Sunday, March 12, 2006

Children's Festival of Art

I had a simply wonderful time at the Sixth annual Children's Festival of Art at Fort Worden here in Port Townsend. As the activities photographer for the Festival, I spent the entire day photographing kids having fun! Teresa was there too, helping the children with print making and doll making.

I found that the Nikon 18-200 zoom had the best focal length of my lenses for this event, with most of the images being shot at a focal length between 30 mm and 70 mm. Many of the images were not quite as sharp as I prefer, but that could be a result of shooting hand-held instead of using a tripod. After more than 2,500 shots, the D200 is still new to me. That translates to making mistakes. I didn't discover until after the day was over that the camera was still in bracketing mode. Fortunately, all of the indoor photographs were taken with the SB-800 flash, and that compensated for the incorrect camera setting.

Click on the photo or title above to link to the photo album for this day.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Rainbow in Port Townsend

Here in Port Townsend, rainbows are sudden and fleeting. Keeping the camera ready pays off in moments like this. The Victoria Clipper IV flies the rainbow on its way from Seattle to Victoria, British Columbia. We see the Clipper daily, but usually further offshore and without a rainbow.

Recently, I've been leaving the new Nikon 18-200 mm f3.5-5.6 AF-S VR zoom lens mounted on the camera. That lens lets me grab just about any shot I want without having to change lenses. The trade-off is that the lens is not as sharp as some of Nikon's best lenses. Sometimes that trade-off is worth it. In my testing, images taken with the camera mounted on a tripod are quite satisfactorily sharp. As might be expected, hand-held images are better with VR than without, but not as sharp as when using a tripod.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Almost Like Film

Just before leaving on vacation, we journeyed up to the Skagit River valley hoping to see lots of Bald Eagles. That's about a four hour drive from home. However, the weather was overcast and raining and the Skagit River was close to flooding. Flood warnings had been issued for many areas near the Cascade mountains that day. We saw perhaps a dozen eagles, all huddling in trees waiting for the weather to improve. Lower water in the river would probably have made the salmon more available too! We did see some swans in a field, probably early arrivals for the season.

It was cold, wet, and uncomfortable but provided an opportunity to experiment with my new Tokina 12-24mm f/4.0 zoom lens. The lens performed admirably. I processed the images to look like some of the vibrant color slide film that was more common when I was younger. This seemed to be a nice antidote to the day.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

A Green Day at Bloedel Reserve

Teresa, Mary Kay, and I spent a wonderful two hours at Bloedel Reserve today, before taking Mary Kay to the ferry on her return to the Bay Area. The sky was overcast and there were a few light droplets at the beginning. I started by taking photos at the Japanese Garden, then moved on to the main house and part of the trail between the two.

When you look at the photos, you'll see why I called this a "green day." The photo above is the only one that is not mostly green!

I saw a Belted Kingfisher in the large pond in front of the house. The photo was good enough to confirm the identification of the bird but not good enough that I wanted to include it in the album.

Today was a photographic experiment too. I used only a 40-year old Nikon 50mm f1.4 manual focus lens on the D70. This meant all exposure were manually focused and exposures were manually calculated. I used a Sekonic L-358 light meter to evaluate exposure; it did a fine job and I had to reject few images because of exposure problems. Manually focusing the D70 is difficult, although it was somewhat easier with the f1.4 lens. It felt very strange and unusual to focus with my left eye (which I have to do because it has better resolution than my right after the laser surgery on the right eye).

As always, click on the photo or title above to link to the photo album for this day.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Joy of Watercolor in Port Townsend

Teresa has been taking a watercolor class so I took the opportunity to photograph "artists at work" at her last class.

There were two minor technical challenges in these photos. The interior shots were taken without flash, at ISO 800. Using ISO 800 left a lot of noise in the images. I used Paint Shop Pro 9's Digital Camera Noise Reduction utility to remove the noise. This tool is better than the one supplied with Photoshop CS2, although no noise removal technique is perfect. Unlike most days recently, the sky was mostly clear so we had harsh direct, mid-day sun for the plein air photographs. On most photos, I used fill flash to match shaded foreground images better to well lit backgrounds and to compensate partially for the color difference between direct sun and shade. Without a helper, I didn't want to try to use a reflector or diffuser to modify the light. Maybe next time....

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Web Page Created!

With this blog, photo albums, and photos on PBase, there wasn't any way to collect all of my work together. So I removed the old consulting business web page and have created a personal web page for Teresa and myself. The initial version of this page simple, but should tie together the various images I have on the web.

