Rented lens

I rented a new lens last weekend as I planned a road trip Saturday that would take me worlds away.  I would have the opportunity to hike through rugged forests and canoe through timeless waterways.

Those plans fell through.

I drove many hours to reach my destination and found heavy clouds and light rain.  I sat in the car for at least two hours listening to music and biding my time, but it came to nothing: the weather failed to improve.

Never believe what weather forecasters say.  The prognostication for this trip changed only after I arrived there; the week prior to that it had been all sun and comfortable temperatures, but afterward it was all clouds and unimpressive showers.

Although photography in cloudy weather can be challenging, it does offer a new world of colors and light effects that simply don’t exist when the sun is shining.  On the other hand, rain—even light rain—makes it all but impossible.  The camera absolutely can’t get wet.  Water on the lens element would create terrible photos; water on the lens itself could ruin its electronics and introduce moisture to its many moving parts.

Me being wet only could make matters worse.  Not that I mind dancing in the rain; it’s just that I mind the rain when I’m in the middle of nature photography.

Add to that spending a great deal of time in thick woodlands where every bit of light helps.  Skies heavy with dark clouds dripping like wet cotton robs the scene of essential illumination and forces higher ISO settings and longer exposures, neither of which would help when most subjects are wont to move about during our photo session.

I finally returned home later that afternoon full of disappointment.  It was a three-day weekend, though; certainly I could find time to salvage the situation.  And I did: I took several walks at the lake to ensure my $25 investment paid off.

The magic hour was Friday evening after I ran across town and retrieved the lens.  It also happened to be my first opportunity to give it a test run (thinking I should do so prior to my road trip Saturday).  I have more photos from that session and several others over the weekend that will appear in later posts.

But for now, let me repeat myself: “So much life flourishes at White Rock Lake that living here makes it all but impossible to not see something of interest even if the length of my walk is from the living room to the back door.”

A northern mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) perched in the shrubs outside my patio (2009_02_15_009948)

Speaking with a neighbor of mine recently who happens to be a teacher, we both remarked on the morning serenade we both enjoy.  It’s given by a local northern mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos), one who happens to perch outside my living room window or in the tree outside my patio before beginning a boisterous declaration of welcome for each new day.

What a lovely song, what a diverse and complicated song!

And they started several weeks ago to nest, for I’ve seen mockingbirds aplenty as they inspect and test and carry away various bits of material, some of it stolen from abandoned nests.  Even before February began, spring had already come to North Texas.

This happens to be a photo of the resident mocker who practically owns my patio.  Several live around here, sure, but this one sings from the front door to the back doors, and it does so at sunrise and sunset as if on cue.  I welcome the song, welcome the sign of things to come as it defends its territory and prepares to build a family.

A male house sparrow (Passer domesticus) perched in a tree (2009_02_15_009958)

House sparrows (Passer domesticus) live in one my neighbors’ trees.  I watch them come and go from that tree, run back to it when an alarm sounds, emerge from it each morning and climb under its covers each night.

This male perched in the tree outside my patio as his entire brigade came to visit.  They enjoy the birdseed I put out, yet they also make a terrible mess trying to break apart and consume the cat food I put out.

Chased off by cardinals and mockingbirds and wrens and blue jays, let alone a cornucopia of other species, these little bundles of busy entertain me with their antics as much as they thrill me with their company.

A female house sparrow (Passer domesticus) perched in a tree (2009_02_15_009963)

Is that not the epitome of a curious glance?

This female house sparrow also perched in the tree near the male shown above.  She watched me intently yet distractedly, almost as if she wanted to make certain I wasn’t going to bother her but wasn’t otherwise too worried about my presence.

A Carolina wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) perched on the patio fence (2009_02_15_009973)

Carolina wrens (Thryothorus ludovicianus).  What I can say about them that I haven’t already said?

They’re busybodies, Chatty Kathy dolls with wings, a collection of gossiping birds who let little but hell itself stand in the way of the duties at hand.

They don’t particularly care if I’m close to them or not so long as I don’t bother them.  And I don’t.

This one came from the tree to the fence just long enough to see if it was safe.  I stood but a step or two from where it perched.  Once it realized I was not a threat, it flew onto the patio floor and took a moment to bathe in morning sunlight, then it grabbed a piece of cat food and swallowed it whole before darting back through the fence and continuing its pillaging of the ground cover.

A male northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) perched in the shrubs outside my patio (2009_02_20_010284)

My dearest bird friend: a male northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis).  I wept with him last year after his mate died.  Neither of us understood the loss, understood why she left him suddenly, understood why such a beautiful life ended so abruptly.

