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Friday, January 23, 2009

The Good, The Bad, and The Naughty

Today is the day that I almost ended The Staycation in a very very bad bad way.

Have you ever done something where you really know you shouldn't be doing what you're doing and the Little Mom Voice in your head is telling you to Stop what you're doing this very instant or else you'll be very very sorry, young lady but you don't listen and you do the bad thing anyway?

I know you know what I'm talking about. You do it too.


Today is the second and absolute last time I get my camera wet. (You may remember the first time I got it wet, with some pretty lovely results.) This is the Bad Part of the story. (Then I'll work backwards to the Naughty and Good Parts to make it all have a happy ending.)


I was supposed to go tango dancing outside with that fellow from the tango video and it was drizzling, so he called to postpone when I was on the train, halfway to our meeting place, which put me in a teensy bit of a mood because I was really looking forward to dancing with him. (T., if you're reading this, I apologize.)

Anyway, I thought, Shoot, I've never let a little rain get in the way of something that I want to do, so I took my tango shoes and boombox back home and grabbed the camera and lots of extra batteries. I decided to head back to Telegraph Hill to see if lighting might strike twice and I could find the wild parrots again.

Let me tell you, Telegraph Hill is a bitch to climb. It's really crazy steep. But thank goodness in that last block when I thought I was going to slide back down the sidewalk, I could hear this really loud, crazy squawking so I knew that the parrots must be close by, and it was worth the trek. And the nice drizzle was keeping me from sweating.

I went back to the secret little pyracantha bush/tree I found in an alleyway at the top of the hill. Yesterday, the tree was teeming with the vibrant bright green and red wild parrots, who were devouring the red berries and making quite a squawking racket. It was a glorious sight, because the birds matched the tree in an incredible way. Their bright lime green feathers matched the leaves and their brilliant red feathers around their eyes and on their shoulders were the same color as the berries. It was a tree filled with chameleon birds.

But today, when I went back to the tree, the birds weren't there. I could hear them, but could not figure out where they were. They were loud enough so that I knew they were close by.

I trudged around the neighborhood where I could but aside from breaking into people's backyards in the rain, it looked like I was out of luck this time. No feral cherry headed conures for me.


Then I saw a few parrots flying overhead and followed them down to a part of the Filbert Street Steps that I did not know existed. (San Francisco is full of steep and wonderful stairways that you can climb for pleasure or torture, depending on your degree of fitness and choice of footwear. A delightful book that's great for touring these steps can be found online here.)

As I got closer to the terminus of the stairs, the squawking got insanely loud. The rain came down harder and the trees above me were dropping giant loads of rain onto my umbrella. As I turned to look over the retaining wall down the hillside below, I could see that I had hit the Wild Parrot Jackpot.

And this is where the Bad Part of the story happens. I had to put down all of my things, including my umbrella, in order to take photos of the birds, who were going crazy over in a tree and on a bird feeder. I walked as slowly and quietly as I could, and before I knew it, I was right on top of them, taking photos. They must be used to people because aside from grazing my head a few times, and giving me those curious sideways or dirty looks that birds do, they let me get so close to them that I could almost touch them.

And the rain poured down. I was soaking wet and soon even my sweater was too wet to wipe the camera lens on without it streaking. The Mom Voice in my head was getting louder, but the birds were so amazing that I couldn't tear myself away.


When I finally left the birds, I knew I had done a bad thing. I was so sopping wet that even my socks inside my boots were wet and my hair was a dripping mess. I postponed the Bad Part (where I check my camera) by having a piece of Golden Boy Pizza, which can cure most ills and is probably some of the best pizza in town. But then came the reckoning.

The camera appeared to be giving up the ghost. The lens wouldn't retract and the camera kept shutting itself off and saying horrible things like lens error, restart camera. And it was making a little squeaky sound, like a mouse on a wheel in a cage sound. Super Not Good.


Needless to say, the ride home on the train was a bummer. I really really adore my camera (like you couldn't tell) and I don't have $800 lying around the house to replace this one because I'm a dummy. The thought of not having a camera was making me sick to my stomach and it made me realize how much I love taking photos and being able to do it whenever I want. Plus, The Boy would have been very upset with me. (Thankfully he was not home when I got back. Whew.)

