Travel photo gear

Camera or travel photography buffs may enjoy this blog entry more than casual visitos. Just warning you – it’s about gear, not moments or thoughts. 

When we traveled to India and Iceland I carried a full size DSLR (Nikon D800) with a Nikon 28-300 mm lens attached.  I also carried a laptop computer and 2 external hard disks for backup creation. With batteries and cables added in the gear filled a small Lowe camera backpack and weighed a little bit more than too much. Carrying the camera and lens over my shoulder or around my neck was not something I really wanted to do since the camera flopped around unmercifully and screamed “here’s a really nice camera for the taking”. It was always awkward to try to access he camera, shoot and then stow it away again. I frequently carried it in my hand which stopped the flopping around but left the camera out and subject to weather and loss.

The photo below shows the gear I am using during our 3 week trip to Europe. Most of our travel is by train but cars, boats, planes, bicycles and feet have all played major roles as we move around.  This gear packs nicely in a small pack and, thanks to the binocular strap, can be carried in front of my chest without flopping around or over my shoulder. The difference n weight between this gear and the Nikon set is a true bonus at the end of the day. The camera went everywhere with me. The Nikon frequently stayed securely stored and not available for photos.

The Fuji X-T1 camera and 18-55 lens is small, lightweight and produces great Raw files. Thrown over my shoulder the camera is accessible and secure. I opted to take a 10-24mm lens thinking about cathedral interiors and grand landscapes. Really, I did not use it but a handful of times. Given the opportunities for decent bird photos I wished that I had brought my 55-200 instead. Next time I’ll likely bring all three lenses if carry on baggage weight limits allow.

In addition to the Fuji I brought along the little Ricoh Theta S 360 camera. A novelty camera but it provides a unique view. I did not use it as much as I thought I might.

I brought along 3 batteries for the Fuji camera. Normally I use the additional battery pack but wanted to save weight and present as small a camera as reasonable. I carried 2 extra batteries with me and had to swap to a charged battery several times near the end of the day.

Storage and backup of files has always been an issue for me. As mentioned, I used to carry 2 external hard disks for backup purposes.  I’d keep one with me and the other n my luggage. For this trip I opted to use memory cards as my primary storage and a Western Digital 2tb “My Passport Wireless Pro” hard disk as my only backup. This device has an SD card reader built in and creates a local wifi network that can be coupled to an iPad or other mobile device.

I carried 4 memory cards: 2-64gb, 1-32gb and 1-16gb. As I write this blog entry I have just put the 32gb card in the camera and have used most of both 64gb cards.  I have 48gb left for the last 3 days of our trip.

The Western Digital hard drive is working perfectly for my purposes.  When I insert an SD memory card into its reader the images automatically copy to the WD hard disk.  Before we left I was unable to figure out how to access the RAW files stored on the WD disk so I shooting both RAW and JPG.  I can easily see and move JPG files from the WD drive to my iPad using the WD app on the iPad or iPhone.

The iPad has taken the place of a laptop. It is vastly smaller and easier to use for photos or email. I’m writing this blog entry on it.  Yes, I would prefer to use Lightroom but a variety of iPad apps provide a robust set of editing tools. I have been using Snapseed and PhotoGene apps to process JPG files for posting to social media as we travel. I use the RollWorld app to generate the “little planet” mages I’ve posted. While I enjoy these weird views I realize that most people just wonder what the heck they are looking at. I try to use them sparingly until I get more experience shooting images that translate into impactful photos. 

Another aspect of my travel photography involves keeping track of where images are taken so details can be researched later. Shooting 50 images from a train doing 90 mph between Passau and Munich Germany is one thing.  Being able to know where that castle is once I get home is totally another thing. I’ll write up a blog soon to let you know how I did the location-photo synchronization.  Stay tuned.

I’ll close by saying that this gear has performed well. The Fuji shutter speed/exposure dial combination is gummed up somehow and I am forced to shoot in aperture priority rather than manual. Not a loss really but it requires more thought by me since it is not my normal way of doing things. I am anxious to get the RAW files into Lightroom, append GPS data and get key wording completed. Lots of work ahead but the trip’s photos are valuable to us and worth every effort.

