after the storm

after the storm
Welcome autumn!

Friday, July 30, 2010

apparently on vacation, lounging by the pool...

This is an older image but one that makes me smile. We're still hoping we'll see babies this summer but no sightings yet.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

finding a bit of autumn...

I will sigh loudly if the Christmas catalogs start arriving in September. I will complain if the Christmas store displays are out in October. Christmas music piped into department stores before Halloween? Unacceptable.

{Disclaimer: I have been known to play Christmas music any time of the year. I just don’t want the stores to play it too early. I cannot defend my position.}
But fall at the end of July? Apparently, I change my tune. The muggy, those-clouds-are-not-raining-at-my-house grumbles disappeared when I stepped into Pottery Barn. There it was...autumn.
The air felt cooler (do they turn it down to add to the ambiance?). There were rusts and golds and a lovely green. There were Manzanita branches hanging over the tables. Copper vessels, wooden bowls, olive plates and autumn quilts.

I could feel the cool. I could feel the calm. I could almost smell the leaves. I wanted to make soup and build a fire. If there had been a way to make everyone else leave, I would have settled into the cream sofa covered with autumn pillows and spent the afternoon reading.

All I could do was soak it up, knowing I would have to leave eventually. I bought the napkins I will use on my Thanksgiving table and came home, inspired by autumn in July. It is 97° right now. I may need to go to Pottery Barn a lot between now and October.
Please join Susan and the other tablescapers at Tablescape Thursday.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

some more hummingbirds and photo tips too...

Photographing hummingbirds can be so frustrating and so much fun. I am lucky that hummingbirds spend a lot of time around our home. I don’t have any hummingbird feeders but we have planted plants that we know they enjoy. In our yard, they are especially attracted to the pink and red salvia.
Bonnie asked specific questions that I will answer here. I use a 100-400mm lens at 400. For most of my hummingbird shots, I have used a Canon EOS-1 Mark III. The tree that the nest is in is a palo verde tree. The nest was about 3-4 feet off the ground. It was very well protected. There are vines behind it and a larger tree that hangs over the palo verde. It was spring and my husband was going to trim the tree when he saw the nest. We would have never spotted it otherwise. I took a few pictures and then let them be. In the photo of the nest, it is the two babies that you are seeing. I don’t know if they were male or female. To give you some perspective of size, here is a picture (and not a very good one at that) that has my husband’s hand. If you look closely, you can see the two little beaks pointing up.
I have found hummingbirds to be much less skittish than other birds. They may initially fly away from me when I first come out but they are usually back quickly. I sit in a chair and try to keep still. The key is patience. They get familiar with me as I sit out there. Once in a while, they are even too close to me for me to be able to focus. I keep my camera ready to go in my hands. Some days, I get nothing. Other days, I get a lot. Thank goodness for digital because otherwise I would be wasting a lot of film.
This photo was taken on a cold day and you can see how the bird is all puffed out to keep warm.
For most of my photography, I shoot manually but with hummingbirds, I often use aperture priority. If you are not a photographer with a lot of experience, I would definitely recommend the sports mode option on your camera. It will give you a center focus spot and the camera will track the movement of the bird as you move your camera around. It will allow you to take photos quickly. Your camera may have a continuous focusing mode, a burst mode, etc. Read your manual to figure out what may work best for you.
I am lucky to have a camera that can take up to 10 shots per second. It gives me lots of options but, I admit, there are times that I am shooting so fast that I am getting nothing but the flower because the hummingbird has already moved on. Hummingbirds are fast! They not only move quickly but they beat their wings very quickly too. I have found that even shooting at 1/2000 of a second, I may not stop the movement of the wings. Because of that, shooting on sunny days will work much better than on cloudy days. Try to position yourself with your back to the sun. It will make the light on the bird stronger and you might be able to get a catchlight too. Catchlights are those tiny little reflections of light that show up in photographs that make the eyes stand out more. (They are good to have in photographing people too.) You can see catchlights in my photographs here. Click on any photos to see it bigger. Contrary to popular belief, hummingbirds do rest. I have captured many photos of them resting on a branch. With patience, you may find them posing for you.
I hope this helps. There are nature photographers who have very elaborate flash systems to capture hummingbirds. I like using available light. Please let me know if you have any other questions. As you can see, I love photographing hummingbirds.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

a summery table by the pool...

Thank you for all your kind words about my hummingbird shots. I will share some photo tips with you soon.

