Update- Dove Chicks!

The chicks are thriving! Since my initial post about them  https://circadianreflections.wordpress.com/2011/03/11/the-mournful-oowoo-woo-woo-woo-of-my-squatters they’ve grown a lot. March 14, 2011- Mama in protective mode. She usually sits tall in the nest but, whenever I get too close she signals them to be still and quite and like good chicks they do it.

March 13 2011- The chicks are starting to be more active in the nest. Fluffing their wings and walking around a little, but I have to shoot that from a distance so they don’t get into protective mode and hunker down. This is all I can see from my vantage point at the sliding glass door.

Compound this far vantage point with them being under the cover of the patio and it was windy and rainy. The basket was moving quite a bit. Notice the motion blur on the tail. I raised the ISO to get my shutter speed up, not enough I’m afraid. I didn’t want to introduce too much noise. Between the family moving the basket, and the wind moving it has been a challenge  photographing them.

March 13, 2011- Here is the only time so far, I’ve been able to see the female feeding the chicks. It was windy, and had been raining on and off all day. Here the female is getting ready to feed her chicks “crop-milk”.  I’ve got motion blur on the females head. She’s bringing up the milk.

I’ve done a bit of research since these have come into my life about what to expect until they leave the nest. Mourning Doves don’t regurgitate worms to feed their young. They are vegetarian and  have a special pouch that their food goes into where it is turned  into a very rich, nutritious milk.  It contains more protein than cows milk. The chicks stick their head/beaks into the parents mouth and drink the milk. Another interesting fact both the male and female have this extra large crop and produce the milk. The chicks grow very quickly due to this rich milk.

March 16, 2011- Look how much they’ve grown since I first discovered them! They are nearly twice as big, and their feathers are much softer and more filled out. Addendum: They are born blind and naked!

The sitting parent( I think the female)  has been leaving the nest more often, and the male has been coming around. Both the male and female spent more than an hour on the fence away from the nest this morning. The chicks leave the nest at just 14 days old. I found these two 6 days ago, and I don’t know how old they were. They might be here another 6 -7 days.

All photos Copyright © 2011 Deborah M. Zajac. All Rights Reserved

Nikon Suspends Operations

Here’s the news release from Nikon:

“Damage to equipment and buildings

Our group companies, including Sendai Nikon Corporation, Natori, Miyagi Pref., Miyagi Nikon Precision Co., Ltd., Zao-machi, Katta-gun, Miyagi Pref., Tochigi Nikon Corporation, Otawara, Tochigi Pref., Tochigi Nikon Precision Co., Ltd., Otawara, Tochigi Pref., and other subsidiaries as well as our Plants suffered damage to some part of the equipment and buildings. We are suspending operations there and continuing to evaluate further details of the damage. We are unable to announce how soon the operation will resume due to the regional interruption of life-lines although endeavor for restoration are under the way by some of our maintenance personnel.”


Canon also has suspended operations. Link here:


H/T Ken Rockwell  http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/00-new-today.htm#54d6f6dfb5024b9163fcdc4e2103f93f

There’s more bad news coming out of Japan. The situation at the reactor is looking more and more grim with another fire reported there.

My heart goes out to Japan and all her people.  There isn’t much I can do other than offer money to help buy the needed food, water, shelter, and medical supplies Japan is going to need.  Here are some places to donate to help:

Your churches Humanitarian Outreach program

LDS Philanthropies    http://www.ldsphilanthropies.org/ldsp/news-features/donate-humanitarian.html

Catholic Relief Services   http://www.crs.org/newsroom/releases/release.cfm?id=2107

American Red Cross http://american.redcross.org/site/PageServer?pagename=ntld_main&s_src=F8HWA002

Doctors without Borders  http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/news/article.cfm?id=5100&cat=field-news

The mournful oowoo-woo-woo-woo of my Squatters

The call of the Mourning Dove is soft, and low.  I hear it on and off all day long.  Years ago this pair flew into my backyard and tried setting up house in a hanging flower basket I have on the patio. I shooed them away the first couple of years and they set up a nest in the eaves. They are stubborn tenacious little things, and after years of trying to shoo them out of my basket I caved in a let them stay a few years ago. I never look for their return but return they do and always to this basket.

