Friday, July 25, 2008

DIY Large Water Feature Results

Well Ladies and Gentlemen today I finally got to spend some time creating a few images from the new large water feature. I am sorry that the picture order from the last blog was a bit mixed up. No matter how I tried to arrange it it seemed to get published in the wrong order. The pond has been up for three days and the local birds and squirrels have discovered that it a great place to stop in for a quick bite to eat and a bath. So here are a few samples for you to peruse.
god's light and love to you all,


DIY Large Water Feature

Well I have been busy. I am slowly sorting out my vacation images a little bit each day. I'm fitting in taking pictures wherever i can amidst doing work around the house. We just completed an archeological dig of one of our closets. It ended up being carbon dated clear back to 1989 when i first moved into this house. I will admit it looks a lot cleaner. The senior center thrift store got some nice stuff out of it too.

Well I wasn't satisfied with my last water feature. It was drawing in the birds but I didn't like its location and the fact that I couldn't always get a full reflection of a bird in it. It got me to thinking it's time to build another big pond like I used to have a couple of years ago. I had it on my neighbors property across the road for several years. When the property sold I had to take it down. They can be taken apart and moved and set up again but I never got around to it so the wood just rotted away.

This water feature is for someone with a yard with plenty of room as it is four feet by eight feet in size. The birds absolutely love it. Once they start using it you will have birds using it through out the day.
Basically the pond is a four by eight sheet of plywood set on top of an old table. An old picnic table will do as will a table picked up cheap from a garage sale.

Step one is to seal a sheet of plywood with varathane, polyurethane or some other type of wood sealer.
Step two is to cut two 1'x4'x8' diagonally lengthwise. One set will be used to make the sides for the pond. the other set will be placed lengthwise on the table to provide some slope for the pond to have a deep end.
The third step is to use some 1" woodscrews to fasten the sides and the deep end piece of 1"x4" to the plywood. This is a little tricky because you have to screw them down from the backside of the plywood. Be careful when you get to the shallow end that you don't go all the way through with the wood screws.
Step number four is to place the other set of diagonal 1"x4"s lengthwise on the table. The thick or fat end will be the shallow end.Now put the plywood on top of the wood pieces. Carefully cover it with black visquen plastic and fill it with water. If your table isn't level here you may have to add some small wedges or pieces of wood to help level it up. You want the water to hit right on the brim of the deep end of the pond. You can get better reflections this way.
Step number five is to place rocks all around the edges of the pond. Place two of your biggest rocks at the front corners to hide the sides of the pond. Place the rest of the bigger rocks across the back to provide a backdrop.
The last and final step is step six. Fill in between the rocks with what rocks and gravel you have left over. Then place a thin layer of the smallest gravel and sand across the center to cover up the bottom of the pond.
From here you can add plants, sticks,moss and any other natural looking thing you can think of. I attach a platform feeder to the side and fill it with black sunflower seed. On the other side I put a bowl of henscratch. I keep this away from the water as they tend to kick it around and knock corn into the water.
I set up my blind about six feet away from the deep end of the pond and i set my tripod height so that it is about two inches above water level. you can go lower but the water will sometimes look milky when you get that low.
This is a fun project. what's nice about it is that you can move it if you have to. First pick of all the big rocks. then get a flat shovel and just shovel he gravel and smaller rocks into five gallon buckets. with someones help you can easily move the plywood and the table to a new location and et it up again.
One final tidbit. I keep a hose with a small valve and a clear plastic line going from my blind to the pond. That way when I'm shooting if the ponds water level goes down too much I can add water without disturbing the birds.

God's blessings and love to all,


Thursday, July 10, 2008

DIY The Most Comfortable Blind Ever

Greetings from smoke filled Northern California,

Yes, it's true. I have a blind that has a TV, fridge and a computer w/ internet. It's also heated. On top of that it has the most comfortable chair I have ever used in a blind. So before you think I'm nuts. (I know many of you do) Let me state simply that the most comfortable blind in the world is the office inside my house. Quite simply I do a good percentage of my bird photography right out the back window of my house. I place my rolling feeder in appropriate lighting with a good background right next to my office window. There are holes drilled in the rolling feeder in which to place branches of different types for perches for the birds to land on.

To create a blind out of one of your windows can be as simple as tacking up a piece of fabric over the window with a hole in it for your camera. I like something a little more secure so I use a piece of 1/8" masonite that is cut to the window size.
To create it I first measure the window and then cut the board to size. I then tape pieces of strips of towel around the outside perimeter of the masonite to keep the windowsill from geting scratched up. Following that I sit down in front of the board with my tripod set up with me sitting in the chair I intend to use for shooting out of. This gives me a really good idea of where to mark the opening that I need to cut in the masonite for shooting. I then cut the opening and then place it back in the window to see if it works ok. Sometimes i may need to modify the opening with further cuts. The last and final step is to tape a piece of netting or batting hanging from the top just above the hole to cover the hole up. I like to cut it in about 2" wide strips.

The flat board fits easily behind the door or it can be stored in the garage or basement ready for use. You can also cut extras for different windows in your house to shoot from.

God's blessings to all,


Monday, July 7, 2008

DIY Dragonfly Pond

Hi to all,
Just returned from a well needed vacation. Now I have more photo work than I know what to do with. I have well over two thousand images to sort through. Luckily a lot of them are family vacation pictures some of which will be good enough to add to my stock files. Thanks to willing family nonprofessional models. They're cheap. Well, maybe not now that I think about how much the vacation cost my wife and I.

I hope everyone out there is being creative and taking fantastic images. Yesterday i hit upon a cheap dragonfly pond that has been sitting under my nose for over two years. My children have a kiddie pool that they have long outgrown. They have been using it to save pollywogs from our real backyaed pond that has a small waterfall. The pollywogs get caught in the pump. So my son and daughter have been tranfering them to the kiddie pool for the last two springs. They keep it full and we have a lot of tree frogs hatch out. Now lo and behold this cheap pond has been attracting dragonflies like crazy. I could never figure out how to photograph them. The flew all around the pond and would never land. When they did land it was always in some difficult place to shoot. High up in the trees or on the ground.

My brain finally hit upon a solution. Give the dragonflys a place to land! I found a small tree branch and a few bricks. I put the bricks in the water to prop up the stick. I went over to the patio table sat down and waited. Within a few minutes a dragonfly circled the little branch a few times and then settled down and landed. He began to shoot out now and then to grab an insect out of the air. But he always came back and settled down onto the stick again.

I was in business. I took a chair and taped a colored piece of tagboard to it as a backdrop. I then set it behind the pond and sat down in a chair and waited. I shot a wide variety of images in less than an hour. As it turns out the dark siding on our house works well as a background pretty well too.

So those of you out there that might want to photograph dragonflys in your back yard an old kiddie pool might just do the trick. If you live on a ranch or a farm maybe prop up a stick in your livestocktank. A word of safety here. Plastic wading pools could be a hazard for toddlers and young children. Please keep them in a locked fenced area away from children. Another point to consider is mosquitos. We put mosquito fish in ours to keep the little buggers from breeding in it. The last thing you want to do is create a mosquito hatchery for your neighborhood.

My next plan of attack is to try putting a stick out at one of my favorite dragonfly shooting spots at a nearby lake. I'll let you know how that goes.

God's blessings to all,