Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Four-year Five

Some pretty amazing things happened in the year 2008.
 
- At least three states broke free from Republican Cranio-rectal inversions and allowed same-sex couples to have civil unions or marriages.  (47 more will follow suit, I suspect.)
 
- The Eyak language in Alaska became extinct as its last native speaker died.  (Apparently, a young man stepped forward at a later date claiming to know the language. He did indeed, but he was not a native speaker. He learned it from tapes.)
 
- Fidel Castro retired as the President of Cuba. He was at the post for 50 years.  (Rumors that the world's last surviving Ivory-billed Woodpecker found safe haven in his beard cant be confirmed at this time.) 
 
- A fire at the backlot of Universal Studios Hollywood destroyed several icons from movies including the clock tower from Back to the Future.  Truly tragic.  (I wonder if the fire produced the required 1.21 gigawatts?)
 
- Barack Obama became the first African-American to be nominated by a major political party for President of the United States. He later wins the Presidency.  (If you did not know this, I presume you were incarcerated in a Turkish prison.)
 
- The Large Hadron Collider at CERN, described as the biggest scientific experiment in the history of mankind is powered up in Geneva, Switzerland.  (It is a smashing example of science in action.)
 
- Human remains previously found in 1991 are finally identified by Russian and American scientists as those of Tsar Nicholas II and his family.  (They were gunned down by the Bulsheviks in 1918, dumped in a ditch and given an acid bath.  DNA testing confirmed the identities of the skeletons.)
 
- I bought the Stone Brewing Company Vertical Epic in August and stashed in my fridge.
 
- Bernard Madoff was arrested and charged with securities fraud in $50 billion Ponzi scheme.  (What a complete ass.)
 
- The Detroit Lions finished the season 0-16 with a 31-21 lost to the Green Bay Packers.  ( I don't even know what to say here.....)

So, if you actually read this list, I'm sure you saw one event in particular that suggested something amazing.

Yes, the Republicans have bee turds for a very long time.

Oh wait, that's not it.  I mean, thats true, but that it not what I meant.

The beer.  Seriously.  No, really.  I have had a bottle of beer in the refrigerator since August of 2008. 

Brewed by the Stone Brewing Company in California, the Vertical Epic series is a "buy it and wait" sort of endeavor.  There are twelve in the series and each is released one year, one month, and one day later than the previous beer in the series.  I secured a bottle of the 08.08.08.  Brewed with the intention of aging, I stashed it.  Directions clearly state the bottle should be opened after December 12, 2012 (12.12.12.)

A few nights ago, with my good buddy Neal in town from Texas and Natalie in town from, um, here, we busted open the bottle.

 
Sure the photo, is a bit fuzzy. After all, it was taken with a iPhone camera smudged with a fingerprint.  But, if the camera had the ability to smell and taste this beer, you would all be salivating. 
 
Pouring a wonderful gold, the heads were a bit shortlived, but I did not care too much.  Some sediments (yeasts, I presume) ended up in the glasses, but that is not unexpected given the situation with the bottle.  Citrus tones on the nose complimented the estery notes.  Natalie noted apricots. On the tongue, the body was perfect; not syrupy or thick. Certainly not weak and gross.  Tropical fruits and spices balanced out the hops. The finish was dry but not at all distractingly so. The 8.6% alcohol was completely hidden.   What a damned good beer.
 
This is one of those drinks were I thought of giving it a "four" at first.  I'll be honest.  It was pretty similar to some Belgians I have had.  However, given the knowledge needed to put this together and get it to age so well, I would be a complete Madoff for giving it anything less than a "Five". The Vertical Epic 08.08.08 (#1,383) was an outstanding beer. 
 
Sadly, given the reality behind it, I'll NEVER get to have another one......
 

Friday, December 21, 2012

A Very Varied Day

Wednesday was the kind of day Natalie and I have not enjoyed in quite a while.  A little of this. A little of that.  Changing gears all day. Good fun.  When a super bird showed up a few hours from Downriver, we based our day on seeing it.

