WIRR 2018, June Week 4

Wildlife photography is hard. Except when it isn’t. This is one of those times. 

I was riding my bicycle to work down the busy Mason trail when I noticed a group of people standing around on the edge of the trail. My first thought is that it was just friends being social, but then I remembered my experience with the fox and slowed down to investigate. 

There is a fence that runs alongside the Mason trail, separating it from the railroad tracks. Sitting on one of the fence posts was a hawk. It was screeching at us and then took wing. It fluttered a few times and then stopped. It was either wounded or just learning to fly. At the top of a nearby tree, another hawk was screaming. This leads me to believe (hope?) that it was a juvenile spreading its wings for the first time. (If there are any birders reading this who think otherwise, please let me know).

The hawk started fly/hopping from post to post. To take this shot, I walked back down the trail. This meant the hawk was approaching me, which it presumably would stop doing if it wasn’t comfortable with my presence. I took out my hefty 55 mm birding lens (non-photographers, that’s a joke), fired up the motor drive, and went to town. I got a number of good shots and this became my favorite image of the week.

Red-tail Hawk

Fujifilm X-T2, Fujinon XF 18-55 f/2.8-4 R LM OIS at 55 mm, f/10 at 1/400, ISO 200.

Here’s another shot from the sequence that I liked a lot.

Digital Darkroom. The biggest challenge with this image was the bright sun overhead. The circumstances made it hard to change my angle, but I did the best I could in-camera before turning to the darkroom. I increased exposure by +0.3 and increased the shadows by +36. This wasn’t enough so I added a mask for the bird to further increase exposure (+0.4) and shadows (+64). This started to look unnaturally bright, so I added another mask to the fence, increasing exposure by +0.96 and shadows by +15.

I added some sharpening because… (sigh) wildlife photography is hard. In the excitement I didn’t switch my camera’s autofocus to “continuous”. Many of my shots of the moving bird were slightly out of focus. I added additional sharpening to the bird itself. It’s sharp enough for the web but I won’t be making large prints of this image, unfortunately.

WIRR stands for Weekly Image Rich Ruh. This regular feature on Das Has von Ruh will show and describe my favorite photo created during this weekly period. My weeks start on Mondays, as does the WIRR. I’m hoping to include commentary on the story, the setting, the specs, or the sentiments, depending on the circumstances.



Le Grand Voyage — Day 28

To understand Brittany, think about Maine, with the following differences:

  • Every small island or large rock offshore has a fortification on it
  • The beach towns are walled cities
  • Mussels and cider replace lobsters and beer
  • They speak French

Other than that they are exactly the same.

We had a breakfast of pastries and coffee in a small park, and then went out to play in the ocean. As we arrived, the tide was going out, and a causeway was mostly uncovered to the rocky island of Le Grand Bé. We checked out Piscine de Bon Secours, a walled-off swimming area. The wall keeps water inside at low time. Nate played in the water a little bit and then we poked in tide pools. By then, the causeway to Le Grand Bé was clear, so we followed it and explored the island, which was covered with grasses and shrubs, wildflowers and ruins. Great views back at Saint-Malo. 

There was a second island farther out, Le Petit Bé, with a fortress on it. Like Le Grand Bé, a causeway went there. With about 90 minutes to low tide, this one was clearly impassable, and would remain so until an occasional super-low tide, a few times a year. There was a even a guy swimming over the causeway.

But the water was a a Caribbean blue, so we played in the water while we waited to see how low the water would drop. Well — that’s curious — that woman is 1/3 of the way across and it's not quite up to her waist. 

 I noted the position of the waves, and a few minutes later noted it was going out at a rapid rate. I started to wade across the causeway. Slowly. Slowly. I stopped when the water was waist-deep — a bit concerned that a rogue wave and strong currents would pull me out to sea. Then I took a few more steps, and a few more, and then… I was on the other side. Huh. Now that’s interesting. I went back and we waited a few more minutes before picking up Nate and attempting to carry him. More people were crossing now, and I was surprised to note the water was only knee deep.

We explored the tiny castle for a max of 30 minutes before deciding to go back to town for lunch. 

Our feet stayed dry as we walked on the rock causeway… Turns out that the tides in this section of France are among the highest in the world.

Nate was disappointed at the lack of escargot in Brittany, but cheered up when we noticed buckets of mussels on street-side tables. I looked up “How to eat mussels” on the Internet, since I had never had them before. I didn’t really want them, but I couldn’t let the six-year-old show me up, so we both tried them. And both loved them- they became Nate’s default food in Brittany. For my main meal I had a bacon, egg, and cheese… galette. And washed it down with a cider. 

