Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Ameristep Is In My Doghouse

I've made wildlife photography in my backyard into a personal project.  My goal is to photograph the wildlife that visit in a setting that looks as natural as possible.  This requires placing my camera in locations that would disturb the very wildlife that I want to photograph.  A couple of years ago, I decided to purchase a blind so that I could conceal myself.

I researched blinds on the internet and found that many photographers use a hunting blind called the Doghouse.  It is made by Ameristep.  The blind is spring loaded so that it can be set up quickly.  In theory, it can be taken down as quickly but I normally struggle for a while, look at YouTube videos and  struggle some more before I'm able to put it back in its bag.

Once the Doghouse is set up, I have plenty of room inside for camera, tripod, chair and much more.  It has windows on very side that can be zipped open.  Unfortunately, they are so low that they are difficult to use with my lens on a tripod.  They are too high for me to shoot lying on my stomach.  As a result, it hasn't been used as much as I intended. 

I set it up today and immediately had a problem.  When I opened the zippered window, the pull tab on the zipper broke off in my hand.  A closer look revealed that the entire metal part of the zipper pull had fractured and broken away.  There isn't any way to close the window without the zipper and I was no longer concealed.  Since I was all set up, I turned the blind so that I could use the side window.  I carefully opened the window and that zipper broke off in my hand as well.

I assumed that a blind made for hunting would be tough enough to handle wind, rain and snow.  My blind has had only light use in the backyard and has never been rained on.  The rest of the blind is fine but the weakest link (the zipper) has rendered it useless.  I decided to replace it with a Kwik Camo Photography Blind made by LensCoat. 

In the meantime, my screened in porch provides some cover.  If I prop the door open, I have a narrow view of the yard.  I decided to photograph woodpeckers today.  I used a 400mm lens so I didn't need to be too close to the door.  I used a piece of a tree trunk that had a hole drilled in it to hold some of the suet that attracts woodpeckers.

A Downy Woodpecker was the first to check out the tree trunk.  A male and female came back several times.

A White-breasted Nuthatch investigated the tree trunk several times during the course of the day.

This Red-bellied Woodpecker dropped by once.

 European Starlings were the most frequent visitors.  It was a more difficult for them to get the suet.  However, they were up to the challenge.

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