Friday, May 8, 2015

Hike 2015.033 -- Huntington Library and Gardens, San Marino, CA

Hiked on Saturday, May 2. No, not actually a "real" hike, although there was plenty of walking where cars cannot drive. In that respect, it's sort of a hike.
I basically circum-navigated the gardens, then added a little loop to try to make it three miles. It was sort of an impromptu thing--my Saturday was getting away from me, and I didn't feel like making a longer drive to a hike destination.
I also figured it was fall, and things might be blooming. Hadn't planned on making it a mostly-humming-bird hike. But as I looped through the desert section of the gardens, there were plenty of flowers with narrow openings, perfect of hummingbirds and ambitious honeybees.
Bumble-bees and larger bees can't get their fat bodies into the buds to reach the nectar, nor, apparently, can butterfly tongues. That makes them a buffet for the small and the long-beaked, alone. (Incidentally--small bit of trivia-- an old English word for "bumblebee" is dumbledore. Presumably, JK Rowling thought the old headmaster of Hogsworth's looked like a bumblebee in his wizarding getup.
Most of the shots are 2x crops. This one here is one of the few with the full, uncropped frame. The one before it is a crop of this one.

I liked both because this one shows more color surrounding the bird, while the other crops help produce a bird with sufficient body size to be interesting.
With my lens and camera combina-tion, it seems like a 2x crop is the best mix of decent object size while retaining enough image sharpness to be compelling.
I also knew that shooting somewhere north of 1/1000 of a second is necessary to freeze the wings, at least at the up or down-beat. But, depending on the lighting and attempts at maximizing color saturation and depth of field, I sometimes had to drop below 1/250th of a second. Not an issue of the bird is perched still, but usually means a mass-less blur of wings. Still, the head body can be mostly frozen at that shutter speed, and it can capture some nice feather detail and texture.
Shot a *lot* of pictures in a relatively small area of the grounds. Or, put another way, I walked some pretty large sections without taking anything that seemed post-worthy.

Takes some patience and strategy to do this shooting. Some of that is due to the birds, while some is due to my fellow humans. Because, what I think I've discovered is, humans have a desire to see something special.
So, what I've found often happens is, people who are otherwise taking very few pictures and walking along at a typical pace will often stop and take an unusual number of shots right in front of where ever I have paused to set up.

Well, the non-paranoid take would be that they see the same sight I see and are trying to catch the same picture.
Except, often, that can almost certainly not be the case. I'm zooming in on something in a way that their phone camera can not possibly do, or using back-lighting or side-lighting to get colors or textures which, again, they can't possibly be getting, or trying to capture a reflection that only works exactly where I'm standing, and doesn't work as well even if you're right in front of me, or any number of specific strategies I might be working.
I actually sort of learned this by an unfortu-nate other photographer, whose image I was obstructing (unintentionally) when I first started shooting this scene. He stood back and out of the way, and used a very long lens to get his shots. I wasn't even sure he was aiming for hummingbirds until I noticed he was still standing off in the distance after a number of attempts on my part.

Once I saw what he was trying to do, I stepped off on one of the side paths, which probably made things better for both of us.

I didn't have a enough, fast enough, sharp enough lens to shoot from where he was, but I did find that if I stood on my side-path rather than the main path, people for the most part passed out of the line of shooting a lot faster. On the main path, they could see you were trying for something from a distance and spent a lot of time watching as they walked, trying to get your picture. But if you're on the side, they often don't even notice you. Or, if they do, they assume (correctly, it turns out) that you're trying something too specialized for them to bother trying to emulate your shot.

Well, I know from past experience that feigning a lack of interest or a focus on something to the side doesn't always work, but it worked pretty good here.

About three miles of walking on a Saturday afternoon. Enough to count as a hike.

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