corral their youngster:

ISO 800 200mm f/6.3 1/250

ISO 800 200mm f/6.3 1/250

The baby hopped back closer to the nest and was fed by the adults:

ISO 800 195mm f/6.3 1/250

ISO 800 195mm f/6.3 1/250

But the nest is too high up for this baby to get back in.  The adults managed to lure it over to a patch of wildflowers we have.  A few minutes later, the young bird was led by the adults into our hedgerow which will provide more cover while the bird is learning to fly.

It seemed like a bit of a stressful moment for the adult birds as they saw to their young offspring.  Their chatter attracted the attention of other animals who came to watch.  In addition to myself, there was another pair of adult robins, a pair of mourning doves, a northern flicker, a squirrel, and a rabbit.  All of these animals, attracted by the noise, came to watch the moment unfold.  After it was over the robins went back to the business of feeding the rest of their remaining offspring.

ISO 1000 50mm f/6.3 1/250

ISO 1000 50mm f/6.3 1/250

Just a few of the intricacies that go into being a robin. As for me, to capture these few moments required two cameras and three lenses.  I started with my point and shoot.  The rest of the photos were taken with my Canon 50D.  I used my longer 70-200mm lens for the yard shots and then switched to the 50mm when taking the last photo.

I’ve been posting photos of this journey on Flickr and Twitter, so feel free to join me there and follow along. Your comments are welcome below.

Cheers!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Motion

There is a lot going on this Spring in my household.  One thing, that I’m pretty excited about, is that there is a robin’s nest outside of my kitchen window.  I’m busy taking photos of the birds as they are growing.  I use a fast shutter speed setting on my camera but sometimes I still get photos that look like this:

ISO 1000 50mm 0ev f/6.3 1/125

ISO 1000 50mm 0ev f/6.3 1/125

A second later I get a clear shot:

ISO 1000 50mm 0ev f/6.3 1/125

ISO 1000 50mm 0ev f/6.3 1/125

This shot has been cropped and sharpened in Photoshop.  No amount of sharpening is going to make that first picture a clear shot.  For the most part to get these shots I have my camera on a tripod which is set on top of a few of the good dining room chairs that I have set outside.  I have a remote shutter which allows me to be inside and taking pictures.  I took a photo of this silly looking set up and blogged about it here.  For the two shots above I used my Canon 50D.  I also take my point and shoot out when I am setting up my larger camera.  This morning I got this shot:

ISO 800 4mm 0ev f/2.7 1/200

ISO 800 4mm 0ev f/2.7 1/200

This shot, cropped and sharpened, is my favorite of the day.  I’v been using my point and shoot everyday to get a close up photo like this.  I have a series of photos of the eggs and then the hatchlings.  Those photos I have posted on Twitter and Flickr, so feel free to drop by and follow along with the unfolding story there.

The difference between the two photos, between a blur of motion and a clear shot, is one second.  The first photo taken at 9:17:47 and the second 9:17:48.  What a difference a second can make.

What do you think? which photo do you prefer? Care to hazard a guess as to how many photos I took this morning between 8:31 and 9:18 as I was watching the adult birds come and go?  Feel free to leave a comment or you guess below.

Cheers!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Early Bird

I tend to get up early, I enjoy taking photos first thing in the morning.  This spring we have a robin nest outside of our kitchen window.  As in past years, I set up my camera and tripod with a remote shutter to take photos.  I’ve been waiting for the four eggs in the nest to hatch. It should be any day now.  This morning I was thinking it might be the day because in the time I had my camera set up the mother bird flew back and forth several times to the hedgerow.  In the past, we have seen mother birds do this to get rid of shells as the birds hatch.  This morning looked like this:

Land, look at camera:

ISO 800 50mm 0ev f/7.1 1/200

ISO 800 50mm 0ev f/7.1 1/200

Conduct an egg count:

ISO 1000 50mm 0ev f/7.1 1/125

ISO 1000 50mm 0ev f/7.1 1/125

Head back out:

ISO 800 50mm 0ev f/7.1 1/200

ISO 800 50mm 0ev f/7.1 1/200

I was sure I would find a hatchling there, but not yet, just eggs today:

ISO 400 4mm 0ev f/2.7 1/640

ISO 400 4mm 0ev f/2.7 1/640

A bit about last year’s nest is here. A few nice pictures, but an unhappy ending for that year’s nest.  I’m hoping for a happier outcome this year.  I’ve also noticed that my best pictures are a bit later that perhaps what you would expect.  I have good luck between 7:30-8:00am, the mother bird is active and the light in that particular spot is nice then. I guess you could say I’m an early bird that doesn’t have to be that early.

It’s lovely when the photo opportunity comes to your kitchen window, don’t you think?  Feel free to leave a comment or pick a favorite out of this morning’s photos.

A little update on 4/21/15: I have been taking photos of the now hatched birds, to see a few check out my twitter feed.

Cheers!