Things got off to a rugged start on my recent trip to California. As we reached Southern Oregon the skies were filled with a haze that got thicker and thicker, until it was clear that it was smoke, though there was no consensus on the source of the smoke.

The sky was so gray it was nearly impossible to get decent photographs at any distance, as shown in this shot of Burney Falls a popular California State Park.

Smoke Obscures Burney Falls

Even though the nearby foliage seems vibrant and colorful, no amount of Photoshop magic could improve the falls itself.

In fact, the only shots that turned out reasonably well were shot of the Falls shot from the side in a relatively shaded area where the sun didn’t reflect off the smoke quite as much:

Burney Falls

I also managed to capture a couple of shots of birds that were quite close. I like this shot a Spotted Towhee, even though I have better local shots.

Spotted Towhee.jpg

I’m not sure what this bird is, though I’m pretty sure it’s some form of flycatcher.


The smoke finally began to clear when we reached Lassen Park, but the 400mm lens on my Canon 5D got stuck part way on. Not only couldn’t I switch to the wide-angle lens I use to shoot scenic pictures, I couldn’t even take bird pictures with the 400mm lens. I didn’t manage to get one usable picture from the entire day spent at Lassen, particularly painful since it’s the first time I’ve ever been there.

Remarkably, I did manage to discover the cause of the problem with an iPhone search. A small screw that attaches the bayonet to the lens had backed out and jammed. Of course, the solution suggested was to ship the camera to Canon, and they would get it off for $400. Ordinarily, if I’d been at home and had another camera available, I would have shipped it off to be fixed. It was certainly the safest thing to do. But that would have meant not having a camera throughout my entire vacation, not for birding, not for scenics. I wasn’t ready to face that reality.

Instead, the next day when I’d reached Santa Rosa I opted to use Silicone spray to lubricate the lens and a strap wrench to apply pressure, without excessive pressure that might damage the lens. I felt a real sense of relief when the lens came off with relatively light pressure, and I was able to tighten up the screw and use the lens without further problems for the rest of the vacation.

I did manage to get some good pictures in Santa Rosa, but I’m not sure I ever completely recovered from the lens incident. I fretted about it the entire first night in Santa Rosa until I could fix it the next day. It didn’t help that Santa Rosa had one of the hottest days on record while we were there. Things just seemed slightly out of sync after that.