The Hunt

This photograph was posted to my “Instagram account, but is worth a revisit.

I see this heron many times when walking the Carson River. He is always a welcome sight, the beauty and majesty of this bird are significant. But catching a photograph of him is difficult.

Earlier this year my Fujinon 100-400mm lens arrived. This lens is a beast, literally and figuratively. It is one of the heaviest lenses I own. It is also one of the best lenses I own.

I carry it often when walking along the river. It has the ability to bring me photographs I cannot capture without it. It is not a general purpose lens, but one very well suited for wildlife photography. I love to capture wildlife with the camera. Results like this one make the expense and effort worthwhile.

Fall Colors

The cottonwoods are donning their fall colors. I love walking along the Carson River, particularly in the fall.

The Girl and I always enjoy our walks. But when the fall comes, the weather cools and our walks get even better. She does not burn out as quickly and loves all the fall scents.

I love the way the light changes as the sun falls in the sky. The quality of the light is less harsh, even during the midday hours. As the leaves change, the light is filtered not by the green of summer foliage, but by the warmer colors of the change. The yellows and reds warm up the light and the change excites my eyes. I almost always carry a camera, but I am really motivated in the fall.

Yesterday morning did not disappoint me. As we walked one of our favorite trails along the Carson River, the late-morning sunlight filtered through the gorgeous yellows of the changing cottonwoods. I was happy that I carried the Fuji X-H1 with the Fuji 18-135mm lens with me. That camera is a game-changer for me. The lens is one that has been in my kit from early in my Fuji experience. It is one of the better walk-around lenses that I have used. It certainly did not disappoint me Sunday morning. I came home with at least a handful of keepers.

I think this one is one of them. It reminds me that the time moves on, the seasons change — those outdoors as well as those inside us. The last few weeks challenged me. A project I am working on is a significant technical challenge. The struggle is reverse engineering a hydrologic system to determine how what happened came to be. The time pressure to get through the analysis is a secondary challenge and can add significantly to the pressure.

But, I think I have the system mostly figured out. A change in the schedule is taking some of the pressure off. I was blessed this weekend to have a few hours to just breathe. That breath was a most welcome relief and a reminder that the seasons change. Projects come and go, like the seasons. But there is more to life than just the work and the time outdoors this weekend was another reminder of that. I am blessed to live where I do and I am thankful.

The Great Egret

This beautiful bird, the Great Egret (Ardea alba), is one of the birds I see regularly on my walks along the Carson River. I was able to capture this wonderful photograph one day.

Early this year, while Older Son was visiting and helping me around the house, we took The Girl out for a long walk along the Carson River. We staged from Riverview Park, which is at the end of Fifth Street on the east side of Carson City. The weather was a beautiful winter day. There was plenty of water in the river, although nowhere near flood stage. That meant all the wetlands were, well, wet. The wetland wildlife were out and active on that beautiful winter day.

We came across this beautiful Great Egret, (Ardea alba) working the ponds in one of the wetland areas. I had only my Olympus OM-D M10 and a Wollensak cine lens with me. The lens was long enough, but I couldn’t get the capture I wanted. I was left with, well, only feathers.

The Girl waited patiently while Older Son and I made our captures. When she detected that we were done, she started toward the water, accelerating as she got closer. The egret watched her from his watery perch. (I knew she wouldn’t get into the water.) When she got close to the water’s edge, she bounced and uttered a single “Woof!” The Egret calmly flew off a few yards, settled back down, ruffled his feathers, and continued fishing.

Since that time The Girl and I have seen this bird, or another like it, several times on the river, fishing. If I’m in a blind, then the bird goes on without noticing me. They have very sharp eyes, however, and will spot me (or The Girl).

A couple of weeks ago I had the Fuji X-H1 and the Fuji 100-400mm super telephoto zoom with me. The Egret was perched on Mexican Dam. The Great Blue Heron flew away as I approached the dam. The Egret watched me for a bit, permitted me to make a few captures, and then flew a few yards away to a sandbar. There it continued watching me. I made a few more captures but didn’t really like any of them.

I like birds quite a lot. They fascinate me. I like being along the river, too. The new equipment provides me some capability I did not have. It has opened some of the world for me to capture, like this Egret and the Heron.

No Perfect Solution

Although there are signs this hole was recently occupied, nobody was home.

I walk a lot. One of my preferred hikes is along the Carson River at the Silver Saddle Ranch from the River Park staging area up to Mexican Dam and return. There are a number of paths on Silver Saddle Ranch, but during the summer months, my preferred path is along the river. There The Girl has access to water for cooling off and drink. I like the green of the willows and cottonwoods and the sound of the birds.

