The PhotoWalk Returns

It sounds like a dig against New Haven. It’s really a beautiful city with some interesting architectural flourishes. They are not built for photography.

I did the annual PhotoWalk yesterday. Last year Steve Brenner and I went to the Brooklyn Bridge. This year it was the New Haven Green and Yale campus. Bad choice on our part.

It sounds like a dig against New Haven. It’s really a beautiful city with some interesting architectural flourishes. They are not built for photography.

Too much of Yale is hidden behind stately and historic trees (here’s a panorama of a Yale quad). That’s not something wrong with Yale. It just doesn’t lend itself to photography.

One of the photo programs I use breaks out the different photo parameters in a shoot. I used five separate ISO settings and apertures from f/1.4 to f/20, I was searching. Four different lenses were on the camera. None was quite right.

The list of numbers that summarizes the technical elements is all over the place. It’s unfocused. That stands to reason.

The people on the PhotoWalk couldn’t have been nicer. Steve noticed early on nearly. with the exception of one person shooting a Sony, everyone was using Canon or Nikon.

We walked the Yale campus first, than on to the Green. A few of Yale’s buildings were enveloped in scaffolding. Disappointing. On the Green a band was playing to a nice crowd.

I will do another of these next year (hopefully), but only after thinking about what’s there to shoot.


yale university lion statue.jpg

yale universityman's bust statue.jpg

new haven lampost.jpg

The best part of the day was pizza outside in the back at Zinc. This was a white pie with goat cheese, pesto and grilled shrimp.

zinc pizza new haven.jpg

Jeff and Lauren Get Married

This was the payoff of the trip – to get an watch two friends get married. It’s always a little chancy when you go to a wedding. There are weddings and there are WEDDINGS. This was the latter.

The wedding and reception were held at a restaurant/caterer located within a very nice office park – Villa Christina.

Jeff and Lauren got married under cover, though outside. The guests sat in chairs on the lawn. It was breezy and chilly, but it was raining where Jeff grew up and snowing where Lauren grew up. Breezy and chilly was good.

The first good sign was when I overheard the usher tell another guest there was no side for the bride or groom – anyone could sit anywhere. I found a seat in the back, but on the aisle. I wanted to take pictures.

It was a very informal ceremony, performed by a very folksy reverend. A few times, when appropriate, Jeff made comments to the crowd. There was lots of crying… good crying.

I was very impressed when Lauren’s grandmother came up to the mike and recited a very sweet poem, from memory. It was a nice touch, as was Lauren’s sister’s singing.

If I’ve ever been to a wedding with more good looking women, I don’t remember it. Yet I still desperately missed Helaine. I think I would have had even more fun sharing this time with her. It really was contagious.

After the ceremony there were appetizers and an open bar. I managed to get some food on my suit. Maybe it was better Helaine wasn’t here after all.

Dinner was in the ballroom upstairs. The food was very good and the ambiance continued to be great. I was assigned Table 5 and ended up with a bunch of people from The Weather Channel, including Jim Cantore, their best known on-camera meteorologist.

Before I wrap this up, I have to relate one story which goes to the general mood of the evening. There were two still photographers at the affair, one shooting Nikon and the other Canon. Both had nice pro level cameras and lenses.

I tried to be out of the way as they shot. After all, they were there to document this for Jeff and Lauren and though I’d be shooting away, they take precedence. A few times during the evening we chatted, and they were friendly.

All was fine, until my battery went. I had taken over 120 shots at the time, and though I was surprised it went, I shouldn’t have been… and should have brought a second battery with me.

The Canon photog, seeing my plight, offered me a spare battery! These are special batteries made just for these cameras.

I told him I didn’t want to have him take a risk, but he insisted as he knew I’d want to shoot the bride and groom as they made their entrance.

I took my shots and then, guilt ridden, brought the battery back to him with thanks. A few minutes later he was back, with his charger. A half hour later, I was all set with a charged battery.

This guy was great. This was a selfless move by someone who cared enough to see I was having a good time.

Pro Tennis With My Camera

I was lucky enough to ‘sneak’ down to the photographers row at the Pilot Pen Tennis Tournament being staged in New Haven, CT. Actually, I was properly credentialed to be there, though my job doesn’t include carrying a camera. I brought my three week old Digital Rebel and my two Sigma lenses.

The press photographers I sat with were evenly divided between pro Nikon and Canon cameras and lenses. Using my ‘thin’ Sigmas, I was giving up at least 2 f stops to everyone there.

The match started well after 7:00 PM. There was little natural light left. The majority of what we got was coming from the stadium lights.

I asked the Hartford Courant photographer to my left how fast he was shooting and he offered up 1/500th. That would be enough to stop the players but not the ball. I switched to shutter priority and ISO 1600.

The top photo is Elena Dementieva serving. This is a crop with my 18-125mm lens at 77mm f/5.6 1/500. All the photos received noise reduction, level adjustment and sharpening.

Next up is Claudine Schaul. It’s a full frame using my Sigma 70-300mm lens at 300mm f/8 1/500.

After returning to my office, a photographer I work with (now video, but formerly still) talked to me about timing shots. While I was shooting I heard a chorus of shutters every time the ball hit the racket. He said everyone’s a little off on the first day, but by the end of a tournament it becomes much easier to time your press to catch the ball in the frame.

I was surprised at how most of the photographers looked at their pictures between serves.

My final shot here is Claudine again. Full frame, Sigma 18-125mm at 125mm f/5.6 1/500.

