DIY Shed Project – Impact Driver Turns Out To Be The Tool Of Choice

Dewalt DCF815 Impact Driver

Submitted by guest blogger, Mark Jimson.

DIY projects are fun, helpful, and money-saving ventures for most of us. But,However, unless you have the proper tools, there isn’t much fun or enjoyment.

Having moved into a new house, there were a couple of “excuses” for errecting a new outside shed. Actually, make that three reasons.

1. You have to please your wife, right? She was not happy about my stuff taking up the entire garage. There was no room for her car in there. We simply had to have more space. It would prove to be a very valuable investment if our relationship was saved.

Second, even yours truly could not find anything in this new cramped garage. Searching was now taking up more time than actually doing the job. Even the best organizer would have been challenged to straighten out this muddled up mess.

The last and most important reason was that I did not yet own an impact driver, and having heard that they are awesome, I wanted one pretty badly. I have no problem admitting that I have a serious addiction when it comes to tools. I have to have them. Creating jobs just to buy a new tool is not above me. I did not have an impact driver yet, so what better reason to get one than this new outside shed.

I created a list of supplies and materials I would need for my new project. Can you guess what was the first thing on my list? A DeWalt DCF815S2 12-volt Cordless Compact Impact Driver. My wife always has a say in the financial decisions, so she would have to approve the purchase, but saving time would be a good enough reason. Since impact drivers require less physical energy than regular drills, that is just one more reason for an “old dude” like me to get one.

I finished the list and showed it to my wife. Of course, she balked when she saw the tool at the top of the list, a bit more pricey than the new cordless drill I had to have for a past DIY event. I assured her that it was necessary for my health, and she bought it.

Can I tell you, it was even better than I could have imagined. Driving fasteners with this new tool is really easy on the arm. Another great benefit is the weight. It is only about one half the weight of a cordless drill. I always have a favorite tool, and the impact driver is now it. I now look for ways to use this tool because I enjoy it so much.

The outside shed got finished quickly. Now we are one happy family again, thanks in part to the DeWalt DCF815S2 12-volt impact driver.

Birdwatching – Keep a Journal

Bird Watching is a great way to escape the rat race and be one with nature. Alas, your bird watching experiences can fade with time. The best way to prevent this is to keep a bird watching journal for your sightings and trips.

birdwatching nuthatch

Birdwatching can find you some great treasures, like this Nuthatch

Bird Watching Journals

Take a minute to give some consideration to your most recent bird watching experience. What sticks out in your mind? Now think about the first time you ever went bird watching. Undoubtedly, you remember few things about the geography, people you went with, every bird sighted and so on. The experiences youíve forgotten are lost to time. If you had kept a bird watching journal, this wouldnít be the case.

There are famous instances of people keeping journals throughout time. Of course, Anne Frankís Diary is the best example. In her diary, Anne kept a running commentary of the two years her family spent hiding from the Nazis. While your bird watching experiences better be more lighthearted, keeping a journal will let you remember them as the years pass.

A good bird watching journal combines a number of characteristics. First, it should be compact so you donít have to take up unnecessary space for other things. Second, it should have a case to protect it from rain, spills and so on. Third, the journal should contain blank areas to write your notes. Fourth, the journal should contain cue spaces to remind you to keep notes on specific things. Cues should include:

  1. Who you went birding with,
  2. Where you stayed and if you enjoyed it,
  3. Who you met and contact information for them,
  4. The geographic and weather conditions, and
  5. The birds you sighted and added to your life list.

At the end of the trip, you should be able to get the following from your journal:

  1. Contact information for other bird watchers and people you met,
  2. Enough detail to provide you or a friend with a guide if you travel to the location a second time.
  3. Memories to reflect upon years later, and
  4. Something to pass on to your children and grandchildren.

To get the most out of your bird watching journal, you should write in it during and immediately after birding. Every sighting brings new experiences even if youíre just sitting in your backyard.

Bird watching is a great way to commune with nature. Make sure to preserve the experience.

Canon Macro 60mm Lens – Quality Lens for Entry-Level DSLR Cameras

Canon Macro 60mm Lens

Canon Macro 60mm Lens

If you are a Canon SLR owner, you undoubtedly need a macro lens. Although this write-up is concerning the Canon 60mm macro, you may not want that one, but you really do need a macro lens in your camera case.

A Canon 60mm macro lens is among the first lenses you should purchase for your Canon Rebel or your Canon 60D. You will be able to take literally thousands of pictures that will amaze your relatives and associates, not to mention those people who check out your photo gallery on your website or Flickr.

Perhaps you currently own a decent macro lens. That’s fine. The Canon 60mm is still a terrific supplement to your photo accessories mainly because of its flexibility.