They arrived this year just before the arrival of my new camera accessory the Wimberley Sidekick(2/14/2011). When it came in I decided to get some practice with it taking the pictures of the two Squatters Doves living on my patio.

Yesterday(3/11/2011) I noticed there was only one Dove in the nest and she wasn’t making sorties. I said to myself, ” When she leaves I’ll have to look to see if there are any eggs in there.”

Late this afternoon I noticed she was gone so I grabbed a ladder and my camera to have a look.  I was thrilled to find not eggs but 2 chicks in the nest!

I have no idea how long ago they hatched.  I’ve not heard a peep! They look fairly new and I’m sure they can’t fly. The female has been gone for a few hours now. It’s getting dark and chilly. I hope she returns soon!

I’m in Mother mode now checking out the window to see if she’s returned and I’ll be watching their growth and progress now until they fly out of the nest.

“Every spring is the only spring – a perpetual astonishment. Ellis Peters”

All Photos Copyright © 2011 Deborah M. Zajac. All Rights Reserved.

Bucolic Sunday

Last Sunday I had a wonderful day hiking with a friend whom I share two hobbies; photography and hiking.  We met to hike up Mission Peak.

We chose the less steep but slightly longer route. This route meanders through verdant pastures in the Winter and Spring months. Cows roam free munching on grass throughout the park.

Rachael loves cows, and was very excited to be so close to them, but was more comfortable with them behind a fence.  This is my favorite photo of Rachael taking photos of the cows on this hike.  This was taken on the way up.

Two times we came across cows near or beside the trail. On one occasion a calf was on the opposite side of the trail of its Mother, and the Mother cow  Mooed at a passing hiker.  So we hiked up the  side of the mountain and gave them a wide berth, but I watched cyclists and other hikers walk or ride right past them without any trouble. Here’s a Happy California Cow munching on the new grass just beside the trail. She totally ignored us.

I turned around to look back and could see way out in the distant horizon San Francisco’s skyline. Can you see it?  There was little to no haze today, and the colors were wonderful.

We ran into lots of hikers on the way up. I even met a neighbor when I was nearly at the top. He was just starting his descent. The para-gliders were out enjoying the day too.

Their parasails looked gorgeous against the blue sky. Here are two sailing the Thermals. Just look at that sky! We couldn’t have asked for a better sky!

On my hikes up here before I’ve froze at the Summit. Today it was warm by comparison. My ski pants, long-johns, parka, gloves, and fleece jacket were not needed.  The last time I was up here I set up my tripod, snapped my photo and headed down as quickly as I could.  It was a little chilly, and windy but not uncomfortable waiting my turn to take my photo at the pole. For the Gear Heads:

I packed really light for this hike. The Nikon D300s, one lens the Nikkor 18-200mm VR, the B+W Circular Polarizer w/warming, one Singh-Ray 3 stop Graduated Neutral Density filter w/holder and adapter ring, spare battery, and my Carbon Fiber tripod with Really Right Stuff  BH-40 ball head. I use the L-plates with my cameras. I packed it in my Lowepro Flipside 300 back pack.  That’s it! It was the right kit for this steep of a climb.

I even stopped long enough to take this shot of the view to the east.This is Sunol Wilderness, and in the distance the snow capped Sierra Mountains.

Passing the pond once again we were treated to great reflections, and a picture perfect scene.

We finished our hike tired, dirty, and hungry. Time to get lunch!  The perfect ending to a wonderful day of hiking.

Begin at 500ft

Total climb 2,017 ft

Total Elevation 2,517 ft

Total miles 3.4 up to the top- 6.8 miles round trip

All photos Copyright © Deborah M. Zajac

(Click a photo to see it large)

Filters –

At almost every photography event or shoot I attend, and in every forum I’m in the use of Filters is a topic that always comes up. I have some very decided feelings and opinions on filters and thought I’d share some of my thoughts and experiences.

UV filters:

Often passionately debated is the use of the UV filter. You have the camp that never uses them because they feel putting another piece of glass on top of your expensive lens which in all probability has some sort of coating on it to protect it from UV rays will degrade the image quality, and the camp that feels it does stop flare, color casts,  and adds a  layer of protection against bangs, scratches, or worse a fall. There are countless stories about a dropped lens, and the only damage was a broken UV filter.

