Point of Interest

I don’t get my gear ready and think, “Wow, I hope I can find some leaves in the ice today!” I tend to come upon things that capture my interest. I have always been drawn to transparency and light. Anything with complimentary colors makes me take a second look. Texture intrigues me.

Sunday I thought I should head over to the mass of daffodils on my hillside when I encountered this – the ice from the top of the birdbath, cast aside and melting into the grass. It stopped me for almost an hour.




I forgot the daffodils, I know they will still be there on the next sunny day. You have to appreciate ice while it’s here. It melts is fast and then it is gone forever.

This is the conclusion of the Tales from the Diggins with photos from then and now.

The King of Isabelle Avenue

The Last Summer

Around 1973 our summers in the wilds of northern Nevada came to an end. That summer Grandma and Grandpa made two trips north. On the first they went alone and met Uncle Ronnie and Herb the geologist to do the required assay work. After a week assaying Ron and Herb headed north to their homes in Oregon. Grandma and Grandpa spent another night before heading south to our home in Las Vegas – at least that was the plan.

In the morning they got into the pickup, and it wouldn’t start. Grandpa was pretty mechanical so he spent a couple of hours trying to get the engine to turn over, but it was no use. By noon they made the call, they were going to have to hike out.

In the days before cell phones there were few options. The truck had a CB in it but…

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Sunny Day and an Old Lens

I’m patiently awaiting for the return of my beloved long zoom. There is never really a good time to be without a favorite lens, but I’ve been making due with an old Vivitar manual lens from 1978. I wrote about taking out this old piece of kit in desperation here.

Today I had a chance to take the relic out in almost perfect conditions. It was a sunny 50 degrees and the birds were dropping in and out of range – on my last post the images had a softness that is not typical of modern glass, they looked almost “film-like”. Today, that old bit of kit was singing. I started shooting some black and white film with it and late in the day I managed to make a few captures.

Today my favorite northern cardinal was not even considering stopping by the feeders. I spotted him in the crepe myrtle bush…

20130224-185418.jpgOf course he thew me that Johnny Bravo stare – snob…

20130224-185530.jpgI experimented with aperture settings and he looked away…

20130224-185546.jpgOne thing about focussing manually, I can focus on the bird in spite of the limbs in the way.

Back at the feeders, I got a clear shot of a pine warbler in the late afternoon sun…

20130224-185634.jpgOne key to using old glass is finding a subject that is going to stick around, and this guy was serious about feeding, not flitting…

20130224-185653.jpgLive view does give you the ability to see what the changes in aperture and shutter speed will do, so it’s not exactly like shooting a film camera from the era…

20130224-185713.jpgI love how the sun rests on the shoulders of this warbler, he has become a regular visitor and he has even brought his girlfriend to check things out too. I hope they decide to stay.

After shooting this lens on a sunny day, I have decided its a keeper! I wouldn’t choose it over my modern lens in most situations, but shooting it on my modern camera gave me to confidence to try to capture birds with it on a film camera this weekend. It’s a good bit of kit.

Iced In & Improvising

Sometimes you just have to improvise.

This week I had to give in and mail my beloved bird lens back to the manufacturer for repair. I considered renting one for a couple of weeks but decided that I should just try some close shooting, that this was the best time to mail it off. I could make due and try other things, at least it would be in good condition for springtime.

Wednesday we had a weather event, an ice storm. Someone online called it “slain” – a mix of sleet, hail, and freezing rain – it created about an inch of ice at my place infused with these marble sized beads.

20130222-162529.jpgThe woods were like a layer of ice, topped with hail, and dusted with leaves from the winds.


I was prepared for the storm. I made room in the garage for the Jeep, I made chicken and noodles and I stacked about a rick of firewood inside the living room. I had my Carharts out and was ready for whatever came my way. By midnight there was thunder, lightning, sleet, and hail – all at once – the sound on my metal roof was unlike anything I have ever heard. I stoked the fire and planned on working from home the next day as long as I had power.

