Saturday, May 10, 2014


Consider today's post a sort of photographic corollary to yesterday's confession regarding the challenge of trying to capture decent images of fast-moving northern rough-winged swallows as they erratically swooped and twisty-turned while feeding above the pool near the cottage. I made much of the difficulty of the task involved, given the decided limitations of my bird-in-flight capturing skills.

Gail, bless her heart, dear friend and faithful Riverdaze reader, thought I was merely being humble. Alas, I was not. I wish that were indeed the case. Modesty would have been an easier path than truth. But I know I'm technically capable only to a point. 

So here's visible, irrefutable proof of my admission's genuine honesty—two shots of the same turkey vulture as it recently circled over the yard. Notice how nice and crisp the images are—subject's eyes sharp, detail in the feathers? Should one desire a poster-sized print of either, suitable to mat and frame and hang on the living-room wall for friends and family to admire, they'd easily enlarge with no loss in quality…though why anyone would be possessed to do such a thing is beyond me.       

Still, their image quality corroborates my point: if the subject-in-flight is big enough, close enough, and sufficiently slow-moving, I'm a "get'r done" camera-totin' whizz! Should refrigerators or school buses sprout wings and take to the sky, I'll nail those shots. Guaranteed!

Zippy little swallows? Luck and dogged persistence are my only real hope. A man must recognize his limitations…


Friday, May 9, 2014


I don't claim to be a hot-shot bird photographer—or an expert photographer of any sort. I get by, but I'd classify my overall abilities as generally adequate and occasionally lucky. What might be mistaken for talent is more often the result of perseverance and a blithe willingness to shoot a hundred images of something in order to get one that looks half-way pleasing. Being a perfectionist doesn't help, but shooting digital allows me to indulge such a personality quirk for no additional cost other than time…which was not the case when I used to shoot film.

Birds-in-flight photos are, generally speaking, harder to achieve than more static shots of, say, a titmouse perched on a maple branch. The really skilled action shooters smirkingly refer to such images as "birds-on-a-stick." In my photo files, respectable pix in this latter category probably outnumber acceptable images of the former sort fifty-to-one, and that might be an optimistic estimate.

I mention this because I've decided to try and come up with some decent images of northern rough-winged swallows feeding over the pool in front of the cottage. The two shots I've posted are the best of my first-round efforts. I shot nearly a hundred exposures to get these—and while they are okay, they're certainly not great, especially given that they simply show the birds in flight, and not in one of their obvious contortionist feeding positions as they swoop and dive, zig and zag, zooming about gleefully snatching emerging aquatic insects.
Northern rough-winged swallows in action are a tough capture—at least for me. Not quite as challenging as bats, but challenging enough—fast and erratic. I think I can do better, but it may take awhile, like a year or two. So I figured I'd stick these up for now, in case my idealized swallow image proves to be a will-o'-the-wisp.    


Sunday, May 4, 2014


According to the National Weather Service's website, currently hereabouts it's 56˚F and raining. I'm looking almost due west…at a near-cloudless blue sky all aglow with a bright and shining setting sun. Nary a drop of rain in evidence anywhere. I know it's probably the weekend crew holding down the office—but bless them, I do wish that instead of relying entirely on their instruments and various space-age technologies, someone would take a look out the window before they post their latest report. 

On the other hand, I'll not quibble about the temperature. It is cool, has been both yesterday and today, and 56˚F sounds about right. 

I've been fiddling with my computer most of the day. It started acting up a week or so ago—and while it isn't getting any worse, it isn't getting any better, either. Nothing I do seems to matter. So I'm afraid a service call is likely in the near future, and maybe a new computer. 

As usual, I'm conflicted. I love technology and I hate technology. It's great when it works, frustrating and sometimes almost crippling when it doesn't. Maybe those folks at the National Weather Service are having computer glitches of their own. 

I think I'll go eat a piece of dark chocolate. Maybe two.

Thursday, May 1, 2014


"For it giveth unto all lovers courage, that lusty month of May."
—Thomas Malory, Le Morte D'Arthur         

What a marvelous day for beginning a new month!

There are multihued warblers flitting among the treetops, tree swallows wheeling and swooping above the Cottage Pool, and a rowdy gaggle of mallards and Canada geese up from the river and keeping a wary eye on one another as they share the scoops of cracked corn I tossed out earlier.

The sky, a dazzling oceanic-blue, is spattered with puffy white clouds, and a king's ransom of honey-gold sunshine is streaming down. 

Who cares if the temperature is only 55˚F? 

Not me…and not the Carolina wren who's been filling my morning with song from his perch on the deck rail. Or the young groundhog, recently waddled forth from his snug burrow on the driveway bank, to sort through the latest scraps of leafy greenery, vegetable peelings, and bits of fruit I've left for him on the compost heap.

It's been years since I've seen a decorated Maypole; decades since I've witnessed a group of boys and girls actually weaving those bright ribbon streamers as they circled one. And about the same length of time since I've heard about anyone having gone a'mayin'—though when I was growing up, on this first day of the month, it wasn't at all uncommon for country folks to head for the woods and fields with a basket under their arm for "bringin' in the May."

Given the schedule, work, issues, and general nonsense I've endure these last couple of weeks—chilly temps or not, going for leisurely tramp in the woods this afternoon sounds like a pretty dandy idea.