Trying to open the pitcher?

In front of the Visitor’s Center at the State Botanical Garden is a water garden full of lilies and pitcher plants.  On a hot July day, the water and plants attract quite a few dragonflies that are not all that concerned with people passing by.  This particular one had laid claim to a bright red pitcher plant and stayed there for quite a while so I could get his portrait.

I had put my long lens on the camera with hopes of seeing hummingbirds but it turns out that this is a pretty good tool for close-up shots as well.  The only problem was that I kept getting closer than the minimum focus distance and had to back up a number of times.

I thought this came out really well since I was hand-holding the big lens and got some fantastic sharpness on the little details like the hairs on the dragonfly’s legs.  I kind of wish I had set my aperture a bit smaller to get the whole of the wing-span in focus but I wanted to blur out the background for a smooth look.  The green background was provided by a lily pad in the pond behind the pitcher plant.

State Botanical Garden of Georgia
2450 S Milledge Avenue
Athens, Georgia, USA

Nikon D7100
Vanguard Altra Pro 263 AT tripod
Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2
600mm @ f/6.3 – 1/640 sec – ISO 400

Mississippi Kite

I experienced a new bird breed yesterday when visiting the State Botanical Garden in Athens, Georgia.  Joyce saw this elegant bird flying by first and we spotted where he landed, high on a bare branch.  It was very had to figure out what it was for a number of reasons.  First, I had never seen one of these before and second, it was approaching high-noon so, it was hard to pick out details of a white brested bird against the clouds and brilliant sun.

Joyce thought it may be an eagle and I thought it was a hawk of some sort until I saw it through my lens.  When I got a better look, I thought it might be an Osprey but, they don’t have the white head like this.  I have to credit David Akoubian for identifying this bird for me.  Being the great “bird nerd” that he is, he came back quickly with an ID on it.

I was lucky that I brought my long Tamron lens on this trip.  We heard that there were lots of hummingbirds at the gardens so, I hauled the big gun along.  Never expected to see this kind of sight but I’m glad that we did!

Mississippi Kite
(Ictinia mississippiensis)

Nikon D7100
Vanguard Altra Pro 263 AT tripod
Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2
600mm @ f/11 – 1/1000 sec – ISO 250

Snakebird

I first saw this bird sunning on a branch along the edge of Woody Pond at Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge.  It was not a familiar species to me and I initially thought it was a cormorant.

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Anhinga sunning at Woody Pond

The Anhinga’s name comes from the Brazilian Tupi language and means devil bird or snake bird. The origin of this name is obvious when the bird is swimming. It swims with the body submerged and just ‘s long, slender head and neck the above the water so the bird looks like a snake ready to strike.

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The “snake bird” with catfish

The Anhinga pictured above had just caught a catfish and was swimming back and forth with the prey speared on the end of its beak.  At first, the fish was flapping about but the bird held it and waited for the wriggling to stop.  The Anhinga then flipped the fish up quickly to release it from the beak. After a little juggling to re-position, the fish was quickly swallowed whole.

This was quite a process to watch.

 

North American Anhinga
(Anhinga anhinga leucogaster)

Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge
Townsend, Georgia, USA

Nikon D7100
Vanguard Altra Pro 263 AT tripod
Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2
420mm @ f/9 – 1/80 sec – ISO 320

Things are looking up

Here’s a lesson to remind us to always look around when deciding where to find your next image.

The story in this case is as follows: I was enjoying a beautiful morning at the Helen Balloon Festival with the North Georgia Photography Club when one of our group struck up a conversation with some of the people running the tethered balloon ride.  It turns out that they were major sponsors of the event and wanted some photos to use for publicity.  We, of course, were happy to help and so, they offered to send a few members of our group up in the balloon to get the view from above.

Helen Balloon Festival-5092

I got a series of shots from the ground and some nice views of the surrounding area but then I turned around when the burner came on.  I noticed what a great view it was to look up through the balloon from inside the basket.  To make it even better, this balloon had a smiley at the center!

Helen Balloon Festival-5081

It was never my intention to take this shot but by paying attention and being open to the unexpected, I got something unusual and interesting.  Gotta be one of the most important lessons I have learned about photography.  It’s always good to do your research, plan, and show up at the right time but sometimes it’s the things you didn’t plan on that turn out to be the best images.

Always look around and work the scene.  Life is what happens while we’re making plans.  Don’t let your plans cause you to miss the opportunities that surround you!

44th Annual Helen to the Atlantic Balloon Race & Festival
Helen, Georgia, USA

Nikon D7100
Tamron SP 10-24mm F/3.5-4.5 Di II
10mm @ f/9 – 1/1250 sec – ISO 400

Gotcha!

So, I just pounded my head on the side of a tree to get some bugs to peek out of their hiding place then, Zap! I snag one with my tongue and there’s a mid-day snack.  The life of a woodpecker is so glamorous.

I don’t think I ever gave any thought to how a bird would snag a moving insect.  Kind of thought it would be like the Karate Kid catching a fly with chopsticks.  It’s more like an anteater burrowing into a termite mound but actually, the woodpecker’s tongue is like a spear with barbs on it.  They impale their prey with the tongue and the barbs pull the insects out of their holes and into the bird’s mouth.

