Spring Training in the Continuous Mode

Finally, the work week ended and I was able to grab the Nikon and do some shooting.  Actually, the work week ended a little early, as I telecommuted this morning, and then took a half-day of PTO to attend a spring training baseball game.  Andy and I went to see the White Sox and the Dodgers at the new spring training facility known as Camelback Ranch in Phoenix/Glendale.

My goal for the day was to try out the “continuous” or burst mode on the Nikon.  We had pretty good seats on the right field line in the fifth row, so I had a decent sight line from home plate to first base.  I was using my 75-200mm zoom lens, which wasn’t as great as my 300mm, but the 300mm doesn’t autofocus, so I stuck with a little less zoom.

My goal was to capture the “big play”–the exact moment when the bat connected with the ball, or the split second that the runner beat the throw at first base.  It was tricky to try and anticipate the plays so that I would have my camera at least pointed in the right direction.  For shots of the batter, I learned to start shooting about the time that he raised the bat slightly behind his head to start his swing.  For the plays at first base, I learned that it was better to remain focused on the first baseman rather than the batter…after all, the batter would be running toward first base if he connected with the ball.

I never got the exact shot that I wanted but I came close a time or two.  This one was just a split second too early:

I took quite a few more shots similar to this one, and will upload some of them to Flickr.  But I also enjoyed getting shots of the fans in the stands.  The great thing about baseball games is that it’s such a slow pace you can spend time looking around without missing anything on the field.  I caught this image of a young kid standing at one of the upper decks watching the game, glove in hand, and I could just imagine what was going through his head as he imagined himself on the field some day:

Some of the best images came after the game as the crowd started to disperse.  As we were leaving the stadium, I caught this shot of several players leaving the facility.  There just happened to be an emergency vehicle at the end of the tunnel…fitting I suppose since these guys lost 8-3:

Continuous, or burst, mode produced a lot of images and took up a lot of hard drive space, and a lot of the images were just so-so, and those will be discarded.  But it was a good opportunity to learn the little nuances of how the Nikon captures action shots…I found that the delay from the time I pressed the button to when the shutter clicked was much less than I had anticipated, so next time I’ll try to be just a split second more patient before I hit that button.

All in all, we had a great time at the game, and I’m looking forward to going through the rest of the photos (secret: the photos of the fans are infinitely more interesting than the ones of the players!).

Oh, and my new strap arrived in the mail today.  I’ve already got it attached to my camera, and it works exactly as I wanted.  From now on, I don’t have to worry about having the strap blowing around in the wind while the camera sits on the tripod.

I haven’t made a final decision regarding where I’ll shot tomorrow.  I’ll wait to see what the weather looks like as far as cloud cover goes.  There’s supposed to be rain moving in on Sunday, so I want to get some good camera-time tomorrow before it hits.



Moonrise over Thunderbird Park

The weather forecast for today called for quite a bit of rain, but it turned out to be a sunny afternoon with clouds starting to gather in the west about 4:00PM, so I decided to see what kind of sunset we might have.  I packed up my gear and headed back to the same hilltop that I visited earlier this week in Thunderbird Conservation Park in north Glendale.

I got setup in plenty of time to just sit back and enjoy the breeze and the fresh air from the top of the hill.  Hikers passed by fairly often, some of whom asked some friendly questions about shooting the sunset.  There was a big cloud bank in the west, but it was absolutely clear to the east (which I’m sure made the folks at the Waste Management Phoenix Open golf tourney very happy), so it didn’t look too promising for a great sunset.

Sure enough, the sun slipped behind the cloud bank with a minimum of flare and color.  I shot quite a few bracketed series, but I’m not sure that any of them are that exciting–I’ll know more when I start processing them.

BUT–when I started to leave I found that the full moon was rising in the east, right between two mountains.  I took a couple of shots from my tripod-mounted camera with the normal lens, but wasn’t that impressed with the results.  So I packed up everything and headed down the hill.  Back in the parking lot, I packed up my gear, gave Andy a call to let him know I was on my way home for dinner, and then started driving out of the park.