I celebrated with him this year when I realized he had found a new mate, a new lass who won his heart and helped him move beyond the sorrow he sang into the air for too many months.

This is his realm, so far as cardinals go, and he chases away all interlopers.

But who is the gal who salved the wounded heart and made his singing joyful again?

A female northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) perched in the shrubs outside my patio (2009_02_20_010294)

As I said previously: “She’s a splendid thing, a beautiful creature worthy of this man’s dedicated love.”

Even as he stood in the shrubs and watched me, she took her place nearby and kept an eye on me as well.  The setting sun brought out the best in both of them.

But cardinals are flighty beasts given to sudden escapes when the world doesn’t stay the way they want it.

A female northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) taking flight (2009_02_20_010296)

Off they went even as I tried to capture one more image of her, one more photograph of the lady who soothed the savage beast.

I adore her all the same, though, for his pain so filled the hours that I find him a new creature now that he’s taken a new love.  I hope their life together is full and joyous.

— — — — — — — — — —


[1] Special thanks to nathalie with an h for her continuing advice and guidance on all things photography.  Just prior to my failed weekend adventure, it occurred to me I might be able to rent a better lens for my trip.  I asked her about it one morning at Starbucks and she immediately grabbed her iPhone, pulled up their web site and wholeheartedly recommended Dallas Camera.

Everyone in the world should have a nathalie with an h to illuminate the trail ahead when it comes to stumbling through amateur photography without a clue as to what matters and where to go.  Her continued support and encouragement are priceless.

[2] It goes without saying Dallas Camera provided exceptional service even at the last minute, and renting the lens for $25 to cover the weekend from Friday through Monday morning represented more than just a bargain: it felt like grand theft.  With a selection that boggles the mind, friendly and knowledgeable staff, and prices that are difficult to fathom, this company is hands-down the best place to go in the DFW metroplex for photography equipment rentals.

[3] Perhaps, given a cool lens that can offer world peace and contact with alien races, you wonder why I chose what many would consider mundane subjects for this post.  They are only mundane to others.  Nothing in nature bores me; nothing outside the realm of human civilization gives birth to yawns in my world.  Even a simple blade of grass is worthy of investigation to me, part and parcel a universe demanding of attention.

[4] House sparrows, along with European starlings and rock doves and a great many forms of life, seem to bring out the worst in people as they’re considered invasive.  The word ‘invasive’ is inaccurate and misleading; the word these people should be using is ‘introduced.’  The species themselves cannot be blamed for doing what nature made them to do, for filling those niches evolution helped them find and dominate.  That they displace native species and irritate “nature purists” is the fault of humans and not the flora and fauna involved.  Nothing about house sparrows bothers me; in fact, they are beautiful and intriguing and needful of the same respect I give every other species.

That said, anything I can do to assist native species harmed by their introduction is a worthy cause indeed.  But hating any of these lives confuses me, and attempting to harm them is as contemptible an act as was introducing them in the first place, whether intentional or not.  Remember, the only truly invasive species appears to be humans, and only humans appear capable of causing without consideration wholesale extinctions, of destroying habitat on a global scale, of killing for sport rather than survival, and of consuming and conquering sans any consideration for the children of tomorrow, let alone any form of life impacted by our activities.

Getting of my soap box now…

[5] I do have a plethora of images taken with this lens.  By orders of magnitude, I have many more pictures not taken with this lens.  I’m still trying to share any of them I think are of note.  Perhaps it’s time for me to rethink the fate of xenogere unseen given my doubt that I can ever post all of them here…

5 thoughts on “Rented lens”

  1. Jason, your images are stunning. No matter what lens you use, they are alway stunning. I enjoyed and do relate to your character assessment of each species :o) I would like to pay more attention to the 9 pairs of Cardinals I have visit. How do you recognize one male among others? Perhaps I’m not watching closely enough.

  2. Mary: I only recognize this male cardinal because he’s been around so long and I’m familiar with his activities, and he’s always defended this area from other male cardinals. Also, there’s a charcoal design on the top of his beak at the base, a birthmark as I like to call it, and it hasn’t changed in the years I’ve known him. I think most males lose all the black on their beaks as they mature.

    Since he nests outside the garage, he’s always around and has recognizable habits. New males that come and go always feel different somehow, less familiar. Maybe if there were more of them around here I wouldn’t be so able to recognize this specific one.

    And thank you both for the compliments!

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