Saturday, February 27, 2010

American Kestrel's Successful Hunt on the former TCAAP

Kestrel Flight
Kestrel Flight
by Mully410

Today was a bright sunny day, but not a great day by photography standards with the harsh overhead light. However, I've found that it's very difficult to capture shots of raptors in the evening so I go out in the early afternoon anyway. I put a circular polarizer on my 70-300mm Nikkor zoom and grabbed my brand new Manfrotto Monopod for a walk on the relatively new trail along Rice Creek on the west side of the old Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant.

There wasn't much to see until I came across this Kestrel. I saw a pair of them hunting last fall in this area so it wasn't completely unexpected. This is a male American kestrel. You can tell it's a male by it's vibrant bluish gray color. I saw this guy from far away on a telephone pole. Within a minute or so, he flew off and crashed into the ground. I couldn't quite see where he landed so no shots of that. Soon he took off towards another pole with a prize in his claws. It was most likely a mouse. Kestrels are very small falcons so rabbits and squirrels are probably way too big for them. These shots had to be severely cropped in order to see the bird so no poster sized prints. If only I would have had this lens...but then again I probably wouldn't have been hauling that behemoth on a long walk.

This set looks particularly great when you do the full screen slide show. Hit the four dot square in the lower right of the screen once you start the show.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Golden Trumpeter Swans - My Best Bird-in-flight Photo so far

Golden Trumpeters
Originally uploaded by Mully410

Tonight, I was out at my spot in the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant Wildlife Viewing Area. It was fairly warm out and I figured I'd haul out the tripod and attempt some more shots of the Moon. I got a whole bunch of blurry shots and a couple that turned out pretty sharp...see below.

Just after I put my camera away, I heard a "honk" and saw these two trumpeter swans. Thanks to my foresight in keeping my camera setup for quick shots, I got 4 quick ones of these swans. The light was perfectly golden as the sun was almost down. The only thing I did to the above shot was to crop it a little. The color is as I saw it. Amazing. Here is the other shot.

I watch a pair of swans raise their young in Marsden Lake every summer. I wonder if these are those two. Probably not but what the heck are they doing up here when all the lakes are frozen?

Sharper Moon - Waxing Gibbous
Sharper Moon - Waxing Gibbous
by Mully410

Thursday, February 25, 2010

My Photography Resources - The where, what, how, why and wtf about making photos

Black-capped Chickadee
Black-capped Chickadee (my favorite bird)

Many of my friends, colleagues and acquaintances ask me about cameras and photography. While I'm no expert on such things, I appreciate the inquiry and will do my best to help.

What camera should I get? Short answer: I don't know. How much do you want to spend? What do you plan to photograph? Where? Do you want something small that fits in your purse or pocket or something fancy schmancy because you know the difference between shutter, aperture and ISO?

Keep in mind this bit of wisdom: If you take crappy pictures now, when you get a more expensive camera you will take more expensive crappy pictures. I paid a bit extra for my camera when I purchased my Nikon D5000 from National Camera and Video because they offer introductory classes for "free." I read the manual before I bought the camera and read it again before the class. Then I got Ken Rockwell's user guide for the D5000 and read it.

I learned most of my photography while using a fairly simple compact Sony DSC-W150 before I upgraded. I figured out that I mostly like the aloneness of being out in nature and want to find interesting shots of birds, animals, bugs and plants. For this, I needed a better zoom lens especially since I take daily shots at the TCAAP Wildlife Viewing Area. Most of the wildlife there is behind an eight foot barbed wire fence. I spent almost as much on the AF-S VR Zoom Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 IF-ED as I did on the D5000 body and kit lens because I need to reach out to my subjects. This lens fit my budget and got great reviews for lenses in this price range. Next on the list is a small prime and maybe a great macro/micro, if I win the lottery.

