Photographing Zion National Park

Ann and I stopped in Zion National Park for a 3 day adventure.

Equipment Used:

  • Nikon D300 with Nikon 18-200 mm lens
  • Nikon D70 with Nikon 18-70 mm lens
  • Canon PowerShot A700
  • Nikon 50 mm 1.4 MF lens
  • LowePro Sling 200 bag

Software Used

  • Adobe Lightroom (Mac) to import and organize files
  • Photoshop CS3 (Mac)
  • Nikon Capture NX (Mac) for post processing for printing
  • Photoshop Elements 6 (Mac) for photomerge

I was shooting with my new Nikon D300 and Ann was shooting with the Nikon D70. I had purchased the LowePro bag before leaving home. That bag proved very valuable with all the hiking we did. Most of the pictures below are as shot from the camera, except where noted. Click on any image to see an enlarged view but not the original. The originals are all posted on our account at Smugmug.

On the first day we started out hiking up Angles Landing. We wanted to get a shot of the two of us together but there was no one around, so we took a picture of each other so I could later merge into this one.

I was wondering what she was taking a picture of until I later looked saw this image on the computer.

Hiking the upper portion of Angles Landing was difficult carrying the DSLRs since we had to use chains. But we managed and benefits from using the wide range zooms. I found I used the entire range of 18 to 200 mm during the day. Many pictures, as expected, were taken using 18 mm. At times I wish I had even a wider range. I was carrying a couple of prime lenses with me but frankly rarely used them. Since we were primarily hiking, taking photographs along the way, it just didn’t make sense to do a lot of lens swapping.

Our second day was biking so we only took a point and shoot Canon camera. We biked up Kolob Canyon, which has some beautiful views, with the road winding in and out of the national park. With the rain we ran into we didn’t take many pictures. Just getting back to the hotel with the rain and cold temperatures was all we could manage. Ann did take this one picture from the back of the tandem just before the rain started.

After drying out and warming up we drove up to see the Museum of Photography. I put on my fast 50 mm f1.4 manual focus lens before we entered. There we viewed some beautiful large prints of photographs. Many were taken by Michael Fatali using an 8×10 film camera and printed himself using the Cibachrome process. He takes pride in “No Filters, No Computers, Simply God’s Light”. I found myself dumbfounded viewing his images that he could capture such beauty with that approach. They didn’t let use take any pictures inside so I took these picture outside in the courtyard.

On our last and third day, we started out with a tandem ride, again carrying the Canon Powershot. Ann took this picture from the back of the tandem, while we were racing down the road from the Zion tunnel. Not bad for a point and shoot!

In the afternoon we hiked up Hidden Canyon and also Observation Point. With the sunny weather and beautiful clouds, along with the topography, made it an idea day to get some pictures

I took this one of Ann using the 120 mm setting on the lens (equivalent of 180 mm on a 35 mm film camera). The vibration reduction worked great.

We then make our way up the long hike to Observation Point. We came upon a slotted canyon that was most fascinating.

We took some more photos from high above Zion Canyon, but I don’t consider these to be that good because they try to cover too much from afar. Here is one example.

After returning to the canyon floor, we took a few more pictures. I particularly like this one and later made a 11×17 in print to frame. Here is the image as taken.

Here is the same image after I enhanced for printing. For this one I used Nikon Capture NX. It reads the “Vivid” setting I had used in the Nikon D300 and also I enhanced using Active D-Light. Notice how it brighted up the rocky mountain.

Ann Returns to Photography

Ann got her first SLR camera in 1979 (see picture to the left) but turned her attention to raising her four children. She is now moving back into photography. She and Franz were recently featured in the local newspaper for their plan to take pictures from a tandem bicycle during a 100 bicycle event. One of those pictures that Ann took will be published on the front page of ACTC club newsletter. Several other pictures will be published on an inside spread.

This photo was taken by the Gilroy Dispatch staff photographer for the feature article.

Above is a draft of the front page article to be published soon (click to enlarge). Although credit was given to both Franz and Ann, Ann was the one who took this particular photo, while moving at 20 mph on the back of the tandem bicycle.