Sample Macro Photos – Click a photo to see the full-sized version

Sunflower with Macro Lens

Canon Macro shot of a Sunflower

Frittilary Butterfly with Macro Lens

Frittilary Butterfly with Macro Lens

Here is a short list of advantages you get when you invest in the Canon 60mm macro lens:

  • Macro photos (naturally) – acquire those remarkable shots of insects, blooms, and many other little physical objects up to a 1:1 ratio, showing excellent detail that is typically not seen by the unaided eye.
  • Get fast shutter speeds with an aperture as wide as f/2.8 and super bokeh (bokeh is about those fuzzy backgrounds that experts are able to obtain.)
  • Portraits of professional quality can be taken with a Canon 60mm macro lens. On a Canon Rebel, the focal length is comparable to 96mm because of the 1.6 crop factor.
  • Save some cash by getting this lens as an alternative of the 100mm macro. The photograph quality is exceptional, consequently you will certainly not be remorseful concerning the buy (absolutely no “buyer’s remorse”)
  • Superb lens for video on your digital SLR camera. Single focal length lenses tend to create higher quality video, and the image quality of this lens is indisputable. Performance is much better in lower light while shooting video thanks to the wide aperture.
  • The Canon 60mm lens is manufactured specifically for entry-level to mid-level digital SLRs. If you currently have a Rebel, a 20D-60D, or a 7D, this particular lens is for you! Canon produces EF-S lenses like the Canon 60mm to deal with the particular kind of sensor in those cameras. The engineering is fantastic for gaining the best outcomes with the entry-level to mid-level digital SLR cameras.

There are a couple of things on the down side:

  • If you need a lens hood, that is a separate purchase.
  • No IS (image stabilization). This may not be a negative factor to every photographer, but it is most certainly worthy of mention here. You will no doubt want to shoot many of your macro shots with a tripod at any rate because of the detail in those type of shots.

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Consider the total satisfaction of buyers:

Look at the user comments in websites like Amazon and B&H photo. Customers are in love with this lens. One of the most common comments is that they do not know why they hesitated when contemplating this buy.

The factor for hesitation is rather obvious. The Canon Macro 60mm does not get all the attention of some of the other lenses in this category. But it definitely should. It is a great acquisition to just about anyone’s camera bag.

For more regarding the Canon Macro 60mm, along with a collection of the technical specifics, go to http://www.canoneoslenses.org/macro-canon-lens/.

Squirrels – GRRR! They’re Robbing My Bird Feeders


I just read this, and I have not had a chance to run it through Snoops, but I suspect it’s true:

Squirrel In Bird Feeder

Here's one of the little rodents poking his head out of the bird feeder.

Squirrels are wily little rodents noted for being able to outsmart just about anyone who tries to deny them access to bird feeders. Squirrels can walk on wire, jump almost 4 feet straight up, leap 10 feet across, and climb almost anything. (Got this from e-how.com.)

Those little buggers are eating me out of “house and home” (as my Mom used to say). They sit either in or on the bird feeders until all the food is gone, and it only takes them about an hour to clean me out.

My birds are getting skinny!

I’m willing to actually spend some money here, because I know it will save me money in the long run… in bird food, that is.

I’m not going for one of those twirling bird feeders, though.

I read somewhere that if you run a wire between two places, say your house to a tree, and hang your bird feeder in the middle. Then put some spinning obstacles on the wire, like some plastic bottles or old thread spools. These will turn the squirrel upside down when it tries to walk across them.

Then I will get a squirrel baffle from my friends at Duncraft to put above the bird feeder.

I feel like the guy (I think Bill Murray played the part) in the movie Caddyshack who was trying to rid the golf course of gophers.

I don’t want to eradicate the squirrels. I just want them to leave my birds’ food source alone. Know what I mean, Vern?

I’ll keep ya posted.

Get Great Photos with a Tamron 60mm F/2 Macro Lens

Green Spider on Yellow Rose - Macro Photo

Macro lens makes these kind of photos much easier

At last. A macro lens with an enormous aperture and a not so enormous price tag. Tamron has delivered macro photography to the entire photography community with the Tamron 60mm Macro Lens.

You can now use this extraordinary macro lens for your digital SLR camera to take fabulous photos of the flowers, birds, and critters in your garden.

