Two weeks ago, I returned home from a month of projects in Italy and Cameroon. The first week home was spent getting over jet lag and just the general tiredness from work out on an oil rig. This past week, I finally felt re-energized enough to break out my camera and have a rummage through the lens cabinet. I went for the humongous Nikon 500mm f/4 and the teeny Olympus OM Zuiko 35mm f/2.8.
I’ll start with some new images of some birds we’ve seen around the house. We saw three new birds this week! Species info in the caption below each photo.
For the past few weeks now, we’ve had regular visits to the Mimosa tree from a couple pairs of American Goldfinches; a truly stunning aesthetic with an equally matched string of songs it sings.
This Blue-gray Gnatcatcher is really small… like hummingbird small. My daughter, Eliya, was using iBird Pro app on an iPhone to help identify a call we kept hearing but couldn’t see what was making it. Once she found the match to the call we were hearing, she played it back to them and within a few minutes we had three of these chipper little birds come right up to the Mimosa and Crepe Myrtles trees in the yard. As small and active as they are, they were surprisingly easy to follow as they weren’t the least bit skittish of me or the ridiculously large lens my camera was hanging from.
Another good find was this Eastern Cuckoo. We’ve heard them out in the woods for awhile now but this is the first time I’ve seen one close enough to get a decent photo.
Northern Cardinals are abundant around the house and the woods behind it. All throughout the day, we see males and females out together collecting food.
Also in great numbers are the Whitetail Deer. This doe recently birthed three fawns. She is part of a much larger group but we often find her napping in the lawn under the shade of the trees. She is (at least in part) responsible for totally wiping out any bird seed I put in the feeders. I’m going to need a much taller pole to mount them out of her reach come winter. All the deer around the house are very relaxed. Just the other day while I was out mowing the lawn, one of the deer was in the yard grazing away and as I went back and forth trimming her salad bar, she hardly looked up from eating. This area is a protected haven for the deer and rabbits who live here. The only predators are hawks and maybe a few foxes. Strangely, my wife and I did see a bunny and squirrel fighting in the grass… never seen anything like it. The squirrel was chasing the bunny which would respond by repeatedly springing straight into the air and back down on top of the squirrel. That was quite the hilarious spectacle to behold! The only thing I can figure is the squirrel had a nest nearby and was apparently willing to fight ANYTHING that got too close to it. You know how heartless and vicious little brown bunnies can be… Anyway, other than the odd brawl between bunnies and squirrels, it’s a very peaceful place to live and the deer are the most relaxed I’ve ever seen in the wild.
The other day, my family and I took a little drive to get up to the 20-degree cooler weather found at higher altitudes in the western part of North Carolina. What a nice way to get away from the Summer heat for a few hours. For this outing, I swapped out my lens to the Olympus OM Zuiko 35mm f/2.8. This is a very small and lightweight gem that always produces high quality images. This is definitely one of those lenses worth having in your own collection. Without much bother, you can find them in good nick for well under $100. It’s great wide-open, and only gets sweeter the further you stop it down. The minimum aperture is f/16, right where diffraction starts to become a factor.
The shot below was made at f/16 and it is full of rich detail with no real show of diffraction degrading the image. I toned this image in Photoshop to feel like the cool, rainy day that it was.
Another great thing about this lens is its ability to focus up close. The lens’ minimum focus distance is 0.98 ft (30 cm) which makes it perfect for random walkabouts where you might encounter an opportunity for a nice close-up.
I found some old farm equipment that had such beautiful rust and corrosion; I love the look of age and use on things. This old chain and cog made for an interesting close-up. I used an aperture of f/5.6 to get the width of the chain in focus.
These bright, yellow leaves fallen onto a moss-covered rock sure got me anxious for the Autumn colors coming to North Carolina in October. That is my very favorite time of year for the sights, sounds, and smells that come with the season: campfires in the backyard, cool wind blowing through the trees, and piles of colorful leaves in the forest. I can’t wait!
More than 100 years of hard work and weather have rendered the gears of this old farm implement a seized mass of rich colors and texture. The little Olympus had no trouble at all in resolving even the finest details found in this eroding collection of rust and dust. Gorgeous!
Shot wide-open at f/2.8 this pop of green foliage against the weather-worn stone and timber of an old cabin made for a pleasant still life photo. The touch of vignette seen in this image is not from the lens, it was added in post .
A view of the rolling forest where we took a break for lunch. I used an aperture of f/11 with the focus set to about 12 feet to achieve hyperfocal distance. This configuration allowed me to get the combination of foreground and background in as much focus as possible with a single shot. I would have stopped down one more click to f/16 but the loss of light would have made it more difficult to get such a sharp, noise-free, handheld image (1/15th sec, ISO 400). I rarely travel with a tripod.
Some quick portraits of a few of my youngins.
While walking, I spotted out of the corner of my eye this tiny little Eastern Newt napping on the leaf of ground plant. Recent torrential rains have really stirred up the creeks, likely pushing this juvenile to higher ground. This little guy is in a young stage of life called, red eft. After the first stage of life as a larva/tadpole in the water, they mature into this remarkably vibrant orange, red, and black coloring and engage in a new life on land. The bright colors are a warning to any birds or other critters considering it as a possible meal while it roams about looking for a new place to live. Like many other kinds of newts, this Eastern Newt produces a toxin on its skin that can cause harm to any predator. Some newts are capable of producing deadly toxins – even to humans – but not this kind. It is advised though to wash your hands after handling one. The tiny beads of liquid you see on its back are not excretions of toxin, they are drops of rain from the regular showers we had that day.
In this final image for the day, a grand view of the valley below. The landscape was mixed patches of rain and sunlight with the weather unable to make up its mind what it wanted to do that day. In the brief time it took me to compose and fire off 4 shots it went from dry to pouring with rain, sending me jogging back to the van with my camera tucked under my shirt. What a great day out with my family, enjoying with them the beauty found throughout North Carolina.
I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s photos and found a few minutes of relaxation in your visit to Outfor30. Have a great weekend!