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Good times converge

Anyone who knows me knows that I always get a bit excited when I get some new camera kit. In the last year I have made a sincere effort to slim down the optics and to switch from Nikon DSLRs to Fujifilm mirrorless DSLRs.  The mirrorless is smaller, lighter, cheaper and equal to (or nearly so) my Nikon’s file quality.  I sold several Nikon lenses before we left Portland and banked most of the proceeds to wait for the arrival of the new Fuji 100-400 f/4.5-5.6 lens.  It is the entry of Fuji into a fairly long focal length lens.  Initial reviews were excellent even if they came from sponsored users for the most part.  I was excited to get the long waited for lens.  It came to our door just as our dear friends, Jenn and Gerry, arrived in town to spend the weekend with us. And so the convergence of good times began… new glass and good friends in town when the weather forecast was great and there were recent reports of birds that would help populate all of our life or year lists. Off we go…

Jenn and Gerry are the most purposeful and deliberate birders I know.  They work at it and even though Gerry is frequently out of country they still rack up more bird species seen than others I know who are in the birder camp.  Me, I’m still mostly a guy who enjoys the pursuit of a decent bird photo and who is learning the complexities and joy of birding. When we get a chance to venture out birding with Jenn and Gerry we plan a route based on recent bird observations and the desire to add either life birds or additions to other lists. Regardless of what happens, we are outdoors and enjoying the time. As we planned for this visit we hoped to see snowy owls (year bird), gray partridge (life bird for Jenn, year bird for Jenn and Gerry), bohemian waxwings (same as the partridge) and a variety of sparrows that would have all been life birds for me. Gerry has a habit of predicting that we will see at least 70 species over a day or two.  The history of his success at meeting this target is quite good.

We met up with J and G shortly after they got skunked looking for the Bohemian waxwings that had been in an East Wenatchee neighborhood for weeks.  It’s all part of the game to miss birds that one expects or hopes to see.  Whatever.  On we go.  We headed to the river path that Dianne and I walk frequently.  The goal was to ease into the birding with a casual walk on the path that would be punctuated with an IPA endpoint at a nearby pub.  We found the usual wigeon, geese, mallards, golden eye and crows.  Not a rousing start but a decent warm up.  This single female Common merganser was preening nearby and became the first real bird target for the new lens.  Gerry, who is a great photographer, and I both looked at the LCD and concluded that the lens was OK if not good.  Not a fair test really until the image hits the computer screen but the magnified screen on the back of the camera showed a sharp image.  That is exactly what I expected and hoped for.

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Female Common merganser, Walla Walla Point Park, Wenatchee, WA

We shared a pint at the pub and headed for home and dinner.  A few more pints disappeared as the evening matured.  We laid out our game plan for an extended auto loop on the Waterville Plateau the next day and hit the hay.

After a cup of tea or two and breakfast we set out to find the targeted birds and any others that we could glass and record.  Our cameras were ready and the scopes were positioned for easy access.  We started up the canyon from Orondo to Waterville and stopped as Gerry began itching to give a listen to and scan a couple of small canyons for canyon wrens or others. Gerry jumped ahead and was listening intently for birds in a small canyon.  We soon saw him waving for us to join him and he had all of us listening for the sound of a Canyon wren he’d heard.  No luck audibly or visually so we headed on.

The fields of unbroken snow on the plateau looked wonderful below a blue sky as we headed east through Waterville.  We saw our first Rough-legged hawk along the way to Withrow.

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Rough-legged hawk near Withrow, Washington

We had seen frequent reports of Gray partridge at the Withrow grain elevators so we pulled in to take a look.  I’d been there a couple of times without success.  I honestly believe that other, more accomplished birders like my friend Steve Howes or Jenn and Gerry bring me good luck.  Their experience always teaches me how to more effectively participate in this chase.  We had all but given up after scouring the area with binoculars and were readying to leave when a single Eurasion Collered Dove stopped us for some reason.  Once stopped, two partridge flushed and headed away from us.  We backed up and set out to get a better look at them that would qualify for a legitimate sighting.  As we walked around several more flushed and we tracked them as they flew and settled in among the weed and rills.  Gerry set up his scope and placed it on a pair of Gray partridge.  Bingo.  Life bird for Jenn.  Year bird for J and G.  Dianne and I had seen some a few weeks earlier when we drove a similar route with Steve Howes.  All of us enjoyed the sight of these pretty birds. The photo below was taken on the previous trip with Steve.

