Saturday, March 21, 2009

OMG, Cleland yet again? What?

Andu, Yellow Footed Rock Wallaby

Everytime I step onto the bus to Cleland, a thought goes off in my mind... are you insane? Surely everything there to be shot at has had eaten too many shots! In addition, dark clouds were looming, even though it was *hot* in Adelaide.

Indeed, when I first stepped into the Dingo enclosure, I was greeted with really awesome shutter speeds that remind me of shooting indoors. Yes, it was a real dreary day :(

Fortunately, this minor weather altercation results in a wonderful opportunity - the furballs were reacting in ways very much different from weeks before. The top picture is a Yellow Footed Rock Wallaby. Hidden amongst the huge man-made-but-naturally-feeling rock structure, these little buggers are not only tough to spot, but also hiding in concrete caves to fend off the warm weather. Translated, using a 8x binoculars, you're only going to see a tiny bit of fur, if you can pick them out of the surface clutter.

Today's clouds brought them out enmasse on the rocks, but unlike the Red Roos, they have an aversion to people (or maybe it's my dress code.), and won't snuggle up for food. Thankfully though, they were pretty close, and my 300mm was able to fill the frame easily.

Tawny Frogmouth, awake!

Similarly, in the avairies that dot the park, the birds seemed more active than usual. Or perhaps I'm paying more attention to them today, take your pick. My usual tawny was very obliging today, to look me in the lens a for one very nice shot.

Female Superb Fairy Wren

Bothered to actually try to catch a shot of the Wrens that are flittering all over the place. An act of frustration, I tell you. Especially with a long lens. By the time you get the focus point there.... they're... gone! GAH! I was especially lucky to catch this female trotting up to me, and I fired off a rapid barrage of shots, only of which a few were good and sharp. I'm getting more enamoured by our feathered friends, the more I learn about their names and habits.

Eurasian Coot

I was also testing the theory that VR actually kills sharpness. I took it to try a whole sequence of exposures using the 70-300VR @ 300mm. I won't post pictures here, so take my experiment what you will. At low shutter speeds, in the region of 60-100, VR definitely shows up, so long as the subject is still. 120-300+ is kind of a grey area. VR enabled shots were definitely on the ball, but a good percentage of VR disabled shots were up to speed. Now the interesting part was a sequence I shot at 1/400. I did quick bursts of 4 shots with and without VR, and it's quite obvious that the non-vr shots are actually sharper (I did a test on a very nice, still Masked Lapwing). Interesting times.....

I gave in and spent time in the Roo enclosure today. I can't decide which is more fun, feeding the roos here in Cleland, or the Wallabies in Gorge. For one thing, I don't remember the wallabies being as scratchy. I went head on using the 55mm manual focus lens, and oh man, it's so frustrating trying to get anything in focus! Props to the MF photogs that were able to nail shots in the days of olde. I was only able to get anything usable when I happened upon some calmer specimens. I miss auto focus in this case :) Stopping down to 5.6 seems like a very good compromise; good depth of field, yet still leaving a smooth background. F8 royally sucks, by bringing too much detail into the background, super super sharp as it is.

Flash was used the whole day together with the flash extender, or off the camera in wireless mode. Definitely getting a hang on dialing in the exposure compensation; -2.7EV for close up critters, to abouot -2EV for further shots.

Of course, I went there primarily for dingo hunting, and here's a few pictures to tie up this long and non-vfx related blog post.

Friday, March 20, 2009

My First Giclée :)

Collected a whole stack of prints today, and also my first Giclée prints from Atkins Technicolor. I've already quizzed them if they'd sent overseas, so if I can't find a good printer wherever I'm going next, I can still get 'em to send it to me. Wooot!

What can I say. Printing big kicks ass! Can't wait to get these home, frame 'em up and stick 'm on my wall. Printed them at A3 size, you can see a 5x7.5in print (5R) for comparison. Now THIS is the cumilation of working on technique and spending time in the field. Don't see why one needs a 20 megapixel camera for posting a teeny 640x480 image on _____ (pick your favourite photo upload site). Bleh. Sharpness only matters here in the bigger prints; I can see the insane detail up close, the tiny food particles on the edge of the potoroo. Its a crap image, but its a good memory of how I got it.

This also concludes my color management/calibration setup. At least with Atkins. It's almost a perfect match on my new screen. Mostly inspired by Peter Maystrenko's portfolio. Peter specializes in portraiture and motor sports. He does his own wet prints, I wonder what how one does those!

I leave thee with an image I captured on the way to pick up the prints; a golden bush frond. Annoyingly, I took tons of shots, only 1 came out with acceptable sharpness (hate wind when doing macro......)

D200, 55mm AIS Micro-Nikkor @ 1:2 magnification

Sunday, March 15, 2009

More Cleland Wildlife Park

Dingoes at feeding time

My previous run at Cleland was with the SB600 flash. Lots of fun with a new way of shooting, but this week I went back with the SB600 equipped with a FX4 Better Beamer. Previously, I had the flash doing perfectly fine for fill flash on my 70-300VR, but it did not have the reach required for further subjects. This week with the flash extender attached, the reach was magically extended, easily twice! Downside with the flash extender of course, was the uneven flash illumination on focal lengths less than 300mm.

As close as I can get @ 300mm to fill the frame.

Overall, the experience with the flash extender was very positive.

In between using the long lens on the park's denizens, I pulled out the 55mm for normal use as well as macro use.

Relaxing Roo

It's pretty sharp, and after using it over two weekends, manual focusing on static furballs wasn't too difficult. At least in good light. For close up use is another whole ball game.

Fungi! Sb600 providing the light on camera right.

The 55mm focuses only to 1:2 on its own, and with the PK13 extension tube, down to 1:1. The problem with using tubes is that the lens loses the ability to focus at infinity. The modern AF nikkors focus straight down to 1:!, perhaps one day when I get into macro photography I'd get one of the newer ones. But till then, this old baby (made since 1979, evidently) more than suffices.

I bid thee, the reader, my thanks for reading. I leave thee then with a few dingo shots :)

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Sb-600 Off shoe wireless at the Adelaide Botanic Gardens

Played around with the SB-600 today in wireless mode, it's really awesome. As mentioned before, its a tad annoying to enter a custom menu in order to enable wireless, but in use, I've rarely had to switch back and forth. The off shoe flash gives several possibilities like such:

Flash is placed to the right of the camera, +1 flash exposure.
Without flash, deep, dark shadows reign supreme.
It also works very well for macro; this is with my new toy, a 55mm 2.8 AIS Micro. Flash was put on camera left, and gives nice subtle fill.