Rockin’ The Plumes

April 27, 2010: This egret was strutting his breeding plumage in a small wetland near my house in Woodbury. How could any female — or bird photographer — resist such a studly appearance?

Great Egret. Canon 1D2n, 500mm w/1.4x, ISO 400.

Great Lawn, eh?

April 25, 2010: Another great crop of early spring wildflowers in the lawn this year. I’m the envy of the neighborhood. I can tell because the neighbors all scowl when they look at my yard.

Goalie Interference

April 22, 2010: When the puck went into the corner and most of the Forest Lake team followed leaving the front of the goal unguarded, an alert Woodbury defenseman headed to the goal to be ready if one of his teammates passed him the puck. Good thinking. Alas, he wasn’t watching where he was going and bumped into the goaltender, earning a two-minute sit in the penalty box for goalie interference.

D700, 70-200, ISO 6400

Canikon Returns

April 20, 2010: I owned a D300 for a while a couple of years ago. Just for giggles and grins one day I kludged up an adapter to fit my Canon 500mm IS to the D300 using an old Nikon F mount and a Canon extension ring. Results with the Canikon hybrid weren’t too bad. Focusing the 500 took a lot of twisting and was very slow compared to a real manual focus lens, and I didn’t have infinity focus. The images were okay and I had some fun, but had no illusions about the Canikon being anything other than an entertaining experiment.  Soon after I sold the D300 and the Canon –> Nikon adapter has been sitting on a shelf since.

Blew the dust off of the adapter today and took the Canikon out for my lunchtime walk, this time using a D700 on the 500 Canon.  Stopped by a local wetland and found a cooperative (and upset) female redwing blackbird to pose for me. Results? Well, it reminded me that once upon a time it took a lot more talent and effort to be a photographer. And I remembered I was never very good a manual focusing on anything that moved.

Top image is the full frame, bottom is a severe crop.

D700, Canon 500mm IS & homemade adapter. 1/400 @ f/4, ISO 800.

24mm 1.4 Dandelion

April 19, 2010: Took the new 24mm/1.4 on my lunchtime walk today hoping to see what it could see. I didn’t see much, which naturally limited the 24’s options, but I did do quickie test at f/1.4 to check bokeh. This dandelion and a hundred of his friends are behind our office on a slope convenient for out-of-focus background perusing. This was at minimum focus distance.

D700, 24mm, 1/6400 @ 1.4m ISO 100.

Me & The Carlos . . .

April 18, 2010:

. . . Avery painted turtles agree: today was a mighty fine day for lazing about in the sunshine.

Canon 1D Mark III, 500mm w/1.4x.

Saturday Cat Blogging

April 17, 2010: Rule 955.1 (a) (II) of the Obsessive Amateur Photographer Handbook requires an ” . . . immediate photograph of a cat, dog or child upon receipt of a new piece of gear.” Never one to flout the rules, when I unwrapped my new Nikon 24mm f/1.4 and bolted it to the D700 for the first time, I immediately pointed it toward Bob and Doug, the camera hating cats. You can see their reaction to my intrusion into their nap time.

Were they more appreciative of the efforts of Nikon’s engineers, I think they would’ve approved of the output from this long-awaited and longed-for Nikkor. This image doesn’t show off the 24’s attributes in any revealing way, but it does hint at the potential the combo of the lens and the D700 have in low light situations. This was wide open at ISO 2000.

D700, 24mm, 1/160 @ f/1.4, ISO 2000

Alice Cooper, The Formative Years

April 5, 2010: Hired on as assistant wrangler to Dr. Mama Placencia Friday and off we went to the Minnesota Zoo to see the baby farm animals. Rain failed to dampen Nick and Lauren’s enthusiasm, although Uncle Photographer felt like Uncle Drowned Rat before the day was through. Highlight’s included petting rabbits, splashing around the playground and getting faces painted to vaguely resemble cows. After several rain showers the makeup reminded me more of an early Alice Cooper concert than a cartoon bovine.

Used the GF1 and 20mm 1.7 for these. Still trying to decide if I should keep it. The lens is very sweet and sharp, and the small pop-up flash handled a tricky backlit/fill situation well in the barn where the young Cooper wannabes received their new faces. RAW at ISO 400 and 2.8.

So far the GF1 has shown only one potentially fatal characteristic: it blows highlights that my DSLRs handle easily. I love having a small, easily lugged camera, and I’ve been waiting for a digital version of my old Canon Q17 rangefinder ever since I made the leap from film to pixels. That is, I want a simple, small, short range camera that delivers the same image quality as the bigger SLRs. I’d hoped the GF1 was going to be that camera, but it doesn’t look like it.

Root Beer Break

March 29, 2010: Saturday we stopped for a root beer before supper. I had my new Panasonic GF1 along and snapped this pic of my mom-in-law enjoying a frosty mug in Centerville. I’ve had a hard time deciding whether I’ll keep the GF1. It’s an interesting camera, a mirrorless micro four-thirds that slots in between true compacts and SLRs, and it’s the closest thing yet to a digital rangefinder that I’ve found. But you get spoiled using an slr, and it’s tough to accept the IQ compromises that come with a small sensor camera. This pic will probably be the reason I keep it, if I do. Shot at 400 ISO with the 20mm 1.7.