And that’s when I saw it.  As I rounded a curve in the park, I was confronted with the perfect view of the full moon rising over one of the taller mountains with the iconic silhouette of the Arizona saguaro clearly visible.  Without a second thought, I whipped my car into the nearest parking lot, swapped lenses on my camera, mounting the old Quantaray 75-300mm zoom, and sat down at the nearest picnic table to steady my arms as I zoomed in on the face of the moon (I didn’t even bother getting the tripod out of the case!).

And here’s the result:

I’ve done absolutely no further processing on this shot–it’s straight from the camera.  I have to say I’m very pleased with it, especially since it was done hand-held with an old lens (ISO 250, F/10, 1/80s, -2.0EV).

So, tomorrow I’ll go through the sunset shots, but this one image alone made it worth sitting on top of that hill for an hour.


Out of Africa – A Busy Weekend

We had family visiting from out of town this weekend, so we stayed on the road quite a bit exploring some of the sights in and around Phoenix.  Today we spent most of the day at Out of Africa Wildlife Park in Camp Verde, about 90 minutes north of the Valley.  I took almost 250 photos, but we just got home and it’s late and I’m not about to start processing all of them now.  I do have to go to work tomorrow, after all.

But I couldn’t resist doing at least one of the images just to get a sample.  Here’s one of the tigers we saw there:

This was shot with a 200mm zoom lens, and the image was processed in Paintshop Pro to adjust color balance, contrast, saturation and sharpness.  Can’t wait to see how the rest of them turn out!

Color Popping 101

I’ve always admired photos where the background is in black-and-white while some single feature stood out in color.  I found out that the technique is called “color popping” and I found a simple tutorial on how to do it in Paint Shop Pro.  Here are my first two attempts at Color Popping:

Wolf Moon

I’ve been waiting for the full moon ever since I bought my new Nikon, and tonight was the night.  Fortunately the skies cleared up, and around 5:45 this afternoon, the moon rose over the eastern horizon, and it was a beauty.  Unfortunately, I was still in my car driving down 59th Avenue on my way home from work after having stopped at Wing Stop to pick up food for tonight’s home movie night.

About ten minutes later I pulled into the garage, dumped the chicken wings on the kitchen counter, grabbed my old Quantaray 75-300mm zoom lens, got back in the car and drove two blocks south to where there’s an open field right across from a neighborhood park.  I was able to park on the side of the road and set up my tripod right behind my car, and I got several decent shots of the moon, although by that time it had lost most of it’s golden glow and was bright white.

This is the last shot that I took:

ISO 200, 300mm, 1/25s, F7.1, -4.0EV

I played around with the settings, using aperture-priority mode, and wound up having to underexpose the shot by 4 stops in order to get a good view of the features on the moon’s face.  Of course, having taken this shot, it has only made me wish for a longer telephoto lens.

Looking forward to a good weekend of shooting, wherever it may be!

Artists Being Paranoid

Andy and I decided to visit the Art & Wine Fest in Cave Creek today to enjoy the mild winter weather before the rains set in this week.  I took my camera with me, hoping to get some shots of the landscape on Cave Creek Road, and maybe some shots of the festival atmosphere.  I know better than to just start shooting photographs of the artists’ work, since many of them are protective of their creative ideas (as they have every right to be).

After paying our $3 entry fee, we began strolling through the festival, enjoying the beautiful designs and unique media applications that the various artists were presenting in their booths.  I left the camera in the case as we walked along because I was more interested at the time in actually examining the artists’ wares than in photographing them.

After we stopped for lunch, I decided to just take a few shots of the festival grounds.  After last night’s mad crunch at the Glendale Glitters festival, it was nice to be able to maneuver through the streets and approach each of the booths without being jostled and hemmed in.  There were just so many things to look at.  Then we came upon an artist who had a display of some wall hangings as well as some sculptures that were done in a beautiful Southwest style.  I thought the colors and design were so appealing.  She was sitting outside her booth working on one of her sculptures, adding beading to some fringe work on the front of the figure.  I approached her and asked if she minded if I took some photographs, and she graciously consented.