Our web page is at; links to photo albums are on

Friday, March 18, 2005

Casual Birding at Keystone

I took the ferry to Whidby island today and saw some firsts for me at the Keystone ferry terminal.

Leaving Port Townsend, a cute Pigeon Guillemot was feeding behind the ferry. I didn't have my binoculars with me, so could not clearly see birds on the crossing. I think I saw Murrelets and Cormorants though.

At Keystone, I was surprised to see two Great Blue Herons and an apparent nest on one of the buttresses the ferry docks against. Could they really be nesting there? I saw a pair again in the evening on one of the pilings, but don't know if it was the same pair. Lots of Cormorants were lined up near the small boat landing.

In the evening, while waiting for the ferry, I saw my first pair of Red-Breasted Mergansers feeding in the docking area. The other new bird for me was the Belted Kingfisher. They sure are noisy! By the road I saw a Red-Winged Blackbird, Song Sparrow, Spotted Towhee, and some others that were too quick for me to identify. A pair of Canada Geese fills out the list for today.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Raw Development Software

I have continued my testing of RawShooter Essential (RSE) and Raw Magick Lite (RML) and now have a better idea how to use these products. Interestingly, I use both of them, as well as Nikon Capture (NC).

After shooting, I move all of the images from the CompactFlash card to a directory for the day. I then use RSE to triage the images. I separate the images into four categories: those to develop further, duplicates and backups, poor images that may have some informational content, and outright trash. RSE has powerful tools to allow me to quickly assign images to a category, then move the different categories to different directories.

After this step, only category 1 images are left in my working directory. I could use RSE to "develop" the images into TIF files, but I don't like the way RSE develops Nikon D70 images. I find that the images are almost always too dark. RSE also sharpens the images more than I like. While I could adjust the default settings to mostly solve the sharpening problem, I don't think I can adjust for the darkness adequately.

Mostly I use NC to make the initial adjustments to the image--white balance, slight sharpening, curves, etc. I just save the changes back into the raw NEF file, as Paint Shop Pro 9 can read the NEF file directly. I really wish I had a second monitor for use with NC. It's user interface really cries for more screen space.

If the image has high dynamic range and the highlights are slightly blown, I use RML because it does a better job of highlight recovery than NC.

Following development, I use Paint Shop Pro 9 to read either the original NEF file (if I used NC) or the TIF file from RML and write a .PSPIMAGE file. (Actually, in the current version of RML, RML writes a PhotoShop PSD file. I then use IrfanView to convert the PSD file to a TIF file.)

Finally, I am ready to crop, rotate, or further adjust the image. Then it's on to making a gallery, printing, or preparing images for the web or email.

I am continuing to backfill posts and galleries from our trip to southern California and Arizona in January and February. The next gallery to be posted will be from the San Diego Zoo, probably followed by one from the San Diego Wild Animal Park.

Friday, March 11, 2005

New Software

This is quite a week for new raw image development software. Nikon released a new version of Nikon Capture (NC); Pixmantec released Raw Shooters Essential 1.1 (RSE) yesterday; and Raw Magick is expected to have an updated beta of Raw Magick Light (RML) in a few days.

Each product excels in its own way. None are the best at everything.

RSE excels at ease of use and provides a more complete workflow solution than the other products. It is the fastest of the three. However, it lacks some key features such as direct access to curves and image rotation. It does not recognize the camera settings as recorded in the Nikon raw NEF files.

RML probably has the ultimate in raw image developing, at the expense of being the slowest of the three tools. Fortunately, like RSE, a lot of the work can be relegated to a background process and not interfere too much with continued editing. I am able to recover more highlight detail with RML than with any other tool. I am hoping that the next beta will address various problems I have had. However, the workflow is not as well developed and the user interface is clumsy. RML recognizes camera settings.

NC is slow and a memory hog. The user interface is not that great and the dialog layout is the worst of the three. NC follows standard developing practices and is the weakest of the three in recovering lost highlights. NC saves changes in a non-destructive way in the original NEF file. Coupled with a plugin from Nikon's Picture Perfect, I am able to read the modified NEF files directly into Paint Shop Pro 9 and have all changes made by NC applied. With either RSE or RML, I have to save the image to another format such as TIF or PSD and then read that file into Paint Shop Pro 9, meaning there are more files for me to manage and store.

I've been using Nikon Capture to develop my raw images. I am experimenting with both RSE and RML, focusing first on RML. Now, if only the new beta were to be available soon!

