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.