Thursday, August 18, 2016

Barred Owl Bath

This morning I read on a local eBird alert that someone had found Blue-winged Warbler. That didn't surprise me too much since I had one on my bird bath in August a couple of years ago, but there is nothing quite like a surprise visit from a a migrant at the bath to re-energize the excitement of bird photography.  So I resolved before going down to breakfast that I would set up a camera overlooking the bath for the coming season.

As I went into the kitchen, which looks out on said water feature, wow!  There stood a beautiful Barred Owl readying for a bath. Remarkably this top-of-the-food-chain predator (except of the Great Horned Owl) hesitated and looked around as if to judge if it was safe to bathe, just as a song bird would.  While all this preparation was taking place I sneaked off to the living room where I had a camera bag, assembled my gear, and then crept up behind a chair. Nevertheless the owl riveted its coal black eyes on my slinking and furtive movements while it was in the bath.

I had to shoot through glass into early morning shade, and then increase exposure two stops, but here are the results.

Note the owl garden statuary behind and in the lower right 
Still looking around

Never taking its eyes off me

Done; time to go.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Air Travel with Equipment; the New Normal

This past May I showed up in the local airport full of anticipation for my trip to Southeastern Arizona.  I had packed really carefully to get as much stuff out there as safely as possible. Lo, at the baggage check-in counter: "Do you have any camera equipment in your checked luggage?  Delta no longer covers damage to  any electronic equipment."

Well yes I did, as a matter of fact. A minute later I had laid out on the floor two back packs, a wheeled carry-on, a duffle, and I was frantically repacking them. The larger of two back packs held my recording equipment.  Microphones were safe in a case specifically designed for them, but I had to remove two recorders from that bag and put personal articles in their place, a camera from the duffle, and move all this stuff to the carry-on which meant I had to check the backpack with the microphones.  I then had to repack the duffle with the camera backpack and remove two camera bodies to the carry-on.  Doing this on the fly, I neglected to take a flash unit from the camera bag, and paid the price. Through the duffle, and through a padded camera bag, they (Delta or TSA) crushed the flash enough to allow the fluid in the display to bleed all over the inside of the LED. Nikon couldn't fix it, and now that flash is next to useless for my purposes.They also crushed a lens hood for a 17-35mm lens, but thankfully no damage to the lenses.  I remember writing shortly after this trip that if airlines want to improve their lot with the flying public they can start with the baggage handlers.

And what if they had lost my luggage?  I was staying 190 miles away in a remote location.

I don't know how TV networks and production companies handle air travel today.  Maybe there is insurance, maybe they pack their equipment so well and mark it fragile. I am sure they use Pelican cases. I still have small (#1400) and medium (#1504) Pelican cases that I use only occasionally because of their weight, and they could probably survive airline abuse. However, the larger one is padded; it does not have pre-cut foam to hold equipment firmly in place. Now, with this new normal I am not so sure I want to chance even that.  One experiment I might try is to pack all my lenses in the larger case and check that, then buy new foam and cut it for two camera bodies in the smaller case and check that inside the duffle. Then again, I would have to know that if Delta lost either one that would stand up to the cost of that missing equipment, even while they do not cover damage to the same equipment!

The only other options open to me are to drive the 4,000 miles out and back, or take my wife on birding and photography trips for extra carry-on privileges. I don't think so...

Addendum 1
I just found that Pelican has responded to the need for lighter cases with all the airline toughness of the originals.  They claim up to 40% lighter on some models.  You can check them out at B and H.  Look for Pelican Air cases, but don't look for lower prices.

Addendum 2
I called Delta a few days ago and posed the following question: "Okay, you won't cover damage to electronics equipment in baggage, but what if I packed all my stuff in Pelican cases to protect it, and checked it anyway, will you cover the gear if you lose it?"    The answer is yes, with a qualification. Their normal limits are like $2500 per bag.  Photo equipment can soar past that in a heartbeat.  So, you have to list the contents and present that document to Delta BEFORE you depart.  Again, I cannot speak for the other carriers.  Do your homework.

Addendum 3
October 27: I took a Pelican 1504 case with equipment into the UPS store this morning and asked how much it would cost to ship from my ZIP to the lodge I frequent in SE Arizona.  I assumed insurance on $6,000 worth of equipment. Mindboggling; $250 each way! On to plan C or D.  I took the case, which is small enough to fit under the seat in front of you, but heavy with equipment, and slipped it into my carry-on luggage piece. It fit, with a little room to spare. So now I have the case on wheels, and I am inching toward a solution for my complete load.