My Heartfelt Nod to #NationalCameraDay


Momma works hard. Momma plays hard, with bird photography as passion hobby. Because camera nuances count, I present this loving nod to #NationalCameraDay. Witness my transformation, from dSLRs → all-in-one. My smiles of lingering contentment continue.

My (Recent) DSLR Past

For years, I carried two DSLRs on mega photo shoots, that is, out-of-home-area photography sessions. My weapons of choice: a full-frame (a99) and standard (a77) Sony. One look through their respective viewfinders presented the first rationale. The consistent IQ (image quality) answered lingering “why Sony” Qs.

Why 2 cams??

I carried two as a direct result of a years-ago ugh! The camera died in the midst of a out-of-state shoot. I vowed NEVAHHHHH again! I’ve kept my word.

A Problem Materializes in Camera Paradise

Proving the maxim “no perfection in this world,” one ongoing problem vexed me. Feathered kids love to dash and linger in an area far beyond the reach of any DSLR, regardless of attached zoom lens.

Close-ups, at Lake Johnson Park in Raleigh NC
Close-ups, at Lake Johnson Park in Raleigh NC

Yes, I tried to cure the reach problem with an über expensive dSLR lens. Upon arrival, I pulled the lens out of the box, took one look at it, and returned it to the box … and Amazon. Reason? I ain’t spending my life carrying around a third thigh, period!

My state of “reach” discontent sparked updated research on ultra zoom cameras. After trying most throughout the years, I found the IQ factor laughably abysmal. I had stopped looking around 2010.


Resolving the Can’t-Reach Hassle of dSLR Cameras

Technology, however, marches on. By 2015, the old-school 20x optimal zooms had been replaced with zooms starting with a 3 digit, e.g. 30x, 32x. Then 40x. Mesmerized, I dug deeper. Soon, my jaw thudded. Nikon, never a personally preferred brand, offered a unique 83x optical zoom camera. 😳

MegaZoom Nikon p900 / Amazon product image
MegaZoom Nikon p900 / Amazon product image

👀My eyes twinkled.👀 My pulse raced.🤒 But previous all-in-one zoom camera experiences tempered the initial enthusiasm. With the wiser part of my brain back in control, I dug deeper. I demanded first person accounts on this camera before I’d allow myself to consider a purchase. Shock: uniformly glowing reviews.

Intrigued, I compromised. I placed a “loan” order, arranging the Nikon p900’s arrival on the Friday of an extended holiday weekend.


Field Testing the Nikon p900

Day 1, Friday

Day 1 confirmed my native creativity, courtesy of the serial spontaneous multi-syllable cuss words I belched. With that much zoom, I realized —the hard way— I needed at least a day to figure out how to tame da munstah.

Day 2, Saturday

Saturday’s local park forays proved acceptable. Encouraged, I plotted THE mutha mega test for Sunday. Read: a trip to my beloved Sylvan Heights Bird Park in Scotland Neck, NC. From Raleigh, we’re talking a 90 minute drive. I could barely sleep, thinking of that next day’s planned venture.

Day 3, Sunday — a/k/a Oooooo baby!

A Waffle House Breakfast

Honestly, between Biscuitville and Waffle House, I doubt if I’ll ever again live along the Northeast corridor.

Waffle House breakfast, with ever'ding :-)
Waffle House breakfast, with ever’ding 🙂

Sunday morning —6:30 to be precise— found me seated at a 24/7 Waffle House in Rocky Mount, roughly 30 minutes before reaching the Bird Park. With its discrete walk-through areas segregated as the world’s continents, the Park induces massive walking. Typically, it takes me two hours to get through the entire park. Add a third hour for doubling back to certain areas, where some birds escaped my lens the first go round. Hence, experience schooled me: always stop for a full breakfast on the way to Sylvan.

The Quiet Thrill of a Sylvan Heights Photographer Membership

My Sylvan Photographer Membership affords park entry one hour prior to the public opening time. My plan: allow a leisurely one hour Waffle House stop, then arrive at Sylvan’s door around 8a. That would allow a blissful hour of public-free photography. Because only other obsessed photographers would populate the Park between 8 and 9a.m., I knew I’d enjoy some serious alone time.