The Varied Thrush.  What a slick looking bird.  Found in dense, pine forests in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska,  one bird ended up in the little town of Nashville, Michigan.  As they so often do when located away from the Pacific Time Zone, it was visiting a feeder at a home.   The owners opened their yard to visitors, allowing them to immediately become the new best friends of Michigan birders everywhere.  

Check this map out.  




Now you can check this out and see just how lost this bird is.....




Except he might not be so lost.....
 
I seem to remember reading some time ago about the winter habits of the Varied Thrush.

Generally speaking, different bird species tend to winter in very finite regions.  Depending on the speices, that region could be a coastal area that spans hundreds (or thousands) of miles, entire sections of continent, or even entire countries (like the tropics, for example).

Looking at the range map, it clearly shows that the bird will over winter in the Pacific Northwest.  Apparently, however, it might not be that simple.  

Instead of "lots of birds" wintering in "smaller areas", it appears that the Varied Thrush will fan out across the country, as well.  One could make the argument that the winter range is basically North America.  Michigan probably has dozens (hundreds?) of records.  So it is that weird combination of "rare, but give it some time, and one will show up near you....."  

In addition to the excitement of seeing a rare bird, I think this little chase really is one of the reasons I enjoy birding.  Seeing a particular bird brings back memories of other trips, locations, and events.

My notes show that I have seen Varied Thrush only a few times.  Alaska, Montana, and even Michigan (many years ago).  

But for some reason, the Washington record sticks in my mind.  In 2011, I was visiting Rebecca in the Northwest. We took the day and went to Mount Rainier.  Descending the mountain at dinner time, a single bird flew across the road and landed on the shoulder.  My one and only Varied Thrush for the trip. 

It's neat how memories work like that... 

Anyhow, after a mid-morning departure, Natalie and I arrived on site by early lunch time.  Per the homeowner's instructions, we parked on the driveway so we could view both feeders that the bird had been frequenting.  Over a span of perhaps an hour, it appeared twice.  Total viewing time? I dunno...maybe seven or eight minutes.



With poor to moderate photos in the bag (seen above with a Blue Jay), it was time to press on for a quick lunch in Nashville and some easy Christmas shopping in Charlotte.  (By the way, the locals pronounce it "shar-LOT", as opposed to "SHAR-lit".  Okay. Whatever they say.  Did I tell you I live in "Woh-OD-HA-vin".  The locals call it "Woodhaven".)

Afterwards, it was time to move along to Battle Creek.  With dinner plans set for 5:20 (I'm serious - 5:20), almost two hours needed be knocked off, so Natalie and I opted to head to Arcadia Brewing Company to knock one back.


The MGB 15 (#1,377) is a double-IPA brewed up by Arcadia for the Michigan Brewer's Guild that took place this past summer in Ypsilanti. It was the 15th one.  Hence the name.   In short, if you loath bitter beers, this will kill you.  Me?  I liked it.  4 out of 5.

Dinner time was social time.  Josh and Kara Haas took the bun out of oven 10 months ago.  Lillian nibbled on her Cheerios while the rest of us struggled to understand the accent of the waiter at A Taste Of India.  As a general rule, we found nodding and smiling to be the best form of communication.  For the record, Chicken Tandoori is quite good if you are concerned about nuclear-levels of Indian spices.  



We did not record a Kingfisher on our journey.  Imagine our surprise when we found one right in the restaurant. Kingfisher (#1,378) dates back almost 100 years.  After a Scotsman combined five Indian breweries into one massive operation, Kingfisher grew to become one of the most popular beers in India.  I liken it to people making Budweiser one of the popular beers in the United States.  Um...why? Three out of five.  Barely.....

So that was the day.  Birding. Friends.   Beers.  Some Christmas shopping. All low key.

A very varied day.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

I Need A Truck

Where are the kids with the bottle drive fundraisers when you need 'em?! 


The three bags are full of bottles, too.  Using some simple math, the bottom layer is easily 14 bottles deep while it is about 15 bottles wide.  At almost 4 layers high, with bags included, I'm looking at about $75.00 in returnables.

"Oh, how cool!", you think.  

Yeah, great........

