First Shoot With the 24-85mm Nikkor

I just finished going through all the photos that I shot yesterday at my nephew’s wedding in Flowood, Mississippi. And I have to say, I am in love with this new Nikkor 24-85mm lens!

Even though I still don’t have a real clue what I’m doing with the flash, the lens performed beautifully. I was able to get the group shots that I wanted, as well as close-up details of things like the flowers on the wedding cake.  The depth-of-field on the macro shots is amazing, and so is the bokeh that I was able to achieve on some of the shots.  I love that the lens did not add a lot of extra weight to my Nikon D700, which already feels like a tank, especially when it has the flash (Nikon SB-700) mounted on it.

Here are three examples of the shots I got yesterday that I uploaded to Flickr. I’m definitely looking forward to getting better acquainted with this little equipment set-up!

ColeWedding_009

ColeWedding_023

ColeWedding_020

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White Goose in Late Afternoon

We stopped by Veterans Park in Tupelo on Sunday afternoon just about an hour before sundown.  We wanted to see if there were any geese on the lake, and we were fortunate enough to get there just when (1) the light was right and (2) a family was tossing pieces of bread into the water to attract the geese, ducks and other waterfowl.

I tried to practice something that I read recently about photographing birds and other wildlife–try to focus on the eyes.  It’s harder than it looks, as animals don’t exactly look into the camera and pose for you.  But just thinking about that little rule made me pay more attention to what I was shooting, and I did manage to capture a few shots where the eyes look pretty darn sharp!

White Goose in Late Afternoon

I used my Nikon D5000 with the 55-200mm lens for this shot, set at about 190mm. I used a fairly large aperture of F/6.3 to get a faster shutter speed and also to blur the background a little bit. I processed the raw file in Paintshop Photo Pro X4, using Topaz Adjust 5, as well as Topaz DeNoise to clean up the very slight bit of noise in the dark areas of the water.

If you like my work, please subscribe to this blog and feel free to offer comments. You can also find me on:
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Tombigbee Sweet Gum

This past Sunday we took an afternoon drive to Tombigbee State Park, just about twenty minutes from our house, to explore the countryside and look for a few photo-ops. The trees are still bare and most of the ground cover is still brown, but it was a beautiful day with bright blue skies, and we thoroughly enjoyed our day-trip.

Tombigbee State Park is small as far as parks go, but they have a beautiful lake, some nice campsites, recreational facilities (including an excellent Frisbee golf course that winds its way through the woods), and picnicking and boating facilities. They also have a number of rustic but well-equipped cabins for rent, and we will definitely be making reservations for a stay there in the near future.

I carried both my camera bodies with me. I had the Nikon D5000 with my 55-200mm lens attached, and I also had my Nikon D700 full-frame monster with the 14-24mm wide-angle lens mounted. It was nice to be able to switch back and forth between cameras while shooting the same scene, and to be able to compare results between the equipment.

The first shot I want to share is this image taken with the D5000 and the 55-200 zoom. I wanted to capture the hanging sweet gum ball while blurring the lake in the background, and the telephoto lens with a wide aperture was perfect.  I even managed to capture the wisps of spider web on the lower fork of the branch:

Tombigbee Sweet Gum

I’ll share more photos in the next few days. I’m still anxious for springtime to get here so things will start to green up a little. But it’s still possible to find beauty in the middle of winter time if we just take the time to look for it.

If you like my work, please subscribe to this blog and feel free to offer comments. You can also find me on:
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Natural Zen in Sepia

Today was kind of strange.  It was Christmas Eve Eve, and a Friday at that, so it was a day that I really didn’t expect to get much work done.  But, adding to the weirdness of the day, my work laptop somehow acquired a virus, so it’s been out of commission since day before yesterday.  I spent hours on Skype with our helpdesk yesterday trying to get my system up and running, to no avail.  So today they’re shipping me a replacement laptop, which should arrive early next week.

