Sunday, February 21, 2016

One Swell Foop (Not)

Sometimes I like writing this blog all in one swell foop. But occasionally I'll start writing an article, then revisit it a few days later when something interesting happens that I can add in. Doing it this way (a bit at a time) makes it more topical for me and hopefully for you. But it does make it somewhat disjointed, with a bunch of non-related topics! Sort of a stream-of-consciousness kind of thing. Hope that floats your boat!

Last week, I showed you a picture of a bunch of ice huts teetering on the edge of falling through the ice on Mountain Lake, because we had several days of unseasonably warm temperatures and two days of rain. Not to worry, they didn't fall through. Today is a whole other thing.

Country Living Challenges (part 2)

Last night, we reached -33°C with a wind chill of 44 below. My sump pump line froze up (it does every year) so I had to run a temporary line (I have two of them; when one freezes, I bring it in to defrost in the bathtub!). I'm hoping I got it right this time: if it has a continuous downhill slope, the water should just flush out of the hose and not stay in there to freeze.

This is the setup. I think I solved it: I was just out there (next day) and it isn't frozen up. By the way, this is a pano created using Lightroom CC 2015.4 in about 5 seconds! Four shots, and the new boundary warp feature is awesome!

if anyone is interested, here are the details.  The pipe at left is the problem: it runs underground across my driveway and even though there's a heatline connection (not sure it works) it freezes every year. I think it's because it comes up at the other end and water sitting in the pipe freezes. The connection in the house goes to the sump pump in the crawlspace. I attached the flexible hose and ran it up further to the hook you see (the check valve will let water drain back down into the sump).

Then I used this old metal frame to stretch the hose downhill. The logs are there to help support it when the water is running, and there's a bungee cord holding it in position where it drops on the right. 

Then I used an old piece of eavestroughing to keep it straight and a couple of logs to keep the end of the hose out of the frozen water on the ground. 

Pretty ugly, but it works (I hope!). I'm going to have a skating rink behind my house but I just use that area to turn the car around so I can back it into the garage.

PS: It's two days later and yesterday's temperatures were well above freezing. Water everywhere and the lake ice is dangerous. Such a weird winter!

FWIW, this is how I transport my firewood into the house. Beats carrying armloads! I generally split the wood this small, I find it burns more easily. 

When I woke up this morning, it was still 27 below. I had posted that I was planning to stay inside today but I had to go out to fix the sump pump line, so I bundled up and went out. Wool longjohns, snow pants, thinsulate jacket liner, down jacket, sheepskin hat, insulated mittens, the whole works. You know what? It was a beautiful day! So I hopped on the 4-wheeler and took a run out on the ice. No spectacular pictures (I had to take my glove off to shoot. THAT was cold). Then my face got cold. I headed back in. But just to prove I was there:

It doesn't really look that cold. Trust me. It was. 

There are people whom I know TENT-CAMPING in Algonquin Park this weekend. I submit that they must be of a different species. Even when I was young I wasn't that foolish! 

That was yesterday. Today is crispy cold beautiful again.

A chickadee trying to keep warm at -25°C. This was shot with my 70-200 f/2.8 shooting at f/8, 1/320 sec, ISO 640 and cropped. I was right to send back that cheap 500mm mirror lens. Have to find a way to get a Nikon 400mm lens. A lot of people are telling me that using black-and-white for nature shots isn't really appropriate: but I thought in this case, the detail comes out better. 

OK, I did buy a new lens

Well, mint condition used. I bought a Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD lens because I can't afford the one I really want, the Nikon 200-400 f/4 which is only $7000 at B&H (but it's backordered, so I guess I have to pass on it!).

I took a couple of test shots with it. I was hoping to see a pine marten attacking a rabbit on the side of Hwy 118 on the way home, but no such luck! Maybe tomorrow, when we're going looking for bald eagles. In the meantime...

I shot this at 1/1000 second, f/8, ISO 1100, 600mm handheld. After seeing this picture on my camera LCD, I agreed to buy the lens.The blowup isn't quite 100% but you get the picture. Stay tuned...
I think notwithstanding the shake reduction (Tamron calls it "Vibration Compensation") I'm going to try to stick to  the 1/focal length rule until I can test how effective it is. That means, 1/1000 at f/8 is going to be my go-to setting when shooting handheld at 600mm.