Fast and Shallow Once Again

It has been sometime since I have been able to use my old manual focus lenses. On my prior digital SLR there was no support for either focusing or metering. With the new Nikon D300, I am once again able to use them. I did simple test inside the house this evening using my 50 mm 1.4 AI lens. With the D300 you tell it the focal length and maximum aperture of the manual lens you have attached and it works fine from that point. Focusing is not as easy as with the older cameras that had screens geared for manual focus, but there is a rangefinder indicator that works. Here is a shot I took wide open, at f1.4, 1/125 sec, ISO of 400. Lighting is all ambient. Notice the very shallow dept of field.

As an experiment I took a second shot changing it to f2.0, 1/60 second, also ISO 400.

I expected a more shallow dept of field at f1.4 compared with f2.0 but it looked about the same.

Nikon D300 and Nikon Bellow

I had a chance to experiment further using the Nikon D300 with my old Nikon PB-6 bellows. Due to the grip on the camera, you first need to rotate the mount on the bellows 90 degrees. After the camera body is mounted, you can rotate it back. I put my old 55 mm Nikon macro lens (Nikon calls them micro lenses). This is what the setup looks like.

Nikon D300 and Nikon Bellows

I used the LiveView feature on the D300 to focus. LiveView is the ability to use the 3 in. LCD screen and lets you zoom way in on the image. This is probably more accurate than using the viewfinder. I set the camera to Aperture Priority and stopped the lens down to F8. I let the D300 handle the exposure and color balance. I pointed the entire rig outside for lighting. Here is an example of a picture I took of a 20 year old slide.

Picture Taken off 35 mm slide

What Makes for a Great Photo

When I first moved from film SLRs to a Nikon digital SLR, the D70, I would spend time at the online forums learning a lot about the digital world. Since I recently bought a D300 I have again been spending time on the D200/300 forum. It seems that one thing has not changed, one of the favorite topics is still which lens is sharper.

Recently my wife and I rode our tandem bicycle in a 100 mile event taking pictures from the bike of the participants. I had my D70 in a harness on my chest and would shoot one handed as I was controlling the bike. My wife used a Canon P&S from the rear. Guess what, her pictures turned about better than mine. How could that be. It made me think about what makes for a good picture.

Although all the following attributes are important, I came to the conclusion that the ones towards the artistic side are more important than those toward the technical side. I t have broken these into three areas ranging from the more artistic aspect to the more technical.

While all of these are important I believe that too many focus on the Technical area because anybody who has money can buy the top quality equipment and with their expensive lens they can go out and take pictures of walls to show everyone how sharp it is. Does that make them a good photographer? Because it is a subjective matter, it may not be obvious. Can a super sharp picture win over one that has much more of the artistic attributes?

I think that answers why my wife’s pictures from the back of the tandem were better. She could take pictures as we were passing people, up close and personal with much better framing and interaction with the subject. I had to shoot from the hip because I still need one hand to control things traveling at upwards of 30 mph.

I am not saying a sharp lens is not important, but what I am saying is that is not enough.

New Nikon D300 Camera Arrives

Just a few minutes ago the new Nikon D300 camera arrived by FedEX.

Camera Arrives

While I am waiting for the battery for the D300 to charge, I put the new 18-200 mm lens on my Nikon D70 to take a few shots to test it out. Here shots each at 18 mm, then 70 mm, then at 200 mm. This covers the focal range of my two prior zoom lenses, a 18-70 and a 80-200 mm. All images were shot in RAW. Click here to see the images in full resolution.

at 18 mm

At 70 mm

at 200 mm

Three more at the same 18, 70 and 200 mm, then with the new battery charged, I repeated the same three shots using the new D300 and new lens. The time of day was different so it is not a good comparision. I have not fine tuned the exposure compensation for the new camera and I also have a custom curve in my D70, which I have yet to do for the D300.

D70 at 18 mm

18 mm

D300 at 18 mm.

D300 at 18 mm

D70 at 70 mm

70 mm

D300 at 70 mm

D300 at 70 mm

D70 at 200 mm

200 mm

D300 at 200 mm

D300 at 200mm

I then got my 55 mm Nikon micro lens out that I have not been able to use with the D70 camera. The D300 works with the older lenses. I just dialed in the focal length and maximum aperature and the metering worked fine. I did a quick picture close up but the focusing so close without the screen I use to have on film cameras was a bit tricky but it was very easy to put the camera on aperture priority mode and have it handle the exposure. I have several such prime lenses, 24 mm, 35 mm, 50 1.4, 55 micro, 105 2.5, 200, that I can not use once again.
55 mm Micro non-cpu non-auto focus

I forgot to set the clock in the new D300. Guess what the date was set for. My birthday, March 23rd!

