2019—Fluidity

Slowing the water that cascades over a fall using a slow shutter speed gives the water fluidity and grace that isn’t apparent to the naked eye.  This technique reveals the varying patterns of the water as it swirls and flows over rocks giving it a graceful look.  The water appears as streaks and curves and ribbons, not bubbling, churning froth and  there is no sign of the thundering roar most large waterfalls have.   This is a detail shot of Gibbon Falls in Yellowstone National Park taken with my Nikon D850 and Nikkor 500mm PF lens.

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2019—Spasm Geyser

Spasm Geyser in Yellowstone National Park is described as a small geyser and according to the National Park Service, whether Spasm is or is not erupting is related to nearby and larger Fountain Geyser. This small geyser is quiet after Fountain Geyser erupts, then resumes splashing to 3 feet.  It was putting on quite a spectacular show while we were there because Fountain Geyser was not erupting.  The splashes looked much higher than the advertised 3 feet and of course the plumes of steam create a sense of drama and billow far up into the  sky.

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2019—Yellowstone Bison

Yellowstone National Park returned to full staffing again on Sunday, our last day there, after a five week government shutdown.  Although the park itself remained open during the shutdown, there  was a dearth of wildlife anywhere in the accessible areas of the park.  We joked that the critters were furloughed along with the government employees.  There were theories about why the critters were absent.  One of the  most plausible explanations was that despite what we felt were bone-chilling temperatures (highs in the teens and lows of -1° with windchill of -15°), the temperatures just weren’t cold enough to drive the animals into the valley to forage.   During our five days in the park, we saw a few Coyotes,  three or four small herds of Bison, and a lone female Elk but most of the critters we saw were not close enough for us to photograph them.  We were on the lookout for a reported lone Bull Moose but never found him.  We had only a few opportunities to photograph Bison that were in range of our cameras, and Sunday turned out to be our best day.  It was almost as if some of the critters returned to the park, too. This Bison bull’s face is covered with ice crystals from his search for grasses under the snow while the mists from the nearby thermal vents melt the snow behind him.

Taken with Nikon D5; 500mm PF lens; 1.4X Teleconverter.

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2019—Tree at Artist Point

The United States Congress was inspired to establish Yellowstone as the first National Park because of a painting of the  Grand Canyon of Yellowstone with Lower Yellowstone Falls painted in 1872 by Thomas Moran.  It is a spectacular view, although I have seen it only in winter when the yellow stone is covered in white snow.  This is a black and white photograph of a tree near the overlook called Artist Point, which refers to Thomas Moran.  The tree was not there in 1872 when Moran painted his work of art.  But its snow covered branches create a lovely focal point with the Yellowstone River beneath it, obscured by mist.

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2019—Still Faithful

Yellowstone National Park in winter is spectacular.  Never mind that the US Govenment shutdown has furloughed thousands of park employees and essential park employees are working without pay.  I’m here in Yellowstone for a trip planned a year ago.   It is heartening to see that the park, blanketed in snow, is still as gorgeous as ever, thanks to the concessionaires in the park and the guide services who have volunteered time and money to keep the park open, clean, and beautiful, without the expectation that any reimbursement will come.  Many restrooms are clean and open and the roads are groomed daily so that the snowcoaches and snow mobiles, the only vehicles allowed in the park in winter, can bring people like me to see the glory of Yellowstone.  Wednesday was our first day in the park and we weren’t sure what to expect.  We were happy to find most of the gorgeous sites we expected to see here open.  And, of course, Old Faithful still faithfully pumps out its geyser but not quite as predictably as it has done in the past.  And, no, its change in schedule has nothing to do with the government shutdown.  According to the National Park Service website,  Old Faithful Geyser currently erupts around 17 times a day.  Its eruptions are of long and short duration and these event durations are used to help the park predict subsequent eruptions with a fair degree of accuracy.  Geothermal and seismic activities in the area during the past 70 years have affected the duration and frequency of the eruptions.  Most eruptions last anywhere from 1.5 to 5 minutes and average 130 feet high.   On Wednesday, we were in place for the expected 11:30AM eruption which actually came at about 12:15PM.  It was a long duration eruption, lasting about 5 minutes.  On this very cold and snowy day, what we could see and photograph was mostly steam against a gray sky.  I converted this image to black and white because there was essentially no color in the original image.

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2019—Peruvian Lily

Alstroemeria is a lovely flower.  I’ve never known it by any other name and it occured to me that such a lovely flower must have a common name.  So, I googled it and yes, indeed, Alstroemeria is commonly called Peruvian Lily.  I don’t know why I didn’t know that.  I”ve even once tried growing Alstroemeria without much success…mostly the result of my neglect, not the shortcomings of the Alstroemeria. Peruvian Lily is a much more enticing name for this gorgeous blossom.

The Peruvian Lily was one of the flowers I photographed using my 105mm macro lens and my Nikon D850 and its Stack Focus feature.  The files produced by a D850 are quite large and that is one thing that slowed the process down for me.  Another feature of the D850 allows for the selection of three different RAW file sizes so I thought maybe a smaller file size would work betterorac.  I experimented with the medium file size when I photographed the Peruvian Lily to see if the computer processing of the smaller images into a single image would be faster.  It was … a little.  And, when I finished, I realized that one of the petal is badly bruised.  I didn’t select a perfect blossom for my test.  And, I didn’t have a chance to retake the photographs with another blossom because I had to catch an airplane.  So, here is the Peruvian Lily, warts and all, after combining 50 images into one.

