One photo a day challenge: Day 153.

Lately I have been experimenting with using more artificial lighting in my photography. I have really enjoyed the flexibility the Lume Cube lights I now have in my tool kit have afforded me.

I have used these lights to make photographing in low lighting inside the house possible. The lights have also made photographing outside at night possible. And I have used these lights as additional lighting to brighten up photographs outside during the day.

However, the common theme to all of those photographic settings is I am usually using a macro lens and shooting close up. I am usually isolating one subject within the frame. The lighting is all narrowly focus on one subject.

Today I decided I wanted to try and do something A little bit different. Shoot at night. Use the Lume Cube lights. But instead of shooting close up use my 20mm f2.8 lens and try to include a larger subject in the image.

Our lilac bush just started to blossom. The sweet fragrance of lilacs fills the air outside the house. I decided that I would try to photograph the lilacs. Trying not to be as close up as I have been with other subjects at night was the goal.

Lilacs at night

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One photo a day challenge: Day 152.

Today I was trying to get things done around the house that I hadn’t been able to due to the weather. That meant mowing the lawn.

The grass had gotten pretty high and wild looking after all the rain we have had put the kibosh on getting caught up on the mowing shores.

I slowly tried to chew threw the grass with the push mower. Because the grass was so tall and dense I had to have the lawn mower set to its tallest setting.

Having the lawn mower set to leave the grass as high as it could turned out to be a blessing in disguise. After I mowed one section of our yard near the back I noticed I had uncovered something. There was something buried deep in the tall grass. Now that the grass was trimmed I could see it.

There was a tiny little birds nest tucked down in the grass. The nest had four teeny tiny eggs about the size of my thumbnail.

What to do with a nest?

I was not sure what to do with this new development. It was amazing to me that the nest was constructed and eggs were laid successfully. This part of our yard is inhabited by our dogs. But apparently the birds had managed to navigate that danger successfully.

I recached out to people on social media to see what the best course of action was to try to ensure the survival of the nest.

I was able to create a dual layer fenced perimeter for the nest. This created a double layer of protection for the miniature habitat of the nest.

The inner layer is a 1 foot by 6 inch oval created by thin wire garden fencing. Then around that is a wider perimeter that is at least 4 feet across. This is formed by another set of wire fencing where the wire is more open.

When I went out to set up the wire fencing I took a minute to capture a few images of the nest and eggs. Hopefully I did a good job and I will have future update on this nest.

The nest appears to be a sparrow nest. Once I realized what had happened I noticed a sparrow staying nearby and chirping at me. Then it seemed to move in on the nest when I left the area.

Bird nest in the yard

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One photo a day challenge: Day 151.

Today was another fun day of birding at Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge.

There are so many great reasons to visit Montezuma. There are many great birding sights that await you when you arrive. However, often there is no way to know what you will actually see.

But, showing up this time of year often ensures you will at least see the Purple Martins. There is a Purple Martin house right near the visitor center. The Purple Martins are busy nesting right now.

I was able to stand and watch the Purple Martins come and go from the bird house. Zipping and zooming. Flying all over.

The Martins are frequently in motion. It is quite entertaining if you like to watch and observe wildlife behavior.

The Martins also make the some of the most interesting bird song as well.

I really like this image of two Purple Martins in flight. it doesn’t have the best lighting, but I like the silhouette effect with just a touch of detail. Combine that with the fully spread wings of one Martin and I think the photo turned out pretty nice.

Purple Martins in Flight.

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One photo a day challenge: Day 150.

It’s late.

Getting tired.

Must be time for bed.

Time for dogs to go lie in bed.

Going to sleep now.

Have a nice night.

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One photo a day challenge: Day 149.

Cosmos are some of my favorite flowers to photograph.

I love the texture of the petals. They are so soft and silky looking.

Then there is the coarse nature of the center of the flower. Especially as the flower matures. Each segment of the flower’s center sprouts on its own.

There is always the contrast between the center that is yellow and the petals that range in color from white to pink to deep red.

This photo was shot with my macro lens. I created a shallow depth of field. You can see the shallow depth of field in the softness to the edges of the petals and in the center of the flower as well.

I added a little contrast in post processing to enhance the side light that is visible hitting the petals from the left. The extra lighting coming from my Lume Cube mini panel light. It was a dark and dreary day. It was perfect for adding a little extra light with and external light source.

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One photo a day challenge: Day 148.

I have always shoed away from buying new gadgets or gear for my photography. I only bought gear that I had a plan for how I would actually use it. Even if it was something I wouldn’t use all the time.

I want to have a plan for all the tools in my bag. A use case. I want to know under what circumstances I would use the items I have.

Otherwise why do I need them. If there is no known usage for my photography they are just in my way and taking up space.

This past year I Bought some new gear that I really wasn’t sure how exactly I would make use of them. I just thought that I could potentially use them. But I did not know exactly how.

I am so glad that I did decide to get these new small Lume Cube lights. I have used them for more photography than I would have imagined. These lights have been very useful.

Using them at night to photograph flowers when there isn’t enough light has been one of the best things I learned would be a great use in my photography.

Flower lit at night.

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One photo a day challenge: Day 147.

After a day being out and about creating photography I kept my photography at home today.

Yesterday my main goal was to focus ion the animal kingdom as photography subjects.

Today I brought the focus back to the flowers on our deck.

It was getting late evening. The sun was getting low. I was studying the flowers.

Looking to see how the light was hitting them. The low angle of light created light across segments of the flowers.

I liked how these Cosmo flower petal were back light by the sun and also had shadow cast on them from behind as well.