Long Term Value

I am waiting at home for the delivery of my new Nikon D300 digital SLR. I thought it was a good time to clean out some of the files and worked to throw out some of the old receipts. It struck me how much money I had spend on computer related hardware and software and how much of that I can’t even recall ever using or where it is. The computer industry was a master at making things obsolete and over charging for things that had limited long term value. And what to I have to show for all those past purchases? Other than tracking my financial history and digitization of photographic images, very little. I am speaking of just the money spent but when I think of the wasted hours building computers, buying expensive memory, purchasing video cards that were underpowered with the next operating system, I realize how that hobby was a big money and time sink hole.

Today much more can be done over the internet. No longer do I need to buy a mapping program. Moving to the Apple Mac platform has also been very benefical because it comes with far more useable software than Windows ever did. Now days I rarely go to Frys. When I do I see that most of the customers there are overweight nerds. I am glad I have moved on in my life to other interests.

While cleaning out the receipts I saw some that were 20 years old for some camera lenses. I still have those lenses and have used them over the years. When I made the move to a digital SLR with the Nikon D70, I was not able to use them in a practical way since there was no metering and no real focusing aids for those manual focus lenses. But with the new D300 I will once again be able to use them. They still work great and are very sharp. What single computer related hardware or software item that is even half that old is still around? None.

And what do I have to show for the investment over the years in photographic equipment? I have a treasure of images that are priceless, especially of the family and kids when they were much younger.

Photo Merge using Photoshop Elements 6

We rode the tandem up Mt. Hamilton last week. It was a Friday so there were not very many cars on the road. We wanted to get a picture at the top but there was no one around to take it so we took turns taking each other’s picture standing behind the tandem with the Lick Observatory in the background. I then merged the two photos into one using Adobe Photoshop Elements 6. I usually use Photoshop CS3, but wanted to try the photo merge feature of Photoshop Elements. They program offers three different types of photo merge so I picked the “Group Shot” one. Unlike prior photo merge options that just put one picture next to the other, you can use a “pencil” to draw around one portion of a photo and have it merged into the other one. I just drew around one person, including the shadow.

This approach allows the sky to be entirely from one picture so as to not show a line where there might be a difference in exposure. Here is the final picture. Can you see any evidence of it being a merged group shot?

Nikon D300 Digital SLR Camera

I just ordered a new Nikon D300 Digital SLR with a 18-200 VR lens. The question might be why did I purchase since I already have a Nikon D70 Digital SLR. This new camera is highly rated and I can use my extensive collection of Nikon lenses that I had bought back in the days of film. My D70 would use those lenses but without any metering. Nikon had a promotion of $300 off if you bought this camera body with the 18-200 VR lens. VR stands for Vibration Reduction, allowing up to two more stops than you could normally shot. Since this is the DX format sensor, 200 mm is equivalent to a 300 mm lens on a 35 mm camera so having VR is important.

The new camera has a lot of improvements and has been highly rated in many of the reviews I have read, including the recent Mac World magazine, where it was given an editor’s pick.  It was also the Popular Photography & Imaging, Camera of the Year 2007

Here are some additional reviews at DP Review:

I had intended to order it from Costco which had a reduced price in addition to the $300 off but their shipping period was 10-15 business days and I needed it before that. I ended up buying at where I have purchased other items. The camera is sold out at many online stores but they had 3 left so I went ahead and ordered this morning.

I feel in the Nikon digital SLR line this is their 2nd best camera ever. The only one that beats it is the new D3, a full frame DSLR. But that camera body costs 2.5 times more and is really geared only for professional photographers. This review of the D3 shows how the D300 compares to the D3.

Some of the features of this camera that excite me include:

  • 12.3 mega pixels
  • CMOS sensor
  • Super fast operation
  • 1/250 flash sync
  • Ability to work with my older Nikon, non auto focus lens with either manual or aperture priority mode
  • 3 in. LCD
  • More sophisticated auto focus system
  • 100% coverage in view finder
  • Lower noise, especially at higher ISO settings

Some views of the camera.

Here are the specifications: