Sunday, May 21, 2006

F-15E Strike Eagle @ Joint Service Open House 5/21/2006

I made it to the air show this weekend and it was well worth it. Really excellent to be at one for the first time. The Joint Service Open House 2006 event was well run and I was thoroughly impressed with the entire setup, even though the hamburgers were way overcooked and charred. :/

A few other cool shots from this weekend are here:

Blue Angels @ Joint Service Open House 5/21/2006

Canadian Snowbirds @ Joint Service Open House 5/20/2006

F-15E Strike Eagle 5/20/2006 @ Joint Service Open House 2006

AV-8B Harrier @ Joint Service Open House 5/20/2006

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Bald Eagle gets his Prey

This was so awesome to see and get a chance to photograph.

Shooting info (some from flickr profile)

Osprey at Centennial Lake in Maryland (HDR)

This is a multiexposure shot, 4 exports from a raw file, merged in Photomatrix.

Someone at work said it looked like an x-ray. I'm really happy with this shot.


About Me
I like taking pictures. I've had a Casio QV-3000 since 2000, and just got a Nikon D70s in August 2005. Most of my nature (non-zoo) pictures are from Maine. I live in Maryland, and have a lot of pictures from BWI, DCA (airports), and the National Zoo in Washington D.C.

After I got the D70s I went on vacation, took some pics in Maine, and it was fun. I also started to take plane pics. Jets taking off and landing at the airport (BWI), then later went to Reagan National (DCA). This fun, but after so many trips in a couple months I grew tired of it.

Lately I've been hooked on going to the Zoo in Washington D.C. which is only about 10 miles from me. I've been 12 times as of 12/25/2005. One time was incredible, the Tigers were so active and playful. A picture from this day of 3 tigers running, 1 in the water half swimming, made it in to the flickr interestingness stream. I think was my first ever. It's a pretty good pic, and I managed to get a few other ones I like of it too. If you've been to the Tigers before, and they didn't do anything and were sleeping, this past Sunday (early Nov. '05) was the exact opposite. Take a look at the photos I've uploaded from 11/06/2005.

Pictures from One Day @ Zoo ~1200
See this for just how far I've gone off the deep end:
I've taken anywhere from 500 photos to 1800 in a single day. It depends on how long I'm there and how active the animals are. I have 3 compact-flash cards (512-u2/1GB-u2/4GB Microdrive) and have only ever come close to being out of room once. I shoot most of my shots in JPG mode, Large, Fine, and "compensation" set to custom and zero'd out. I only recently made that change, after reading about it on flickr in the d70/d70s group. I can do all the sharpening and compensations on my pc already, I don't want the camera to make any changes beyond the settings I pick: program mode(P/Auto/M/etc), compensation (+/- fstops), iso (&iso-mode), flash, etc, etc...

A few tips:
  • Always carry 2 sets of batteries, and charge them.
  • Keep your lense clean, with a cloth or air puffer, just clean it.
  • Don't be afraid to take a bad picture. Take so many pictures that you stop thinking about if this or that is "worth" taking a shot of. With digital, there is no cost. 1 picture cost as much as 100 pictures.

    This will probably sound corny, but you take your camera on a journey, and it remembers extremely well, but only when you press the shutter. The more pictures you take, the less you will say to yourself, I wish I had this or that shot.

    National Zoo Timing and Activity

    I've been to the National Zoo 6 times this fall, in 2005(12 times as of 12/25/2005). What I noticed might help fellow or future zoo goers. Here are my impressions. I've walked the zoo 2 or 3 times each trip, so I'm sure there are gaps when I missed stuff at times I'm not recommending.

    Parking has been tight every weekend day I have been there (mostly October/November). I've managed to park there, sometimes waiting or circling for as much as 40 minutes. Get there early. Check on the big cats early and then procede to walk the rest of the zoo

    Big Cats (Lions and Sumatran Tigers) - Best late afternoon until they get fed and go in for the day. 2pm-430pm. Late in the day I've seen the three brothers running, swimming, and playing rough.

