2018-08-18: Smoky Skies

Like last year, Northern BC has been hit hard with wildfires.  It’s actually pretty scary looking at the wildfire maps, as it looks like most of the province is currently on fire.  Thankfully, there is currently no danger in our immediate vicinity, other than extremely poor air quality from the substantial amount of smoke that has settled in the region, and the airborne ash that lately has been coating my car every night.

Yesterday morning started out normal enough for the past few weeks, a bit smoky but nothing too terrible.  But then as the morning wore on, it got darker rather than brighter, and at 9:10am it looked like we were in the midst of some type of solar eclipse event.  I went outside to try and capture a few images; it was extremely smoky, cold like it would be in the middle of the night, and all the photo sensitive lights had come on.  It was spooky quiet as all the birds had dropped to complete silence.

By 10am the darkness had passed but it remained incredibly smoky throughout the day.

I was in the middle of work so I didn’t have the opportunity to drive anywhere more interesting to take pictures; this is a view down my driveway to the road… not that you can really even see the driveway in the image.  It was just the sky I was focused on.

This shot was taken on my Fuji camera with the 18-55 lens, shot at f2.8, ISO 2000 and 1/60 sec.  I created the merged panorama in On1 Photo Raw, and for efficiency edited it in On1 (back to the Luminar processing tomorrow).  The merged panorama was a bit of a challenge because the images were so dark.  I had to up the exposure slider on all the individual images, and then reverse that on the panorama.  My camera is basically always set to auto white balance, and I changed it in editing to daylight, and that got the sky to be true to life.

Just to give some perspective, sunrise this week is around 5:55am.

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A merged panorama of 5 images shot at 9:18am yesterday morning.  A single shot definitely captured the spookiness of the colour of the sky, but having the panorama really shows the variation in different areas of the sky.

 

All of us here are praying for the safety of all the incredibly brave people working to put these fires out, and hoping that some favourable weather will be heading their way soon.

 

2018-07-22: What I’ve seen this week

It’s been a great week for bird watching and wildlife, though I don’t have a ton of images to show for it.  As I expected, the hummingbirds are slowing down dramatically, with only around a half dozen birds remaining, but the purple finches, nuthatches, chickadees and pine siskins remain in force, clearing out two seed feeders every couple of days.  I had a pair of western tanagers through the yard on Thursday, but sadly they flitted through so quickly I couldn’t get any images.  I’ve only had three very brief sightings of the tanagers this year.

After the sadness of finding the destroyed robin’s nest the previous week, I was a bit surprised to find a robin (I assume the same mama, but perhaps a different one) building a nest feet from where the previous one was destroyed.  Fingers crossed she is more successful this time and the cats stay away.

The star of the week though was the bear cub that visited the yard Thursday around lunchtime.  It was on it’s own, and frankly seemed a bit small to be away from its mama, but I never caught sight of any other cubs around or the mom.  He was in the grass near some of my potted plants, making for some nice images out of my dining room window.

I hope you enjoy my choices for the week.

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Taking photos out through a window isn’t ideal, but I do get a great vantage point for creating images.
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Taking a moment to stop and smell the flowers.

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Mama robin tucked into her nest on my well pump house.
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A garter snake that I found basking on the pavement when I was taking Spencer for an afternoon walk.  I was grateful no cars came by while I was walking, and when I returned it had moved into the safety of the bushes.

2018-07-17: Deer in the yard

I missed putting together my Sunday post, but I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to share this adorable deer and fawn that briefly popped by the yard last week.  They showed up for only a couple minutes at the end of a miserable rainstorm, so I am glad I looked out the window at the right time and had my camera handy.  I didn’t recognize the mama, so I only shot a couple of images out the window, as I didn’t want to spook them.  Most of the local deer are used to me being out walking so it probably wouldn’t have been an issue to pop my head out the door, but I actually wouldn’t have had time as they only popped over for a brief visit to the salt lick and then vanished back into the bushes.

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A mama deer and fawn making a brief appearance in my back yard.
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A bundle of cuteness – I love living in the country 🙂

2018-07-08: Birds and a bunny

Last weekend, I had decided that I was going to carry on with bird posts for the month of July.  I was excited because a robin’s nest was discovered in the yard, and while I didn’t see the babies, mama robin was still in the nest.  I had wonderful thoughts of finding a suitable spot to photograph them, while not getting too close and intruding on their space.  Then on Wednesday morning, as I was leaving with Spencer for our morning walk, I noticed that the nest was off kilter (it was built on top of a hose reel attached to our well pump house).  When I walked a bit closer, I saw that the nest was destroyed, and there were 3 baby robins dead on the ground.

