My New Camera and Gear.


I went a little crazy just recently and Christmas and my Birthday came early this year, at least from the perspective of buying stuff for myself.

Nikon sent me information on a new camera, a D7500, the next step up from the one that I have, a D7200, which set the wheels in motion thinking about carrying two cameras instead of just the one. This would expedite in changing out lenses for the shots that I wanted to take especially the long distance ones. The camera was not yet available so I added my name to the list at Precision Camera and within a month, they notified me that the camera was in ready for me to pick up “if I still wanted it”. Who were they kidding. I had the bug and just had to have it.

For those of you who follow my blog know that I take a lot of videos of the Austin Pond Society meetings for which I used a Canon Video camera. This camera only got used once a month at these Meetings for about two hours so I figured that I could use one of the Nikon’s to video the meetings instead. I thought about it knowing that I would take a beating on the trade in but accepted that would happen and went ahead with the deal.

I actually used the D7200 at the last meeting for taking the videos which is entitled “Austin Pond Society Post Pond Tour Meeting, June 19, 2017“. You can view the videos by clicking on the link. The only problem is the sound content is not too good and I need to purchase a mic that sits on top of the camera to clear that up and of course I have to remember that it will only run in twenty minute segments. It does take a lot more concentration and attention using this as a video camera in order to stay focused or to zoom in and such. Still, it was a good trade for me.

My goto lens is a Tamron 16-300 which enables me to take close up Macro shots as well as the medium long distance ones but it still lacks the real distance that can be achieved by a true long distance zoom lens. I knew that Tamron also made a 150-600 telescopic lens which would give me that extra length of distance that I wanted and so I really got the bug to add this lens to my collection. As I had nothing left to trade, I had to bite the bullet and pay full price or at least the price after shopping around on the many Photographic Gear websites that are out there. I ended up getting it from Beach Camera with an almost $300 discount. True to their word, the lens arrived within 5 days with the shipping paid for which I deemed to be pretty good service. The lens is heavy at 5 lbs and will take a bit of getting used to plus it is 17 inches long with the hood. Balance and shake will be the problem.

So now I have a two camera setup which I tested by going on a short hike at Pedernales Falls. More on that in a separate blog yet to be written. The D7200 is attached to the new lens and the new D7500 camera is on the shorter and lighter one as I figured I would be taking more shots with the smaller lens and camera. On the “test”hike, I used a separate over the shoulder bag to carry the D7200 camera and lens which was very inconvenient when I wanted to take shots. It meant stopping, taking the camera out of the bag before even thinking about the shots and as we all know most shots are almost instant in their opportunity and I sure wasn’t going to get any in the time it was taking me. I had the D7500 on my single camera belt as per usual.

It was quite obvious that I needed a double camera carrying set up and I again went on line and purchased one from Cotton Carrier which is also the company from which I got the single carrier belt. There were cheaper ones out there but I wanted the same continuity that I had with the single belt in terms of interchangeability so that I could switch carrying positions if I felt the need.

Obviously this is not me and I used a picture from the Cotton Carrier website just to illustrate the double carrier. In my case, the new long lens and camera are in the same place where he has his camera and my smaller lens and camera are on the bottom where the bino’s are. Mine is black and not camo.

With the little use that I have had with the lens so far, it has produced some spectacular results. At the above mentioned hike at the Duckpond, I did not see with my naked eye the two wild pigs that were on the far side of the pond until I focused in with the new lens and there they were. I was actually focusing on the White Egrets. Notice there also appears to be a Black Vulture sitting with the Egrets.

Then, at home in my own ponds, I was able to take a close up of the Water Hibiscus which was facing the wrong way to take with the shorter lens but came out great from across the pond with the new lens. The wonderful thing about this lens is that it can also bring close ups of things like flowers and birds that are 20 or more feet away.

I’m hoping for great things with this set up with longer shots and much more detail. I can extend the reach of the lens by adding in a 1.4 Teleconverter which will add an additional 200mm to the setup bringing it up to 800mm or even a 2.0 Teleconverter which will double it to 1200. Maybe next week…

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A Walk At McKinney Roughs on 6-11-2017


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A peaceful place….


I found time to take another short walk and decided to head for my most favorite of places to hike and that is McKinney Roughs. Another reason that I wanted to get out was to try out a new camera carrying harness that allows me to carry two cameras at a time and to be able to choose which one based on the shot.

I have just bought a Nikon D7500 which along with my D7200, complement each other. I had a Tamron wide angled lens on one and my 18-300 Tamron telescopic lens on the other. I was able to change cameras depending on the view and the shot I was wanting to take. Another reason that I purchased the second camera was so that I could also use one of them, probably the D7200, to take the place of the video camera that I had that only got used 2 hours per month at the Austin Pond Society Meeting. So, I traded the video camera in taking a huge loss of course, partially to pay for the D7500 as I plan on using the D7200 to take the video of the meeting and the other camera for the still shots.

