Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Goodbye 2013, Hello 2014

Drake's Beach - Alpa STC, IQ 180, 48 Helvetar, ~f/13, 31s, ISO 35
The sun is setting pretty rapidly on 2013 and 2014 is on its way.  I'll forego the usual photographic recap of the year and just say that its been a great year.  There were many trips and a lot of good times with new and old friends.  My goals for next year are fairly simple.  Its pretty much to recover from my injury in time to do some traveling in April, keeping my fingers crossed that I don't develop arthritis.  Thats about it, Happy New Year to all.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Juvenile Baboon on Termine Mound

Juvenile Baboon - 1DX, 200-400 @ 560mm, f/5.6, 1/160s, ISO 800
A juvenile Baboon climbed up on top of a termite mound to get a better look at the surroundings.  I made this image around the beginning of an afternoon game drive (5:30 or so) near Sandibe camp.  In the image from yesterday, those traces of last night, just that small touch is what made it interesting.  A similar thing is true here, its that little bit of back lighting lighting up the edges of the Baboon's fur that make this interesting for me.  I could have cropped this image tighter (what you see here is completely uncropped) but I liked the idea of leaving as much of the termite mound as possible in there to show a little bit of the environment.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Last Kiss of Light

Last Kiss of Light - D800e, 70-200 @ 110mm, f/8, 1/100s, ISO 100
Made near Pincher Creek, Alberta, the last rays of light touch just a few of the trees bathing them in warm late afternoon light.  There was no spectacular sunset that day, but contrast of the warm light against the cold green of the shaded trees makes for an interesting image.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Sony A7r and 55 f/1.8

A7r, 55 FE, f/1.8, 1/80s, ISO 320.  Click through to zoom in.
Ok, this is a post for the camera gear nerds mostly.  A lot of photographers are talking about the Sony A7r and the two primes released with it (the 35 and the 55).  It seems everyone is writing a review and normally I'd just be out shooting with new toys but since I'm tied to sitting in one place and then another my options are limited.  So I photograph what is within reach and usually means just the kids.  Many are reporting the new lenses are sharp and I can verify, yep they are.  The image above was shot hand held at 1/80s, looks pretty good to me.  I used the eye focus feature on the A7/A7r and am generally finding that it works very well.

Close up of the eye, looks great to me.  I sharpened my standard amount of 70/0.8/44 in Lightroom and at ISO 320 the file holds up to the sharpening well.

I noticed that qualitatively the 55 f/1.8 has fairly pleasing bokeh and so I wanted to compare against the Leica 50 f/1.4 Summilux.

Sony 55 out of focus highlights
This is kind of torture test for bokeh and this is actually quite good.  There is faint bit of green fringing on the edge of the highlight with the Sony.

Leica 50 f/1.4 Summilux out of focus highlights
The Leica is also good but omits the fringing of the Sony.  I also compared sharpness and found the Sony to be as good if not better than the Leica at all apertures, especially at the edges.  Not bad for the Sony at 1/4 the price, even if it is physically larger, but you get AF.

Monday, December 23, 2013


Shopkeepers - 5D3, 24-70 @ 42mm, f/4, 1/50s, ISO 320
Two shopkeepers, presumably husband and wife wait for customers at the Mehane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem.  I'm not into street photography all that much when I saw this scene with the this couple facing opposite directions but not directly at each other, seemed like there was a photograph here.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Storm Blue

Storm Blue - Alpa STC, IQ180, 32 HR, ~f/11, 1s, ISO 35
I had a craving to make a big print from a big file this morning so I went looking for IQ180 files.  Under ideal conditions the Teton range would be visible in the background but we got socked in by clouds from the storm system in the area that morning.  However as the morning went on I noticed very subtle layers to the clouds that covered the sky.  Curious to see if my camera could pick it up I made this image; turns out it could.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

An Alley in Venice

An Alley in Venice - 5D3, 24-70 @ 24mm, f/2.8, 1/15, ISO 100
I was going through my archives of unprocessed photos last night and came across this one I took earlier this year on a brief stop in Venice for the Carnevale di Venezia.  The mask in this photo is Solange, who was wonderfully accommodating as we walked around making images.  We were just about to come out of this alley and I immediately knew this was the image I wanted to make, going as wide as possible.  I had only a second or so to frame, focus and release the shutter.  

Friday, December 20, 2013

Screws in my Leg

That was the state of my ankle about 11 days ago when I dislocated it and fractured my fibula.  The doctors reset the dislocation pretty quickly, which is good because that bone was about to poke through the skin.  So then there was surgery, a metal plate and lots of screws.  I went in for a post-op checkup yesterday where the splint was removed and xrays performed.

This is what my ankle looks like now.  Everything is anatomically correct.  There is a plate attached to my fibula with 3 screws holding it to the fibula.  Then I have two more screws at the fracture site compressing the fracture together so that it heals properly.  Then there are two large screws that are bringing the fibula and tibia back together.  There's also 19 staples at the incision site which were removed yesterday.

Side view of the whole thing.

