Monday Apr 16, 2007

Spring Flowers

Follow up here.

Spring is now approx 4 weeks old and here are some more pictures from the neighborhood.

I hope we continue to see these and more flowers blossoming in the season, specially since Mercury News has declared drought. My son is a big "water saver" following three steps:

  • 2 minute shower instead of regular 10 minutes (less time and water, both precious at this stage)
  • Not opening the tap fully when washing hands and washing them quickly.
  • Planning to get less number of plants from Home Depot and even those that need less water

He even pasted a note in our living room and asked all his friends to save water. Drop by drop, we will all get through it.

I plan to post more tips on water saving in subsequent entries.

Technorati: nikon d80 digital spring blossoms photography

Saturday Mar 03, 2007

Spring Blossoms

Spring is still 2 weeks away (starting Mar 21) but blossoms are showing up for past few days now. Finally this morning I spent some time this morning in backyard and neighborhood taking some pictures. All of these pictures were taken between 9:00-10:00am, when the sun was bright, using Macro mode of Nikon D80.

The macro mode is good but is not able to focus if the subject is closer than 3-4 inches. I hope to spend some more time over the coming weekends exploring this mode and share some more pictures. 

Here are some flower photography tips:

Please leave a comment if you have any other tips on nature photography.

UPDATE: Follow the discussion on these pictures in Nikonians Forum.

Technorati: nikon d80 digital spring blossoms photography photographytips

Sunday Feb 11, 2007

Nikon D80 firmware updated

Nikon has released an updated firmware (ver 1.0.1) for D80. Here are the changes:

  • The electronic analog exposure display will be displayed in the viewfinder when the brightness of the subject exceeds the range that can be controlled by the camera, whether too bright or too dark, in the following shooting modes: 
    • Shutter-priority auto (S) or Aperture-priority auto (A) exposure modes with the built-in flash up
    •  Programmed auto (P) exposure mode
  • Effects of processing performed when the Long exp. NR item in the shooting menu is enabled have been improved.
  •  When attempting to edit images, which had already been edited using a computer, with options in the D80’s retouch menu, the camera sometimes froze.  Therefore, images that have been edited using a computer can no longer be edited using the camera.
  • Errors in English, Polish, Swedish, and Traditional Chinese menus have been corrected.

Download for Windows and Macintosh. I update mine using the easy-to-follow instructions.

I caught up on some photography reading as well. Here are some great photography tips I read:

Technorati: nikon d80 digital photography photographytips dslr nikon firmware

Tuesday Dec 26, 2006

Nikon D80 resources

I've started playing with my camera in the past few days and here is a collection of resources that I've found helpful:

  1. Nikon D80 Landing page
  2. Nikon USA English-language manual
  3. Nikon Corp D80 Digitutor, interactive tutorial and excellent for all levels.
  4. D80 Users Group at nikonians.org: Great resource on a wide variety of topics ranging from product reviews, personal experiences, how-tos, glossary, and much more. The facility to post your question to multiple Nikon users (all levels) is extremely useful. It helped me to gain confidence in my purchase. 

These four links should provide enough material to explore (and exploit) the camera. Few more links for digital SLR beginners (like me) :

  1. Although Enjoy! Digital SLR Cameras is by Canon but Part 1 & 2 cover the basics very well. Part 3 & 4 uses Canon cameras for showing some of the options but explain the concepts in simple language using pictures for different settings.
  2. A basic knowledge about how Shutter speed (time for which the shutter is held open to allow the light to reach the sensor), Aperture (hole or light through which light is admitted), Film speed (a.k.a. ISO speed), Depth of field (distance in front of and beyond the subject that appears to be in focus), Exposure (total amount of light allowed to fall on sensor), Image sensor (device that converts visual image to an electrical signal, an array of CCDs in digital cameras), and White balance (a.k.a. Color temperature) work with each other can make all the difference in capturing great photographs. Three gateways of light explains the relationship between shutter speed, aperture and ISO speed.
  3. Knowing the difference between Optical vs Digital zoom is only relevant for compact digital cameras. For digital (or any) SLR, digital zoom can be performed during post processing using any image editing software. 

This page shows a picture taken with different apertures. A lower aperture is indicated by a higher f/ number (or broader depth-of-field) and vice versa. This page shows the effect of shutter speed on a picture.

Technorati: nikon d80 nikon digital photography dslr tips

Sunday Dec 24, 2006

Aquarium Photography Tips

Took our son to Monterey Bay Aquarium earlier today so here are some tips that I read before going. I'll post a blog later with photos and usefulness of these tips in terms of my experience. 