Blogger’s note: Click on any image to see it in a larger version.

New Camera

Over the past few years I have become a little nuts over digital cameras.

Early on I had an Olympus point and shoot with 640×480 resolution, extremely slow shutter and very wide lens. I always stood closer than people expected, or asked someone taking a photo of me and my family to move in because the camera captured such as a broad area. I became so predictable that the wide angle lens advisory I’d give to strangers became a family joke.

Next was a Casio QV2000-UX. Compared to the Olympus’ 307,200 pixels this one had over 2 million. The pictures were better, the lens longer and narrower. Casio, unfortunately, really isn’t a camera company and the cameras reflected that. It was somewhat difficult to operate and ungainly.

Next up was the Fuji Finepix S602Z. This was my favorite camera of all time. I had graduated to 3 megapixels (though Fuji through some sort of mumbo jumbo math claimed 6 megapixels) and a camera designed like a camera. The S602Z resembles a film SLR camera – except the eyepiece viewfinder is actually a tiny video screen. That is a real disadvantage because you can’t see when it’s dark (even when the camera could be pushed to shoot a picture) and focusing in low light is nearly non-existent.

I took about 9,000 photos from March 2003 to August 2004. Imagine if I had paid for photo processing!

Steffie and Helaine had a love, hate relationship with it. If I became too much of a pain in the butt (like while on vacation or traveling to New York City) it was my motivation. On the other hand, if they took it to a Rick Springfield, or other, concert it was the perfect way to take photos and bring back something that was often spectacular. Steffie’s concert photos with the S602Z have been published twice.

This summer I began to feel I was ready to take the next step and began reading the photo magazines and computer bulletin boards. My two choices were a Nikon D100 or Canon Digital Rebel. For a variety of reasons, though price was most important, I chose the Canon.

The more sophisticated the camera, the more difficult the purchase. I’m not just talking about cost, though the price varies among mail order and brick and mortar dealers. The camera body is stock. Everything else is custom configured.

The Digital Rebel is 6 megapixels with a very sensitive and precise sensor for capturing the images. Nearly every parameter that controls the shot can be customized. It can be used as a point and shoot camera, but that would be sacrilege.

I decided to buy the body without the Canon lens and instead ordered two Sigma lenses. Though mine were not, lenses can be more expensive than the camera itself! One, 28-125mm, zooms from a wide angle to medium range telephoto. The other, 70-300mm, zooms from mid range to very long.

The zoom can be so long, magnifying the image so much, that it can’t be used under less than bright light! It’s not that it won’t take the picture. When the light’s dim you have to hold the shutter open longer. Unless the shutter time is very fast you will move the lens and blur the shot.

I’ve had the camera a few days and am very impressed. This shot of the moon (something every photographer with a new long lens seems to do) came out just the way I wanted. I haven’t had a chance to be artistic, but have looked at some technical aspects of the shots. Are they sharp enough with the correct color? What’s the depth of field? How slow a shutter can I get away with?

On the other hand, it is heavier and bulkier that what I’m used to. Reading the postings I see some users consider a single lens their ‘walk around’ and leave the rest home unless they know they’ll be using them.

The more I read, the more I realize I don’t know and will have to learn.

A versatile camera doesn’t take better pictures on its own. Yes, there will be an improvement if only because the glass and sensor are better. My job is to work on optimizing my skills and understanding how the camera should be set under any situation.

Tonight I’ll be doing the weather at the Orange Volunteer Fireman’s Carnival and I’ll bring the camera with me. After the news there’ll be a chance to take a few (dozen) shots. It should be like letting a sports car out on a stretch of open road. I’m looking forward to it.

Wakodahatchee Wetlands

This is probably going to be my last entry concerning the Florida trip, and the one I least anticipated before I went to visit my folks.

I had played golf Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. By Friday, my dad was a little sore (I was too) and he begged off. It was a lazy day – very quiet around the house. By early afternoon my mom had asked if I wanted to go to Wakodahatchee.

Sure… except, what is it?

Wakodahatchee Wetlands&#185 is a man made nature preserve in suburban Palm Beach County. If I understand correctly, it is the product of heavily treated waste water (I’m sure heavily treated and clean are two very different words) which is released into a number of manufactured environments.

The actual wetlands were built to allow for a number of different wet habitats. With no human encroachment, the wildlife is varied and flourishes.

For humans, the treat is the 3/4 mile long boardwalk which winds its way through the preserve. The afternoon we went, it was moderately busy. I would guess there were at least 100 people on the boards.

My luck was stumbling upon a ‘prosumer’ photographer. He had a substantial Nikon film camera with a long lens. He stood and shot, watching two blue herons building a nest high in a tree. I’m not sure I would have notified them had he not been so intense.

I took his cue and pulled out my Fuji S602Z. This is a great camera – the best I’ve ever owned. It can be used as a point and shoot camera, but what a waste. Its manual controls allowed me to preset for the shots I wanted, especially with the herons, where I made sure the shutter speed was fast and that I could burst 5 shots in rapid succession with the lens zoomed in fully.

That afternoon, I took some of the best shots I’ve ever taken. I’ve put together an album in my online gallery.

My recommendation (if you have high speed access); use the slideshow mode for the first 6 or 7 images (at least). The sequence with the heron arriving at his nest is really captured well.

&#185 – The official Wakodahatchee Wetlands website hasn’t been updated in over 2 years. A real shame.