Friday, June 20, 2014


This week I built a birdfeeder using crap I had around the house--a scrap of fence board, mason jar, florist wire, and a thin sheet of bamboo Ken and I had bandsawed off a cutlery organizer that was a little too long for it's drawer.

I was instantly disappointed by the photos I could get from inside the house, through the patio window. The birds won't come if you're sitting outside, and it's too hot and boring anyway.  And even a 1/1000 shutter won't freeze bird-motion well at all, so you're stuck with catching them sitting and eating. 

Luckily the plan all along was to get tricky and game those birds: 


I need to update this post tomorrow with a photo of my setup and some of the shots without flash.

What I did is put my main flash (Sunpak 383-Super) on a stand on the patio, about 6 feet from the feeder. It fires when the camera's shutter opens, triggered by wireless radio transmitter/receiver. That flash sets off two smaller ones mounted a few inches in front of and below it via their optical sensors. I'm trying to overpower the sun to a currently unknown amount.
The camera is on a tripod about 4 feet closer to the house, and I take the picture from indoors using an infrared remote aimed thru the curtains. Focus is already set manually to cover a zone around the feeder.
Exposure is also set manually to knock down the background levels a stop or two.

Since flashes pulse MUCH faster than typical shutter speeds, they freeze motion more better. Also, lighting something intentionally gives you control over many aspects of how the camera "sees". It's different for sure, and looks cool right out of the camera.

The finch pics were done yesterday, and kept me interested.

This dove shot was from today, and I scrapped the pair of slave flashes 'cuz I didn't need as much light as I thought because of the short distance, and the response delay inherent in optical triggers was giving me a longer duration of flash, although I can't tell if it helps yet.  

I didn't put the feeder and camera stuff outside until 4pm, and that may be responsible for a light turnout. Word hadn't spread that there was a free buffet in our backyard.
We've been getting a nice cardinal couple, and the finch has a wife, too.
Sparrows are like soccer fans--one of them will get on the feeder and sweep a bunch of seed into the grass so his 5 buddies can peck for it.
The woodpecker is a jerk.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

"First" Rides

This Polaroid is a rare shot of my first car, a 1977 Chevy Monte Carlo my  mom bought for me at the end of my senior year 1980 for $3750.
My brother took WAY too long choosing his first car a few years earlier, and mom got fed up. He ended up getting stuck with a Dodge Dart that wasn't bad but also wasn't cool. 
Ever the clever boy, I made up my mind to be quick.
We found the Monte at the 2nd lot on the first day, and I wanted it badly.
It was about $1000 over budget but the prospect of being done car shopping in the first hour instead of the first month was worth the price so I got the car and brownie points, too.

Yes, spoked rims and yellow pinstripes, we thought it was kinda pimp.
Turns out moreso than we thought.
The first time I drove it in downtown Albany NY was interesting. People would see the car, walk closer to the curb and wave. Until they got a look at me.
The body language was easy to read:
"What's that white boy doing drivin' Leroy's car? Sheeit!"

I turned the tires around so it had raised white letters instead of stripes--Goodyear Eagle 70-series by the way. Put it a good stereo. Flipped over the air cleaner lid so it could suck wind from all sides. This car could light up the tires at will, and had a ton of room inside for guitars and amps, friends, roadtrips, and drive-in movie fun. Very reliable, too.

This is right after I moved to Texas--still had the parking sticker from the State University Of New York/ Albany. 
And because this was the early '80s when we all drove around while drinking beer--legally, until you got wasted--I put the bumper sticker on it to seem like a more upstanding citizen. 


I took this picture of Ken in 1987.
Had just taken him to the Harley dealer to pick up his brand new Sportster.
He'd hit too many snags in the restoration of his 1972 Triumph Bonneville and I had suggested just getting the HD so he could ride again and worry about the Triumph later.
He never did finish it.
And the Sportster was never as clean as it is in this photo again.

Just found this pic while going through Ken's mountain of stuff.
It's a bittersweet memory for me because he was riding this bike that I talked him into buying when he died, but he also got over 25 years of pleasure from it and sure does look happy.