I carried the EasyShare around for a few weeks and became increasingly frustrated with it. The zoom was OK but the auto focus was very slow and there was no way to focus it manually. I started looking for a better camera and in mid-July bought a Canon EOS Rebel T3–still not a pro camera but a great improvement over the EasyShare. It came with a EFS 18-55mm lens and I only took a few minutes to figure out that this was not going to be a nearly long enough lens for bird photography. I found an inexpensive Tamron 300mm lens and started taking pictures. The difference between the new rig and the EasyShare was stunning. The Scissor-tailed Flycatcher above is one of the first shots with the new setup. It was also one of my first forays out to Lake Meredith to look for birds. I’ve spent more time out there in the last 8 months than in all the time since I moved to Borger.
I still had a lot to learn (still do) about f-stops and shutter speeds and depth-of-field, but I was so excited by the photos and the birds that I took the camera with me everywhere and usually regretted not having it if I didn’t bring it with me. The focus on the Tamron lens was still a little slow, but now I could focus manually (the eyepiece even lets me adjust for my really old glasses.) The Tamron didn’t have any kind of stabilizer on it so I had to learn to brace for the long shots (I still haven’t found a tripod that I like,) and to increase the shutter speed to help catch the image.
That meant I had to learn more about the relationships between the aperture openings, shutter speeds, and ISO settings. I had a lot of blurred, out of focus, under exposed shots, especially in the morning light that I prefer. I still have a lot of throw-aways, but every once in a while I get it all right, and every once in a even greater while I get it all right with a really great bird in a really great setting. What a feeling!
Then, just in case me hanging out in the yard with a camera and and binoculars wasn’t enough to alarm the neighbors, I bought a little pup tent and set it up by the bird feeders. I like to sit out there with the lens poking out of the nearly closed flap and take photos of the birds at the feeder and birdbath.
Fall arrived with the migrations and Meredith was the place to be if you were a duck or a goose or a birder (or pelican, merganser, scaup, redhead,canvasback, mallard, cormorant,grebe, loon……) Not just Meredith, though. I started seeing sparrows at the feeders at home. On November 15th I saw my first Bald Eagle. I was stunned. I was even more stunned to find out that they wintered at Meredith every year. I had lived in the area for nearly 30 years and had never seen the eagles. I had heard that they were there, but had never made the effort to see them–what a shame. It gets better–this was the largest colony that anyone could remember seeing. Sheila and I counted 16 adults and juveniles one morning as they fished and scavenged the shallow end of the lake near Fritch Fortress.
Suddenly, 300mm was not long enough.