The Tamron AF 60mm f/2.0 SP DI II LD IF 1:1 Macro Lens is available for purchase. What’s in a name, anyway? What do all those letters mean, anyway?

crocus flower with macro lens

Crocus with dew drops - another macro lens photo

A quick breakdown of the tech-speak:

  • SP = High performance specifications
  • AF = stands for auto focus
  • F/2 = aperture designation for the largest aperture(lens opening)
  • Di II = designed for digital SLR cameras only (cannot be used on a film camera)
  • LD = Low Dispersion glass
  • IF = Internal focusing

The only letters missing that would make this a better lens are VC and USD. VC stands for Vibration Compensation, and USD stands for Ultrasonic Silent Drive. This would add something similar to Image Stabilization and Fast Focus. Even though they would add great value to this lens, they would also add a lot to the price. Unfortunately, they would push the price of the lens beyond a reasonable limit and make it unavailable for its intended users.

Macro photo of chive flower

This chive bloom is only about 1 inch long - another macro lens triumph


Intended users? It’s intended for those who have APS-C cameras… I know, more letters. But APS-C cameras are those digital SLR cameras with a modified sensor that is less than “full frame”. APS-C cameras include the likes of the Digital Rebels in the Canon line and the D5000 in the Nikon line.

Here are two of the most outstanding features of the Tamron 60mm Macro Lens.

  1. Image quality is superior. All reviewers agreed that the image quality was beyond their expectations. Since all dedicated macro lenses are prime (meaning single focal length rather than zoom lenses), they usually produce better image quality just due to the fact that they are only one focal length. This takes some of the technological guesswork out of how to make the image quality excellent at every focal length of the zoom.
  2. Depth of Field. The plane of focus, being a macro lens, was narrow enough, even at the smaller apertures to produce a nice blurring, or bokeh, effect.

This statement by the manufacturer is important: The Tamron 60mm Macro lens is the only lens in the World that can boast an F/2.0 aperture at that focal length. There are a number of lenses that have an aperture of F/2.8, but none have F/2.0.

While the top billing for the lens is for Macro photography, it can be employed for other types of photography. A 60mm lens with a fast aperture such as this one is well suited for portraits. Many photographers use a 50mm lens for portraits, but this one performed admirably for taking sharp portraits.

amaryllus with macro lens

Amaryllus bloom with macro lens

Much has been mentioned in favor of the Tamron 60mm Macro lens. But are there any concerns?

Most of the reviews have agreed that there is one negative factor that they observed in their use of the lens. The lens has auto focus with a manual override. That means that you can use the camera to get the focus automatically, but if you feel that you can tweak the focus manually to get it sharper, you can do that. The reviewing photographers seemed to have trouble with this feature, because the lens would try to auto focus while they were using the manual override.

If you are familiar with macro lenses, you will know that this happens with other macro models, as well. Because you are so close to the subject, and the plane of focus is so narrow, it is sometimes difficult for the auto focus feature to get a tack-sharp focus. With the Tamron 60mm Macro lens, the testers agreed that they were able to master this problem, but it was somewhat of a negative in their evaluation.

The general consensus is that the Tamron 60mm Macro lens is an excellent lens for entry level and mid level digital slr cameras. This lens offers photographers a cost-effective macro lens that delivers great image quality.

Find out more about the Tamron 60mm Macro Lens at http://digital-photographic-resources.com.


The Butterfly Garden | Attract Butterflies to Your Yard

Frittilary Butterfly

Frittilary Butterfly on Verbena

Creating a butterfly garden is not about perfect rows and tidy beds. It is more about a garden that is teaming with life, not only butterfly life, but also birds, hummingbirds, bees and other natural insects of all types.

That is not to say you can’t arrange your garden in rows and color combination that please the eye aesthetically.

The best butterfly attractors are usually quite colorful and plentiful. Probably the most famous way to attract butterflies to your yard is by using a butterfly bush or two. They come in several colors including white, pink, yellow and the blossoms are clustered densely. It is very entertaining to watch butterflies and bees move from one cluster to another as they gather nectar.

The colors of the flowers you choose are important too. The flying flowers (another term for butterflies) love the colors red, pink, orange, purple, and yellow. The flowers should be either short tubular varieties that have tightly clustered blooms such as the butterfly bush, or they can be flat topped blooms like the zinnia and cone flower.

Swallowtail on Zinnia

Tiger Swallowtail on Zinnia Flower

Use Perennials: Perennials can be planted around the yard, saving you time and money in succeeding years because perennials will always return at just the right time for your butterfly visitors in years to come. The perennials that I have had great success with are cone flowers, zinnias (these are not supposed to be perennials, but they always come back for me), verbena, phlox, Gerber daisies, and hollyhocks. These abound in my yard since they  are also quite an attraction for butterflies of many varieties.