With all of that said, the D7500 has a few more bells and whistles which I haven’t a clue how to use although I was nicely surprised to find some of the day’s shots already on my cell phone with the Wi-Fi already set up. That’s both good and bad as I will quickly fill up my space allowance on the phone if I don’t control that. “Nuff said about the photography equipment.

I have walked McKinney so many times I rarely need the map but I carry it with me just in case. This time, I decided to walk down Bobcat Ridge to Pine Ridge and then onto Cypress which brought me down close to the river. Cypress and Riverside are beautifully shaded with intermittent views of the river. They are great trails when the weather is dry but get very muddy after any amount of rain. This is also a horse trail and the horses tend to cut up the softer trails after any rain to talk of.

From there, I took Bluff Trail Loop onto Ridge which brought me back to the parking lot. I never saw another hiker out on the trails and the only other people I saw were in the parking lot either getting ready to walk or had just completed their walks. Altogether, I covered 6 miles which is about my normal hiking length nowadays. I took a lot of pictures which I have turned into a slideshow. Most of the pics are of the trails as nearly all of the flowers are over for this season except in the parking lot where the gardens are in full bloom. Still not too many butterflies around yet. Maybe later in the year. I have yet to take any pictures of birds except for the White Egret down by the river. I hear the birds but can never see them. Same is true of any wildlife. I probably make so much noise with my walking poles that any animal type is long gone by the time I get there.

If you are looking for a place to take a hike, McKinney Roughs is the place to go. Most of the trails are shaded and only a couple have steep climbs and the scenery is very beautiful. I highly recommend it.

Below is the slideshow. Enjoy.

A Walk at McKinney Roughs 6-11-2017 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Thoughts on Life – June 13, 2017


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It seems that when I choose to write
unless it is about a hike
or maybe something in the yard
or in the ponds which is not hard
as Nature is a willing guide
showing more than what she hides
and everywhere I choose to look
is another page from her open book
as beauty all around me grows
as the flowers are putting on a show.

What really bothers me
are the things that shape our destiny
as many things we can’t control
are forced upon our very soul
as we have very little say
in the things that happen day to day
as others the decisions make
they claim doing it for our sake
even in this Democracy
it is plain for all to see
that only one percent are doing fine
while the rest of us can only whine
and wait for the next election day
when we hope we have our say
and ours are the guys that make the rules
and we the ones who voted them in
will still be taking it on the chin
as our guys will no better be
than the ones already history.

Now let me see where was I now
as I turn on my computer to read the show
trying to stay abreast of things
looking to see what this day will bring
and reading about the same old stuff
just as though there isn’t enough
of pain and suffering and shootings too
why act this way I haven’t a clue
and Trump and his group more rules rescind
and Nature is taking it on the chin
and the Rich get richer with no help from us
and the sick get sicker with no one to trust
or to give them a helping hand
and the same is true all over the land.

I have stopped looking at the news
it is such a depressing view
to read all about such terrible waste
and Global Warming can’t make a case
the birds and animals and Parks and States
all are starting lose this race
as the idiots in charge keep tearing things down
all because of a billionaire clown
whose only interest is money and fame
and is playing a dangerous game
and has no thought for this Earth
and the damage which can’t be undone
remembered most as the one
The Man Who Let in the Sun.

I refuse to let this bother me
as outside of the window I see
plants and flowers putting on a show
and birds and squirrels some I know
as repeat visitors come to eat seed
at the feeders put out for their needs
and the Koi in the ponds are looking good
and the water is clear just as it should
and my pets are fine and in good health
and I feel good not acting my age
not ready to turn that final page
enjoying my life as best I can
without reading about that horrible man.

Reimer’s Ranch Hogge Trails 5-12-2017


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This pano is of  made up of 10 separate pictures

After changing my mind so many times on the last hike here a few days ago, I finally did hike the Hogge Trails. These are the new trails at this park and as yet, do not show up on any of the maps. This can be a bit intimidating when there is no visual of what lies ahead but the Hogge Trails are essentially a figure eight with the choice of the short trail at around 2 miles and the longer trail which is closer to 3 miles. The Park signs tend to err on the short side and both of my pedometers show longer distances than those marked on the sign posts.  In order to cover the entire set of trails, one has to hike the middle trail twice to complete the figure eight. There is also the trail that leads to the Hogge trails and it adds another 2 miles if you park in the Mountain Bike Parking Lot. By the time I arrived back in the parking lot, I had covered almost 8 miles.

The pictures below are of the Hogge Trails.

Along the way, Mother Nature is celebrating the birth of another Spring with a grand display of flowers. Everywhere you looked, it seemed that it was the habitat for some flower or another. This truly is a wonderful time of the year to be out on the trails.

