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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Hiking at Pedernales Falls 10-23-2016


dsc_4303I decided that I wanted to go walking and this time, I chose to walk at Pedernales Falls State Park as I hadn’t been there in a while. After my usual preparations of packing fruit and water bottles and making sure that the cats are safely in their own room away from Richie, one of my male Dachshunds who, in the past has inflicted damage to both of them., I was ready to go.

The route that I take to get to the Park is usually along Fitzhugh Road until it crosses Route 12 and then continues on as West Fitzhugh Road. These are country roads and if I am lucky, I sometimes get to see Mother Nature at her best. Today was one of those days as I drove along and was about a mile from the Route 12 junction when I spotted something in the field off to my right. I am well used to seeing Buzzards collected around a dead animal but this did not look like a buzzard. For one thing, it had an all white head and neck which showed up very well as the bird was taking a long look at the road. I would say that it was about fifty feet inside the field and very visible.

I wanted to stop but there were cars behind me so I had to keep going until I found a place to turn around which I did making my way back to where I had seen the bird. My intentions were to take pictures but just as I was pulling up, the bird, who was still looking at the road, took off. Needless to say, my camera was still on the car seat and the car was still moving with not a hope in hell of taking pictures. The bird, no more than fifty feet from me was very visible and I could clearly see the white tail feathers as it flew off. I could not believe what I was seeing as it had to be a Bald Eagle. I didn’t know there were any around this part of Texas with the nearest ones at Lake Buchanan. I marveled at my good fortune in spotting this beautiful bird as it flew off but cursed under my breath that I had not gotten any pictures.

I continued on my way and hadn’t gone very far when a grey fox ran out in front of me as it bounded over to the other side of the road. It had a tail that was so bushy it was almost as big as its body. Again, no hope of a picture. I finally reached the Park entrance without seeing any more of Natures wonders, paid my money and headed to the Wolf Mountain Parking area.

Being a Sunday with cooler weather, as expected the parking area was pretty full so I knew that I would meet a lot of people on the trail. I first chose to hike the Juniper Ridge Trail and got as far as the turn off before changing my mind and decided to walk the South Loop Equestrian Trail instead. I hoped to see horses and was in luck when a group of them came by. There were eight in all, the most I have ever seen on any trail at one time. Further on down the trail, I met up with two pretty young ladies both on huge horses and looking very comfortable in the saddle. The last two proved to be the only others that I saw on this day.

I met a lot of hikers going in both directions. I should say that anyone going in the same direction as myself would very quickly pass me as I am so slow. Even though in my mind, I am making a good pace, everyone and I mean everyone has no trouble passing me. My only excuse is that I stop to take pictures but the real truth is I just don’t have any speed anymore. Many of the hikers agreed to letting me take their pictures and others I snapped as they walked away from me. One couple went by me early on the South Loop Trail with full backpacks containing a tent and full sleeping equipment. They were training for a long overnight hike . I didn’t envy them as those backpacks were huge and looked very heavy.dsc_4283

I didn’t stay on the South Loop and when it crossed Windmill Road, I took it towards Wolf Mountain. I knew that the Wolf Mountain Trail would be easy walking compared to some I had covered on the South Loop and for the homeward trip, thought it made the most sense. I passed another couple coming up Windmill Road who also had on pretty heavy looking backpacks. We exchanged greetings as we passed and I headed on to my way home. It seemed that I was the Trail Guide for the day as several of the groups and pairs that I met asked me for trail directions. Luckily, I have been there so many times and have learned the trails the hard way by getting lost, that I was pretty much able to put them on the right trail. There were not very many flowers blooming at this park although I did come across a cedar bridge that had been built into the trail and also one of the trees had this huge growth that made it look like something from another world.

On the way back along Wolf Mountain Trail, there were several people just heading out. It was around 4:30 pm and they still had a couple of hours of daylight, enough to walk the Wolf Mountain Trail and back. One man and his daughter let me take their picture as they branched off towards the Camping Area. Later, they caught back up with me and the wife and son came to meet them and we sort of all cruised in together into the Parking Area.

Along the trail, I came across a large pile of stones that some enterprising person(s) had very carefully stacked together.

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Altogether, I covered 9.5 miles and made really good time. I was able to add quite considerably to the Aerobic steps recorded on my pedometer. Makes a huge difference when it is not 100 degrees outside. Today, the temperature was around 82 degrees and much more bearable. Walking Wolf Mountain Trail also made a difference as some of the other trails are not very wide and are rocky and uneven and hard to walk on let alone do it at any speed.

