Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Hummingbird Workshop-May2011

Ready, get set and capture the tiny Hummingbirds!!  What an exhilerating experience!

© M. Raeder – Photography

Hummingbird Workshop in the Santa Cruz Mountains
A beautiful learning experience
with Photographers Judy Bingman and Meggi Raeder

Once the clouds lifted, it was a sunny and warm day in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Eight eager photographers had made the trip to Judy’s Garden to photograph the tiniest of birds: the Allen and Anna Hummingbirds summering in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

© Judy Bingman
[More of Judy's images: http://judybingmanphotography.blogspot.com/]

Arriving at Judy’s, we are all greeted by Anna, the golden Lab and we find Kelly, one if the 3 cats, slinking through the grass.
© M. Raeder - Photography

Entering into the garden, brilliantly bright California poppies everywhere, the roses in full bloom and the hummers drinking nectar from the feeders.

© John Howell

The songbirds were there knowing that Judy’s feeders are always stocked with nuts, sunflower seeds and other goodies that are delicious to Grosbeaks, chickadee, pygmy nuthatch, finches and others. The acorn woodpeckers and the jays have their nut stations and life in the garden was in full swing. The visitors are also greeted by a flock of chicken announcing loudly each time an egg is laid. Amazingly, all the feathered friends are used to the resident house pets, even the cats, and all is in harmony.                     

© John Howell

We assembled our gear and tried to position our tripods on the favorite feeders. Questions of f-stop and shutter speed, flash or no flash were contemplated and then we all became quiet observing the hummers and concentrating on ‘getting the shot”. All of a sudden, Judy spotted a blue heron high above us and we all marveled at his elegance in flight. Then, a male hummingbirds exhibited his mating ‘dance’: when a female is in sight or on a feeder, the male will fly straight up in the air to a heights that he is hardly visible, and then he will bomb-dive straight down and make a squeaky noise when last minute before crashing he elegantly turns and flies away. It all happens so fast, that capturing this on an image has yet to be managed – we keep trying.

© Judy Bingman

After photographing hummers on the feeders, the next challenge is to capture them in flight as they approach the feeders. Good light, high shutter speed and shallow depth of field are necessary and with practice every one captures these amazing birds in beautiful images.  Below are some examples of the students' work:

© Daniel Houk

© Susanne Weissenberger

© Elaine Heron

© Angela Grove

Over lunch we exchange what we have learned, and review the various techniques of photographing hummingbirds with examples during a slideshow. Then we are in the garden again refining techniques, best viewpoints and paying attention of the backgrounds, light direction and factors enhancing the image capture.

© Vivek Ranjun

© Susanne Weissenberger

© Lynda Sanders

© Angela Grove

The end of the day arrives too early. Although exhausted, everyone is eager to just capture one more image.

We met again several days later to review our outcome and what a joy to see the amazing images that were taken during just one day of focusing on our colorful subjects!

Well done, Students!
Judy and Meggi

© M. Raeder-Photography

If you would like to learn how to photograph hummingbirds, please click on the Hummingbird Workshop Flyer and see details and the next workshop date.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Travel TidBits: Tahoe

Travel TidBits: Tahoe in the ‘in-between’ Season

It’s Monday, May 9th, and I am looking out of my window and it is snowing heavily!!

I love the mountains, the Lake, the smell of pine trees and hearing the crunch of the needles under my hiking boots. I have come up from the valley every Spring over the last many years not for the winter ski season or for the summer but in the ‘in-between’ seasons that is so pristine: In May, the aspens are just sprouting their light green leaves, the creeks and rivers are full of water tumbling down with white splashes, the wildflowers are just beginning with the occasional flowering dogwood along the American River, and in Owens Valley the cows have just dropped their first calves. In October, the aspen leaves whisper in the wind and the yellow/red color sparks between the green pines, the pinecones are starting to drop and nature is getting ready for the winter. The hike up to Eagle Lake and a picnic up there watching the merganser ducks on the lake and occasional raptors soaring high up in the clear autumn air is breath-taking. In both of these ‘in-between’ seasons, the crowds have thinned in South Lake Tahoe, everything is at a slower pace and seems to be breathing before the onslaught of the next season.

To experience this again, I drove up on Friday to visit familiar places and add new destinations.
Along highway 50, Bridal Veil Falls tumbled down the granite and was of course a perfect stop along the way with new leaves greeting the traveler.

Driving up the American River, the first dogwood was just starting to bloom.

