Sunday, January 22, 2012

I go to the Minnesota Wild versus Dallas Stars

Last night, I attended the Minnesota Wild versus the Dallas stars NHL hockey game at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota.  They don't allow pro-DSLR camera or lenses bigger than two inches so I brought the D7000 and my small 35mm f1.8 lens.  I was in 9th row behind the Dallas bench so I didn't have to crop more but all these shots are cropped.  I had a lot of fun and would really love to get in there with a 70-200mm f2.8.  Here is a full slideshow:

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Eagles, Ducks and Swans on Lake Pepin

Fish Fight D7K_4200 by Mully410 * Images
Fish Fight D7K_4200, a photo by Mully410 * Images on Flickr.
I made a trip to the Wabasha area to look for eagles with my friend. It took us a while but we found a spot near where the ice met the open water. All-in-all, we probably saw 50+ bald eagles, some swans, thousands of common goldeneyes and hundreds of mergansers.

We learned quickly to be on guard when one of the eagles caught a fish. Even before the eagle left the water with its catch, others came to steal it away. Not a very majestic trait if you ask me. The two eagles in the photo above are a good example. Note the splash in the lower left of the frame. That's the fish they were fighting over.

Here is a slideshow. It looks a whole lot better in full screen so click on the four arrow thingies in the lower right corner.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Mully410 Published on the BBC - Royal Institute Christmas Lecture 2011 - Meet Your Brain

Sad Face (Moon Jupiter and Venus)
I made this photo back on December 1, 2008 when the Moon, Jupiter and Venus were in close conjunction.  I flipped the image 180 degrees so that it looked like a sad face.  The reason you see these two planets and the moon as a sad face is a phenomenon called Pareidolia

The reason I bring up this photo today is that I finally got confirmation that it was broadcast on BBC Channel 4 last December.   A few months ago, a UK production company, Windfall Films, contacted me about this photo they saw on Flickr.  They were looking for images for the Royal Institute's Christmas Lecture Series.   From their website: 

The Royal Institution of Great Britain - or "the Ri" - is an independent charity dedicated to connecting people with the world of science. We're about discovery, innovation, inspiration and imagination.

Michael Faraday gave the first Christmas Lecture for the Royal Institute in 1825.  This year's lecture was all about your brain.  There are three programs, each about an hour long.  My photo appears during the third program about 12 minute in while the host, Bruce Hood, talks about how our brains are biased to recognize faces.  It's only up for about 3 seconds but as a science fan and skeptic, I'm super excited to be apart of this long running super cool lecture series. 

These lectures are targeted towards children so I though they might be pretty basic and boring.  It turns out they are basic but fun and interesting too!  Bruce does lots of experiments and demonstrations with the audience.  It's very entertaining.  I encourage you to take some time and watch it to learn more about your brain.  Your kids might like it too. 

Here is a link to the Royal Institute's Christmas Lecture 2011 - Meet Your Brain

If you just want to see my photo along with a bunch of other pareidolia, go to the third part, Are You Thinking What I'm Thinking and skip ahead to about 10-11 minutes.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Get Better at Photography - Practice

Thayers Gull D7K_3230
Thayer's Gull (pretty sure)

Today, I went down to the Minnesota River to find some eagles.  I had heard that there were a whole bunch hanging around.  It's been very warm this winter so there is a lot of open water.

I only saw one eagle late in the day so I spent the better part of the afternoon shooting gulls.  When most people see a gull they think "seagull."  If you take some time and look carefully, you'll see there are many different kinds of gulls.   Even if you don't like gulls and don't want photos of gulls, they are great practice.  After watching them for a while, I learned exactly when they would dive on a fish.  They also fly relatively slow and predictably when they are fishing.  I pretty much shoot anything flying bird regardless because I want to be ready when something really cool flies by.  I made 500+ clicks today and had a lot of fun too. 

Here is a slideshow of all the gulls I shot that day:

Saturday, January 7, 2012

What I Do When I Find Spots in my Photographs

Before Clean DSC_0284What do I do when I see spots on my photos?  The cruddy photo to the right shows a number of spots.   Mostly they show up when shooting with a small aperture against a large expanse of plain color, like a blue sky.

