Sunday, March 24, 2013

Nikon DX AF-S 18 - 300mm 1:35-5.6G ED VR Lens

My wife and I are going to Europe this summer and the ability to use one all-around lens for the trip really appealed to me.  Nikon came out with this new 18-300mm (27-450mm equivalent) DX lens in June of 2012 so I decided to give it a try to see if it will work for the trip.  It isn't cheap but this is a once in a lifetime trip for us so for me the ends justify the means (not to mention I can write it off).

I took the lens out for a trial run to our local zoo to see what kind of images I would end up with and how it would feel packing it around.  The lens does have some weight to it coming in at a little over 2lbs so with camera, battery pack, L bracket and strap everything is weighing in at a little over 5.25lbs.  

Lets Play!
One of the complaints I had read about is that the lens is a little soft as far as focus goes and I will agree, it's not tack sharp like my 105mm 2.8 Nikon lens.  I am not a pixel counter and would rather have a good composition and feeling or mood to my images than count eyelash hairs so so far the soft focus isn't a huge issue for me.  The auto focus was quiet and fast--although not fast enough to focus on this wolf jumping up to play.  And to be honest the image tells a better story with him being a little out of focus anyway.  If he was in sharp focus you would never see the wolf behind him or the other wolves farther back in the image not to mention creating an illusion of depth to the image.

Counting Whisker Hairs (no eyelash hairs to count)
Talk about barrel distortion
Another complaint was that there is distortion and vignetting with this lens at all zoom lengths--yep thats true also.  With the few images I have taken throughout it's zoom range this is not a problem either.  Using Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw; one click on the lens profile and all is forgiven.

When panning and trying to create a feeling of motion I'm usually lucky if 1 out of 5 of my images turn out with a fairly sharp focus on the face and eye of the animal.  With this lens that ration stayed the same.  Out of 6 images 2 turned out OK and this one was the best.

The vibration reduction features of todays lens is amazing and with this lens there is no exception.  The image above was hand held at 1/125 sec f/6.3 and maximum zoom of 300mm which is equivalent to 450mm on my Nikon D300 DX format camera.  OK it's not tack sharp but I am not going to complain and would have no issues printing the image and hanging it on the wall or offering it for sale in the gallery I am a member of.

The End
In conclusion I believe this is going to be a great lens for the trip.  Yes it does have some heft but it is balanced well for me and the weight provides stability when shooting hand-held (that will be most of the time over in Europe).  Vignetting and distortion, no problem it's an easy fix.  The soft focus could be an issue but with good technique that will be minimized and acceptable.  The ability to take only one lens will free-up a lot of space in my bag and maybe for once I will pack light.  But I doubt it, I'm already trying to figure out how to get a tripod and maybe one of my flashes in that extra space!  As with all our photographic equipment it is just a tool; learn to work within the limitations of the equipment you have.  You create the images not the camera and lens.

Until next time.....BP

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Splash Auction at Harbor History Museum

Sherryl and I attended the Splash! Art at the Museum benefit auction held at the Gig Harbor History Museum last night.  This is a wonderful event for the community to help support one of the best small local museums that I have ever been to.  And I was extremely honored to have been asked to participate in as a donor artist.  I screened 3 or 4 pieces of my work and this images of the Tacoma Narrows bridge was requested by the Committee to be part of the fundraiser auction.


 At least I had a couple people looking at it.

I was very pleased to have my image purchased by a local couple and help the Museum with funds to continue the wonderful work that they do for our community.  Meeting the couple I was able to tell them my story of how I captured the image and the meaning it has for me.  Come to find out they live on the west side of the Tacoma Narrows and look out their living room window at the bridge daily.  What a boost for my ego; someone who sees the bridge in their back yard appreciates my creation (of what they see every day) enough to want it hanging on one of the walls of their house!

If you live within 20 miles of Gig Harbor and haven't been to the Harbor History Museum--WHY NOT!  The Museum has a fantastic permanent display of the history of Gig Harbor including the Midway Schoolhouse, one of the original purse seine fishing boats and Thunderbird sailboat hull #1 not to mention traveling displays throughout the year.