I tried to google some answers to see if there was something I could do for my poor drowned Canon, but to no avail. Then I thought maybe I could blow-dry the camera with the hairdryer and see what happens. At this point, what did I have to lose?

So I did. I blew dried my camera.

And after a little while, the squeaky mouse wheel sound was gone and the camera appears to be fine and we're on speaking terms again.

So that was the Naughty Part.


And now here is the Good Part. Why I was willing to do such a stupid thing in the first place. These wild parrots are exciting to watch and a gorgeous treat for the eye. They are true eye candy. I have so many photos of them that I'll probably upload an entire set to flickr, but in the meantime, here's a taste. (For the record, the color in these images is not tweaked at all... this is exactly how beautiful these birds are. You can look right into their eyes and feel their little parroty personalities just by standing still and watching them.)


For those of you who have not seen the wonderful documentary The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, here is an excerpt so you can have a peek into the world of these wild and beautiful birds and the city we share with them. You've really got to see this film-- it's magical.


Unknown January 23, 2009 at 5:15 PM  

Great pictures! And nice work with the whole blow drying your camera thing. :)

Yoli January 23, 2009 at 5:28 PM  

Take care of your camera pretty lady. Oh parrots my passion, how I love them, any parrot. I have two who are my babies.

Kath January 23, 2009 at 5:30 PM  

You are a bad girl! But oh the results are such a delight. I carry a bunch of dollar store shower caps in my camera bag - they don't protect the camera completely but they do help a bit!

Char January 23, 2009 at 7:25 PM  

the photographer in me got anxious as you talked about taking the shots in the rain...*whew* glad it had a happy ending. I could have sent you my little cyber shot that I keep for parties or my rebel that is my back-up.

wonderful shots thought...really wonderful

Adan January 23, 2009 at 7:30 PM  

ok, reading this my tech side comes out in force!!!!!!!

When getting electronics wet, here is the secret to make it work after.

Having been in the cell phone industry for sometime I run into wet phones all the time.

Upon discovering that your electronic device is wet, turn it off, and take out the batteries. Immediately. People don't realize that it's not the water that does the damage. Its the electrical current running through it. Even if the batteries are in it, there is a current running through the wires. The moisture and electrical current react and cause corrosion. The corrosion causes the electronic device not to work.

So take out the batteries and let dry. Blow Drying it was the smartest thing you could have done. With a camera you just need to be careful. If enough water got to the lens it can cause foggyness behind the lens if it was dried with too warm of air. And if your blow dryer was too warm it could have cracked the lens.

Glad it worked out and the photos are amazing!!! I hope you felt it was worth the risk!!!

Laura Doyle January 23, 2009 at 7:52 PM  

You know sometimes I get completely lost in your blogs; your links always link to another previous blog, where there's another link that I'm really curious about...and well a half hour's gone by and then I remember I have to get back to where I started. You could entertain me for hours! (That was such a fun tango video to watch! I especially loved how you described that night. I must confess I've never actually seen the tango done, or danced, unless in a movie. You know, the fictitious kind. Oh, I've been so sheltered!)

Blew dried. : ) I squeaked out a very funny sounding laugh at that one. Brendan heard me from the other room.

Anyway, positively lovely shots. As long as your precious camera is okay, it was totally worth it in my book. Your elation over the rain-soaked discovery of this little parrot world is almost palpable through the vibrancy of the photos. I still cannot believe they're wild. I first heard of them about a month or so ago and doubted the sincerity of the person informing me. I thought I was at the performing end of a gullibility demonstration. Huh.

Nancy Ewart January 23, 2009 at 9:19 PM  

I wish you'd given me a call. I would have come running, umbrella AND bus schedule in hand because all I could think of today was going back and taking more pictures. NONE of mine turned out very well so even though I'm working on an essay about our day in North Beach, I don't have the photos to prove it. Gorgeous gorgeous photos!

P January 23, 2009 at 9:57 PM  

Oh! They're so sweet! I want to cuddle them.

Anonymous January 24, 2009 at 12:37 AM  

Blow drying the camera, now that's a new one :-) Thank goodness you were able to get it working again. I would miss your photos!

paris parfait January 24, 2009 at 4:28 AM  

This is near where I was staying that first time at the top of the hill - and I photographed the Filbert Street steps, but couldn't get near the parrots. You've done a great job - wonderful photos. And thank goodness your camera survived the onslaught!

msHedgehog January 24, 2009 at 5:34 AM  

Those shots are just spectacular. Beautiful composition and bags of detail. I need a new camera.

