For Memorial Day weekend, I took my wife to Gatlinburg, TN for the long weekend. It turns out due to all the holiday traffic, it may have been a mistake to stay at a hotel on the parkway during the holiday weekend, but we had never stayed on the strip so we thought it might be an interesting experience.
We spent some time hiking in the mountains, going to Dollywood, shopping, eating, and just relaxing. On the drive home on Memorial Day morning, we drove up the road in the Treemont area of GSMNP. A creek follows the road, sometimes crossing under the road from one side to the other. Almost at the very end of the road, there’s a rather unique waterfall, which I also photographed almost a year ago while there with my friend Bill Fortney:
To get to this vantage point, you have to carefully pick your way down a rather steep embankment from the road to the water. The above shot was taken while sitting on the foreground rock.
Anyway, I wanted to share this area with my wife, so the two of us climbed down to the rock and took some very similar photos to the one you see above. I was shooting my Nikon D800 with a 16-35 lens, and my wife had her Nikon D7000 with the 18-200 kit lens attached.
As I looked around, I saw a mini waterfall a little ways past this waterfall and off to the left. I walked as far as I could towards the smaller waterfall while still keeping dry, but my 16-35 lens was way too wide to get the shot that I wanted. I borrowed my wife’s camera and racked all the way out to 200mm to get this shot:
With the fast-moving water, an exposure time of just under a second was enough to provide a nice, flowing effect.
By using a panning plate and lying on the sand, I was able to completely blur the background (and foreground) of this image, pulling the eyes directly to the only element in the photo – this ring billed gull.
I was in Page, Arizona for the latter half of this week while attending Bill Fortney’s Southwest Tour and Workshop. Yesterday we went to Horseshoe Bend around sunrise, and having a fear of heights, I hung far back from the edge of the cliff. Instead, I turned my camera to the left and was able to capture this rather colorful scene.
After a while, I was able to muster up a little bit of courage, and managed to get within three feet or so of the edge of the cliff overlooking Horseshoe Bend. This image provides a more conventional look at Horseshoe Bend.
It’s interesting to note that these two images were taken with Nikon’s D800 digital camera. In the bottom image, at full size you can clearly see the people walking around down by the river. Now that’s high resolution!
Larry Becker, judge of last week’s Photo of the Week contest on PhotoshopUser.com, awarded me an Editor’s Choice Award for a photo I uploaded there:
“A bird at or near the waters’ edge isn’t especially hard to capture and unless you’re a bird watcher, these kinds of images aren’t always engaging. Eric Harmon’s piece Fort DeSoto Shorebird is both engaging and artistic, and having shot countless birds myself, I know this is such a strong image because Eric has a master level of camera skill. The bird is almost entirely within the depth of field and just about everything else is fully out of focus. The bokeh looks like jewels at the horizon line and the reflection is smooth and beautiful, but not distracting. My favorite thing is the complete lack of detail in the background and the beautiful, soft distant background and foreground. This is a strong image!”
My wife just came into my office holding my ThinkTank Pixel Pocket Rocket. She said, “Honey, look what I found in your shorts pocket after doing laundry.”
My heart sank. I opened the CF card case and looked inside. My three oldest cards were in there, including two 8 GB SanDisk Exteme IVs and an 8 GB SanDisk Ultra. Fortunately, my 32GB and 16GB cards were either in my cameras or in a card reader attached to my camera.
The card holder was still slightly damp. It had been through the complete wash cycle, as well as 10 minutes or so of the dryer cycle. I tried each of the cards in turn in my card reader, and all three of them were readable and showed no errors. I’m not 100% sure I’d trust them right now for something critical, but at least they appear to be ok.
This isn’t an endorsement for a new way to clean your CF cards, but it’s a testament to the fact that these cards can withstand water and heat, at least for a short period of time, and still work!
Friday evening I attended the football game between The King’s Academy in West Palm Beach and Calvary Christian Academy, hoping to be able to get some great football images. As I didn’t have a press pass, I had to shoot outside the fence, which made it considerably more difficult to get a clear shot of the action (everyone from football players to cheerleaders to coaches to other photographers were between me and the field).
I did, however, snag a couple images in the first quarter that are worth posting.
I left after the first quarter due to the less-than-desirable shooting conditions. Next time I’ll see about getting a pass ahead of time.
Last night I went over to Okeeheelee BMX and photographed some of the practice that they were having. It was my first time at the track, and I spent a couple hours there with my photographer friend Gonzo, until we got rained out.
Still, I managed to come away with some great images, one of which is below. Saturday morning Gonzo and I are planning to go back and photograph a daytime practice, with the hopes of photographing a race soon.
The rain this past week prevented me from doing two shoots which I was looking to. First, I was planning to shoot some BMX bikers on the track; and second, I was planning to shoot the sunrise at the beach.
Rain every day interfered with my plans, but I have a new plan to shoot at the BMX track tomorrow evening. Hopefully the weather will be a little drier!
My wife Ali and I just got back home from a little two-day getaway to Tampa, FL. We purchased annual passes to Busch Gardens back in April of this year and they expire on December 31st, so we figured we’d take advantage of the long weekend and drive over for a couple days.
Of course I took some photography gear with me, and I spent a few hours in Busch Gardens on Saturday, photographing zebras, giraffes, flamingos, and cheetahs using my 200-400 lens. I’ve had very little experience with this lens so far, so I’m still trying to get up to speed with it. Here are a couple photos which I quite like of a cheetah chasing a feather on a string at top speed. The photos actually aren’t tack sharp when viewed at 100%, but reduced to web size, they’re not bad.
We also spent a few hours at Fort DeSoto in St. Petersburg on Sunday, where I lay on the sand and tried my hand at shooting shore birds with the 200-400. Here I had much better success, and these are two of my favorite images from that location.
At long last today, I made the decision to move from NEF files (the Nikon raw file format) to DNG files (Adobe Digital Negative). I did this for several reasons. First, DNG files are smaller. Converting a test folder with 169 images in it yielded an 18% reduction in total file size. As the D800 images are about three times larger than the images produced by my previous D700, I’ll gladly accept any reduction in disk space that I can get.
Second, Nikon makes changes/improvements to the .NEF file format with almost every new camera they release. It may be only a matter of time before some of the older .NEF formats are no longer supported. Even though none of my images are that old, I wouldn’t want to find out sometime in the future (say, with Adobe Lightroom 10, or Adobe Photoshop CS12, that I can no longer read some of my older .NEF files.
Third, by using DNG files, I don’t need to be concerned about keeping the XMP file alongside the NEF file. The DNG file format incorporates the XMP data inside the .DNG file itself. This is a minor point for me at the moment, but every little thing counts.
I can imagine that in time, all of the major camera manufacturers may be directly supporting the .DNG file format anyway. I believe at least one camera manufacturer currently supports .DNG files natively, and over time I would expect Nikon, Canon, and other manufacturers to do the same thing. Most likely it’s only a firmware update that would be necessary to add DNG to the already existing JPG and NEF file formats that the camera can create.
I’m in the process of converting about 350 gigabytes of .NEF files to .DNG in Lightroom 4. It’s a relatively slow process, but I’m in no rush. Only time will tell whether this was a good decision or not.