The one thing that is very noticeable now that we are into the Fall season is that this park looks very drab as compared to those on the East side of Austin. Even the greens are not very bright and of course the Cedars always look drab which is what ninety five percent of the vegetation is at this Park. Altogether though, it was a very enjoyable experience and I can’t wait to get back here again.

Pedernales Falls State Park 8-2-2016


DSC_3570-PanoI got up early so that I could beat the Texas summer heat but even so, it was still 10:00 am by the time I arrived at Pedernales Falls State Park. I already had an idea of where I wanted to hike this time and after buying my ticket and chatting to the friendly Park Rangers for a bit, drove back out onto  Pedernales Falls Road to park in the area across from Windmill Road.

DSC_3528My plan was to walk down Windmill Road past the Equestrian Camping Area, cross the pipeline and head towards Jones Spring. Walking on Windmill Road was easy as it was a park road although I am not sure how much traffic it gets. I branched off onto the Jones Spring trail and followed it for about a mile and a half. Some of the trail was easy walking but in many spots, it was really rocky which made walking  difficult.

I arrived at the old building first where I took a few pictures and then wandering over to the Spring which was bubbling away and releasing a lot of water.

As to be expected, the area surrounding the spring was lush and green and it really is a pretty little site. Amazing to think how long people have been using this Spring as their source of water and what stories it could tell if only it was able.

I had just bought a new vacuum bottle to keep my personal water cool as it had been heating up in my aluminum bottles as I walked and was nearly undrinkable. The vacuum bottle was so efficient that I had consumed more water than I normally drink and it was half empty. I should have re-filled it at the Spring but like I said, my brain had stopped working… It could have been a costly mistake as I ran out before I got back to my car and if it hadn’t been for the two apples that I had brought with me, I would have been in serious trouble as hot as it was.

But, I get ahead of myself. I wanted to hike back by taking the East Boundary Trail but was unable to locate where it started from Jones Spring. The map shows that it is close to the Spring but I could not find it. I backtracked to Windmill Road and then branched off onto Juniper Ridge Trail going East and followed it until I came to the pipeline. I could have continued on the Madrone Trail but it was beginning to warm up and I knew my water situation might become critical.

Below are pictures of the Pipeline and of Windmill Road. See how open they both are. No shade anywhere…

I only had one other choice at that time and it was to walk the pipeline back to Windmill Road, a distance of about a mile and a half. I dislike walking on the pipeline as there are no real trails as it is not included in the trail system. The walking can be tricky and the hills are really pronounced probably because you can see straight up and down them with no trees to block the view. There are no meandering trails that wind back and forth to take the edge off the direct ups and downs. And there is no cover at all. It is direct sunlight all the way and yesterday, it was bloody hot.

By now, all of the water was gone as was one of the apples. I walked up Windmill Road after getting off the pipeline and came to the Equestrian Camping area that I thought might have water. They did but I could not figure out how to turn it on. I could not find the shut off valve even though I knew it had to be very close. There was a trough full of the cool clear stuff and for a moment, I was sorely tempted to take a drink out of it but instead, sat under a tree and ate my remaining apple which I knew would sustain me as I was now less than half a mile from my car. Physically I felt fine except for dry lips and Vaseline Lip Balm took care of that but I certainly did not want to push my luck.

This is a picture of Wolf Mountain taken from Windmill Road

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I finished the walk and broke out onto Pedernales Falls Road which I only had to cross to get back to the car. I used my new found remote starter trick that BJ had shown me to get the car running so that it would cool a bit as I walked towards it. I was sitting on the tailgate and two more cars pulled in. I try to always bring a change of clothing as I sweat a lot and am usually totally soaked by the time I finish a hike. Even my leather belt changes color with the moisture it picks up from my shorts. Sorta has that wet look.

I toweled off and changed into drier clothes and headed back inside the Park to the Headquarters to buy a bottle of Gatorade to replace the electrolytes I had burned up. I have absolutely no idea if the stuff does any good  but it was really cold and went down very smoothly.

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I really enjoyed the walk and covered almost 9 miles, 8.6 to be exact. There is something about being out alone with Nature on the trails surrounded by the greens and browns of the Texas countryside. Back in civilization, I stopped at Whole Earth Provision Company and purchased another vacuum bottle, this one a little bigger than the first. Now I have two which should carry me over for future walks and I can even bring hot coffee in the winter time.

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As with all of these pictures, you can click on them to make them bigger and then use the side arrows to move them along. Use the “Escape” key to get back to normal.

