Wednesday, July 31, 2013


It was raining hard when I left the house at 6AM this morning.  Cherokee Lake was the destination and I was ready for a harsh morning.
I replaced the 500mm lens with a 70 to 300mm Canon lens this morning because the 300mm is a bit faster lens, requires less light.  The morning was very, very overcast and the 500mm would have been totally useless.  I wasn't on the water long before I missed the 500mm lens big time.  Even with all it's faults, I'd rather conjure up ways to make it work in bad situations than to use a lens of lesser magnification that is easier to operate in those same less than desirable situations - especially low light.
The 300mm works really well when in closer to the subject, but critters won't sit around, wait and watch while you stealthily creep, crawl or float directly toward them.  The big 500mm can surgically shoot through holes in foliage to capture the image beyond.  The 300mm can't do that.  It will try to focus on the edge of the hole.  Frustrating!
The 500mm is heavy and harder to hold to my face for long periods of time, but the pain is worth it.  the problem with that lens is that it requires a lot of light to achieve high enough shutter speeds to stop movement (wing beats).  I half lay across the boat seat or lean my entire right side against the boat's tower and sometimes kneel and rest the bottom of the long lens on the rail of the boat, as long as the boat isn't rocking.  It sounds like a lot of work, but it really isn't.  One must be creative to absolutely eliminate camera movement.  1/30th of a second is a long time for a camera shutter speed to remain open.  I often shoot with that lens hand held at that low speed.  Usually one out of four shots is acceptable.  That's better than shooting with a 300mm and all the shots are too far away and not crisp enough to crop as large as the original shot from a 500mm focal length would be.
Notice the reflection on the surface of the water.  It actually looks artificial.  That's because the 70-300mm Canon lens I have can not be fitted with a polarizer filter.  The barrel of the lens turns when the lens focuses eliminating the possibility of using thee polarizer.  The polarizer must be fixed in one position to function.  The focusing lens will rotate with the barrel.  All lenses are not like that and I believe there are very few being manufactured with a rotating lens barrel today.  Point is that my 500mm has a fixed barrel and operates a hundred percent of the time with the polarizer in operation.  None of the shots in this entry are influenced by a polarizer filter.
The water looks abnormal.  Gotta have a polarizer.
Notice the reflection on the water above and below.  A polorizer filter would eliminate that issue.
The 300mm delivers much better panoramic pictures.  Of course, a 135mm will deliver better ones and a 28mm even better.  But, when using a telephoto, the 300mm is a good pick if one's work will be divided between scenic shots and wildlife shots.  The wildlife shots are the ones that will suffer.  I'm not willing to sacrifice the edge a 500mm delivers.
The 150 - 500mm lens would magnify these images far too large.  They would lose the impact of infinite distance.  The 70 - 300mm worked well for these two shots.
The great egret in the picture below is an integral part of the scenic shot.  Therefore, it isn't necessary to bring him in close as he is not "the" subject.  He is just part of the overall view.
I like that shot.  Notice the lack of reflection off the water.  The sun was directly behind me and not off to either side.  Lucky.  The 70 -300mm worked really well for this shot.  I'm pleased.
I really like the shot above.  It's what I call a wow shot.  I knocked the camera a couple notches down from what the light meter indicated to get a contrasty white on dark background effect.  I like it alot.  The shot below, however, was an attempt to bring the egret in close and make him the center piece.
The 300mm didn't get it done.  The egret appears too far away.  Any attempt to move closer will spook him and the moment lost.  The 500mm would bring him in twice the size shown.
The group of fishing boats, below, came out good.  They are a part of the overall picture.  They will catch your eye, but they are just a piece of the bigger scene.
The 300mm worked good here too.  The 500mm would have done a good job also if the 150mm end of it was employed.
The water is not acceptable, however.  It looks so phony.  Polarizers are essential when shooting on the water.
And, finally, I threw this stuffed rabbit out onto the grass to test the lens on the color brown.  Ha - did ok I'd say.
I'll be on the river in the morning and the 150 - 500mm lens will be on the camera.  I'm not taking any chances of running into an otter, eagle or beaver with a lens that requires me to get close.  Can't get that close - not in a 22 foot white boat with a 150 horsepower noise maker engine on the back of it.  It will be very overcast again, but we'll see what turns up.  See ya.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013


Please copy/paste the above link and visit the supplied links where you can respond to the proper authorities by comment concerning the sandhill crane hunt proposal.  The link above will take you to Julie Zickafoose's web site.  She is a professional writer who speaks for those wild critters who can't speak for themselves.  Her knowledge about sandhills is great, as is her passion for wild creatures.   Please send comments before it's too late for the cranes.  Thank you.