The weather smiled at me, yielding my preferred cloudy day. Cloudiness prevents the harsh sunlight burning some bird feathering on camera.


The True Testing Begins in Earnest

Sylvan Heights Bird Park, Scotland Neck, NC: The Landing Zone's Parakeets
Sylvan Heights Bird Park, Scotland Neck, NC: The Landing Zone’s Parakeets

After entering the Welcome House at Sylvan, one exits to a porch overlooking an international lake.

I knew from the start an all-in-one camera = a slow shutter speed as compared with the blink-speed of a DSLR. My mission: would the dramatically increased reach render the speed sacrifice tolerable?

Because ducks move slower than their Speedy Gonzalez birdie brethren, the lake area provides a perfect “get to know da cam” environment. Within that area, shutter speed proved a non-issue. I’d spent the better part of Friday and Saturday testing techniques to tame the massive zoom. I smiled with the realization of well-spent time.

As I clicked my way through old familiar ground, I soon arrived at The Landing Zone. Visualize a squarish area with a tall net roof. Flamingoes walk up to you, anxious to eat from your hand. Parakeets descend like bullets, playing peekaboo in your pocket, atop shoes, shoulders, heads, and elsewhere. Meanwhile, turacos and others flitter about. In short, we’re talking a bird photographer’s mecca.

Sylvan Heights Bird Park, Scotland Neck, NC: The Landing Zone: Red-Crested Turaco
Sylvan Heights Bird Park, Scotland Neck, NC: The Landing Zone: Red-Crested Turaco

By the noon hour, the dawn’s waffle, bacon, eggs, grits, toast, orange juice, and chocolate milk breakfast evaporated. A within-5-miles hole-in-the-wall soul food joint promised renewed sustenance. And a killah → reviewing the day’s pics on my large screen iPad.


Checking my Handiwork on a Big Screen iPad

Photography addiction manifests in a gazillion little ways. Exhibit A: I selected my dinner-style lunch items with a maximize-free-hands intent. That translated as fork-friendly meatloaf and greens, as opposed to fried chicken and corn on the cob. Potato salad and cole slaw filled the few remaining empty spots on my overloaded platter. As I sat down, I could hear my arteries start to clog. One day, so what the hey.

The tastebud delights soon vied with the SD card’s eye candy. I blinked a few times. I pulled out my nodders (reading glasses) and scrutinized the photos. Seeing a photo of one bird, taken in the opposite of a huge lake, gobsmacked me. Astounded by the clarity —the mind-shattering feather details, the lake’s water droplets— I sat frozen, staring, eyeballs darting repeatedly over Mr. Madarin Duck.

Mandarin Duck, male
Mandarin Duck, male

Music invariably punctuates both the low and high points of my life. Unplanned and unsolicited, old-school tunes simply pop into my head. On that day, I found myself mentally boogyin’ between Little Richards’s 🎵Good golly Ms Molly🎵 and Hammer’s 🎵Can’t Touch This.🎵

Question answered: Pam’s out to play her version of 🎵Poppa’s Got a Brand New Bag🎵, i.e. 🎵Momma’s Gonna Bag a Brand New Cam🎵.

Clearly, rap artists need not fear yours truly.


Current State of Camera Affairs

The Nikon Muscled out the 2 Sony dSLRs

Today, more than two years later, I confirm: with each photo shoot my intense appreciation of and for the Nikon p900 escalates, resulting respect kissing the highest cloud.

Do I miss shots, courtesy of the predictably slow-ish shutter? Rarely. I’ve studied birds for years, understanding patterns. Because I have a pretty good idea which direction the bird will move next, I’m able to counteract the speed issue.

What about birds new to me, such as my first visit to Pittsburgh’s National Aviary? Such “new” trips always span at least 3 days. One, to study bird movements. The second to play snap-happy nut. The third, to catch the uncooperative guys and guyettes I missed the previous day.