A Really Long Walk at Pedernales Falls 6-25-2016


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Wolf Mountain Trail showing Wolf Mountain.

I drove to Pedernales Falls which is about an hour from my house thinking as I drove about what trails I wanted to hike. It was about 1:00 pm when I arrived and was already hot so I opted to walk on one of the easier trails which is actually more like a road than a trail in the accepted sense of the word.

Wolf Mountain Trail is probably 25 feet wide in most of it’s length and it is the trail that leads to the primitive camping sites. Along the way, it crosses three different creeks, Regal, Bee and Mescal and it you walk far enough around the back of Wolf Mountain, it also crosses Tobacco Creek. At first, I had planned to just walk as far as the primitive camp sites and then double back and walk home to the car park but I felt good and once I got off the main trail, the trails were pretty shaded so I continued on around the back of Wolf Mountain. Incidentally, I didn’t see a single camper in the primitive sites, no tents or other signs that anyone was there.

I passed several hikers and bikers all going in the opposite direction of course and took a few pictures of them. There were others who I did not capture on camera as I circled the mountain. I came across an old stone house and a long length of stone walls. I wonder what stories they can tell and how long it took to build them by hand. Even just collecting the rocks must have been quite a process.

On the trail back, I kept a good steady pace (for me) even though it was hot and as usual, I was totally soaked in sweat. I made it safely back to the car after having covered ten and a half miles.

As with all of these pictures, if you click on any one of them, it will enlarge and you can use the side arrows to move along. Use the “Escape” key to get back to normal.

Pedernales on June 22, 2016


DSC_3119Another hike at Pedernales brought on by my desire to get out and about.  This time, I drove into the Wolf Mountain Trail Parking Lot and then opted to take the North Loop Equestrian Trail for a bit before branching off to the East Boundary Trail travelling South. I followed this for about a mile and then took the trail that I thought would lead me back to the parking lot. However, I managed to take the wrong trail and cut back too soon meaning that I backtracked over the same trail more than I had originally anticipated.

I still ended up back at the parking lot but cut a little of my planned hike. I walked a total of 4 miles on another hot day with some shade provided by the cedars so it was not all bad. Interestingly enough, the trail was still quite wet in places as the water continued to drain down from the higher areas. At one point, I came across a solitary egg, deposited on the ground. There was no nest and no sign of any bird watching over it. A bit of a mystery.

I got some great pictures of the wonderful views and many of the various types of trail that I walked. An enjoyable couple of hours out walking.

As with all of these pictures, if you click on any one of them, it will enlarge and you can use the side arrows to move along. Use the “Escape” key to get back to normal.

 

A Short Walk at Pedernales Falls Park


DSC_1541I had two reasons for taking this short walk at Pedernales Falls State Park the other day. One, of course was just to get out in the countryside and exercise my legs and take a few pictures along the way. I have been restricted in my walking due to the pond remodelling that I have just completed.

The other reason was to check with the Staff to see if by chance, my missing sunglasses had turned up. For those of you following my blogs, I lost them after I took a wrong turn on the trail and ended up walking in the dark and some kind people that happened to drive by, gave me a lift back to my car. I mislaid them in their car and had no way to contact the owners. Unhappily for me, they had not shown back up so I think it is time for me to bite the bullet and buy a new pair. As they were prescription glasses, I am probably looking at $500 or thereabouts to replace them. Pretty expensive way to get lost on the trail…

DSC_1514Back to the hike. To be truthful, I wasn’t really in a hiking mood but as I was at the Park, did not want to waste the opportunity so I opted for just a short hike to the Duck Pond after parking in the Horse Paddock Parking Area. From there, I headed to the West fenceline and followed it for a couple of miles until eventually, it came back out to where I had parked my car at the Horse Paddock Parking Area. Altogether, I covered about 4 1/2 miles and enjoyed every minute of it. I noticed that compared to where I live, a mere 30 miles to the East, the trees were not as far along with their re-budding process and did not have the foliage that we already have back in Austin.

There were a few flowers bravely showing their pretty heads to the world and some interesting cactus and as always, a few ducks on the Pond and of course, the grass was much greener than the last time I was there.

When I got back to my car, I headed back towards the river and decided to take the short walk and get some more pictures. The Falls are pretty impressive as they spill over the steep inclines for more than several hundred yards. Several people were actually walking around on the Falls but I declined from making that particular climb down preferring instead, to take pictures of those hearty souls who had made it.

All in all, it was a very enjoyable day and I am glad that I took the walks even though the old body was protesting the entire time. Actually, it was more of a mental thing as physically, I felt fine. Can’t wait for the next one which will probably be to a different park.

I Finally Crossed the River.


Pedernales Falls State Park 2-11-2016.

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Trammell’s Crossing, Pedernales Falls State Park.

I stopped into the office to pay my $3.00 and as I do nowadays, asked the usual question of, “Has anyone handed in any sun glasses”. The young Ranger behind the desk came back with 8-10 pairs and my heart leaped as I thought I saw mine among them but no, mistaken identity and again, mine were not there.  The only way mine will show up is if the people that gave me a ride that night would bring them back to this park and it doesn’t look like that is going to happen.

I had already made up my mind after the last hike at Pedernales Falls State Park that I was going to wade the river and hike the Trammell’s Crossing Trail. The only way to get to the other side of the river is to get your feet wet or drive and as private vehicles are not allowed to drive across, it looks like it’s the get the feet wet routine. Trammell’s Crossing is a single slab of granite that spans the river in this particular spot. It is wide enough that the Park Personnel use it to ford the river when they need to drive their vehicles to the other side. It is quite possible to walk across and although the water is about mid calf, enough to get wet feet and socks, very easily wadeable. The only concern is the flow of the water which is quite strong. I found the best and easiest way is very slow steps almost like an ice skater sliding the foot across the tops of the rocks. This keeps the water pressure on the leg down to a minimum.

I tried to cross in a couple of other places a little further upstream but could not find enough rocks to step on and had to turn back both times. I noticed another hiker crossing at the real Trammell’s Crossing and made my way down the trail towards her. She was drying off her feet when I got to her and we stopped and chatted for a while. She sounded like she was a very experienced hiker and mentioned a couple of places I should try. She told me that she had come in from Waco and was camping at the park.

Immediately on crossing the river, my first thought was to stop and dry off my feet and change socks. Then I realized that my leather boots which were also soaked would quickly make the fresh pair of socks wet so I opted to keep walking. It actually was not a bit uncomfortable and did help keep my feet cooler.

The first part of the trails is on a badly decomposing asphalt hill which is pretty steep until it begins to level out near the top. From that point on, the trails were a mixture of grass, rocks and plain old dirt and like all trails had both ups and downs. All of the trails on this side of the river are wide enough for the Park vehicles and made for easy walking. I opted to cover the whole set of trails and to do this, I had to hike figure of eights covering the middle trail twice each time. Using this method, I covered all of the marked trails on this hike.

At the northernmost end, there is a short trail that leads to the Scenic Overlook Trail. Although the view was spectacular, it did not show much more than the other side of the valley along with the thousands of Juniper trees. You could not even see the river from there. I rested for a while before heading back. On the way back, I followed a little used trail which opened up to a view of the river. Quite spectacular.

In one place, there is  the remains of an old stone wall and I can’t help thinking of the hours of hard physical labor that went into gathering the rocks and then stacking them into a wall. At another place on the 5.5 Mile Loop Spur Trail, there are remnants of an old corral, I guess used to hold the steers and cows after they were rounded up.

Back on the main trail, I followed down the 5.5 Mile Loop Spur Trail and by hiking the short dividing trail for a second time, I was able to get back to Trammell’s Crossing where I cooled off my feet one more time as I crossed the river. The climb up the wide trail back to the car was again pretty steep or maybe at that point, the old body was getting tired. I made it back and spent some time drying off and this time had a dry pair of socks and shoes to change into. it was already 5:20 pm and I had been out hiking since 12:30 pm, almost 5 hours of walking. I covered about 11.5 miles by my pedometer which got me thinking. According to the map, this trail is 5.5 miles long so somehow, I managed to double its length. I can account for some with covering two trails twice (on purpose this time) which according to the map, adds up to almost 1 additional mile and then walking down to the crossing from where the car was parked has got to be almost 3/4 of a mile so add on another 1 1/2 miles but the sum total is still only 8 miles and somehow, I added an additional 3 miles to that.

My walking distance is based on a 29 inch step so if another taller person took say a 33 inch step, based on the pedometers readings, would cover more distance than me over the same number of steps. No wonder I am always bringing up the rear on every hike I take with my friends. I could take this a bit further and say that because I take more steps, I walk further than my friends do. Probably though,  if we all had our own pedometers as I do, then the end mileage should be the same although the number of steps would be different.

There are not many trails left for me to cover at Pedernales Falls. I can take a look at the Twin Falls Nature trail and Warfie’s Trail and that just about wraps it up.

If you click on any picture, it will make each one full size. Use the side arrows to move them. Hit the “Escape” key to get back.