Friday, June 24, 2011

Whale tales...err...tails

Last Tuesday I took two friends of ours from the UK for a whalewatch cruise aboard the catamaran Condor Express (located in Santa Barbara, CA). They had already been on the speedy boat last September when they last visited California and enjoyed it tremendously.

The seas off Santa Barbara have been flat and calm for some time this month; the skies had been sunny. While the seas remained calm on the day of our cruise, the skies went overcast during the night and on into the morning, as they usually do in southern California at this time of year. This makes for very flat lighting and little contrast between the sky, sea, and whales.

Within 45 minutes of leaving the harbor we were intercepted by hundreds of common dolphin:

Long-beaked common dolphin
Short-beaked common dolphin

Our first whale sightings occurred near the Painted Cave of Santa Cruz island:


followed by a sighting of a blue whale cow/calf pair:


Then, a humpback cow/calf pair showed up:

We trailed this pair for some minutes, but when they vanished we sailed west to the channel between Santa Cruz and San Miguel islands. Soon we were seeing blows and tail flukes from a number of whales to the west. Eventually we could see blows and flukes at all points of the compass -- we couldn't decide which whales to watch:

After an amazing two hours or so of watching these whales it was time to head back to Santa Barbara. We certainly got our money's worth.

As far as my camera settings go, I decided I wanted a shutter speed fast enough to prevent blurring because I was standing on the observation deck behind the wheelhouse (I eventually settled on 1/1250 sec.). I also added +0.7 exposure compensation because the whales were going to be too dark in such flat lighting. And I also switched my white balance to "cloudy" because with the overcast the pictures stood a good chance of being bluish. Even then, when I started post-processing these pictures in Lightroom I added more black to stretch out the histogram.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

All your bed are belong to us

You may have noticed by now, if you've browsed through Sadie and Katie's photo gallery, that there are more than a handful of pictures of them lying on our bed. Either it's Sadie:


or it's Katie:


or it's both:

Katie and Sadie

Why on the bed? Our bedroom as a south-facing window (if our room had a north-facing window that'd be better but we don't) that lets in a lot of natural light so it's bright. And it gets warm and toasty in there. And most greyhounds would never let an unoccupied bed go to waste like this. So there you are.

Usually I just use natural light and not augment it with bounce flash, but I've also used my flash, too:


(I used the Nikon SB-400 flash for this picture.)

The light is pretty decent, so there will be more Sadie and Katie pictures-on-the-bed, for sure.

Now...if only I can find a spot on the bed for myself...

Friday, June 17, 2011


Our girls don't roo. In fact, none of the four greyhounds we've adopted have ever rooed. And Sadie and Katie get nervous whenever a group of greyhounds begin barking and rooing as is sometimes done during, or at the end of, greyhound gatherings.

A pity...I think they'd be good at it.

So I must be content with being with other people's greyhounds to get a rooing picture.

Bootsy and Jessica roo

Bootsy is one such greyhound. He roos with the slightest of provocations. I was on my way home from my first-time going to the Greyhounds in Gettysburg event in 2010. I hitched a ride with my friend and her family to BWI, stopping at her sister's home on the way there for a drink or two. The house has enormous amounts of light spilling through the back windows (which I noticed while we were all talking); it was totally wonderful. And the red-painted dining room wall complemented Bootsy's tiger stripes. I don't recall how Bootsy was prompted to roo but he kept going as my friend's sister joined in.

I didn't want to use bounce flash because the light was wonderful already but I still needed to up the ISO so Bootsy would not blur as he rooed. I took a number of pictures -- this one came out best after some cropping.

(Shot with the Nikon D300 using the 18-200mm set to 50mm; program-mode; camera chose 1/80 sec at f/4.8; ISO 800; auto white balance; matrix-metered; normal JPG.)

It's blue-footed booby day

Today is blue-footed booby day. Who could not love boobies?


So put something blue on your feet to show your support for Galapagos conservation.

(Shot with the Nikon D300 using the 18-200mm set at 112mm; program-mode; camera chose 1/250 sec @ f/5.6; ISO 800; auto white balance; normal JPG.)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

That special "thing"

Would it be safe to say that there is some "thing" that every greyhound has? That one "thing" the greyhound has which remains in your memory and neither dims nor diminish over time? For me, with Alex, our first greyhound, it was his black eyebrows; with Nikki, it was her stand-up ears and her happy personality (oops, that's two things). With our current greyhounds-in-residence Sadie, it's her stalking me (among her many quirks), and with Katie, it's play-snapping.

With one friend's greyhound, the special "thing" about her to me was this white marking:

A close-up of her white triangle marking

When I first met my friend and her greyhound at Dewey Beach in October 2009 we were both part of a group of East coast and Midwest greyhound friends renting a vacation house at Dewey Beach. After she introduced her greyhound, Neyla, to me I could not help but notice this white, triangular marking atop Neyla's neck. I tried to get some pictures of it. I was particularly pleased at a few pictures I got of her expressions while she was pawing at a gift I received during a gift exchange we did. She got really excited over opening gifts, I was told.

I took this photo as our group went out for a morning walk on the beach. I used a long focal length to shorten the depth of field and blur the background as I focused on the marking.

We all met again at Dewey in October of the following year. Neyla and I were re-introduced. I tried to take a lot of pictures of her during that weekend. When I left Dewey my last glimpse of her was through the rear window of the car I was riding in as we drove to the airport.

That would be the last time I saw Neyla: diagnosed with osteo earlier in 2010 she was gone two months after I took the photo. As a gift of condolence to our friend we had a large canvas print made of this picture with an appropriate quotation from Mahatma Gandhi that Aimee found.

Miss you, Neyla: you were one special pup.

(Shot with the Nikon D300 using the 18-200mm zoom set at 170mm; program-mode; camera chose 1/400 at f/10; ISO 200; auto white balance; normal JPG.)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Sadie and Katie in the Summer 2011 issue of Celebrating Greyhounds magazine

After an anxious week of waiting, my summer 2011 issue of Celebrating Greyhounds (published by The Greyhound Project) arrived yesterday afternoon. Why? Because an article that I had finally submitted (sorry, Cindy) to the magazine about our trip to Yellowstone National Park with Sadie and Katie was published.

It came out wonderfully. Woo hoo! Here are a couple of pictures that were in the article:

Sadie and Katie

Thanks go to Cindy Hanson, editor of Celebrating Greyhounds magazine, the staff at CG, and the Adopt-a-Greyhound organization.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Sadie as if in graphite

I don't live to post-process: it's a chore, and I'd rather be out shooting. But part of the fun for me in post-processing pictures is trying out different Lightroom presets and seeing what I get. I'll first create a virtual copy which can be quickly discarded if I don't like the results (easier for me to play around with a virtual copy instead of repeatedly ctrl-z to undo things). Then it's preset play-time.

When I tried out a black-and-white preset on a Sadie photo I got a rendering that very much looks like some of these super-detailed graphite drawings that my wife loves. Other than making some minor exposure adjustments after applying the preset I cloned out a skin tag that Sadie has on her lower left eyelid.


(Shot with the Nikon D300 using the 50mm f/1.8 lens; aperture-priority with aperture set to f/2, camera chose 1/250 sec; ISO 200; matrix-metered; cloudy white balance; normal JPG.)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Sadie, the hedgehog, and getting up close

I'm willing to bet that most greyhound households have mounds o' stuffies; I'm also willing to bet that there may be a hedgehog or two in that pile. Sadie plays with several hedgehogs we have in our stuffy collection. After giving the hedgehog a good once-over with her teeth she'll pick it up, trot over to me and drop the now-sodden stuffy at my feet or on my lap (or press it wetly against my shirt) so I'll play fetch with her.

I try to get up close to whatever it is that I photograph. On both occasions when I saw Sadie playing with her hedgehog I wanted to get up close with my wide-angle zoom so that the viewfinder was filled with hedgehog and Sadie's face. In getting up close I was trying to make you feel like you're right there with her. Also, being up close with a wide-angle lens exaggerates the toes on her feet. In both pictures I also wanted her to look slightly away from me so that you could see the whites of her eyes.



There is that quote by the famous war photographer Robert Capa that I remember: "If your pictures aren't good enough, you're not close enough." But in the following picture I'm not so sure this is what Capa had in mind:


(Shot with the Nikon D300. First picture: 10-24mm zoom lens set at 24mm; aperture-priority; aperture set at f/4.5, camera chose 1/30 sec; auto ISO used ISO 1800; exposure compensation set to +0.3; auto white balance. Second picture: SB-400 bounce-flash; 10-24mm zoom lens set at 18mm; program mode chose 1/60 sec at f/5.0; ISO 200; auto white balance. Third picture: SB-800 direct flash; program mode chose 1/60 sec at f/4.8; ISO 200; auto white balance. All pictures normal JPG.)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

No words needed


(Shot with the Nikon D300 and the 10-24mm zoom; shutter-priority mode with shutter speed set at 1/125 sec, camera chose f/6.3; ISO 200; shade white balance; normal JPG.)