The wonders of nature are all around us.  I love learning about this as part of my photographic journey.

Red-bellied Woodpecker
(Melanerpes carolinus )
Alpharetta, Georgia, USA

Nikon D7100
Vanguard Altra Pro 263 AT tripod
Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2
600mm @ f/8 – 1/15 sec – ISO 200

Pine Warbler

It is amazing what diversity of birds are visible in Georgia and how you see different species appearing in one area and then not in the next neighborhood over.  We went over to our friends home in Alpharetta to see if I could catch a shot of the yellow-variant of a Red-bellied Woodpecker that they have been seeing.  That rare bird did not show but we got a range of other birds some of which, like this beautiful yellow Pine Warbler, I never see at my house in Roswell.

We got a nice variety of birds who came up to the feeders and posed in the nearby trees.  There was also a great symphony of bird calls which ebbed and flowed with the birds moving around.  You could tell if a bird of prey passed by when the songs suddenly stopped and then soon after, the sound would rise and the little birds would quickly re-appear.

I guess this wouldn’t be an exciting Memorial Day for too many people but I sure enjoyed it.

Pine Warbler
(Setophaga pinus )
Alpharetta, Georgia, USA

Nikon D7100
Vanguard Altra Pro 263 AT tripod
Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2
600mm @ f/8 – 1/30 sec – ISO 200

How’s it look outside?

These twin smokestacks coming from massive industrial boilers are the main landmark of the Lindale Mill plant. This is a view is from the other main building that housed the weaving and dying machinery through a transom window with painted-over green windows.

It it easy to imagine what this must have looked like when the plant was operational.  This was certainly a hub of activity, with people and machines buzzing away.  Now, it’s a ghost town except for the occasional group of photographers and workers cleaning out the broken and abandoned bits of the old facility.

This is quite a piece of history and one of those things that can serve to remind us of the past.  I hope that it continues to be a place for people to go and connect to how things were in days gone by.

Nikon D7100
Vanguard Altra Pro 263 AT tripod
Tamron SP 10-24mm F/3.5-4.5 Di II
10mm @ f/16 – 1/125 sec – ISO 100

#LindaleMill #LindaleGA #TextileMill #industrial #machinery #UrbanDecay #texture #detail #decay #abandoned #WithMyTamron

Workman’s Desk at Lindale Mill

I made a return trip to the Lindale Mill in Lindale, Georgia with the North Georgia Photography Club on Saturday.  It was a lot of fun to wander through the industrial site and look at the machinery and the remains of the plant that once produced denim fabric and other textile products.

Someone left this book and hard hat as a photo-op and I took the bait.  If you look closely, you can see that the book is a history of the mill.  What was neat here is that there was a shaft of light coming in through one of the windows that illuminated the scene but left the background in the dark.  It is very interesting to see how the light moves around inside this big old factory as the day goes by.  In this case, it was just after noon so the light was coming from almost straight overhead.

The mill is an amazing place to visit but if you want to catch the abandoned/grungy look you better hurry.  The site is in the process of being “cleaned up” so that it can be used for weddings and other events.  While it is not un-safe at this point, I’m sure there would be an awful lot of safety concerns in letting large groups in so things like lead paint, asbestos and broken glass are being removed.  I know the location will continue to be a great backdrop for photography, film and just general gawking but, it will become more sanitized as time goes by.  As long as they keep the character of the place, that’s OK but don’t expect it to stay untouched for long.

Nikon D7100
Vanguard Altra Pro 263 AT tripod
Tamron SP 10-24mm F/3.5-4.5 Di II
24mm @ f/18 – 1/10 sec – ISO 320

#LindaleMill #LindaleGA #TextileMill #industrial #machinery #UrbanDecay #texture #detail #decay #abandoned #WithMyTamron

Simple but beautiful

It really is amazing to look closely at birds we see all the time.  This House Finch is one of those feeder birds that people see all the time but don’t pay much attention to.  The female is pretty much a monochromatic brown but the males have that beautiful glowing red color.

I caught this little guy on a tree branch that was in a shaft of sunlight in the late afternoon.  I love how you can see all the detail in the feathers and that head that looks like it was dipped in fire-engine red paint.  I guess when it comes down to it, there really isn’t anything in nature that is plain and boring, we just aren’t looking closely enough.

Male House Finch
Roswell, Georgia, USA

Nikon D7100
Vanguard Altra Pro 263 AT tripod
Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2
600mm @ f/9 – 1/400 sec – ISO 800

Curious Cardinal

What can I say, it’s David Akoubian’s fault!  I guess I was asking for it when I got his opinion on upgrading my long lens.  Now, I’m addicted to watching the birds around my house and trying to get just one more good shot.  On the positive side, the new Tamron 150-600 makes getting good shots a lot easier.

I sit out in the yard and watch the birds, hoping that they will land in a spot that will have some light, not be blocked by miscellaneous branches and where the birds are posing for me.  At the same time, I find that the birds occasionally seem to enjoy watching me.  When this female cardinal stopped at one of the few “perfect spots”, she kept cocking her head to the side with an expression like “what the heck are you doing?”.

Yeah, photographers are kind of crazy.

Nikon D7100
Vanguard Altra Pro 263 AT tripod
Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2
600mm @ f/6.3 – 1/125 sec – ISO 200