There wasn’t much I could do today, other than check my email (using my own personal computer) and respond as necessary–and I only received two emails that required responses.  By lunchtime I was ready to get out of the house and away from the computer.  So even though it was a gray, overcast day, I decided to do a little shooting.  I’ve been wanting to take some Zen-inspired photos to have framed for my home office, and I thought today would be the perfect time to do that.

Andy went with me on the excursion, and we drove out to Elvis Presley Lake, just north of where we live.  We had not been there yet, so we weren’t sure what to expect in the way of photo ops.  We found a nice lake with camping spots, picnic tables, boat ramps and fishing piers, and very nice bath and shower facilities.

I wanted to get some shots using very shallow depth of field, so I used my 50mm prime lens.  We found a spot where there were some downed trees near the water’s edge, and I took a few shots before the cold wind literally drove us back to the car.  Here are three that I processed this afternoon, using Paintshop Photo Pro X4 and Topaz Black & White Effects using the Sepia presets.  I sized these to be 5 x 7’s, and I’m going to have them mounted in 8 x 10 or 8.5 x 11 frames to go in my office.  I used similar processing on each one as I want them to be displayed as  a set:

Pine Log in Sepia

Grass in Sepia

Pine Cone in Sepia

After warming up for just a minute, we walked over the hill where the wind was a little less biting, and took some shots of the boat docks and the fishing pier. There was a large sign on the pier that said “No Swimming”. Just a few yards from the entrance to the pier, I found this lying on the bed of pine needles, and couldn’t resist grabbing a quick photo to be processed in Topaz Adjust.  Needless to say, this image will NOT be joining the others on my office wall, but I did find the photo to be oddly compelling:

Goggles

 

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Tupelo Christmas Parade 2011

It’s been a long time since I’ve been to any Christmas parade, and it’s been about forty years since I’ve been to the one in Tupelo.  The last time I went to the Tupelo Christmas parade, it was still a nighttime event, and my parents would park our car in front of the Firestone store on Main Street so we could see the Shriners drive their little cars around in circles–that was my favorite part, better even than Santa Claus!

There were no Shriners this year, and the parade was held at 10:00 in the morning, but it was a beautiful day and we thoroughly enjoyed soaking up some of the local flavor.  I carried my Nikon D700 and the 28-300mm lens.  I used a very wide aperture, not only to get a high shutter speed but also to practice some depth-of-field techniques.  I wanted to see if I could focus on particular faces in the crowd, or on certain features of the parade floats.

I wound up taking 447 frames, so I have a lot of images to go through.  Of course, most aren’t worth mentioning, but I did capture a few that I really like.  Here are the first two that I’ve spent some time on this evening.  I’m using Paintshop Photo Pro X4 and Topaz Adjust 5 for my processing:

Tupelo Christmas Parade 002

Tupelo Christmas Parade 001

If you like my work, please subscribe to this blog and feel free to offer comments. You can also find me on:
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Dials & Gauges – 60 Minute Photo Challenge

I enjoyed last week’s 60 Minute Photo Challenge (Shadows and Reflections) so much, I decided to try it again.  If you’re not familiar with the challenge, check out my previous blog post.

The challenge from Mark Wallace for this week was to shoot “Dials and Gauges” — as many as you can shoot in 60 minutes.  The challenge was issued last Friday, but it took me almost a week to find the time to get behind the camera, and to decide where I wanted to go shoot.  I finally remembered that Thursday night is Bike Night as Westgate in Glendale, and there would be plenty of gorgeous motorcycles parked on the street, out on display.  What better way to get some close-up shots of dials and gauges!!

The hubby went with me, so we made it a date night, starting with pizza at Mama Gina’s.  Then we spent the rest of the time just checking out the motorcycles parked around the fountains in front of Jobing.com arena, and getting some nice close-ups of all the dials and gauges on their dashboards (do motorcycles have dashboards??). All the shots were made right around sundown, so I had to open up the lens quite a bit, and bump up the ISO to be able to get these hand-held shots. It actually worked to my advantage because I wanted to get a really shallow depth of field so I could focus on the dials and gauges, and leave the backgrounds nice and blurry.

