Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge

May 23rd, 2010 Lane 2 comments

Today I went on a bird tour of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge with my friends Chris and Maureen. Chris had won the photo-tour at an auction last year and was nice enough to invite me along. Our guide, Roger, took us on a drive around the refuge pointing out and educating us about all the amazing wildlife in this area just north of Vancouver, Washington.

I learned a lot about the birds and also learned how difficult it is to capture these birds in their native surroundings. I took all of these images with my Nikon D300 and a 300mm f/2.8 lens (which was borrowed from a friend at work. I’ve also performed some drastic cropping on the images so you can see the birds as more than just a speck amongst the brown trees and bright white clouds.

Red-tail hawk being pestered by a smaller bird

Juvenile Great Horned Owl

Two male wood ducks

Cedar Waxwing

Great blue heron in flight

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Pinnacle Peak – Scottsdale, AZ

March 26th, 2010 Lane Comments off

Year three of my trips to Arizona for Spring Training, sun, and margaritas has begun.

Yesterday was a day of no plans, which is an oddity for this group, so after the earlybirds woke up, we trekked off to Pinnacle Peak, just North of Scottsdale, for a fun little hike through the desert.

Cactus Wren

Juvenile cactus wren at Pinnacle Peak

On this hike you know you’ll see interesting geology, flora and fauna indicative of the Sonoran desert. You’ll also see a lot of trail runners, which is actually a lowlight because the trails are narrow and not all of the runners are that polite.

The only bird we saw up close was a cactus wren (Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus). It was sitting on a rock probably waiting for its mom to bring it some food. We guessed it was a juvenile due to the large amount of down on its back.

On the hike up, I was mentioning to Gary and Tawni that I have yet to see a rattlesnake on any of the trips down here. I’ve also never seen a scorpion, but they tend to hide, the little buggers.

For this trip I bought a new lens for my Nikon; an 18-200mm zoom. This lens allows me travel with just one lens, rather than my whole backpack of photo equipment. The lens isn’t incredibly fast (in photography terms) but it makes up for that with a vibration reduction feature that counters any camera shake due to my hands or a slight breeze.

Western Diamondback Rattlesnake

Western diamondback rattlesnake at pinnacle peak

Near the end of our return trip, there was a large group of people blocking the path. The majority of them (about eight) were from a film crew that was working on some sort of small video production. As they let us through, we noticed, and heard, that everyone was looming over this little western diamondback rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox). The rattler was maybe 12- to 14-inches long and about as big around as your thumb. It’s tail was rattling away and it looked extremely pissed off at all the humans blocking its path to its nest. Luckily there was a park official there keeping an eye on everybody and trying to keep people moving. As I passed by, I zipped out the camera, framing for a shot my first rattlesnake. We came to find out later that the little guy had recently had dinner of fresh mouse (take a look at the slight bulge in his midsection).

Overall it was a great hike and I am happy that I purchased my new lens and that I was able to use it to capture such a great (in my opinion) shot of my first rattlesnake.

Cholla

Teddy Bear Cholla at pinnacle peak

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Ecola State Park

October 12th, 2009 Lane 1 comment

Last week was, most likely, my last chance for a beautiful sunny weekend in Cannon Beach. Heading down Friday after work, I met up with Julie, Gary and Gary’s mom Stella for a nice dinner at Yummy! in Seaside. As always, it was a good dinner prepared by Cory (chef and owner) and the amazing cupcakes from Jimmy did not disappoint.DSC_1951_web

Saturday I had a nice slow morning around the house and a nice walk downtown. I met up with Gary for lunch at Lumberyard and we had a great meal and a couple of beers on the patio. The day was very sunny, making it feel warmer than it really was.

Julie, Gary, and I regrouped in the evening to watch the sunset fro Ecola State Park. I had my full camera setup and Gary had his point-and-shoot. It is always a learning experience taking pictures with Gary. He has such a great eye for composition and knows the park so well.

After our shooting session at the park, the three of us had a great Thai dinner at Cannon Beach Thai. All three of us tried a new dish, which is practically unheard of for us; and we were all very happy with our choices.

DSC_1925_webSunday was a work day for Julie and Gary, so I had the day to myself. A long walk on the beach, a long sun-soaked lunch on the deck at the Warren House and nice nap prepared me for my drive back home to get ready for the week and the Autumn rains that are coming back to Oregon.

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Selecting the Correct Image Quality: Nikon D300

September 20th, 2009 Lane Comments off

When you are preparing for a shoot, you want to make sure that you set your camera up properly; ISO, exposure mode, auto-focus and -exposure settings, etc. You should add one more setting to this mix: Image Quality.

I believe that a photographer should do everything in their power to ensure that they capture the best image possible, rather than capture what they can and fix it in post-processing. To this end, you want to make sure that your IQ setting matches the event you are shooting.

In this article I’ll discuss the pros and cons of the various NEF(RAW) format options available in the Nikon D300.

The D300 allows you to choose from six bit-depth and compression algorithm combinations of NEF(RAW), hereafter NEF.

