Manual practice.

Manual camera settings continue to freak me out so I set out yesterday to practice on any obliging avian subjects I could find on my morning dog walk.  Thankfully I had some cooperative subjects, and some okay results. 

Along the river, a pipit was all about posing for me.

I picked up a new "patch bird" at Mays Lake, a Hermit Thrush!  This was not a bird I had an easy time finding for my motorless list, so I was happy to find one poking around the area. 

Nearby, Ruby-crowned Kinglets made for aggravating targets in poor winter light.

Back at home I flung out some fresh sunflower seed, put out a quickly and poorly made veg suet brick, and checked the hummer feeder.  Then I set up camp on my bed with a hot soy chai, my camera, and my mutts, and waited for some subjects to show up.  It did not take long.

Lesser Goldfinches are easily in my top ten favorite birds.  Maybe even top five.  Hmm.

A Downy Woodpecker discovered the suet quickly and was not impressed. 

Two Anna's Hummingbirds showed up that seem to get along.  They arrived and departed together, but did not feed together.  At one point one started doing a sort of dance with head bobbing and turning.  Reminded me of a duck mating ritual.  As soon as I decided to try a video, she (?) stopped, but you can kind of see the movements in the photos...

Probably most entertaining to me was a Black-capped Chickadee hellbent on storing every sunflower seed he could carry to every random location in the yard.  Seeds were deposited in a fence, in the cut rose stems, in the eave of the greenhouse, in the fallen tree... 

 A pretty successful practice day.  Oh and it was Christmas, so here are some dogs looking christmas-y for you.

Good times!


  1. Did you happen to notice if your best pictures were at settings different than if you had simply left it on AV? My problem is my zoom does not have a small enough f-stop to get a fast enough shutter speed in lower light. Which is the bane of most nature photography I suppose. I think the great pictures are taken with a fixed lens at 400 mm or so, and has a smaller f-stop. Problem is those are the lenses that cost a few thousand or more. Still, great effort and pictures.

    1. Thanks, Bob. I didn't compare them to what AV would have done.

  2. I enjoyed all these shots Jen, and it is fun to work with the equipment, I went back to a P & S chase I'm hard on camera's bang them around pretty good and cant manage the heavy lenses anymore...
    Glad you got your Hermit Thrush!! Love your Santa Dogs!!!

  3. Nice! Welcome to the dark side. Once you blow a couple hundred or so shots, it'll start being worth it.

  4. I still use the AV setting and it has been manspained to me how to use manual, but I'm a numbskull. Hard to relearn settings. I like all your photos though. Nice find on the Hermit Thrush! That's a nice lookin' hummer feeder you got there ;)

    1. Yeah, I've been using AV for the last year and was never very happy with photos. I am also a numbskull, and every time someone explains it all to me I forget everything. I figure if I just don't let myself do anything but manual I will be forced to learn it on my own.

      That hummer feeder is great!

  5. Where on earth do you get these weird suet feeders? Certainly not at Backyard Bird Shop! Shame shame ;-)

    I must encourage you to stick with learning the manual camera settings, no matter the frustration. Also, if you aren't using a tripod (as with moving birds), here are my no-nonsense suggestions:

    - Crank the f-stop down (first) and ISO up (second) to whatever degree it takes to get that shutter speed roughly double your focal length. E.g., if your at 300mm, aim for your shutter speed to be 1/600, and do whatever it takes with your f-stop and ISO to get it there. If you have steady hands of steel, you can go a little slower with the shutter speed.

    - With still subjects like owls or perched birds, use your tripod, set up a two or ten second delay, lower your ISO for quality and raise your f-stop for depth of focus, and lower your shutter speed accordingly.

    So much fun! I envy you for being in this part of the learning curve. Your photos will get better really quickly in this phase. Dig in!

  6. One more thing: In my OPINION, a low quality (high ISO) shot that is sharp (high shutter speed) is always better than a high quality (low ISO) shot that is blurry (low shutter speed). Don't be afraid to do whatever it takes with your f-stop and ISO to get that shutter speed UP!

    1. Thanks for all the tips Rhett! I will do my best to remember at least some of them.

      And for the record, that suet feeder DID come from the Backyard Bird Shop! Michele saved it from getting trashed for me a couple years ago.

  7. Your shots are gorgeous ! The last shot is so cute !

  8. The Hermit Thrush with the magenta shoots sticking up is top notch!


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