New Nikon gear announced… Reeves considers a life of crime

Nikon announced some rather drool inducing product today.  The new bodies and lenses have me looking into my camera bag and feeling rather inadequate.  I turn my gaze into my wallet and find myself lacking there too.

We’ll discuss my failing self-image later… on to my wish list… (someone pass Santa a note in gym class please):

New lens please – Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8


My absolute favorite lens for my Nikon N90 was my Nikkor 20mm 2.8.  The 20mm when used on a film camera was just shy of fish-eye and gave me a view of the world which almost matched what I saw with my eyes.  Even today I’ll put on this fixed lens because it produces such great images.  I do have a wide zoom, an 18-55 hand-me-down lens… but it just doesn’t go nearly wide enough (and the quality is, of course, questionable).

Now, at the very wide end of Nikon’s new lens announcement is a lens which gets very close to the 20mm images I got on my N90.  The 14-24mm translates to 21mm on my D100… close enough.  I’ll once again be able to get the interior perspectives I see in my head… but not until I come up with a spare $1,800.

New body please – Nikon D300

D300 Back in 2002 I made the switch to digital and have never regretted it.  The release of the D100 gave me a DSLR I could afford and a size I could stomach.  I’ve always drooled over the D1 & D2 cameras and the new D3 is no different.  The features are incredible (view and take pictures remotely from your laptop: sweet) but the size is still for the pros. 

When Rob bought the D200 I was certainly tempted but I’m glad I waited.  Nikon’s new prosumer body, the D300, has some really great features and twice as many pixels as my D100.  The most interesting thing I’d like to try out is the new “liveview” mode which allows you to use the LCD for confirming framing and focus before taking the picture.  The reason I didn’t get the D200 was I didn’t have the scratch… at $1,800 I don’t think I have the means for the D300 either. <sigh>


Nikkor 105mm micro – 2 months in

Back in May when Paula and I were state-side for her graduation we picked up a couple of presents for ourselves: a Nikon D40X for Paula and a Nikon 105mm macro lens for me.  Like most photographers with a new lens I have spent most of the past couple months shooting almost exclusively with my new toy.

What’s the dealeo?

Early in 2006 Nikon updated their popular 105mm Macro lens with the addition of their VRII vibration reduction system.  Used by many as a multi-purpose lens, Nikon’s 105 produces roughly a 1:1 reproduction ratio when used for Macro photography and the shallow depth of field make for a passable portrait lens.  While I’ve found I can use it for a lot of different types of photography, I must state: it’s not quite a Swiss Army lens… and it certainly won’t fit in your pocket.

VR on macro lenses?  Genius

Well, perhaps “obvious” is more apt than “genius”.  Having the image stabilization functionality for close up photography is really a bit of a forehead slapper.  Why hasn’t anyone done this before? 

Our backyard has some wonderful flowering bushes which draw in a happy little cloud of bees.  Having the VR allowed me to grab my camera out of my bag and hand-hold some close-ups of the bees with their pollen saddlebags, something for which I would certainly have needed a tripod.  Electronic Quaaludes… nice.

Say cheese… okay, again… wait…

Macro lenses can be roped into duty as a portrait lens, their shallow depth of field providing wonderful blurring of background elements.  There is, however, a catch: their focus is manageable when tight into subjects but getting a subject properly focused at 10 yards away can be a touchy operation.

That said, it still does a decent job in the role of a portrait lens.  As your lens collection grows you’ll want to have both portrait and macro lenses (I assume).  My priority was macro first, portrait second… and I’ll be able to press this lens into portrait service until Santa brings me one of those 30mm f1.4 lenses Rob’s been raving about.

So, what is it? Whine or roses?

I love the lens, but there are a couple things to note: the touchy focus I’ve mentioned and the size.  The addition of the VR mechanism has turned the 105 into a beefy lens.  The barrel is thicker and the weight has gone up over 30%.  It’s a good thing they added the VR, your arms may get shaky after shooting with this beast all day.