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We drove on to the town of Mansfield and stopped at the cemetery that Steve and I had explored a few months prior.  We hoped for owls in the big trees and sparrows in the hedge rows.  What we got was good viewing of a Swainson’s Hawk flying away from us (life bird for Bruce), a fleeting glimplse of a Moutain bluebird and a clear view of a Snow bunting flying directly overhead.  That bird was so white it stuck out vividly against that clear blue sky.  Our lists were growing as we headed east of Mansfield to search for Snowy owls.

We drove several roads in the area where the owls had been reported and glassed every pile of rock and hummock that we saw.  Actually, I drove and glanced, Gerry, Jenn and Dianne did the real scanning.  Nada.  We stopped in an intersection for lunch.  Gerry made use of the time by walking down the road to look into other areas with his scope.  Nada.  He did see a Northern shrike but it stayed off our lists since the rest of us were slackers and stayed near the car… and food.

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Gerry Ellis scanning for birds near Mansfield, WA

As we approached our lunch spot we saw what we thought was a red-tailed hawk sitting on a power pole.  As I drove by Jenn started voicing second opinions and was thumbing through the Sibley’s guide as she convinced us to go back for a better look.  The bird was not realy cooperative but we got to see the under-wing feather pattern that led to identifying the bird as a Broad-winged hawk (lifer for Bruce). Identifying a bird can frequently be a challenge with all the seasonal variations they experience, hybridization, morphs and natural variability. Size, shape, flight patterns and plumage are key diagnostics. But sometimes you just have to go back and check again with an authoritative book for reference.  We were all glad that Jenn’s doubts resulted in our circling around for a few more views of this bird.  Lesson learned.

We headed north toward the Columbia River.  Along the way we saw other raptors like this Red-tailed Hawk.

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Once on the river we recorded many waterfowl… scaup, bufflehead, geese, ring-billed ducks, golden eye and others.  All are beautiful birds but their common presence dulls the thrill of the check mark on the list. We kept moving south to the Beebe Springs Natural Area near Chelan, Washington.  I’d driven by there a number of times with Dianne and Steve Howes but had not stopped due to snow packing the access. We all wandered the area to see what it offered.  A few sparrows showed up as did a couple of Killdeer. The variety of habitats and proximity to water suggest that this place will be a rich location to visit in a month or two. It’s always nice to have a path through a rich area and I’m betting that if we get there early in the day we will have the area largely to ourselves.

We headed south out of Chelan toward Wenatchee as the sun started to lower to the horizon. Jenn had not seen Bighorn sheep in the wild and I was hopeful that the herd just north of Wenatchee was still hanging around and visible.  Gerry spotted them about 100 yards upslope from the highway so we parked and set up a scope to scan them and give Jenn the chance to add another mammal to her list. The photo below is from a previous trip that Dianne and I made about a month ago.  Same animals and location, different time.

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Bighorn sheep, Columbia River near Wenatchee, Washington

Once we were back to the house we sat with an adult beverage and Jenn and Gerry went through their routine of documenting the birds seen for the day.  Honestly, I was a bit surprised at this process even though I had heard about it several times.  The list isn’t official until it is written while enjoying a pint. Gerry pointed out that going through the Sibley book page by page and bird type by bird type allows you to see the birds again which helps reinforce their field marks and relation to others. Good thought I think.  Me, I use an app on my phone to log birds during the day. I was hoping that I’d gotten all of the birds entered.  I hadn’t and added 2 or 3 more as G and J called out their notes.  At the end we’d seen 51 species during the day.  There were a few more that Gerry knew were out there but couldn’t count… the Canyon wren he’d heard but not seen and that noone else heard or saw and the Northern shrike he saw at lunch and which we’d not seen because I’m a slacker.  We didn’t hit the 70 mark which was a bit of a disappointment only to Gerry.

The next day we added Great Horned Owl to the list as we drove Colockum Canyon south of Wenatchee. Once again, this area will be worth a visit in a month or two. We then retreated to the house and said farewell to J and G as they headed back to Portland.  Of course they continued to bird as they drove and added a couple more “first of year” birds to their growing list. The last I heard, Wild Turkey was number 161 for the year.

