For the last couple of weeks (since I returned home, actually), the air quality here in Carson City and western Nevada has been poor. On several days we were warned by NOAA to check AirNow for air quality conditions and listen to what they said.
Late last week I gave up my strength training because I felt so bad. This weekend I did not go outdoors much at all. I finally gave in early in the week and started taking shorter walks. The Girl was about to go stir crazy and was, therefore, making me crazy. So I gave in and began walking again, trying to make the outings shorter to reduce my exposure to the smoke.
The day I made this image was not the worst. The geese flew anyway. The Girl and I walked a couple of miles out by the Carson River and then returned home.
The air was much better this morning. We made the walk out to Mexican Dam and back to the staging area. The air was much better and I really enjoyed the walk.
The Pepsis wasps were out working one of the milkweed plants. They patiently permitted me to make photographs of them. The Girl rested nearby in the shade.
I’m looking forward to having the fires out. It’s a little selfish, I know, but I will also be happy for those affected by the fires. I know they will be relieved to have them under control and then out.
A decent pair of binoculars is an appropriate part of an outdoorsman’s equipment. They are useful in so many situations where a better view of a distant object is needed. That could be birds or other wildlife or a more tactical situation.
I have a couple pairs of Nikon binoculars. I spent about a hundred bucks for the pocket set and a couple of hundred bucks for the compact pair. They worked reasonably well a few years ago when I wore contact lenses.
However, I gave up on contact lenses because my eyes just do not tolerate them well. It is too dry and I could not keep my eyes wet enough. After discussing this issue with my eye care provider, I gave up and went back to regular spectacles.
I muddled by with the limited eye relief (the distance between the eyepiece and the eye) for a couple of years. But earlier this year I decided that I like looking at and identifying birds. After a little research, I chose a pair of Vortex Diamondback binoculars and bought the 8×42 version at the local outdoors store.
Magnification greater than eight times does not work well with handheld optics. We move too much and the field of view will not be either stable or clear. I think that eight magnifications are actually a bit much (I prefer seven magnifications for handheld optics). But I could not find this model in a 7x version. Regardless, they work well enough.
The eye relief is sufficient for my application. I get a full field of view with my eyes and eyeglasses. The field is bright, contrasty, and sharp. They work.
The objective diameter is only OK for night viewing (only 42mm) and is not the best for astronomical application. They work well enough if they are what you have, but a larger objective would be better for that application.
They are mildly susceptible to flare (loss of contrast and ghosting) if a bright light source is in the field of view or if the sun shines on the objective lens. The flare presents as a bright area on the opposite side of the field of view. It is not awful and is consistent with binoculars at this price point (about two hundred bucks). I can live with it.
One of the great offerings of Vortex is the warranty. It is a no-questions-asked lifetime warranty on the units. I am not particularly hard on my things, but I can tell you that I dropped my binoculars already. It will happen in the field.
The next step up in this line (the HD version) is one of the Audobon recommended binoculars for bird watchers. They are about $500 on the street. They are the same magnification and objective size (8×42) and I think they are worth a look. I might buy a set of those later this year and keep the current set in my SUV for those time I do not have my pack with me. I know that I reach for the pocket Nikons now and again when I am driving and see something in the distance I cannot identify.
The paracord lanyard was something that I put together. I hang my binoculars from a Grimloc on either the shoulder strap of my pack or the crossbody strap of my Versipack. I also use a paracord loop to trap the eyepiece cap.
I can recommend the Vortex Diamondback binoculars for general field use. They are reasonably powerful and optically good enough for a budget-priced optic. They have enough eye relief to work with my eyes and eyeglasses. I will keep my set and sell the Nikons.
A couple of years ago I drove up to Washington state to visit some friends and wander around. On my way home, I drove through the Olympic Peninsula, spending a few days working my way back south. I camped some and I stayed in hotels.
As I drove one morning, I came upon a bit of state beach on a cool, foggy morning. The Girl and I wandered down the path to the beach, enjoying the cool, moist sea air. Once on the beach, we found a lot of driftwood piled up from recent storms. I supposed we wandered around the beach for an hour, interacting with some fishermen working the surf and making photographs.