In the morning I let the dogs out and saw the crazy frozen hail soup on every horizontal surface and noticed that the bird population had soared. They came in waves, about 30 minutes before more ice and sleet. Lots of singing and calling and ravenous eating. Here was a bird bonanza and I was going to miss it – my bird lens was somewhere in Texas on a FedEx truck.

I ran outside with my macro lens and shot the hail shot above, but thought that I was just going to have to sit this bonanza out…until I remembered an old piece of glass sitting in a box in my studio. It was a Vivitar 90-230mm zoom – manual focus. I bought it from a friend who was clearing out some of his dad’s photo equipment. I bought some nice glass from him, but this was in the not-so-nice category. I had seen this same lens on eBay for as low as $29 – not much to write home about, but it was a zoom. I had never attempted to shoot any wildlife without any autofocus or image stabilization, but with those birds out there in those numbers I just had to try.

I found that the birds were having to do a bit of improvising of their own…

20130222-165734.jpgSometimes you have to risk a falling icicle for a good meal…

20130222-165815.jpgSometimes an empty feeder can still be a shelter from the storm…

20130222-165839.jpgSometimes you have to try new things…

20130222-165937.jpgSometimes when you slide off the tree trunk you need to hang onto a rope…

20130222-170021.jpgSometimes it’s too cold for worms…

20130222-170045.jpgSo you have to try seeds…

20130222-170116.jpgSometimes you have to attack a problem from a different angle…

20130222-170129.jpgSometimes you have to try a new technique…

20130222-170148.jpgSometimes you have to put on your yellow puffy coat…

20130222-170200.jpgAnd sometimes you have to put on your white puffy coat…

20130222-170218.jpgSometimes you have to quit worrying about having your own private table…

20130222-170236.jpgAnd show a little attitude even if you’re eating off the ground…

20130222-170253.jpgSometimes you wish you had warm slippers…

20130222-170311.jpgAnd sometimes you would do better with ice skates…

20130222-170350.jpgIs it just me or do her eyebrows look painted on like Lucille Ball’s?

20130222-170405.jpgSometimes you need to walk like a penguin to keep from slipping…

20130222-170418.jpgSometimes you get your balance and stand proud…

20130222-170445.jpgSometimes all you can do is hang on tight even though you are sliding…

20130222-170517.jpgSometimes all you can do is look up…

20130222-170532.jpgAnd up…

20130222-170546.jpgAnd up…

20130222-170601.jpgAnd over…

20130222-170615.jpgSometimes the answer is just below the surface…

20130222-170629.jpgSometimes you just need a place to take cover…

20130222-170645.jpgAfter a storm like this, the best place to be is cozy and at home.

The verdict – focusing was challenging but not impossible. The lens is not as bright as a modern one, but not bad for 35 years old. It has haze inside the lens and that may account for the lack of brightness. The pictures are sharper than I thought they would be, but there is a grainy quality to them, they remind me of film. There is some chromatic aberration – I plan to try some shots in better light this weekend to see if I can get better results.

Tech Specs:
All shots were shot between f4.5-6 / 300-400 / ISO 2000 or lower.

Today is a very special day, it’s George Birthington’s Wash Day – at least that’s what my Grandma told me. This is the story of her “grandma-isms” on her special day.

The King of Isabelle Avenue

“It’s George Birthington’s Wash Day!” I can still hear Grandma saying that on her birthday – “I’m a day older than George Washington, you know.” She would have been 98 years old today. Just looking at this quarter today makes me smile.

I’ve written a lot about how inspiring my Grandmother was to me and how empowering it was to have someone who never saw a challenge too big in my corner, but Grandma also confused me sometimes – she had a slew of Grandma-isms – some of them I understood, and some have meanings that still elude me today.

