Posts Tagged ‘Nikon D300’

Borrowing a longer telephoto lens earlier this week,  I was able to get some shots of the tiny birds that I often see, but rarely am able to photograph.

On Monday, my photography mentor, Cindy Dyer, lent me a Nikon D300 with a Nikon 80-400mm lens. It was a lot of fun to experiment with a much longer telephoto than I am accustomed to using. We spent only a limited time at a local nature center, so I did not have a chance to photograph anything too exotic, but I did get some shots of a Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens), a Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus),  and a Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor).

The background in the first image really grabbed my attention when I pulled up the image on the computer—the tree branches look an awful lot like a suspension bridge.

I included the blurry final image of the chickadee flying away just for fun. I get this kind of image on a regular basis, although usually the bird is out of the frame. The Nikon I was using has a much higher frame rate (up to 7 images a second) than my Canon (a more modest three frames a second), so the chickadee is still in the frame.

I am pretty sure that I will stick with Canon and not switch to Nikon, but, as fellow blogger Lyle Krahn predicted, I am starting to hear the siren call of a longer lens.

Downy Woodpecker lorez

Chickadee 2 lorezTuftedTitmouse lorez

feeder_blogBlurryBird lorez

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Using a borrowed Nikon D300 camera with an 80-400mm lens, I was able to get a lot closer to birds than I am used to, permitting me to  to get shots like these ones of a Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura).

Yesterday was a mostly sunny, spring-like day and Cindy Dyer, my photography mentor, and I made a brief visit to a local nature center to shoot some photos. She was excited to photograph the purple crocuses (or is that croci) that were in bloom. (Be sure to check out her blog regularly as we move into spring for lots of gorgeous flower images.)

I, on the other hand, was eager to play around with the camera that she had lent me. Most often I shoot with a Canon Rebel XT and a 55-250mm zoom lens. It is a lightweight combination that has served me well, but it has some limitations. Cindy shoots with Nikon gear and is a self-professed “gadget girl,” so she had more than enough gear to share.

It took a while to get used to the settings on the Nikon, but the real challenge was learning to shoot with the large lens. My hands and arms were not used to the weight of such a lens and I definitely would need a lot more practice to take fuller advantage of its capabilities (and I probably should have put aside my male ego and followed Cindy’s recommendation to put the camera on a tripod).

Here are two images of a Mourning Dove that I photographed. Cindy tweaked the first one in Photoshop and it is striking to see how she was able to bring out the details in the dove. I produced the second image, working in Photoshop Elements. The starting images may have been of equal quality, but it is clear to me that Cindy’s greater experience in Photoshop helped her produce a superior final image in a shorter period of time.

What did I learn? Well, I think that the most important lesson to me is the value of constant practice, whether it be in using camera equipment or in using photo software. There are always new things to learn—and that helps to keep me energized about my photography.

Mourning Dove lorezmourning_blog© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I have recently been making a lot of attempts to photograph birds, but none of the photos comes close to matching the visual impact of this female red-winged blackbird that I photographed in early June at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, MD.

Normally you are not supposed to photograph a bird from the front, but in this case it seems to heighten the intensity of the bird’s stare. The sky was almost white that day and it disappeared when tweaks were made, but that seemed to fit with the industrial look provided by the rebar that was used to form a trellis.

Intense female red-winged blackbird

Here is another shot of the blackbird on the trellis, with some greenery in the background. You can see some of the details of the trellis, and it looks like the rusted metal is almost a perfect color match for some parts of the bird.

Bird on a wire

My blog is still less than three months old, so I have a number of my pre-blog favorites that you have not yet seen. I will occasionally share some of them when I don’t have any new material or don’t have time to prepare the new photos.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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After a photo shoot this past weekend with my neighbor and photographic mentor, Cindy Dyer, we retired to her house to look over our images. I was still in the mood to shoot photos, so when she had to take a phone call, I picked up one of her Nikon D300 cameras with a Tamron 180mm macro lens and looked around for things to photograph. It was late in the afternoon and the light was starting to fade a little, but her camera allowed me to set the ISO all the way up to 3200. Even with the extreme ISO, I still found myself shooting with settings of F5 and 1/125 sec with natural light. Here is a photo of the object that I decided to shoot. Can you guess what it is from this photo?

Coke bottle glass

If you looked carefully you might have been able to detect the eyes and nose of a woman. Cindy has a clear glass woman’s head in her living room and I was photographing the light coming in from the window behind the head.

Here is another view of the head from a different angle.

Close-up glass lady head

Some of the colors in the image above were picked up from the objects that were behind the glass lady, but they have been enhanced by tweaking the tint and saturation levels in Photoshop, which gives a very interesting effect. I shot the photos, but it was Cindy who did the enhancements. I liked the shapes, textures, and lighting in my shots, but she had the vision that the images would be even better with more vibrant colors (and she was definitely right). You should check out her blog for more wonderfully creative images and beautiful flower and insect macro shots.

Here’s one last shot that shows almost the entire face of the glass head woman.

Glass woman head

You may notice that there is more blue in this image. I think that I managed to pick up some of the color of the sky, which was a beautiful shade of blue at the time.