Friday, November 30, 2012

What A Bunch O' Bull

While much of Metro Detroit is imploding (and has been doing so for years), Wyandotte seems to hang on.  Despite the loss of Lions, Tigers, and Beers, a local watering hole,  to fire a short time back, much of the downtown still has a buzz.  The buzz is even more present during the holidays.  
 
Merrill Lynch maintains an office on a downtown corner.  Yes, the banking scam-ola from a few years ago contributed to the meltdown of our economy and, yes, this has some people wanting to kill any random bank manager or investment company. 
 
But put all that aside for a moment.  You can't deny the bull that is the Merrill Lynch logo is pretty damned cool.  A fun little play-on-words, I'm sure it is referencing a bull market.  Even more cool is the fact they have a life-sized steel sculpture of a bull right outside their front door.

 
With the camera on a tripod, I used a 25-second exposure.  The red bars are car brake lights as they drifted through the shot.
 
I won't lie.  There is a lot about this shot that I do not like.  The black hole that occupies the upper left quadrant is where LTBs used to sit.  Traffic is, of course, committed to the appropriate lane. 
 
I thought about changing some things.   I find the truck hiding behind the red lights a bit distracting.  While I am perfectly capable of simply picking up that guy's truck and moving it (I'm stronger than I look), I opted not to do that. 
 
Then I thought I could move the sculpture.  Same story.  I could, but I thought better of it. 
 
 A short walk to the closed City Hall jettisoned my plan to have traffic on Biddle re-routed. 
 
So, with a truck, sculpture, and traffic more or less commited to their respective locations, I did what I could do. 
 
That's no bull.
 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

2012 Thanksgiving Day Parade Photo Essay

No wordy narrative today. Just pics from the parade with Nat and her mom.  Good fun and a good chance to learn the new rig....

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 




Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Air Brakes

One of the most impressive machines to ever fly during last century was the SBD Dauntless.  Flown by both the United States Navy and Marine Corps during World War II, this plane functionally did it all.  

If you needed a scout plane, it was prefect.  With an range of over 1,000 miles, huge chunks of the South Pacific could be covered with ease.

If you needed extra craft for combat air patrol, its nimble behavior and two sets of machine guns (one controlled by the pilot with the other set controlled by a back-seat gunner) would get you through in a pinch.

If you needed to plant a 1,000-pound bomb on the flight deck of an enemy aircraft carrier, this was the machine to do it.  Just ask the Japanese.   

From altitudes up to 12,000 feet, pilots, after staking out their prey, would push the plane into a dive of 70 degrees. That is damn near straight down.  Adjusting wing trims and applying solid training, bombs would be released from about 1,500 feet after a harrowing 30-second plummet. Yanking back on that stick like it could be the last thing he did (because it could be), the pilot was subjected to forces of five or six times the pull of gravity.  The rear seat gunner, who sat back-to-back with the pilot, recorded any hits as he was looking towards the rear of the plane.  Roaring away from the target at speeds of 275 mph while almost kissing the ocean waves, it was a straight shot home.  Basically, take the craziest, steepest roller coaster ride you have ever ridden, and you're not even close.

That 275 mph figure is pretty key.  Not 300 mph. Not 350 mph. Smooth and steady at 275.  This classic photograph shows why....


Take a look at the trailing edge of the wing.  Do you see those holes? No, they are not from gunfire.  They are called dive brakes.  Opened at the beginning of the dive, the plane's speed is limited as the holes induce drag. 

Airplanes also use what is a called an air brake. Instead of "breaking a dive", they introduce huge amounts of drag while the plane is in level flight or landing. 
 
 "Top Gun" really played up the role of the air brake.  The star of the movie, an F-14, was about to get shot down.  A secondary character, played by a complete lunatic, is flying the plane and pulls the brake.  The enemy plane rockets in front of said movie star, and the enemy gets shot down. 
 
Natalie and I were walking the park the other day.  Always trying to be keep my eye peeled for bird photos, I looked over my left shoulder and saw a Bald Eagle in level flight.  I have not preconceptions that I am cool here, but I think I saw him before he saw us. 
 
