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Mass Ascension

Mass ascension, Midway Rd., Durham ( 11/24/17) Robert Kermen

Redtail hawk, Midway Rd., Durham ( 11/24/17) Robert Kermen

Redtail hawk, Midway Rd., Durham ( 11/24/17) Robert Kermen

When a “mass ascension” occurs at one of the Sacramento Valley’s many wetlands, rice patties or wildlife refuges, virtually tens of thousands of birds lift off all at once.

They take to the air when predators (bald eagle, redtail hawks and falcons) approach.

Similar to the effect of the flashing silver and black flanks of fish in their schools, the swirling mass of white and dark wings in a mass ascension confuses raptors and makes it more difficult for them to snare a meal.

Mass ascensions are breathtaking sights that are often seen, in autumn, north of Sacramento.

Kermen knew to visit a wetland, south of Durham. If you open the California Fall Color map on the right side of this page and search for Durham or Colusa, anywhere you see large ponds of water are sure to be gathering places for waterfowl. For the easiest viewing, visit the Sacramento Valley National Wildlife Refuge or Colusa NWR. Roads pass through both of them and your vehicle serves as your “blind.” Bring binoculars and, if photographing, a telephoto lens and tripod or window camera mount (which turns your car into a tripod).

White-fronted Geese, Durham (11/24/17) Robert Kermen

Snowy egret, Midway Rd., Durham ( 11/24/17) Robert Kermen

Close up photographs of wildlife are best captured with digital single lens reflex (DSLR) cameras using lenses greater than 300 mm.

A 400mm lens is considered to be an ideal length when starting to shoot wildlife. However, long lenses – particularly those with larger apertures that will take sharp pictures in low light – come with a hefty price tag. For example, Nikon’s 400mm f/2.8E FL ED VR lens (admittedly, a very expensive lens) costs over $11,000 (Canon’s similar lens is $1,000 less).

Snow Geese, Durham (11/25/17) Robert Kermen

Considering the high cost of telephoto lenses with large aperture settings, starting amateur wildlife photographers might consider first purchasing a zoom lens in the range of from 100 to 500mm, but with a smaller aperture setting, such as a Nikon 200-500mm f5.6 ($1,400) or Canon 100-400mm f5.6 ($1,200).

Another way to increase focal length is to add a teleconverter to a smaller focal length lens (about $300 for a 2x teleconverter). They do not provide the sharpness of a set lens, but are not budget breakers and result in fine photographs that impress, if you’re not selling your work.

For clarity, a smaller f-stop means a larger aperture, while a larger f-stop means a smaller aperture.

Bald eagle (middle right, sitting) (11/22/17) Robert Kermen

With these options, you will lose the ability to shoot action in lower light conditions, but can more affordably begin shooting wildlife and thus gain experience before making the investment on a more expensive lens.

For these shots, Kermen used a Canon 80D with 70-200mm f4L IS USM lens, which he keeps at hand on the console of his vehicle, so that he doesn’t miss a great shot when motoring along one of California’s backroads.

Click on photo to enlarge.

Clakit StrapPack

Clakit StrapPack

Have you ever had to unpack your camera bag or backpack to find a cell phone or wallet?

The developer of the Clakit Clip was hiking California’s mountains (hopefully looking for fall color) when he realized he was constantly searching the bottom of his bag for something. That inspired his developing a durable universal clip and series of companion pouches that can be attached to shoulder straps up to 3″ wide.

Clakit Clip

The key is the Clakit Clip, a self-ratcheting nylon clip that uses pressure and pins to securely grip the shoulder strap and that adapts to varied Clakit pouches (for cell phones, water bottles, handheld radios, GPS devices, and other items) or other belt loop carriers.

It’s ideal for getting to small items, like: phones, glasses, lens cloths, ID cards, snacks, payment cards, notebooks, keys, pocket tools, flashlights, water bottles and other things you might need at a moment’s notice.

We tested the Clakit StrapPack, which has two zippered, padded compartments and a front flap pocket secured by velcro. At 7″ x 4″ x 1.5″, the StrapPack easily and protectively accommodated an iPhone 8 Plus, ID cards, credit cards, a pen, photographer’s notebook and cash.

The Clakit Clip held the StrapPack snugly to the shoulder strap on a LowePro camera backpack and NorthFace day pack. And, the StrapPack made it easy to get to what was inside… no more digging around or removing a backpack to answer a phone or pay for lunch.

StrapPack seen from behind

When the backpack was no longer needed, the StrapPack can be removed easily from the clip and secured by one’s side with a belt. For anyone who doesn’t carry a purse, the StrapPack consolidates phone and wallet into one compact and secure pouch that can be clipped to shoulder strap or belt.

Priced at $20, the Clakit StrapPack is a holiday gift that just about anyone can use and enjoy. To buy one or learn more, visit Clakit.com.


Fall Photo Contest

Win an 18 x 24″ canvas wrapped print of your winning fall color photo and a $149 Cotton Carrier G3 Harness, by uploading your best fall color photos to www.CottonCarrier.com.

The winning photo will be voted upon by Cotton Carrier’s website users (your friends and our readers included).  One photo may be entered per week, per photographer. Deadline Nov. 15. Photographers retain the rights to their work.

The promotion brings attention to Cotton Carrier’s new camera harness that secures DSLR and mirrorless cameras to a breathable, ergonomic frame for all-day comfort.

The new G3 holster uses a patented locking system to secure camera to a backpack strap for hands-free accessibility while strolling city streets or navigating mountain trails. New features include a quick release safety tether, belt attachment and new colors.

Let’s vote for a CaliforniaFallColor.com photographer to win.

If you enter, send a .jpg of your shot, where it was taken and your name to: editor@californiafallcolor.com.  We’ll post all photographs here and encourage readers to vote for them. Photos do not need to have been taken recently, so past photographs are eligible.