Fred First knows better. He intruded, without permission, into my “birds against the sky” franchise Thursday with a beautiful Photoshopped image of a raven against a brilliant, cloudlit sky. He also added some pithy comments about what he feels is my annoying habit of finding such photos wherever I go.
This, of course, means war. Guess Fred didn’t learn his lesson in Moon Wars, Parts Uno, Deux and Tres. Gotta teach the boy another lesson in how to take artsy-fartsy birds against the sky photos.
The first secret, of course, is to be willing to stop anywhere at anytime to capture such a photo. Amy has cowered in the passenger seat when I slammed on the brakes on a busy Interstate or along a winding country road because just the right shot appeared on the horizon. Don’t worry about oncoming traffic. They’ll avoid you. After all, you’re on a mission and nothing, not even the threat of an 18-wheeler hurtling toward you at warp speed can be allowed to divert your attention from the matter at hand.
The other secret is what we in the photo trade call “long, fast glass:” telephoto lenses with large aperture settings. My favorites are 400mm f2.8 and 600mm f4 Canon L series lenses coupled to a Canon EOS1Ds Mark II digital SLR. Set at maximum aperture (for fastest shutter speed), crank up autofocus and image stabilization and fire away.
Of course, when all else fails, I can do what Fred did. Take a photo of a bird against a blue sky and then paste it into an earlier photo of a cloudy sky.
This time I didn’t have to. But it always helps to have Photoshop in your bag of tricks.
For 28 years, older citizens in this part of Southwestern Virginia have gathered in April for the New River Valley Senior Olympics where they participate in competitions like the softball throw (and batting), basketball throw, discus and frisbee tosses, bowling and golf.
A record number of more than 200 seniors signed up for this year’s weeklong series of events based out of the Blackburg Community Center and a performance by Montgomery County’s “Seniorettes” cheerleaders (left) kicked off the Olympics Wednesday morning.
“It’s a lot of fun and something that just keeps growing and growing,” says Floyd County Recreation Director Cheryl Whitlock, “and it proves recreation is not just for the young.”
Phyllis Beall of Floyd agrees. She competes every year with her sister, who still lives in their native Giles County.
“Honey, I’ve had three knee replacement operations,” she says, “but that’s not gonna stop me.”
It doesn’t and keeping up with this crowd ain’t easy. I was exhausted after just one day of trying to shuttle back and forth between the Community Center and the Municipal Ball Field. That didn’t bring any sympathy from the partipants.
“Darling you look a little winded,” said one lady as I trudged back from the ball field. “Come on. I’ve got at least 20 years on you. Suck it up!”
We’ve watched the Mallards since they moved, a few weeks ago, into the stream that flows through the lower part of our front yard, wondering how long they would stay and just what, if any, purpose they had for making a home in our part of the world.
Their reasons came clear this week as a small army of ducklings appeared — baby Mallards fresh from eggs laid somewhere along the banks of our nameless stream.
When we bought the property last December, I asked Jimmy Howery, our closest neighbor, if the stream had a name.
“Yeah,” he said. “Stream.”
Now it has a real name. We’re going to call it Mallard Creek. We started a new life here and so did our newest, and closest, neighbors — the Mallards.
Driving along Harvestwood Road north of Floyd. Late afternoon. The sun setting on the western horizon. At the intersection with Sandy Flats Road, I stopped and pulled out my camera. Beautiful light. A bird of some type gliding on air currents in the distance. I couldn’t tell the species until I viewed it through a 400mm telephoto. An eagle, with the setting sun providing the perfect backdrop.
No time to bracket exposures or reach for a tripod. Point, compose and shoot. Just a couple of shots before the magnificent creative flew out of my (and the camera’s) field of vision. A second in time, captured by happenstance.
In photography, we call this a grab shot. Unplanned. Only a second or two to react. In photojournalism, grab shots were standard fare. We lived for them.
Some things never change.
Track is one of the more beautiful sports to photograph, especially the hurdles. The eighth graders at Floyd County High School showed off their skills and grace Thursday at a multi-school meet at FCHS.
I stopped off for a cup of coffee at Frank & Sally Walker’s Cafe del Sol before heading over the school at the track meet and one of my friends asked what was up for the afternoon.
“High school track meet,” I replied. He laughed.
“Oh, that sounds exciting,” came his sarcastic reply. “How can you shoot that stuff?”
“Because I enjoy it,” I said. “and that’s really matters.”
He shrugged and left. Some people just don’t get it.
A young man on a mountain bike works a hill near Rocky Knob on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Weekend bikers turned out in force as Spring weather saturated Southwestern Virginia.
For us, Spring means NASCAR racing and we’re headed for the Advance Auto Parts 500 in Martinsville. Have a great Sunday.
I’m venturing into dangerous territory here. Spiderweb photography in Floyd County blogs has, to date, been the exclusive domain of Fred First over at Fragments From Floyd and I didn’t really expect to find webs this early in the season but this one appeared in our back yard earlier this week.
Sorry Fred. Couldn’t resist.
I don’t know enough about plants and flowers to know what these were that bloomed in the woods behind our home during the warm weather this week but they took a beating when high winds moved in Saturday.
The wind outide is howling at 29 miles per hour right now, according to our wind guage and gusts overnight hit 64 mph. With the temperature at 34, the wind chill is down into the teens.
Daylight will reveal how many limbs are down and what cleanup will be needed but it’s a certainty that some will be nececessary.
Some incredible sunsets this week in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Firey sunsets. Red sky at night. Sailor’s delight. That old cliche may prove wrong today with rain, thunderstorms and flood warnings headed our way.
As March sunsets and April begins we look with hope for more Spring but Mama Nature has a cold weekend that may even bring snow (?) showers in the upper elevations.
But we welcome April with anticipation of its warm embrace. Winter, at least calendar-wise, is officially gone. Spring is here. Flowers are blooming and Spring fever has hit chateau Thompson full-time.
Let the madness begin.