Windows For the Soul - Photography

Waiting for that light

A few weeks ago, I took a few hours late in the afternoon to go for a walk on the countryside. I took my teenage daughter along, with her own camera. Yes, spreading the gospel, so to speak. There were no interesting sightings worthy of a photograph, apart from this fellow with its extremely discreet camo (Euplectes afer, Yellow-crowned bishop), toing and froing above a stretch of reed. Clearly, there was a nest nearby. We managed to take a few shots of the busy creature but as I was testing a TC-200 on my 80-200mm f/2.8 in rather dim light, on a windy day and with no tripod, the outcome was far from acceptable. I decided that I would be back as soon as I had a chance.
A couple of weeks later, I returned alone. I had my tripod with me, there was a bit of wind but it was no gale. I had plenty of time because the girl that is a treat for mosquitoes at that time of the day stayed home.

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Nikon D7100, Nikon 80-200 mm f/2.8 @200 mm, Nikon TC-200, ISO 400, 1/1250, f/God-Only-Knows, Tripod.

On a first sighting, I managed to take a few photos, but the wind was still a bit too strong. I noticed that I would have the sun behind my back at sunset, so I decided to return a couple of hours later, and so I did. However, when I returned, the busy bird seemed to have vanished and I had to wait over an hour for him to show up again. Apart from the fact that I was standing, I did not mind an extra hour of peacefulness on the countryside. I am just a bloke with a camera taking a few photos on my scarce spare time but for me waiting a couple of hours for a bird is by no means boring because there is always something else to photograph as I wait. However, even though I know that those who do this professionally frequently have to wait much longer than that, I could see myself doing this for a living. Moving on... lest I should need to get therapy... Considering that I was using a Nikon TC-200 on my 80-200 f/2.8 and, consequently, using manual focus, with doubtful exposure readings on the D600, considering that it was on a windy day, that I had no VR and was using a shaky tripod head, it could be worse...I hope. Well, who cares, at least I could finally enjoy a quiet afternoon away from my desktop.
The second photo and the third one were taken almost 3 hours after the first shot. On the first one, I used the DX camera for the extra reach, on the other two I used the FX so that I could crank up the ISO to cope with the fading light. I know which photo(s) I prefer...

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Nikon D600, Nikon 80-200 mm f/2.8 @200 mm, Nikon TC-200, ISO 1600, 1/1000, f/God-Only-Knows, Tripod.

When the light sucks, focus on the action.

Great! My first take at shooting this sport and the light is absolutely crappy. Dark, yellowish light that makes people look like they have a strange tan on them. Really, really hard to get proper white balance, specially without my colour checker. Well, I cannot say that I was surprised, I mean, I had been there before and I knew what I was going to find there. So, why would one go to such a place with such lousy light conditions? Well, I have been to one too many rhythmic gymnastics events and I must confess I am a bit fed up with shooting the same gymnasts, the same routines and from the same point of view, up from the stands, that is. Don’t get me wrong, those girls do amazing stuff, but after a whole season it gets a bit boring photographing the same stuff. This would be an opportunity to have a crack at shooting a different sort of action and from a closer point of view. Looking at the results I have to wonder whether these shots are decent enough. Most of the time I had to crank my ISO up to 5000 and even though the D600 is a great little camera for these high ISO shots, I cannot say that I am thrilled with the results. However, there is a handful of shots that I like for the fact that I think that they captured the essence of the sport, the action and the commitment of those kids. Truly amazing stuff is what they do and I can only hope that these photos can convey my amazement.
Note to self: check my wallet for some pocket change to get a D3S and a 200mm f/2...

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Nikon D600, Nikon 80-200 mm f/2.8 @170 mm, ISO 5000, 1/500, f/2.8





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Nikon D600, Nikon 80-200 mm f/2.8 @200 mm, ISO 5000, 1/640, f/2.8



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Nikon D600, Nikon 80-200 mm f/2.8 @125 mm, ISO 5000, 1/640, f/2.8.




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Nikon D600, Nikon 80-200 mm f/2.8 @125 mm, ISO 5000, 1/640, f/2.8.



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Nikon D600, Nikon 80-200 mm f/2.8 @155 mm, ISO 5000, 1/640, f/2.8.