On the way back to the rig, I came on this group of stones that someone stacked on a log. In many ways, it is a stock image. I have seen many similar captures. But there was something about being there on that Pacific beach, finding something that someone else left behind. The image was not staged. The fog provided a wonderful background.
The Girl and I love morning walkies. It is partly a ritual, partly exercise, and mostly fun. We have a few favorite routes — some are here in town and others require a short drive. All of them present opportunities to be outdoors, places to walk off-lead, and stimulation from a variety of sources.
Once off-lead, the Girl loves to roam out a bit, sniffing and hunting ground squirrels. She never ranges far from me, although she is not the brightest bulb in the box. She can become focused and lose track of me. Instead of using her “doggie-sense,” she looks for me. That’s not smart…
But, it doesn’t happen all that often and rarely on our in-town routes. When walking in more rural areas, I’m careful to keep track of her even if I’m looking for something to shoot (with the camera).
One of our in-town routes takes us past the old Carson City lumberyard flume. It’s not a linear park, where doggies are welcome, and a wetland. Cattails grow in the drainage ditch (disguised as a wetland) and there is water there most of the year. Blackbirds often frequent the place and I love their calls.
A hedge of rosebushes delineates the boundary between the park and the adjacent open lot. The green is pretty and the small, red and white flowers are visually interesting. There are few squirrel burrows in the hedge, which provides distraction for the Girl.
One morning last fall, I carried the Panasonic G3 with a cheap Fujian 50mm f/1.4 video lens attached. The lens is not very sharp wide open, but has a nice bokeh and is sharp enough when stopped down to f/2.8 or f/4. The color and background attracted my eye this morning, so I made a few captures while the Girl sniffed about.
We then continued walkies, where I found a few bees on the volunteer sunflowers downstream from this site.
On my trip to Washington state last year, I paused at Greenwaters Park along the Williamette River for a pit stop for both The Girl and myself. I got her out and we walked around the park, pausing at the river bank (or at least me) to watch the play of light on the water’s surface and to listen to the sound of moving water.
I never tire of the sound of moving water. I suppose I’ll never tire of the sight of moving water, either. Aside from the physics of flowing water, I just like it. I thought I should share.
A couple mornings ago we had a bit of sun. That made the daily walkies much more pleasant. Even if it was a little cool, the sun warmed me and made the walk very pleasant.
I often see raptors while on my daily walks. I carry a pair of binoculars with me on all walks now so I can see them (plus other birds). I would not call myself a birder, but I enjoy them and love to make photographs of them when I can.
I think this is a Coopers Hawk. They are very similar to the Sharp-Shinned Hawk and I am not yet adept at distinguishing them. In any event, with the good light I was able to get a sharp capture. I like this image quite a lot.
One of my favorite captures, either in-camera or just by observations, is a raptor. I see them often on walkies; sometimes in town but more frequently when walking near the Carson River.
One Sunday morning The Girl and I were walking over to the old state school (now a doggie park) and I noticed this hawk near the old flume. It flew up into the top of a cedar tree as we approached, then transitioned to this grove of willows near the DPS headquarters.
That gave me time to mount the 6-inch Wollensak on my Olympus. The Girl waited (mostly) patiently while I made the captures. Then snorted and danced when we moved on.
I have not written much lately. My time has been consumed by exercise (for me and The Girl), work, and playing a little World of Tanks (in the evenings after work and supper).
The energy used in working has not left much for writing of photography. Yet, I carry the camera along with me on walkies and sometimes find interesting things to capture. The pun title is a reflection of my recent thoughts as well as the disintegrating cattail The Girl and I found on recent walkies.
After experimenting with the Wollensak and Kern-Paillard 16mm movie camera lenses, I decided to retire the Panasonic Lumix G3 and replaced it with an Olympus OMD E-M10 I found on FleaBay. The Olympus was a surprising big upgrade in camera. The build quality is quite a bit better than the Panasonic. Both the rear screen and viewfinder are much better. The camera contains in-body image stabilization, which is the real upgrade for shooting legacy manual focus lenses.
The latter was my reason for upgrading this experimental camera. I have no intention of acquiring a lens system for it, although there are many excellent Micro-4/3s lenses. I might change my mind, but for now I prefer the Fuji glass for APS-size sensors and the Nikkor glass for full-frame.
I’ll probably write more about system decisions later. My system evolved substantially over the last couple of years.
I like the vintage image quality that the 16mm movie camera lenses bring. I have an Angenieux 20-80mm zoom that has an excellent reputation and needs to be used with the Olympus. As the opportunity presents, I’ll probably add a few more vintage movie camera lenses to the collection and use them to create some images.
These lenses are less sharp and bring less contrast than modern lenses. They are mostly 50-years old or more. Optical technology changed quite a lot during that period of time. But they bring an interesting quality to the captures. The results are less sharp, contain less (raw) contrast, and are subject to flare. But they are interesting.
So this will be my area of photographic exploration for awhile. I’m looking forward to working a little less in 2018 and having more time to work on personal projects. That will include writing and photography, which I will share here.
The end of the year approaches. With it will come my annual period of reflection and thoughts for the coming year. Even though there is sadness that Wife is no longer here to share the season, I look forward to remembering the birth of the Christ and the celebration of an ending and a beginning.
A couple of days ago we got out early enough in the evening that there was still a little light. On our way around the old state orphanage, I came across a few “hangers-on” — a few roses that the frost has not killed. They’re distressed, but hanging on. I thought the combination of light and color was interesting, so I made the shot with the Switar 25mm f/1.4 I picked up a couple of weeks ago.
I’ll have to post a photograph of this lens. It’s really rough on the exterior and has a funky slip at a certain portion of the focus helicoid, but the glass is good and the aperture works fine. It’s a classic 16mm movie camera lens that produces interesting images. If I’m ever at a loss for things to do, I’ll disassemble it and clean the helicoid. I think that will fix the focusing weirdness.
Nonetheless, the image is worth sharing. The roses have not yet given up.
We walked later than usual on Friday. I decided to do the strength workout before walking, so after taking care of some work and feeding us, we left the house about 1100h and headed for Silver Saddle Ranch. I really enjoy walking the Mexican Ditch Trail.
We parked at the usual staging area and humped down the hill through the ranch complex. I noticed an North American Kestrel that I first saw a few days ago, sitting in a tree. He flew off down the lane a hundred yards and perched on a fence post. As we continued walking the lane, he spooked and flew off across the hayfield. That made me smile and I spoke to him as he flew away.
I so enjoy seeing birds along the walk. I carry binoculars in my kit so I can watch them. I have an application on my iPhone that helps me identify them. My logging of my sightings is used by the Cornell Ornithology Unit to track populations, I’m certain.
I also identified a Northern Flicker as we walked the trail. I often hear woodpeckers working as we walk, but they are furtive and do not want to be seen. But Friday I spotted one and was able to observe him long enough to get an identification. His call confirmed my identification. He didn’t stay on his perch long, however. But I also spotted a female at the same location, and she was very spooky. She used her camouflage to hide against the bark of a cottonwood tree she occupied. I was amused and thankful for seeing both birds.
There was a lot of flow in the Carson River that afternoon. I supposed we had enough rain and snow in the mountains to raise the flowrate substantially. We paused at the dam to watch and listen to the water flowing over the weir. I noticed some red buds or berries on some scraggly brush along the Mexican Ditch, so we paused a few minutes for me to make an image.
There we met Linda and Austin. Linda is a tall, slender woman about my age. She’s clearly taken care of herself. Austin is her rambunctious black dog. Austin teased and irritated The Girl until she chased him. They were a hoot to watch. We all shared the path back to the ranch buildings and then parted ways, each on their path.
It was a good day. The walk did me good. The birds provided some intellectual stimulation and joy. The exercise is always good. A tired dog is a happy dog. So is a tired old man.