Pulling the camera from my hip like Doc Holliday would a six-shooter, I snagged some pictures.  During the exposures, the bird suddenly seemed to notice us and all forward progress basically stopped.  For a brief moment, this Bald Eagle was basically suspended in mid-air.
 
The images were mushed together in Photoshop.


Looking at the time stamp on the camera, I can tell you all five images were taken in less than one second  (my camera can shoot eight frames per second so this makes sense).

Viewing images #1 and #3 (from the left) one can clearly see the how the feet have left their "stowed" position and have been swung forward.  Looking at image #2 on the master copy I have on my computer, the legs are still forward - they were simply pointing straight at me when I took the image and are therefore hard to see here.
 
My point here might be this: airplanes and birds aren't so different.  Afterall, birds were the inspiration for planes in the first place.  I find it kind of cool how both flying machines have strategies for solving the same problem.
 
If the airplane needs to slow down, air brakes/dive brakes are deployed.
 
When a Bald Eagle needs to slow down, they do the same thing.
 
How cool.
 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Wrapping Paper?

With the hawkwatch not exacting hopping with hawks, Natalie and I took a little walk around the trails yesterday.

As a direct result of my fantastic photographic skills, I managed to snap a photo as a Killdeer flock shot overhead.  My skills are so extraordinary that I timed the image such that all the birds were perfectly spaced and in perfect wing synch.  How cool. *


I was struck by how much the image looked like wrapping paper for a Christmas gift.

I hate wrapping paper.  

It is often ugly, and hardly festive, during a season of waste and excess.  The only real joy one gets from wrapping paper involves taking the bow (presumably found on said ugly wrapping paper) and sticking it to the dog's head. Beyond that, who cares.

Given that so many people are starting to the see the light and have begun to purchase gift bags (that can be used again and again), maybe I should start my own line of bags......

* Actually, it was just one bird in a blue sky that I cloned over and over again with Photoshop. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Alfred

Yesterday, Natalie and I enjoyed one final day of "warm weather" birding. With temps pushing 70 degrees for likely the last time until spring, we did some local birding where I had a chance to meet an acquaintance  of mine. I first met him a few years ago. 

 
Alfred Erikson was only 34 years of age when he died in 1926.  Pushing up daisies in the tiny Bloomdale Cemetery in Trenton (located on King Road at West Jefferson), Erickson was apparently heavily involved in illegal booze trafficking (it was the heart of the Prohibition Era). According to an old newspaper account (uncovered through research I did for work), Alfred was motoring down a side street in Wyandotte after dark.  An assailant (never identified, as I recall) ran out of the shadows, jumped on the running boards on the driver's side of the car, and proceeded to ventilate 'ole Alfred with a machine gun.  The scene might have looked something like this (advance to the 00:18 mark). 

The tiny cemetery, like so many others,  has some cedar trees.  These evergreens are little refuges to tiny little Saw-whet Owls as they migrate through the region.  The dense nature of the branches gives the owls cover during the daylight hours.

I'm gonna find an owl in that cemetery if it is the last thing I do, dammit.  

Anyhow, before we had a chance to really start looking around, Natalie pointed out a Northern Mockingbird along the edge.  I managed a crappy photo:


What does any of this have to do with anything, you might ask?  It turns out West Jefferson between King Road and Sibley is a hotbed of Mockingbird activity.  After finding exactly zero owls in the cemetery, we proceeded northbound and found FOUR Mockingbirds on the route.


It turns out a probable fifth Mockingbird was not seen north of the Grosse Ile Pay Bridge. There is often a bird there, but not on a our impromptu "survey".  

So as birders continue to bird the region, all indications suggest that this stretch of road is pretty damned reliable for Mockingbirds. Sure, birding is never guaranteed, but most birders with Mockingbird on their Wayne County list have seen one of these birds along this stretch.

All this brings us back to names.  One of these birds was named "Jim" by Natalie some number of months ago.  While not the coolest name in the world ("Paul" is much better"), his affinity to the area immediately around Jim's Garage made naming pretty easy. For months, we have been noting the bird's location to each other.  "Hey, I saw Jim at the car wash today" or "Jim was kicking was the crap out of some starlings by the bar".  

