Saturday, April 13, 2013

Spring in Tucson

Claret Cup cactus bloom
Tucson is wonderful for the progression of spring blooms.  Currently, so many things are blooming, including the ocotillo, palo verde, and the claret cup cactus in our front yard!  I took advantage of an overcast day to photograph these blooms in soft light.  I used my Canon 20D + 100mm macro lens.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Photographing Australia

Opera House as viewed from Circular Quay ferry
My husband and I recently got back from a 3-month trip in Australia!  Because we were limited on what we could bring, I brought only my Panasonic LX-5 and it served me well, at least in the land- and urban-scapes department.  There were of course a few times where I wished I had my Canon 20D with a long lens to photograph animals (the animals in Australia are so exotic!).

Total Solar Eclipse near Cairns, QLD

We started our trip in the far northeast city of Cairns, Queensland, where we lingered for a couple weeks to explore the tropical beaches and rainforest, and to be in position to view the Total Solar Eclipse of November 14th, 2012.  We were extremely fortunate that the clouds parted where we were (Ellis Beach) just before and throughout totality.  The moment of totality is so brief (2 minutes!), so I was both trying to enjoy the moment, and to capture it on camera.  I set up the LX-5 on my Gorillapod, hoping to get the both of us viewing the total eclipse, but I under-estimated shutter time required and ended up with only a ghost of myself as I got up prematurely to check on the camera.

Port Douglas, QLD
I'm always a sucker for tropical beaches and palm trees, and the tropical coast of Australia provided.  One unique thing about this coast, though, is that the presence of the Great Barrier Reef effects the nature of the beaches.  There is very little surf, and the beaches seem rather muddy.  Not to mention the deadly box jellyfish and crocodiles that inhabit these waters.

Blue Mountains, NSW
Making our way down the coast, we eventually reached the Blue Mountains near Sydney.  Here we encountered abundant fern and eucalyptus forests, and attractive waterfalls.  Being the rock climbers that we are, we got down to business and tore up our fingertips on the sharp and abrasive cliff faces here.  We of course spent a few days exploring Sydney, capturing images of the iconic Opera House, Harbor Bridge, and the huge cruise ships.

Mount Arapiles
We left the coast to head for the world-renowned climbing areas of Mount Arapiles and Grampians (via the Australian capitol of Canberra).  It is inland where we saw a greater abundance of kangaroos, who love to feed in the grassy fields.  We got in a lot of rock climbing, 25 days total during our time in Australia!

Limestone cliffs along the Great Ocean Road
But even doing an activity you love, it becomes time to move on to see new sights.  We headed west into South Australia then made our way along the Great Ocean Road and Otway National Park. The Southern Ocean is wild and turbulent, and beats along the southern shores of Australia.  For dramatic coastal scenery, the Great Ocean Road is spectacular.  We spent a few nights in Otway National Park, enjoying spotting the koala bears up in the eucalyptus trees.

Australian Open tennis in Melbourne
But finally we had to make our way back to Melbourne, where we were able to watch three days of Australian Open tennis, and alas, to fly back home.

I took hundreds of photographs with my LX-5 while in Australia and I feel the camera served me well.  It was freeing to be a "lightweight photographer" in such a faraway land.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Reid Park Rose Garden

This morning I arrived early for my Sketchbook Brigade meetup at the Reid Park Rose Garden so that I may photograph the roses in the morning light.  The skies were blue, so I knew I wasn't going to benefit from the soft light of cloud cover, but I hoped that this time of year the light would not be too harsh (like it is during the peak of summer).

I was pleased!  Hundreds of roses were nicely in bloom, and I enjoyed photographing the morning light on them.  I was even able to find some roses still in shade, and some nicely back-lit.  Though there were plenty of deep red roses in bloom, I found myself favoring the subtle colors in the lighter blooms.

 It was wonderful to get back behind my 20D and 70-200 lens photographing flowers again.  Having the camera on a sturdy tripod allowed me to find compositions I liked, and keep the camera steady.  I set my camera to mirror lock-up enable, used the 2-second timer to further optimize sharpness.
Reid Park Rose Garden is located off Country Club just north of 22nd Street in Tucson, and is free and open to the public.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Fall in Northern Arizona

Our recent visit to Flagstaff coincided with one of the most spectacular displays of fall color that can be had in Arizona.  The abundant aspen groves that reside on the San Francisco Peaks were aglow with yellow fire during our October 1st hike up the Inner Basin trail from Locket Meadow.  A few images from my LX5:

Friday, August 24, 2012

The LX5 At Night

Milky Way setting behind Mt. Whitney and adjoining spires
On a recent backpacking trip in the high Sierras of California, it was a no-brainer for me to only take my compact Panasonic LX5 camera and Gorillapod tripod.  After all, not only was I hiking a steep trail (Mountaineer's Route) with a 4750-foot elevation gain in 4 miles, I had to carry the usual backpacking stuff PLUS rock climbing gear on my back!  But in taking this lightweight camera (in a waist pouch), I wasn't giving up very much in capability, even when photographing a night sky.  On our last night camped at Iceberg, I awakened in the middle of the night to find a sky exploding with stars.  Remember, at high altitude there is less atmosphere to block the stars!  Our camp at Iceberg Lake, at the base of Mount Whitney, was at an elevation of 12,600 feet, so not much atmosphere there!  Just enough to breathe, sort of.