Every now and then that special road comes along that offers gorgeous scenery, challenging turns and allows one to escape the reality of the present and engages the mind with thoughts of earlier times.

2 wheels thru Tennessee

I was to meet Bob, a good friend, over here at McDonalds which is not far from my home.  We were going on a motorcycle ride which would take us through some of the finest riding country in East Tennessee.

We rode from White Pine on route 113N to 70N all the way to Virginia, where we picked up route 58W which carried us over the Cumberland Mountains to The Cumberland Gap.  Remember Daniel Boone?  But, let me digress a bit.  Route 70 is a drive over the Clinch Mountain which is a spectacular piece of real-estate.  The road is smooth and perfect with tight turns and ninety degree corners that tax one’s abilities to maintain a brisk pace.  The thing I liked about that part of the ride is the sensation of stepping back in time a few years – OK, a lot of years.  Old, old farmsteads were common place along the route.  Some farms were still working enterprises while most have long since been deserted, it seems. 

Old barns marked the many farms that lay in ruin, proof that families did indeed make a go of it up here on the mountain.  The fact that farms existed at all up here is proof of the tenacity the local people had in the day to even consider operating a farm on the steep, rock covered hillsides of the Clinch Mountain.  Many of the fields we drove past contained more visible stone than grass.  How in the world could anything grow on that surface? They tried though.
The road continually turned this and that way with the occasional ninety degree right or left turn thrown in where one least expected to see it.  We cut our speed down to maintain a safer margin of control.

We passed one bad land farm after another and the evidence of hard luck showed everywhere.  Some gave up and left and some rebuilt and stayed as could be seen by a newer home standing beside an old log or frame house.

One thing is certain – this is the real Tennessee as I’ve always imagined it would be.  Quaint, picturesque farms sitting back against the hillside with lush green pastures in front.  Nothing new, yet the picture is one of contented folks enjoying life to the fullest on the land they built their homes on with their own hands and grew their own food in the fields they planted.  They still do to this day.

So – where are we?
The best looking crops I saw were on land next to the river.  I guess there’s merit to the stories about rich farmers who have land next to the river.  The grass is greener,  no rocks can be  seen and those river bottom farms seemed to have more modern methods of harvesting crops.  The river farms had their hay rolled up in the huge round bales.  They were lying all over the fields.  The farms on the mountain had hay stacks next to the barn or small twine tied bales stacked in sheds. Interesting…
We drove along the Clinch River and came upon a very neat business.  It was a restaurant, bait shop, gift shop, canoe rental and motel all in one.  We had to stop in.

This place was very cool, to say the least!  Yep, we decided to eat.  The special was salmon cakes, cooking beans with corn bread and ice tea.  There was an outside balcony overlooking the river out back.  We picked a table and ate ourselves almost to death.  The banana pudding was to die for.  We both over did it on the food.  It was all Bob’s fault.  If your ever up this way ya got to stop here.  You’ll love it.  There’s one more thing about this area on the Clinch Mountain and river areas.  The people are very, very polite and helpful.  They are genuine early American citizens just like your parents were.  How refreshing to talk to someone who doesn’t come across like a plastic facade. 

We motored on up 70 to 58 West in Virginia which took us toward the Cumberland Gap.  We would go over the Cumberland Mountains on the way.

The bad land farms disappeared once we entered into Virginia.  What was different here?  The division between the states is an imaginary line on a map, yet it was as if we drove onto a different continent or something.  The homes were more upscale and the properties appeared neat and visions of family struggle were no longer apparent.  Odd indeed.  I sense political powers at work here.  It is what it is.
We worked our way down off the mountain and across Virginia and up the Cumberland Mountains until we finally came to The  Cumberland Gap.

We stopped briefly to stretch and check the sky for rain.  It has been threatening for the past hour.  A drop could be felt here and there, but nothing serious.  Route 25E South was dead ahead and we would take that back toward home.  It’s a four lane highway, but a very pretty one.  We seemed to have the entire road to ourselves except for one truck and five or six cars.  The bikes were set on 55 miles per hour and we had a leisurely ride back.

I loved this ride today because it permitted me to view Tennessee through yet another window into the past.  I really like old things and I like history.  Tennessee has a rich history and those historical times still exist today on many of her landscapes.  Today, I had visions of men following behind oxen drawn plows – their skin burnt dark brown by a life time of outside toil, and bonnet covered heads of the women folk on hands and knees dropping kernels of corn into neatly spaced holes in the ground put there by children who would follow in their fathers footsteps.  That’s Tennessee to me.  OK – so I’m a romantic.

Ever been to Pigeon Forge, Sevierville or Gatlinburg?  Do yourself a favor.  Don’t go….