Sure, the confirmation of four birds makes the name thing a bit tough, as we don't know if it is Jim, his squeeze, his kid, a new comer, or some other variable. There is no way to tell.

So where does this leave our new Mockingbird friend at the Bloomdale Boneyard?  

I propose "Alfred".   Its perfect.  Alfred the bird was there many months ago, but I assumed he was Jim from the up street.  I'm not so sure now.  In any case, he seems to have taken an affinity to the place.

Alfred, the rum-runner, has an affinity to the cemetery, too. He hasn't the left the place since 1926!

Alfred?  Meet Alfred!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Gross

Have you ever looked up the word "gross?"   Like so many words in the English language, it has lots of meanings.  Big, flagrant, vulgar, unqualified, disgusting and "without deductions" are all acceptable.  (You can ask a Democrat - "Romney for President" is also a new definition of gross.  Oh wait. That would fit under "disgusting"...)

Anyhow, a few days ago, I had a bird sighting I could call gross.

I was out looking for Evening Grosbeaks.  Again.  As you may have heard, they are being reported all over the Midwest.   With reports from all over Metro Detroit, including Lake Erie Metropark, now is the time for me to get them. 

After failing to find them at Westcroft Gardens (but securing great looks at White-winged Crossbills, another winter finch looking to come down in big numbers this winter), I set off for Lake Erie Metropark.  Fly-bys at the Hawkwatch were very possible. 

Based on my studies and conversations with folks, identifying an Evening Grosbeak in flight should not be too hard if you get a good look.  Basically, they resemble American Goldfinches but are much larger.  Yellow, black, and white are the primary colors on the males while the females sport more gray.  Flight is more bounding in nature; they don't fly straight.   Prominent white patches on the wings are key.  

Per usual, the conversation at the hawkwatch was great (it usually is). In my own jovial way, I was joking that if I don't see any Grosbeaks this winter at the park or in Wayne County, I'm just gonna  lie about it.  (Trust me, I wouldn't lie about something so trivial.  That said, I'm sure others have. Anyhow....).  

So, with the hawk flight being rather poor after my arrival (it happens often), I was just panning the skies to the north.  



Perhaps 400 yards away (so says Google Earth), I spied a flock of songbirds.  Perhaps 15.  Black. Yellow. White flashes on the wings.  With near certainty, they were my flock of Grosbeaks!

As I recall, I shouted out that some one needs to get a scope on those birds!  Jonathon, the hawk counter, managed to do it. After all, a 20-power scope is going to do a much better job at 400 yards that my 8-power binoculars.  As they descended into Gibraltar, he confirmed them. Yes, indeed - Evening Grosbeaks!  

Sadly, there were some frustrations. 

First, they did not fly into Lake Erie Metropark airspace.  I know, I know, I know.  You're thinking "Who gives a shit....". Well, I do. I can't count them for my Park list unless they fly over the park. 

Second. Only Jonathon and I saw them. My buddy Mark,  a moment or two after Jonathon and I watched them disappear, basically said "What did you just see?"  How awful for me. Here I am thinking I *shouted* to folks to view that flock, but only Jonathon heard me.  NO ONE else saw them.  (That said, my sympathy for Mark is pretty slim. He had a Grosbeak FLY OVER HIS HOUSE!)  

So, as the numbers go, those birds became my first ever record for Evening Grosbeak in Wayne County.  My total is now 281 species. Had they flown over  the Park (or at least significantly closer), the Park list would be 252.  It looks like 251 is here to stay for a bit....

So, thinking back to the title of this blog, what is so gross about all this?  Well, Evening Grosbeaks are not vulgar or overweight. There were not 144 birds in the flock.  (A gross is 144 objects.)

Nope.  It is the name of a Evening Grosbeak flock. Gross.  A gross of Grosbeaks.  

My 281st Wayne County bird. Evening Grosbeaks at 400 yards.  

Gross.  

In a good way.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Bonaparte's Invasion

With dreams of sugar plums Evening Grosbeaks dancing in my head, I spent the most of my time today at Lake Erie Metropark.  After walking the trails for a short bit, I spent the day at the hawkwatch.  

