Tag Archives: Nikon 17-55mm lens

UTSA’s Wildflower Side and More

Little blue flowers bloom on campus.

Every time I travel, I have to make a big decision: Which camera lenses to take. Even though we were traveling by car to the University of Texas at San Antonio for orientation last week, I didn’t want to tote a heavy load around campus. Which meant I reluctantly left my beloved Nikon D700 and Nikon 105mm lens at home, because both can be tough on the biceps after a few hours.

Little purple flowers dot the bushes.

Instead, I opted for my Nikon D300 and Nikon 17-55mm lens. Although not as light as a point and shoot, this combination is great for all-around photography and so superior indoors.

Little reddish flowers brighten up the landscaping.

Of course, I knew the minute I didn’t pack my 105 that there would be great flowers to photograph on campus. And I was right!

Purple petunias blow their “horns.”

Beautiful buds bloomed everywhere I walked, it seemed. Mocking me, of course, because I didn’t have my macro champ.

A butterfly adds an orange glow to the greenery.

But I discovered that the D300 and 17-55 were up for the challenge!

Love these Indian blankets!

As we got close to my #1 son’s dorm, I noticed an area alive with wildflowers. I was in shutter-snapping heaven!

Sunflowers always make me smile.

Because the D300 has a crop factor that acts like a zoom (unlike the full-framed D700), I was able to get up close and personal with the flora despite my maximum lens length of 55mm.

These look like little sunflowers.

If you look closely on the top right, you’ll see that the combo even did a great job capturing some of the local wildlife.

This bee was busy.

I’d say the D300 and 17-55 were the bee’s knees!

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Photo of the Day Quandary

The March 26th photo of the day

Whew! I’ve completed my third month of taking and posting a photo of the day on my blog. I’d like to say it’s gotten to be an easy-peasy process, but you wouldn’t want me to lie, would you?

Usually it’s been fairly easy to select one photo among those I’ve taken that day. However, on March 26, I fell into a photo quandary—I had four pics I loved, but I could only choose one. I finally picked the one above of the Mister, because I love how he’s smiling. These were the other candidates for that POTD:

Extreme nose close-up!

Loved this extreme close-up of Shiner’s nose! That’s what happens when you forget to close down your aperture and instead keep it at f/2.8, blurring faces (I was using my Nikon 105mm lens).

Got to hand it to Tristin Lee!

Shiner’s “sibling,” Tristin Lee, has discovered her hand! I like how the focus is on her fist, with that sweet bokeh baby blur. And, of course, Tristin Lee is such a cutie!

Connor appreciates Grace’s attention.

After I took the first three photos at Tom Bass Park, I came home and sat out with my pals Grace and T-bird. It was too beautiful an evening to stay inside. As we were yakking, our neighbors Patti and David came by with their three pups. I snapped a photo (with my Nikon D300 and Nikon 17-55mm lens, by the way) of Grace with young Connor. I love the look on Connor’s face . . . he almost seems to be talking to Grace!

After giving it a lot of thought (where “a lot” = a minute), the Mister’s photo won out. He’s family, after all, and I don’t want him to be forgotten in the cornucopia of pix of our sons.

It’s nice to have a good selection of photos to choose from, though. Hope I have a few more POTD quandaries in April!

Random Snippets and Apertures

Nailed it!

Nailed it!

Or should that be Apertures & Random Snippets?

This is a bonus shot from Monday’s roofing blog post (where “bonus shot” means I liked it, but it didn’t seem to fit with the other photos). It was snapped after the original shingles and detritus were tossed off the roof. Shot wide open (f/2.8) with my Nikon 17-55mm lens on my Nikon D300 for a bit of lovely bokeh blur.

Sidebar: I’ve seen the word “detritus,” which means waste or debris, several times lately, both online and in the newspaper. Trend follower that I am, I felt compelled to use it. Originally I had typed “what-not.” Not very trendy. But actually somewhat descriptive!

