Since moving here late last year, I’ve wondered if the pond drew more than ducks and geese to feed, rest, and nest. This morning we spotted this beautiful Great Blue Heron perched on a tree trunk! I shot pictures as I slowly moved closer; the heron was aware of my presence. It wasn’t until the bird had enough of me that I learned, hidden below the edge of the bank was another Great Blue Heron! Hate to admit it: I was totally unprepared for the pair taking off together over the still waters of our pond. Still, I’m pretty happy with this portrait.
Scattered thunderstorms were roaming the area. Watching radar, I spied a “gust front” — the leading edge of encroaching cold air — that could be visually interesting. So I headed out to a favorite spot with a fairly good view to the southwest and over Medina. I thought I was well ahead of my target clouds but arrived at the site with clouds already overhead. In this shot a “roll cloud” can be seen in the distance — the actual leading edge of the front. As it passed overhead winds picked up from a breeze to probably 25 MPH and higher … and chilly! My burgeoning interest in weather has led me to get National Weather Service Skywarn Spotter training and, because I had to guess the wind speed I’ve ordered a handheld anemometer. Yeah, I love this stuff!
I had been told there was a Screech Owl resident within sight of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park’s (CVNP) Towpath Trail. I’ve heard about the bird for at least a couple of years. I had even been told where to look for the owl on previous hikes but never saw it or its hidey-hole. Though I wasn’t seeking the bird Sunday, I was on a little hike to see if anything was happening in the CVNP’s Beaver Marsh area north of the Ira Road Trailhead. As I began my walk, a returning couple said, “The owl is out today!” So now I had something to look forward to! Farther along, I could see a group of people stopped on the path, looking westward and off-trail … right about where I knew the owl was said to live. “Yes,” they told me when I reached the group, “there he is!” They pointed. They described how the owl could be seen: “see that snag? Now look for two trees behind it, and it’s about three trees over that way.” Directions like that didn’t help me much; it’s a heavily-wooded area! Finally, however, a patient woman let me stand behind her as she described the location and pointed… and there, at last, was the owl! The little bird was sitting at the bottom of an elongated opening to the hollow in a tree. From the trail, the owl’s plumage made it look very much like a part of the tree. Excellent camouflage. Far away. Darned near invisible! I was carrying my camera with a 400mm telephoto lens attached (~600mm with sensor cropping) and shot a few images. The owl never moved that I could see but the light changed as time passed. I could get only one clear view of the bird — fairly thick woods — but that was enough. So I captured my first images of an owl in the wild as it enjoyed the afternoon’s weak sun. Making the hike was a wise choice.
Tonight’s Not-Quite-Full Moon. The Moon will reach its full phase in a little over 24 hours but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t big, bright, and beautiful tonight (May 2, 2015)! Phase in this photo is Waxing Gibbous with about 99% illumination … notice the shadowy edge along the bottom-left.
The sky was beautiful tonight with the Moon, planets, and stars shining brightly. Continuing my experiments with telephoto astrophotography, tonight I attached my Canon 2X III Adapter to my 400mm lens, and EOS 7D Mark II body; the combination gives approximately 1,200mm of telephoto goodness! At that focal length camera vibration becomes a real issue if the system isn’t attached to a very heavy tripod. My tripod isn’t heavy. But the Moon was bright and with ISO 800 and a shutter speed of 1/400 I got decent, though not vividly sharp results. Next milestone will be to mount the camera and telephoto to the telescope’s heavy tripod and motorized mount. Why not use the telescope directly? Well, that works pretty well, but the optics of my telephoto lens are actually superior in quality to those in my telescope!
I was disappointed with my previous efforts at recording an earlier close passage of our Moon and Venus. The Moon’s orbit, however, gave me a second chance on a night when the sky was pretty clear. Pretty cold, too, at an unseasonable 23F.
But I braved the temperatures and, using two different Canon camera bodies, got shots of the combo first in twilight, later in a dark sky. Well, the sky here isn’t really all that dark, but it was pretty good.
Some shots I exposed to get some detail in the lighted portion of the thin, waxing crescent Moon; others I exposed to record the Earthshine portion of Luna’s disk. The late shots I took from a vantage point that overlooked the lights of a nearby city whose glow put power lines and their towers into silhouette.
All-in-all, I’m pleased with the night’s efforts. Especially now that my fingers aren’t red from the cold air!
Working on the Canon EOS 7D Mark II autofocus system settings last evening, I sought out a willing model. Annie, our huge gray domestic shorthair cat, poses beautifully … until you point a camera at her. Once she sees a big camera lens or even an iPad pointed at her, Annie starts acting like a supermodel hopped up on caffeine: she rolls around, stretches her legs, grabs at the camera, and in general just gets crazy with it! During our brief session Annie did a bit of rolling but, having been stirred from contemplating the view from a nearby window, she was a bit mellow. The kitty rolled half over, curled up in a big furry ball — all legs and tail — and moved slowly through several head positions. I got a good test subject for my new camera settings and some decent photos of our feline beauty. Oh, and I think I finally got the settings I was looking for.