Cosmo Petals

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Lately I have done most of my bird watching from my backyard. There’s nothing wrong with back yard bird watching. I always find it enjoyable. But I never get to see the variety of birds that I would if I made a trip to a specific location to dedicate some time to birding.

Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge

It is always fun to get online and keep up with what other people are seeing when they are out birding. I have been watching people posting some exciting sightings at one of my favorite birding locations. I thought it would be fun to go out and see if I could see any of those same birds. So off to Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge I went.

Montezuma is a large wildlife refuge that contains multiple different areas to go bird watching. The area is primarily wetlands, so birds often seen there are the kinds of birds one would expect to see in a wetland environment. I don’t always get around to visiting all the different parts of the refuge, but there are certain areas I always try to visit.

Purple Martin in flight near visitor center.

FYI. I did not see any of the birds people reported seeing that inspired this trip. But I did have plenty of my own fun wildlife sightings.

Wildlife Drive

My favorite part of the refuge is the wildlife drive. It is a fun and convenient way to see a lot of the area as slowly or quickly as possible. It is a 3.5 mile road that runs along the main pond of the refuge. Being in a car is a great way to get up close to wildlife you would not normally be able to approach on foot.

Sitting in a car is also a very convenient way to be able to sit patiently and wait for wildlife to move closer so you can get a better look. I spent a lot of time watching the eagles I could see off in the distance. Hoping that the eagles would fly in closer so I could get a better look. Some of the eagles cooperated Some did not.

Great Blue Heron with its catch.

There were also plenty of Great Blue Heron along the Wildlife Drive. Great blue heron can be easily spooked and being able to approach them in a car allowed me to get close for some good photographs.

The water level in the main pond is currently low. This provided me an opportunity to see something I have not been able to see before. I watched one juvenile bald eagle fly over near the road. Then I saw another juvinile bald eagle fly over.

Two Juvenile Bald Eagles.

They seemed to be checking out some dead fish. Then one eagle flew towards the other eagle. There was a breif scuffle between the two enormous bids. I was fortunate to have been in just the right place at just the right time. And I was ready to capture some photos.

Trails And Viewing

In addition to the wildlife drive there are multiple viewing platforms and towers that are great for wildlife viewing. These platforms and towers can be found at different locations throughout the refuge.

There are also trails in different locations in the refuge. These trails are great spots to get in a little nature walk and do some birding by foot. One spot I have made it a point to visit multiple times including this trip is the Esker Brook trails.

Downy Woodpecker

Not Just For Birding

The refuge notes that several species of mammals make the refuge there home as well. I have read reports of people seeing wildlife other than birds there. But I don’t think I had ever seen any mammals other than muskrats at Montezuma before.

Mammals make all sorts of environments their home. I don’t doubt that they live in the refuge. I just had never been fortunate enough to see any.

That is until today. At one point a weasel like animal ran across the wildlife drive up in front of me. I could not tell what it was. It was too far off in the distance.

Then later on I pulled over at a location along the wildlife drive noted as a viewing spot. I almost didn’t stop. So glad I did. I was watching a heron in the water when I noticed something emerging from the tall reeds along the edge of the water.

It was so cool to be there and watch as a racoon emerged and made its way along the edge of the water. The racoon was just moseying along. Minding its own business as it passed by the heron. The racoon never stopped as it moved along.


Then the racoon climbed back up into the tall reads and seemed to vanish. I kept watching and tracking where I thought its progress was taking it. Hopping it would reappear. Then it did remerge from the tall vegetation. The racoon kept moving along. Walking at the muddy water’s edge until it was swallowed up again in the tall tall plant life.

I didn’t get the closest look at the racoon. But it was just such a cool sight. And I was ready with my camera to take some photographs. I think this might be the first time I have photographed a racoon in the wild.

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One photo a day challenge: Day 146.

Today I spent most of the day birding at Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge. I had such a fun time. So many fun bird sightings.

I took way too many photographs. I will have plenty to share with you all in the future.

I typically go to Montezuma hoping to see birds I associate mostly with wetlands, like ducks or wading birds. I especially enjoy seeing the larger birds like Great Blue Heron and Bald Eagles. While I did get to see lots of those birds. It was the unexpected things that made today a great day in nature.

Unexpectedly, it was apparently Yellow Warbler day. I have never seen so many Yellow Warblers in one trip as I did today. And they were so out in the open.

They were on the move a lot as is typical for warblers, but they kept coming right out in the open. Never before have I had so many good looks at probably any warbler.

It is nice when the birds get right out in the open. It is even better when they move right up close to you not even paying attention to you. I was able to get a whole series of photographs of this yellow warbler who just ignored me completely.

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One photo a day challenge: Day 145.

Today I started teaching a cell phone photography course at 171 Cedar Arts in Corning. So my plan for photography today was to get to Corning early and sit in the park and wait to see what would happen.

I took my entire camera bag to the park to sit for an hour before I was going to go teach class. I didn’t know what I would photograph. The thinking was I would wait and see what came to me. What opportunities presented itself.

After getting to the park I found a seat on the grass at the top of some steps. Sitting in the shade. Tucked into the background. Waiting to see what would happen.

It seemed like nothing would happen. There weren’t many people at the park. No sounds other than traffic. I decided to get my telephoto lens out so I could capture images of subjects both near and far.

Nothing really struck me. No people moved into view in ways I could photograph them. Eventually some birds came bear.

I worked to photograph them without moving. The key for today was to work from my spot.

I watched as an adult American Robin was being followed around by a fledgling Robin that it was feeding. They moved around the park from trees to the ground and back and forth repeatedly.

Eventually they came close and I was able to capture this image of the fledgling as it was impatiently awaiting a meal to be presented.

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