I opted to go the river park to continue to practice with the new lens.  There is always a learning curve with a new lens and this large lens is no different.  I practiced panning and shooting as geese, wigeon and goldeneye flew by.  A few of the images tell me that I have potential to get decent images if I can catch up to the lens quality.  I’ll keep after it.

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Canada Geese
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Lesser Scaup
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American Wigeon

 

 

 

 

Portland waterfront

I have been working to learn the ins-and-outs of the Fujifilm X-T1 camera and am gaining confidence in it each time I pick it up.  It’s a remarkable little bit of gear and I understand now why it is so popular.  Since I had not tested it in low light or with long exposures I jumped at the chance that Eric Vogt offered me when he called to see if I’d be interested in going downtown to shoot sunset.  I charged a couple of batteries and packed the camera, 2 lenses and the tripod for the shoot.  We headed for the eastside esplanade which offers a nice view of downtown Portland across the Willamette River.  We arrived in plenty of time to catch the sunset and set up our gear and framed our compositions.  Eric, who is known for his enthusiasm when out with a camera, has been trained (OK, I asked him nicely once) to let me know when the colors are “nice” or “pretty”.  I don’t see the subtle pinks and reds or oranges and Eric provides a sense of reality for me.  He did this last night and, at one point, told me that the sunset had to be one of the best color situations he’d seen from the waterfront.   I trust him and shot away.

I am working on a blog post that needs some quality control before I post it here.  So… this post is NOT about the peak color we saw and photographed although the color in the photo below seems pretty nice to me.  This photo was taken late after sunset and just prior to our packing it in for the night.  Neither of us had seen the abandoned boat hull before and I thought it added a nice balance to the colors in the foreground as well as anchoring the bottom of the frame.  This is a 30 second exposure at f/16, ISO 200.   I think the little camera has a future for me.

Portland, Oregon

Backyard birds – again

I find that I am posting photos to Google+ much more than I am to this blog.  Posting to G+ is quicker but does not allow me to write much about the photo(s) or the backstory of the images.  I enjoy much of the interaction I get from people around the globe who view my photos on G+ and I hear (occassionally) how people enjoy my photos and writing on this blog.  I’ll continue to use both and will try to make the writing part of the blog more interesting and informative in the future.  This blop post, however, will be short.

We have a two station feeder support on our patio.  One side has a hummngbird feeder and the other side has a traditional seed feeder for the variety of birds in our area.  We occassionally put out suet to draw in a woodpecker or two but it seems the ravens get that more than the targeted birds.  So, most of the time we supply sunflower seeds and a bit of nijer thistle for the goldfinches and nuthatches.  I hooked a couple of branches to the top of the feeder support stand so the birds have a place to perch as they approach the feeder.  The whole assembly is positioned so that birds that sit on the perches will have a background of our neighbor’s shrubs when viewed from our kitchen doorway.  The view of the perches is to the east so birds are backlit in the morning and front-lit in the evening.  Since we are in Portland much of the time the light is diffused by clouds which, by the way, I think gives the best light for photography.  No surprise.

At this time we have a fairly standard mix at our feeders.  This includes Anna’s hummingbirds, Dark-eyed junco, house finch, Black-capped chickadee, Red-breasted nuthatch and a few Spotted towhee.  Very infrequently we get a Sharp-shinned hawk that strafes the area in pursuit of a snack.  When the weather is decent I set the camera up in the kitchen and focus in on the perch area.  I can stand a reasonable distance from the perches and the birds tend to ignore me after awhile as long as I don’t move around too fast.  I tend to use the D800 camera body set to DX mode so the lens length get multiplied by 1.5.  With the 200-400 that gives me up to a 600mm reach at f/4.  If I attach a 1.4x to the lens I get 840mm of reach.  I tend to use AutoISO when the light is dim and set the camera to manual, 1/500th second (or faster) and f/5.6 – f/7.1  When the light is brighter I shoot in aperture priority at f/5.6 to f/7.1 and at the lowest ISO I can set and still maintain a shutter speed of at least 1/500th.  High ISO image files get processed using Imagenomic Noiseware software in Photoshop.  I still don’t think you can beat this noise reduction routine.  Images are cropped as needed, a border is put around the photo using a Photoshop action and I add my little watermark for vanity purposes.  Then the image is saved, resized for the web and saved again to a “web” folder.  I import the web images into Lightroom and apply sharpening as needed.  I find that the sharpening routine in Lightroom, with it’s masking capability, is really a great application.  Once the file is sharpened I export it to a G+ folder for posting.  How’s that for workflow in a nutshell?