I did go out in search of telephoto subjects on Friday. Larry and I went to the Scotch Line landfill (euphemism for "garbage dump"!) because there be bald eagles there. So here's the 600mm doing its thing:

This was cropped a bit, it's about half-a-frame. However it took a fair bit of post-processing to get it looking this sharp. Shutter speed was a bit low – 1/400 sec – but I was on a tripod. The lens does autofocus pretty quickly.

"Mom and Dad and little Eddie" (you know — 'Eddie the Eagle'...). Rico suggested another name for this image: "Family Tree". Again it took a lot of work to get it this sharp. I've had a lot of good comments on it in Facebook. Same shutter speed, shooting at f/8, ISO 2000. Technically, not the greatest image: it's quite noisy if you blow it up.

So how do I feel about this lens? It's not a $10,000 piece of Nikon glass. But I think with some practice and work, it will do a good job for me, especially at places like Carden Plain in the Spring.

From the sporadic musings department...

 1. Do as I say, not as I do
I'm typing on a new keyboard and have a new mouse too. Both wireless, both from Logitech. My old one more-or-less died last week, they've been working sporadically so I dug out an old wired set for the time being.
I should learn not to eat at the keyboard. You would not believe all the crumbs that came out of both of the older keyboards when I turned them upside down and shook them. Unbelievable. 
Oh, by the way, I'm sitting here enjoying some cranberry-almond thins, they're like tasty crunchy baguettes. There are already a couple of crumbs on the new keyboard! {sigh}
2. Like a kid in a candy store
On my way home yesterday, via the 400/11/118 (I went that way to meet Mike with the Tamron lens) I stopped at Cabela's in Barrie, at Missy Mandel's suggestion. I had told her I was planning to go to Bass Pro to buy some camo's for bird shooting and she suggested I try Cabela's instead. Good call, Missy.
They're both about the same size – huge – with similar products and selection, but I think Cabela's might be a bit higher end. I've dealt with Cabela's before, by mail order from Nebraska. I still have a Goretex duck hunting shell from 25 years ago; the Goretex isn't completely waterproof any more, it was time to replace it, but the quality is great and it lasted forever.
Anyway, put me in a store like that and I'm a kid in a candy store. It's like going to Costco, you know, "just to pick up one item"... so I now have a set of waterproof camo pants and parka, both on sale, plus some other stuff. Don't ask.
They also carry camo ground blinds that would be great for bird shooting. They weren't on sale so no hurry, but I'm tempted.

This one's a folding chair surrounded by a camo shell, which you can easily carry, then pop it open and sit down. The sales guy told me he also uses it for ice fishing (don't look at me. I'm not sitting out there in the cold!) Only about $100. There's another one that's tall, designed for archery shooters, but I could easily stand up in it. And bigger ones for more than one person. Hmmm.  By the way, doesn't that look like a Pine Marten crawling into the blind? It's not, but it sure looks like it in this picture!

PS: re Gales of November

I have expressions of interest from enough people to fill up the second session. But they're sitting back, not committing yet. Folks, if you want to attend this, you need to get booked or you might be disappointed. There is still space available October 27-30.  October 20-23 is technically full, but a couple of people have said they could do either weekend, so we might be able to shuffle. in case you lost the address.

Several people have said they'd like to find someone to (a) car pool with and/or (b) share a room with. If that's you, contact me. I can probably help.

The day before (nobody said this had to be in chronological order!), the weather was also exciting. We had huge snow squalls, to the point where visibility was down to zero on the highway. In-between, there were some great photo ops.

I want to preface this by adding that I've been re-reading Freeman Patterson's "Photography and the Art of Seeing", and improving my visual thinking was in my mind as I was driving home. I stopped by the roadside because the patterns of the trees and the dead hanging leaves caught my eye. Here's one result:

This is what I saw. Not only the red leaves, but also the pastel, charcoal-like trees half-hidden in the blowing snow. That's what I wanted to capture. 

Instead of driving straight home, I headed down Pleasant Point Road. I had something in mind:

I viewed this scene through a painter's eye. I plan to put oil paint on canvas, using this image as a source. Stay tuned. 

There was also this scene:

No doubt you've seen images like this one: the technique is not new, it involves moving the camera while the shutter is open. I've done many of these over time but this one seems to capture the depth and the textures the way I saw them. By the way, the magic of this image is that it is 100% "Straight out of Camera". Nothing was done to it, not even a crop or exposure adjustment. A departure for me.

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