Mind Adventures While Hunting the Summer Hummer

Mighty are the preparations for capturing the Summer Hummer.

First you need the perfect day -- enough sun on the Bee Balm to allow 1/800thsecond shutter speeds to catch this speedy creature in his aerial acrobatics. And, hopefully, shade on the chair where you will sit and wait for hours for just a few thirty-second hummer visits.

Next, just the right adjustments on those three knobs of friction settings on the tripod ball head so you can track his erratic movement, trying to keep him centered in the viewfinder. The lens has more image stabilization settings and so does the camera, deep, deep in the menu system. Aperture priority to provide greater control of depth of field. Finally choose just the right pixels on the viewing screen for perfect focus and exposure metering. And pick the right frames per second selection.

An hour passes. You’re somehow aware, and not aware, that you are concentrating, so focused, so intensely absorbed. Are you mindful, or are you mindless? Are those two states endpoints on a continuum or maybe just the same thing?

But now you’re ready and you wait, wait and wait. Forty-five minutes go by without you being present. Then you wake up and remember you’re eight feet away from the flowers and Mr. Hummer doesn’t trust this close invasion of his space – so you move back four feet.

And it works – he appears behind the Bee Balm at first. Then boldly moves to the singular flower stalks where you can isolate him against the bokeh blur. Come on. Stay there. Hover. Sip the nectar slowly. You want him to be commanded by your thoughts. Can’t he just settle there more than a second? Click, click, click, click. Click! To your disappointment he zooms up and away, beyond the towering fir trees at the back of the garden and disappears in a moment. Nothing moves, then some other bird sounds begin to register, peony fragrances pervade, and you can feel the breeze again. You’re aware you’ve been holding your breath and you inhale again.

Another half hour passes – you continually scan the 10-foot patch of red blossoms, back and forth. Looking high, looking low. Finger flicking on the shutter button. Waiting for that surprising blur announcing his next arrival. Could come from anywhere. Begin anywhere. Are you aware of your anticipation? Or oblivious to it?

Can’t tell if I’m unconsciously detached and disconnected while waiting or rigidly riveted and totally aware. Even though everyone is touting the benefits of mindfulness these days (learning the benefits of separating yourself from your thoughts), the fact is I’m just having a whole lot of fun being connected to now.

Whoa! Here he comes again …

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Iris Impressions and Chaneling Vincent

I do love photography but in my heart of hearts I think I always wanted to be a painter. My father and older brother were commercial artists (people who can really draw, paint or sketch but have to find a way to pay the mortgage) and my younger brother has quite the eye for design. Those artistic genes have continued to flow to my nieces and nephews. So how did I wind up in surveys and statistics?

Anyway, many of you know I like to take my camera to the Presby Iris Gardens in Montclair, NJ just about every year during the month of May. While there this past week, I encountered at least a dozen en plein air artists with their brushes, easels, palettes and floppy hats, capturing the brilliant floral beauty. Sneaking peeks at their work, I discovered that most of them were of the impressionist school – painters seeking to capture the open-air magical light and feeling of these intricate blooms, in the present moment. Their flowing, free brushstrokes were not about accurate depictions.

Which gave me an idea. What could I do with my camera to channel Van Gogh, Renoir, Monet and Manet? (It’s beyond me to appreciate the fine differences between Impressionism, Post-Impressionism and Expressionism.) In the field I could try jiggling the camera, using slow shutter speeds, zooming zoom lenses, intentional defocusing, flash adjustments, and playing with color settings deep in the menu. And, of course, at home on the computer, there’s all the post capture software to play with.

Below is an image I made with some impressionistic adjustments in camera to paint on the sensor in real time. Additional Iris images can be found on the website Gallery “Iris Impressions.” Some images were created with in camera changes, some were done post capture, and some impressive on their own.



Awhile back I was complaining, from a photographic opportunity point of view, about the dearth of snow this year. Clearly though, while someone in charge of the weather was listening, some of the wires in my wishes got crossed. But you know, you go with the flow and Thursday’s ice storm was, literally. glistening with opportunity. Didn’t even have to leave the yard. Below a shot of the woods next door.



Possibly could have been arrested today for my photographic pursuits.

I blame all this on ducks, Mergansers specifically. They are very distinct looking fowls and very photogenic – which is why I was kind of oblivious about chasing them today on a waterway near the train tracks in Katonah, NY.

Turns out in these days of omnipresent terrorist threats, taking pictures near major transportation hubs is asking for trouble. But after explaining my presence and showing my creds (showing my website on my iPhone) the officer was most kind, even interested.

Below are some Mergansers – note their heads are really not that big, but enlarged by a collapsible crest useful in mating.

Further below a swan – who could not swoon for a swan in the snow?

And I wasn’t arrested, still free as a bird …

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Who’s There?

Who’s There?


Except for one storm early on, here in metro New York we’ve seen very little snow. Depending on your predilections, you can blame me, or thank me. I bought one of those special back-saving snow shovels in November, the one with two handles and a curved shaft and it’s leaning lonely in the garage.

I don’t miss shoveling but I do miss photo treks into the winter woods as a way to deal with TMMS – Too Much Media Syndrome.TMMS is related to TS, what I call Terrier Syndrome – an affliction my dogs have, always wanting to be wherever they aren’t.

So, with no snow show so far this year but a blizzard of tv and hardcopy news, I found some solace returning to photos from February couple of years ago.

The soft stillness of the winter woods, all sound muffled by silent surfaces, where you can feel the air on your face because of its weighty cold, where you can actually hear the calming quiet, where the lack of color gives your eyes and brain a rest.Just nature painting a few patterns on the canvas of snow.Mr. Thoreau and Mr. Wordsworth were on to something.

One example below, and please join me for a few more here: