Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Katie sees things a bit differently

Katie and Sadie

Maybe I should've closed down the aperture a bit more to bring Katie more in focus.

(Shot with the Nikon D300 using the 50mm f/1.8 lens; aperture-priority with aperture set to f/2; camera chose 1/500 second at ISO 200; auto white balance; matrix-metered; -0.7 exposure compensation; normal RAW.)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A hummingbird sampler

We have hummingbirds in our neighborhood year-round. There's one feeder hanging outside our master bathroom window, and another hanging in our back patio. They are constantly buzzing and chirping.

I use a tripod-mounted Nikon 300mm f/4 lens most of the time when photographing hummingbirds, although I have hand-held it on some occasions. Mounted on a Nikon DX DSLR, like my D300, the 300mm has an angle of view equivalent to a 450mm lens mounted on a 35mm film or full-frame DSLR. I can never get close enough to get some really cool shots taken by my friends that I've seen.

Usually the best light for me has been during the late-afternoon or early evening like this:

In the mid-summer's early evening the birds are backlit, which outlines them nicely but can pose an exposure problem:

In the former picture I did not add any exposure compensation, but in the latter picture I added one stop. I just took a picture, previewed it and looked at its histogram, then adjusted my exposure accordingly.

I've always liked this hummingbird picture best:

The light was wonderful in how it sculpted the shape of the bird and also how there is detail in the shadows and yet the highlights aren't overexposed.

Finally, I only have two flying hummingbird pictures that are worth sharing, so I picked this one:

I used shutter-priority on all these pictures because these birds are fast; just pick a fast shutter speed (like 1/1000 second or faster) and let the camera worry about picking the aperture.

(Shot with the Nikon D200 using a Nikon 300mm f/4 lens; shutter-priority with shutter speed set between 1/800 second and 1/1250 second; normal or fine JPG.)

Basement Cat knows...

...you have to come home sometime.

Indy waits at the door

He is the collector and devourer of souls, and he has come for yours.

(Shot with the Canon Powershot SD880 IS; program mode; camera chose 1/250 second at f/5.6; ISO 400; +1/3 exposure compensation; auto white balance; medium-size JPG.)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

So near, and yet so far

This is Sadie back in 2006.

I was standing in the kitchen as some food was prepared. Sadie watched and waited, alert for any morsel that suffered the misfortune of falling to the floor. I watched her as her eyes repeatedly followed hands that reached for the food, and then to mouth. As her chances for getting anything grew less and less, she began to look more and more forlorn.

The look on her eyes:


(Shot with the Nikon D200 using the 18-200mm zoom set at 80mm; aperture-priority with aperture set to f/5.6; camera chose 1/25 second at ISO 400; fluorescent white balance; normal JPG.)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The fabulous fifty...

...millimeter, that is.

Back in the day I used my dad's Nikon S2 35mm rangefinder camera. It has three lenses: a 35mm wide-angle, a 50mm normal, and a 135mm telephoto. I used the 50mm normal lens the most. When my dad switched over to a Pentax 35mm SLR with zoom lenses I started using those. Eventually I used nothing but zooms.

I lost interest in using prime lenses. Yes, I knew that an 85mm or a 105mm lens was great for portraits, but I used a zoom that covered that focal range. Yes, I knew primes were always faster than zooms, but I didn't feel a need for a fast lens for low-light situations. And I didn't want the hassle of switching lenses: having a zoom negated that problem.

But...using a zoom in low light meant I had to increase my ISO on a digital SLR to sometimes undesirable heights. I wasn't happy with all the electronic noise as a result. So I started researching wide-angle (35mm) and "normal" (i.e., 50mm) prime lenses to use on a Nikon APS-C SLR, and finally settled on the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 AF-D lens. It was cheap and "fast" (allowed lots of light in). And with my crop factor of 1.5, the 50mm has the field of view of a 75mm lens on a 35mm film or full-frame digital SLR (which makes it act like a short telephoto lens).

Oh...and I need to remember that I have to move when I'm framing a subject.

Here are some examples using the 50mm:

Katie Sadie




I use it a lot wide open (maybe to a fault), as you can see. I focus on the eyes, and shooting with the aperture wide open causes the background to blur nicely.

It's sharp, the bokeh is nice, and with the aperture diaphragm made up of straight blades instead of rounded ones, you'll get wonderful 14-point sunstars when the lens is stopped down to f/16 or f/22. You can get one for about $125. It's being replaced by the newly-introduced 50mm f/1.8G.

(Important note: the 50mm f/1.8G AF-S will autofocus on the cheapest Nikon DSLR's (like the D40, D40X, D60, D3000, D3100, D5000, and D5100. The 50mm f/1.8 AF-D, the subject of this post, will not autofocus on the models I've listed.)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

It's Black Cat Appreciation Day!