I don’t have any proof, but I believe it was a cat that lives down the road and is allowed to roam outside that did the damage.  There were puncture marks in one of the chicks, but otherwise they were untouched, which leads me to believe that whatever attacked the nest was not in need of food.  Even if a wild cat, fox or other animal was disturbed when they were at the nest, if they were hungry, I would expect them to come back and collect the chicks.  Instead, I ended up having to clean the sad mess up.  I’m not going to share any images from that sighting; no one else needs to see that.

That took the wind out of my sails a bit for bird photos.  I’ve actually decided to not have a formal topic for July, and I’ll just post what I am inspired to share on a Sunday.  Today though, I do have a few bird images from around the yard and neighbourhood.  Who knows what next week will bring.

Before I get to the birds though, there is a bunny I’ve been seeing around the neighbourhood.  It’s not the best image, but I don’t think I am wrong in my assumption that it is a descendant of the bunny that was in the area the winter of 2016/2017.  I’ve linked below to one of the posts that featured the original bunny in the neighbourhood.  In talking with neighbours, there are a couple of these little hybrids hopping around.

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The original bunny

I have been quite excited to see hermit thrushes while out on walks a few times this summer.  Mostly, I just hear them calling from deep in the bushes, but I’ve seen them on different walks hopping around on the road, sitting on fence posts, or up on the power lines like this one.  The link below has some more information about the hermit thrush, as well as a sample of the pretty song they sing.

Hermit Thrush

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The hermit thrush paused here for a brief moment, but only showed off the backside before flying off deep into the bushes.

In addition to the hummingbirds that are going crazy in the yard, I have loads of purple finches and pine siskins (as well as the occasional hairy woodpecker, some juncos and a red-breasted nuthatch family).  I’m grateful there haven’t been any bears in my immediate vicinity, so I have been able to keep the sunflower seeds out for the birds.  I have two large squirrel proof feeders (ha-ha!) that I am filling up every other day at the moment.  I’ve included links to the All About Birds pages for both the birds if you are looking for more information on the species, or want to listen to the lovely songs that I get to listen to while taking my lunch break outside, or while puttering around watering the flowers.

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A group of pine siskins dining on sunflower seeds.

Pine Siskin

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Female purple finch
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Male purple finch

 

Purple Finch

I hope you have enjoyed my selections for the week.

Wishing everyone a fantastic week ahead.

2018-06-24: Monthly Photo Project – Hummingbirds

As promised last week, I have some hummingbird photos to share this week.  I’ve been spending as much time as I have been able outside, enjoying the antics of the rufous hummingbirds.  I probably should have tried taking some video, but I don’t want to delay this post and go out and attempt it.  Perhaps over the coming week I’ll give that a try.

The rufous hummingbirds arrive in Prince George early to mid-May; with the males arriving first followed shortly after by the females.  Their arrival coincided with the weather going from unseasonably warm to ridiculously cold and frosty, so there wasn’t much for them to feed on, making them extra reliant on the feeders that I put out.  I started with one feeder and as more birds arrived hung up extras.  Currently I have four feeders around the yard, and am putting out between 1 to 1.5 litres of nectar per day for the group living in my vicinity.

I have photos of four at a feeder at a time, but have seen more than eight gathered around one, with others hanging out at the other options.  Usually that is early in the morning or late in the evening, when it is challenging to get images.  If I had to guess, I would say there are probably 15 to 18 individuals that are frequenting the feeders, but they move so quickly and erratically, it is really tough to say.  There are definitely lots of juveniles, so their breeding has been successful this year.  With the long days we have, they are busy feeding from around 4am until after 10pm every day.

My yard is surrounded by thick forest, and the hummingbirds retreat deep into the bush between feedings, making it had to get decent images of them on natural perches.  Images of birds on feeders aren’t ideal, but that’s where they are gathering, so I have to work with what is available.  I am going to keep trying to get some images of them on the forest, but I don’t have long to do so, as they usually begin their southern journey mid July.

If you want to learn more about the rufous hummingbird, check out the link below.  They are noted as being feisty – that’s a complete understatement!

All About Birds – Rufous Hummingbird

Now, time for the images.

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An adult female rufous hummingbird.
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An adult male rufous hummingbird.
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Sharing nicely (for once).
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The male taking off to join the fray.
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I nearly got taken out by the birds on more than one occasion while hanging around outside taking photographs.  I think it would have hurt them a lot more than me though.
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Adult and juvenile females heading in for a feed.
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Beak to beak combat.

