Sunday, August 31, 2008

Barn Swallows at Fountain Nature Center

A couple of weeks ago I saw this immature Barn Swallow sitting on a rock waiting for one of its parents to feed it. I setup the camera and waited for the parent to return. As I waited I had time to take a couple of shots to check the histogram to make sure the exposure was correct. Ideally you want to have the curve as far to the right as possible without touching the right y axis. If the curve overflows the right y axis you will have blown highlights. A curve too far to the left indicates an under exposed image.

Because the baby swallow was not moving around I was able to focus using autofocus and then switch to manual focus. By doing this I could then stand comfortably without looking through the viewfinder as I waited for the parent to return. When I saw the parent approach I then just held down the shutter button and took a sequence of photos of the feeding.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Canon 50mm f1.8 II

Recently I have been researching inexpensive macro photography options for my Dad. I guess i'm the only one in the family that likes to spend lots of money on camera equipment. I have Canon's excellent 100mm f2.8 lens so I know that macro lenses are expensive. Still, I thought that there would be an inexpensive option from Sigma etc. that would give decent results. As it turns out there are some quality offerings from Sigma but they are still surprisingly expensive. My next thought was to go with a 50mm lens coupled with an extension tube. Canon offers a really inexpensive 50mm lens for around $90. The 50mm f1.8 II lens is known to be very fast, sharp and cheaply built. After looking at several reviews I decided to buy the lens and try it out. Yesterday I purchased the lens and had it in my car on the 40D. I was heading back from the
store when I noticed some strange clouds over Pikes Peak.

Storm Clouds
1/400, f5.3, iso 200, +2/3 exposure compensation, 50mm, handheld

I decided I would do a quick loop through the Garden of the Gods park to see if I could get some good storm photos. Off of the main loop there is a short road that goes to a parking lot for a trailhead. I pulled into the parking lot but all the parking spaces were full so I head back to the main loop. On the way out I saw a Mule deer nursing two fawns. I took a couple pictures from the car when a group of noisy tourists came walking down the road causing the meal to be cut short. Even with the crowd of tourist standing around yelling at each other the fawns lingered in the area for a couple minutes and I was able to get a few more shots. Considering the bad lighting the fast 50mm lens performed well. A few of the shots were taken wide open at f1.8. With my wildlife lens (f5.6) I would have had to go to a much higher ISO setting.

Mule Deer Fawns
1/500, f1.8, iso 200, +1/3 exposure compensation, 50mm, handheld

Mule Deer Fawn
1/500, f2.2, iso 400, 50mm, handheld

From earlier in the day at Ramah SWA.

Immature Yellow-headed Blackbird
1/500, f6.3, iso 200, +1/3 exposure compensation, 400mm, tripod with gimbal type head

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Rocky Mountain National Park

This week I took a day off from my real job and took a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) to try to photograph White-tailed Ptarmigan. On my last trip to RMNP I was able to photograph moose, elk, big-horned sheep, coyote, marmot, red squirrel etc. On this trip there wasn't much to see including White-tailed Ptarmigan.

The one bonus of the trip was the American Pika. American Pika are still fairly common above timberline at RMNP. In the past my experience has been that they are very skittish and tend to hide as soon as they see you. On this occasion they seemed to be so occupied with filling their larders with grass that they were oblivious to observers.

American Pika
Enthusiastically collecting food for winter