So Indy celebrates in one of the best ways he knows...by sitting in a warm dryer:


I forgot to check the white balance setting before I took this shot. It was set to "cloudy" because I had taken pictures indoors the day before and wanted to remove the bluish cast you get. I also forgot that I was set to center-weighted metering, too.

I guess the mistakes worked out in my favor.

(Shot with the Nikon D300 using the 50mm f/1.8 lens; aperture-priority with the aperture set to f/2.8; camera chose 1/60 sec at ISO 400; center-weighted metering; cloudy white balance; normal JPG.)

Monday, August 15, 2011

In your ear

Nikki and Sadie

Yesterday I was browsing through some pictures I took back in October 2005 of Nikki and Sadie. We had had Nikki for eight years by then, and Sadie for a year. I was with them in the backyard patio, looking for an excuse to use my 70-200mm f/2.8 VR zoom (a wonderfully-made, but heavy, lens that I don't get to use often enough). They were acting pretty cute with each other so I waited to get a shot of them both. Nikki was sniffing Sadie's head as she sometimes did when I took this.

I had zoomed out to 70mm but because of the D200's crop factor of 1.5, my field of view was equivalent to a 105mm lens on a 35mm film or full-frame digital SLR. The lighting is a little unusual because they were standing in a patch of light falling on concrete, which in turn reflected the light upwards. So both girls are illuminated from underneath to a certain point, at which the rest of them is bluish due to them standing in shade.

This image has appeared in a Celebrating Greyhounds calendar, as well as on the Ohio State University's Greyhound Health and Wellness Program's website and their quarterly newsletters.

Six years since I took this picture. Six years...it doesn't seem possible.

(Shot with the Nikon D200 and the 70-200mm VR zoom set at 70mm; aperture-priority, with aperture set at f/5.6; camera chose shutter speed of 1/45 second at ISO 200; auto white balance; fine JPG.)

Saturday, August 13, 2011


...the greyhounds that have gone on before us...the lost...the infirm...the ones that never got a forever home.

Candles were lit for those remembered and lost during the past year.

Remember them all.

(Shot with the Nikon D300 and 18-200mm zoom set at 42mm; program auto; camera chose 1/15 sec at f/4.5; ISO 800; center-weighted metering; normal JPG.)

Monday, August 8, 2011

Sadie meets kitteh

Sadie was cat-tested before we volunteered to foster her and failed utterly as foster parents. She was judged to be "cat-safe".


One morning, though, I was trying to photograph Indy, our first cat, in the dining room. Sadie walked into the room to see what I was doing, stopped, turned to her left to look at him, and gave him a long, long sighthound stare. It lasted for some seconds although it felt like it would go on forever.

With light coming in through our back windows and rear door Sadie's face was nicely illuminated from her right; more light spilled onto the floor behind her which made her stand out from the otherwise somewhat dark background. I wanted to focus on her right eye since that's what stood out to me, and set my camera to aperture-priority to blur the background. I framed her head closely and placed her eyes about one-third down from the top edge of the viewfinder. At a focal length of 120mm the aperture was not going to be as open as I would want but if I fiddled with settings trying to make things perfect I'd miss the shot. So I took one picture, and here's the result:


I'm still stunned the picture was this clear at 1/10 second. VR really helps in this kind of situation.

(Shot with the Nikon D200 set to aperture-priority, using the 18-200mm zoom set at f/5.3; camera chose 1/10 sec at ISO 200; normal white balance; normal JPG.)

Saturday, August 6, 2011


Every quarter the greyhound adoption group that we got our hounds from holds a dog-wash fundraiser. Last weekend I went to see people bring their hounds to get bathed, nails trimmed, ears cleaned, and just fussed over.

I used my 10-24mm zoom for quite a few shots, trying to get close enough to fill the viewfinder. But I also wanted to use the 50mm for some informal portraits. Here are some examples, with the aperture set to f/2 or f/2.5 (to blur the backgrounds) and the D300 set on aperture-priority:


20110731_0042 20110731_0060

20110731_0055 20110731_0046

Here are a couple of examples using the 10-24mm:

20110731_0028-1 20110731_0086-1

When I think I'm close enough to my subject with this lens, I have to force myself to get closer. For me using an ultra-wide-angle lens means getting in close enough to make you feel like you're standing next to the subject, not for getting everything in.

I don't think I used the 18-200mm once. Also, while I had an SB-800 flash mounted, I used it when there were some deep shadows that needed a little filling. But with wet, sunlit black dogs I don't recommend using flash at all on them: they come out too shiny.

Finally, one last shot using the 50mm:


There used to be a greyhound there.

(Shot with the Nikon D300, the 10-24mm zoom, and 50mm lens; SB-800 flash; normal JPG.)