Monday, March 07, 2005

Birding at Oak Bay and Kai Tai Lagoon

I went looking for water birds to photograph today at Oak Bay and Kai Tai lagoon. I saw about 200 Puget Sound Gulls at Oak Bay, 20 crows, 20 Buffleheads, 40 Northern Pintails, 6 American Wigeons, a pair of Hooded Mergansers and about 150 Brants. The Buffleheads were mostly on the bay rather than in the pond. The Brants were just south of the park boundary. A Bald Eagle went by overhead too.

At Kai Tai, I saw at least 20 Buffleheads, a half dozen Mallards, a pair of Gadwells, two American Coots, several American Wigeons, a Lesser Scaup, several gulls, and two female Ruddy Ducks. The Buffleheads were having a fine time displaying and courting their females.

This is my first attempt to include a photo album of the day's birding. I'm using JAlbum 5.2 with the BluPlusPlus skin. I've already seen several ways I'll have to change my workflow to improve the image quality. For the photoblog, I'm using Picasso to upload the image and create a blog entry with I'm still stumbling around a bit with all these new software components.

To get the photos ready to publish, I used RawShooter Essentials to select and develop the photos. I then used PaintShop Pro 9 to convert the .TIFF files to .PSPIMAGE files. I then went through all the files, cropping and tweaking them slightly, to create .JPG files. I then included the .JPG files in JAlbum and uploaded the album. Click here to see the photo album.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Where are the birds?

Despite keeping our feeders filled, we haven't seen many birds in our back yard since we got back from vacation. The Oregon Juncos are mostly gone. Spotted Towhees are here and we're beginning to see a few Golden Crowned Sparrows. White Crowned Sparrows seem scarce, as are House Finches too.

We do see Bald Eagles overhead frequently, but not roosting often on the snag in our neighbor's yard. The eagles seem to be quite territorial now. Is breeding season upon us?

Friday, January 28, 2005

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument has always been a favorite park of mine. Located in southern Arizona, on the border with Mexico, the park is not crowded and has lots of wonderful desert landscape.

Sometimes my photographic instincts seem to be turned off, and this was one of those days. Click on the photo or link above for a collection of snapshots from our day at the park.

Friday, January 21, 2005

San Diego Wild Animal Park

I'm not fond of zoos for photographing animals. Zoos are usually crowded, the cages small, and it is difficult to get good sight lines for photographs.

I've always loved the San Diego Wild Animal park. The animals have great freedom of movement and behave in more natural ways. We had a beautiful visit and beautiful weather. Birds like the environment so much that there is always a large collection of native birds to supplement the park's captive birds. Most of the collection is from Africa.

I've organized the album by animals, wild birds, and captive birds. Click on the link above the photo to see the album.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

San Diego Zoo

Today we went to the San Diego Zoo. The temperature reached 85 degrees--to Teresa's delight and my dismay!

Photographing at the zoo was difficult. The light was harsh and backgrounds often obviously part of a cage. And I was wilting in the heat! Here are a few photos.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

San Juan Capistrano

We visited the mission at San Juan Capistrano today. The church itself was destroyed in an earthquake long ago.

San Juan Capistrano is known for the swallows returning there. But they don't return to the mission any more. As part of beautification, the areas around the mission have been landscaped and planted. Everything is now nicely green--and there is no mud! Swallows need mud to build their nests, so the swallows now roost elsewhere in the area.

Click on the title above or here to see a short photo gallery.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Pelican Portrait

Today we visited the fishing pier in San Clemente, CA. The Brown Pelicans were very acclimated to people. Get too close to them and get pecked at. Those are big birds, with big bills, so that's an experience to be avoided!

There were more pigeons than Western Gulls. We also saw a Double Crested Cormorant feeding.

Southern California is still reeling from all the rain. The MetroLink/Amtrak railroad track appeared closed as a barrier was being built to hold back further slides.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Vacation Starts

We left yesterday for our vacation, arriving today. For the first time, we tried staying overnight at a hotel near SeaTac rather than trying to make an entire trip in one day. We have to leave home in Port Townsend four to five hours before flight time to make all connections necessary to get to the airport well before departure. This makes any flight an all-day experience. Consequently, we try to schedule departure after 1 pm or so.

We wanted to get an earlier flight this time so we would have more time with Teresa's sister in San Clemente before they left on their vacation. That meant an early flight, and that meant either leaving the house in the middle of the night or making it a two-day trip.

The trip was easy; the shuttle dropped us directly at the SeaTac hotel we were staying at and the hotel had a shuttle to the terminal the next morning. It was still two days and tiring though.

But we're here! And the temperature is warmer than it was in Port Townsend.