I’m sitting here stretching out my hands and fingers while shaking the rust out of my head to get my thoughts and words flowing. So much has happened in the last two weeks that I have to start thinking for a minute. Let’ see, we had friends visit that, due to Covid, we haven’t seen for some time now, enjoyed more campfires, watched the space station fly over several times, caught the Antares rocket launch from Wallops Island, kayaked on the bayside a bit, found Corky and Sarah’s Sweet Tea challenging each other… and, hmm, I’m missing something? Oh yeah, I got a new camera!!

I’m very excited to move from the absolute best camera I’ve ever had the pleasure to use, my Canon 5Ds R that has been everywhere with me for the past 5 years, to Canon’s newest offering of the R5. I’m still learning to use this thing, but it’s like going from a Porsche to an F-35. The new-to-me mirrorless format offers a lot, and Canon’s offering of animal or people eye focus plus live tracking is simply amazing. The ability to let the camera track an animal’s eye across the screen to focus on as I’m snapping images is, to me, truly amazing. I’m really looking forward to using this camera for the next however long, and today’s shots were all made using it except for the rocket launch image. I don’t have a bracket to attach the R5 to a tripod yet, so I used my 5Ds R instead. The 5Ds R is still a powerful camera, and I plan on using both of them for the time being.

Anyway, on with the story. My wife and I enjoyed a visit with our friends last weekend, and, like I said, we haven’t seen them for quite some time due to the Covid pandemic. It was nice to get together for the weekend and laugh like we usually do. Anyone that knows me knows I really enjoy laughing a lot, and so does my pal Del so It is always a lot of fun when we are together. They just have to remember to feed me (inside joke).

We took our kayaks out a bit on Saturday last week for a leisurely paddle and came across Ninka and Fonzi. Recently, Ninka and Fonzi picked up Ronni, so now the twosome is a threesome. Ninka and Ronni munched and slept, and then munched some more. Fonzi was continuously eating. He needs to… He is too thin. I’m sure he will be fine, but he needs to fatten up a bit.

It was an absolutely beautiful day for a paddle, too. It’s so relaxing out on the water with no hustle and bustle of crowds. We had an absolutely amazing sky with gorgeous cloud layers. Note to everyone… Yes, you can get sunburned in late September. It was sunny but cool, but don’t let those temperatures fool you. I should’ve worn a hat, for sure.

That evening I initiated Del and his wife, April, into our campfire gang. The whole gang was there, so it was a lot of fun with a lot of laughs while making popcorn and mountain pies over the fire.

Unfortunately, Sunday was a different story. I was called out in regards to the car rally being held in Ocean City last weekend, so Sunday I was a zombie most of the day. Del and April had to leave on Sunday, but my wife and I did get a chance to say our goodbyes hoping the next visit won’t be that far in the future.

Monday I went down to the Island after work to drive around a bit and to see what was going on. As I was coming back from South Beach I spotted a couple of horses running at what appeared to be a full gallop across Bayberry Drive and into the North Beach parking lot. Once I got up there, I noted Ms. Macky and Fitz were there, so I knew it was Joy’s band. But, I also noticed Breezy in the mix. Now over the summer I had seen her with Joy before but she has mostly stuck with her mom and dad, Chip and Susi. Well, I guess she left her parents again and now she was with Joy. It’s been almost a week now, but she’s still not back home yet.

I also spotted Joy tri-fighting with Corky and Sarah’s Sweet Tea. All three of them were going at it in the parking lot. Sarah’s Sweet Tea is a fighter and instigator; he is always looking for a fight. So, what I think happened was Corky and Sarah’s Sweet Tea had been fighting, ran across Bayberry and into Joy’s band. Joy then got involved fighting with the both of them until Corky and Sarah’s Sweet Tea moved up into the grass and dunes along North Beach. Once they did that, Joy went back to grazing.

It was cute, though. Breezy had her eyes on Joy. And young Fitz stayed by his dad’s side. I think Breezy and Fitz would make a good looking couple. Even if Fitz is only one, and Breezy two and a half or so.

Tuesday after work was even more interesting. I got to test out the limits of the lens I got with my new camera, the RF 100-500. As I was driving out to Old Ferry Landing, I saw one of my friends pulled to the side of the road (hi Pam). A bald eagle was sitting in a tree nearby… If you spend anytime on Assateague Island you probably know which tree I’m talking about as the eagle sits there quite often.

As I spoke with Pam I was trying out the animal eye focus function and zoomed all the way into the bird with the 500mm the lens offered me. It wasn’t long and the eagle started his flying sequence. I let the live tracking do its thing and snapped a few images, and the results made me quite happy.

I then spotted Ninka, Ronni and Fonzi out at Old Ferry Landing munching away. They didn’t budge much so I continued to drive around.

As I was driving I spotted a black, shadowy figure in the brush. Now, there are a few things in my life that I still would like to accomplish, one of which is finding a bigfoot. But for now, this dark, shadowy figure in the brush wasn’t going to get me to that goal. It would get me to my wish of photographing a nice sika deer stag, though. Fortunately, this fella was not in an area you can hunt. Honestly, I am not sure why Assateague Island even has a hunting season for deer. And, I’m a hunter. But the amount of wildlife on Assateague does not support the need to hunt. Sorry if you don’t agree with me.

So, this finally brings me to last night. We had a really nice campfire with a lot of friends awaiting the liftoff of the Antares rocket from Wallops Island in Virginia. As we made more popcorn and mountain pies, we watched the International Space Station fly over us for a couple of minutes. But soon it was time for the launch. I set my camera up on the beach but originally aimed it at where I thought liftoff would be. At the last second I changed my mind and repositioned my camera so it included the full moon.

I had pre-planned this shot in my head, and tested a 4 minute exposure the night before. However, things changed on the fly last night, and at first I wasn’t happy. I thought I really screwed the whole thing up, and I only had one shot to get it right. I have never shot a long exposure during a night launch before so it was a really good experience to get a base shot last night for future reference.

It was really cool, though, to watch the sky light up from 30 miles away and to see the rocket glowing through the sky arcing its way into space. And, to see the space station just 45 minutes before was also wild as the Cygnus spacecraft the Antares was taking to space was heading to the space station… with a 23 million dollar toilet. Hey, we all need to go to the bathroom, right?

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