Golden Eagles. Check. Red-shouldered Hawks. Yup.  American Kestrel? Sure...a bit late, but tell her that!  All in all, a super day.  

So while the temperatures were chilly and the birding was great, it was, in my opinion, the gulls that made the day really fun.

No, not just any gull. This one:

Oh, I know what you're saying.  "Geee....a sea-gull.  Gross.  I can see those at the dumpster at Taco Bell."

Well......no.

This is a Bonaparte's Gull. I'm sure you have heard the name.  The little guy.  He talked funny.  Always had his hand in his coat (like they didn't have pockets at the time). Conquered Europe.  One source even has Bonaparte visiting San Dimas, California.  (Truly amazing when you find out that Napoleon died in 1821 and San Dimas was not even incorporated as city until 1960.   Most amazing, huh?)

All that aside, the gull is not named after the conqueror of Europe. It was named in honor of his nephew, Charles Lucien Bonaparte, an early North American ornithologist.  In any case, let's face it - this  has to be one of the coolest looking gulls in North America.  Forget the gross browns and grays that you see on "Gulless grosses taco bellus".

Nesting in trees, believe it or not, across much of the Canadian Shield region and west into Alaska, Bonaparte's Gulls are not at all uncommon in Michigan. During the autumn migration, a load of these white and gray gems will go parading around western Lake Erie.  They snag minnows out of the water with ease.  So dainty in flight, new birders often mistake them for terns.

Today's hawkwatch gave us a chance to really see them up close.



Even when the hawkwatching was good, it can only be better when Bonaparte's Gulls are "invading" the area. 


 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Three Years Later...

With hopes of seeing an Evening Grosbeak in Wayne County, Natalie and I set out this morning to one of the more reliable locations in the region for winter finches- Westcroft Gardens.  

Established in 1776 (really), the place, while not large, has all the right needs for birds looking to make it through the winter. Food. Cover. It is all there.  

The tail-less Carolina Wren was worth a chuckle.  1.9 millions Robins  were pretty impressive, too.  Sadly, winter finches were not be found.  (Do not mention to me that a flock of Evening Grosbeak zipped past the Hawkwatch.  I'll kill you.) 

Hoping to find something else of note, we took a spin around the island.   Along the southwest edge of the island, we found ourselves looking for Kingfishers.  We have had them there in the past.  Why not check again?


What I'm pretty sure was the same 100 yards of real estate along West River Road, the ole guy was still hangin' out.  

Yes, the "orange" picture was taken in 2009. But so what.  While nothing lives forever, the thought that a Kingfisher could patrol the same stretch of river for more than three years is not all that exotic.  

The real question is whether or not he will be there in 2015.  We'll be watching. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Amazing

The technological level of the Canon 7D is simply amazing.  

Take the photo below, for example.


All I needed to do was will the photo to exist.  Advanced technology allows for a psychic link between the user's brain and the camera's processors. No button pushing of any kind. Envisions the image, project your thoughts to the camera, point and shoot.  It's that simple.

I wanted the Buckeye to be colorful while the woodchips from the Trapper's Run Nature Trail at Lake Erie Metropark would shift to black-and-white. I have seen that sort of selective coloring before and I think it can very effective.  Why use PhotoShop if the camera can do it for you?

I willed it.  It happened.  

What will they think of next?

Now if I can just get a Golden-crowned Kinglet to sit still....

Must.....make......it.......happen............


Friday, October 26, 2012

Shootin' For The Moon

The last time I was really paying attention to the moon was the during the few days I spent up north at the Ray family retreat.  As you might recall, I spent the drive home on the side of US-23 blowing chunks.  I'm pretty sure I have the Olympic record for projectile vomiting.

Wednesday evening, with my new toy in the hand and the night to myself, I went over to Elizabeth Park to see what I could see...


The moon.  Never a dull subject.  I couldn't agree with the astronomers and photographers more - yes, the moon is more dynamic when it is  not  full.  With only a part of the face lit, the mountains and mares are so much more inviting.