How committed am I to this Nikon? Toward the end of last year, I finally transferred ownership of the two Sony dSLRs. Do I miss them? Mostly it comes down to one unique feature …

The Nikon Gained a Pocket-Friendly Buddy: Sony Hx90v

Sony HX90v / Amazon product page image
Sony HX90v / Amazon product page image

Back in 2014, I entered the Virginia Living Museum in Newport News. The blanket darkness of one room, housing owls, demolished the ability to see my hand before my face. Desperate to get a shot, I moved to an outside area. I wanted to study the scene modes available. One, named Hand-Held Twilight, appeared most relevant.

Returning to the black room, I whipped out a disposable pre-moistened lens towel, using it in a feeble attempt to rid the glass window of grimy fingerprints. I then took several snaps with the Sony dSLR (a99), using that Hand-Held Twilight scene mode.

Later that day, as is my post-shoot habit, while I awaited my dinner plate at a nearby restaurant, I reviewed the day’s photos on my iPad. The screech owl, in that can’t-see-sheet room?

Screech Owl
Screech Owl

Are the feathers as defined as I’d like? No. But the clarity floors me given the atrocious shooting conditions. No flash, per the grimy glass window through which I took the shot. No hint of light.

No other mode succeeded in pulling a recognizable owl in a pic. That’s when I vowed to keep the Hand-Held Twilight scene mode in my arsenal of tricks “forevahhhhh!”

Once the Sony dSLRs went bye bye, I went hunting for that craved scene mode. I converted a part of the seeYa proceeds into a purchase: the Sony HX90v. This genuinely pocketable cam includes the magical Handheld Twilight scene mode. There’s even a serviceable popup eye viewfinder, critical for me per stabilizing concerns.

When I go on shoots, the Nikon p900 drapes over my shoulder, as the munchkin Sony hangs out in my back jeans pocket.

Can you spell deliriously happy camper?

Incidentally, by 2012, a certain camera purchasing mindset cemented. I will not, under any circumstances, buy a camera lacking geo capability. Neither the Sonys nor Nikon suffer related battery drain.

Why my demand for the ego feature? Birds are creatures of habit. If they appear at xyz park, in “that” corner of the park, at 6pm this Thursday, I know precisely where and when to repeat the photo shoot next Thursday, if desired.

The $$$ Aspect

Expensive? If you’ve never spent time ensconced in DSLR land, absolutely. Otherwise, the $500-ish sticker price produces no personal shock. Knowing what I now know, if something foul happened to either, I’d move heaven and earth in my determined quest for immediate replacement. No higher praise can emanate from this scrutinize-potential-purchases woman.


WrapUp for this Woman’s #NationalCameraDay

In the final analysis, I came out ahead on all fronts. The associated lenses brought serious bucks back to my wallet. And, as a practical matter, I do NOT miss the change-lens syndrome, the one aspect of dSLR usage I loathed. Talk ’bout missing shots! I lost waaay more shots to lens changes than I ever will using the Nikon p900.

And I confess. With the Nikon in hand, I laugh when birds or ducks skitter to the far end of a body of water. The Nikon defines a whole ‘nother level of reach! Net result:

In closing, most bird pics gracing this blog were born in either the Nikon or little Sony sidekick. Keep in mind: because I know the way of thieves, I reduce the resolution of all pics just prior to posting. That resolution makes it impossible to produce a decent print. So look at the clarity, and increase to mentally visualize the original’s glory.




Call to Action

I deem my bullet journal essential to the productivity aspect of my life. So too is my bird photography hobby. Keep me away from my cams for a month or so, and I start resembling a junkie in dire need of a fix. If the bullet journal system is accurately categorized as my work-out launchpad, then my photography warrants the designation of cool-out essential.

Life, esp these days, presents a thousand cuts on a near daily basis. An empty cup quenches nothing. My Q: what is your favorite form of relaxation, your funtime passion? As the holiday approaches, check you calendar. Have you penciled in that passion? Take. Care. Of. You. Please!

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