I agree - you can get away with getting electronic equipment wet if you promptly remove the power source. It's perfectly safe to scrub keyboards and mice in the sink, for example, as long as you let them dry thoroughly afterwards without heating. I've even done this with a laptop keyboard (they're removable if you figure out how) when an overexcited salesman decided to give his laptop half a pint of beer. The trouble with beer is, it's so sticky, so some of the keys were still off. But the laptop was totally unharmed.

Sandra January 24, 2009 at 6:17 AM  

Beautiful. I would say it is worth the chance you took, but then it isn't my camera which was at risk. : )

Virginia S. Wood, Psy.D., Instructor January 24, 2009 at 7:16 AM  

Ritz Cameras sells a plastic glove that covers your camera and your hand/arm up to the elbow. It probably won't work in a downpour, but for anything short of that it offers good protection. It's only about $30 as opposed to around $150 for a really waterproof housing.

I just carry some food storage bags and rubber bands in my camera case. I put the camera in the bag with the lens sticking out and use a rubber band to seal the opening around the lens. Works great even in a steady rain.

Awesome pics you got there.

Relyn Lawson January 24, 2009 at 3:24 PM  

I loved Adam's information. I am somehow sure that will come in handy for me some day. Oh, how I was laughing picturing you sheepishly trying to explain all this to The Boy while you stand in the bathroom sopping wet. Because I am absolutely sure you worked on your camera before you did anything but take off your shoes. I am so glad your camera is fine - I like my stories to have happy endings, you know. Even though I don't have $800 lying around either, I would say these images would have been worth it. They are amazing.

Maybe you can go back a few more times? What a fantastic book that would make for your series.

larkspur January 24, 2009 at 7:33 PM  

I loved this documentary about the beautiful parrots, but I remember the ending was so sad. the guy lost his home and the hawk killed a parrot. I was so upset...:^[ Your story and pictures made me smile, tho, and now I have nice thoughts about them again.

christina January 24, 2009 at 7:37 PM  

Oh thank goodness!! I would have gotten a cup and went straight to the corner to try to entertain people in order to get you a new camera. I was on my way out the door, until I read the rest of your story. ; )

Now on to the bigger challenge- I don't have a talent. Can't sing, play guitar. Maybe I could jubilee a few cherries in brandy over a hot plate, pour it over vanilla ice cream and say, tah-dahh!!!! Never mind! I'm glad the camera works, for both of our sakes.

Red Shoes January 25, 2009 at 8:47 AM  

Glad the camera's okay! When we go out for a Free Friday adventure, can we look for the parrots? They're darling and I wish to admire them in person!

julochka January 26, 2009 at 12:01 AM  

thank you for the blow drying lesson. my camera got a bit wet (and sandy!) on the west coast last week, but also seems to be ok now. i bought one of those little things that lets you blow puffs of air and got rid of the crunchy sand sounds that way, but it's a bit scary to think of wrecking an object that brings so much joy...

on the bright side, judging from your pictures, i think it was worth it! :-)


Unknown January 30, 2009 at 5:45 PM  

Those are beutiful pictures! I wish I could see them in person. And I am going to have to remember the blow drying trick cause I figure it is only a matter of time for my camera which my 2 year old likes to snatch away and take pictures of herself (although all we get is a blurred red mass of her ey)

Sarah February 2, 2009 at 12:34 PM  

beautiful pictures. i wish i could see a wild parrot up close just once. :) maybe ill have to take a trip.


robin laws February 13, 2009 at 6:56 AM  

it almost makes me upset when i realize how much i miss from not being able to come and visit my blog friends everyday :( this is a GOOD story about a dedicated photographer... i love your storytelling charm ...and they are beautiful! will we be able to meet them when we are there in july??
it's free friday today!

heidikins March 13, 2009 at 9:03 AM  

Gasp! This post is half-fairy tale, half-myth, half-surreal. Yes, I realize that is three halves, work with me here.

I am glad your camera is working, and I can't even explain how amazing this story is, and the pictures? Goodness, the pictures...stunning to the nth degree!