Tanagers are one of my favorite families of birds in the tropics. They are colorful, rather large, somewhat slow, and plentiful. The Ecuador birding field guide lists about 66 species with tanager in their name. We didn’t photograph that many during our Strabo Photo Tour Collections trip in March but we got a lot.
We found a nice variety of birds along the way. These are all from the Mindo Valley of Ecuador on the western slope of the Andes Mountains.
Here are a couple more hummingbirds from the last day of the trip. The birds in Ecuador are amazing.
Question from a reader: I was taking photos yesterday of my daughter at a gymnastics event. A red light in the bottom right corner on my Canon Rebel kept flashing. Once I saw the word “BUSY” in the viewfinder. What was I doing wrong?
The red flashing light on your camera shows that the camera is accessing the memory card.
It’s normal to see a red light when the camera takes a photo. (Nikon users see a green light.) The light should quickly go on-and-off if all is well.
During a rapid burst of photos, the red light will flash as long as the camera is moving the photos to the memory card. The camera has a memory buffer of 6-9 photos. It’s holding those in memory and waiting to move them photos to the card.
If you take 10 photos in a row, the camera moves some to the card and then some to the buffer. Those in the buffer wait in line until it’s time for them to move to the card.
You’ll see BUSY in the viewfinder if you take too many photos and the buffer fills. The camera won’t take any more photos until the buffer clears out and has room to store another photo.
You’re likely to see the flashing red light and BUSY in the viewfinder if you held the shutter button down and took a lot of photos. Those photos need to process out of the buffer and through to the card.
Solution — get a memory card that records faster. How fast? That depends on the camera. A 20MB camera that takes 7 fps (frames per second) is going to record 140MB worth of photos per second. A card that records 64MB per second can record roughly three frames a second. The other four frames are going to sit in memory. That means you have three frames recording to the card while four photos are waiting in buffer. That’s usually okay since the buffer will clear in a second or two.
This card records 150MB/s. That’s seven photos per second using a 20MB camera.
This card records 45MB/s. That’s two photos per second using a 20MB camera.
The card on the left records 150MB/s. That’s seven photos per second using a camera with a 20MB file. This is almost more card than the Rebel needs. Someone who shoots sport or action regularly might need this, though.
The card on the right records 45MB/s. That’s two photos per second using the same camera. Too slow for someone photographing sports or action.
January 5th is National Bird Day. It’s a great day to think about bringing birds into our lives.
Backyards big or small can be a haven for birds. Birds will come to a large grassy lot with trees or a balcony with container plants.
Birds are attracted to a space that has three things:
Food is the first big consideration to bringing birds into your yard or balcony. Shelled sunflower seeds are a favorite because the hulls have been removed and no waste falls to the ground to attract mice and rats. Shelled sunflower seed is a bit more expensive but the food goes a long way because there is no waste.
Avoid packaged birdfeed that contains millet, milo, and wheat. Watch for little white seeds common in bird feed that comes from a grocery store. Northern cardinals, blue jays, and Carolina chickadee don’t eat these seeds. Blackbird and grackles do, though.
Birdfeed from area nature stores such as Wild Bird Unlimited, feed stores, and locally owned garden centers is usually fresher than that found in big box stores.
Birds like suet. Suet is a mixture of seeds, nuts, and fruit held together with a peanut butter matrix. Carolina wrens, pine warblers, and red-bellied woodpeckers love suet cakes.
Avoid suet cakes held together with a whitish or fat-based matrix. These are designed for cooler, northern climates and spoil in our heat.
Bird baths are a great way to add water to your habitat. Traditional concrete bird baths are best. Birds only need an inch of water to drink or bath. Concrete bird baths last twenty or more years.
The rough surface of a concrete bird bath gives birds something to grip in the event they need to fly quickly away to avoid a predator. Glass or ceramic bird baths are pretty but the bathing area needs to be rough. Toss in a few handfuls of dirt and let a bit of algae grow. This creates a natural surface that birds prefer.
Shelter is the last item needed to create a bird habitat. Birds need a place to hide when a hawk or cat enters the area.
Place feeders and birdbaths five to ten feet from a tree, shrub, or potted plant. Birds won’t cross a vast open area to feed or bathe. Place plants on two sides to create an ideal habitat.
Consider natives when planting around feeders in a yard or on a balcony. Yaupon and American beautyberry are lovely to look at and provide berries for our birds. Golden dewdrop (Duranta) is a large showy plant with purple flowers in summer and golden berries in fall. This can be grown in a container or in the ground. Porterweed (Stachytarpheta) is another favorite. It’s cold hardy and produces lovely purple blooms from spring to the first frost. Butterflies also like golden dewdrop and Porterweed.
I’ve taken a couple classes from you and have enjoyed them both. I’m still very much a beginner and still learning about my camera.
I use a Nikon d5000 and my question is, if you were going to add a lens to my kit lens which I have, would it be a 50mm (nifty fifty)? I take pictures mainly of my 4 year old daughter and have been reading about different lenses.
Any suggestions on lenses or where to buy would be greatly appreciated.
It’s good to hear from you. Personally, I’d buy the 70-300mm or 70-200mm before I’d buy the 50mm.
Shooting with the 50mm means your daughter has to be somewhat still and you have to be close to her to fill the frame. Use the 70-300mm or the 70-210mm and she can be running around the playground while you’re sitting on a bench and photographing her. There’s distance between you and the subject. You don’t have to be right in her face all the time.
The 50mm is a great lens for studio work. It’s not the greatest for outdoor or shooting in the living room. I know a lot of people promote it on the internet but you can get the same results with the other lenses.
I have the 50mm and I always grab my 70-200mm first. Here’s an example why:
Recapping, the 50mm f/1.4 lens gives a great bokeh or blown-out-background. Yet, if you shoot it at f/1.4 the depth-of-field is super shallow. The lens should be used at an f/stop appropriate for the subject. You’ll also need to get closer to the subject than with the 70-200mm lens.
Hope that helps. I’d let you borrow my 50mm if you used a Canon. It doesn’t get much use.
My friend, Patti Edens, and I spent the evening at Magical Winter Lights in LaMarque, Texas, last week.
The lighted displays were a lot of fun to photograph. As you see from the slideshow below, there were huge and amazing lighted objects to photograph. We had our cameras on a tripod and used an f/22 most of the time.
A different display was a lighted cube. It was pink, red, and purple outside but filled with disorienting colors inside.
Outside the cube was a huge silhouette of a potbellied man. The words “In the city where beauty and pain integrate, I am the most perfect stain,” by Fan J.
How funny to see a huge pink cube in the middle of a lighted holiday display. Yet the cube captivated our eyes.
Camera settings were pretty basic. Camera on a tripod, set at Aperture Priority, f/22, and ISO in a moderate range like 400 or 500. For the silhouette photos, we just stood pretty still.
For this GIF, though, we used a fast enough shutter speed to freeze the walking. That meant changing the f/stop to a f/4.5 giving a shutter speed of 1/40th. The shutter speed gave us a bit of blur but not too much.
Fun playing with lights and our cameras.
(Instructions how to make a GIF are in December 6, 2017 blog post on this site.)