Moving on . . . random snippets fill my mind

Aly Michalka, Vanessa Hudgens, and Gaelan Connell star in "Bandslam"

Aly Michalka, Vanessa Hudgens, and Gaelan Connell star in "Bandslam"

The Mister and I dragged the #2 son with us to see “Bandslam” recently, and we all really liked it. The actors are talented and cute, and even the music is good.

Sidebar: When it comes to music, I believe the best songs were produced between 1964 and 1972 or so. Almost anything else isn’t worth listening to, as I like to tell the #1 son, who loves music so much he practically considers his iPod Touch to be as essential as his aorta. Oddly enough, he doesn’t agree with my astute assessment.

The movie’s title, “Bandslam,” comes from an annual music competition. Will, played soulfully by Gaelan Connell, remakes a band fronted by Aly Michalka (who plays Keely on “Phil of the Future”; love that Disney Channel!). Will falls for the characters played by Aly and Vanessa “High School Musical” Hudgens, followed by a fair quantity of the kind of teenaged angst that the 17-year-old #1 son is going through. Lisa Kudrow does a wonderful turn as Will’s mother.

The song I liked best in the movie was a remake of Bread’s “Everything I Own,” sung by Hudgens. When was that song released? 1972. So no surprise that it’s great.

Middle-aged PDA

Be thankful that I don’t have a photo of this!

I was in the express checkout lane at my local HEB grocery store the other day. In front of me was a couple that had to at least be in their 40s. They were all over each other, kissing and hugging, right in front of me and my Banyan Foods’ Original Tofu Egg Rolls (they’re so good!). Gag me, peeps!

It’s bad enough when the teens have their public displays of affection, but people close to my age?!? Wait until you get in your car!

Fruit for Thought

I was chatting with the boys about the movie “X-Men Origins.” I looked over at my 14-year-old #2 son and noticed he had a quizzical look on his face.

“I thought you said ‘sex and an orange,’ ” he explained.

Partying With the Dinosaurs—A Night at the Museum

Even the dinosaurs had fun!

Even the dinosaurs had fun!

Last Saturday night the Mister, the #2 son, and I partied like there was no tomorrow!

Sidebar: Actually, the party started at 7:30 p.m. By 10:15 p.m., both the Mister and I were yawning. We’re not exactly what you’d call “party animals.” Old-timers that we are, we seem to have a lot in common with the dinosaurs!

Greg, Robert, and the #2 son

Greg, Robert, and the #2 son

This was the most-unusual Bar Mitzvah party that we ever had attended—it was at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Brothers Robert, who is the #2 son’s age, and Charlie had shared their coming-of-age service that morning and decided to celebrate in style.

Sidebar: For those of you from Chicago like myself, the HMNS is a much-smaller combination of the Field Museum and the Museum of Science of Industry. I remember the first time I took the boys to the HMNS many years ago. After we had looked at each and every exhibit, I said, “And where’s the rest of the museum?” That’s how much smaller it is.

Part of a huge geode at the museum's entrance

Part of a huge geode at the museum's entrance

The museum, though, is nice and was a wonderful venue for the party. I must admit that I walked into the main hall, which features several dinosaur skeletons, with a bit of trepidation while recalling both of the “Night at the Museum” movies. Fortunately, nothing dead seemed to be coming alive; there were absolutely no sightings of Owen Wilson!

Cheesecake!

Cheesecake!

But there were tables set up on both floors of the museum with plenty of food, even for the picky vegans like myself. The boys’ mom, Leah, who is one of my gal pals, made sure to have lots of salad, fruit, veggie stir fry, and even veggie skewers.

The Mister likes to learn.

The Mister likes to learn.

The Mister and I had a good time walking around and looking at the exhibits.

Crystally gem thing

Crystally gem thing

We especially enjoyed the Cullen Hall of Gems and Minerals, which has a breathtaking collection of . . . well, gems and minerals. It’s a darkened area with music from the 1940s piped in. You really can get lost in all the beauty.

As usual, I was bemoaning the fact that I hadn’t brought my Nikon f/1.4 50mm lens with me; instead, I had opted for my all-around Nikon 17-55mm lens on my Nikon D300 (as well as my Nikon SB-600 flash). The 17-55 just couldn’t do the gems and minerals justice, so I’ve vowed to make a return trip to the museum with the 50mm in the near future.

