Friday, February 10, 2012

Shooting through a fence tips

If you saw my bird photos two posts ago, you will  know how much I lamented about shooting through chain link and chicken wire fencing. 

I tried  switching to my camera's manual mode to get the above photo, sans fencing grid, even though I was shooting a few feet in front of the wire fencing. It took a few tries, and a tripod would have helped, but manual shooting mode (instead of auto focus /easy) did work for me. 

It was strictly an experimental photo session, I learned as I went by trial and error.  Not such a bad way to learn if one has the time and patience, and are willing to shoot a lot of shots.

Sometimes the fence even served to create a cool shadow and back ground effect like in this picture:

A while ago I learned that DSLR cameras only have around 100,000 shots that they will take before the shutter will stop working and will need replacing (at around $200 for a Canon Rebel).

There is a way to find out how many times you have clicked your camera's shutter...which is probably a good thing to know before heading out for a vacation of life time or a once in a life time event.

After finding out this information I have stopped doing  "spray and pray" photography and now while I still do trial-and-error sessions, I am trying to limit those by studying up a bit.

Two weeks after my fenced aviary visit my free subscription on-line photography school sent the following tips on shooting through a fence in their weekly email. 
 I thought the tips were so easy to understand and remember that I decided they were worth sharing:
  1. Switch to Manual Focusing – one challenge you may face shooting through any kind of fence is that your camera may not know what to focus on – the fence or the object behind it. Switch to manual focus mode and you’ll be in complete control of what is in and out of focus.
  2. Get close the the Fence – ideally your best bet is to try to make the fence so out of focus that it can be barely seen in your shot. To do this one strategy is to get up very close to the fence – so close your lens has no chance of focusing on it. It may not be possible to be right up against a fence (shooting a lion at the zoom may mean you have other barriers in place for your own safety) but the closer the better.
  3. Use a Large Aperture – choose a large aperture (making the number of your aperture as small as possible) will help to narrow the depth of focus and will hopefully through the lens even further out of focus.
  4. Wait Until your Subject is away from the fence – if your subject is moving around behind the fence – wait until they are a little further back from the fence to take the shot. The closer they are to the fence the more the fence will be in focus.
  5. Position Your Lens to Shoot Through Larger Gaps – This one isn’t rocket science – but if the fence has largish openings you’ll do better to position these gaps in the middle of your frame.
  6. Avoid Reflections – if shooting through a part of a fence where there are reflections from the sun or other lights coming off the fence you’ll find the fence will become even more noticeable. As a result try to find a part of the fence that is shaded – or get someone to stand in a way that casts a shadow on the fence.
  7. Incorporate the fence into your composition – it may be that the fence can become an important part of your composition – so consider breaking all the above rules to try that out!

  8. There is a link to the school really should consider subscribing to this free tutorial site! It has become a weekly highlight for me, as the email contains easy to understand tips on photography composition, camera techniques, post production work, camera gear and a weekly challenge to get your creative juices stirred up. Plus some really terrific pictures to look at too.

    Read more by clicking HERE
    Added bonus: The reader's comments offer a few more terrific tips. Be sure to check them out!

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Never give up!

For the past 20 years, I have been searching for a special document.
It should have been a simple matter; I was just trying to finding a document that would link a person named Reason Spriggs to his son Elijah.

Alternatively, I was looking for some kind of written record that would link the name Elijah Spriggs to his father Reason.

Why did I want to find such a document?
Because Reason, born in 1766,  is my husband's great, great, great, great Grandfather.

I have found documentation proving that Elijah was Bernie's great, great, great Grandfather.  And I had found the documents linking between all the Spriggs from Reason (also spelled Reson, Rizen, and Rezen) back to 1630.

I just needed one tiny document and I would have proof of the entire family lineage.

Twice I had visited where Reason was known to have lived, (between 1800 and 1830 according to the US Census records), in Pendleton District, South Carolina.

I was looking for a will, a probate record...any of the documents that commonly  is used to prove a lineage.

For twenty years I have looked.