I always use the automatic sensor cleaning feature on my Nikon D5000 and D7000.  Not sure if it works at all because I haven't tested it against turning it off for a while.  Regardless, I think everyone will run to this situation sooner or later.  The most likely causes of these spots are dust and bits of metal from your lens mount on the sensor.  Technically, dust isn't really directly on the sensor it's on the tiny fragile filter that covers the sensor.

The best way to clean your sensor is to send it in to the manufacturer.  It will cost you some money and time but it will be guaranteed by professionals that have experience with your exact camera. If you are impatient, a little technical and less afraid than you should be, you can try it yourself. (I suppose the second best way is to bring to a local shop you trust to have them do it.)

Do my best to prevent anything getting into the camera in the first place.  Change lenses rarely.  Change lenses indoors.  Clean my equipment regularly.  Minimize using zooms in dusty conditions.  When you zoom in and out your are sucking air into the camera.

So, here is what I do.  Try this at your own risk.  A damaged sensor is a costly repair.

  1. Erase the spots with software.  When that gets annoying, proceed below.
  2. Use a blower bulb to blow everything off the camera before removing the lens.  I also wipe things down with a very slightly damp cloth. 
  3. Remove Lens
  4. Select the mirror lock-up function in the camera menu and follow the directions.  Read the manual with all the instructions and cautions before you do this. 
  5. When the mirror is locked up I point the opening of the camera towards the ground and gentle blow into the camera box with a blower (not canned air or my mouth).  Most of the time this solves everything for me. 
  6. Test.  I use my Nikkor 35mm f1.8 to test.  I crank down the aperture to f16 or smaller and photograph a plane white wall.  I take more than one photos at slightly different positions because I spent a whole lot of time attempting to remove a spot from my sensor that was actually on the wall. Doh!
  7. If I still see spots, I take the lens off, lock up the mirror and use my Arctic Butterfly sensor brush from VisibleDust.  It has a tiny yet powerful flashlight on the end so you can see things inside the camera box.  This is a motorized brush that you turn on so it spins to built up some static.  Then you turn it off and gently run it across your sensor.  Follow all VisibleDust's instructions and watch their videos before attempting this.  If you do it wrong, you can ruin your sensor.  If you want to see what's on your sensor try one of their loupes.
  8. Test again. 
  9. If I still see spots, I'll try the Arctic Butterfly once or twice more and re-test after each try.  I do this because the "wet clean" is scary. 
  10. If the two or three tries with the Arctic Butterfly doesn't solve everything, I do a wet clean.  I use VisibleDust's sensor swabs and solutions.  I watched all their videos and various other videos I found on YouTube before I did this.  I'm not going to get specific because I don't want to miss something or have a typo about this, so study their stuff.  
  11. After each swab, I let the sensor dry, reattached the lens and did some test photos.  Repeat until most or all of the spots are gone from your photos. 
 **  There are some things I learned after doing this the first time.  I hope I can save you some expense and frustration.  First of all, most of the spots got removed with the blower and Arctic Butterfly.  Second, wet cleaning the sensor is easy, scary and takes some practice.  The first time I tried this the first two swabs I used (you can only use them once a side), smeared the spots around.  The next swab was too wet and left blobs after it evaporated.  I wasn't pushing hard enough on the next four swabs so the dust still remained or it moved around in the frame.  The seventh swab I tried, worked perfectly.  They sell kits with a tiny bit of solution and four swabs.  I bought two kits, fortunately, because it took seven swabs to get it right.  I later bought a 12 pack of green swabs and slightly larger bottle of vDust Plus solution.  The second time I cleaned the sensor perfectly with one swab.

Be sure you buy the correct size of swab for your particular camera sensor.  The swabs I got work for both my Nikon D5000 and D7000 APC-S sized sensors.  

In my experience, it wasn't any cheaper to do it myself compared to sending it back to Nikon.  I'm about even for what I've spend on supplies for the first two cleanings.  I'll be doing well if I can successfully clean 4 or 5 more times with the supplies I have on hand now. 

I do not recommend you try this at home but know that I did it successfully and it was easy (and scary).

After Clean DSC_0326

Sunday, January 1, 2012

My Top Favorites of 2011

I posted 2558 photos to my Flickr photostream in 2011.  It was difficult to pick a top 10 list so I settled on my favorite 30.  Here is a slideshow (once the slideshow starts, click on the four little arrows in the lower right to get to full screen):

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