Monday, July 29, 2013


The girls had an appointment at the doctors this morning for their annual shots.  The only vet service I use or will use is Countryside Veterinarian Services in Louisville which is located back where I used to live.  They have the most modern facilities and methods and use scientific methods to figure out the problems.  My doc, Doctor Webb, is the absolute best out there.  I'm thankful she got good grades in school.  I figured I may as well make this a day for the dogs, as I was fairly close to the old state park.  They were overdue, as usual, for some serious exercise.  The temperature was cool too.  They'd love it.
The old mansion ruins wall is just about fallen in now.  I've been coming here to the old abandoned state park for ten years and have continuously looked at the double brick foundation in amazement and wondered how it still hung together.  No one seems to care about preserving the site so I guess it's inevitable that it fall to ruin.  The old state park and ruins area is about twenty minutes from the veterinarian's office and it would be a shame to miss the opportunity to let the dogs have the day.
The old walls look in terrible condition.  This peninsula of land is directly in the foul weather path.  When the storms and tornadoes move through East Tennessee - they swing right by here, up through Greenback where I used to live and continue East. There have been a lot of aged trees knocked down by the high winds here and the old mansion foundations bricks are showing the affects of wind driven rain. 
The dogs knew exactly where they were and set off immediately for the old road to the lake.  I let them go as I knew exactly where to find them.  I heard the loud splashing long before I arrived at their little span of shoreline that they love so much.

All three girls really love the water and it's a treat for them to come here.  I can't do anything with them where I live due to the private property issues.  It's a shame about that.  The boat ramps are the only access to the lakes and they aren't a good place to have dogs running off leash due to the traffic and the human influences.  Thank heavens for the Cherokee National Forest.  No one owns it.
The old dead, fallen tree that Douglas fell off of is still hanging onto the bank.  I thought it would have washed away a long time ago.  He scared me to death that day.
It doesn't take much to humor these dogs.  All it takes is a couple sticks thrown into the water and they are in heaven.  Each one tries to be the first to get the stick and bring it back to me.  Usually all three get a bite on it and push for shore together.  

I like to think that each one of them is trying to get the stick for the only purpose of bringing it back to me, but it's obvious that there is competition between them to get the stick.

Well, two of them have a bite on the stick and little Happy looks like she's about to get hold of the end of it.
Actually, Chestnut Hound is the only one of them that is holding the stick at this point.
Shade is looking good out there.  What a fine dog!

They're having a great time and it makes me elated to know they are.  This is their Disney-world.  
The old road to the lake is on a hill and the dogs display endless energy as they run up and down the asphalt even after swimming and running through the woods, up cliffs and jumping over logs.  I tromp along slow and often stumbling over sticks that have fallen off the tall trees that line the road both sides.  Where do they get their energy?

"Come on Chestnut.  Hurry, hurry.  Good lil girl."

Shade is the last one up the hill.  She lingered at the edge of the lake longer than the other girls.  She's really turning it on as she comes running.
 "Come on Shade - come on, come on, come on.  Good girl, good girl!"

She is very powerful and that deep, wide chest gulps in the air.  I have to remember that she is almost ten years old though and I should start to be more careful with her.  I just can't seem to believe that she is getting old.  Hell - I'm getting old too, and feel it sometimes.

 We took a break up at the old walls.  I never have to worry about the dogs getting lost or into mischief.  They stay right with me at all times.  I'm particularly proud of Chestnut, the puppy of the group.  She, being a hound, should have happy feet but, she stays near at all times.  That's asking allot from a hound and shouldn't be expected.

Shade is hot.  There was some cool shaded spots that she took advantage of.  I gave them all water from my personal water bottle and they relaxed and laid down.

We lounged around in the shade and walked the area just to see what has changed since the last visit.
The old tree that Douglas used to inspect with every visit was showing a lot of wear.  The wind has taken the heavy limbs off the right side and it is appearing as if it's lopsided.  I guess nothing lasts forever.  Its just that I remember how it looked ten years ago and I hate to see the changes occur.

 What a sweet girl!
I took them back down to the lake for a swim and a final drink before we hiked back to the truck for the ride home.  They sensed we were leaving because they were reluctant to walk in the direction of the truck on the way back.  They know - they know.
This old park is one of the most beautiful places I know of and I'm thankful that I had it at my back door for all those years.  Oh well - nothing stays the same.

It's been a really nice morning.  All the girls got caught up on their shots and they had a really great time here by the lake.  Watching them have fun allowed me to have fun.  We had to be on our way.  It was really cramped on the front seat of the truck for the ride back.  No matter.  It's worth the inconvenience.
See ya.