Category Archives: Travel and Vacation

The Most Important Lesson: Remember Who You Are

We scheduled our visit to Monument Valley to coincide with the full moon. Very challenging, but fun fun fun.

We scheduled our visit to Monument Valley to coincide with the full moon. Technically challenging, but fun fun fun.

As regular readers know, I’m not the sharpest lens in the bag. One of the reasons I maintain this blog is to record lessons for myself – despite the fact that, in the words of Elvis Costello, “I talk to myself but I don’t listen.”

So, several of these lessons are things we all already know. In fact, most have been featured on this blog before. Still… Continue reading

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2015 Southwest Vacation Slideshow

In future posts I’ll share photos and lessons learned – and missed – during this trip. In the meantime, here’s a slideshow.

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Different Camera, New Software, Less Blogging

A rare problem - the birds were TOO CLOSE on this particular day at Bolsa Chica.

A rare problem – the birds were TOO CLOSE on this particular day at Bolsa Chica.

I traded my remaining D7000 for a D7100. Now I have, in effect, two versions of the same camera: the D7100 and D610. Almost identical in operation, but one DX sensor and one FX sensor. With my collection of DX and FX lenses, it’s a very versatile combination.

I’m using the D7100 for wildlife, the D610 for events and portraiture, and the Fujifilm X100s for travel. So far, so good, but it’s obviously cutting into my blogging time. Hopefully I’ll have more to report on the 24 megapixel dynamic duo soon. One thing I’ll be writing about: The buffer on the D7100 really let me down during a pelican feeding frenzy at Bolsa Chica. I’d be tracking the birds toward the water and the shutter would slow and then stop just before they struck. Very frustrating.

At the same time, I switched from Aperture to Lightroom for post-processing. The learning curve is steep for a lazy, disorganized, impatient photographer, but so far I like the results.

A nice family moment at Bolsa Chica. Nikon D7100, Nikon 70-200 f/2.8, Nikon TC1.7

A nice family moment at Bolsa Chica. Nikon D7100, Nikon 70-200 f/2.8, Nikon TC17eII teleconverter.

I've been reluctant to use the teleconverter lately, because it degrades image quality, but coupled with the 24 megapixel D7100, it really extends my reach.

I’ve been reluctant to use the teleconverter lately, because it degrades image quality, but coupled with the 24 megapixel D7100, it really extends my reach. Nikon D7100, Nikon 70-200 f/2.8, Nikon TC-17eII teleconverter.

Here is a close-up from the image above. You can see the fishtail and its shadow. I could get used to all these pixels.

Here is a close-up from the image above. You can see the fishtail and its shadow. I could get used to all these pixels. Nikon D7100, Nikon 70-200 f/2.8, Nikon TC17eII teleconverter.

The D7100 is no worse than any camera I've owned for birds in flight, and might be the best. I'll need more practice, and look forward to getting it.

The D7100 is no worse than any camera I’ve owned for birds in flight, and might be the best. I’ll need more practice, and look forward to getting it. Nikon D7100, Nikon 70-200 f/2.8, Nikon TC17eII teleconverter.

On another note, I took a three-day weekend recently with just the X100s. Here's my shadow in Mt. Shasta, California...

On another note, I took a three-day weekend recently with just the X100s. Here’s my shadow in Mt. Shasta, California…

...and here's Mt. Shasta itself. Fujifilm X100s

…and here’s Mt. Shasta itself. Fujifilm X100s

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Filed under Camera Gear, Nature Photography, Travel and Vacation

What I Got The X100s For

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Would one of my other cameras have provided adequate depth of field to keep both pets in focus? Probably not in this light. Besides, it would not have been hanging around my neck when I walked by the stair landing. The lightweight X100s was at the ready.

With all due respect to Chase Jarvis, we’re all sick of hearing that “the best camera is the one you have with you.” It’s just so irritatingly true. For those of us with too many cameras and too little vision, it’s nice to have rules about which camera to have with us at any given time.

