Animals

Panda Bear

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Lunch time for this Giant Panda at the National Zoo. While those large canine teeth look impressive, it’s the molars in the back that are doing all the work to break down the bamboo stalk.

Giant Panda

Camera: Nikon D7000
Lens: Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G AF-S ED VR IIs
ISO: 800
Focal Length: 200mm
Aperture: f/6.3
Shutter: 1/250s

Seagull v. Crab

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I think of crabs as being well-protected animals. Between their hard shells and sharp pinchers, I would never have imagined their low position in the food chain until I witnessed this atrocity. This poor crab was not victim to an otter or a stork, but the lowly seagull.

Seagull v. Crab

Nikon D800, Nikkor AF-S 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 110, 300mm, f/5.6, 1/640s

Sure, the gull may have a strong grip on one of the crab’s legs, but how will it break the shell? Unfortunately for the crab, the answer was gravity. Give the crab a lift and let go.

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Nikon D800, Nikkor AF-S 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 100, 300mm, f/5.6, 1/640s

Yes, seagulls are violent, vicious killers. Some food for thought the next time you see a seagull circling above.

Stanford Dish

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I headed up to the Stanford Dish for a July 4th hike. I brought along the 28-300mm lens for fun. The side facing the mountains had clear blue skies. Along the bay, it was hazy and overcast.

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Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 100, 180mm, -0.3 EV, f/5.6, 1/1,000s

The last time I was up at the Dish was a year ago. I took a photo of this same tree. Retina version is a lot more detailed.

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Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 140, 48mm, -0.3 EV, f/8, 1/1,000s

Experimented with shooting into the sun, and trying to bring back the shadow details. Wasn’t in an HDR mood, I guess.

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Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 100, 50mm, 0 EV, f/16, 1/60s

If good fences make good neighbors, what about bad fences?

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Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 100, 230mm, 0 EV, f/5.6, 1/800s

The real treat of the hike was encountering this deer. It started on the other side of the fence, but easily ducked under and headed off across our path.

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Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 100, 300mm, 0 EV, f/8, 1/250s

Camera Lens for the Grand Canyon

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Summer is a prime travel season. If you are heading out on vacation and wondering which lens to bring along, a great reference is flickr and 500px. Besides gaining inspiration from your fellow photographers, you can also study the EXIF of their photos to see what lenses and camera settings they used.

I visited the Grand Canyon 2½ years ago. If I was going again, I would take a different set of photos. But, in lieu of trekking 750+ miles, I can re-process these older photos with newer tools and improved techniques.

Grand Canyon

Nikon D7000, AF-S DX VR Zoom-Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED, ISO 100, 35mm, -2 EV, f/5.6, 1/320s

Back then, I had a DX camera and was using the all-in-one 18-200mm lens. At the time, I was experimenting with bracketing and took three shots at 0 EV, -2 EV and 2 EV. The -2 EV preserved the sky, but underexposed the foreground. That’s fixable. However, if the sky is overexposed, there’s no way to bring back those details.

Here’s the Grand Canyon at first light. The sun has just risen and its rays are catching the top of the canyon walls. In post-processing, I brought down the exposure of the sky and increased the exposure and contrast in the shadows. At 1/60s, I was definitely using a tripod.

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Nikon D7000, AF-S DX VR Zoom-Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED, ISO 100, 20mm, 0 EV, f/5.6, 1/60s

Three photos at 35mm (FX 45mm), 20mm (FX 26mm) and 42mm (FX 55mm). That should tell you that the Grand Canyon is a wide angle location, unless you are fortunate enough to encounter some wildlife. You really need a wide angle lens to capture the vastness of the Grand Canyon as well as the differently colored strata.

Maricopa Point along the Hermits Rest Route

Grand Canyon

Nikon D7000, AF-S DX VR Zoom-Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED, ISO 400, 42mm, 0 EV, f/13, 1/640s

From Desert View, we headed back to our base at Kachina Lodge. Unlike summer, sunset in winter comes early. So, we took photos at a number of lookouts along the way. At 4:25 PM, the sun was already setting, which brought out the brilliant bands of colors. When taking photos at sunset, don’t just focus on the sun dropping below the horizon, but also observe the colors of the sky.

At this point, the temperature was dropping fast and the wind had picked up considerably. You don’t take sunset photos at ISO 100 for 1/30s in windy conditions without a tripod.

Grand Canyon at Sunset

Nikon D7000, AF-S DX VR Zoom-Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED, ISO 100, 28mm, 0 EV, f/4, 1/30s

These two photos are pretty similar. One was taken at 28mm (FX 36mm) and the other at 75mm (FX 97mm). The top photo really shows the Desert View Watchtower as a lone beacon in its vast surroundings. The bottom photo really focuses on the Desert View Watchtower. The -2 EV was accidental. I forgot to reset the camera after I had bracketed some earlier shots.