After getting my shots, we rushed home so I could start processing–that’s always the fun part, seeing what you got.  I did all my processing from the RAW images in Paintshop Photo Pro X3, using Topaz Adjust and DeNoise where needed.  I went with black and white on some of them, and others I left in color, just for some variety.

I’ve uploaded seven shots so far to my Flickr in a new set called Dials & Gauges – 60 Min Photo Challenge.   I may have a few more to add later, but feel free to check out those that I’ve already uploaded.  Here’s a couple for you to sample:

Dials & Gauges 07

Dials & Gauges 04

I’m anxious to see what the next challenge will be. It’s nice to have some “assignments” that help keep me motivated to keep practicing my photography skills.

A Different Perspective on Trees

Living here in the desert Southwest, one of the things that I miss most are the green trees and forests of my native Mississippi.  A few weeks ago when I went home for a visit, it rained almost every day we were there, but I didn’t mind a bit.  It just made all the foliage that much fresher and the greens more vibrant.

Tall Tree with Vine 1Tall Tree with Vine 2

As I took a stroll down the lakeside road with my camera, I drank in the beauty of the tall trees that shaded the road and the lakeside homes.  I laughed at the squirrels that played in the branches, and whistled back at the birds that were building nests in the treetops.

I wanted to try and capture the beauty of the bark and the leaves, but I didn’t want the typical wide-angle view of a tree. When I came upon this specimen with a vine embedded in its trunk, I knew immediately how I wanted to frame it. The vine just naturally leads the eye from the bottom of the tree to the top, and so I positioned the camera near the bottom of the tree and pointed it upwards, focusing on the vine about six feet up and letting the bokeh do what it does best.

A slight repositioning of the camera to the right and left allowed the late afternoon sun to highlight different textures in the bark and the vine. Not the way I normally photograph trees, but in this case I captured exactly what I saw and loved.

A true Zen moment.

If you like my work, please subscribe to this blog and feel free to offer comments. You can also find me on:
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60 Minute Photo Challenge

Lately I’ve been a little short on inspiration and ideas for doing any shooting.  I was starting to lose the excitement of just going out with the camera and looking for interesting subjects to photograph.  Instead, I was all caught up in the trap of trying to get the “perfect” shot, and getting all hung up on the technical details of F-stops and exposure metering and depth of field.  I just wasn’t having fun with it any more.

I’m a subscriber to the AdoramaTV channel on YouTube.  They post some excellent instructional videos for photographers, both amateur and professional.  The guy who presents the videos, Mark Wallace, works here in the Valley, so it’s kind of cool to see the places here in the Phoenix area where he’s filming his videos.  Not only are the photography tips great, but I get free location tips just by watching where he’s shooting.

Last week, Mark posted a video about his “60 Minute Photo Challenge“.  He talked about the importance of just getting out there and shooting in order to develop your skills, and he recommended giving yourself some sort of general subject (he used “round” and “red”), and then give yourself 60 minutes to shoot everything you see that fits that subject.  No time to worry about tripods, lighting, props….just take the camera and shoot.

I thought that was a great idea, and I actually made a list of subjects that I plan to use in the coming months when I need a kick in the pants.

Now Mark is posting a weekly challenge on Fridays (just follow his Twitter feed at @jmarkwallace to join in!), and this weekend’s challenge was “Shadows and Reflections”.  Since we got an early release from work today for the Memorial Day weekend, I picked up my camera with my 50mm prime lens, and headed to downtown Glendale to see what I could capture.

I had a blast!  I set my watch to make sure I stayed within the 60-minute time frame, and then I just started walking down the sidewalk, looking for shadows and reflections that looked interesting.  It was about 3PM when I got started, and normally that’s a horrible time of day to shoot here in Arizona because of the harsh shadows cast by the glaring sun.  But given the subject of today’s challenge, it was a perfect fit.

