Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Baby sparrow rescue


Feeling kind of like a super hero at the moment.  One of the baby House Sparrows fell (or maybe got pushed -- could be a sibling plot) out of its nest. However it got there, the little fella was on the ground, peeping its little beak off.
The sparrow trio had been beaking-off all afternoon for food, so I really didn't pay any attention until I noticed my cat was no longer snoozing on the patio chair.  A quick check to make sure she hadn't wrapped her leash around a planter found her hunkered in the lawn, riveted to something in the grass.  I quickly reeled Kit into the apartment and then grabbed my camera (of course). 

"Who are you?"

I whipped off a few photos, then looked around for a parent.  When I didn't see any around, out getting food no doubt, I decided that if I was quick I could pop the noisy little thing back into the tree hole with mom and dad none the wiser.  I dashed for a pair of cotton gloves and a step ladder.  

I had just set up the ladder when I heard a voice from the other side of the fence ask, "Whatcha doin'?"  It was a friend on her way home from work.

"Rescuing a bird," I replied, then waved for her to come into the yard to see. 

"What are you doing?"

Slowly, I tried to pick up the little gaffer, talking to it softly.  Mostly I was saying repeatedly, "Don't bite, don't bite."  I managed to cup it in two hands without squishing it and then slowly climbed the ladder; barefoot, in a long skirt.

At this point I was so glad my friend just happened by, because by quickly holding the ladder she saved both me and the tweeter from a fall.  Gotta love synchronicity!!

So I popped the little guy into the tree hole, gave a little victory cheer, put the ladder back, and waited to see if the daddy sparrow noticed junior had a little adventure.  Daddy bird did go in and out of the hole a couple times, chirping softly.  Then he flew off to get more grub.  

Now the little ones are back to their "feed me" ruckus.  It looks like everything will be okay.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Baby Sparrows

Every year a pair of House Sparrows nest in a tree in our front yard.  The chicks are big enough to see when they poke their heads up for food.  Last night I took a few shots at feeding time. The impromptu photo shoot was kind of funny.

When the father sparrow got close the little fellers peeped frantically and strained their little necks for food. As the father bird left to get more bugs the little ones would slowly scrunch down (like deflating jack-in-the-boxes) until you couldn't see them. After each shot I looked at my camera screen and maybe edited a couple shots in camera. Then the father would return, the little guys would peep loudly, and taking their cue, I'd swing my lens up to capture them just before they hunkered down again.

These were all shot with the Pentax K-5.  It was the first time I used my most recent purchase, a 200mm, f2.8 prime lens.  I had to factor in partial cloud and late afternoon sun blocked by lots of tree shade. First I set the camera to TAv (a setting unique to Pentax), which allows me to set both the aperture and shutter speed and lets the camera set the ISO.  The camera was choosing way too high an ISO, giving me too much noise, so I reverted to Manual; choosing to shoot at the widest f-stop and the slowest shutter speed that I dared and the lowest ISO allowable.

I'm thinking my next purchase should be a good tripod.  The 200mm is a bit heavy and my aim and hands are not very steady.  While the photos turned out okay, if you look closely you can see edge blurring.

These first two photos were edited with Nik & Photoshop software straight from RAW files.

F2.8, 1/500, ISO 2500

F2.8, 1/500, ISO 4000

These were edited from RAW files in camera. With Nik I reduced the noise and lightened them up a bit with Photoshop.

F2.8, 1/400, ISO 6400
F2.8, 1/500, ISO 2500
F2.8, 1/500, ISO 2500

F2.8, 1/500, ISO 2500
Add caption

F2.8, 1/320, ISO 3200


Monday, July 14, 2014

Stephen Avenue bubbles series

There's a gift shop on Stephen Ave that often runs a bubble machine.  Today at lunch I had a little fun shooting people having fun with bubbles.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Snakes on Stephen Avenue

So it's lunch hour and I'm walking down Stephen Avenue, snapping shots of buskers and other interesting folk. I notice a man and a woman taking their snakes out for a bit of air.

The guy had a ball python in one hand and a boa in the other, both a little over two feet long.  The woman had two beautiful corn snakes that she was trying to untangle from a small tree.  

One of the corn snakes figured that if she couldn't have the tree, the next safest place was inside the woman's shirt. Soon the woman was trying to hold one snake in one hand, pull out the other one crawling down her shirt, while both are still twined together at the tails. Suddenly, without asking she thrust one of the snakes at me to hold.

While she's busy with the shirt-snake, I'm looking eye to eye at this orange creature draped in my hand. My brain was zooming back and forth from "I'm holding a strange snake that could bite me any second" to "I'm holding a beautiful critter."  So, to keep us calm, I figured I'd talk to it like I do with my cat.  I got as far as "hi beautiful" when the woman had both snakes in hand.  

In another lifetime I lived in a place that didn't allow dogs or cats. Instead, the boyfriend had a small ball python and a smaller corn snake. The ball python had a menacing stare. I imagined he was contemplating me as a meal when he got big enough. The corn snake was easier to like; milder and very pretty. I've often figured that snakes were cats without fur or legs or personality. Like spiders, I'll respect them if they respect my personal body space.

Before parting, the couple let me shoot some photos. I had the Pentax K-5 with a 100mm macro lens, so I was able to get beautiful depth of field. Editing was done in camera.

Here are some other interesting sightings on Stephen Avenue.


Sunday, July 6, 2014

Front Yard Rainbow

We just got hit with the first hail storm of the summer.  The coolest part is it gave my front yard a rainbow.