Lately, I have been listening to music while walking. I gave up on my Bose QuietComfort 20s because I just cannot deal with wires. Because I carry a camera (actually two) and a bag, I am constantly fouling the wires of my headset. Then I jerk the plugs from my ears and get generally pissed off with the whole thing and lose the moment.

So I bought a set of the Bose QuietComfort 30s, which are wireless. They have a necklace that lies over the shoulders and provides the housing for the electronics and battery. They have the Bose sound, which I’m OK with. The noise cancellation is adjustable and effective. I can turn it off so I can hear what is going on around me. (I still like to hear the outdoors even if I am listening to music.) They do not hang up as badly as the wired units, although there remains some interference with the camera and bag straps.

They are not a perfect solution. I have to carry my iPhone in a case on my belt or in the camera bag. I cannot slip my iPhone into my back pocket. I have the occasional skip or drop. But, they are better than the wired units. They are a sufficient improvement that I think I’ll keep them and sell the 20s.

I think this is the general case: There are solutions to my problem (wanting decent quality sound, no wires) but there is not a perfect solution. It leads me to think about the pursuit of perfection, which is something that has been bouncing around inside my head for a bit now. There is an essay there that I hope to write sometime.

The image is one of my captures from the Carson River walks that I do. I was struck by the texture and contrast of the materials and the fact that no one was home. This might have been a nesting place earlier this year, but now it is empty. I am seeing other signs that fall is coming and soon winter. The leaves will be changing in a couple of weeks, I think. The weather is already changing.

The cycle repeats…

The Joy of It

I often see one of these beautiful raptors working the sage and wetland area of Riverview Park in Carson City.

Over the last couple of years, I have watched these beautiful Northern Harriers work the sageland and wetland areas of Riverview Park in Carson City. It took me a couple of attempts to identify the raptor, but I finally got a view of the bird’s head and with the aid of the Merlin application from the Cornell School of Ornithology I made the identification.

They are now easy for me to identify — that big white patch on the rump is one giveaway. The second is their mode of hunting is to soar about ten feet over the surface listening for mice.

With the acquisition of the red-badge Fujifilm 100-400mm super zoom lens, I now have the capability to capture an image of these birds. They generally do not allow me to get too close, although they will sometimes glide just overhead, teasing me.

On this particular morning, I saw the harrier glide over the field. I made a couple of attempts to capture an image but was not satisfied with my attempts.

However, the bird soon began a climb, having caught a thermal. I watch it rise up and up until it was a couple hundred feet overhead. It soared in large circles, overwatching its hunting grounds.

I stood there a few minutes, knowing that the bird was not hunting but simply flying.

Many of the animals encountered during my life have shown an intelligence that is impressive. They do not simply eat, sleep, and procreate. They interact socially among their species and sometimes others. They play. They do things that please them. Otherwise, why would they waste the energy to move from place to place?

The best teacher of all is The Girl. She showed me there is intelligence without language. She often talks to me, speaking volumes without making a sound. I get it.

As I stood there on the trail, watching the harrier soaring far above me, I got it. This was not about a hunt, or about turf protection; the soaring was simply for the joy of it.

Carson City Open Space (Silver Saddle Ranch)

This guy works for Carson City Parks in the Open Space Unit. He was maintaining the trail by the Carson River on Silver Saddle Ranch when I met him. We spent a few minutes visiting and I left with a good impression.

The Girl and I spend many hours walking along the Carson River on the Silver Saddle Ranch. One morning we met Jarrod (I hope I got his name right) working on the trail. He was clearing the weeds that are no longer kept down by ranch traffic. He had paused for a few minutes to clear the radiator of his rig from the accumulation of dust resulting from the brush hog mounted on the front of the vehicle.

I learned that Carson City received proprietorship of the ranch from BLM some time ago. It should remain as open space in perpetuity. Carson City spends part of its resources maintaining these areas and I really appreciate it. As I said, The Girl and I spend a lot of our time out along the river and it is one of our favorite places.

I appreciate public servants like Jarrod, who take both their work and their relationship with the public seriously. He was willing to spend a few minutes talking about the work and the place. It was a good visit and I am thankful that he agreed to pose for an informal portrait next to his rig.

Silver Saddle Ranch

I love walking the Silver Saddle Ranch open space area. It’s jointly managed by Carson City and BLM.

Since nearly being carried away by mosquitoes at the Riverview Park, The Girl and I have spent our morning walks to south on the Silver Saddle Ranch open space area. The ranch is still a working ranch with cattle and hayfields. I often meet the ranch manager while walking as he tends the irrigation system.

