Fr Charlie, Dave, and I went out to the Salt River on Thursday, October 27. We got to the Granite Reef Recreation Area at about 8:00 am (it is about a 30 minute drive from home). We saw Lindsay Story there with her dad. Lindsay is a local birder who posts a lot on ebird. We started on the trail to the west, and there weren’t a lot of birds, and the same story to the trail east of the parking area. Actually, there were a lot of birds because Lindsay had 42 different species on her list, many of which she saw in her spotting scope across the river. However, there weren’t a lot of birds for good photographs. Most of the birds we photographed were in the area around the parking lot.
Next we went to the Coon Bluff Recreation Area. There were a pair of adult Bald Eagles roosting there, and a juvenile soaring. We couldn’t get close enough for good pictures, but I included one that has a lot of cropping. We would probably need a 600mm lens with an extender and a tripod to get a good picture.
Our last stop was Saguaro Lake. We saw Tommy DeBardeleben there. Tommy is a very prolific local birder. I see his name all the time on ebird, and also on the University of Arizona list server. He has a great website of Maricopa County birding spots (it is here). I’ve used his website, and admired his work, for a long time, and it was nice to meet him. There was a Common Loon on Saguaro Lake, which Tommy showed us in his spotting scope. This is not a common bird for this area (it migrates through).
What I thought would be some nice Arizona fall weather for hiking turned out to be a record hot day. The high was 99 (the average high is 83). It was hot, but I guess we’re used to it, because we had a great time and the temperature wasn’t really a problem.
I wrote some photography notes in this blog after the photos below. You can skip those if you’re not interested in technical aspects of photography.
I was kind of brain-dead with my photography skills on this trip. I don’t know why. I’m going to write some of the issues so I remember them for next time:
- I set the ISO to 500 and didn’t change it the whole time. That was dumb, and it showed up in the pictures by way of ‘noise’ (aka ‘grainy’ pictures). Normally I’m always adjusting the ISO depending on the light conditions, and only use 500 when the light is bad. I did confirm that when I use ETTR (expose to the right i.e. overexpose the shot, but not to the point where it is washed out, and then post process it later to reduce the exposure) then the noise in the pictures is a lot less.
- I had the shutter speed set to 250 for a lot of the pictures. I almost never use such a slow shutter speed when using my telephoto lens. The shots don’t turn out as sharp. I try to keep it above 500 or 640, and go over 1000 for action shots. There were some nice shots of the Roadrunner eating insects, but they were too blurry to keep. Also the shot of the Phainopepla in flight wouldn’t have been so blurry if I used a faster shutter speed.
- The flash batteries were low, so it took a long time to charge, so the flash didn’t fire for a lot of pictures. They turned out under exposed. I had spare batteries, and I should have changed them sooner.
- I use a fresnel lens to get greater reach with the flash (it’s called a ‘Better Beamer’). It helps a lot with bird pictures. My flash automatically changes how wide it spreads the light depending on the focal length I’ve selected on the telephoto lens. With the Better Beamer I always over-ride the automatic setting, and manually set the flash to 50mm (this is recommended to match the fresnel lens). I forgot to do that this time. I don’t know if it makes much difference.
There’s more, but that’s enough for this post. Despite all this, I got some decent shots. I guess the equipment is pretty forgiving, but I also missed out on what could have been much better shots.