Break it down for me

Pros: great optics, VR
Cons: touchy focal throw at distance, hefty

Bottom line: get one

Photography Travel

Curious avian behavior

Last November when Paula and I were in Rome we saw a fascinating thing: a swirling cloud of birds which, viewed from a distance, looked more like smoke or a swarm of insects than a flock of birds.

flock of birds

Around dusk Paula and I were walking along the wall of Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome when we saw a massive flock of birds, all seeming to converge on the same location.  The birds looked as though they were heading towards a plume of smoke coming up from one of the city’s parks.  The “smoke”, however, was flowing both up and down.  The best way to get a feel for what it looked like is to check out the video Paula shot with our pocket camera.

Starling murmuration from Reeves Little on Vimeo.

Video: Swirling flock of birds in Rome

We still have no idea what was going on.  Our best guess was some sort of feeding frenzy, catching insects which were coming out as the sun went down… but the flock was way up in the air and I think of insects as sticking closer to the earth. Perhaps there are some amateur (or professional) ornithologists out there who can shed some light on this.  Or maybe I should just ask an Italian.

FYI: Castle Sant’Angelo is a huge mausoleum built for Emperor Hadrian.  It was later fortified and used as a defensive position on the Tiber River.  If you’re in Rome we highly recommend visiting the castle in the afternoon as it provides wonderful views of Rome.  As sunset approaches grab a table at the little cafe located on the monument’s wall.  If you’re lucky you’ll get one of the tables facing the Vatican and get some great pictures of St. Peter’s Basilica with the sun setting behind it.


Photo tip: get a good, compact flashlight

I’m betting that you, like me, have been to plenty of cool places where your eyes could adjust to a dark space but getting a picture in the poorly-lit space was nigh-on-impossible.  A flash in many cases will create a harsh effect and (if you shouldn’t be taking pictures) may draw unwanted attention (shhh!).  If, however, you carry one of the new, powerful flashlights you can get some great shots.

When Paula and I were in Salzburg we visited the catacombs at St. Peter’s and came across this wonderful altar in a cave that dates back to medieval times.  The room was quite dark with a bit of lighting behind the items of interest.  Fortunately we now carry a great flashlight given to us by Phillip, Paula was able to light the center of the altar while I snapped a couple pictures.


The flashlight was also helpful for examining the faded paintings on the walls (and before you get on us about deteriorating the paintings… Paula has a masters in archival studies, we were sure to not do any damage. :)).  While traveling we’ve used the handy light to look into shadowy nooks, light up hidden signs and generally find our way in the dark.  At first Paula made fun of me for my geeky obsession with carrying the new toy, but she soon came to appreciate the added light-on-demand.

There are a whole mess of HI (high intensity) flashlights out there, but I’m quite smitten with the unit Phillip gave us, the SureFire G2.  It’s carry-on friendly (no complaints from security yet) and despite being very small and light it packs quite a punch – the thing puts out so much power that you can burn yourself if you leave it on too long!


What makes an interesting self portrait?

As I was browsing my friend network via my space… yes, I may yet breathe some life back into it… but I digress… I came across this self portrait in Tim’s space:


The picture itself wasn’t that striking to me until I read “self-portrait” in the post title.  This got me thinking… what makes an interesting self portrait?

True to my inner geek… admittedly I don’t keep it that deeply hidden, get within 3 feet of me and you’re likely collide, rather suddenly and sharply, with my “inner” geek carelessly strewn about… but once again I digress… true to geeky form I went to the web for answers.  I didn’t go looking for a treatise on the self-portrait, I wasn’t wanting for someone to spell it out for me,  I wanted to look at self portraits to try and understand what grabbed me.

Any image search will return thousands of self portraits… lots of paintings & drawings… fewer photographs.  The photos are, however, what I was looking for and find interesting.  Sure, there are a ton of pictures people took of themselves by holding the camera at arm’s length (and I love ’em, lord knows Paula and I have taken enough of those) but there are occasionally the pictures where you feel the picture contains a bit of “self”.  Self portraits which demonstrate the unique style of the artist (such as paintings by Van Gogh or photos by Warhol) are wonderful  but not quite what I was trying to find.  I was trying to find photos where it looked like the photographer was trying to tell the audience something more than “this is what I look like”.  Paintings, drawings and other “hand-made” likenesses allow the artist to dispense with some real world constraints and give a little glimpse into their inner-self, I want to do something like that with a camera.