General tips for aquarium photography

  1. NEVER use built-in flash. If possible, use external light from the top and/or the sides, but not from front of the tank. Otherwise use only tank lighting.
  2. Slow shutter speed or larger aperture (smaller depth-of-field), higher ISO, and manual focus.
    1. Consider using smaller aperture (higher depth-of-field) so that fish movements can be captured.
    2. Use burst shooting when the fish is in the sweet spot.
  3. Use a tripod, especially for close up or macro photos (use the "Digital Vari-Program Macro", tulip on the left side command dial, mode).
  4. Place the camera perpendicular to the glass and subject.
  5. If taking picture of a fish, focus on a spot and wait for it swim into view.
  6. Take more than one picture so that you can select the best.
  7. Live plants, rocks, driftwood and gravel are the best backgrounds. Make sure you conceal any electric cords or air tubing away from sight.

If possible, follow the guidelines below 

  1. Clean the aquarium glass from both inside and outside.
  2. Completely darken the room to help avoid reflections.
  3. It is always best to take pictures in the highest setting/best quality possible, if you have enough spare cards.

Here are some of the articles I read:

  1. Basics on Aquarium Photography
  2. Photo tips by Janet Brassard
  3. Techniques for Aquarium Photograph
  4. The Art of Aquarium Photography
  5. Rules of Aquarium photography

 

Technorati: nikon d80 digital photography aquariumphotography dslr tips

Thursday Dec 21, 2006

Why I bought Nikon D80 ?

I've been looking around for a new digital camera for past few days as my original camera died. Initially I was looking for a compact digital camera (with second thoughts on digital SLR) and narrowed down my search to Nikon Coolpix S10 (impressive 10x optical zoom) and Canon SD 800. They both are great cameras but I did not like Coolpix S10 mainly because of the swivel design of lens (it has advantages but I'd rather have one less mechanical moving part) and non-uniform thickness of the camera. Canon SD 800 is a one of the finest in compact segment but has very limited manual controls, specially manual focus. 

So I prepared a list of features that I need:

  1. Faster operation: Instant startup (less than a second), focuses and takes photo quickly
  2. Capture fast moving action + continuous shooting (aka rapid fire shooting or burst shooting)
  3. Fully automatic + complete manual control in case I need to exploit
  4. Good resolution: at least 6-8 MP, more is ok
  5. Reuse the zoom lens (Sigma 100-300mm F4.5-6.7 UC) and filters bought for Nikon N70

#1 - #3 features are must, #4 is very common these days and #5 restricted my choice to Nikon. And after all Nikon is a well established name in cameras and offers wide variety in digital cameras so I consider it a safe bet (another personal reason listed below). After preparing the feature list, it was evident that features #1, #2 and #3 are not supported by digital compact cameras. Prosumer digital compact cameras (PROfessional features + conSUMER body) offer burst shooting but it's tend to give blurry pictures because of the slow focusing ability. So I decided to purchase a digital SLR which can serve the required functionality.

Nikon D200 is a great camera targeted at professionals but is slightly on the expensive side (approx $2000). D40 is released last month, cheap but can only Auto Focus with lenses that have built-in focus motors (my existing lenses are not motorized). Nikon D70s is now replaced with D80. The Nikon 18-135 mm lens offers outstanding performance and, according to a local camera store, often far better than the cheaper lenses shipped in other kits. D70s is a discontinued model and D80 is a great upgrade for D50. My brother (who is an advanced photographer) also has a D80 (this is the personal reason) and very happy with the results. So the combined effect is that I narrowed down my choice to D80. The internet prices range from $1180 - $1300 but I finally bought it yesterday from CircuitCity.com for $1214 (not a huge price difference from internet and the store is 5 minutes drive from my home). Christmas arrived a few days early for me this year :)

dpreview.com has an in-depth review of the camera (make sure to select different options from the list box). Here is another excellent review from a user and provides comparison with D50/D70 and D200. A non-technical review by a user, although concise, is helpful. D80 Users Group (spanning 140 countries with approx 40,000 photographers visiting daily) has interesting discussions related to the camera. The digital cameras can be compared side-by-side if you are interested in matching the feature sets.

This camera has everything I need:

  1. 0.18 sec start-up, 80ms shutter speed and sophisticated AF system better suited for fast action photos
  2. 3 frames per second and up to 100 consecutive JPEG images
  3. Fully automatic, including different modes, and complete manual control (more than what I need and so is extensible) 
  4. 10.1 MP
  5. Supports Nikon F Mount for my existing lens

Watch and learn Digitutor (look for the button on the page) is an excellent interactive tutorial to learn about D80 features. I'll play with the camera over next few days and, in the process, also revise my photography skills.

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Arun Gupta is a technology enthusiast, a passionate runner, author, and a community guy who works for Oracle Corp.


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