Thanks goes to the young couple with the baby stroller who frantically buzzed all the apartments in my building just as the hail struck.  After letting them in the lobby I dashed to cover the tomatoes.  I saw the rainbow just before I ran back inside.  Of course I grabbed my camera which was luckily in P Mode. Under the protection of the upstairs balcony, I took a few shots.

For editing: I upped the detail a little with Nik Detail Extractor, used the Polarization effect to bring out the rainbow, adjusted Levels to brighten the shot a little and then added a smidgen of contrast.

Stampede Parade 2014

I got the Shat!

The big brew-ha-ha at the Stampede Parade was getting William Shatner to be Grand Marshall.

Trekkers were abuzz.  Would he ride a horse?  He raises horses. Or will he be in a car?  Turns out he chose to ride in a baby blue vintage car with Elizabeth, his beautiful wife and also a horse trainer, sitting beside him.

Now I'm not a Shatner fan.  When I was a kid watching endless Star Trek re-runs I always preferred Leonard Nimoy. Still do. He's a generous and classy guy. And a photographer, to boot. As far as Star Fleet captains go, Jean Luc Picard is my number one choice.  But Shatner has a reputation for being really pricey if you want a photo of him.  I wanted to take his photo to spite him more than anything. Turns out he was wearing sunglasses which made him look like a pudgy bug wearing a cowboy hat.

Making the shot was tricky. I had a small window of opportunity that kept getting smaller with each cop, EMS staff, and parade watcher blocking the way. Only four shots were taken.  Only one worked and it's a crop.  Still, I wouldn't have gotten even that one if I hadn't scoped out the beginning of the parade route and saw the baby blue car with Shatner's banner on the sides.  So when the parade started I knew what I was waiting for.

After taking the shot I walked over to The Bay parkade a few blocks away to take photos of the rest of the parade from the fifth level.

This lady was following the "High River Strong" float.  High River is still recovering from last year's flood.
Saw this construction worker watching the parade from hight up and thought he'd make a great shot.  It wasn't until I looked at it that I realized the Calgary Public Library float was in the background.  So I took the shot again to include the "Awesome" banner.
From the Group of Five entry.
The most fun float in the parade.
A lively pioneer.
Rock.  I took a photo of him a few Stampedes ago. Glad to see he's back and hope to see him dance.
Earlier, a huge tank did a 360 in the middle of the street.  This Shriner on a segway decided to have some fun with it.
Now I'm having fun with the tire tracks.

When I got bored with watching the parade (I've been watching them since I was a kid), I took some shots of the parade watchers.  These are my favorites.

I saw the two smiley guys in the middle and took the shot to show parade goers having fun. During editing though I discovered the boy on the left and the baby on the right both covering their eyes and thought it made the photo even better.
Don't know why, but the military seems to evoke a very patriotic response whenever they parade.  A bunch of parade-goers stood up and applauded.  These two received numerous thumbs up after doing a smoking 360 in the middle of the street.
When you're a kid it's really hard to sit still for over two hours.  These three were fun to watch as they impatiently waited for something to see.
This koala was schmoozing with the crowd.  I watched him for a while and then noticed the little boy trying to get the koala's attention.  The koala never saw him, but a marching band member did and gave the little guy a hand shake.


Thursday, July 3, 2014

Canada Day - Part 2 : In the City

Canada Day in the city is a feast for those who crave stimulation.  There were probably things happening all over the city, but I stayed close to home and only visited Chinatown and Prince's Island Park. I wasn't sure how long I'd last after already spending a hot day at the Millarville Races. (See Canada Day - Part 1: In the Country.)

They were already starting to shut down Centre Street Bridge for the evening fireworks when I crossed the bridge into Chinatown.  Drawn by funky music, I followed the Riverwalk bike path and saw a huge familiar face on a screen perched on a corner near the Harry Hays building.

Jen Kunlire, award winning slam poet and (now) singer, was grooving onstage with parts of the band Freak Motif.  It was all very funky and fun.

There were sounds coming from all over, though.  And I let them move me from place to place.

The next sound drew me to a Chinatown corner where I found Shakka, the amazing human robot (kinda freaky actually) jigging to James Brown.  He was soon joined by a couple of hip hop dancers and a guy with a talent with a soccer ball.  All very cool.

Further along the street were a bunch of musicians, some quiet and some not so much.

After Chinatown I made my way to Prince's Island Park.  Crossing the street I overheard two guys in cars chatting .

"Heh, Brother," called one boisterous African driver.  "Happy Canada Day!"

The other East Indian driver, looking a little shocked, said "Hey" back.

While they waited for me to cross a quick conversation unrolled about where they were originally from and their citizenship status.  

"Canada is an excellent country to be in, Brother," the African fellow exclaimed.

Had to smile.

At Prince's Island Park and Eau Claire Market I found crowds of people, of course, and lots of photo opportunities.

Much later that night I dragged myself away from editing to watch the fireworks. Here I put my camera to bed.  Partially because photographing fireworks is like telling the secret of a magic trick. It's the same reason I don't do nature landscapes. The full sensory experience (smell, touch, taste) just doesn't come through in a photo. At least not yet. I bet Google is working on it.  Also in short, I'm not good at that kind of photography, but it is on my "eventually learn to do" list. 

Still, in an attempt to make this blog complete I trolled YouTube to find the best fireworks video and found distant fireworks near a pretty downtown skyline, close over-exposed fireworks, good fireworks with terrible music attached, and so-so fireworks.  [sigh]

So instead I figure I'd add a video created by one of my heroes -- astronaut Chris Hadfield and his brother Dave and their musical video homage to Canada Day called "In Canada." 

And the best part of Canada... our comedy...