  • Compression algorithm: Lossless Compressed, Compressed, or Uncompressed
  • Bit-depth: 12- or 14-bit

Compression Algorithm

The Nikon D300 User’s Manual states the following about each of the compression algorithms:

  • Lossless Compressed: NEF images are compressed using a reversible algorithm, reducing file size by about 20-40% with no affect on image quality.
  • Compressed: NEF images are compressed using a non-reversible algorithm, reducing file size by about 40-50% with almost no affect on image quality.
  • Uncompressed: NEF images are not compressed. Recording time increases slightly.

When it comes to choosing from these compression algorithms, you should ask yourself: what is most important?

  • File size: If you want to capture as many images as possible for the amount of storage you have, you’ll want to select Compressed. By doing so, you will be sacrificing some image quality due to the compression algorithm and your shots per second will decrease due to the processor having to perform the compression.
  • Image quality: If you want your image to contain the most accurate data for each sensor location you’ll want to select Lossless Compressed. This setting ensures that the compression algorithm retains all the information about the image as well as reducing the file size. Why didn’t I select Uncompressed? Well, if Nikon is true to their word, lossless should really mean what it implies.
  • Shots per second: If you want to capture many images in a short amount of time, such as at a sporting event or child’s party, you’ll want to select Lossless Compressed. This setting has the best balance of write time to your memory card (smaller file size compared to Uncompressed) and less processing time for compression (compared to Compressed).

My final suggestion is that you use Lossless Compressed, which is the default setting. It gives you the best compromise for all three areas of importance. I, myself, would only switch to Compressed if I knew that I’d had to capture as many images as possible and was concerned that my memory storage would not be adequate.

Bit-depth

The Nikon D300 User’s Manual states the following about about the two bit-depth options:

  • 12-bit: NEF images are recorded at a bit-depth of 12 bits.
  • 14-bit: NEF images are recorded at a bit-depth of 14 bits, producing files roughly 1.3 times larger than 12-bit files, but increasing the color data recorded. Maximum frame advance rate falls to 2.5 fps.

As with the compression algorithm, you should ask yourself: what is most important?

  • File size: If you want to capture as many images as possible for the amount of storage you have, you’ll want to select 12-bit. The 1.3x file size of the 14-bit image will significantly reduce the number of images you can collect on your memory card.
  • Image quality: If you want to capture the best data possible for your image, you’ll want to select 14-bit. You may read the forums that a lot of people comment that monitors and printers are not able to reproduce the data gathered from 14-bit images… this is true. However, technology is a crazy thing; it is always improving. My answer to this argument is that we should capture the best possible image now because we don’t want to be left out in the cold in the future when technology catches up to our current abilities. Here isĀ  a great technical discussion of the 12-/14-bit debate.
  • Shots per second: If you want to capture many images in a short amount of time, you’ll want to select 12-bit. The D300 is able to capture about six images per second in 12-bit mode as compared to two to three per second in 14-bit mode.

My final suggestion is to shoot in 14-bit mode as often as possible. The only time I would switch to 12-bit mode is when I am doing any sort of fast-action shoot, such as sports or wildlife photography.

Setting up Your Camera

This section contains various tasks for setting up your camera for accessing the Image Quality settings easier.

Change the Image Quality setting

  1. Press the MENU button
  2. Select the Shooting menu
  3. Select NEF (RAW) recording
  4. Select Type to change your Compression algorithm
  5. Select NEF (RAW) bit depth to change your bit-depth

Add the NEF(RAW) Menu item to your My Menu

If you feel that you’ll be switching amongst these modes on a regular basis, I would suggest that you add the Image Quality menu item to your Custom Menu.

  1. Press the MENU button
  2. Select MY MENU
  3. Select Add items
  4. Select Shooting menu
  5. Select NEF (RAW) recording and hit the OK button
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Syncing Google Calendar to Apple iCal

September 10th, 2009 Lane Comments off

I’m still working on migrating everything to my new MacBook Pro. One last thing I need to do is sync my iPod Touch to its true master. I’ve been waiting for the Snow Leopard upgrade (finished a couple days ago) and the synchronization of my Google Calendar to Apple’s iCal application.

I knew that with Snow Leopard it would be really simple to hook these two calendaring systems together, but it surprised me how easy it would be. The following is my best technical writer interpretation on how to accomplish this.

1) Open the iCal application

2) Select the iCal > Preferences menu item

3) Select the Networks tab of the Accounts dialog box

4) Click the plus sign (+) in the lower left-hand corner to add a new network

5) Complete the Add Account dialog box as follows:

a) Account type: select Google

b) Email address: enter your Gmail address

c) Password: enter your Gmail password

d) Click Create

You’ll now see your Gmail account in the Accounts sidebar

6) Take a look at the rest of the settings in the Accounts tab, but you shouldn’t need to alter anything for basic usage.

Yep… that’s it. Now I’m gonna plug the iTouch into the MacBook Pro and see what happens… I see another post in my future

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