Fence Closeup
Fence Close Up (I love great DOF like this)

So here is my advice:

1. Figure out what you want to shoot and how much you want to spend.
2. Do research. Read pro reviews. Read customer feedback about your selections at Amazon, Adorama or B&H Photo. If you know what you are doing, Digital Camera Review provide very extensive and more complicated reviews. I also go to Crutchfield to read their technical descriptions and customer feedback. They are a great resource for everything electronic. My favoritest resource is Ken Rockwell. He does very thorough yet easy to understand reviews of everything and has lots of important tips for making better photographs. I learned a lot from him.
3. Once you buy a camera, READ THE MANUAL.
3a. Buy an extra battery and at least 2 memory cards. You will always run out of juice and a memory will always fail when bigfoot runs by or that ufo lands in front of you.
5. Stop using the "green" auto setting. It's embarrassing.
6. Turn off the stupid focus lock sound. Nobody needs to hear that your camera has now locked up on it's focus.
7. Read how other people use their cameras. Here are a couple sites I've read extensively in order to learn more about photography in general:

8. Find a place to store and share your photographs on-line. I use Flickr because it rocks! There are many others available.

9. Get inspired. I often explore the most recent uploads on Flickr and the most interestingness area on their website. I recently found Flak Photo and go there for a more artsy take on photography.

More grass seed
More Grass Seed (should have had a spray bottle for better droplets)

All in all, it doesn't matter what anyone else says about your photos. Shoot what you like and you will like what you shoot and most importantly, have fun!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

I visit the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

Yesterday, I visited the University of Minnesota's Landscape Arboretum. I don't recall ever visiting this fine nature preserve, but I probably did when I was a little kid. I had the most fun at their massive collection of bird feeders. The birds were very tame so I got some great shots of my favorite bird, the black-capped chickadee. Go here to view all my shots of my favorite bird.

Here is a slide show of my adventure:

Go here to look at individual shots.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

I went to the Minnesota Zoo the other day!

I had a great time at the Minnesota Zoo a few weeks back. Took 521 shots and posted the best 10% on my Flickr page.

Here are the highlights:

I stopped at the Amur Leopard exhibit. Two of the three cats were mostly lounging around but one of them was "bathing" like cats do and then climbed around and posed a bit for me. Some of the shots appear to have no fence but this is because I was able to get back far enough with the zoom lens. The fence mysteriously disappears in front of them. Sometime I had to revert manual focus because the auto-focus would cue up on the fence.

When I first walked past the Grizzly exhibit, they were sleeping on top of each other. By the time I walked past them again, these two were fighting or playing or something. I don't think I did a very good job capturing the scale of these beasts (except for maybe the kid shot). They were huge. I also had to shoot through about 3 inches of glass.

Next, I took a walk through the Minnesota trail. These cats and dogs are all native to Minnesota, except for the Tiger. I didn't know where else to put that shot.

I think these Otter pics turned out pretty well. The otters behind the glass are the large sea otters. The others are smaller river otters which are native to Minnesota. I have some river otters near my house so I'll try to get some pics with the new 70-300mm zoom this summer. UPDATE: Ryan Vikander said...

"Actually in your otter photos, the second to last picture are Asian Small Clawed otters, not native to Minnesota. But great pics none the less!"

Here is the last set I posted. It has snow monkeys, some fish and a wolverine.

Hope you enjoy my photos. You can embiggen the slide shows by clicking on the four dots on the lower right side of each frame. You can also follow this link to get to my Flickr site directly. There you can view each photo individually, all the camera properties and geo-tags.

Friday, February 5, 2010


(click pic to embiggen)

Today, my Flickr Photostream received its 100,000th view. It hasn't even been 2 years since I opened my account there. Here are some highlights:

This photo won 2nd place in the MyMoon photo contest sponsored by the Lunar and Planetary Institute.
Fireworks and Moon
Independence Moon
Read more about it here.

This photo has the most views at 2956 at the time of this post. I think it looks like something Dr. Seuss would invent.

"Gag Me" probably had the most meteoric rise in views in my photostream. It had over 2400 views in about 24 hours thanks mostly to the people on Reddit.
Gag Me
Gag Me

I made a photo book using pictures from this set of pics from the TCAAP Wildlife Viewing Area. I'm planning to redo some of the shots as best I can this summer with my new camera.

These 10 photos are my personal favorites for 2009:

All of these 13 photos have received over 1000 views by people other than my mom:

Thanks everyone for viewing. 2010 is going to be great year for making photographs!

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