Monday, March 28, 2011

Sadie and Katie play bitey-face

Sadie and Katie

Sadie (on the left) is more playful than Katie. She will instigate play, then Katie will join her. But there are times, though, when Katie decides to show Sadie that she can be first to show her ornery side. This often ends up in a good time playing bitey-face.

I always wonder what they're thinking as they do this. People see this picture (and other pictures like it that I've taken of Sadie and Katie), and ask how did I get them to roo. They don't -- not at all. They just play-bow, chase each other, play bitey-face.

My idea of capturing bitey-face was to not completely freeze the action. I didn't want a static picture, which is what you'd get by using a flash: I wanted to convey a sense of movement as well as freeze their position at one moment. So I was going use slow-sync flash, but I wasn't sure what shutter speed to use to get the picture I had imagined. I picked 1/10 second and tried it.

I had to move all around them as they played, trying to keep the camera pointed at them because I wasn't looking in the viewfinder. (Sometimes I can anticipate what they're going to do next better this way.) Then they both looked skyward and opened their mouths wide. Amazingly, they stayed this way for a few seconds, so I snapped a picture. Of course, most of the other shots I took were throw-aways (I keep them anyway just to see what I did wrong) but this one frame turned out okay.

(Shot with the Nikon D300; Nikon 10-24mm zoom at 10mm; SB-800 flash; shutter-priority; 1/10 sec @ f/3.5; ISO 400; auto white balance; normal JPG.)

Friday, March 25, 2011

I am a northern elephant seal pup...hear me roar!

And now for something completely different... northern elephant seal photography!

Along California State Highway 1, just north of San Simeon, CA (site of the Hearst castle), there is a rookery of northern elephant seals. It's been there for around 20 years or so, and from December through March the beaches south of the Piedras Blancas lighthouse are carpeted with thousands of elephant seals. During this period there is much fighting amongst the males for the privilege of mating with the females, lots of mating, and birthing of pups. There is a wooden boardwalk that runs parallel to the main beach where you can watch all the activity from just yards/meters away.

You don't really need an exotic telephoto lens to photograph this: a 55-200mm zoom lens that's often bundled with a Nikon DSLR kit is plenty of lens. That being said, I usually take my 300mm f/4 Nikon telephoto for close-ups, but often the seals are so close that I have to switch to my 18-200mm zoom to get the pictures I want. I also take my 10-24mm zoom for different perspectives.

On this particular photoshoot, my photographer friend Robin and I went to the rookery in 2007. Leaving Los Angeles around 3am we arrived just before the 7am sunrise. The light was really wonderful as it came in low over the cliffs that overlook the rookery. Pups with their mothers were everywhere. This particular pup caught my attention because it propped itself up with its nose pointing skyward, then let out a bark that could easily make one think it was announcing its presence to the rookery.

I realized shortly afterwards that I had the white balance set wrong, so these pictures had a brownish cast.

(Shot with the Nikon D200 with the Nikon 300mm f/4 lens; program mode; 1/320 sec @ f/9; ISO 800; shade white balance (?); normal JPG.)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Indy is four years old today

Indy, our basement cat, is one of two former strays that our daughter brought home in 2007 from the animal hospital where she works. She estimated that March 22nd was Indy's birthday. That makes him four years old.

I've never known a cat who can look so angry, so full of malice and mischief all the time.

So Indy, happy, never mind:

Indy plots for world domination -- but where can he get a pair of thumbs?

(Shot with the Nikon D300; program mode; 1/60 sec @ f/5; ISO 1000; SB-400 bounce flash; auto white balance; flash compensation +0.3; normal JPG.)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Katie is eight years old today

She'll probably spend most of this rainy day flattening my pillow:


(Shot with the Nikon D300; program mode; 1/13 sec @ f/4.8; ISO 800; auto white balance; Nikon RAW file processed with Lightroom b&w creamtone preset.)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Watching the girls run

The girls get very, very few opportunities to run within an enclosed area. So photographing them running as only greyhounds can is a rare thing.

