I prefer winter and Fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape — the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show. ~Andrew Wyeth

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Taking a hike with a monopod and a prime lens

I know that this is probably going to bore some of you to death, but for my photography friends this is called field work.
I went for a walk into the countryside beyond my house today, as I usually do. I will be going to a three day workshop in Portland soon and I want to at least know the equipment that I have and how to use it. Kind of like knowing how to program and use your new magical phones these days, I have a camera and lens that  almost defy the limits of man's knowledge and have so many special and unique accessories attached to them that you have to read an owner's manual before you can even turn them on. So it is with my camera (Nikon 5100D) and a new lens ( a Nikon 35mm1:1.8 prime lens). I also took my monopod. This is a one leg support for my Nikon. The camera attaches to the top of the monopod and this helps to steady the camera for sharper photos. It also adjusts from about 18 inches to as tall as I am ( 5' 8'').
Off I went with my camera attached to the monopod and my camera bag filled with some camera accessories, my phone and another lens that came with the camera,  the 18-55mm kit lens.
I have to tell you that I'm not a perfectionist. I'm a wabi sabi, kind of person that loves all things new and creative, but has little patience for complicated electronics and related equipment. I was raised by two perfectionist and my sister and I have not continued the tradition. I think a little rebellion is involve.

Anyway, my first pictures were of the bees, in the Rosemary, near the chicken house.
Out of maybe 15 photos this one was clear and focused. I realized I had a lot to learn.
I'm still learning about focus points inside the camera and how to focus in more than one area.
It's like "America's funniest home videos" watching me trying to keep the camera steady on that "single pod" stick while the bees are moving all over the place. I found it's best to wait, focused, in one place and let the bees come to you. Bee's move around so much that trying to follow them is almost impossible.

Then I got to the cattle gate and was reminded of the beautiful post a friend did on webs the other day. I
 readjusted the "stick", focused the camera and got some good shots of these webs that some really huge ( I'm sure it's a BIG one) spider has been constructing in the metal pieces of the fence.
These turned out OK, but not like my friend's photos of webs in British Columbia.
and this one... I love the Bokeh (the blur in the background). I love the leaves and forest debrie that is caught in the web.
I'm sure a big, bad spider lives... in the corner...  back there... somewhere.
I backed away and tripped over a rock and started to fall.  I clutched the camera (always protect the camera first.), took a few steps backward and recovered like the cool person that I am. I continued on up the road, thankful that no one had observed my clumsy, little dance. But you never know these days. You do something stupid, in what you think is the privacy of your life, and bam! It's on U tube and it's going "viral". Thank god we live in the middle of 40 acres surrounded by BLM land. Not too many folks are just walking around here in the boonies, taking pictures. Only the crazy ones... like me.
I started to notice that something was changing. My pictures weren't focusing too well and the sun disappeared. I took this photo of the oak trees above me.
Tell me this is not rather sinister?
Maybe I was falling again.Maybe I fell and knocked myself out. Maybe this was a dream and I was on my way to OZ. Were the trees coming to life?
I heard the turkey making calls down the hill but couldn't see them.
No turkey. Just a weird feeling that something was watching me.
Even the poison oak was reaching out toward me...
I never woke up from "the dream" so I guess I never passed out. I was awake the whole time. Was this one of those serious, senior moments? Is that how it is?  You just go somewhere else for a while and then come back with a whole sense of "What just happen." ?  Wow! better than the 60's.

I tripped over the monopod again because I had it in front of me and was trying to watch the ridge line for wild beasts at the same time. Sometimes the woods takes on a different, more sinister presence. I feel pretty safe up there until I think about having an encounter with a Mountain Lion or some human that might want to do some harm. I try not to think about this too much.  I have my phone and it actually works up there. I guess I'm kind of wabi sabi about this. Guess I should take my gun with me but it's just one more thing and I might trip over that too. Maybe I can just take a picture of whatever attacks me and that will scare it away... you think?
All this fearful thinking dwindling. The sun came out again and I started walking back down the trail.

 I saw a small yellow flower and tried to take a picture of it but the monopod got in the way. The flower was too close to the ground and I was getting a little crazy trying to use my camera on this stick of a thing.
So, I took the camera off the monopod and  laid down on the ground. Another photographer friend told me that some of his best shots of flowers are at ground level. So, down I sat... I laid down in the forest humus... and this was the result.
Yes, that's a tiny spider on that buttercup. Cool isn't it? I need some close up lens on my prime lens and then you could see him waving at me.
I took a few shots of the flower and its visitor and I sat there trying to figure out how I was going to get up... then I looked at the Monopod laying there next to me.
Well, guess what? These ''sticks" have another purpose in life. They make great "assistance for old ladies" sticks. I used it to get up and to walk back to the house... walking along like Maurice Chevalier... well, more like Charlie Chaplin.
I may never be comfortable with these tripods and things, that are suppose to make your pictures better, sharper, but I do know how to re-purpose these things. If I don't learn how to use this camera stabilizing monopod, I can always use it for a walking stick and if I never master the use of a tripod it will make a great trellis for growing tomatoes.
I need to learn how to use these things though. I like the monopod better than the tripod but they both seem awkward. I like using my camera spontaneously and by itself, but I keep practicing.
I love photographing the world from the ground. It's such a different perspective. It's like a squirrel cam. You see the world  the way a small animal does. I find that fascinating!
OK, so I have to learn how to get back up afterwards, but it's worth it.
As a friend says, "God is in the details". It's true. There will always be a camera in my hands for those moments when the gods show us small, exquisite "details". We just have to pay attention.


  1. I love this post. I don't have a monopod, just a tripod, but the struggle is similar. Since I started taking photos, I've got stains on my knees all the time from kneeling and lying on the ground. It's like we were kids again. And isn't it wonderful, to have a hobby that makes us look at things like they are brand new...like we are young again? I wish I could do some field work with you. It would be so fun!

  2. I love taking pictures. I have the Nikon3100 and have not learned all of the tricks on it yet either.
    Love the picture of the bee.
    I can hardly wait for it to be warm enough to get out and start snapping.

  3. smiles....well you came away with some cool shots...love the ones of the skeletal trees, though it messes with my eyes a bit...ha....and the bee is cool...and catching that little spider on the yellow flower...i like little things like that...

  4. This post was quite interesting and meaningful. I love the photos all of them. You have a way with words that keeps me interested until the last word is read. Have a blessed day. Madeline

  5. I enjoyed your post, especially the little teeny tiny spider on the yellow wildflower. I hope you come away from your class with more talents and can't wait to see your photography after! Tina

  6. Loved your photos! You sound like me - I'm always finding something to trip on when, apparently, there is nothing there! ;-) I'm seriously envious of your new camera and lens...my camera served faithfully for thousands of photos but appears now to be on its last leg. Keep those great pics coming!


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