I got the Fujifilm X100s last October to be my “carry everywhere” camera. Nevertheless, every time I’m about to leave the house, I agonize over which camera(s) and lens(es) to bring. Often, when I’m going to be out and about for non-photographic purposes, I remind myself, “This is what you got the Fuji for.” I then also remind myself to not end sentences with prepositions, since that is something up with which I cannot put.

Yesterday we visited a couple of wineries (and Ostrich Land!) in the Santa Ynez Valley. I was not going out to make photographs; I was going out to enjoy time with friends. This is what I got the Fuji for.

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Would a longer lens have been nice while visiting this miniature horse ranch? Sure, but the X100s challenged me to frame my images differently. Wish I’d gotten lower. Oh well.

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Preparing to feed the ostriches. Snapshots of friends are absolutely why I got the Fuji.

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I struggle with the X100s focus system for any sort of moving subject, but at f/5.6 in bright light, it is very forgiving.

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The X100s also provides better acuity and dynamic range than we have any right to expect.

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As I said, I haven’t figured out how to use the X100s for action, but sometimes I get lucky. Which is fine while snapshooting. If I was traveling to the Santa Ynez Valley to photograph Ostriches, I would bring the big bag o’ Nikons. And a couple of flashes. And maybe some light stands and umbrellas.

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I am occasionally reminded that the X100s is capable of far more than I usually get out of it. When I do my part, the camera delivers excellent images.

The lightweight X100s allows me to maneuver it into unusual positions.

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My dinner wine, reflected in the table, along with a very photogenic sky. I would have felt very self-conscious trying to shoot something like this with my Nikon D610 – at least until my third glass of wine. But I use the X100s in silent mode, so when I raise the camera and snap the frame, I’m done before anyone notices.

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I Did It Better Last Time, By Not Being A Photographer

I ignored good advice from others, and from myself. I know dang well that I shoot better when I carry less gear on vacation.

To be fair, though, this vacation was to offer a rare opportunity (for me) to visit a Great Blue Heron rookery in a stand of old-growth pines. How could I NOT bring the D610, 70-200 f/2.8, and 1.7x teleconverter?

As it turned out, the day of our visit to Cathedral Pines was murky (rainy/humid/grey), the herons were very far away, and when they were visible at all, they were only visible behind masses of tree limbs.

As close as I got to a heron photo at the rookery. That said, the experience itself was magnificent.

As close as I got to a heron photo at the rookery. That said, the experience itself was magnificent.

A nest, about 80 feet in the air...

A nest, about 80 feet above me…

Other than the long zoom and teleconverter, I brought a 24mm f/2.8, and did much of my shooting with that.

Brad and Alicia; the real reason we were in Wisconsin.

Brad and Alicia; the real reason we were in Wisconsin.

Now I have to admit that if I were traveling by myself, I would have spent many long hours at the rookery, getting eaten by mosquitos, until I got some dramatic images of adult Herons and/or chicks. But this was a vacation, not an assignment, and I wasn’t by myself. I was with three other people getting eaten by mosquitos. Not the right time to be saying, “just 1,000 more frames, and then we can get lunch…”

We had a wonderful time with our friends, and I got a couple of photos while out and about.

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A cabin in Mineral Point, Wisconsin, built in 1828.

A cabin in Mineral Point, Wisconsin, built in 1828.

And then, on our last night, the best photographic opportunity of all: Brad and Alicia needed a headshot of their daughter Hope. I’ve rarely used the new D610 with the 70-200 sans teleconverter, and I like the results very much.

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So, the moral of the story is that I talk to myself but I don’t listen. I should vacation with the camera I bought for vacationing: the FujiFilm X100s, and plan photo trips as solitary photo trips. Seems like the best way to enjoy each type of trip.  That said:

...we were with people we love, having a great time, and it wasn't about photography.

…we were with people we love, having a great time, and it wasn’t about photography.

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Filed under Camera Gear, Nature Photography, Professional vs. Amateur, Travel and Vacation