Over the last few days I’ve collected several shots of the birds that seem to be well received on G+ so I thought I’d share them here as well.  I know some will think that this is “shooting fish in a barrel” and not something to really be proud of.  I have to say, until you try it you can not really appreciate how challenging it is to get a sharp shot of these quick moving birds.  Plus, you have to stand there patiently waiting for a bird to land on the stage.  I know, I know… yes, I am retired and I enjoy the time watching these remarkable creatures and the challenge of getting them recorded well.

Anna's hummingbird
Anna’s hummingbird
Black-capped chickadee
Black-capped chickadee
Dark-eyed junco
Dark-eyed junco
House finch
House finch
Goldfinch
Goldfinch

Newness

My friend Deigh and I both were talking to ourselves as we watched the sun begin to fill the valley and light up the aspen trees.  Both of us were saying something like ” Don’t mess this up!”  I know that people back east and in Colorado, Utah, New Mexico will chuckle but color like this doesn’t occur too frequently in Oregon.  So I found myself standing in a location that was new to me with a new camera body and a chance to record something I had never had in front of a camera before.  All new.  All wonderful.  A camera capable of recording higher resolution images than any other DSLR made.  A lens that is known to be “wicked sharp”.  Light coming up and softly revealing the trees and their colors.  Only a slight wind.  No pressure, really.  Just DON’T MESS THIS UP!

Deigh and I knew that the area was full of color from our brief visit the day before.  We knew that the soft morning light would help keep contrast reduced and colors vibrant.  Just DON’T MESS THIS UP!

Well, now that I’ve been through the image files I’m content, happy even.  As usual, I always want to do better and I seem to learn through error-making.  This time the errors weren’t too grievous.  I learned that the camera really does NOT like to have the lens stabilizer “on” when mounted on a tripod.  The lens just fights itself to find something to adjust and results in reduced, not improved, clarity.  I could get away with that on the old camera but not on this one.  I was doing everything I could to minimize shake.. mirror up, cable release use.. and to ensure exposure…eyepiece covered, histogram working out.  Once I turned the lens vibration control off I shot with total confidence that I was doing everything I could to get the best files ever.  Like I say, I’m happy but I know that it can be better as I learn the camera and adjust to the newness and capacity it offers me.

For now, I’ll say thanks to Deigh for arranging the trip lodging (Drover’s Inn, Frenchglen, OR… highly recommended) and for being patient with me as I set about my own, slow learning curve.  We both hope to make some prints that make people go “WOW” when they look at them.  Honestly, I’d be happy if someone just said “You didn’t mess it up”.

Preparing

Yesterday my friend Deigh sent me a link to a website featuring long exposure, black and white photography.  He’s good at pointing me (and others) to places I would miss if left to my own devices.  I’m fairly sure that the opening image on the site, a shot from Iceland, was a lot of the incentive to share the site with me. He also knows that I love this type of image… glassy water surfaces, clouds in motion, high contrast.  Since we are on our way to Iceland soon I am trying to figure out what camera gear to take if my hopes, perhaps too high, are to come back with shots that show the stark beauty of Iceland that I’ve seen so many times in others’ photos.  It isn’t necessarily easy for me to reach these decisions.

Some thoughts so far:

  • We will be day hiking anywhere from 2-8 hours.  My gear, including a small laptop, will be on my back.  Weight matters.
  • We will be in Iceland in July when the sun stays out most of the day.  No northern lights this trip.
  • We can expect wind.  Traditional advice is to take a heavy tripod if you want to get long exposure images.  I admit to being totally on the fence about what tripod to take but bought a little Siuri carbon fiber tripod and ball head with hopes that it will make do.  Initial tests say that I’m dreaming but I have not given up on it yet.
  • Waterfalls everywhere.  My hope is to come back with image files that can be made into something other than postcards.  I’m operating on the assumption that we will be able to have time to actually linger at some locations rather than just hike through. I’m studying famous waterfalls in Iceland so I can be somewhat prepared for compositions that I can avoid due to their popularity (ease?). Time will tell.