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Nikon D600, Nikon 80-200 mm f/2.8 @135 mm, ISO 5000, 1/800, f/2.8.


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Nikon D600, Nikon 80-200 mm f/2.8 @155 mm, ISO 5000, 1/800, f/2.8.



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Nikon D600, Nikon 80-200 mm f/2.8 @112 mm, ISO 5000, 1/800, f/2.8




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Nikon D600, Nikon 80-200 mm f/2.8 @185 mm, ISO 5000, 1/500, f/2.8

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Nikon D600, Nikon 80-200 mm f/2.8 @200 mm, ISO 5000, 1/640, f/2.8

In need of a telephoto lens... or not.

I hesitated considerably before posting these photos. I mean, I always do, maybe too much... or maybe not enough. This time, though, I had a further reason to question whether I should do it or not. However, this set of photos is a good illustration of a couple of things I feel that are worthy of a few lines. I hope I am not too wrong. The past few weeks, everyday, with an amazing punctuality just before sunset, flocks of cormorants fly over my house, coming from the seaside, flying inland for the night. I had this photo in my mind of one of those flocks (ranging from only two birds to well over twenty) flying in from the sunset from an almost horizontal perspective. How could I do that if they were flying rather high above my head? Well, by climbing onto the roof of my house, of course. With that in mind, I waited for a day with some rain-threatening clouds, but sunny enough to ensure a colourful late afternoon sky. I got lucky with the weather and I was not disappointed with the light conditions. However, when I showed these photos to two very different people, they had quite distinct reactions. The first one, who I usually consider, more or less as a joke, the acid test for my photography, seemed to be quite pleased with the result. I guess it was the colourful sky that got her sympathy. The second one, a friend who, in my opinion (for what it is worth), is a great nature photographer, was kind enough not to trash them bluntly. Kindly, he just said: ”your 80-200 mm lens is short, isn´t it?” I guess he is right, the lens is short because I had to crop some of the photos a bit and still the birds are little more than tiny spots in the sky. I suppose his precious feedback alone should be enough to keep me from posting them and to understand that the photos are, to put it mildly, plain boring. Yet, every single one of these shots is much closer to what I wanted to do than they would be if I had used a longer lens. True, I would have been able to get closer to the cormorants, but I would have lost too much diversity in the sky and it was the sky with the birds that I wanted to capture rather than the other way around. So, this just goes to show a couple of things: first, you should not trust the approval of your most ferocious critic; secondly, if you really want to find opportunities to use your gear, all you have to do is to open your eyes and.... climb to the roof top of your house; finally, sometimes having the gear that one could think that it would be the most suitable for the situation may keep you from taking the photo that you have imagined. The problem is when the photo that you have imagine is a cr*ppy one, as it seems to be the case. Be that as it may, I am still mad at Santa for forgetting that 500 mm that was on my Christmas wish list.

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Nikon D7100, Nikon 80-200 mm f/2.8 @200 mm, ISO 900, 1/200, f/7.1.

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Nikon D7100, Nikon 80-200 mm f/2.8 @200 mm, ISO 640, 1/250, f/7.1.

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Nikon D7100, Nikon 80-200 mm f/2.8 @200 mm, ISO 280, 1/320, f/10.

When the threads of time get tangled up

We have all heard too many times the expression “the decisive moment”, but forgive me for bringing up my own preference for “decisive moments”. When coincidence creates a scene that is somewhat unexpected, awkward, ironic, or even somewhat nonsense, if I happen to have my camera with me and my frequent clumsiness does not stand between me and the photo I wish to take, I’m a happy camper. In such cases, I can even be less frustrated if I can spot potential technical flaws on the shots taken. I don’t really care too much, as long as I feel that I have managed to freeze that moment when the threads of time got tangled up.
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Nikon D300, Nikon 80-200 mm f/2.8 @200 mm, ISO 500, 1/500, f/5.

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Nikon D300, Nikon 80-200 mm f/2.8 @80 mm, ISO 400, 1/800, f/9.

To publish or not to publish...