So upon seeing this wonderfully starry sky I decided to get out of my warm down bag and start layering all my clothes and try to photograph the stars with my LX5 mounted on my Gorillapod.  My wonderful husband decided to get up too, and was very helpful in assisting me with his opinions and advice for position, exposure, light-painting etc.

I set the camera to Manual mode, set f/number to its widest setting (f/2.0), set ISO to 1600 (ouch), and exposure time to 20 seconds.  Using my Gorillapod, I set the camera on a rock and pointed so that I'd get silhouettes of Mount Whitney and the adjoining granite buttresses against the starry sky.  We spent an hour and half trying different things, including using our meager headlamps to paint Mount Whitney (futile effort) and illuminate the inside of our tent (which just ended up showcasing the high digital noise this camera has at ISO 1600).  But the best result of the endeavor, the photo I post here, is not bad, I think...

Friday, July 20, 2012

Photographing Utah and Wyoming

Ten Sleep Creek, Wyoming shot with 20D, yellow-blue polarizer
So I've processed all my photos from this month-long road trip through Utah and Wyoming, and I'm happy with the visual memories of a great trip they provide.  I brought my new Panasonic LX5 and was happy to take it through its paces, and I also brought my Canon 20D with these lenses:  10-22, 50, 70-200, and Nikon 5T closeup lens (for the 70-200).  If I had know we were going to Yellowstone I would have brought my 300 f/4 and 1.4x converter, as we were lucky to see wolves and bears!

What did I learn from this photography experience?  Well, the main thing that became apparent to me after I processed all my photos is that while the LX5 is a great little camera, it just doesn't hold a candle to what can be done with a quality dSLR/lens combination.  Now I knew this to be the case, but it helps to actually experience it.

Let's take the case of flower photography.  One of the keys to the type of flower photography I like to do is bokeh, the smooth creamy background that really showcases a beautiful flower.  Though I can get the background to blur with the LX5, using a wide-open aperture and a close-up diopter lens, I just cannot get the bokeh I so desire.  The image below is an example of the best I could do with this camera:

Dandelion shot with LX5, f/3.3 (the widest aperture allowable at maximum zoom).
On the other hand, my 20D/70-200/Nikon 5T combo was a joy to use, and provided me flower images like these:

Wyoming wildflower shot with 20D, 70-200 lens with 5T closeup lens
Beetle on flower, shot with 20D, 70-200 lens with 5T closeup lens
Oh, love that bokeh!  What a joy to create.

As I said earlier, we had the rare opportunity to photograph wolves in Yellowstone and while I surely wished I had my longer lens and converter with me, at least I had the 70-200 and was able to photograph this (using the magic of "digital zoom", i.e. crop tool):

Wolf in Lamar Valley, Yellowstone NP, shot with 20D+70-200 lens, digitally zoomed
But for all the advantages of the 20D, the LX5 does have some great advantages, portability and the ability to photograph spontaneously being at the top of the list.  When leaving our Ten Sleep campsite we were surprised to find our road out blocked by a cattle drive!  I was able to easily grab my LX5 for this shot:

Wyoming cattle drive, shot with LX5

And of course, while doing a multi-pitch rock climb, the LX5 was nice and portable for shots like these:

Hiking up to climb Castleton Tower near Moab, UT, shot with LX5

In the notch before the last pitch up Castleton Tower, UT, shot with LX5

I love the choice of the 16:9 format in the LX5, which captures an almost panoramic view of a landscape, or in the case of the rock face above, accentuates the sheer vertical nature of the rock.

I had great fun, and I learned what I already knew in that I cannot completely replace a dSLR with a compact camera, no matter how quality that camera is.  I'm glad, because I can continue to appreciate my good old 20D.

P.S. If anyone is interested I have a complete album of the trip on Facebook.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Back home after a month road-trippin'!

Mark and I took a month-long road  trip through Utah and Wyoming to camp, rock climb, and just see the sights.  It was a great opportunity to really get more experience with the new LX5 camera, and have fun with my good ol' Canon 20D too.  I love to photograph when I travel, so many new sights inspire me.  

So I have tons of photos to process, and I am currently making my way through it.  The very first photo I couldn't wait to look at on the computer screen was my attempt to capture the Milky Way while we were in Ten Sleep Canyon, Wyoming.  Talk about dark skies, that place is remote.  I know the Canon 20D is not the best at long exposures at high ISO's, but I tested my system to the max (f/3.5 at 10mm, ISO 1600, 25 sec exposure), and after a few tweaks to the RAW file to increase exposure further, I came up with this:

Not too bad for the "ancient" 20D.