I also got a new fiberglass cast, which is lighter and is now ready for Maya's drawings and decorations.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Tree, Sunset and Big Sky

Tree, Sunset and Big Sky
I love big skies and living in the bay area, California, its not something that we get often.  I was however fortunate to witness some beautiful skies and beautiful sunsets in Botswana.  I only wish I had taken a wider lens with me.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Lioness Afternoon Drink

1DX, 200-400 @ 243mm, f/5.6, 1/500s, ISO 800
On the evening of the second day at Sandibe camp, we drive out looking for elephants.  After a couple of sightings we ran into this Lioness which the guides knew from before had just given birth to cubs a couple of days earlier.  We followed her hoping that when she approached her den, she would call out and encourage her cubs to come out and play.  She wandered for a bit, stopping to take drink right as the last rays of light were bathing her body (kudos to our guides for positioning us in anticipation of the drink) and then continued on.  We kept a far distance to avoid spooking her and noticed that she disappeared into a bush.  The guides speculated that it was where was keeping her cubs and that they were probably still too young to come out and play.  So no cubs, but a wonderful image of a lioness taking a drink, can't complain!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Hail the Termite

Hail the Termite - 5D3, 24-70 II @ 24mm, f/5.6, ISO 100
I finally managed to hop my way up the stairs this afternoon to make it to my office for the first time in about 6 days.  Its awesome to be able to access my machine with all my images and post some new stuff.  I've also mostly kept my leg elevated since returning home from the hospital and putting this post together is the first time its been down for a long time, rushing a lot of blood there.

Termites!  These guys were probably the biggest surprise from my Botswana trip.  First, I didn't expect to see so many of them (more on that later) and second in California home owners generally vilify them and consider them a nuisance for the damage they cause to homes.  I learned a lot about termites on this trip including their fascinating role in the ecosystem.  As consumers of dead wood, they play a vital role in returning emergy back into the ecosystem.  Their mound structures and colony organization is also fascinating.  But the most fascinating thing is the termite bloom, oh my goodness what an experience.  The mound has future kings and queens inside, many many thousands of them.  The workers bring them food for most of the year and these guys fatten up, consisting mainly of protein and fat.  Then, at the start of the rainy season, after the first days of heavy rain, when the soil is softer, they are released en masse.  These termites have wings and their goal is to fly out, land somewhere, mate and start a new mound.  We had heavy rain on our fourth day so on the night of the fifth we had a chance to experience this first hand.

After returning from our game drive and before dinner we noticed several hundred flying insects up by the main light.  These were the termites and quickly their wings fell off, they fell to the ground and were swept up.  We then went on with our dinner and just as we finished our main course and were waiting for dessert we saw a horde of them by the main light again.  Soon the entire space was buzzing with what must have been tens of thousands of termites in flight; needless to say dessert was cancelled.  They are completely harmless, but they land everywhere and for those uneasy with insects they can freak you out.  I'm very uneasy with insects but for some reason I just found this fascinating and so stuck around for some time watching them.  My buddy +Vincent Mo was stuck in an upstairs loft area (the fallen termites had completely covered the stairs) so he stayed for a lot longer photographing them.  The camp staff swept them all up and in the morning little evidence of what had happened last night remained, amazing stuff.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Big Bull

Big Bull Elephant - 5D3, 24-70 @ 63mm, f/8, 1/80s, ISO 100
I love wildlife images where you have the opportunity to get close and use a wider angle to pull in more of the environment.  I was at 63mm (so only about 31 degrees angle of view), ideally he would have come closer to us to, but you get what you get.

I made this image on our last full day at Sandibe during an afternoon game drive.  By that point in the trip after filling our cards with great images of leopards, cheetahs, elephants and even a couple of male lions we were out with +Grant Atkinson to simple find anything interesting.  Its immensely satisfying to reach a point on a photographic trip where you don't feel the pressure to have to see something because you've already had a lot of great sightings.  We spotted this big bull elephant, which as bulls tend to do was walking and eating along the way.  The vehicle was positioned far off such that if the elephant continued on his path he would walk past us with the vehicle positioned between him and the sun.  The engine was shut off and we waited.  He first walked past in front of the vehicle, continuing to eat not caring too much about our presence.  Then he turned and walked up to the side of the vehicle and stopped about 15-20 feet away and stood and posed for about 30 seconds, relaxed the entire time.  He then walked to a palm bush behind the vehicle and started chomping on it.  Interestingly, he was so relaxed that he was fine with having his back to us.  I could see him turn his head slightly and dart a quick glance every 30 seconds just to make sure we weren't being cheeky.  One of my favorite moments in Botswana.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013


Hiding - 1DX, 200-400 @ 400mm, f/6.3, 1/200s, ISO 200
I find it fascinating how baby elephants always seem to position themselves such that their mother is between them and a vehicle.  In this case we were no threat, we stayed put some distance away and allowed the elephants to walk past so that they would stay relaxed.  Still the baby eventually ran up and positioned itself under the legs of its mother.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Out for a stroll

Out for a stroll - D800e, 70-200 @ 200mm, f/10, 1/200s, ISO 220
Continuing the theme of elephants and getting closer yet here is a pair out for a stroll.  We watched the group of elephants these two were a part of for some time as they slowly moved through the area grabbing food with their trunks, stuffing it into their mouths and moving on.  The baby always not too far behind.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Elephant Line

Elephants - 1DX, 200-400 @ 400mm, f/5.6, 1/400s, ISO 500
From elephants in the air to now on the ground, I just can't get enough of these majestic creatures.  Its fascinating to watch them move through an area with the babies and juveniles in the middle being far more playful than the adults.