Northbound Eagle

When the days begin to lengthen in February and March I like to stop at Mounds Park in St. Paul. The park offers a classic overlook of the Mississippi River as it flows by downtown St. Paul.

Juvenile bald eagle, Mounds Park in St. Paul. 500mm w/1.4x.

There’s usually a good chance of spying a bald eagle following the river north to claim a nest. That’s especially true now that eagles have made such a vigorous comeback from the endangered list. Populations have increased so dramatically that seeing an eagle is no longer a rare occurence. Heck, they’re almost common and Mounds is a good place to see one.

I almost didn’t see this juvenile. He flew by one day while I was staring at an adult baldy sitting in a tree right next to the overlook, about 25 feet away. Bald eagles get their distinctive adult feathers at about age 5 when they become sexually mature. I don’t know how old this guy is, but it’s safe to say he hasn’t given much thought to finding a mate and settling down to raise a family. He was probably heading north simply because his genetic programming told him to do it.

Shot him with a 500mm with an 1.4x cheater attached.

Bob, Shower Guard

D700, 28-70.

I’m here today to heap praise on a member of our community. It has come to my attention that Bob Mackenzie is doing yeoman work in his volunteer role of shower guardian. Since Bob began sitting vigilantly on the door frame of showers — which occurred when he had grown enough to make the leap from vanity to door edge without crashing ignominiously to the floor — police have recorded not one single theft of a shower or shower door n the eastern suburbs.

So thanks, Bob. I’m squeaky clean this morning in large part to your diligence.

Herald of Spring

Heard several reports over the weekend that male redwing blackbirds had returned to southern Minnesota and the southern edge of the Twin Cities. Sure enough, this morning a male announced his presence in the little cattail wetland/drainage basin next door to where I work in St. Paul. I checked last year’s images and notes, and my first local siting was March 16, but I didn’t hear any calls for a few more days.

I always look forward to the first sighting of redwings returning to claim nest sites because they are indicators that Mother Nature is serious about putting and end to winter. We may still have some cold and snowy weather, but seeing and hearing redwings on cattails means that warm weather is on the way.

1D3, 500mm w/1.4x, ISO 400

Princess of Balloonery

Nikon D700, 70-200 VR1

Madge, Princess of Balloonery, waves to her loyal subjects. Princess Madge reigned over her father’s birthday party with regal bearing, a cheesy crown and a goofy grin. As is her royal prerogative, she claimed all the pink balloons for herself.

Later, with the assistance of her brother, Prince Knucklehead, she played a rousing and extended game of “Wrestle Uncle Photographer Until He’s Bruised and Exhausted.”

We’ll party again Mar. 17 when Madge and Prince Nick bring their parents over from Wisconsin for the WCHA hockey tournament in St. Paul. Rumor has it that aunt and uncle will stay in the hotel room with princess and prince one evening while their parents engage in night on the town. Pizza has been promised.

No Look Pass

Hudson vs. Minneapolis Southwest, 1D3, 135L, ISO 3200

Name’s Ides, Robin Ides

Just in case the recent beautiful spring-like weather has lulled anyone into complacency, take a look at this pic. Took it March 31, 2009.

It was snowy and cold, and made for grumpy humans and robins.  So don’t put away the snow shovels quite yet.

Mark III Silliness

Absolute geometric proof that the Mark III doesn't have any focus problems!

My Mark III came home today from a trip to Canon Service, where the peripheral focus points were aligned to factory specs. With any luck I will now be among those Mark III owners who can trust their cameras to focus where we point them. Time will tell.

Before I took the leap into the Great Canon Focusing Adventure known as Mark III ownership, I cruised about the Web looking for opinions on whether it was safe to buy one. I found a couple zillion of `em, which didn’t surprise me because if opinions were gold, the Internet would have a value in excess of the national debt. And the last time I had guts enough to check, that’s a number with more digits than Pi. What did startle me was the number of people claiming that not only was the Mark III fixed, but that there never was anything wrong with it.

Everywhere I looked I found posts hyper critical of Rob Galbraith and any other Mark III user who experienced the weirdly erratic AI servo behavior. Canon fan boys were out in force, defending the honor of their favorite camera company by ridiculing anyone who said that something was wrong with the Mark III. Very few of the fans were actually involved with shooting the Mark III in the situations where seasoned pros were having problems, but that didn’t stop them posting their silly pontifications.

This is my favorite image sample from a Mark III owner proving that the Mark III does not have a focusing problem and never did. I found it on the Canon gear forum. This guy took a picture of his thumb on a hot day, thereby proving beyond a reasonable doubt — with geometric logic! — that the Mark III would track and focus properly on an athlete running toward the camera at high speed. I’m not kidding.


Alice Cooper, The Formative Years
Alice Cooper, The Formative Years

After several rain showers the makeup reminded me more of an early Alice Cooper concert than a cow.

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Great Lawn, eh?
Great Lawn, eh?

Another great crop of early spring wildflowers in the lawn this year.

More in General


Goalie Interference
Goalie Interference

Take the next two minutes off.

More in sports


Canikon Returns
Canikon Returns

April 20, 2010: I owned a D300 for a while a couple of years ago. Just for giggles and grins one day

More in Photogeekery


Rockin' The Plumes
Rockin’ The Plumes

This egret was strutting his breeding plumage in a small wetland near my house in Woodbury.

More in Birds