Grand Canyon Watchtower

Nikon D7000, AF-S DX VR Zoom-Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED, ISO 100, 75mm, -2 EV, f/5, 1/40s

This is what I mean by wildlife. We spotted this deer chewing on the bark. I only had the Fuji FinePix X100 with a fixed lens at the moment. At 23 mm, I had to crop out a lot of the photo, but that’s the camera/lens I had with me.

Grand Canyon Wildlife

Fuji FinePix X100, ISO 800, 23mm, -0.3 EV, f/2, 1/30s

The bottom line is that the DX 18-200mm or an FX 28-300mm would be absolutely fine lenses to use at the Grand Canyon. The bonus is not having to switch lenses in a dusty environment. However, you will not use the tele portion of the lens as much, if at all. If you decide to take sunrise, sunset or star photos, you may have to bump up the ISO unless you have a tripod with you.

Bee Series

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Part II of the Elizabeth F. Gamble Garden Center photoshoot.

After spending some time focusing on the flowers, I decided to hang out around the poppies and photograph some bumblebees. Ordinarily, these bees do not sit still. After all, you might have heard of the term “busy as a bee.” So, the standard modus operandi would be to focus, take a burst of photos, and see if any came out. However, in this case, the bumblebee was loafing around. Actually, I thought it was dead. Maybe it was drunk on nectar, because it just did not move. When I looked again a few minutes later, the bumblebee had flown away by then.

Bumblebee

Nikon D800, AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED, ISO 100, 105mm, f/4, 1/800s

This photo is more of the norm. This bumblebee is not going to hang around quietly waiting for me to take its photo. So, I selected a shutter speed of 1/4,000s to compensate for bumblebee motion. Fortunately, just enough of the bumblebee is in focus in this photo.

Bumblebee

Nikon D800, AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED, ISO 400, 105mm, f/3, 1/4,000s

The Citizens of Mission Peak

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The trail to Mission Peak winds through a terraced hillside. In the middle of fields of golden grass presides a band of mellow cows too busy foraging for food to bother with the passing humans. Some people listen to their own music on the trip up, but I much preferred the hum of insects and the occasionally lowing cow to connect me back to nature.

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Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 G ED VR, ISO 720, 300mm, 0 EV, f/8, 1,1000s

Ring Tail Lemur

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At Safari West, the ring tail lemurs live on a small island protected by a Koi fish-infested moat. These critters were perfectly content to sit and pose.

Ring Tail Lemur

Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 400, 300mm, 0 EV, f/9, 1/400s

Float Like a Western Tiger Swallowtail

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Bees are easy. They are not skittish. And, even when I get too close, they just buzz around and move on to another nearby flower.

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Nikon D800, AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm, f/2.8G IF-ED, ISO 100, 105mm, f/8, 1/160s

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Nikon D800, AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm, f/2.8G IF-ED, ISO 100, 105mm, f/8, 1/160s

Butterflies are different. You look at one wrong and it just might fly far, far away. This one is a Western Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio rutulus) that I found along the Stevens Creek trail.

Western Tiger Swallowtail

Nikon D800, AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm, f/2.8G IF-ED, ISO 100, 105mm, f/8, 1/160s

Western Tiger Swallowtail

Nikon D800, AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm, f/2.8G IF-ED, ISO 100, 105mm, f/8, 1/200s

Western Tiger Swallowtail

Nikon D800, AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm, f/2.8G IF-ED, ISO 100, 105mm, f/8, 1/250s

Gulf Fritillary Butterfly

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Another noon walk. I usually follow the same path and see the same flowers and insects every day. However, sometimes I’m blessed with a pleasant surprise along the way.

Today, I spotted a butterfly floating around some bushes. As I stopped to observe and take some photos, it was joined by two other butterflies. Serendipity indeed.

Gulf Fritillary

Nikon D800, AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED, ISO 200, 105mm, f/5, 1/2,000s

I had no idea what type of butterfly it was, but using this butterfly identification guide, I arrived at Agraulis vanilla. Close enough.

Squirrel and Red Spider

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I was shooting in manual mode a few days ago and forgot to reset my settings. Last night, I spotted a small red dot roaming around the calla lily, and grabbed the camera. So, the aperture and shutter speed were for an entirely different event, but the exposure was not far off fortunately.

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Nikon D800, AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED, ISO 100, 105mm, f/4, 1/100s

Later, I spotted this guy climbing up the telephone pole. I’m pretty sure that telephone lines are the equivalent of highways for squirrels–basically, paths that offer unfettered access to the entire neighborhood. The squirrels are free from ground-based predators, like cats, but probably have to watch out for hawks and other raptors. I wonder what would happen to the squirrels if the telephone and electrical lines ever transitioned underground.

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Nikon D800, AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED, ISO 100, 105mm, f/4, 1/100s