This kind of “artsy” photography is not my normal style, but it showed me that simply picking up the camera and photographing whatever happens to be around me can sometimes lead to beautiful (and unusual) images. Somewhere I read recently that one of our primary creative goals as photographers is to photograph usual things in unusual ways. That’s a real challenge, but I think it’s a worthy aspirational goal.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Yesterday I went out to a local garden with the monster Mamiya 500mm telephoto lens mated to a Nikon D300 to see if I could get some reasonably focused shots. A few days ago I did a posting outlining my initial difficulties in mastering the requirements of shooting in a totally manual mode and I wanted to see if things would be a little easier for me.

It was once again a lot of fun experimenting and I tried taking shots of a wide variety of subjects, including soccer-playing kids, flowers (yes, flowers with a 500mm lens), and a rabbit. Other than the rabbit, I had only limited success. The real test for me, though, was whether I could capture some shots of birds. I noticed a couple of birds perched high up in a tree in a relatively open area and I was able to set up my tripod on the grass and began to make a few exposures. The birds were far enough away that they were not distracted by the sound of the shutter and they stayed in place as I made adjustments. Here are some of my best shots of a crow (I cropped him so you can see the details, including the catch light in his eye) and a mourning dove. I am also including a shot of a bird that almost got away. He flew away just as I tripped the shutter and ended up in the lower left hand corner of the image in an unusual position. I decided also to post a shot of a rabbit that seems to have some personality. In this garden setting, it was the wildest animal to be found.

I have satisfied myself that it is possible to get some good images with this setup, although it requires both patiience and persistence. Is it worth the additional aggravation? My friend, Cindy Dyer, for whom I am testing this configuration will have to make that call for herself.

Close-up of a crow

Mourning dove

The one that almost got away

Rabbit on the grass

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Yesterday I spent several hours completely out of my comfort zone photographically as I used unfamiliar equipment in a way that stretched my skills and knowledge. This image is one of the few that I produced that I liked. I am pretty sure that this is a grackle, probably a Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula).  It was taken at the bird feeder at a local wildlife park—not exactly a natural habitat.

Common Grackle

I was shooting with a friend’s Nikon D300 camera rather than my Canon Rebel XT. The size, weight, and feel of the camera was different and the buttons and dials were a mystery to me. It was like trying to speak in an unfamiliar foreign language. I kept having to ask my photography mentor Cindy Dyer to translate my Canon language into Nikon language as I sought to change the ISO or use exposure compensation.

More significantly, though, I was using a large, heavy 500mm Mamiya telephoto lens. Yes, I was using a lens designed for a medium format camera with an adapter for the Nikon.

The lens was really cool, so much so that it is featured (at least temporarily) in the long skinny banner of my blog.  However, it was hard to use effectively because everything was manual and took a lot of time to set up. My eyes have been so attuned to looking at subjects close up that it was hard to adjust to the new reality of a minimum focusing distance of 30 feet. It was equally startling to see a lens marking for 500 feet, which preceded the marking for infinity. Focusing was manual and I longed for the split prism viewfinder of my old SLR as I tried to figure out if things were in focus. I had to guess at aperture settings and make adjustments as I went along, checking and rechecking my images. As I stopped down the lens, the viewfinder got progressively darker, meaning I had to focus with a wide open aperture and then manually switch to the desired aperture setting. Interestingly enough, the lens had aperture settings beyond F22 up to F45.

We were testing the lens because one of Cindy’s friends is trying to sell it to her. When she asked me what I thought at the end of our little shoot, I responded that I needed at least one more session before I could come to a conclusion. We started out late in the morning and there were few birds visible in the sun and the heat. I think that I need to be able to try to capture some images of birds to determine in this lens would be of any use at all. With a little more practice, estimating exposures and getting clear images would probably get easier for me. In addition, it may be possible to input information on the lens into her D300 and enable metering and focus confirmation, if I read correctly the information in the user’s manual (yes, I am one of those guys who actually reads instruction manuals). If the camera displayed the correct aperture, it would make things a lot easier and I would be able to focus on focusing. I also learned that her Nikon has Live View, a feature that I am not sure she has used. That might also help with my difficulty in focusing.

So, stay tuned and perhaps you will see me do battle once again with a heavyweight Mamiya lens.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I took this photo on an Eastern Amberwing dragonfly (Perithemis tenera)) about a week ago when I was shooting at Green Spring Gardens in Alexandria, VA with my good friend and photographic mentor, Cindy Dyer.

Cindy is always encouraging me to upgrade my photograph equipment. For comparison purposes, she put the Nikon D300 that she was using into my hands and had me shoot with  it for a few minutes. It was equipped with a Tamron 180mm macro lens that gave it a pretty impressive reach for the dragonflies that we were shooting. It’s interesting that I was able to use my Compact Flash memory card, which was formatted in my Canon, in her Nikon and the Canon photos and the Nikon photos peacefully coexisted in separate folders on the memory card.

I was especially happy that I got a decent shot of the Eastern Amberwing dragonfly. This type of dragonfly is very beautiful, but it’s very small and elusive. BugGuide notes that this dragonfly is normally about 21-24mm long (in case you’ve forgotten, 25.4mm is equal to an inch).

I’m probably going to remain a Canon guy, but I can definitely hear the Siren call of that 180mm macro lens, which comes in a Canon version too.

Eastern Amberwing dragonfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I start out with this blog I am posting a few of my favorite photographs. This is a close-up of what I am pretty certain is an Eastern Swallowtail butterfly. I shot it on 1 June at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, VA. I love this unusual perspective. It reminds me a little of a hang glider.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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