Monday, April 29, 2013

Choose Mother Nature

On Saturday Double D and I took an afternoon stroll around the State Capitol and its surrounding lakes and grounds. Rain is predicted for the rest of the week, so it was imperative to take advantage of the pleasant weather. I'm so glad Double D is down with all this nature stuff because it would make me sad if I could not share my passion for flora and fauna with him. We saw so many groovy things on our walk. Come see!
Robins were in abundance.

The scent from the rose garden was heavenly.

This cedar tree reminded me of something from Van Gogh's paint brush.

Squirrel nibbling on a late afternoon snack.

I came across this sign and thought it would make a good title for my post.

Nutria swimming. I love the psychedelic blue and silver swirls in the water. Groovy, right?

A young hawk perched in the shade of an oak tree about 10 feet from where I sat. Stunned, I watched
as he clumsily went after a blue jay. A big brouhaha ensued. Naturally, the blue jay went ballistic, warning
all the birds within a mile radius. As quickly as it started it also ended, with everyone settled down and back
into their normal routines, going about their business as though nothing ever happened.

A type of magnolia. If anyone knows the type, please share.

Nutria and her baby. There were three babies total, but they would not come together for a family portrait. :)

On a more serious note, the nutria population is damaging the Louisiana coastline (and other coasts) to a significant degree.
If you're interested, more information can be read here.
Thank you for blessing me with your visits and comments; they truly brighten my day!

Sharing with Our World Tuesday.

UPDATE: Thanks so much to Hilary, of The Smitten Image for selecting this post in her Phine Photography category! It's always an honor to be chosen. Please visit Hilary's blog and the other POTW recipients.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Sharpening Notes

Since I splurged on Bertha last October I have been trying to get to a place where I'm happy with my images. Shooting with a full frame sensor was a whole new ball of wax, and not something I completely appreciated or comprehended. What I learned right away is that I can shoot with an ISO of 3200 resulting in very little noise—a huge plus in low light. When shooting birds, a high ISO is a must in order to freeze action with a fast shutter, even in bright light. Still, I have been less than happy with my images, feeling they were not as sharp as they should be.

This morning a lightbulb went off. I wondered if the noise reduction techniques I was employing in Lightroom might be the culprit. After 6 months of disappointment and with help from Google, I finally learned that over-applying the noise reduction feature in Lightroom does indeed result in loss of sharpness. The Noise Reduction slider has two choices: Luminous and Color. I was using the Luminous slider at 100 when it should have been 50 or less. Yes, I got some dreamy backgrounds; however, I failed to notice that it was at the cost of my subject. This is how I learn, by doing the WRONG things! Sigh.

These are some shots I took during the month of March, applying less rigorous noise reduction. Although some noise may be present, I am more satisfied that the images appear sharper. A little noise is preferable to loss of sharpness. N'est-ce pas?
Carolina chickadee

Downy woodpecker, male

Northern cardinal, female

I apologize for the technical nature of this post for those that don't get into all that, but I hope I help someone out there that might be struggling with the same issue. If you have any questions about Lightroom and the Noise Reduction panel (or any other feature in LR), please do not hesitate to ask me!

A question for those technically inclined: should I turn off Image Stabilization if my camera is mounted on a wobbly, flimsy tripod?

Sharing with Weekly Top Shot.

Friday, April 26, 2013

My day in the Big Easy wasn't that easy

Powerful thunderstorms began early in the morning, causing me a bit of stress. But I already had my heart set on spending the day at the aquarium and shopping. In an effort to quiet the voice of reason insisting I stay home, I made sure I had my ipad and iphone—two wonderful distractions. Besides, Double D was driving. By the time we approached the Bonnet Carre Spillway, the rain was coming down like a monsoon. Double D slowed to 35mph, put the flashers on, then reached over and muted the radio. When he did that, I knew we were in trouble. Here's a short clip:
By God's good grace we made it. Double D dropped me off near a pavilion across the street from the aquarium. Scattered about were some unsavory looking characters. And they were all staring at me. The stares made me nervous and self-conscious. I quickly assessed the situation and decided to make a mad dash to the River Walk Mall, several football fields away, knowing my perfectly coiffed hair would be ruined. Good thing I left Bertha at home. Double D had offered me his umbrella, but I didn't want to carry it around all day. Bad move. Soaked to the bone, I made it to the mall where I wandered around for 2 hours, wet and miserable. All the stores had the same touristy crap, so I got something to eat at the food court, then bought an umbrella to make my way back to the aquarium. By the time I made my exit with the newly purchased umbrella, the rain stopped. Of course! Nothing too exciting photography-wise, but I managed to get these with my phone:

Parakeet Pointe was easily the highlight of the day.

They were attracted to my purse for some reason. :/
Give it up lady. I know you've got the goods!