Two weeks ago...just by typing in the name Elijah Spriggs, I found a letter that has been filed away in the National Archives probably since 1813.

The letter, the cover is pictured above,  was addressed to the President of the United States.
(Note the address: Washington City, in Maryland.  It was not Washington DC, yet).

Above: The letter.

The letter had been digitally scanned into a search able data base not too long ago, which is why during my previous twenty years of searching I had never found the letter before, even though I had been in contact with the National Archives, looking for records on Elijah.

The letter above reads as follows:


After many struggles with my self between hope and despair, I at length took up my pen to lay open my grievances to who, to none more proper than he who holds the rein of government; who we should consider as father to our nation and friend to humanity.

Pray sir think it not presumption but only the tenderness of a father to a child causes me to act tho it be never so improper.

I have a son now in the utmost distress; in his twentieth year he went from me and privately married. I sent for him and his wife and was about to settle them when he enlisted for five years in the cavalry, being only eight month married he left a wife in the utmost distress.

Six month after; January last, I went to Savannah to see him. I was shocked and wounded at the sight he was (-owing -iety in a m-n?) nor naked not having received any clothing.

I divested myself of part of mine and gave him.

He informed me that if he had all the money in the United States he would give it freely to be...

discharged from the Army. This is to beg your influence as a friend to humanity to set at ease the afflicted minds of a distressed family by procuring the liberty of that unguarded youth.

His name is Elijah Sprigg, of the second Regiment of Cavalry under Stephen Proctor Capt.

I am your obedient servant,

Rezen Sprigg
April 2nd 1813

James Madison;

N.B. I live in the state of South Carolina
Pendelton District     R S

To say that I was FLOORED by this letter is an understatement.
This was proof, in his own handwritting, but also a sketch of heart of an ancestor.

Amazingly, there was a second letter!

Resin Sprigg
praying for the discharge of his son Elijah Sprigg a private in Capt. Proctor Troop.

April 2 1813

The Secretary of War

State of South Carolina Pendelton District.
July 20 1813
(This letter being written three months after his letter to the President).

As an obscure individual I apply to you as I have done before to the President of the U. S.  tho having my application treated with silent contempt by him.  I have a desire to know whether each on at the head of department will act in the same manner.

I have a son Elijah Sprigg on whom I have bestowed a liberal education. He being full of youthful folly absconded from me and privately was wed.

Immediately after I recalled him home and was about to settle him when he enlisted in the second regiment of the U. S Cavalry under Capt. Procter.

All this done before he was 21 years of age.  He has been more than twelve months in the Army.  He feels his own mortification and says he shall die if he has to continue in the Army. He enlisted for five years, if nothing else will do write to me and also his officers to discharge him and let me take his place.

I am 47 years old active and much better informed in tactics than he is.  I am willing to serve his time if your Honor will admit it.

I am with due submission your Honors humble servant   Rezen Sprigg

John Armstrong
Secretary of War.

The fact that Reason was willing to serve in his son's place, at age 47...amazing.

Tate felt that I should point out that the National Archives is in partnership with a group called Fold3, as well as Ancestry.Com, both of which are scanning in the handwritten documents of the Achives and indexing them so they can be found via a computer search.
Fold3 is a subscription data base; you may search it for any name related to military service without paying a fee, but to see the document you wil be charged a very reasonable amount.  I personally subscribed for a month's worth of access; the fee was $13.

Fourteen years ago I had written the National Archives for Elijah's War of 1812 service records.  I received a copy of  his enlistment paper and all the documentation of his service.

He was finally discharged in July 1817.

He did have to serve his full five years after all.

(It was a smile maker to realize that he returned to his wife in July of 1817 and in April of the following year, just nine months later, his only son James Joseph Spriggs was born.)

Perhaps you are wondering how I even knew Elijah was in the War of 1812?  Or how I knew his name in the first place?

Well, Elijah's son James Joseph later moved to Illinois.

James gave an interview which was published in a book, and during the interview he said he was born in South Carolina, Pendleton, and his father's name was Elijah and that his dad died in the Regular Army.