Eli ponders the pendulum.

My neighbor Eli ponders the pendulum.

Once the Mister and I left the gems, we went back to the main floor to watch the Foucault Pendulum swing (it was mesmerizing to my young neighbor Eli, whose family also was at the party) and then partake in our favorite activity: Seeing the #2 son in a social setting with his peer group, most of whom we’ve known since they were in first or second grade.

#2 tries to spin the big microphone.

#2 tries to spin the big microphone.

There was one teensy, itsy, bitsy problem with the whole scenario, though. Minor stuff, really. Well, except that it was one of those watershed moments in the life of a teenaged boy and his adoring parents.

We became an embarrassment. Right there in front of God and country and the dinosaurs.

A moment for silence . . . and laughter from the more-experienced parents out there.

tb-#6539-(#2)

Yes, our #2 son actually told us that he wished we would’ve stayed home, even though we also were invited to the party. Excuse me while I wipe away a tear.

Call me naive, friends, but I really never expected this to happen with the #2 son. All adults who know him will tell you what a sweet boy he is. While we knew that the #1 son wasn’t about to take care of us in our old age (“Beat it, Mom and Pop”), we had high hopes for #2. I remember when Lindsey, my neighbor JJ the organizational whiz’s daughter, discovered that her parents were an embarrassment (hard to believe, because JJ and Bill are beyond the coolest ’rents ever!). I laughed and thought I’ll be spared that scenario.

Now JJ is laughing at me! Not that that’s unusual, though.

The #2 son and his good friend Marcus talk.

The #2 son and his good friend Marcus talk.

Was it wrong to haul out the big photo equipment to document the party? Should I have stuck with the Olympus point and shoot, which is less intimidating? Should I have lived with the lesser image quality? The world will never know.

Actually, I think the fact that there were cute freshman girls at the party added to #2’s embarrassment. Even though I’ve been taking pix of some of those gals since they were tykes in elementary school.

My neighbor Maddie, Eli's sister

My neighbor Maddie, Eli's sister

Like this cute gal! Maddie is our neighbor. Her parents also were at the party, and, like #2, Maddie was mortified. Her mom T-bird and I laughed about our teenagers and promised to embarrass them as often as possible (not hard for us). But near the end of the party, I saw T-bird and the Mister in a pensive mood by the pendulum.

The Mister and T-bird

The Mister and T-bird

Our kids are growing up . . . and leaving us behind for now. But we’ll never be extinct as parents . . . or documenting photographers!

A Thousand Mea Culpas in Advance

A tee-box marker at our local disc golf course

A tee-box marker at our local disc golf course

Apologies in advance to everyone who’s on today’s early-morning flight to Kansas City, Missouri, from Houston. And some advanced warning: You might want to have ear plugs or headphones handy. Ears will need to be plugged.

My lung infection and I will be flying to the Disc Golf World Championships to see the #2 son play a couple rounds. Oh, and my obnoxious, dry, hacking cough will be along for the ride, too, unfortunately. Even I can’t stand myself! For the first time ever, I’m hoping there will be a crying baby or two on the plane. Anything to cover up the racket I’ll be making in seat 10A.

Sidebar: The #2 son had a frustrating day on a difficult course yesterday. Seems like every tree had his name on it. But I know he’s a resilient athlete who will rise to the occasion today, as he plays his two rounds. Especially with his ever-lovin’, ever-coughin’ mama watching him. Note to self: Keep shutter speed on the Nikon D300 high enough to avoid camera shake.

Sidebar 2: So what lenses am I taking to document this memory? I’ll shoot play with my reliable Nikon 105mm. Usually, my Nikon 70-200mm is my weapon of choice for outdoor sports, but it’s too heavy to carry. I’ll have Nikon’s 17-55mm and 50mm lenses to cover any other shooting situations that might arise.

And what about my broken-hearted #1 son, you ask? Will he be tagging along? Yeah, right.

