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.

An adult female rufous hummingbird.
An adult male rufous hummingbird.
Sharing nicely (for once).
The male taking off to join the fray.
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.
Adult and juvenile females heading in for a feed.
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.

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

A tree sparrow peeks out from the nesting box.
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.

A foot bridge heading into Cottonwood Park in Prince George.  1/150 sec, f13, ISO 400 at 10mm.
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
Another view of one of the carvings in the trees.  1/450sec, f6.4, ISO 400, 10mm.
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
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
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.

2018-02-11: Revisiting Old Work

Another week, and another trip down memory lane in terms of my photography.  I’m really glad I made the decision to work on images already captured for this month, as we got rather buried in the snow the past week, and I haven’t had the time, or the energy, to get out and try and capture anything new.

This week is a mixed bag of images, shot locally and in Africa, in colour and black and white.

From 2014, a sunrise image of the Golden Ears from the dikes in Pitt Meadows where I used to walk my dog.  
Flying over Victoria Falls on the way into Livingstone airport in Zambia.  Previously, I wasn’t really able to pull out any decent texture from photos shot through windows.  Zambia, April 2013.
Victoria Falls from the Zambian side.  I was very fortunate to see it with just the right water level; enough so the falls looked incredibly impressive, but not so much that it was completely shrouded in mist.  Zambia, April 2013.

For my then and now image, I chose this zebra from my first trip to South Africa. The original black and white conversion was done in Lightroom using a few basic adjustments, not long after I returned from my trip.  The updated image was edited recently using a combination of plugins in Photoshop, including MacPhun Tonality and Topaz Detail.  I’m sure I could achieve similar results simply using On1 Photo Raw (I’m not using Lightroom any longer for processing), but I like the ease of using Tonality for black and white edits.

Zebra original.jpg
Then – a basic black and white conversion lacking a lot of contrast.
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Now – the zebra stands out much better against the foliage, and there is a lot more detail throughout the image.


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2018-01-28: The frozen world at night

I have a bit of a love / hate relationship with night photography in winter.  The biggest pro is the incredibly short days which means I don’t have to stay up late to capture night sky photos.  The biggest con is the possibility of incredibly cold temperatures, which makes being outside for any length of time taking photos rather painful.  And of course the trouble is, the clear sky nights tend to be much colder than the overcast ones.

Last night though everything lined up rather nicely.  A beautifully clear sky, temperatures only in the -12C to -15C range, which isn’t tough to manage, and a lovely recent dusting of snow on all the trees.  I find the fresh snow and the moonlight a beautiful combination, and I am glad I had the chance to try and capture it.

This was the first time I used my Fuji camera for night photography and I am quite happy with the results, though I definitely need a lot more practice with it.   I was surprised that my 10mm – 24mm lens produced a starburst effect from the moon at f4; that is something I will need to do more research on as I was used to getting that phenomenon at apertures in the range of f16 and smaller with my old Nikon set up, though to be fair that was with a 28mm – 300mm lens; I have no recollection what my old  Nikkor 10mm – 24mm did.

I did have one major missed opportunity yesterday evening.  I only brought out one camera with me, and while my camera was busy processing an image with the long exposure noise reduction, a deer popped out of the woods and stood highlighted by the moonlight for a few wonderful moments before heading off.  Of course, the camera wasn’t able to do anything while the processing was happening, so I missed the shot.  Note to self, always take both cameras when doing longer exposure work.

A few random thoughts on night photography in winter: dress appropriately, know your gear, make sure you can operate your gear with gloves on, and stay safe!

I only have two images to share today, I hope you enjoy them.

The moon was behind me, lighting up the snow on the trees, and allowing for a faint view of the stars.  10 sec, f4, ISO 1000


A moon bright enough to cast shadows in the snow.  8 sec, f4, ISO 1000


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2018-01-21: The Frozen World – A week of melting

When I decided on the topic for the month, I had many plans for posts.  Many plans that I have not been able to put in to action because of the weather.  C’est la vie.

This week has seen warm temperatures and generally lots of overcast days, though I did manage to get out a couple times for a few quick photos when the sun was out.  The warm temperatures and occasional rain have left the snow covered in a sheet of ice; areas almost look like they have been glazed with the fancy icing that goes on sugar cookies.  I found that to be difficult to convey in an image though, and reducing everything to black and white made it somewhat more apparent.

