Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Sunny day on the grass with Leah

This last weekend we spent Easter with Meg's parents, and wee Leah got to soak in the Minnesota rays on a sunny Sunday morning. Here are a few that turned out especially well (out of the 220 photos I took).

ISO 200   103mm   F/4.8   1/1250 sec

ISO 200   103mm   F/4.8   1/1600 sec

What I like about these two are how the green grass bokeh looks like a matte background in a portrait studio. There were a few others that had better smiles, but there was always a house or something that was distracting. With these two Leah's face is really nicely isolated and I think it draws you in.

Just for fun, here's an action shot of plastic Easter eggs mysteriously hovering. I'll let you guess how this came to pass, but here's a hint - look at the shutter speed :)

ISO 200   45mm   F/4.0   1/2000 sec

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

I found your trilling quite thrilling, my dear blackbird

The park by our house has a little marsh in it and it's already full of frogs and red-winged blackbirds - especially their chatter. Last week we went for a walk and I kicked myself for not bringing the camera, but I often don't make the same mistake twice. Fairly often.

Here's a shot of a trilling red-winged blackbird. Of course, you know what he's saying, "Baby, you know I'm the man for you! I'll be sweet and bring you breakfast in nest!"

Trilling red-winged blackbird. ISO 200, 200mm, f/5.6, 1/200 sec
Sillyness aside, he gave me a great pose and I'm really happy I caught him in his moment. I worked pretty hard to get a good background, as there are houses in several directions and mostly leafless trees. It's nothing remarkable beyond the subject, but at least it isn't distracting. I could be in the Horicon Marsh for all you could tell :)

As to the shot, this was fully zoomed at 400mm equivalent, which I needed as he flew away when I got closer. This is cropped to about 1/3 of the original size, but it would have been preferable to be closer and not have to max out the focal length as this lens has a bit of chromatic aberration at this limit (zoom way in and you can see it by his feet at tail where the white and black contrast). With that said, who cares! I love that I caught the moment and for the brilliance of his plumage on this spring evening.

Update - added a new crop based on some good advice by Sam

Crop #2

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Exploring a subject - daffodils on a sunny morning

I've been trying to spend more time working with a single subject and to explore more of the possibilities; I have also been waiting for a sunny weekend morning to try taking some photos of the spring flowers in my yard. The result?  I jumped out of bed this morning, skipped the coffee for the trusty camera, and started snapping some shots.

A few of the early flowers are on the wane, but the daffodils are just hitting their stride. I'll begin here with a few of the shots I took just getting a feel for what I could produce, though I didn't have any real plan and just picked the flowers that seemed promising. None of these stand out as much, but it helped me see what I was going to get for light, depth of field, and whatnot.

I stumbled upon that last shot, as I had no intention to get the sun coming through between the tree and the deck, aside from that I was looking for flowers that were actually in the sun. Anyway, it seemed promising to get some macro shots with a really short DOF with the sun doing its magic. Here's the next round:

Cash money! That last one had something going for it. Now come inside, make coffee for me/wife and cereal for the kiddo...and during her nap I imported these into Lightroom. All I knew was that I wanted something more abstract - it doesn't need to look like light coming from behind a tree in my yard on  a spring morning - I just wanted something visually striking.

I cropped a little to start out, isolating the flower more, and then I took back a few highlights and dodged a bit in the center of the flower. Non-flower detail was mostly gone, and more so after desaturating everything but the yellow/orange. I like how the flower is floating, but still I just see "yellow," and not something more compelling...

...until I converted to black and white. It never ceases to amaze me how much more you see when you remove the distraction of color. In this case I see the texture in the translucent petal, and I pick up more of a sense of a halo. I'm biased, but I think this is a stunning image.

Final image, daffodil with a halo
 I'm pleased, but there's got to be a lot more I can do with this subject and I won't get better by blogging. Stay tuned for the next installment.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Cows on a Foggy WI Morning

I really have the best commute - 15 minutes and every day I pass by corn fields, apple orchards, a huge pumpkin patch, two kinds of cows (including a bunch of calf houses), horses, and probably the laziest pair of ponies in the world. In the morning the light is especially nice, and often there is quite a bit of fog.

Needless to say I've stopped many times to take pictures. A few days ago was a cool, slightly foggy morning and the shaggy cows on the west side of the road were grazing fairly close to the fence, so I pulled over and pulled out the trusty 45-200mm zoom. Antics ensued (see image 2).

Cow facing a foggy wood
This was probably the best shot I took. Not because of any technical coup, but there's something foreboding about the woods and how the cow is facing them alone. Interestingly, it's quite far to the woods, but the zoom lens (at a full 400mm equivalent) really smashes the subject and the background together and changes the scene a great deal.

That was one tasty hobbit!
(credit: P. S. Mueller)
This one is much sillier, and there's something about her tongue that says it all. A video would be good, too, as she was really using that horn to full effect.

You lookin' at me?
One last image, and there's not much to say that you can't see. I wasn't very interesting to the cows, being as I'm not made of grass, but I didn't go completely unnoticed.