Double D picked me up on Royal Street five hours later. My bones ached and I was still damp, but felt better knowing we were going home. All was well until I went to the mailbox and retrieved a letter from the Louisiana Dept. of Revenue. Apparently they did not receive one of our tax payments and say we owe them more money. Trying to get through their phone labyrinth has been an exercise in futility, so I sent an email hoping it can get rectified that way. Ugh!!!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Birds and a Bloom

This is a scheduled post since I will be in New Orleans while Double D is at a business luncheon. Rain is predicted for the day, so I am leaving my big girl camera (Bertha) at home. I might go to the Aquarium of the Americas or force myself to shop. Most likely I'll manage to work in both. :)

Since I only post 2-3 times a week, I decided to combine two memes.

For Wild Bird Wednesday:
More looks at the indigo bunting, 4/21/13

White-throated sparrow, 4/21/13

Bronzed cowbird mating ritual. Basically, the male strutted around puffing himself up (sound familiar?) while the female
ignored him, continuing on with her foraging. She was all, "I ain't got no time for your foolishness, mister."
Bronzed cowbird photos taken on Bayou Manchac, 4/20/13

When strutting failed to work its magic, the male fluttered straight up in the air and hovered over the female.
The female remained unimpressed. It was really interesting to watch. I apologize for the subpar quality of
these shots. It was a cloudy day and I was too lazy to bring my tripod. 

And now for Creative License Friday!
This week I offered one of my own photos for the meme. This was a photo I took in Magnolia, MS several months ago.
I adored the bokeh and the color of the camelias, but I didn't know what to do with it. You wouldn't know it,
but I spent about 2 hours working on this. I don't excel in editing and feel I'm not as creative as others in this arena.
Besides, I have very little patience for editing which is another reason I don't participate every week.
Sorry, Jill! I'll try to do better.
Please visit the hosts of these wonderful memes and visit the participants if you have time!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Bridles, Blooms, Bayous and Birds

Happy Monday! Our weekend was jam packed and fun for a change. It began Friday when I was finally able to see my high school friend for a much-needed girls day. I watched her take a riding lesson on Carson, an American Saddlebred once owned by Carson Kressley (Queer Eye for the Straight Guy). Afterwards we went to lunch, then drove down River Road, stopping along the way for photographs. Saturday was spent at my aunt and uncle's new camp on Bayou Manchac, then later that night we joined my cousin and his wife to listen to their friends' band play at a local establishment. Sunday was spent birding at Bluebonnet swamp where I saw THREE rose-breasted grosbeaks, numerous indigo buntings, and Mississippi kites flying overhead. A wonderful, fabulous three days. Now back to reality and on with the show!
Michelle and Carson, 4/19/13
She is doing so well riding him and looks so sophisticated.

First ever sighting of an Orchard Oriole, female.
The male is deep orange and black, but my pics of him were blurry.
Near State Capitol, 4/19/13

A walking iris (neomarica gracilis) in Michelle's garden, 4/19/13

Gator sculpture that came with my aunt's camp, Bayou Manchac, 4/20/13

To get to the camp we were ferried across on a pontoon boat.
Uncle Bubba was our capable captain. :)

Indigo bunting at Bluebonnet Swamp, 4/21/13

Rose-breasted grosbeak posing nicely on a limb, Bluebonnet Swamp, 4/21/13

Male rose-breasted grosbeaks, Bluebonnet Swamp, 4/21/13 

PARAKEET UPDATE: Thank you ALL for the wonderful advice on the parakeet that found its way into my yard. Before receiving your advice I kept thinking of the line by Shelby in the movie Steel Magnolias: "I would rather have thirty minutes of wonderful, than a lifetime of nothing special." However, many of you swayed me with the argument that since "Charlie" was domesticated he was ill-equipped to truly fend for himself. Despite my initial misgivings, I posted his photo on our HOA Facebook page and scoured the internet for "lost parakeet Baton Rouge" and came up empty handed. The parakeet's fate is unknown at this time since he has not returned to my yard. :( I wanted to respond to you all individually since many of you had taken the time to articulate such detailed (and respectful) arguments, but time got away from me and now I feel overwhelmed. So please know how much your comments meant to me.

I will catch up on blogs later today! Wishing you all a wonderful week, praying it's better than last week.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Born Free?

At dusk yesterday I was passing through the living room and out of the corner of my eye noticed a flash of bright yellow from our large window. On the fence sat a bright yellow bird, much larger than the American Goldfinch. Curiosity ensued because the goldfinches have been gone a couple of days now, so I started getting very excited that an exotic species had found its way into my yard. The light was low so my photos weren't great, but enough to make an I.D. Imagine my surprise when Double D and I determined that this was most likely someone's pet parakeet.

I hoped the bird would return again in brighter light. I had my camera ready to go this morning, and sure enough, there was my new friend, hungrily eating at one of the feeders. The conditions were cloudy, and not wanting to frighten him, I chose to shoot these without a tripod. I think the shots came out pretty good for a relatively slow shutter, hand held. Isn't he cute?!

I was about 3' away when I took some of these shots, so I'm pretty confident this is someone's pet.
I considered posting him on our neighborhood Facebook page, but decided that Charlie is probably happier out in the wild being free. The mockingbird chased him away from the feeders this morning, but he came right back. I think he deserves freedom and will do just fine. And even if he doesn't live as long outside the cage, at least he is able to live the way that God intended. What do you think?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


1 Corinthians 13:4-8, 13
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails... And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.