The gear so far:

  • D700 without the add-on battery pack.
  • Nikon 28-300 f/3.5-5.6 lens (same one that went to India)
  • Nikon 20 mm f/2.8 lens
  • 2 and 3 stop graduated neutral density filters with 77mm adapter and holder
  • 8 stop variable neutral density filter
  • cable release
  • diGPS camera unit
  • CF cards (1-16 gb, 4 -8gb)
  • Toshiba Ultrabook laptop with Lightroom 4
  • Card reader
  • 2 Western Digital Passport 500 gb external hard disks
  • Siuri T1250SX carbon fiber tripod
  • Siuri ballhead
  • Lowepro Photo Sport 200AW back pack (love it)

My biggest concern is tripod stability and shake due to the anticipated winds and my generally crappy technique.  So I’m training myself to the degree that I can.  Today I ventured down to the Portland waterfront to see if I could get a sharp photo from the gear if I expose for 20-30 seconds or more.  Joints on the tripod tight?  Check.  Cable release? Check.  Mirror lock up?  Check.

It’s a start.  I’m thinking that another neutral density filter may be needed to get the real sense of cloud movement (and water) that I want.  My friend Eric uses a 10 stop filter to great effect.  The image from Iceland that Deigh pointed me to was made with a 13 stop neutral density filter in place.  Filters are light but not cheap.  I’ll keep experimenting and hope to land in Iceland with a lot more confidence than I have now.

Out and about

It seems that at least once a year I get together with Deigh to venture out with cameras in hand.  Yesterday was such a day. We had a general plan of attack for the day… visit Rowena Crest to see if the flowers wanted portraits made, then to Panther Creek Falls north of Carson, Washington and finally a hike into Elowah Falls.  Well, the wind was strong on the Rowena plateau so we looked around for some calmer areas in the lee of a ridge and timed shots to minimize movement as best we could.  The sun was BRIGHT and the clouds were absent.  My original thoughts of making portraits of balsam root and lupine against a white background using a “field studio” vanished as we drove to Rowena and I saw the wind working on the trees.  I settled for wandering and grabbing images that appealed to me.

I happened on an unusual plant growing out of a pile of basalt.  While I have no idea what this plant is, it reminded me of some exotic trees I saw on the Art Wolfe video about Madagascar.  Strange and intriguing pattern in this plant.

We headed for Panther Creek Falls and found the trail after a short stop in Carson, WA to get some water and a snack.  The last time I was at the falls was years ago and I’d heard that the Forest Service had developed a platform to view the falls.  Previously, I scaled down a small cliff using a rope that had been left by a generous person(s) to access the creek and a view up into the falls.  The viewing platform provides a good view and I was really pleased to see that the trail into the area had not been upgraded and enlarged.  I did not venture out to see if the rope was still in place.

Part of my intent on this trip was to gain experience with a new travel tripod and head that will go to Iceland with us.  Since I will be carrying all the needed gear on my back each day in Iceland I’m semi-determined to figure out how to pack the gear and to work out any wrinkles prior to the trip.  I found a few wrinkles yesterday.  Once I got set up on the platform I found I could not pan the ballhead.  Say what?  It worked just fine on the desk at home.  I compromised my tripod placement to get the rough framing I wanted but I was mentally planning how to return the head back in Portland.  As we left I found that I had tightened the head too tightly onto the tripod legs and that once loosened a bit the head panned just fine.  Of course this was after the session.  I also learned that the little carbon fiber legs shake at the least disturbance.  I forgot the cable release that will be essential equipment in Iceland if we want sharp images.

Our plans to visit Elowah Falls disappeared when I turned right instead of left. After driving a few miles in the wrong direction we opted to just keep going and I suggested Ponytail Falls near Multnomah Falls.  I’d been there the week before as part of my hike to Triple Falls and I knew that the hike in was fairly short but uphill.  I was most interested in the exercise and some more experience with the pack, tripod and ballhead. Everything worked much better than it did at Panther Creek.  Without the cable release I was using the self-timer in the camera and even then I was getting enough vibration to know that I am going to have to be very deliberate with the setup once in Iceland.