One of those times was during the Blur of Fur run on Sunday morning, the last day of the Greyhound Gang's 2009 Kanab gathering. Claudia had an enclosed area set up at the Kanab Elementary School (a block over and across the street from the motel where we stayed). A local police officer clocked each entrant with his radar gun. I stood at the end of the run, set my camera to shutter-priority, 1/2000 sec, and added +0.7 exposure compensation because I was shooting into the morning sun. Each of our girls ran twice: first Sadie, then Katie. Sadie was faster than Katie: she ran at 31mph on her second run. Katie topped out at 25. The winner of the run was clocked at nearly 40. But for me, watching both girls getting the chance to run was the real highlight.


(Shot with the Nikon D300; shutter-priority; 18-200mm lens set at 170mm; 1/2000 sec @ f/5.6; ISO 1100; exposure compensation +0.7; normal JPG.)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Sadie gives me the "eye"


This is a little example of setting the lens aperture yourself, and why you care.

I walked into our bedroom at lunchtime one day and saw Sadie and Katie lying on our bed. That was not unusual in of itself because they do this often. What was unusual was that they were right next to each other instead of having a bit of space separating them. And Sadie appeared to be peeking over Katie's back in order to keep an eye on me. So I got the camera and hoped she would stay in-place while I decided how to best photograph it.

I had the Nikon 105mm Micro-Nikkor f/2.8 VR macro lens on at the time because I love its sharpness and was trying to find excuses to use it. At the time it, and the Nikon 70-200mm VR f/2.8 zoom lens, was the fastest lens we owned (until I added the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 recently). Anyway, I decided I wanted Sadie's face in sharp focus but have Katie (lying in front of Sadie) and the blankets and pillows (behind Sadie) be blurred. In this way, your attention would be drawn to Sadie's right eye.

To do this, I set the D300 in aperture-priority (press the "Mode" button down and spin the rear command dial until "A" appears in the top LCD display), then selected the widest aperture on this (f/2.8) by spinning the front command dial until "f2.8" appeared on the LCD display. Now that I've set the aperture, the camera picked the appropriate shutter speed given the ISO I had set (800). (On second thought, I guess I could've set the exposure mode to Program Auto, metered the scene, then spun the rear command dial until the LCD display read "f2.8", but I didn't. For Canon users, I think aperture-priority for them is "Av" mode.)

Now the "why-you-care" part: setting the lens aperture to its maximum opening (like f/1.4, f/2, f/2.8) lets you put your subject in focus and blurs everything else in front or behind it, while setting the aperture to a smaller opening (like f/16, f/22, or f/32) lets you put pretty much everything in focus.

I'm sure I also set the focus mode to Dynamic-Area AF so I could set a focus point on her eye.

(Shot with the D300 using the 105mm Micro-Nikkor f/2.8 lens; aperture-priority; 1/30 sec @ f/2.8; ISO 800; normal JPG.)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Katie on a $&#%(*@'s late afternoon

(Aimee, this one's for you...)

I took this picture on a late afternoon while learning how to use the Canon Powershot SD880 IS point-and-shoot camera. The light at this time of day is less likely to overexpose her white fur, and the shadows are less harsh than at mid-day. I tried to position her against a dark background in order to make her stand out. I tried to not frame her so closely (I like getting up close) but zooming in and out would take too long, I'd lose both the lighting and Katie standing still, so I took the picture. I learned when using this camera to set the exposure compensation to -1/3 so as not to overexpose.


(Shot with the Canon Powershot SD880 IS; f/5.0 @ 1/160 sec; ISO 400; medium JPG.)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Katie says, "Wait...what?"


I'm especially amused and tickled when Katie is asked a question and she responds by tilting her head. She doesn't do it often, and Sadie does it even less. I'm surprised she didn't walk up to me and stick her nose in my eye after I had her stay near a backyard planter. I usually kneel to a dog's eye level or lower to get a better perspective. The problem with doing that, at least in Katie's case, is that she usually walks up to me when I do so. But this time she stayed put, so I quickly took two shots.