    Cheetahs - Active midday to 3(updated, they are most active early as in the morning 8-11am), I think they shuffle the animals around from habitat to habitat in the afternoon. There are 3 groups of cats that I know of, the mother and her cubs. The older cats, a year old I think, and then the dad which stays alone (not sure he's the dad, he's in the "middle" habitat).

    Pandas - I've had bad luck with these guys, the male and female, seem to not come close to the main viewing area much. I've checked about 10 times in 5 trips and only once was Tian Tian up front and personal (and really cool). There are big lines around noon or one, and it closes at 4pm I think.

    Bald Eagles - I've had success between noon and 2pm. I've missed the feeding they do supposedly around 2 or 3. Lighting is more directly behind the birds later in the day.

    Elephants and Giraffes - midday was the best, there was an elephant show with commentary and some grooming tasks for the elephants. The giraffe I saw outside was walking around and eating from the up high feeder. You pass the giraffe side by the Panda exhibit enterance.

    Times I got best shots, if I recall correctly:
    2:30-4:30pm - 3 Sumatran Tigers playing in water
    11-2pm - Gorilla Family including momma, silverback dad, and 2 kids.
    1-4pm - Cheetahs moving around as the keepers do stuff and shift the groups around.
    12-3 - Giant Pandas out and moving around. Mom has access to her cub inside and isn't out all the time during the day. Tian Tian is out most of the day but I've only seen him poser it up once around 2pm.

    Some Cool Things
    Check out fdtools for fun stuff you can do with flickr photos, I made some calendars.

    Find your interesting pictures! Here's a google search for my interesting pics. I found two. Just replace nikographer_jon with your username.

    I also found this mappr thing which is cool. Put in your username or a tag.

    Shoot in Manual Mode
    This page describes using incident metering vs. through the lense (TTL) metering: Benefits Of Incident Metering Notice in that page, the incident metering just uses locked in settings for all three plates. If you take a picture in automode (in the same lighting of the scene you're about to photograph) of some grass, or the back of your hand, or ideally a gray card, you can see what the camera chose for fstop and shutter speed. Once you completed the test shot, switch to full manual mode (M) and set the same shutter speed and fstop as was used in automode when taking your test shot.

    I also found this thread useful, and it's where I found the metering link. You really need to see this page to understand!

    Shoot in P mode
    I've actually mostly been shooting in P mode at the Zoo. In P mode, the camera auto meters and lets you adjust the shutter speed or fstop, and it will make the other setting "correct". I've also toyed with and liked the results of adding auto-ISO when in moderate to poor lighting. High ISO is to be avoided, but if the shoot would have been blurry if you kept it at 100 or 200, it's worth adjusting higher. Leaving it on auto and as with my camera, settings it to try to guarentee 1/60th of a second minimum shutter speed, it worked pretty well. The Tigers at the DC Zoo are most active late in the day and that makes for some challenging lighting. When there is bright clear sunlight I tend to add an Exposure Compensation of about -.3 to -1.0 depending on how bright it is in the shot.

    Here are a few of my favorite pics:

    Taken with Nikon D70s with either Tamron 18-200mm or Nikon 70-300mm lenses
    Tiger Leaps in to the water! (must see large) I'm going to really miss these guys ;(

    Mirror Mirror... Mirror Mirror 2 Cat Play Time! DSC_3199 DSC_3314 (updated) 1,000th PICTURE POSTED - DSC_8061acUAE 747 Landing @ BWI - 2005_DSC_5474 DSC_9226

    Taken with Casio QV-3000 3.3 Megapixel 3x opti zoom

    frontyard reflection thistle3 06080072 2002_12290017a_snowmobiling

    I use Picasa mostly for managing and editing my pics.

    Bonus Video
    If you made it this far looking through my profile, here's a treat. This is a clip from PBS and it has the first clear footage of a sumatran tiger in the wild. Enjoy.