The capture is my morning view of the ranch compound. At one time this was a bustling ranch with a number of ranch hands all working from this area. It is nothing of what it once was, but remains a reminder of Nevada heritage. I am thankful that it is maintained as a place where I can spend time outdoors with The Girl.

It is also a place where I see many wild animals. There are mostly birds (and I do enjoy the raptors), but we see other species as well.

I shot this image with the Fujifilm X-H1 and the marvelous Vivitar Series 1 90mm f/2.5 macro lens that was built by Tokina, otherwise knows as the “Bokina.”

Fujinon XF 35mm F/2 Lens

This compact Fujinon 35mm f/2 is one of my favorite lenses.

I bought the Fujinon XF 35mm f/2 WR lens some time ago. I don’t recall exactly when I purchased the lens, but it was sometime after I bought my X-T1. As Fujifilm released their compact series of lenses, they received very good reviews. They are fast. They are compact. They are well-made (mostly metal and glass with plastic where it makes sense). They are weather resistant (like the X-T1).

There are plenty of very technical, pixel-peeping, jargon-filled reviews on the Interwebs. I think those reviews are interesting, but then I am an engineer and I like technical analysis. My short review is not like those. That is all done and I can add nothing significant to that content.

What I can do is share some of my experience with this particular lens on the X-T1. I carry it a lot (hence all the dust). It complements the small form-factor of the X-T1 well. It is excellent optically. It focuses accurately (for the most part) and quickly. It is also very quiet.

I found this on morning walkies Sunday and had to have an image.
A number of the images on my weblog were made with the Fuji 35/2. Some of my favorite images (think the pepsis wasp) were made with this lens. Some of the characteristics of this lens that I like are:

  • It will focus to about a foot, which is close enough to work as a light macro lens.
  • It has good contrast.
  • It is small and light.
  • It is fast enough to provide separation between the subject and the background.
  • The out of focus portions of the image are quite pleasing.

There is only one thing that I don’t think this lens does very well. It will sometimes miss focus, especially when close in. That is a limitation of the system and not a fault of the lens. The Fujinon 35/2 is not a true macro lens. The focusing sensors will sometimes target the background behind a close subject. When I miss this in review I am disappointed when I return to the computer and begin working on the image.

The solution is to check focus in the field after making the capture. The alternative is to use manual focus (which the X-T1 does very well) with the split screen and focus peaking.

The split-screen capability of the X-T1 operates by presenting a small portion of the center of the image, enlarged, adjacent to the full frame in the EVF. This is perfect for use with manual focus, either when operating the Fujinon lenses in manual mode or when attaching legacy manual focus lenses to the camera via an adapter. (I have a large collection of legacy glass that can produce beautiful images.)

This boy is the victim of a couple of bad spinal disks. However, in the water, he’s just a dog — his land-gear left behind.
Focus peaking is an algorithm in the camera firmware that detects the sharpness of the image and highlights sharp areas in the EVF. Focus peaking was a feature of my first mirrorless camera (a Sony NEX-5N, that I loved and used a great deal) and was a requirement when I started looking at the Fujifilm Finepix cameras. Fuji knows how to do focus peaking just as well as Sony.

Although my intent is not to review the Fujifilm X-T1, those points are salient because the Fujinon 35/2 works with the camera as a system and this system works well for me. It is a good system.

To sum up, I really like the handling of this lens on the X-T1. With a compact lens and relatively small body, the combination is light, handles very well, produces excellent images, and is a joy to use. The X-T1 and 35/2 fit into a small bag and there is room for extra batteries, extra memory cards, and a couple more of the compact Fujinon lenses. But, those lenses are a topic for another entry.

Does Not Make a Right

I have not yet identified the species of this snake. It looks like a human kill to me. The yellow jackets are feasting (and cleaning up the mess).

A few weeks ago I shared an image and a story about a rattlesnake found dead at a park. A week or so ago The Girl and I were walking the Mexican Ditch Trail on Silver Saddle Ranch when we came across this snake. It looked to me that someone had killed it on the trail and left it.

I cannot tell if it is a rattlesnake or not. It looks like someone took the tail so I am suspicious that it was a rattlesnake.

I am not OK with killing one of these animals on encounter. The Girl and I bypass them and let them contribute their part to the ecosystem. They fill a valuable role.

This is another wrong… and two wrongs do not make a right.

Air Quality

The air quality was abysmal a few days ago. That didn’t stop the geese from flying or me from waking The Girl.

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.