I am in the camp that buys them, and uses them.  I often wear my camera around my body via a shoulder harness and when setting up my tripod or rummaging around in my bag I’ve bumped my lens against a tripod leg, or something in my bag. I don’t spend a fortune on these. I prefer the Hoya Multi-coated or a B+W multi-coated filter. I use them religiously on dusty trails and at the beach. I never use them when shooting at night. I have found they cause unwanted flare when shooting at night and prevented me from getting a “clean” star burst on more than one occasion.

Circular Polarizers:

These filters are wonderful. They reduce the glare on wet surfaces, reduce hazy skies, and enhance colors, and texture in skies.

I have two favorites. A Singh-Ray called LB ColorCombo. I love this filter for reducing haze, and enhancing the blues in a scene. Like this scene of Nevada Fall, and Half Dome that  I shot last summer in Yosemite National Park.

Choosing the LB ColorCombo I knew I could enhance the blues, and grays and bring out the texture in the clouds.  It’s a fabulous filter for cooler scenes.

I also use both a B+W and Hoya Circular Polarizer with warming. In the scene above taken at Ahjumawi State Park  I selected the B+W Circular Polarizer with warming. Rotating it to a place I liked to enhance the golden grass, reduce glare in the water enhancing the reflections, and allowing the rocks underneath to be seen, and it kept the color in the sky true.

To reduce my need for buying a circular polarizer for each lens size I own I purchased a “Step Up” ring for each lens size to fit a 77mm filter.   Eg: I purchased a 67mm to 77mm lens to filter size Step up ring.  I put the ring on my 67mm lenses and am able to use my large 77mm filter. I need only buy one filter to fit all my lenses this way.  I recommend purchasing the filter in the largest “Pro” size lens your camera manufacture makes. For me Nikon’s “Pro” line of lenses have a front element size of 77mm. So I purchased my circular filters to fit that.  Be sure to purchase “Step Up” rings! Caution: If you use Step down rings you run the risk of vignetting.

I like B+W step up rings the best. I have had issues with the threads on the one Cokin step up ring I have. I can’t get it to thread onto my lenses. I won’t buy another Cokin step up ring because of this issue. I have 4 B+W step up rings and not one of them have had any issues threading onto a lens.

The other thing I’ve done is create a “pill stack” I have screwed my 77mm filters together and bought extra lens caps to put on each end. One end requires a larger 80mm push cap, but the other end uses a 77mm snap cap. This “pill stack” is small and compact and fits in my pocket for quick application and removal.

Circular Polarizer filters come in Regular Mount and Thin Mount. I have one Thin Mount the LB Colorcombo. When shooting wide angle it eliminates or reduces the chances of vignetting. The Thin Mount type of filter do not have threads on the front end. You’ll need a Push type lens cap for these.

Neutral Density filters:

Another very useful filter to own are Neutral Density filters. They reduce light allowing you shoot in full sun and have no effect on color balance. Another great thing about them is they allow you to slow down your shutter speed to blur motion. Using this to blur water movement is very popular. Here on Swanson Creek in Uvas Canyon I used a B+W 6 stop Neutral Density filter to slow down my shutter speed to blur the water in this little fall, but still retain some movement in the water,  reduce glare, and block unwanted color without altering my color balance.

They are available in circular or sheet form and come in a variety of stops from 2-10.  There are even Vari-ND filters available today giving the photographer several stops of density in one filter.

For example Singh-Ray has 3 Vari Neutral Density filters available.  All filter 2-10 stops of light, but each has a different polarizing or color effect eg; warming or color intensifying  properties.

Graduated Neutral Density Filters: abbreviated (GND)

Often times we are shooting very contrasty scenes. Example: A bright sunny day at the beach. You shoot the scene and see your sky looks wonderful, but your foreground is dark. Or your foreground looks wonderful, but your sky is blown or washed out.  We can balance the scene using Graduated Neutral Density filters. The sheet filter is gray on the top which gradually fades to the center of the filter to a soft or hard edge. The rest of the filter is clear.  In the scene below Snow capped Half Dome and Cathedral Rocks were “hot” meaning very bright. To balance the scene I used a Singh-Ray 3 stop Graduated Neutral Density filter.

