Wintry Willow

By the end of this weekend I’ll have the first part of my Nikon D800 review ready. The review I’m working on is important to me, as it forces myself to get to understand all the options and functions and to be able to fully benefit from all its features.

However, in the mean time I want to share a recent picture (taking with the D800) with you, as I don’t want my blog to become too technique and equipment heavy: After all, trying to create and share captivating images is what it’s really all about for most photographers; whether you’re a professional , enthusiast amateur or just a happy smart phone snapper. Equipment is just one of the many factors in the creative process.

The image below was taken early April. After record highs in March, we suddenly got a late cold snap, including a snow storm (click on the image to enlarge).
It was pretty windy, constantly blowing the willow branch up and down out of the frame. To get a good shot with my macro lens, I used a relatively big aperture (by macro standards anyway) an ISO of 800 to get a sufficiently fast shutter speed. Technically I don’t find the image that great, but the content makes it appealing to me: In this area you won’t often find snow on top of flowering willows.

And since I can’t help myself from being very excited with the performance of the D800, check out this 100% crop of the same image (click on the image to enlarge):

I should mention that I did some basic sharpening and noise reduction, but still: The detail is amazing and that at ISO 800. Before I’ll review the image quality of this camera, I’ll be covering the build and handling of the Nikon D800 first in the next post this weekend.

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Time-lapse Trials

Where I mentioned panorama photography as a very popular type of photography a while ago, time-lapse photography is another type that has become immensely popular with the rise of digital cameras.

With time-lapse photography you take a series of images, usually at a set interval, that are later played back at a much higher frame rate, creating a video. Depending on the interval between the shots, this lets the time that passes during the video be much longer than the duration of the video – hence the name time-lapse.

A few months ago I gave it a first try and was hooked immediately. Unfortunately, it’s rather time-consuming. The shooting itself does not need to be: If you trust that you can leave your camera behind, you can just set it up, start it and come back later (however, often you have to stay with it, to guard it from rain, storm and thieves). After the shoot, you typically have a huge amount of images to process: To create a mere 10 second movie at 24 frames per second, you already need 10 x 24 = 240 images! All these images need to be uploaded, manipulated in a raw converter and then converted into a video.

So although I was hooked, I hadn’t found time to do a second trial. Last weekend however I managed to combine a game of hockey with shooting my second time-lapse. It’s a series of 524 images, played back at 12.5 frames per second. I used Lightroom 3 and LRTimelapse to create the video.¬†Given the relatively long interval, the first bit of the timelapse works better than the actual gameplay, but I thought it was a fun and suitable set for getting some practice with the LR and LRTimelapse workflow, including the (new) smooth crop function the latter now offers.

Once the video was created, I combined it with a FreePlayMusic track in Windows Moviemaker, where I also added a title and credits. Unfortunately I don’t have any better video editing software at the moment. For this basic trial I didn’t need it either, but if you can recommend any freeware, let me know. In the near future I hope to own a DSLR with video options, at which point I will need a bit more serious editing software.

To watch the video click here. Don’t feel silly when you clicked the screenshot several times before, you’re probably not the only one ;).

Showing some leg

After two long posts featuring panorama and cropping techniques, today a short post featuring long legs.

Now you have to admit, that’s a lot of leg! What you see is four foraging Black-necked Stilts. Relative to their body, their legs are extremely long and only topped by flamingos, so their name fits them rather well. The two in the front are males and the two in the back, with the more brownish mantle, females.

The Black-necked Stilt is usually found in the shallow waters of mudflats, estuaries, lakes and other types of wetlands. There it feeds on vertebrates and small fish that live in and on the soft substrate. As with many so-called shorebirds, the long legs come in handy when wading through the water, keeping the rest of their body dry.

This crop is about 20% of the original, shot with my D300 and the 70-200mm, at 2.8. With this lens I had to be quite close. Rather than chasing the birds, I just waited at a good spot. Once the birds got used to my presence they came foraging very close to me. Although the afternoon light was a bit harsh, I felt that the nice line-up and their reflection made up for most of it.