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2019—Like Magic

Lately, I have concentrated my photography on landscape and critters so much so that I have rarely taken any flower photographs or done any macro photography.  Flowers are among my favorite subjects to photograph and macro photography is something that intrigues me.  I was thrilled to learn that my latest photography challenge was to put my Nikon D850 to the test by using its in-camera Stack Focus feature.

With macro photography, the depth of field is so small so that only a very tiny portion of a subject can be in focus in a single photograph.  The beauty of Stack Focus (also known as focus staking) is that some software will combine photographs with different areas of the subject in focus into one photograph so that the entire subject is in focus. The painstaking agony of manually moving the focus point to ensure that every portion of the subject is focused on is daunting, time consuming, and subject to inexactness.  The D850 takes care of that by itself. It will automatically move the focus point for you as it takes a preset number of photographs.  When all the photographs are taken, the photographer uses software to combine them into a single photograph with all of the subject in focus.

I set up a black velvet background and used three flashes, one on either side and one at the bottom of the flower for illumination.  I set the camera to manual mode, the shutter speed to 1/60, the f-stop to f/8 and the ISO to 64.  The flash output was set to 1/128.

Once the set of photographs was taken. I had to review them to determine which of the 100 or so shots I needed to composit a single photograph with all of the subject in focus.  A quick review of the photographs revealed which shots would have the most depth of focus.  There are several application programs that specialize in focus stacking but I chose to use Photoshop.  I first opened the 35 to 50 photographs, depending on the preset number of images, in Adobe Bridge, then selected the Tools menu and under Photoshop, selected the “Load Files into Photoshop Layers.”   From there all I needed to do was align the images and blend the images.  This was the most time consuming part of the process although it was just a single click for each item.  The memory capacity of the computer and the availability of memory for the scratch disk that Photoshop needs to operate efficiently can slow things down if there are other demands on the memory.  But, eventually, I got it done.

This is a spray of Hydrangea flowers.  If I had taken just one macro image, I would have had to focus on one area of one flower and the rest of the flowers would be out of focus.  With focus stacking, the entire spray is in focus.  The process took about an hour from setup to finishing.  It takes just a few minutes for the camera to take the images.  It took me a while of fiddling to set up the flower and adjust flash output.  The rest of the time was downloading and processing the images in Photoshop.   And, to see an entire image in focus like this, it is like magic!

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2019—Yosemite Mist

Most of our National Parks have remained open during the government shutdown despite suffering from neglect and damage from unthinking visitors.  The parks are national treasures that we must respect.  Their beauty and magnificence were here long before we declared them National Parks and if we look after them, they will continue to be here for the enjoyment of all who visit them.

This is a view of Bridal Veil Falls in the mist taken last November.

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2019—Pink Legs

For me, figuring out which gull species a juvenile gull might be is difficult.  Many juvenile gulls have brown feathers and simlar feather patterns.  Their beaks change as they mature so, for example, a young Ring-billed Gull doesn’t have a ring but rather the entire tip of its beak is black.  Juvenile California Gulls and the Herring Gulls, other gull species common in the Sacramento area, have similar traits so identification can be complicated.  The color of the legs can sometimes be an identifying factor and that is why I determined this is a juvenile Herring Gull.  It’s legs are pink.

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2019—Eye on the Prize

On another visit to Lake Natoma I found about a dozen gulls, all California and Ring-billed Gulls, swarming around a family that brought some bread to feed the birds.  They told me they came to see ducks and there were a few mallards there but the gulls dominated the area and overwhelmed the ducks.  This California Gull has its eye on the prize as it floats down to retrieve a crust of bread.

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2019—Keeping Pace

We watched this pair of bull Moose in Chugach State Park in Anchorage, AK as they walked up the slope, keeping pace with each other.  It was not just a friendly walk.   As they lumbered up the hill side by side, they each eyed the other and swayed their massive rack of antlers in a sign of aggression.

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2019—Variation on a Swoosh

The swoosh I posted a few days ago was just one of several photographs I took of colored lights.  I mounted the lights in a row on black mat board and used my 500mm lens and Nikon D850 camersa with the ISO at 64, the aperture set to f/20, and exposure compensation at -3.7.  In Aperture Priority, this setting gave me a slow shutter speed of 1 second. Then, I moved across the room to a distance that would accommodate the 500mm lens whose minimum focusing distance is 9.8 feet, braced myself, and moved the camera.  Some of the results, like this one, really intrigued me.

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2019—Juvenile Gull

I don’t considser myself a birder.  I consider myself a photographer who photographs birds.  But, I love watching bird behavior and learning to identify them and whenever I post a photograph of a bird, I try to accurately identify it.  Sometimes I’m stumped.  Today’s post is one of those times.  I know this is a gull.  I think it’s a 1st winter California Gull, based on my Sibley Guide to Birds.  I’m basing this on the brown feathers on its head, breast, and wings and the white eye ring which are shown in the guide as  features of first winter juvenile California Gulls.  But, the tail feathers are confusing me.  The dark band on the tail feathers with white at the tip is shown as a feature of juvenile Ring-billed Gulls.  But the dark iris is a feature of a California Gull.  So, I’ll just call this one a Juvenile Gull.

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