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.

20130222-173704.jpg

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.

46 thoughts on “Iced In & Improvising

  1. Pingback: Bringing the past to life | Arty Old Bird

  2. Pingback: Time to Improvise | Reason & Existenz

  3. Pingback: Sunny Day and an Old Lens | the eff stop

  4. The ones of the Carolina wren are priceless — one of my favorite birds. They always seem so peaceful and gentle.

    I tried to do the rate thing — I don’t know how that works. I hopefully gave you as good a rate as I intended! I never noticed it before Val made her comment.

    • I love those little wrens – I never saw one before the ice storm – I think the weather pushes them to the feeders all at once – he really was a sweet wonderful bird.

      You know I forgot that poll thing was on my blog until Val mentioned it. Thanks to rating it šŸ™‚

  5. our yard has been filled with feathered friends too- may need to get out and head to town for more sunflower seeds! Wonderful photos – so excited about the little yellow warbler – we are seeing more birds – maybe spring migration has started – stay safe and warm! K

  6. You more than compensated for an old lens, these are great! Tiny, tiny little birds, the little brown one is so cute, love the puffy, yellow and puffy white, these are all wonderful shots, nicely done. When do you get your lens back?

    • Thanks – I have never had so many kinds at the same time – I had 2 more types of woodpeckers and chickadees too – and I shot them all in the space of about 25 minutes. I have never seen so many at once.

  7. If I could’ve done, I’d have clicked a sixth star on this. Love it, love it!! šŸ™‚

    What’s the little yellow bird? They’re all so cute.

    I was annoyed earlier on not to have my camera to hand when our current visiting pheasant (imaginatively called Phezzy 3… as he’s our third visiting pheasant) helped himself to suet pellents in the large acer pot (Japanese maple) that we’d put there for the robin. The robin was too late, so Phezzy 3 got ’em! We didn’t know he ate anything other than corn and seed. Now we know better.

    • Thanks Val – More stars! WordPress – we demand more stars:)

      That yellow bird is a Pine Warbler and I have a pair here now. They are not supposed to be here this time of year, but they seem content to stay.

      I was thinking how much I would miss shooting the birds and almost decided to live with the defective lens – but in the end it’s OK – I love that Phezzy – we don’t have them in this part of the country. I have turkeys who sometimes show up in the mornings to take some corn from the ground – but they disappear when the pups go outside. I have never seen suet pellets – I just get those big cakes of it – pellets would be handy for sure.

  8. great as always. they are a bit grainy but in an old fashioned good way. Still great shots tho Lorri. Birds have a tendency to feast before a storm so that is probably what was happening. it happens here before a bad snow storm.

  9. Wow, what an amazing variety of birds.
    You captured them very well, especially the last few. The old lens does a pretty good job for its era and there is a nice ‘softness’ to the images.

    Some of the images are ‘softer’ in focus than others, so I assume that was the variation in light hitting the birds.

    I think this is a really nice lens to use in snow covered landscapes. You’re very lucky to have such a wide variety of lenses, new and old, to choose from.

    I couldn’t shoot much without my 18-200mm, although my Macro lens does a pretty good job at most scenes. I still haven’t done much with my 50mm. Maybe it might be a good one to put on the DSLR in the city tonight (if I go in to see the White Night Festival).

    • I think you will enjoy that 50 in the city and for street photography. It’s so nice in the shadows. I’m taking my manual 50 out on my film camera tomorrow to finish off this month’s roll of film.

      The lighting changes were the light bouncing up off the ice I think. Focusing is a challenge without that optic aid built into film cameras – so I did my best to try to focus on the eyes. It was so grey out, I think I could have gotten them a bit sharper with some sunlight and a higher f-stop – but this was my first effort – at least I can still make some captures while my lens is away. The lens did have some visible haze in it so this may just be the best it can do – which is much better than I imagined.

Picture your comments here:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s