I’ve been home now for the past week and have taken a few hours each day to get outside on our property to do some much needed stress management. Photography is something I find very relaxing and helpful in getting work off the brain. Since spring has sprung here in Florida, and the weather is pleasant, I didn’t even need to go far to find subjects that are interesting, beautiful, and challenging to shoot. Rummaging around in the lens cabinet, I pulled out the following lenses for these backyard exercises in relaxation:
- Minolta AF 100mm Macro f/2.8 (1:1 reproduction ratio)
- Olympus OM Zuiko 50mm f/3.5 Macro (1:2 reproduction ratio)
- Kiron 70-150mm f/4 (Minolta SR Mount)
- Minolta MD 200mm f/2.8
- Minolta 300-S 2x Teleconverter (for use with the 200mm)
At the edge of the woods grow a few Red Bottlebrush plants which have recently begun sprouting new flowers. These plants are magnets for butterflies and hummingbirds.
Once the last buds drop off, the flower looks to me like one of those Chinese dragons or lions you see in New Year parades.
I spotted a few hummingbirds making regular pitstops at these bottlebrush flowers so I decided to work my way closer and closer to the plant, trying to get near enough for a decent photo. After about an hour of standing there with my heavy lens and several failed attempts at capturing a decent image of these speedy, little buggers, I was about to call it quits to go find something else easier to shoot. Then it happened! A tiny, brightly colored bird flew up to the Bottlebrush and landed on one of the branches. I quickly spotted that it was not a hummingbird but something totally different; something I’ve never seen before. A northern parula (Setophaga americana) has decided to take refuge in our area! This is a boy and he’s in full breeding plumage. If you’re a regular reader of OutFor30, you’ll know that bird photography and I have a long, decidedly unsuccessful record. To have this bold little bird land so carefree in front of me, and then give me 2-3 minutes of easy shooting, was just eye-wateringly satisfying. The lighting was quite poor in the shade but the excellent high ISO capability of the A7R MKII made it quite manageable to get some usable images at ISO 2000+. All the images of this bird were shot wide-open at f/2.8 (f/5.6 equivalent with the teleconverter). It was a bit of a handful keeping track of him with a manual focus lens but I did still manage to bag a number of keepers.
His head goes slightly out of focus but I still love this image for the dramatic pose. I predict an auto-focusing 400mm f/2.8 lens in my future.
After capturing such a vibrantly colored bird, this common titmouse seems so plain but I’ll take what I can get. These past few weeks have been the most positive I’ve ever had photographing living things – besides people and the house cat. The birds around the house in North Carolina were less skittish than the ones here in Florida so I’m not exactly sure what’s changed and why the sudden turn to success but I’m really enjoying the mess out of it.
It’s pretty hard to top the first few photos in this post but I’ve got a few more at least worth sharing. Beauty can be found anywhere just by simply studying the little things and how amazingly detailed and wonderfully designed they are.
Take for example this close-up of a teaspoon sized cluster of fungus growing on a fallen tree. To the naked eye, these tiny red caps are no bigger than a grain of salt. Put a 1:1 reproduction ratio macro lens between your face and the microscopic world and you’ll be pleasantly surprised to see how much fascinating life there exists in such common places.
On this little twig grows another community of marvelously strange fungal growths.
One of my kids commented on how this fungus looks like something you’d see growing in the ocean.
On our property, and in most of Florida, Tillandsia (air plants) abound. They propagate by means of a long stemmed seed capsule they produce which when it finally opens, ejects these hair-like seeds into the wind.
A simple photo of a near-perfect Knockout Rose bud.
These roses really are knockouts once the bud finally reveals what they’ve had growing inside them over the past few weeks.
It’s too early in the year to flower but this fuzzy bud is hard at work growing a huge, white Southern magnolia flower. Right now, it may look like a tree covered in little orange cats but come summer the heavy, thick-petaled flowers will blossom and release the most intoxicatingly sweet aroma – the smell of the South. The best magnolias grow in the hills of North Carolina… sorry Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi, it’s just true.
Brand new leaves on an oak tree – hopefully this means we’re on the downward side of pollen covering everything outside.
Even the large cacti in the front yard are sprouting new growth. In a few weeks these buds will eventually flower, beautifully decorating this otherwise unfriendly plant.
That’s all for tonight. I hope you’ve enjoyed the photos and they brought a little cheer to your day.