After lunch, I went in search of rental bikes. The first place I walked to had no tag-a-longs, and no English speakers. The second place didn’t have an address and when I called there were again no English speakers. I solved this conundrum by going to the tourist information center, and having them translate for me. 

Finished with the errand, I returned to the beach, where Nate and Dorinna were frolicking in the waves together. The tide was rising, and the amount of beach was decreasing. We were all pretty tired, so we went back to the hotel to shower. We decided to mix it up for dinner and go out to a pizzeria. I had a pizza with tomato sauce, peppers, chicken, onions, and… curry. I missed seeing that last ingredient on the menu. If you are thinking that sounds different and interesting and might be quite good, let me assure you that it was not. It was my worst meal in France, albeit partially my fault because I chose it. I say partially, because Nate’s plain tomato sauce was pretty substandard as well. I washed it down with a local beer (meh) and a local cider (good).

Satellite image of Saint-Malo and the harbor. Petit Bé is the island on the far left.



WIRR 2018, June Week 3

Dorinna and I were eating dinner at Ginger and Baker. We had a table on the outside patio, protected by a hopeful umbrella if it decided to rain. Overhead the storm clouds rumbled and roiled. As we lingered over the end of the meal, we suddenly became aware of the sky over our head. The storm clouds had turned into mammatus clouds and the light shifted towards sunset. Mammatus clouds always indicate strong turbulence and are often associated with tornadoes. Later that night, severe storms swept across the Colorado plains, but at the moment it was just a beautiful way to end the day and an opportunity to shoot my favorite image of the week.

Mammatus Sunset


Digital Darkroom. I made the usual kind of adjustments with this image, boosting exposure, contrast, and clarity. I also nudged up saturation a bit, which I usually stay away from (not counting my common usage of Fujichrome Velvia, of course).

WIRR stands for Weekly Image Rich Ruh. This regular feature on Das Has von Ruh will show and describe my favorite photo created during this weekly period. My weeks start on Mondays, as does the WIRR. I’m hoping to include commentary on the story, the setting, the specs, or the sentiments, depending on the circumstances.



Le Grand Voyage — Day 27

Today was mainly a travel day.  There was more to see in Amboise, but the hot weather was forecasted to get 10 degrees hotter.  Brittany was supposed to be considerably cooler, so that made the decision to leave much easier.  Dorinna had found a non-tourist bakery on a solo walk, so we stopped there for breakfast as well as take-out lunch and pastries.

We ended up having those take-out pastries at a roadside rest stop.  Great little stop- a shady picnic on the grass, followed by playing on a playground and walking on a nature trail.  Not bad for a highway rest stop.

The hardest part of the day was navigating the narrow alleys of our destination, Hôtel du Louvre in the walled city of Saint-Malo (pronounced "Sa-ma-lo").  The streets were cobblestones, with slot canyon walls.  As we unloaded the luggage at the hotel, the only rude man in France threatened to smash our car.  Lovely.

With the car then safely parked outside the city walls, we relaxed a little before venturing out. We started to explore the city's ramparts- you can walk on the walls of the walled city almost entirely around the town.  We came down for a drink, and then found a creperie for dinner.  Brittany is home to crepes and cider, and I had both.  My gallette had mushroom, cheese, egg, and andouille sausage (like the cajun sausage you get in America, only less spicy).  I washed it down with calvados- an apple whiskey.  

After dinner we walked along the walls once more.  On this side of the city we looked out on the English Channel as the sun started to set.


WIRR 2018, June Week 2

This was a busy day at work and I didn’t make myself many opportunities for photography. When we got some rain over Father’s day, I headed outside with the tripod to shoot flowers in the front yard. This shot became my favorite image of the week.

Flower in the Rain

Fujifilm X-T2, Fujinon XF 60mm f/2.4 R Macro, f/8 at 1/60, ISO 250.

Digital Darkroom. I started to develop this by nudging the exposure down, then plunged the blacks further. I increased saturation and contrast. I decreased overall clarity by -38, then added a brush across the entire flower to increase clarity. The result was to soften the background leaves while keeping the flower sharp. With another brush I darkened the stamen on the lower left, helping it stand out more. Two more small brushes lowered exposure on two leaves and removed some distracting glare. With all of the typical edits out of the way, I went into the Stackables app to add some texture, and the PhotoToaster app to add a fun border.

WIRR stands for Weekly Image Rich Ruh. This regular feature on Das Has von Ruh will show and describe my favorite photo created during this weekly period. My weeks start on Mondays, as does the WIRR. I’m hoping to include commentary on the story, the setting, the specs, or the sentiments, depending on the circumstances.