“Bring the whole fam-damily” – This meant everyone was coming to dinner. I have heard other people use this, but as a teen I thought this was her best sidestep to swearing about company she wasn’t so thrilled about entertaining. Grandma always said she didn’t have company, if you were…

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Meet My New Friend – Johnny Bravo

OK, so I have been lamenting the subbing I have been getting from the local red birds for months now. This weekend, on a whim, I decided to take an old Corel plate and put it on top of a ladder. I thought it would make for an interesting angle and let me get more sky and trees instead of porch in the background. I have two tray feeders on the porch as they are OK, but being in the shade they can make focusing a challenge on some days. It turns out that all the red birds wanted was a private table with a view – at least that is what one red bird wanted. I think I have a new friend and I think I’ll call him Johnny Bravo.20130219-114743.jpgI first posted photos of Johnny Saturday. To be honest I was having lens issues, and while I was thrilled to capture so many birds, focusing was a struggle. Sunday’s light was a bit better and I felt like I was able to do Johnny justice.

Johnny seems to have gotten dressed up for me in his Sunday best…20130219-121239.jpg20130219-121512.jpg


Johnny seems to like the view from his private table…20130219-122134.jpg20130219-122957.jpg


Johnny seems happy with the menu…20130219-122932.jpg20130219-123028.jpg20130219-123708.jpg

Well, mostly happy…20130219-123825.jpg20130219-123953.jpg

Well, maybe not completely happy…

20130219-124618.jpg“See that orange crap! Take it back to the chef and tell him it’s garbage! It’s inedible!”

20130219-124642.jpgOf course, Mr. Bravo, the customer is always right.

Before it was over Johnny had moved all the orange pieces off the plate and onto the next rung of the ladder. Apparently Johnny did not appreciate all of the components of the much more expensive Scott’s Songbird Mix. I tasted them and thought they were pretty good.

Johnny flew off the handle and left me without a tip. I guess cardinals really are ungrateful snobs after all.

Saturday Buffet Guests

I’ve spent the weekend nursing my second case of the flu since the holidays. So much for getting a flu shot – apparently mine didn’t take. I spent most of my time sleeping, but have worried that the bird feeders were empty. I drug my butt out of bed a little after noon yesterday and got everything filled just in time for a nap. After a short snooze I noticed that there was a lot of activity at the buffet so I bundled up, grabbed my camera, and took a seat inside the mud porch. I spent about 30 minutes shooting and decided it was time for another nap.

Later that evening I downloaded the shots – I have been setting up an Instagram account so I used a grid to compile shots rather than uploading a few dozen to my feed. If you’re on Instagram and would like to check out my gallery you can find me at @theeffstop

Since I was so worn out I decided to just use the grid images today to give you a view to the kinds of visitors I am seeing at the buffet in mid-February.


20130216-224919.jpgOf course there are always plenty of titmice at the buffet, but I am seeing them become bolder and bolder. The sky shots were taken at about 4-5 feet away. These birds light even as I am filling the feeders. They have very little fear of me unless I move quickly.

White-breasted Nuthhatches

20130217-104456.jpgThese birds are becoming less afraid of me as the weather grows colder as well. They are not quite as bold as the titmice, but I have had one sit on the top of the suet log as I finish filling it for them. They make more eye contact than any other guests.

Red-bellied Woodpeckers

20130217-104754.jpgI think these are my favorite birds at the feeder. They have such a sweet disposition and a yearning call, I can tell they are nearby even from inside the house at this point. They are pretty easily frightened, but they keep coming back. These shots are of the male and female pair that dined with me yesterday, they come separately, but stay close by each other. While one feeds the other paces in the walnut tree above the buffet.

Northern Cardinal

20130217-105217.jpgI tried something new for the last couple of weeks, I put out a single plate of food on the top of a 6 foot ladder. The titmice love it, but so do the male cardinals. They don’t like to perch to feed, but they are also very skittish when they feed on the ground. This guy stayed at his perch for about 20 minutes, and then returned over and over. Who knew that cardinals just wanted a private table with a view, I guess they really are snobs after all.

