We have plenty of hummingbirds visiting our back yard. They may look different depending on the angle the light hits their feathers but up until recently I had thought that they were all the same species – the Anna’s hummingbird. Then we got a visitor that seemed different. First, instead of having a grey look to the feathers, it was a lot more brown. The other difference was the sound of the wingbeats. Instead of the whirring noise we were used to, this one had a higher pitched sound almost like a click as the wings were hitting each other. It sounded quite distinctive. I trip to my big book of birds suggests that these may be Rufous hummingbirds. For the birders amongst you, I hope you will advise if I am mistaken.
We have been having some issues with our hummingbirds. One of them has decided the feeder is his and no other birds can use it. He sits around and feeds to his heart’s content. Even when he is in a local tree, anyone coming close gets chased off quickly. We have named him “Cartman”. One of the recommendations in such a situation is to have a second feeder so we have added one to the fence nearby. One of the benefits I have found with this is that it puts the birds at a different angle between me and the light and it brings out the colors more vibrantly. Here you can see Cartman – he is still trying to dominate the place.
My obsession/interest in photographing the hummingbirds in our back garden has continued. I mentioned my poor early attempts in this post but things have gradually been improving. I have decided to compromise on quality a bit by shooting from indoors. The birds are clearly not enthusiastic about me being there with the camera so I decided that shooting through the window was an alternative. Obviously double glazed windows are not optically ideal but they are surprisingly good it seems. This has allowed me to get a number of shots I am a lot happier with.
One thing that I have seen much more of when shooting from this location is the way in which the color of the feathers varies so dramatically depending on the angle to the light. The birds normally look very gray. The backs can start to be green when the light strikes at the right angle but the most dramatic changes are for the head and throat. Here a gray feather can suddenly transition to a pink of bright red. It only takes a very small change in angle for this to become apparent.
The BOAC retro jet that BA has painted up was a nice treat to get. There are two other retro jets in other colors but, based on their interior configuration, they should not normally be used on the Seattle route. Therefore, I wasn’t expecting a chance to get them any time soon. Then, I saw that the Landor scheme aircraft was coming to SeaTac. It must have been a substitution. Now I was interested. However, it pushed off the gate at Heathrow and then went back on with some engine start issue. Was it going to scrub?
Apparently not. The issue was resolved and they pushed again. While the passengers were, no doubt, unimpressed by this, I was delighted. It now meant the arrival was at nearly 7pm. No problem to get to SeaTac after work and the light might be really nice. The weather was better than forecast although the chance of Mt Rainier making a second appearance was low. Again, plenty were out for the arrival. She showed up on the approach and the light played ball. This jet would have been delivered to BA with these colors so it was a case of reverting to how she had appeared many years before.
The colorful pools of hot springs in Yellowstone can be quite stunning to see. Visiting in the deep of winter means they are surrounded with snow and ice but a lot less people. The colors are still there but the low temperatures mean that clouds of steam form above the surface. Gentle gusts of wind might briefly blow the steam away to reveal the intense colors beneath but the steam rapidly returns. As you look into the pools you can see the colors well but it makes for a harder time getting photographs. You give it a try but then just spend time enjoying the impressiveness of the pools.
I was photographing some evening arrivals at Vancouver and, as I went through the shots afterwards, I got to see some detail on the tires that I had not noticed before. The tires’ surface has a matt finish as you would expect of rubber. When they hit the runway they go from zero rotation to very fast rotation extremely quickly. The friction that causes this rapid run up scrubs a bit from the surface of the tire making the familiar smoke.
What I didn’t know is that the heat changes the appearance of the surface of the tires. They suddenly become very shiny. In these shots you can see wheels of a 777 just before and just after contact. Also there is a shot from an A321 where you can see some of the tires have touched down and others haven’t. Only with the low sum angle was this obvious.
Many of the aviation people reading this will immediately know what Rainbow Canyon is. For the rest of you, it is a canyon in Death Valley. It is part of a low flying route used for military training and it is a popular spot for photographers to get shots of low flying jets either at eye level or below you in the canyon. Today it is not going to be pictures of the jets though. The canyon earned its name because there are many layers of rock in the walls that are of different colors.
I was there in winter so the sun angles never got too high. This avoided washing out the colors of the rocks quite effectively. Even so, as the day wore on, the angle of the sun certainly improved from the point of view of getting the color out of the rocks. There was plenty of time with nothing flying so I was able to enjoy the views around the canyon a lot.
One thing that you struggle to appreciate at a place like this is the scale. I read about the Spanish first arriving at the Grand Canyon and totally failing to appreciate the scale because there was nothing to give them a reference. Rainbow Canyon, while a lot smaller than the Grand Canyon (obviously), still is deceptive. The distance across felt very small until a jet flew through and you realized how far away it still was and it was not even close to the other side. A quick look on Google Maps with the scale showing makes you realize it is actually a long way across.
The view from our hotel in Whistler towards the mountains was really pretty but never more so than when the sun was setting. A couple of evenings I thought I should get a shot but was either elsewhere or too slow. I did manage to get out there one time though, although I was still a little late. The shadows were creeping up the lower slopes of the mountains but I still had the nice color on the summits. The warm, evening light was really appealing and mountains look good at the best of times so this was a great scene to see.
We visited Bothell to look at the trees as I mentioned in this previous post. We weren’t the only ones though. As we came around the corner, a row of the trees was very intense in their red colors and plenty of other people had come out to check this too. Families were all over the place taking pictures. The best place seemed to be in the middle of the road. Consequently, groups of people were standing there taking their shots and, hopefully, avoiding getting run down!
The area around where I work has a lot of trees and they have turned out to be the sort of trees that get very colorful in the fall. It is really nice to be able to look out of my window and see such vibrant colors when the sun pops out (which it does do in the Pacific Northwest sometimes). I had driven down the road in the opposite direction to normal one evening and saw even more color so, when the sun was out one weekend evening, we diverted to the area so I could get some shots.
The richness of the colors is sometimes hard to represent with photos. They don’t always have the impact that being there had but hopefully some of these shots will give you an idea of how pretty the street was.