Until next time--have a great day!  

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Frost Bite at the Frostbite series sail boat race, Gig Harbor

Spent a couple hours yesterday photographing one of the Gig Harbor Frostbite Series sail boat races.  Not a whole lot of boats out but a nice breeze (as far as Gig Harbor goes) which kept the sailors happy--if not a little cold.  I guess that's why they call it the Frostbite series.  And I have to admit that by the final horn I was having a little trouble feeling my fingers (I really need to get some half finger gloves). 

A couple of T-Birds mixing it up

I wonder what happened to Shinola I


Thursday, August 2, 2012

You Must Have a Good Camera!

            Have you ever had someone come up to you after looking at one of your images and say; I really like your photograph—you must have a very nice camera.  Every time this happens to me at the art gallery that I am a member of I smile and note that they must have a good car—they managed to get to my gallery without getting in an accident.  OK I admit I have a bit of a sarcastic side but the fact is a camera is just a tool that captures what we see, it doesn’t create the image; the photographer does!  And most of us cannot afford those top of the line cameras and lenses costing many thousands of dollars anyway.

            I use the best equipment that I can presently afford, shooting with a Nikon D-300.  The lenses I own are a Sigma 10-20mm 1:4-5.6, AF-s Nikkor 18-105mm 1:3.5-5.6 and the AF VR-Nikkor 80-400mm 1:4.5-5.6.  The challenge for me is to create the best possible image I can using the tools I have at hand.  So how do I create that image that prompts someone to say; you must have a good camera?

            First of all you have to know and be comfortable with the tools you are using, know their strong points and weaknesses.  I do not have that 600mm lens that captures tack sharp bird images from hundreds of feet away, so I work with what I have.  That involves using the limitations of the long lens that I do own and working within its capabilities.  I cannot get that close-up portrait so what do I do?  In some cases I can use stealth and patients creeping up on my subject to get that nice close-up or I can frame the subject in such a manner that my picture tells a story of what that subject is doing or how or where it lives.  For me, more often that not it is the latter.

 After 20 minutes of stalking this Great Blue Heron I was able to get close enough to capture this portrait.

            If you do not already know the artistic rules of composition take the time to learn them.  Know what the rule of thirds is and how and why to use it in your compositions, learn about leading lines why and how they work to draw the viewers eye into your creation.  Learn how and practice using light to draw the viewer’s eye to your subject.  One of the best art teachers I have ever had was in high school.  He was tyrannical in requiring us to learn the rules of composition.  Then to top the learning experience off his last assignment for us was to go out and break those rules.  The caveat was that we had to be able to explain to him exactly which rule(s) we had broken and in doing so how and why that had improved the overall composition of the image we had created.

            Most of all we have to retrain ourselves to see what we are looking at.  Our eyes take in much more information than our brains can handle so from early childhood we teach ourselves what information is important and what to ignore.  Have you ever taken a photograph and when you got it home looked at it and said “I never saw that sitting in the image”.  The reason you didn’t see it while taking the picture is that you trained yourself not to see it.  Our task now is to slow down and retrain ourselves to see everything that is in front of us.

            If you take the time to know your equipment, learn the rules of composition, have an understanding of your subject and take the time to see what you are looking at you will soon see the quality of your creations of photographic art improving.  And you too will be having people complement your images with the phrase—You must have a good camera.

Bryan S. Peterson is a fine art photographer based out of Gig Harbor in Washington State.  He owns and operates Wandering 101 Photography.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

