Year 6: Seriously, 6 whole years?

Yes seriously, 6 whole years

Date 1 January 2023 | Category Days in Pictures, Thoughts about Things

I’m not going to spew out a bunch of numbers and stats like I did last year, because in some ways this whole photography thing feels like a different journey now. I’ve made a bunch of changes in my workflow, in my habits and, not least, in my equipment. Which is nice, and that’s what I want to talk about! After all, isn’t that the point of journeys, to change and grow?

First: until just a couple months ago I was transferring photos from my camera to my phone, editing them there, then posting to Instagram. This is an old habit from when I shot my daily photos on my phone and just posted them from there. Getting a real camera just added one step to that process, and it took me literal years to realise I’d have a much better time working off my laptop, bypassing my phone completely. Faster transfer, bigger screen, better editing tools. Well hey, we live and learn!

Also, I recently chose to break one of the basic rules of my daily photo challenge: namely, that I had to post photos on the same day I took them—no saving up photos for later. It made sense back then: I wanted to be strict and keep up my rhythm, plus I only took one (or just a few) photos a day. Easy! But (a) I have the rhythm now, nothing can take it away from me, and (b) that scheme gets really rough when I take hundreds of photos in a day, and then sort through all of them to post what I want before going to bed, no matter how many hours that takes. The breaking point was a weekend in November where I shot over 1,100 photos at the Reifel Bird Sanctuary, then went to a party, and then had to get up early for a volleyball tournament, leaving me almost no time to do any posting.

So for the first time, I decided to post just a couple, and then do the rest after the tournament. It was bound to happen sooner or later, really. Though I’ll tell you: I’m proud of how long I’ve stuck with this rule, and I’m glad I was able to break it on my own terms. I do plan to keep it up when reasonable! Which will still be most days, minus maybe some bird outings—and my upcoming trip to Vienna and Prague. I got way too little sleep in Paris last May, pulling this stunt day after day. Not happening again.

And finally, gear! Yes, I got new gear: a 100–400mm telephoto lens in February, then a 1.4 teleconverter in the fall, giving me an effective focal length range of 140–560mm! The lens is pretty big and awkward, and the vastly increased focal length is a bit of a learning process, but I’m getting some awesome photos, so it’s totally worth it!

(Oh, I guess I got to spew out numbers after all.)

January 3: Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Chestnut-backed Chickadee

I’d been hearing about Chestnut-backed Chickadees hanging around Lost Lagoon but I’d never seen them for myself, and that made me 😢. I didn’t give up hope though, and the day after coming back from Ottawa I set out again for Lost Lagoon. This time I was rewarded by a mixed flock of Black-capped and Chestnut-backed Chickadees foraging together out in the open. And that made me 🥳.

January 29: American Coot
American coot face

No freaky coot feet this time but a head, complete with creepy red eyes, weird pointy three-toned bill, and that facial shield dealie. A coot coming right up to humans is pretty unusual behaviour even at Reifel, but who am I to refuse a closeup?

January 29: Golden-crowned Sparrow
Golden-crowned sparrow

Is that a stogie or a sunflower seed? I report, you decide.

February 12: Artsy Steller’s Jay
Steller's Jay

Turns out there are a bunch of Steller’s Jays around Beaver Lake. It’s a bit more of a trek, but worth it for these blue beauties!

The light and depth of field are a bit odd in this photo, but I’m kinda into it! Super artsy and expressive.

March 10: Anna’s Hummingbird
Anna's hummingbird

This isn’t an aggressive move, he’s just stretching.

March 15: American Bushtit

Sometimes the birbs are kind enough to sit still! I was able to take a bunch of excellent photos in those bushes at the edge of George Wainborne Park by the seawall, but this is by far my favourite. I could get lost in her stern, pale eyes! I love those weird red leaves too, they make for beautiful contrast with the neutral grey plumage.

That was also the day I saw the first White-crowned Sparrow of the season. You know spring has officially started when white-crowns return to the seawall!

March 19: Northern Harrier
Northern Harrier

My first decent Harrier photo! After I took this photo she banked and flew right above me, but I was too entranced / panicked to take another shot.

March 26: Beaded Wood Duck
Wood Duck, male

The light wasn’t ideal that day, but I ended up taking a bunch of really excellent photos: Wood Ducks, Teals, Coots, sparrows, plus one super fluffy pigeon. This is my favourite of all of them.

March 26: Mountain Bluebird
Mountain Bluebird male

After Piper Spit my birding partner and I drove to the west end of Burnaby Lake Park, and started hitting the trails there. It was drizzling a bit but we were rewarded by a lovely Mountain Bluebird couple. A lifer for both of us!

April 2: Ruby-crowned Kinglet flashing its ruby crown

I’d seen these teeny little birbs before, but only one at a time, and I’d always missed their namesake red crests, which aren’t always visible. But on this day my attention was caught by a handful of little red dots flitting to and fro between a couple of trees along Lost Lagoon, and I knew I’d hit the jackpot. I armed myself with patience, vigilance, and my 400mm lens, and was rewarded by some fantastic shots!