2018-06-10: Birds Projects – Sparrows and Swallows

It has been a challenging week for photographing the birds, with dull, cold, rainy days, and flat, lifeless skies.  But, regardless of the weather, the show must go on, and if I were on holiday I wouldn’t give up on taking pictures just because the weather wasn’t perfect.

I took a trip early in the week to a nearby farm where there are nest boxes for swallows and bluebirds.  While I saw a couple of brief glimpses of the bluebirds, I didn’t capture any images, so I will have to go back and try again for those.  I did get some good images of the swallows and bluebirds in the same area a couple of years ago, you can find that old post here.

It looks like the sun may make a brief appearance today, so it’s time to sign off and get outside and get shooting.  I hope you enjoy this week’s images, I am hoping to have some hummingbird images to share next week.

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I find it difficult naming the wide variety of small, brown and beige coloured birds we have in the area, but I am almost certain this is a Clay-Coloured Sparrow.  While it looks like the bird is singing a beautiful song, it actually sounded like some type of buzzing insect, which is the exact description of the song for this sparrow in my bird book.

To find out more about the Clay-Coloured Sparrow (and here the insect buzz call), check out the link below.

All About Birds – Clay Coloured Sparrow

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A tree sparrow peeks out from the nesting box.
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A tree sparrow couple during one of the brief moments of sunlight while I was out.

 

2018-04-08: Wide Angles Only – Cottonwood Park

It’s only the second instalment of my wide angles only topic for the month, and I was honestly ready to bail on it already.  The days when it was nice this week, I was knee deep in work and couldn’t sneak off with my camera.  Then the weekend arrived with the promise of more free time to get out and explore, and for the most part, dull, grey skies have been the order of the days.  Add to that the slowly melting snow carpeting the landscape in a dirty blanket and you’ve not really got the recipe for epic landscape images.

But, despite all that, I went out for a wander in one of the local parks yesterday and I had a great time.  Sure it was muddy and slushy and lots of paths and areas were inaccessible, but it felt awesome to go out and shoot.  It was also fun to be limited by only having one lens with a small range, and having to focus on things that wouldn’t probably be my first inclination.

I’m definitely going to have to get creative though if I am going to come up with something for each Sunday of April.  Stop by next weekend to see what I have come up with.

I hope you enjoy the selections for this week.

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A foot bridge heading into Cottonwood Park in Prince George.  1/150 sec, f13, ISO 400 at 10mm.
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Do you feel like you are being watched?  The park features several carvings in the massive trees that line the paths.   1/180sec, f6.4, ISO 400, 10mm
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Another view of one of the carvings in the trees.  1/450sec, f6.4, ISO 400, 10mm.
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This is as colourful as the day was when I was out wandering.  Even then, I still applied a “colour boost” filter during editing.  1/5800 sec, f4, ISO400, 10mm
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The trees reaching their barren limbs up towards the sunshine.  Soon, there will be leaves to obscure all the birds that chirped and sung as I wandered along.  1/340 sec, f20, ISO 400
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I had never contemplated photographing a small, fast moving bird like a chickadee with a wide angle lens.  But the birds in the park are so tame and used to people, that I had one land on my hat while I was taking images of the face in the trees.  I crouched in front of this stump after seeing the birds landing on it, pre-focused, and waited for one to stop by.  1/680 sec, f4, ISO 400 at 24mm

2018-04-01: Wide Angles Only

I have a real tendency to want to zoom and and get close up with subjects.  I have been without a long lens now for my main camera since making the switch from Nikon to Fuji, as I patiently wait for the 100mm – 400mm lens to go on sale.  So, I thought that this is a great opportunity to embrace the gear I have, and explore the world in wide angles only.  I am going to limit myself to 25mm and under for this project.  I went out and played around with the concept yesterday in my yard… or what I can access of it with the amount of snow still on the ground!

We had a fair bit of snow overnight on Thursday, and much of the snow remained on the trees still by Saturday morning.   With a strong wind and clear blue skies, it was interesting to watch the snow flying through the air.  The images didn’t turn out quite as expected, mostly because I physically couldn’t get into the position I wanted to to take the shots, but that’s how things go sometimes.

Watching the snow fly. Fuji XT-2 with XF 18mm – 135mm lens, at 18mm. Cropped slightly to remove the vignetting from the filter stack I was using.
Luckily the large clump of snow heading downwards missed me and my camera by a few inches! Fuji XT-2 with the XF18mm – 135mm lens at 24mm, cropped slightly to straighten the image.