sometimes good things happen

I decided to shoot some photos in the yard as the kids were playing. Photography takes practice like anything else, right? These were just experiments, but I think they turned out very nice.




look around

I’m reading books and browsing Flickr. A lot. It’s beginning to sink in.

I took the boys to visit my parents last weekend, and spent a little bit of time shooting.


I’ve read recently, “look up, look down, look behind you”, so I did.


If I hadn’t peeked in the alley, I would have never seen this.


I’ve looked at the river from this bridge a million times, but this time I took my camera with me.

goofing around

I tried to run out and get a photo of a pair of big barn owls on the roof across the street. I grabbed my longest lens and my tripod and headed outside.

They were gone.

When I came back inside, I was messing around with the long lens, snapping photos of stuff around the house. I discovered that if I cranked the ISO up high enough that I could get a still image (3200 in this case), the photos from this long lens are surprisingly crisp even in low light. (Hmm, it’s a minimum f/5.6 at that 300mm focal length, not exactly a low light lens.)

Crayons from 10 feet, 300mm focal (450mm with crop factor).


Disturbing a cat nap.


I’m surprised at both of these. I can read the copyright statements on the crayons, and the sharp focus and colors on the cat’s face are very good.

I guess sometimes, you just get lucky. Yeah, these won’t win any awards or cheers, but I like them a lot given the story behind them.

off-camera flash

I got it!

I managed to get the SB800 to fire remotely, wirelessly, while the on-camera flash did not fire, and I didn’t have to buy any fancy wireless modules or what-not to make it work! Man, I really like this D300.

I set the e3 “Flash cntrl for built-in flash” setting to “commander mode”, set the built-in flash to “–“, set group A to “AA” and then OK. Then, on the SB800 I held the Set button for 3 secs, chose the squiggly line remote setting, and set it to “remote”, then set the flash mode to “A” (or “TTL”, either should work and I’m not sure which one I used). The channels and groups were already the same. I popped up the built-in flash to put the camera in flash mode, then took my shot. As long as the SB800 could see the built-in flash monitor flashes, it would work.

I’m all set for those cool off-center, back-lit nude photo shoots now. Ladies, please form an orderly line … first come, first served.

Vacation – the acid test

We’re back, and I’m beginning to process photos. I’m posting some un-processed snapshots, just to give you a feel for what I’m struggling with and how the learning process is coming along.

Family vacations – theme parks, rushing off to the beach, finding a place to park – are not the best time to try to get that perfect photo. I tried to take good photos, but keeping up with the kids is tiring. I’m not complaining exactly, we did have a great time, but a bit more time to compose photos and think about what I was doing would have helped. Oh well.

So, has all the reading and practicing helped? I think so, but I’m still not satisfied. Will I ever be? No. 🙂

The beach – a rough place for natural light, in my opinion. Flat expansive beaches are hard to compose any depth into. I walked up into the dunes to have some foreground context, but it was still bland. I found a piece of wood that I added to the shot for more depth. I’m not sure it was enough, and I think the grass is distracting. Difficult.

Stopping motion. This was an unexpected shot. We were going on a charter boat ride and there were pelicans right next to the boat. I tried to take a shallow depth of field type of shot with one bird in focus, but just as I was about to shoot, most of them decided they needed to be somewhere else. I find the stopped motion interesting, but otherwise it’s not great.


Lighthouses – I see lots of cool photos of lighthouses. We went to the nearest one, but it was closing in a few minutes and we would have missed the charter boat. Bummer. Here’s a shot of it from the boat. Interesting that I nailed the ‘rule-of-thirds’ lines but the photo still seems off.


This power plant was also home to a manatee reserve. The light happened to be behind us, lighting up the smokestacks. I liked the colors, but the wide-angle lens created some very noticeable barrel effects. I hope to get one of these to come out good in post processing.


Mad Tea Party – I found this a perfect opportunity to practice some stop motion. I tried to keep the shutter speed around 60 and hold still on the subject. Of about 10 photos, this one turned out OK.


Low light, how you vex me. I am cursed. I should have gone to the car and got the tripod, but at Disney World the car was something like 500 miles away (why do they do that?). I tried using the flash, but the images revealed too much of the floats’ construction and dancers’ costumes. So, hand-held low light shots with no flash make for some interesting and perhaps unwelcome effects. This one doesn’t show what the light parade float was, but the colors and lines are pleasing anyway.


The last day was the history lesson. We went to the oldest city in the U.S. (St. Augustine) and toured “castillo de San Marcos” – a Spanish castle completed in 1595. The wide-angle was very handy here, but I still don’t like the barrel effect.


So, the trip was good, the photos are improving, but I would love to go on a photo safari where all I have to do is try to take good photos. Does the photo gear pass the test? The wide-angle is suspect, the 50mm f/1.4 saved the day for the light parade, and the 24-120 is a great all-around lens. The lossless compression of RAW images saved the day for memory card usage, and I suck at flash photography so I can’t evaluate the flash yet.