Because I focus on the eye, I often set my Nikon's AF area mode to Dynamic-Area AF (the icon looks like a rectangular surrounded by crosshairs), and then place a focus point over the eye. So if my subject moves, the focus point will track the subject. (I also use the Auto-Area AF mode (its icon looks like a big white rectangle) and let it figure out what the subject is, especially if I'm walking alongside my subject and have to hold my Nikon low to the ground to get a different angle.) In this instance, I used Dynamic-Area AF.

Some minor tweaking was done to both images using Lightroom: cropping, adding some brush strokes to the eyes and increase their exposure to +0.7, increasing the Clarity parameter to 35, and using the Sharpening preset.

(Shot using the D300 with the 50mm lens set at f/2; aperture-priority; center-weight metered; 1/400 sec at ISO 200; cloudy white balance; normal JPG.)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Rooing on Solvang Sunday

Our girls don't roo. A pity, really (but they're very, very good at bitey-face). At the end of the Solvang gathering on Sunday morning, all the greyhounds that could or would roo, did.

It's roo timeIt's roo timeIt's roo timeIt's roo timeThe salukis are great rooers

(All taken with the D300 set to slow-sync mode; program mode; SB-400 flash; flash compensation set to -0.7; auto white balance; normal JPG.)

Friday, March 4, 2011

Sadie and Katie on Solvang Saturday

Some examples of photos taken using the cheap Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 AF-D lens. I'm having fun with this lens; it makes photographing indoors much, much easier because it gathers so much more light than my zooms. It's sharp, contrasty, and has nice bokeh (to me, anyway).

What was also nice was that our hotel room had two large windows that let in lots of light, too.

Katie takes a nap from the morning's walk.SadieSadie

(The D300 was set on aperture-priority; lens set at f/2.8 for the first two pictures, f/2 for the third; matrix-metered; ISO 200; 1/40 second for the first two pictures, 1/100 second for the third; normal JPG.)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Katie being Katie is hard work

It's hard...very, very hard.

Being Katie is hard work.

(Shot with the D300 on aperture-priority; 18-200mm at 105mm; 1/10 sec @ f/5.6; ISO 400; center-weighted metering; exposure compensation +2/3; tungsten white balance; processed using sepia preset in Lightroom.)

Solvang Thursday at Carivintâs Winery

We arrived in Solvang, CA, last Thursday afternoon after a two-and-a-half-hour drive for the 7th annual West Coast Greyhound Gathering. After unloading our stuff in our Royal Copenhagen Inn hotel room and walking about the town a bit, we stopped by the Carivintâs winery before a special wine-tasting (just for the gathering) started at 6pm.

Carivintâs, as part of their way of doing business, donates a portion of their profits to animal shelters and support groups. For Greyt Legs (the non-profit organization that helps newly-retired greyhounds with leg injuries get needed medical care, and who also puts together the West Coast Greyhound Gathering) whippet-owner Paul Ramos (who is in the second picture) of Carivintâs created two special greyhound-labeled wines (which featured Tennile, one of the first greyhounds helped by Greyt Legs, on the back label).

The 2007 greyhound-labeled Russian River syrah. Tennile the broken-legged greyhound is featured on the back label of both red and white wines.

A percentage of proceeds from those two wines would be donated to Greyt Legs. So if you are ever visiting Solvang, with or without your pups, pay them a visit -- they're wonderful.

Here are a few pictures taken during the wine-tasting:

Paul Ramos of Carivintas pets a greyhound visitor.Katie and Sadie
If you are ever in Solvang, stop by the Carivintas winery. They make donating to animal support groups part of their way of doing business.
JasmineA happy greyhound visitor

(All photos: Nikon D300; 18-200mm zoom; SB-800 with diffusion cover and light bounced off the ceiling; auto or flash white balance; exposure compensation +1/3; normal JPG but for the wine bottle, which was shot in RAW. Note also about the bottle picture: flash mode was slow-sync to exposure the background properly. In most of the other pictures, the flash mode was the default.)