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Wishing I had Gone South

Text Copyright and Photography Copyright Toni Lankerd
All rights reserved.

Camera:    Pentax ZX-50
Lens:        Sigma 75-300
Flash:       None used
Support:    Hand held
Film:         Kodak PJ 400
Exposure: 1/90 at f/5.6
Filter(s):     None used

Those of you who read my first article may think, after reading this one, that all I do is shoot winter images and I must be crazy for writing an article about winter in the middle of summer. Not necessarily soÖby this time, most of us will have had enough of summer, perhaps even looking forward to some cold weather photography.

Two years ago, for the most part, we were experiencing a fairly mild winter, so a lot of birds didnít bother to go south. I had read an article in the paper about a flock of Robins that was seen regularly around town. I hadnít seen any myself, until winter finally struck with nearly three straight weeks of snow.

In the winter, I always keep my bird feeders filled, but usually only with food for the seedeaters. One snowy morning I happened to look outside and I saw a few Robins in the yard. They were looking for food. Fortunately for them, our very young Mountain Ash tree had berries on it for the very first time. The birds were gathered in the tree eating as many as they could. I watched them for a while, thinking there was no way they could survive the brutal cold and snow.

I really wanted to photograph the Robins, but I wasnít sure if I could. The tree is at a corner of our house, at an angle from the closest window. Getting out my Pentax ZX-50, I mounted the longest lens I had at the time, my Sigma 70-300mm, inserted a roll of Kodak Ektapress PJ 400 print film, and took aim. Using a tripod was out of the question with the angle of view, so I leaned against the wall next to the window to steady the camera.

I was barely able to see the Robins through the viewfinder, and with the lens zoomed in at 300mm, my shutter speed was only at 1/90 second. If I was going to get this picture, I would have to hold my breath and hope that my hands were steady enough. As it turned out, luck was with me that day.

I continued to watch the Robins feasting on the berries throughout the day. I also caught a glimpse of seven Eastern Bluebirds in my backyard, all huddled together in a Birch tree. Unfortunately, that tree was too far away from the house for me to get any decent pictures. Later in the day, I tried putting out dried fruits for the birds to eat, but by then they had all disappeared and none returned. In fact, I didnít see any other migrating birds for the remainder of the winter.


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