No, I did not take this picture with the camera on a tripod.  I hand-held the rig.   At 1/1000th of a second, I wasn't too worried about blur in the image.  Maybe next time, I'll use a more stable set-up.  Any way you look it, I'm just tootin' around.  

Seeing this beautiful sight is even more appealing knowing the people around me are not dying of the plague.........

Monday, October 22, 2012

Vroom-vroom!

Well, here it is.....



....my first real image with my new rig.

Yes, it is a Black-capped Chickadee. Yes, you have seen pictures on this blog before of this species.  Yes, this picture basically sucks. The background is busy, the lighting is boring and it basically lacks pizzazz. 

But, hey, this is a better than botched Red-tailed Hawks, Sandhill Crane silhouettes, and random leaves in the woods (I was testing exposures).  

In short, my Rebel was on its last legs. I was not budgeting for this purchase but it needed to be done.  Repair costs and battery replacements would have cost more than the camera is worth (cameras, like computers and other tech items, become dinosaurs very quickly.)   What is the point of doing that? Plus, I was eligibile for the Canon Loyalty Program.  Leave the old rig with them and they give you money towards an upgrade.  

Upgrade I did.  The  Canon 7D is superior to my old XTi in ways I cannot even begin to explain here.  Sensor size has essentially doubled (10 megapixels to almost 19 megapixels), 8 frames per second (from 3 per second) and incredible ISO capabilities.  I'm really looking forward to working more with this camera.

But, I have alot to learn with my 7D. There are more damned buttons and options on this thing than I would expect to find in a nuclear power plant (okay, not that many).  If one setting is off, I could be so hosed.  Switching back and forth between various settings (needed for various shooting circumstances) is a very "Okay, think this situation out, Paul..." sort of thing. Buttons are in different places and the whole feel is just....different.  With my old camera, it all was second nature.  I really have to have my head in the game in the coming weeks or I could find myself getting frustrated pretty quickly. Patience, I guess...

Anyhow, cameras might be likened to cars. After you get one, you take it out and really see what it can do.  

Vroom vroom!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Dammit! I'm Too Slow. Again!

Every once in a while, we all find ourselves looking at somebody famous and thinking they look like somebody who is also famous.  We all do it, right?

The list goes on and on and on.  (We could also add Mitt Romney and Lance Armstrong, but that is a story for another time...)

 A few weeks ago, I was sure I had a new one.  John Kerry (post-plastic surgery (otherwise known as Version 2.0)) and Odo from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.  Sure enough, somebody beat me to it.   (Please note they beat me to it years ago!  It has only gotten worse.  Kerry *IS* Odo. There is no other explanation!)

So tonight, I figured out what was bugging me.  That Raul Ibanez guy from the New York Yankees. He is the only Yankee right now who understands a baseball and the mechanics of actually hitting one when it is flying at 90mph.

This is him on the right.....


On the drive home tonight, I figured it out.  He is a god....



Specifically, he is Imhotep, a high priest from Ancient Egypt.  All this might explain why he is the only Yankee who can actually hit the damned baseball.  Sure, he secured various body parts from people in 1999's The Mummy and could have ended up looking like anybody, but this him.  Now he is just in a Yankee's uniform.

In all fairness, I was not the first to see this similarity.  Somebody beat me to this one, too, but only by a few days!

Interestingly enough, in the movie, Imhotep had an irrational fear of cats.  It was something about them being guardians of the underworld.  Detroit Tigers.  Cats. Hmm.  Something is not adding up.  He should be striking out, right?

But whatever.

Tonight, we'll see what the "cats" can do. Maybe they'll take this god-like fellow and banish him back to fiction where he belongs.... 

(Spoken as the fair-weather fan that I am, I predict the Tigers will win in overtime by shooting 2 under par. You just wait...)



Monday, October 8, 2012

The One That Got Away

If you have ever talked to a fisherman, you know they are an enthusiastic bunch.  They'll talk endlessly about anything related to fishing.  This bait. That lure. How to properly use a noodlerod (there is such thing, by the way. It is not to be confused with a lasagna rod - that has not been invented yet). 