Downy Woodpeckers

20130216-225035.jpgThe downies are getting pretty bold as well, they will feed even if I am sitting on the swing just a few feet away. They are pretty vigilant and take a look around between bites – it’s not at all uncommon for them to stare at you and then turn back to the food having determined that you are not much of a threat.

I am noticing a few new guests at the buffet. As it gets colder up north, we have more guests who are either wintering with us, or on their way to more temperate southern climes.

Red-breasted Nuthatch

20130216-225143.jpgThese guys have been at the buffet for about the last 3 weeks and seem to be pretty tame, like their southern cousins. They are shorter and have a flatter head with more prominent striping. The first time I saw one I thought it was just an odd looking native hatch, but some checking on my birding app made it clear that he is a winter visitor from Canada. Go ahead and chow down my friend, this is an all-you-can-eat joint.

Pine Warbler

20130216-225201.jpgThis guy should not be here at all this time of year, but perhaps our mild winter has made him stop for an extended visit. I have seen a female and confess that I thought she was just another goldfinch, at this time of year I think the beak is the only giveaway between the two.

I also hosted goldfinches, chickadees, and juncos yesterday, but they were unwilling to sign photo releases. I love seeing the changing clientele, i have lived here over a decade and had no idea that all of this was in my woods all along. I’m thrilled to have them as my guests anytime they choose to pop by.

Oh Deer!

I have been especially technically challenged this week. I attempted to reblog this post from my memoir project, The King of Isabelle Avenue. I posted it and noticed that shortly afterward the reader just showed a very blurry photo of my Gravitar. So I deleted it and tried to reblog, and of course, you cannot do that.

20130215-160312.jpgSo I if you’re curious about our mining adventures in Nevada in the 60s, click the link above – this excerpt has lots of silliness, and adventure, and some poop…

20130215-160345.jpgIf you are not at all curious or have already read about the poop, you can just stay here and look at the deer I saw on the way home from the fish hatchery the other day…

20130215-155814.jpgIf you’ve seen enough deer or hate to click links, feel free to stop reading now and go back to whatever you were doing. I think I’m gonna grab a snack.

The Suet Thief

This is Squeegee…

I don't see a camera, therefore no camera exists

I don’t see a camera, therefore no camera exists…

She hates to be photographed. She lives in a constant state of denial. If she does not like something she simply turns her back and the issue no longer exists. She has ignored the very existence of Velcro for about seven years. She’s a snob.

You see, my pack is made up of rejects. Velcro was an older dog when I adopted her. Kirby had shyness issues so the breeder wanted to “place” him with someone who understood terriers. Sunshine is a goldendoodle who was abandoned by his owners along with his litter mates at about 6 weeks. It’s a pretty motley crew except for Squeegee.

Squeegee is a princess. My Pop came for a visit several years ago and fell in love with the young terrier pup I had at the time. He wanted one and they were very expensive where he lived in Vegas, but here in the Ozarks Jack Russell Terriers are hunting dogs, ratters, work dogs. A pedigreed dog can be had for less than a couple hundred dollars – a third of the price in Vegas at the time. So I looked up a couple of breeders and we took a road trip to Jay, Oklahoma to look at some pups. The breeder had 2 available and one was just odd-looking – short nose, barrel chest, wide face – the other was perfectly square, a really beautiful terrier. That dog was Squeegee. Pops asked me which one I thought was the best pick and I told him to get the little square girl – she was perfect. He told me to go get the back of the car ready, he was going to haggle with the breeder over a price. Soon he walked out with both pups in hand – I guess he worked a two-fer deal. Squeegee has been the princess at my place ever since.

A side note – spending your vacation housebreaking three puppies is not very relaxing.