I haven’t used the 50mm prime very much, but I really enjoyed playing with it today.  I did put a polarizer on the lens to give me a little more flexibility with shutter speeds (it was REALLY bright out there), but I didn’t fiddle with it very much.

Street Reflections on Antiques

I got some great reflections on the shop windows around the square. I like the one above with the antiques in the shop window, and the traffic from the street being reflected on top of it. Kind of a juxtaposition of old and new that I thought was cool.

I found lots of shadows from the mid-afternoon sun, and the ones cast by the park benches and the overhead gazebo by the police station were among my favorites:

Shadows in Squares

When I returned to the parking garage, I noticed all the cool reflections in the windows of the building next-door. I climbed the stairs on the outside of the parking garage and got shots from several different angles. This one became a self-portrait, and I think it looks even better in black-and-white:

Self-Portrait in Building Reflection

I took about 75 photos in the 60 minutes I was out there, and of course there were quite a few duds. I didn’t spend a huge amount of time processing any of them, but I did find nine (including the three above) that I wound up submitting to the challenge. You can see the entire set on my Flickr page–the set is named “Shadows and Reflections – 60MinPhotoChallenge“.  I used Paint Shop Photo Pro X3, along with Topaz Adjust, for all my processing.

So, in only one hour (plus processing time), I got a little of my mojo back–and it feels great. Can’t wait for the next challenge!

If you like my work, please subscribe to this blog and feel free to offer comments. You can also find me on:
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Marmalade

I’ve been terribly neglectful of posting, or even shooting photographs lately.  Guess I’ve been in a photography funk, just haven’t been that inspired for the past few months.

A couple of weeks ago, we flew out to Mississippi to visit my family, and while there I got to meet my Mom’s new litter of kittens.  There’s nothing cuter than a kitten, and nothing more photogenic.  So I did manage to get a few shots that I liked, even though most of the time it was too shady and cloudy to be able to capture their quick movements with the slow shutter speeds I was getting through the telephoto lens.  I had to wait until they were asleep, and then I got this one that I loved:

Marmalade

I shot this one in raw NEF format using my Nikon D700 and the 28-300mm lens, and processed in Paintshop Photo Pro X3. Since I was having to use such a large aperture opening (small F-stop) to get enough light to the sensor, I wound up with a very shallow depth-of-field, but in this case I think it totally works. I intentionally desaturated the color to add that little bit of innocence and wistfulness to the scene. Such cuties!

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Take Your Seat and Watch Your Step

I love using my 28-300mm zoom lens with my Nikon D700, but I sometimes forget to take advantage of the great depth-of-field opportunities it provides, especially when I’m concentrating on capturing brackets for HDR processing.

Yesterday at the abandoned dog track, I actually remembered to play around with the focal length on the lens.  I lowered the height of the tripod to about knee-level, and then aimed the camera down the front row of seats in the “yellow” section.  I focused on one of the seats about a third of the way down the row, letting the other seats go slightly out of focus.  I was using a focal length of 92mm, at F/10.

These seats were positioned right in front of what used to be the huge plate glass windows looking out on the dog track.  The glass has been shattered, and quite a bit of it was lying in pieces right in front of these seats.  The late afternoon sun was at the perfect angle to give the seats a nice glow.  And since I shot a five-bracket series, I was able to retain the detail of the interior as well as the exterior of the grandstand:

Take Your Seat and Watch Your Step

I find that HDR processing is complicated a bit by using these shallow depths of field, because the areas that are purposely left out of focus can actually turn out worse during the HDR process. For instance, in this shot, I wound up with some obvious chromatic aberration along the mountain tops in the background. Probably should have spent some time trying to fix it, but hey, I was tired.

I’m still going through the rest of the shots and trying to decide which one I want to work on next. So much to choose from!

If you like my work, please subscribe to this blog and feel free to offer comments. You can also find me on:
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