James Joseph Spriggs became the father of James F. Spriggs.

 James F. Spriggs was the grandfather of my father-in-law.  We knew the names for a first person account.

Because of the published interview, I knew Elijah was the father of James. I was just looking through the book for fun when I spotted this:

 A single line informed me that Elijah served in the War of 1812. 
Land was given to him for his service.

 I had found one other book which mentioned Elijah's name:

It contained rather sad news:

This book only had the abstracts of the articles from the Charleston Observer.   I later found the full article.  Elijah died from consumption, or what is now properly called tuberculosis.
He was but 36 years old.
His son...was barely nine years old at the time.

Having documentation of the lineage really means a lot to me.
You less than two months from now, another name will be added to the family tree.
Bernie is Generation 11, our son Jeff is the twelfth generation.
Soon to be born Luke will be a 13th generation of Spriggs.

(And in case you are wondering...Spriggs is found spelled Sprig, Sprigg, Spigg and Spriggs over the years. The last "S" began to be commonly  used in the 1850's.)

Our family Pedigree Chart...the entire line up of 3rd great grandfather's is complete.

That is...the names of ALL of the great, great Grandfathers, on both side of our family have been documented.

All thirty two names.  (Yes, you have 8  great great grandmothers and 8 great great grandfathers...and most of them were born for me in the early to mid 1800s.  There are a lot of documents about people born during those years if you know where to look...)

I use a 15 generation Pedigree is ragged and I am slowly recopying all the information onto a new chart.

This is just the front side!

Genealogy just keeps getting easier and easier as more and more documents are digitized.

Now is the best time EVER if you wish to look to find your family  history.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Bills: the good kind.

 It was a late Sunday afternoon.
I needed to get "out and about" before starting another week.
A trip to the Tracy Aviary was suited my mood just perfectly.

Soon I was engrossed in photographing passing "bills".

Love that blue bill!

So many different kinds of birds with so many color variations!

I fell in love with these guys...

Wish they weren't in a cage which interferes with photography, but it did let me experiment with foreground/background focus issues.

The golden eagle's yellow "lips" caught my interest.  He was pretty interested in my own lips I think.

The eagles were rehabilitated eagles that can't fly well enough to be on their own.  No photography bothersome caging needed!
An Argentina Cardinal.  Or at least that is what I remember it was.

He was in a walk-in cage.  I love it when I can be eye to eye with the birds.

Wish this waterfowl was pick-up and cuddle-able. 
Doesn't he look soft?
Don't you just love his orange red webbed feet next to the green lettuce?

I liked the reflection on the black bill in this photo. And of course the yellow eye.  Birds have such beautiful eyes!


The local birds hung out in the trees around the Aviary.  Wonder if they thought they had it good, or the birds in the Aviary had it good?

Some day I want to see one of these in the wild.
The Aviary has just recently opened an area called Owl Forest. 
 The owls are in caged areas making it really hard to get a clear shot through the wires, but sometimes I lucked out.
As I pressed my camera against the cage, this owl started clacking his bill at me in warning.  I left...didn't want him to feel stressed...


Dinner had recently been served on a very naturalistic looking plate...(smile).

I think the barn owl, above, is the freakiest looking owl, and also the softest looking owl.

Some owls were no bigger than your fist while others were almost as big as your torso. 

Love that red eye!

The  bit of down of the black bill...does it tickle?

Love the blue eye...and I read somewhere that the knob on the bill gets bigger during mating season. 

After walking around the entire the Aviary I was starting to get pretty cold.
I went to my car and called my BFF Gail; she had called while I was shooting pictures and I wanted to be able to sit in the car and relax while we caught up.
As we talked the sun changed the sky  and cloud colors to yellow...
And then to purple and coral pink....(Gail likes purple, I like coral pink) so I knew I had to take a picture of the sky for her to see.

Sure wish she and my photography loving blogging buddies could have all been along for this little outing.

Thought of you all, as I usually do, whenever I see beautiful things and take pictures.