Flowers at Reimers Ranch 5-12-2017 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Coming out of the Mountain Bike Parking Lot, I took the trail that would lead me to Johnny’s Homestead, named for a structure that once stood on this spot before it burned down. All that remains is the stone chimney and the electric power poles with the power lines still in place.  Then followed a short walk along the Multi Purpose Trail until it branches off to the Hogge Trails, the first part of which crosses the creek that may be called Pogue Creek. Not sure about that. Early in the year around Jan-Feb, this creek is flowing at a good pace but it is now completely dried up at least where the trail crosses it. We could sure use some rain…

DSC_5433From the creek, the trail is a steady uphill climb for over a mile which sure gets the heart pumping and the blood flowing. It levels off where the Hogge Trails begin on the other side of the original boundary fence on the recently donated land. The Hogge Trails are fairly level with just the occasional short hill. Like all hills, they always seem to go up. The pictures below are of the long upward climb to get to  the start of the Hogge Trails.

The last time I was here, a grey fox ran across the road in front of me. This time, a large deer broke cover and scampered off as I approached. As is usual in such circumstances, there is never time to get the camera off the belt and into shooting position. Because I like to use hiking poles to aid with balance and to help propel me along the way, I carry my camera on a Cotton Carrier single camera waist belt with a quick release. It works very well for me but I am never going to get it up in time to take those sort of shots.

I had the trails all to myself not passing or even seeing any other hikers or bikers. I really like the feeling of solitude that one gets from hiking these trails. It was not until I arrived back at the Trailhead did I see other people and most of them were mountain bikers. Another very enjoyable walk before the Texas Heat starts in earnest.

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Walking at McKinney Roughs 6-5-2017


DSC_5375I was desperate to get out on the trails again and after careful consideration opted to hike at McKinney Roughs. I really like the place and the trails are interesting and most of them have a lot of shade. That is always a plus here in Texas when the temperature can be hovering around 100 degrees in the summer. It was only in the 80’s on Saturday and very comfortable for hiking.

The trails were well groomed and it appeared that they had both been mowed and/or levelled to make for good walking. There are some advantages to being older as I paid my $2:00 and chatted to the lady behind the desk for a bit before heading out onto Coyote Road which is pretty much all downhill towards the river. Coyote Road has a trail washout as it connects to Roadrunner so it is not possible to make that complete loop. Instead, I took Riverside and literally followed it all the way alongside the Colorado River.

Just before I hit Riverside, a whole bunch of horses came into view, all of the riders were ladies and all chatting up a storm. We exchanged pleasantries as we passed and I got a few pictures of them. I think we have crossed paths before.

That part of the trail on Riverside is very pleasant although there are not many clear views of the river. Instead of heading back up Riverside, I opted to take Cypress which also runs alongside of the river and again is a very pleasant trail. I found a lone fisherman and walked down to chat with him for a bit. We discussed the fishing and he volunteered he was from Houston on a day trip to Austin with his sons. He had caught two so far and had returned them to the water but was not having much luck at his present site. He bemoaned the fact that his boot had fallen apart and indeed it had as he showed me that the entire sole of the boot had come off. He had it with him and was going to attempt a repair when he got home. I bade him farewell and good luck with his fishing and his shoe repair and continued upwards on Cypress.

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Prior to turning away from the river, I took a few pictures of the river itself and discovered that there were livestock on the opposite bank who had come down to take their fill of the water. Pictures below are of both the river and the livestock.

The Cypress trail when it leaves the river is nothing but an uphill climb even when it branches onto Pine Ridge. In many places, one encounters the man made trail steps to help with the climb. Luckily, it was all under the shade of the trees and actually was very pleasant and not too difficult to manoeuvre.

I followed Pine Ridge until it joined Bobcat Ridge and took that all the way back to the Parking Lot. Again, a lot of it was uphill walking but not overly difficult. On the way back, I was on the side of the park that now has the Zip Line and took a picture of one of the Towers showing people waiting their turn to take the ride. I just missed taking a picture of a couple of them as they were just completing the run as I came into view, accompanied by their screams as they zoomed through the air. It sounded like they were having fun but I think I will leave that to the younger generation and keep my feet firmly on the ground.

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Leaving the Zip Liners behind, I continued along the trail and arrived back in the Parking Lot which was beginning to fill up. A couple of middle aged ladies parked next to me driving a big old truck and one of them got out. She was dressed very nicely and I asked her if she was going hiking dressed like that and with those shoes on. She doubled over laughing and told me she just had to give me a “big ole hug” for making her laugh. I pointed out I was hot and sweaty but she gave me a hug anyway. She said they were going to a wedding and I remembered seeing that one was scheduled when I had gone to the office to pay my fees. Anyway, she made my day. A perfect end to a great hike.

I took lots of pictures of the flowers and trails and have posted them in separate blogs.

Use this link for the Wildflowers https://wordpress.com/post/pondblog2011.mlblogs.com/34817

and this one for the Trails
https://wordpress.com/post/pondblog2011.mlblogs.com/34826

The Wildflowers at Reimers Ranch 5-2-2017


Spring, the most wonderful time of the year when Mother Nature decorates the land with her beautiful paintings as she wields her brush. Enjoy the video taken of the flowers at Milton Reimers Ranch in Travis County.

Reimers Ranch Flowers 5-2-2017 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.