Time and again, whenever I drove by this spot, I told myself I had to go there with a little time to spare. I drive by this stork nest on a weekly basis, but always an hour too soon and always with the lot on board. However, pulling over to the side road and telling them “give an hour” is obviously not an option. This is a good example why photography is not a suitable hobby for those who are not selfish enough to systematically abandon the spouse (avoiding gender distinction...) and the offspring, to indulge in a few hours of fiddling around with settings, of composition adjusting, and so on. Finally, I managed to take a little time to go to that stork nest to try to photograph it at “that” time of the day. The task, however, proved to be a bit harder than I expected. The nest is on top of what is left of an old tree and it has been there for years. Unfortunately, this year someone decided, for whatever reason, that the log had to be shortened to almost half of its length. Consequently, the nest is now only about five meters above the road level, right there by the road side and as soon as I get closer the adult storks fly away and only come back when I leave. So, this called for a stealth approach. Hiding behind some bushes on the other side of the road, I managed to find an opening on those bushes that allowed me to be within reach of the nest. The angle was not the best, but it was good enough.

This photo reminds me that a couple of days ago I was discussing with a friend why do people publish photos that are subpar. I suppose that different reasons can explain this and that how and where they choose to publish may also hint at their motivation. Personally, though, I believe that this can be explained by two fundamental reasons: the first reason is the fact that they just don’t know any better; the second is the fact that that subpar work is all they have. Yes, guilty as charged and this photo is a good example. Yes, there are quite a few details on this photo that should lead no a “do not publish” label on it, methinks. However, although I can tell that, I am sure that an experienced photographer would easily spot a whole bunch of details that should award it a “trash it” label (If only I would receive an email from that photographer... ). On the other hand, this photo was taken after a couple of very busy weeks, with little time left for photography. So, after such a painfully long period of time, being able to take the time to finally go to that spot and the great feeling of just being there and doing it can probably cloud my judgment. In my defense, I can only say that, by publishing this subpar stuff, I do not seek meaningless taps on my back. If I wanted that, I would be publishing on Facebook, where so many people scratch each others backs with unfelt compliments on their photos. So, if you have reasons to trash my photos, please, do drop me a line and you will get a big “thank you” from me!

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Nikon D600, Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 @135mm, ISO 360, 1/1000, f/10.

A wish come true

I had been waiting for the opportunity to take a night shot of a stork on its nest, but as I did not want to use a very long exposure, lest the stork decided to move, I knew I had to do it just after dusk, when there is still some light on the sky, a souvenir of the sun that has just disappeared. When I could finally have a chance to be there at the time of the day that I wanted, I was lucky enough to have no rain for a change. Once there, I had the stork standing, I could see it enough to know it would not take such a long exposure nor cranking up the ISO so I knew my wish had come true. I saw this shinny spot in the sky and immediately decided where I wanted to place it in the shot. It took me some to and froing, circling the nest, choosing the right height for the tripod, a couple of trial shots with different ISO values and...well, that was a nice way to finish my day.

Night photo of a stork on its nest
Nikon D7000, Nikon 80-200 mm f/2.8 @200 mm, ISO 400, 1,6sec, f/22, Tripod.

Wishes for 2014

These days, what can one wish for the new year? Well, that it is just as good (or bad) as the one that is finishing. I mean, we did manage through this one, didn’t we?
For what it’s worth, may the year that is coming be whatever we wish it to be.

Bird in the sunset
Nikon D7000, Nikon 80-200 mm f/2.8 @80mm, ISO 640, 1/400, f/16, Tripod.

Stork traffic lane

About thirty years ago, when I was a little more than 10, I remember that I once saw a small flock of storks flying over my neighbourhood and that I had never seen them around here before. Surely, their passage was no reason for amazement but it was by no means common. Nowadays, for different reasons, we have storks around here the whole year and, in some areas, it is almost easier to spot a stork than a common sparrow. One would dare suggesting that there should be some traffic signs for stork rush hour.

Stork Traffic Sign Roundabout
Nikon D7000, Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 @200mm, ISO 400, 1/1250, f/7.1.

Kick off

Today I am feeling bold. So... I am starting this web site and this blog as a way to share my passion for photography and, hopefully, to use it as a log for my evolution as a photographer. I have no idea whatsoever what this will turn out to be. So, bear with me...

Just after sunset on a late November day, facing NW, I mounted my tripod with the lowest point of view possible, just short of getting my shoes wet.


Boat on lagoon at dusk
Nikon D7000, Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 @120mm, ISO 500, 1/25, f/8.0, Tripod.