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Join the Triumph of the Skies

Music of the season reminds us of the reason we celebrate.

December 21, 2020 :: Good Things / Birds

Triumph can mean “a victory.” But an older meaning is “a celebratory procession,” which is what we and the snow geese wish to join with the angelic host of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” as they proclaim the Christmas news across the skies.

Snow geese take flight at Bosque del Apache Natl. Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico

Hymns are woven into the fabric of this holy season. From “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” during Advent to “Joy to the World” on Christmas Day, our anticipation grows with every carol.

Each song guides us closer to hope and joy. We are invited to join the jubilant voices of a host of angels high overhead and the whispers around a lowly manger bed. The familiar melodies evoke emotions that only music can stir. And they bring us comfort and joy.

The Christmas news from the angels is about Hope. This year, we need that news more than usual. We see parts of our world unraveling because of social and political strife, economic turmoil and an indiscriminate disease. And somehow, we find moments of hope. Maybe that is part of the Christmas miracle this year: Still, we find hope.

My warmest wishes to you for peace, joy and hope.


SUBJECT: Snow geese taking flight, Bosque del Apache Nat'l Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico.

CONDITIONS: mild, calm, sunny; 45 degrees F

EQUIPMENT and SETTINGS: Nikon D850, Nikon 500mm f/4, Gitzo tripod, Really Right Stuff ball head, Wimberley Sidekick SK-100 gimbal head adapter; Auto exposure, Matrix metering, FX format, Auto focus with back button, Continuous High shutter mode, Vibration Reduction off

EXPOSURE: 1/800 sec. at f/13, ISO 1600

A fast shutter speed and a high ISO were essential here to freeze the motion of the birds lifting up and out of the meadow. I also had to control my panning speed as I followed the flying geese, if I wanted sharpness, so 1/800 sec at ISO 1600 were my preferred settings.

An aperture of f/13 gave me enough depth of field to get sharpness on several "layers" of the geese that stacked up behind the closest birds. The auto-focus back button proved its worth again. The lens held focus when I pressed it down with my thumb as I tracked the flying snow geese. My index finger on the shutter button was now free to fire whenever I wanted to.

The Wimberley Sidekick gimbal head adapter was essential all week for tracking the birds in motion. It's a compromise between using a good ball head on the tripod or a full gimbal head. The Sidekick slips into the ball head's quick release connector. Then the long lens slides into the Sidekick's quick release. Now the lens and camera can pan and tilt smoothly and quickly in all directions. Check it out here: wimberley sidekick gimbal


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