My Granddaughter can Capture a Fantastic Image

One of the big differences between a good amateur or professional photographer and a person taking snapshots is in the work and pre-planning that goes into capturing an image. My 6 year old granddaughter, if she is lucky, can capture a fantastic image if it happens in front of her. All she has to do is point the camera and press the shutter. But to consistently create good images takes a lot of work, judgment and pre-planning.
A few weeks ago I decided to head down to Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. I had seen a number of beautiful images of raptors taken from there by members of one of the photography clubs I belong to and wanted to see what I could do. I gathered information from my friends and the internet as to location, favorite spots in the refuge and the types of animals I would find. From past experience and a little homework I processed what I knew of the habits of these animals so I had an idea of where and when I should be set up to capture the images that I had in my mind. I left the house early in the morning and made the 2½ hour trip to Ridgefield getting there just after sunrise. As it turned out that part of the trip was a bust—it was raining and gray and no opportunities for photography. Not to let the day go to waste I decided to head down to Oregon (it wasn’t that much further) and see what images I could find along the Gorge of the Columbia River; knowing that with this weather there may be an opportunity to capture a moody image of one of the many waterfalls in the Gorge. This is where past knowledge helps—you change your tactics to meet the situation Mother Nature presents to you. As it turned out my hunch was correct and I was able to capture a number of images of waterfalls in which the weather made for great effects in the image. As I continued east the weather got clearer and my thoughts went to the next day’s sunrise—the weather forecast on the radio was sounding promising.
I ended up in Maryhill, Washington where I had heard of a Stonehenge Memorial. The light wasn’t right but I wasn’t there to take photographs anyway, I was there for research; to find wherer I wanted to set-up for my sunrise shots of the next day.

Before sunrise the next day I was at Maryhill again and ready for the arrival of the sun. As the sun came over the horizon I was able to capture a number of good images of Stonehenge and a couple of great images of the Columbia River and Mount Hood. My background work, preplanning and judgment were starting to pay off.
Late that afternoon I ended up back in Ridgefield, found the spots I had located the day before and was able to capture some images of raptors, herons and a coyote in the light of the setting sun.

I cannot do anything about the weather and the natural lighting that Mother Nature provides; but with a little knowledge and work on my part I can be in the location that may provide the best image for me to capture under the given conditions. Consistently creating quality images involves a lot of work but when your work pays off it is well worth the effort.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Washington Wild Life

I am very lucky living where I do in the Puget Sound region of Washington State--within a couple of hours of my house I can be in a large city, at the Pacific Ocean, photographing Prickly Pear Cactus (yes there are wild cactus growing in Western Washington!), at the mountains or photographing wildlife in any number of locations. One of my favorite locations for photographing birds is the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge located in south Puget Sound. As a kid of 14 I rember hunting ducks with my father at what was to become the refuge, Brown's Farm. We would get up early in the morning, drive down to the farm and wade through the soggy fields to the blinds for a day of shooting ducks and geese. The refuge was established in 1974 and as in the 60's hunting with my father I still get up early in the morning and drive to the farm to hunt duck, geese and many other avian prey, only know I do my hunting with a camera and I bring back more than memories, I get to create images for myself and others to enjoy (not to mention leaving the animals to enjoy their lives). I hope you enjoy these images of my last trip to the delta.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Tacoma Narrows Bridge

As you can tell from my first image of the new Tacoma Narrows Bridge I wasn't really in favor of building a new bridge right next to the existing one but the construction of the bridge has presented some great opportunities in photography.
In June of 2007 I was given the chance to take a tour of both the construction of the new bridge and go under and to the top of the west tower of the old bridge. What a thrill to be standing 600+ feet above the water looking down at the cars passing beneath me; the views were breath-taking. But I do have to admit there were some nervous moments. To get from the Tacoma side of the bridge to the west tower we took a tram that is suspended under the bridge deck. When we first got on the tram the engine wouldn't start--with a couple of comments from our guide and a swift kick it finally started and off we went. On reaching the west tower, he went to turn off the engine and found that it wouldn't shut down--so he left it running.

Now the fun part. We climbed up through the bridge deck and entered the tower which contained a hoist (about the size of a MRI tube) that would take us to the top of the tower. On entering the hoist the first thing I saw was a plaque noting that the travel of the hoist was 623 feet! My first thought was that I hope the hoist works better than the tram--and it did, we all got safely to the top. The views were great, not the best for photography but I wouldn't have missed it for the world. Take a look at the Narrows Bridge album for more images of the old and new Tacoma Narrows bridge.

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