Black Swallowtail Caterpilar

A very young Black Swallowtail Caterpillar

Host Plants: If you are serious about your butterfly garden, you will also want to supply a few host plants. These are plants that butterflies use to lay their eggs. Each variety of butterfly has unique requirements for hosts. For instance, Monarchs are partial to milkweed. I personally grow parsley for the black swallowtail butterflies in my area. Some trees are also hosts for butterflies, like the willow, which is host to several types of butterflies.

Pink Cone Flower

Butterflies love these pink Cone Flowers – so do other pollen and nectar gathering insects

Don’t forget that in order to attract butterflies to your yard for more than a passing visit you will also need a source of water and minerals. If you observe closely, you will notice that the butterflies land on a rock or a mud puddle and seem to just sit there for a long time. That is when they are gathering minerals. It is probably your best opportunity for a photo shoot because they are rather distracted and will not fly away from you while they are “puddling”.

You can create a “puddling” opportunity in your butterfly garden by adding an area of wet sand or mud. As uninviting as it may sound to you, it will be an additional attraction for your delicate flying visitors.

Butterfly Protection: Butterflies will be more apt to remain in your butterfly garden if they feel safe. You can protect their food sources from the wind by planting larger shrubs and trees around the perimeter of your garden. Planting your butterfly garden close to a wall, such as the side of your house or a privacy fence can also keep wind from becoming too much of a factor for the butterflies.

Don’t use insecticides: butterflies are insects and they will be fatally affected by insecticides in your butterfly garden. Instead, you can use flowers such as marigolds and predator insects like lady bugs to help keep populations of unwanted pests at a lower level. However, remember that each insect, weed and varmint has a vital part in a healthy ecosystem. So you don’t want to totally eliminate everything you may think is undesirable without doing a little research first.

Brightly colored butterflies can be a welcome addition to your wildlife garden, not only because of their beauty, but also because of their usefulness in pollinating flowers. Not to mention that there are very few butterflies that are considered “pests”.

“Shooting” Birds – Bird Photography Made Easy

Brown Headed Nuthatch

Brown Headed Nuthatch perched on top of the "tree branch" feeder.

Bird Photography is not usually thought of as easy as taking a family snapshot. But, truthfully, you don’t need Moose Peterson’s equipment or budget to be able to get some really nice photos of birds. You can use some pretty simple strategies to get birds into your environment rather than trekking to some remote mountain top or snake infested swamp.

What you will need…

  1. Birds.. duh!  But wait, before you click away, hear me out. As you know, birds are all over the place. Your goal is to get them coming into your space more often and on a regular basis. You can do this in two ways. First, you can add bird-friendly trees and plants to your yard. Birds are attracted to places where they feel comfortable, just like you. If you can add a source of cover and food you will see an increase in the number of birds that hang out in your area. Water is also important. A bird bath or small water feature will help. You can find a valuable resource at Birds & Blooms Magazine web site for establishing a bird friendly environment.
  2. Titmouse with Attitude

    You can see how close I can get. This titmouse was only a few feet from my kitchen window.

  3. A way to get close to feathered friends. I have spent hours trying to get close enough to birds that just were not cooperating in my yard. So I came up with this plan to lure the birds with… are your ready for this?? Bird food! That’s right, bird food. I know that may come as a surprise to you (lol), but it was a light bulb moment for me when I set out my first bird feeder and figured out that the birds would come there on a regular basis.What I did then was to create a more natural way of feeding them that would look like I was photographing them in a natural environment and not on a plastic bird feeder perch. I merely drilled some holes in an old branch to create bird food niches. When the birds landed on the “natural” feeder, I was close by in a blind I built with some camouflage material. I worked really well. But then when the temperature dropped below freezing, I retreated to my house and came up with an alternate plan. I moved my natural feeder close to my kitchen window. That was a stroke of inspiration. I could sit and watch the birds feed and take as many photos as my heart desired.Now, all I have to do is figure out how to keep the squirrels out of the bird food. Don’t get me wrong. I have not grown to dislike squirrels… yet, but they are keeping the birds away.
  4. A pretty good camera. This item really depends on how you want your pictures to turn out. You can get a nice point and shoot camera and do ok. But if you are serious about your photography, you will want to get a Digital SLR camera with a lens of at least 200mm. Now, Moose uses 500mm and longer when it comes to focal length. With our little trick of getting the birds to come to you, you don’t need those long expensive lenses. I have a Canon Digital SLR with a Canon 70-200mm f/4.0 lens and I get some very nice images.
bad hair day

This poor female cardinal was in need of a spa treatment on this day. Again, taken through the kitchen window.

If you have a hankering to get a newer camera or a better lens, I recommend you do some research. A good place to start is at www.digital-photographic-resources.com.

If you have any suggestions as to how to get those birds close to you for better photography opportunities, please leave a comment.

Here’s to taking better pictures.

Wayne Rasku