I had to laugh as I was downloading these photos. I usually pay attention to the details. I was trying to beat the heat, obviously my mind thought that was much more important. The handles on the tray aren’t down. The tray isn’t sitting straight on the table. I didn’t switch out the flatware, as planned. There even was a grasshopper that decided he liked lavender too. (I sure hope I didn’t bring him in the house with me!) Well, I could go on and on. As you are looking through the shots, straighten things in your mind because it is thundering now and I can’t reshoot. I am sure am hoping for rain!

The clouds make for dull skies and pool in the photos but do help to bring out the colors on the table.

You can see some of the bougainvillea and crepe myrtle in the background of these photos. I have used them in previous tablescapes and they have held up very well as cut flowers.

May I just say one more time, I sure hope I didn’t bring that grasshopper in the house with me.

Please join Susan and the other tablescapers for the 100th Tablescape Thursday.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

it's so nice that they allow us to hang out with them...

Can you see the pollen flying on this one? This is the one of the few times we have spotted a nest. Click on any photo to view it larger.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

bunches of bougainvillea...

Is it bad that each and every time I write the word "bougainvillea" that I have to check to make sure I spelled it correctly? I am amazed every summer that when the prolific blooms of spring are gone, I actually do have some things that seem to like summer best. Thank goodness for our bougainvilleas, the real champs.

I was surprised to walk in Pottery Barn this spring and see them selling faux bougainvillea stems. I was sure they wouldn’t be a big seller ($24 a stem) here where it is so easy to grow bougainvillea. I was wrong. They were almost gone the next time I returned.

Photographing bougainvillea always gives me problems. The color is so shockingly fuchsia that it almost always looks strangely altered in photographs. I can assure you this is the real color.

My dear great-aunt used to occasionally send me some things for our table. I always loved getting something special from her. Today, I am using the little bluebird napkin holders that she sent.
The last time I saw her, I was five years old. She lived all the way across the country and didn’t like to travel. I don’t even know how she knew that I loved little things for my table but she did. Perhaps it is because she did too.

And now just a little glimpse at the night...

Please join Susan and all the other tablescapers at Between Naps on the Porch.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Tillie, T.R. and Norm...

Let me tell you a little bit more about “our” tortoises. They came to us during a sad year in our lives. We had lost a person who was very special to us and a dog who was very special to us. Life goes on as it must but all four of us were struggling a bit.

WB called to ask me about a new pet. We had very busy lives and had dealt with so much loss. The last thing I wanted was to take on a new pet. I didn’t have time to deal with a puppy at that time. In my mind, a new pet could only mean a dog. M was not too sure about it either. After I told WB “no” in every way possible, he went on to explain that this would be the most carefree of pets. And they were.

Desert tortoises are protected. It is unlawful to touch, harm, harass or collect wild desert tortoises. It is also illegal to introduce tortoises that have been kept back into the desert because of worries of infection. Our tortoises came from a man who had gotten them from a neighbor twenty years before. When he moved, he gave his tortoises to WB’s friend, Bill. Bill then went on to find homes for any offspring he might find. We have had our three for 17 years.

We have Tillie, named by K. We have Norm (who we found out years later was actually a Norma). She was the biggest one and named after the character from Cheers. Our third one is T.R. T.R. was my father’s tortoise, named after Teddy Roosevelt. T.R. came to live with us after my parents got another dog. The first few years, we kept them in an enclosed area with some shade. We had grass in the area and they ate the scraps of our nightly salads. During wildflower season, we brought them wildflowers. During prickly pear fruit season, we brought them prickly pears.

Now they just wander around our property. In late summer, I still bring them prickly pear fruit. As they dig into the fruit, it looks like they are wearing fuchsia lipstick. They eat very well from my garden. They love my violets, especially the leaves and the purple flowers that fall daily from bushes whose name escapes me. They hibernate between late October and early March. Sometimes we come across their dens when we are out and about in the winter and other years, we have no idea where they have been hibernating.

They certainly have not been pets in the traditional sense. For the most part, they aren’t on my mind. It always fun to see them first appear on a warm day in spring, looking sleepy and moving even much more slowly than tortoises normally do. I do love watching their reaction to the summer rains, racing as only tortoises can, to any indentation where the water will puddle. I like to watch them lumber about and see what interests them. We have had baby bobcats who were very interested in them until the tortoise popped his head right back into the shell.

Last fall we had some excitement that we haven’t had before. There were babies! We had four (we didn't find the 4th until the others were adopted so no complete portrait) and found good homes for all of them.

This was a staged photo. There is no interaction once the eggs are laid but I just couldn't resist showing the size difference between the babies and adults.

If you are interested there are more bobcat photos here and more tortoise photos here. Please find lovely outdoor photos at Outdoor Wednesday.