Any how, as I'm sure you know, they are prone to talk about "the one that got away."  It always seems to be so damned big, too. It is never an average fish.  Always state-record size, or even World-record size. Hell, maybe Universe-record size, if such a thing existed.  But no matter what, *big* seems to be the common denominator between all fish stories exaggerated.

So today, I opted to bow out of the hawkwatch and walk the trails with my finicky camera in hand (that is a story for another time).  With swarms of Yellow-rumped Warblers on the trails, I was hoping to snag another good pic or two.  Exactly 2 years ago tomorrow, I snagged one of my best photos ever.  One can always hope to top it, right?

I found myself more or less in the center of a good-sized flock.  Butterbutts (the Yellow-rumped Warbler nickname) were numerous while a few other birds were mixed in.  One was a Black-capped Chickadee. With a swing of the camera lens and the hammer of the shutter button, I confirmed that photographers and fishermen have some things in common.....

....the target of the day can get away......but they don't have to be big.....


All in all, this is a fair photo in my opinion.  Nice shades of green in the background mix well with the red leaves. The bird has a bit of dynamic pose while he stares me down.  Okay, you can see his little pooper, so maybe that is not so exciting to some.  But it works for the most part.

So was is the problem?

Depth of field. Damn it. It will get you every time.  

If you look close, the parts that should be focus, aren't.  The eye. The beak. The head, in general.  The body is in focus, but the tail and head aren't.  Honestly, tails don't matter to most.  But, damn, the head.  It is too soft.  

Between the three major parts seen - head, body, and tail - the head is the most important of the three. If the others were fuzzy but the head was crisp and sharp, I would be so much more happy. As it is, his butt is in focus, but not his eye.  

So, after enjoying my walk and checking out my photos here at home, I realizedI now have my own "one that got away" story.  Except it is not a giant fish from the deep.  It is a little black and white seed-eater showing me his butt.

Friday, September 28, 2012

I'm Not So Sure...

Obviously, I like beer as much as the next guy (or gal, as the case may be).  

As it turns out, someone has taken beer yeast to a new level.  It has been located (and used in beer brewing)  in a place most people won't go or event think about...

Here is your clue.....


 No, not the dog.  It is has been taken from the other hairy thing in the photo.
 
In this case, I'm just not sure I'm game....


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Okay.....Maybe Not So Slow......

If you read my last post, you saw how I was pouting about the hawk week being slow.  Weather issues had worked against us, and I found myself more or less saddened by it all.  To make myself (and my child-like emotions) feel better, I found a cooperative Great Blue Heron at Elizabeth Park. 

Anyhow, Sunday was a different day.....


Hawkwatching is usually enjoyable no matter what. When the birds are flying?  All the better!

By 2:00pm (or so), things were really looking impressive. Slowly but surely, the masses started building and by day's end, we had enjoyed over 30,000 Broad-winged Hawks. How cool is that?  

My pictures don't do this justice. Check out this video taken in Costa Rica.  NOW you get the idea.  Hypnotizing, eh? 





At times later in the afternoon, birds were literally 150 feet overhead. Trust me.  I have seen my share of Broad-winged flights, and that just doesn't happen very often. Sadly, it was happening because clouds rolled in and thermal generation ( a very important part of their migration strategy)  died.  They were struggling for lift and coming in low.  The clouds, of course, wrecked the lighting so I did the best I could. I managed one fair shot of a single bird during an opportune moment.


An assortment of other birds moved along that day, as well.  One Sharp-shinned Hawk came close and I was able to bag it.  (I know what some of you might be thinking "But it has a round tip on the tail! so it is a Cooper's Hawk!" Yes it does. So what.  This proves EXACTLY why that field mark is not always reliable. Sharp-shinned Hawk. Trust me.)


All in all, one can't complain.  Good birds. Good company.  Only one thing could made the day better.

Beer.  

With the Fan Club Party at the Fort Street Brewery handing out all the food you can eat with tons of free beer, it was great way to cap off a great day.  

Birds. Beer.  Best friends (Nat and Don where there).  That is how it should be!