I’m always telling myself I’ll start taking more pictures. I’ve been carrying my camera around on a daily basis, trying to keep an eye out for something interesting.  To and from work every day with my camera by my side… and yet… I have taken almost no pictures.  Tim’s picture got me thinking… I’m looking for subject matter… here’s some subject matter I’m carrying with me every day.

A picture taken of me, by me, will, by the very fact I took it, have some of my “self” imbued – it’s unavoidable.  Ask ten people to each take a picture of the same thing and you’ll get ten pictures.  Each picture will be affected by anything from the artist’s personality, sense of composition to things as simple as the height of the photographer (granted only five photos may be truly unique in an artistic sense, but you get my point).  I am going to try to unchain the creativity even more by allowing myself the unfettered use of Photoshop for this project as well.  It will still be a picture… and it will still be of me… but I’m hoping by adding a little “hand-made” to the photography I’ll be able to get closer to the “self” of self portrait than simply snapping a candid of Reeves.

I encourage the viewers at home to play along, I know Tami will be up for it.  I’m sure after I get through the first 4 ideas I have I’ll hit a wall and will need inspiration so I definitely encourage you to send me links to your work… oh, wait,  one exception: Steve, please refrain, I’m still going to therapy to recover from the last self portrait I received from you [shudder]… I’m going to try for a weekly (weakly?) self-portrait and hope my reliability for this project is better than it was for my picture a day for a year attempt which lasted all of 2 months. 

So…  Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more…

Photography Travel

Pictures from Salzburg trip are posted

It took a day-and-a-half to upload all of them, so that should probably warn you off… there are a ton (583 to be exact).  I’m not really sure you want to go looking at them, it may suck your will to live.  Yep, I said it, I don’t think you can take this many pictures (but SmugMug sure can… I now have uploaded over twelve thousand images and am closing in on 22 gigabytes… not bad for a couple of Jacksons per year).

I’ll post some of my favorite things shortly… but I’m waiting for Paula to make her massive post detailing the whole trip.  She has it all typed up, she just needs to spell check it.  C’mon Paula, now that I’ve outed you, you have to post!

You may proceed if:
a) You want to prove I’ve underestimated you by plowing through half a grand of pictures with no descriptions
b) Salzburg is your home town and you just want to see 574 crappy pictures with a few good ones mixed in
c) You’re a tweaker

For the rest of you, I present a random picture from the gallery:

Random Salzburg picture

Photography Travel

Back from a great vacation

Yeah, I fell silent there… but for good cause: Paula and I were in Salzburg, Austria for Paula’s Birthday.  It was a fantastic vacation and we now have over 600 pictures to filter and geotag.  Salzburg is a beautiful city and there’s much to tell… but we didn’t get home last night until 1am and after a day at work I’m bushed and heading to bead.  I will, however, leave you with the view which welcomed us to Salzburg.

A picture-perfect start to a great trip.

Overseen Photography

It’s all been said…

Pictures we took at Ground Zero when we visited in December of 2001.

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More on SmugMug.


Great news for those wanting to try SmugMug, no credit card needed now

SmugMug now offers a 14 trial which doesn’t require a credit card.  You now have no excuse to go try out what I think is the best photo site on the net.

Back when Omar turned me on to SmugMug a credit card was required to do the free trial, turning a bunch of people away from the site.  While requiring a CC caused resistance, the number of people who stayed is worth noting: of the people I know who did the trial, over 80% of them stayed with the service.  With props from PC Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Macworld, Newsweek, Businssweek and Forbes you can be sure you’re getting a great product.

Oh, and once you sign up (because you will sign up :)), be sure to download Omar’s Send to SmugMug tool (Windows only, sorry).  Send to SmugMug makes the process of uploading pictures a simple task.


A great article on how to photograph fireworks

Just in time for the July 4th weekend here in the states digital photography school dot com has put up a great article on how to photograph fireworks.  So, camera happy people (you know who you are… Tami), read up, and get prepared for next week!