Laura Erickson's For the Birds

Monday, April 6, 2020

Camera Fun

Rock Pigeon

Those of us who feel stuck at home right now should be spinning our situations as safe at home. People like me, who can comfortably get by without being scared about money, at least for the duration, are luckiest of all. I do all my writing, photo processing, and radio production at home. Little of that is for pay—most of the money I earn each year comes from my spring speaking gigs, which all were canceled this year, but my own income usually barely covers my travel, camera equipment, and computer costs. I clearly won’t be buying much of anything new this year or going anywhere anyway. I’m reasonably secure, and fully understand and appreciate how lucky that makes me. 

Of course, all that security comes from my husband’s income. He is safely working from home, but he’s not used to that and gets frustrated by all the distractions. My son Joe, who works for Disney, is temporarily working from his apartment in Orlando, but he'll be furloughed at the end of next week. Disney promises to keep the furloughed employees on healthcare and to give them their jobs back when this nightmare is over. Florida is notorious for providing the paltriest unemployment benefits in the nation, and negotiating their system has been a nightmare for Joe as he stays hunkered down. 

Many of the people leaving home to go to work right now are in a much greater nightmare. I think of all the people caring for highly infectious patients with insufficient and sub-par personal protection equipment, the people working in stores, making deliveries, providing police and fire protection, servicing utilities—so many essential people who are so much more vulnerable when the rest of us don’t follow simple social distancing rules.

So although I feel very guilty having the time and equipment to be playing with bird photography when so many people are out of jobs, and when so many of the people who are working are at such a heightened risk of infection, I also feel obligated to do what I can to help other people stuck at home. I’ve been very gratified hearing from radio and podcast listeners who are enjoying their own backyard birds, and from a few homeschooling parents and children with questions about the birds they’re seeing. Right now, we’re all in this together, each of us getting through as best we can. If we can be safe at home, we’re not only protecting ourselves but all the people without that luxury.

I got a new camera this year that just happened to arrive the day I had my heart attack. Russ brought me to the bog two weeks later for my first outing so I could see the Barn Owl that turned up, and I went on a couple of other birding jaunts before the virus put the kibosh on everything. But with all the junco activity in my yard this weekend, Sunday I decided I might as well learn a new trick, and I hooked up my camera to my computer via wifi. Now I can be writing at my desk treadmill, where I can’t see out the window, and notice on my monitor whenever a bird comes into camera range to click away.

It took me the whole day to figure it out. The default setting sent the photos via the wifi to my computer, hanging up the whole system for well over an hour for just a few shots at a pigeon, and of those, only one turned out. Once I worked it out so the photos stay in the camera, it took me a while to figure out how to focus remotely. And when I was finally starting to get the hang of that, something scared off the birds and they didn’t return for almost an hour. So at the end of the day, I ended up with just one passable pigeon and one passable junco photo, but if I keep playing with it, by the time hummingbirds come back in May, I’ll be able to get flight shots when the birds aren’t seeing me at all. That’s my plan, anyway. I’ll share my progress on my blog.

Let me know how your backyard birding is going. Meanwhile, stay safe and well, dear reader.

Dark-eyed Junco