Sunday, September 30, 2012

No puppy. Boo.

The number of dogs that were retiring from both Tucson and Caliente tracks have been declining recently. So a dog haul from Abilene, KS was put together so that Fastfriends Greyhound Adoption, GreySave, Operation Greyhound, Greyhound Adoption Center, and Homeward Hounds would get some retirees. Word filtered in that there was an injured four-month-old greyhound puppy that would be included, and that Fastfriends would get it. Who wouldn't want to meet a landshark?

But while we waited at Fastfriends for the van to arrive with the group's hounds from the hauler (who was running late), word came that there was no puppy aboard. In fact, the "puppy" was more like a year old, and that its injury had almost completely healed. Even so, it was decided to leave the puppy out of this haul because it was deemed risky to have a smaller hound mixed in a number of adults. No sense in taking the chance of the youngster getting re-injured.

But was a disappointment. Nevertheless, when the nine hounds arrived Joyce and a number of volunteers were ready to help out.


Joyce took it upon herself to trim the nails of one greyhound:


I noticed she was sitting in a pool of light but if I didn't use fill flash here the shadows would be too dark. On the other hand, I didn't want the flash to be too obvious. So I dialed in -0.7 flash compensation to lower the flash's power.

In the following picture I had set the flash setting to slow sync. This was because I wanted to properly expose everything. The only problem was I had to use a slow shutter speed to do this. I waited until the hound was still before pressing the shutter button. This was taken at 1/30 second:


This is about as slow a shutter speed as I'm comfortable with using a non-VR lens.

I guess sub-consciously I've been interested in getting pictures of hounds and the hands of those helping them. Here are a few:







This was a great-looking group of hounds. Maybe a puppy will come in a future haul. One can hope.

Friday, September 28, 2012

The new camera arrives

My new camera arrived. After it sat in its box for a couple of days I finally got it out and took a few test shots to start getting familiar with it. It shouldn't surprise you that the first few frames were of Sadie and Katie (I asked Gayle to be in the first picture but she looked at me like I was an idiot).

Sadie was understandably impressed with the new camera:


as was Katie:


Maybe they'll get more excited for me later.

(Shot with the Nikon D600 using the 50mm f/1.8 lens; aperture-priority, with aperture set to f/2.8; camera chose shutter speed of 1/50 second at ISO 560 (top) and 1100 (bottom); matrix-metered; auto white balance set with 0 trim (top) and M1 (magenta) trim (bottom); normal JPG.)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Shuttle Endeavour comes home

There was growing excitement here in Los Angeles when the shuttle Endeavour left Florida to begin a three-day journey to its new home at the California Science Center. But one piece of information was not revealed until the night before its arrival today: what was its flight path over the basin. The list of landmarks (Malibu, the Getty Center, JPL, City Hall, Disneyland, Griffith Observatory, Queen Mary/Aquarium of the Pacific, SpaceX, Venice, Boeing Huntington Beach) that the 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft and Endeavour would fly over had been released, but not the path nor the order that the landmarks to be flown over.

When the flight path was revealed last night I took a look at it and decided that an overlook turnout on a main street in San Pedro might work out. This turnout looked out to the east towards the harbor of Long Beach (where the Queen Mary and the Aquarium are located), and would be flown over before us. There was no way to know exactly how close the 747 and Endeavour would get, so I brought my 300mm lens just in case, even though I was going to have a harder time keeping it still as opposed to my 18-200mm.

Anyway, I arrived to the turnout around 9:30. There were already some people waiting along the sidewalk, and about a quarter of the parking spaces were filled. I think they knew that they'd be either standing or sitting for at least the next two hours out in the bright sun. No one sat under any shade whatsoever. And the morning haze did nothing for visibility.


I spent some time reading a book, and occasionally turned on the radio to check on Endeavour's progress up north. The parking lot eventually filled, and soon people were double-parking behind us:


Need a potty run? Fuggedaboutit.