I took about eight or nine photos of her work, strictly for my own enjoyment, and thanked her for allowing me to do so.  We then started walking toward the next booth, when behind me I heard a man’s voice saying “Excuse me, excuse me, ma’am!” in a decidedly British accent. We turned to see a man in a Crocodile Dundee hat with a half-eaten sandwich in his hand approaching us.  In his Brit accent, he said, “Would you please remove the photos of me from your camera?”  I told him I didn’t have any photos of him in my camera, and that I would be happy to show him the photos that I had taken.  Andy quickly jumped to my defense and told him that we had only taken photos of the artists’ work where we had specifically asked for and had been granted permission.  He quickly apologized and said that some woman had told him we were taking photos of his work. You can count on there being at least one busy-body when a lot of artistic types get together.

So even though I had done nothing wrong, the encounter kind of ruined the atmosphere for me.  I didn’t ask any other artists for permission to photograph, even though there were some beautiful pieces of sculpture and unique art pieces that I would have loved to have recorded. I know that artists of all crafts today are so protective of their rights, from recording artists trying to stop free downloading of music to software programmers trying to stop the sale of pirated software.  I get it. But artists need to understand that when they ruin the experience for their consumers by being so anal about their rights, they lose customers and fans, and that type of attitude will hurt them in the long run.

So, instead of spending more time around the artist’s booths, we wandered over to where the fountains and permanent art sculptures were installed, and I shot a few photos there.  I didn’t use the tripod, just took some hand-held shots with both the normal and the telephoto lenses. I was trying to play with the settings to get different effects of the water flowing over the rocks in the little waterfall at the base of the fountain.  The sky was partly-to-mostly cloudy, but there was still enough sun to cast some harsh shadows.  Some of the shots came out fairly decent given the subject matter I was shooting. The one below was one of my favorites, especially after I used Paint Shop Pro to add some contrast and saturation to the photo.

The forecast for this week calls for rain…all week.  Imagine that!! So I probably won’t have much of a chance to use the camera in the dark, wet, cold evenings. Instead, I’ll probably spend some time getting familiar with Paint Shop Pro’s editing functionality, as well as reading some of the books and magazines that I’ve collected in the past week to learn more about my hobby. So far it’s fun, challenging, and expensive (can’t forget that one!).

Glendale Glitters 2010

Andy and I went to Glendale Glitter and Glow tonight.  We should have known it was going to be crowded when we got over to Glendale Community College to catch the shuttle bus and had to wait in line for over a half-hour.  It seemed that all of Maricopa County had decided to enjoy the mild winter evening and head to the festival.  When we got off the bus in downtown Glendale, it was like swimming upstream to spawn just to get around in the crowd of people.

I had considered taking my tripod with me, but at the last minute decided against it based on the crowd.  I saw two or three other people with tripods under their arms as well, but there simply wasn’t a good place to set up for a timed exposure (not to mention that my cable release still hasn’t arrived).  So all my shots were hand-held, using the “Nightime Landscape” program setting for the most part.

The hot air balloons are always fun to photograph, but you have to point your camera and wait patiently for the operator to decide to fire up the propane tank, creating the “glow” that makes everyone “ooh” and “aah”.  There are lots of Christmas lights in the trees, giving the area a festive atmosphere.

However, this year it seems like they changed the way things were arranged.  They had all the food vendors together in one place that was fenced in to contain the alcohol, so the crowd naturally gravitated to that area.  There were huge lines waiting for food, and it was almost impossible to walk through Murphy Square for the congestion.  We managed to find a pretty decent band that was playing on the east side of the square, but by the time we fought our way through the crowd to see them, we were ready to leave.

I was disappointed that I didn’t get more good shots, but I came away with about 25 that were decent.  I was more disappointed that the festival was so congested that we really couldn’t enjoy it…we left early and went to Applebees.