The American River is swollen from the snow melt and tumbles down the granite bolders

Reaching South Lake Tahoe, I visit Jon Paul’s Gallery  and admire his latest nature images - stunning scenes from Tahoe and surroundings but also from other national parks and wildlife. Jon Paul is in the gallery and it is good to finally connect a face with the photographer whose work I have loved for a long time. Sunset finds me at my favorite spot at Zephir Cove and the colors were gorgeous.

The next day, I drove over Luther Pass (7700 ft) where the snow was still on the high plateau and the aspens had not awakened yet.

Descending into Hope Valley, I stopped at a wildlife viewing area but in midday only melting snow and not yet green meadows greeted me. But when looking closely, nature was starting to renew its cycle. The first yellow wildflowers kept close to the ground to avoid the still cold wind and some early red leaves erupted from the barren ground.

Following yet another tumbling river, I descended to Owens Valley which was lush and green with lots of cows on the pasture. Here the Aspen were full of budding leaves, the shrubs were starting to bloom and the temperatures were lovely.

Along the Eastern foothills of the Sierra passing horse pastures, seeing deer munching on new growth and flocking to the water in water-logged meadows to quench their thirst.

Puffy white clouds over the sprouting aspens and the wide landscape were gorgeous in the early summer sun.

Approaching Genoa, the road was lined with cars. The yearly Cowboy Poetry Festival had mobilized the tiny town and cowboys and cowgirls from all the surrounding communities had descended on Genoa, and everyone was decked in cowboy gear – boy, did I feel out of place! Cowboys and poetry?!? Since the reading only started later in the afternoon, I did not hang around but had a great sandwich at the Country Store listening to the tales being spun at the other tables!

On my way back to Hope Valley and Tahoe, I stopped at Sorenson’s, an icon in Hope Valley and not to be missed for their excellent Berry Cobbler with ice-cream and of course a good cup of coffee.

Sunset found me again at Zephir Cove but this time the wind was blowing in gale force and I had to protect my lens from the flying sand – sandblasting not advised for sensitive equipment! But the clouds over the lake were fast moving and menacing – storm was on its way.

… and the next morning I woke up to winter wonderland!

It's May and who would have thought my car would be covered by 4 inches of new snow!   But they say, nature up here is unpredictable in the mountains.  I walked around in untouched whiteness which by noon time was gone - luckily, since I had to drive home over Echo Pass (7700ft) but the roads were dry by the time I reached it.  And of course as soon as I was in the valley, everything was green again.  Did I just dream of winter?

Well, it was a great weekend getting away from it all, breathing the fresh mountain air, hiking up to Eagle Falls where the snow prevented me from going on to Eagle Lake. Photographing to my heart's delight and coming back refreshed.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Fiesta Latina for PINCC

Dear Friends,

As many of you might remember, in 2009 I volunteered with a humanitarian medical team from

PINCC – Prevention International: No Cervical Cancer
and traveled to Nicaragua and El Salvador. There we visited remote hospitals and clinics to teach the local medical doctors and nurses techniques to diagnose and to treat cervical cancer.

Cervical cancer kills 300,000 women worldwide each year, even though it is completely preventable. And yet, cervical cancer is the most common cancer among women in Africa, Central America, and Asia.

PINCC is a nonprofit, volunteer medical service organization whose mission is to create sustainable programs that prevent cervical cancer by educating and treating women, training medical personnel, and equipping facilities in developing countries.

PINCC was founded by Drs. Kay Taylor, gynecologist, and Pat Sax and has been run out of their home in Oakland. This is an all volunteer organization totally funded by concerned citizens like you and me.

PINCC works on 3 different continents:

Latin America

Nicaragua: University of Leon (HEODRA) OB/GYN Dept., Leon; Nuevo Segovia District: Ocotal, Jalapa, Jicaro
El Salvador: ProVida: Nejapa and others; MINSA: San Jacinto, Zacamil, San Martin
Peru: Pathfinders International: Lima Sud


Uganda: Kayunga; Gombe
Kenya: Kitale; Kapenguria/ West Pokot; Kisii
Tanzania: Shirati; Bukumbi


Sri Sathya Sai Mobile Hospital, Andhra Pradesh; Mysore

To continue its work, PINCC is celebrating its success at a special fundraising event with live music and Roberta Gonzales from CBS Channel 5 as MC on

May 15, 3-6pm in Oakland
at the Lakeside Garden Center, Lake Merritt,
666 Bellevue Ave

Please come or if you can’t join the celebration, please consider donating to PINCC at their save website: http://www.pincc.org/.

Thank you for your genorous support of this important work by Drs. Kay Taylor and Pat Sax.

I will be there photographing the event.