What 17-year-old kid wants to walk for a couple hours watching their younger sibling play? Totally boring. So we’ve taken pity on him, and he’ll be staying with our “half” son, his best friend Chase. I’ll be worried about him, of course, but I think he’ll be happier with his friend’s family.

The Mister (who did do a better job texting yesterday, I’m happy to say . . . for his sake), #2, and I will be flying home Sunday. I sure hope I’ll be rid of this nagging cough by then. Otherwise . . . .

Apologies in advance to everyone who’s on Sunday morning’s flight from Kansas City to Houston!

Painting the Night with Disc Golf

The #2 son's glowing putt approaches the basket. f/3.5, 1/60th of a second, ISO 250

The #2 son's glowing putt approaches the basket. Flashed: f/3.5, 1/60th of a second, ISO 250

I have a confession to make: I’m a woeful flash photographer. It probably doesn’t help that I don’t like how flashed photos look, plus I don’t like fiddling with my external Nikon SB-600, trying to avoid the washed-out look that too much flash often yields. So usually I evade potential flash-photography situations.

Jessica and Eric

Jessica and Eric. Flashed: f/8, 1/60th, ISO 200

But then last Friday night, Jessica, one-half of one of our favorite disc golf couples, decided to throw a surprise birthday party for her fiancé Eric. And it involved night disc golf. As in very little light. As in have to use a flash. As in not a happy camper photographer.

Now Jessica didn’t ask me to take photos. But Eric just happens to be a mentor to the #2 son. Not only is he a fine disc golf player who we happened to meet at the first tournament that #2 played in a year and a half ago, but he’s a wonderful role model. Our whole family (yes, even the #1 son) likes Eric a lot. So how could I not shoot some pix at his party? And the clincher? I figured it would make for great blog material!

Billy, Kelly, and the Mister smile before teeing off.

Billy, Kelly, and the Mister smile before teeing off. Flashed: f/6.3, 1/60th, ISO 320

I decided the best photographic path would be to try to mix up nonflash and flash photos. I put my Nikon 17-55mm lens on my Nikon D300 at the start to take group photos, as well as to document the sky.

The sky before dark. f/4, 1/320th, ISO 400

The sky before dark. Nonflashed: f/4, 1/320th, ISO 400

As it got darker , I switched to my Nikon 50mm lens. With its maximum aperture of f/1.4, it would allow in the most light when I wasn’t using flash.

Discs with glow sticks taped on

Discs with glow sticks taped on. Flashed: f/4, 1/60th, ISO 320

Every disc golf basket had a small light attached to it so the players could see it. Most of the players used discs that had small glow sticks taped on them.

#2 glows Kelly's disc. f/1.4, 1/50th, ISO 800 (The light in the background is from a softball field.)

#2 glows Kelly's disc. Nonflashed: f/1.4, 1/50th, ISO 800 (The light in the background is from a softball field.)

Some of the discs glowed in the dark, but they had to be recharged with a light source. The #2 son had brought a flashlight for that very purpose.

#2 son with his red glow disc

#2 son with his red glow disc. Nonflashed: f/1.4, 1/5th, ISO 250

#2 just had to be a bit different . . . some of his discs actually lit up!

#2 and Sam keep score by the glow of #2's green putter. f/1.4, 1/20th, ISO 640

#2 and Sam keep score by the glow of #2's green putter. Nonflashed: f/1.4, 1/20th, ISO 640

It’s impossible to handhold a heavy camera like the D300 for 1/20th of a second without some blurring, as you can see.

The flashed #2 and Sam. f/3.5, 1/60th, ISO 640

The flashed #2 and Sam. Flashed: f/3.5, 1/60th, ISO 640

The flash did a better job of making everything look crisp, but I think it looks kinda fake. And definitely not as fun.

The flash captures Patrick's upshot. f/4, 1/60th, ISO 500

The flash captures Patrick's upshot. Flashed: f/4, 1/60th, ISO 500

I experimented with using the flash to stop the action and sometimes was successful. I increased the ISO to throw the flash further.