On the way out to the car Deigh had the misfortune to have his camera and 16-35 lens eject from his pack and land on rock.  Tore the lens right off the camera.  YIKES. I took away a lesson from this unfortunate event… if a pack has two zipper pulls it is probably safer to zip them to the bottom of the pack rather than to the top.  I think that Deigh’s pack had weakened over time and the zippers worked their way down as he walked and bounced down the trail.  Gravity and physics at work.  He has a new pack now and the lens is in for a hopeful repair.  Not the way either of us wanted to end a nice day.

Gorge-eous green

Di and I will be doing a lot of hiking to prepare for our trip to Iceland but until she finishes the Hippie Chick Half Marathon this Saturday she’s sticking to a training regimen that does not include trail walking.  I gathered up the new Lowepro pack and the camera gear I expect to take to Iceland, put on the new boots and headed out for a short 4 mile ramble into Triple Falls along upper Oneonta Creek in the Columbia River Gorge.  I find that the new Lowepro Photo Sport 200 pack works really well.  I’ll get the gear stowage figured out eventually but came back impressed with how solid it felt with a tripod attached and carrying nearly everything I anticipate will be aboard in Iceland. I’d kind of sworn off Lowepro packs due to their zippers but this one works well and has the room to store personal gear as well as the camera and a laptop.

Here are a couple of shots from the hike today.  As always, you can click on the image to see a larger version. The initial shakedown is over and now we’ll get serious about some feet and body conditioning with progressively longer and more challenging hikes in the weeks to come.  Stay tuned.

Citrus

I am going to participate in a “macro photo” shoot at a local club tonight.  It’s nothing real special… just a chance to get together and do some shooting with some friends.  All of us will use a macro lens of one sort or another.  To prepare for the shoot I started thinking about a way to add a bit of novelty to the shoot.   We meet in a fairly dark restaurant that is closed to the public and I do not expect a lot of light to be hanging around just to be used for our subjects.  I wondered about using the iPad and iPhone as a light source since they will be with me anyway.  I downloaded a couple of apps and set out to experiment.

To create this shot I bought some citrus and sliced them apart to get fairly thin slices.  I laid the slices on top of the iPad and used a flashlight app that allows me to change the color of the background light source.  I suspected that I wanted a background color that would contrast with the warmer colors of the fruit so I dialed in what I think of as blue.  I put the camera on a tripod and exposed for daylight.  First shot reminded me that the glossy surface of the iPad   created all sorts of reflections of anything above the camera.  Putting a piece of black foam core board above the camera eliminated the chaff.  I tried several different colors of background but like this one best.

And, yes, I ate the fruit when done.  I also decided to NOT do this at the club meeting tonight but I will be using the iPad and iPhone as light sources for what I do shoot.  Stay tuned.

Birds and sunlight for a change

Eric texted me last night and suggested another trip to Ridgefield.  After a bit I agreed to the trip and gathered the camera gear together.  We were both looking forward to some sunshine and maybe a bit of frost.  We got both.

We got to Ridgefield about 15 minutes too late to catch the start of the morning colors.  It was still a nice way to get into the mode of shooting and remember that we have the whole day ahead of us.

Things seem to be picking up a bit at Ridgefield.  Red-winged blackbirds have been few and far between for several months.  I’m used to seeing a lot more of them at this time of year.  Today, they showed up in larger numbers and posed for us in the first light of day.

We headed around the loop with eyes on the watch for whatever may come.  We found a small group of Hooded mergansers (1 male, 4 female).  I’m not sure if I’ll ever get a great exposure on the male merganser… it’s a bit of a nightmare and reminds me of a bride in white and a groom in black… all wrapped up on the same bird.

We encountered a lot of people and they entertain us in their own ways.  In general, people are respectful and patient.  We saw a line up of cars ahead and saw a large bird form in the tree off to our right.  Turns out to be another red-tailed hawk who seemed to be questioning the procession of cars and lenses that came by below.

And then there was the American Bittern patrolling the ditch line again.  This bird is an amazing critter to watch.  Today it stood its ground and let us shoot without any real obstacles or reason to not “nail it”.  We both shot some video of the bird.  I wanted to catch the neck/chest sway that the bird shows.  My friend Jon and I think that this movement is probably to mimic the blowing of the tall grasses the bittern lurks in.  If you want to see a short video of this bird please go here:

American Bittern video  (filmed on a Nikon D90, 200-400mm @400mm w/ 1/4x)

It was another great day out with a friend.  The sun sure helps our attitudes.  More to come.