Since the housebreaking phase Squeegee has not been much of a problem except for her disdain of Velcro. She’s a happy dog who barks at deer and chases squirrels. She isn’t much of a hunter, but she does make a lot of noise. She’s the most demanding of my pack and vocalizes a lot to get you to pay attention to her. She rarely gets into things like the trash or messes up anything in the house, so it surprised me to find out that she was a thief.

She hangs out on the patio when I fill the bird feeders and now I know why…

I think if I tiptoe no one will notice

Is that suet on the fence post?

If I just stretch a bit I think I can reach it.

It is suet! If I stretch I think I can get it all before anyone notices…

I don't think she's noticed me - there's a big black and silver thing in front of her face.

I don’t think she’s noticed me – there’s a big black and silver thing in front of her face…

If I can just get around this tree trunk and fake lizard on three legs, I think I can get it all.

If I can just get around this tree trunk and fake lizard on three legs, I think I can get it all before I’m caught…

Around the tree, on the ledge, under the limb - got it!

Around the tree, on the ledge, under the limb – got it!

What suet? I don't see any suet. I'm just hanging out here on this fence post minding my own business.

What suet? I don’t see any suet. I’m just hanging out here on this fence post minding my own business.

She may look innocent, but if you are missing suet you know who’s behind it.

Water Colors

Today I took a trip to Roaring River State Park, it’s a beautiful park adjoining the Mark Twain National Forest. Roaring River is fed by the spring pictured above. It’s one of the largest in Missouri. Ordinarily February is not the time to go to the fishery, but today was gorgeous. The play of sunshine on the water was magical.

20130210-214929.jpgThese rusty links caught my eye. They were in the large pond and I wonder if they were meant to secure rafts or boats at one time. This whole facility was built by the CCC and much of the stone and cement works around the ponds have the feel from that era.

The spring empties in to a large holding pond and is then directed through about a dozen smaller holding ponds where rainbow trout are sorted by size.

20130210-210627.jpgThis trout was inside the spring – as the water flowed out from the overhang it had a haunting blue color. I looked at this shot on my LED screen and noted how much it looked like a watercolor painting. Seeing this I tried to focus either on the fish through the water or just below the surface to see if I could make something of this effect in the holding ponds.

20130210-210649.jpgI loved the curves in this shot. Someone had just tossed some feed in the water just outside my frame and the fish seemed to turn as a single mass.

20130210-210724.jpgThis is a holding pond for mid-sized trout. The scene turns a dark grey where the trout are several layers thick. The mass of fish block out the golden color of the bottom of the pond.

20130210-210758.jpgThese are called parent fish. They are in a smaller round tank and are the source of all the other trout in the tanks. Some of these are larger than a good sized salmon. The orange in this shot is the reflection of my orange hoody on the surface if the water.

20130210-210816.jpgThis is one of the parent fish all alone. I rarely got a shot at a single fish like this. This shows the color of the bottoms of the ponds, the warm gold color creates reflected light in many of the shots. This was my favorite shot of the day.

20130210-210847.jpgOccasionally I would get a shot though some smooth water and be able to get a tight focus on some trout. This shot reminds me of a traffic jam on the freeway.

20130210-210958.jpgThe fish in this pond seemed to have a copper color when the sun hot them. It could have just been the angle of the sunlight at this spot.

20130210-211229.jpgI like how the ripples follow the line of the lower fish, he looks a bit like a dirigible.

20130210-211255.jpgThe still water gave me lots of focus options in this shot.

20130210-211526.jpgThis was a massive trout. He was in the pond that they release into the river.

20130210-211548.jpgMore copper reflections. I love the painterly feel of this one.

20130210-211612.jpgEveryone, take a right!

20130210-211639.jpgSome of the parent trout had flat noses like this one.

20130210-211703.jpgThis is the water flows down from one pond to another. It’s the same water that connects the spring, the ponds, and the river – the same water that captures the sunlight and plays visual music with it as it bounces just below its surface. It’s the same water that magnifies and reflects the colors of the fish, the the sky, and even my hoody.

Color in the water – water colors.