I amused myself by photographing a dog with a spotted tongue:


By this time we'd been waiting for two hours. Then, some people yelled they could see the Endeavour approaching, fastened atop the 747, followed by two F-18 chase planes. I looked and looked but couldn't make them out in the smog. This was my first view of it, when viewed using the 300mm lens:


As it flew near near the battleship USS Iowa the 747 started a slow left turn:


And it actually looked like it was going to pass right over our heads:


I switched to the 18-200mm zoom waiting for the shuttle to pass overhead. Ah...but it was wishful thinking. Soon it began another slow turn, but this time to the right:





It was bittersweet watching the youngest of the three remaining shuttles fly off in the distance for its final landing.

Watching Endeavour reminded me of when our daughter and I watched the shuttle Discovery launch in 1998 with Sen. John Glenn aboard. I got a few good pictures of Discovery arcing into the sky, leaving a trail of smoke and fire. We were on the long causeway south of Complex 39, sitting on top of the motorhome my dad had rented to see the launch. Loudspeakers had been erected on the causeway so that everyone there could listen in on the countdown and ascent. I listened with trepidation as Mission Control radioed to Discovery: "Discovery, go at throttle up." And then Discovery replied, "Go at throttle up." This was the reply that was last heard from the shuttle Challenger before it exploded after launch in 1986. But all went well as Discovery powered up its main engines and continued its climb. And then, it was over in just a few minutes, with just a twisting, serpentine trail of smoke marking its passage.

(Shot with the Nikon D300 using the 300mm f/4 and the 18-200mm zoom; shutter-priority with shutter speed set to 1/1000 second; sunny white balance; ISO 400; normal JPG.)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Mandy (2000 - 2012)

The only near-relative I have ever met of any of the four greyhounds that we've adopted over the past 20 years was Mandy (racing name Bb's Luv), a half-sister of Sadie's. I met Mandy and her owner Beverly in Gettysburg, outside of the Travelodge, near the end of my first visit to GIG in 2010. It was so cool to actually meet a greyhound that shared a sire of one of our pups. (We have yet to meet any littermates of our hounds, so a half-sister will more than suffice.)

The next time our paths crossed was later in the year at Dewey. I was standing near one of the carports on Dagsworthy where some of the vendors had set up shop, when in came Mandy and Beverly. I asked Beverly if I could take Mandy outside in the shade and take a few pictures. Beverly was happy to oblige, and Mandy posed for me.


I love her ears. I went away happy to have seen the both of them again.

2011 was the first year I started doing photo sessions. When I posted that I was going to GIG Beverly asked if I could do a session with Mandy. I was more than happy to do so. We met on a warm Saturday morning at Sachs Covered Bridge outside of Gettysburg. Beverly explained that Mandy's hind end had been getting weak over the years so my friend Aimee and I worked quickly to get some shots in before Mandy tired:

Mandy Mandy


Mandy is...well, it was hard not to spend a little time cuddling with her:

Aimee and Mandy

Aimee and Mandy

Even though the session was supposed to last an hour, Mandy was pretty spent after 30 minutes so we called it a day.

We met again this past April for another session in Gettysburg. The morning was much cooler, which suited Mandy just fine. We spent some time in the bridge:



We turned around and walked back towards Beverly's SUV, but then detoured and instead stopped at a grassy bank. Mandy sniffed and looked around while I took a few pictures:



I will never forget her ears: they were the best.


Yesterday, when Mandy passed, I received a request from a veterinarian at OSU GHWP (the Ohio State University Greyhound Health and Wellness Progress) for a picture of Mandy so she could write a memorial page for her on their website. I understand that Mandy played a large part in her being a part of GHWP. Mandy must have been an amazing greyhound in the years before I met her -- and still was amazing after I had.

We were planning on another photo session at Dewey Beach in a few weeks, but she collapsed late Monday night and had great difficulty using her hind legs. It was a sign that her time had come, so later the next morning Beverly let her go.