April 2: Yellow-rumped Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler

And as a cherry on top of the kinglet cake, I encountered a couple of “butterbutts” by that little pond near the bridges. Excellent real estate for these colourful bug eaters!

April 16: Savannah Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow

Hey, it’s been a while! Over two+ years I only took a few photos of these gorgeous contrasty little guys, and always under bad light (either smoke or clouds). But this photo was worth the wait! Also it turns out Boundary Bay is their stomping grounds, and you can find them there pretty reliably.

April 26: Sunset Beach × 2
Sunset Beach and West End, reflected

I just really like this place.

May 7: Common Chaffinch in Paris
Common Chaffinch

My first French birb! Well, I guess that was probably some House Sparrows or pigeons or something, but they don’t count!

May 7: Île-Saint-Louis
Notre Dame and Île-Saint-Louis

Gawd I love this view: The little park where I saw the Chaffinch (Square Barye); Notre Dame in the distance, still under repair; the ritzy apartment blocks of Île-Saint-Louis; and finally, the river and the bridges. I always love a good water shot.

May 9: Pont Neuf and Île-de-la-Cité
Pont Neuf

And here’s the view from the other side, taken from Pont des Arts on my way to the Eiffel Tower.

May 9: golden hour from the Eiffel Tower
Paris sunset

Hôtel des Invalides, Notre Dame, and the City of Lights surrounding them. I love urban textures!

May 12: Mont Saint-Michel
Mont Saint-Michel

My gawd this place is amazing. I want to go back someday to explore the countryside, its birbs, and different photographic perspectives on the town.

May 15: Château de Chenonceau
Château de Chenonceau

The castle is beautiful, but this shot is kind of depressing. The river’s water level is so low! France (indeed, much of Europe) was going through a massive heatwave & drought, and it even felt like the sun was too bright that day. Maybe that was just me?

May 15: Château de Cheverny
Château de Cheverny

An adorable little château!

May 15: Château de Chambord

I remember visiting this place back in ’79 and not being too impressed, but that’s totally changed now! I couldn’t decide which photo to post to showcase my new love for this weird castle, so you get both.

May 16: Eurasian Jay in Montmartre Cemetery

This weird, elegant bird with the fancy moustache came as a total surprise to me! So far it’s been my only encounter with them, but I’m looking forward to more.

August 26: High-contrast Cormorant

I thought this was a neat picture when I took it, but it got a surprisingly huge reaction on my socials. The more I see it, the more I love it. That’s how it works, sometimes, right?

September 11: American Bushtit in green

I know, there’s already a bushtit pic in this retrospective, but this one feels so special too. I can’t quite put my finger on it: is it the busy green background? is it the action, scruffy little birb quickly feeding? Is it the thrill of seeing bushtits at Reifel for the first time? All of the above, I guess.

September 24: Floating Red-tailed Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk

I wish I could have gotten a closer shot, but this was the limit of my gear, back then. Well, plus some cropping. I’m posting it both for the amazing photo it is, and a promise of better ones in the years to come.

November 5: Golden-crowned Kinglet
Golden-crowned Kinglet

My first good photo of these little guys since Christmas 2020, and it’s a doozy!

November 5: Black-capped Chickadee
Black-capped Chickadee

There’s just something about this photo I can’t quite put my finger on. It’s a simple profile, but so cute and exquisitely detailed!

November 5: Anna’s Hummingbird glare
Anna's Hummingbird

The closest I’ve ever been to a hummingbird!

November 12: Ring-necked Duck stare
Ring-necked Duck

I was never really happy with the few photos I took of Ring-necked Ducks… But on that day at Reifel, I finally took a bunch of excellent photos of the ring-necks lazily swimming back and forth. This one is my favourite: the angry, hypnotic yellow eyes glaring right at me, the distinctive bill, the beads of water on the head… just perfect.

December 15: Immature male Anna’s
Anna's Hummingbird

This was a great series, showing an adolescent male just growing out his face bling. It’s a nice sequel to a previous photo, showing that I can build on what I have before, with better results!

December 15: Junco in that good light
Dark-eyed Junco

These little critters are not easy to shoot! So many of my shots end up blurry, or empty because it hopped away at the last microsecond. Not this time, though! And I have to thank the late afternoon almost-winter sun for providing just the right ambience!

December 26 & 29: Northern Cardinals

Last year’s cardinal shots, with my old gear, were all right, but these are a major glow-up! I only get to see these gorgeous red birbs when I come back for the holidays, and I’m so glad I got to capture them again to cap off the year.

Incidentally, I used to be down on the females’ outfits compared to the males’, but they are just as gorgeous! Warm gold with ermine-covered tummies and red leather highlights. Very classy and chic!

And now I’m thinking about what comes next. People have occasionally told me I need to sell my photos, or do calendars, or something! I don’t really know where to start, and that’s a bit scary, but this feels like a “next-level” transition I need to jump into. In the meantime, I’m redesigning my blog to better showcase my best photos. We’ll see what 2023 brings!

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