Sidebar: Disc golf players do not like when the flash goes off near their face. I did not make that mistake twice!

#2's putt towards a darkened basket. f/3.5, 1/60th, iSO 250

#2's putt towards a darkened basket. Flashed: f/3.5, 1/60th, ISO 250

Here I didn’t up the ISO enough to allow the flash to illuminate the basket. I did lighten the disc a bit in Photoshop to make it easier to see.

Field of dreams ghost players. f/1.6, 1.6 seconds, ISO 800

Field of dreams ghost players. Nonflashed: f/1.6, 1.6 seconds, ISO 800

After awhile I became intrigued with how the photos looked with handheld, longer shutter speeds. Above, are those ghosts in the park playing disc golf? I really like how the glowing discs paint the night.

Disc golf artistry! f/4, 13 seconds, ISO 640

Disc golf artistry! Nonflashed: f/4, 13 seconds, ISO 640

At the end of the evening, which was around 10:30 p.m., I opened the shutter for long periods of time. Above was the result after 13 seconds, which included moving the camera around. Who knew I could be such an artist?!?

Can you tell this is the #2 son? f/5.6, 30 seconds, ISO 400

Can you tell this is the #2 son? Nonflashed: f/5.6, 30 seconds, ISO 400

You can barely make out the ghostlike #2 son in the middle of this photo. Wearing a blue glow necklace, he was twirling two blue glow necklaces in his hands as I moved the camera. Now this is just wild—it’s disc golf at its prettiest! I ended up having a great time taking photos.

It definitely was fun to paint the night with nonflashed disc golf!!

Fabulous Photo Fourth!

#3704-(fwks)

What can be better than watching fireworks on the Fourth of July? In our master-planned community, we’ve enjoyed going to our sports complex to view the rockets bursting in air almost every year, and this year’s show was no different.

NEW-#3676-(vert-fwk)

Sidebar: Well, it was a little bit different this year. One of the best parts of watching fireworks is seeing the looks on my sons’ faces as they ooh and aaah. However, this time the boys quickly ditched us, and we were on our own to watch with our friend Karen E., whose two sons also had dumped her.

#3702-(fwks)

Like most photographers, I’ve taken my share of fireworks pix. Usually, I just wing it, preferring to point either my film SLR (back in the day), digital SLR, or point and shoot camera up to the sky and push the shutter button when I feel the time is right. Definitely a hit-or-miss operation, much more miss than hit.

Flowers in the sky!

Flowers in the sky!

But this time I decided to finally get serious and do a better job at capturing the glory of fireworks. I did online research to determine some guidelines, and then headed to the sports complex with my Nikon D300, Nikon 17-55mm lens, and a tripod. For a change, I set everything on manual: I focused to infinity, set my aperture at f/16 (no bokeh necessary in this situation), and switched the shutter speed to “bulb.” When you use the bulb setting, you push the shutter down and hold it until you think you’ve captured enough of the fireworks burst, and then release. Experts opined that anywhere from one to four seconds should do the trick. For me, three seconds was the sweet spot for getting the best fireworks photos.

#3716-(fwks)

The trickiest part was trying to capture both the ground fireworks at the same time as those in the air. It was hard to have both in focus; I only was successful once, but I like the way it turned out.

Fireworks above and below

Fireworks above and below

It helped that it was a clear night. Even the breeze came out to blow the mosquitos away.

"Palm trees" swaying in the air

"Palm trees" swaying in the air

I had read about trying to achieve the “palm tree” effect—getting the rockets’ trails and the bursts in the same photo. Thanks to good timing and luck, I scored big time!

Finale time!

Finale time!

The best part of any fireworks show, of course, is the finale. The patriotic music builds, and the pyrotechnic crew shoots lots of pretty colors into the night sky. Definitely time for the rockets’ red glare . . .

Part of the finale

Part of the finale

. . . and the bombs bursting in air! I had fun looking at the fireworks show through my lens and documenting the event. Can’t wait to try to improve next year on hopefully another fabulous photo Fourth!