I hope you enjoy my selections for the week.

The tracks of snow machines heading off along the edge of a lake.
The icy surface of the snow being illuminated by the midday sun.  The days may be getting longer, but the sun is still very low in the sky.
I hadn’t been expecting the see the rocky shoreline when I went out to the lake to explore a bit.  Faint tracks of snow machines head off in both directions.
The temperature may have been unseasonably warm, but the trees aren’t buying it yet.  Definitely no buds to be seen, just barren branches reaching skywards.
The collapsing snow looked to me like to surface of the moon… or perhaps like Swiss cheese if you’re hungry 🙂


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2018-01-14: The Frozen World – The view from my office

For this week, I decided to focus my Frozen World post on the animals that visit my yard during the winter time. Once the cold temperatures set in, and the risk of bears diminishes, I begin to fill up the bird feeders. Once the snow falls, I add in a bowl of food for the deer as well. There is plenty of wildlife to be seen all year round, but with the feeders out in winter, there is activity all day long, just outside my office window. Deer visit frequently, along with chickadees, hairy woodpeckers and nuthatches. This year, the pine grosbeaks and common redpolls are back, along with occasional visits from the magpies, ruffed grouse and northern flicker.

Tracks along the road and through the yard show just how much activity there is. Although I haven’t seen any this winter, I have come across the occasional moose tracks through the snow, along with hare, fox and coyote. I was lucky enough to look up from my lunch a few days ago to find a pair of coyotes in the yard, sniffing around the various feeders. Even though he is always on leash, I was extra cautious letting Spencer out later on that afternoon.

While it is not ideal, all of these photos were taken through my window. When the temperature is hovering between -20C and -30C, the animals would likely be gone by the time I bundled myself up enough to get outside and capture a photo or two. And trying to do anything with a camera while wearing mittens is an exercise in both patience and frustration!

I hope you enjoy seeing what I see when I look through my office window out into the frozen landcape.

This image was from before Christmas, but it is not often that I see the male deer around, especially this guy with his impressive antlers.
Incredibly skittish, this coyote was constantly running back and forth to this spot.  I’d left some peanuts for the birds and squirrels under a few of the trees the previous week; perhaps she found a couple that were missed.
The big source of her skittishness seemed to be all the birds swarming around her.  There had to be two dozen or more redpolls flitting about, and every time they took off for the trees as a group, she would run around and then stop and gaze into the sky.
This one stayed further from the house and didn’t seem to be as skittish or bothered by all the birds flitting around in the area.
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This morning the whole gang showed up for Sunday breakfast.  There were two Mom’s nibbling at the trees in the yard; here the four youngsters enjoy some tasty grains.


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2018-01-07: The Frozen World – Icy Branches

This past week I was pondering my reaction to the weather quite a bit.  I spent the first 8 years of life in Ontario where we had a true winter each year, but then moved to the Vancouver area, which doesn’t get much in the way of winter weather, and then the past 3 years in Prince George where there is a guarantee of significant cold temperatures and snow throughout the winter.

For many years, I said that I hated the snow, but I’ve come to realize what I really meant was I hate the snow that gets delivered occasionally in the Vancouver area; heavy, wet snow with temperatures hovering near freezing.  The area essentially gets paralyzed by the weather, roads turn into skating rinks, and getting to and from work, which would normally be an easy 15 minute drive, could turn into a 2 hour nightmare.  It was the inconvenience of it, and living in a place ill equipped to deal with it.  I never believed people when they said winter was so much nicer further north.  The thought of the cold and all that snow filled me with dread.

But, I must say, all those people were right.  The colder temperatures and generally brighter, sunnier days are much more pleasant than the continual fog and grey skies at the coast.  The colder, drier air here often feels less cold than the chilly damp that seeps into your bones further south.  I’d still prefer plus 30C, but I now realize that for me, dealing with -15C is much easier than dealing with 0C in Vancouver.  Know thyself, right?

Now to this monthly project.  Last weekend I jotted down ideas with gusto.  I planned and prepared, and then mother nature decided to turn up the thermostat for a couple of days and deliver rain one evening, and constant grey skies for the last couple of days.  It was like being transported to the coast, without having to go anywhere.  So much for all my photo plans.

But the freezing rain did leave some lovely frozen droplets on branches, and a light dusting of snow yesterday coated the branches once again.  So I went out on a short walk to see what I could find.







Please visit:
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