Rich Ditch's Photography Blog

August 13, 2011

Braving the Heat

Filed under: composition, favorite places, Gilbert Water Ranch, light, Non Birds, technique — richditch @ 4:16 pm
Prickly Pear Cactus

Prickly Pear Cactus

It is still way to hot for any serious birding or photography here in central AZ, but I’ve been so itchy to get outside that I spent almost 2 hours on Saturday morning at the Gilbert Water Ranch with my basic birding rig. Dawn was around 5:45 am, and I was out on the main trail by 6:00 am. Even at that early hour the temperature was already 90 degrees.

It had been so long since I’d been out (my last visit to the GWR was June 1 – 10 weeks ago!) that it felt a bit strange. The first thing I discovered was that I’d not brought along all of my regular kit with me – I’d left my fanny pack at home containing a few items I sometimes find useful while out shooting. But nothing so essential that  would keep me from hiking around the trails. The biggest issue was that the fanny pack has two holders for my half liter water bottles. I ended up jamming one bottle into a pocket in my shorts where it barely fit; even though it interfered a little with walking there was no way I’d take even an easy walk like this without water along.

My bird list for the day was only 28 species – about half what I could accomplish at a different time of year. Water levels in the regulated ponds was very low in all but one, and that pond had a lot of vegetation making photography impractical. Trail-side trees and bushes had also filled in a lot since my last visit and there were signs that the maintenance people were getting started on required trimming.

My only bird photos from the day were of a female Bullock’s Oriole that was too far away and against the light plus a small flock of Lesser Goldfinches feeding on sunflowers. I’ll post a couple of the goldfinches next time.

As I was finishing my circuit I stopped long enough to get a couple shots of the fruit on the many Prickly Pear Cacti. The 300 with 2x converter can produce some n ice closeups from 8-10 feet away, but it is a bulky setup and requires a serious tripod. If I’d had along a shorter lens (like my 105/2.8 macro or even the modest 55-200 plastic zoom I would have been able to maneuver a lot better and fine tune my composition on this attractive cactus. But I’m happy with this image. The light was softer than usual for AZ – a light cloud cover diffused the light and softened it enough without completely losing the directionality that is so important to give subjects three dimensions. Note how this light gives just enough shadow to the bottom of the red fruit to  show it’s roundness.

Nikon D300, Nikkor AF-S 300/2.8 plus TC20E (2x), Gitzo 1325 tripod with RRS BH-55 ball head and sidekick, ISO 400, 1/125th second at f/11, 73% of full frame.

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