Before we parted ways at the bridge for what turned out to be the last time, I asked for a chance to bury and rub my face in her neck fur because it was so bunny-soft. It reminded me so very much of how soft our second greyhound Nikki's neck fur was. So I had my friend Meredith take a picture of me while I planted my face in her fur, and gently moved it back-and-forth, back-and-forth. Then I was done and bade Mandy goodbye.

It is a good memory.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Kiowa Fly Sky

Kiowa Fly Sky ("Piysky", pronounced "Pie Sky"), a four-and-half-year-old fawn female greyhound was diagnosed with osteo last week, and had her right foreleg removed. She will have chemo. I hope that she will do well and be around for a long, long time.

I mention this because I met her at a retirement day just last August. I didn't write a post about it here, although I meant to: I didn't take many pictures because I arrived late and only witnessed the small-dog and cat-testing portion. You'll notice that a number of pictures in that retirement day's gallery happen to be of her. Well, with ears like these you could understand why:



She is being cared for by a very attentive foster parent who will do good by her. This helps to lift me out of some of my darker thoughts as I try to understand that she's only 4, but was still struck by osteo.

Just four.

ETA: Interested in helping Fastfriends pay for Piysky's $5000 medical bill? There's a ChipIn for that (ends on 31 October) -- and thanks.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Checking for a smile

Last weekend about a dozen greyhounds (all from Arizona) arrived Fastfriends. Because the actual retirement was off-again, on-again during the week there weren't enough volunteers at first to walk all the dogs from station to station (from tick check to bathing, to nail trimming, to ear cleaning, to medical tent). I got the chance to walk a greyhound through part of their processing instead of taking pictures for a change. When I got to the station I handed my short (24" at the shoulders) female greyhound named "Tazor" off to another volunteer I was free to take pictures.

I took pictures of every greyhound during their time in the horse corral. Some of them paid more attention to me than others. It was after being small-dog and cat-tested that another female greyhound (whose name I don't recall -- maybe it was "Tazor" again) walked up to me. I thought I'd try to support her head with one hand while holding my camera with the other. For someone who is just strong enough to drag my shadow behind me it was a little difficult to hold the camera steady, focus on her eyes, and not take too long while doing so. I took two shots: this is the first and the better of the two (the other shot focused on her muzzle):


She was perfectly fine with me doing this. I took my pictures. We looked at each other for a few moments. And then, it was time for her to leave the corral and to bring the next greyhound in. I don't think she'll have to wait long to be adopted.

(Shot with the Nikon D300, 50mm f/1.8 lens, and SB-800 flash; aperture-priority mode, with aperture set to f/2.8; camera chose shutter speed of 1/320 second at ISO 200; -0.7 exposure compensation; flash compensation set to -0.7; center-weighted metered, auto white balance; normal JPG.)

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Five weeks before Dewey

While thumbing through pictures I took at Dewey last year I spend some time looking at those I took at sunrise. I'll share this particular one of beach grass that I took on Monday morning, a few hours before I left:


That smudge on the left is a bird that flew by.

I'll mention that the camera was set on Program mode, where the camera sets the shutter speed and aperture for you. Sometimes you'll read about never using Program mode -- that it's better to use any mode (Shutter, Aperture, or Manual) other than Program. To be honest, I'm amused when some people are so strident about this. All I care about is that I get the picture that I'm seeing in my mind. I've used cameras long enough to know the capabilities of each mode, and why you'd want to use any of them. But when you have light changing so quickly as you do during a sunrise or sunset, I don't want to waste time thinking about settings -- I want to concentrate on what I see in my viewfinder.

Yes, you should learn what each mode can do for you, because Program is not a one-size-fits-all kind of thing. But you're not a loser if you use Program.

(Shot with the Nikon D300 using the 18-200mm VR zoom; program mode; camera set shutter speed of 1/80 second at f/4.5 at ISO 400; auto white balance; normal JPG.)