GND’s are very useful when shooting a sunrise or sunset.  Below in this sunrise scene I photographed on the trail to Landscape Arch in Arches National Park  I used a 2 stop soft edge to balance the light.

Graduated Neutral Density (GND) filters come in 1, 2, 3,4, and 5 stops and you can choose Soft edge or Hard edge, and there are many brands to choose from.  My beginning kit is the kit I still use today. It consists of:

Cokin “P” size 3 slot Holder + an  adapter ring  for each lens size I own (note: you only need one Holder!)

Singh-Ray 2 stop soft edge Graduated Neutral Density filter

Singh-Ray 3 stop hard edge Graduated Neutral Density filter

I have added 2 more Singh-Ray filters to the above kit- a 1 stop soft edge GND, and a 2 stop Reverse GND, and an additional Holder the Cokin “P” size wide angle Holder – this only has one slot and prevents vignetting on wide-angle shots.

Note: I don’t recommend the circular Graduated Neutral Density filters because you lose control of placing the line of graduation where YOU want it.  It’s always in the center with the circular GND’s.  With the sheet type filter you can slide the filter to position the edge of demarcation where you need it.

These are the filters that are always in my bag. They are tools I’ve come to rely on to help me get the shot I see. It’s true what they say,  “Get the right tool for the job to begin with!”   I love looking at scene then deciding which if any filter(s) are needed, putting them on taking the shot, and when I get  home my post editing is a lot faster, and easier, because I got the shot “in camera”. I don’t need to play around in Photoshop trying to balance a scene with the filters in the program.  This allows me to get out in the field faster where it’s a lot more fun.  This is what works for me, and what it’s all about; being behind my camera.

You win some, you lose some.

4:20pm Horsetail Fall,  in Yosemite National Park glowing in the afternoon sun teases all the photographers who came from near and far to try and catch the sun light hitting the water just before sunset.

For a several days the sun lines up with this fall; in February, and again in October when it does it lights it up.  The preferred time for photographers to shoot this is in February when there is a better chance for snow melt, and water running down the east side of El Capitan. When the sun hits the water the phenomenon can be awesome.  This shot was made famous by famed Yosemite photographer Galen Rowell with his photograph “Natural Firefall”.

Ansel Adams famous for his black and white photography has also taken this shot.  Since then many nature, and landscape photographers have been trying to “get the shot”. Me included.

I first shot this fall last February seen here:

The color and light were good, but it’s not “the shot”. I was hoping for more intense reds and yellows.  I’m not expecting to ever get a shot better than Galen’s he has set the marker high.

This year I tried a different location too. There were quite a few photographers here.

They came from near and far. Next to me were friends who traveled 3 days by car from Colorado to shoot the valley and, try to get the Horsetail Fall shot. Behind me was a photographer from San Diego, CA, and behind him a videographer from Lake Tahoe.  The man that set up on that little island of snow got there at 11am to claim that spot  I was told. Behind that hill of snow, and tree roots the bank is lined with photographers. My friends are over there somewhere. I said I was heading left. I think they veered right.

This year the shot was not meant to be. Two times myself and few friends drove the 4+ hours to get here and both times the clouds blocked the sun. By 4:30PM the first day the clouds began to creep lower, and at 5:32PM I took this shot:

…as you can see the clouds had crept in and blocked the sun.  The photographers around me and myself started making plans to do weather checks and see if it might be possible to try again the next day. By 5:42PM when the sun set we all started packing up. The next day we did return, but the day was more overcast and the shot eluded us once more. We headed over to Cook’s Meadow, and saw the sun did peak through the clouds and light up Half Dome so we raced over to Sentinel Bridge to get that shot before the sun went down.

Not the shot we hoped to get, but a shot I’m happy to have photographed:

I left the park that evening with my spirits high. I came with good friends and had a great time, and with luck I’ll return next year to try to get the fire of Horsetail Fall.

All photographs Copyright © Deborah M. Zajac.  All Rights Reserved

Click the photo to view it large.