Very Early Quince

Time was, we never saw the Japanese Quince bloom until late February,but now with the new normal, it shows up in January.  If we keep going at this rate, it’ll be around at Christmas time.

Japanese Quince is the common name for this spiny shrub but its also native to Korea, China, Bhutan and Burma. I first noticed the small red buds breaking out last week.

I’ll be going back to grab some shots when the flowers are fully open, but with the scarcity of color in the winter months, I’m obsessed with grabbing every pixel of color I see. I used two cameras for these shots. a Nikon D700 fitted with a 60mm Nikkor Micro (Macro) lens and a Sony A6000 fitted with a Sony Zeiss 16-70mm lens. I’m heading back to the ancient Camellia beds now. The Camellia Japonicas are really hitting their stride now and I need to grab some shots before the really cold stuff bites them. As always, thanks for the look and have a good week ahead. See you next time.

Gales At The Beach

The day proved to be something of a paradox. It was a pretty winter day.  There was no rain, a few clouds, the sun was out and it really wasn’t that cold, but the wind was ferocious.  Gales approaching 35 miles an hour sent the wind chill plummeting, whipped up the usually tranquid waves along the Bogue Banks and created a minor sandstorm on the beach.  So you might ask, why on earth did I go.  Well, I have found over the years that the best time for photography on the coast is when there is something going on with the weather, in this case, the wind. There is nothing more boring to me than to be on a beach with a camera on a bright, sunny, cloudless day. The second reason is that I like the beach in the winter; the sheer isolation of it and the pale, neutral tones.  I suppose you could say, I got what I was looking for.

The wind picked up shortly after daybreak bringing  out two hearty kite flyers who turned their backs to the blowing sand and sent their kites sailing over the ocean.

Even they gave up after a while as the wind began kicking up clouds of sand and driving it up the beach.

Fortunately, I had brought along a thick windbreaker, goggles and a stocking hat.  The camera, a Nikon D750 is well sealed but I took no chances, wrapping it and the 24-120mm f/4 lens in a large zip bag with only the front of the lens with UV filter attached, exposed to the elements.  All in all, an interesting outing that netted some decent keeper shots, but I was worn out.  Just standing up to the battering wind was exhausting, let alone trying to walk against it.  Thank you for visiting and looking.  Comments are always welcome. Have a good week ahead.  See you next time.

Black and White

The first photograph I ever took with a 35mm slr camera was a black and white shot of the Jefferson Memorial in the midst of cherry blossoms in full bloom along the tidal basin in Washington, DC in 1967.  The film was Kodak Tri-X.   Monochrome has enjoyed something of a renaissance in recent years.  The major photography magazines devote at least one issue a year to monochrome, film and digital.  Should you care to go retro, black and while film is still being made and film cameras are readily available including what many consider the ultimate 35mm film camera, the Nikon F6.  Why shoot black and white?  Frankly, I think some scenes are much more dramatic when shot in monochrome.  When I’m out on a shoot, I usually pack my old Nikon F-100 loaded with Kodal Tri-X,  if only to revisit my photography roots.

Which are film and which are digital?  The first and third shots are film shots scanned and converted to digital. The second and fourth are digital.  Kinda difficult to tell isn’t it?  Film or digital, putting monochrome into your photography mix can give your photogaphy another dimension.  Thanks for looking and have a good week ahead.

Camellia Curtain Call

Moderating temperatures have brought cheers from the forest of ancient camellias here.   They’ve all put on their best faces for an encore.

These were all taken in late afternoon light filtered by the tall Loblolly Pines and Dogwoods that share the space. The first two shots were taken with a Nikon D700 with a 60mm micro lens, , the third with a Sony a6000 using a Zeiss 16-70mm lens and the fourth with the same Nikon D700 rig. I always use the lowest ISo setting I can possibly get away with, f/8 or f/11 if possible and a tripod.

2018 marked my 50th year in photography and I have learned several things I will share with you.  Cameras come and go, good glass endures. There is no substitute for being there.  Buy a good tripod and use it. Find the sweet spot in your lens. Your best photograph is the next one. and be careful out there.   Have a healthy, safe and prosperous New Year.  See you next year!

Camellia Japonica

A sure sign of winter, the Camellia Japonicas pick up where their first cousins, the Sasanquas, leave off in the late fall.  a more structured and symmetrical flower, the Japonicas also bloom longer; from December right on up through mid to late March.  I have no idea how many varieties there are.  Probably hundreds.  We have seven here on the farm.  Four are blooming now. The others will make their debut later in the winter.  Aside from the changing sky, they are pretty much the only color in the landscape in the winter months; so they are pretty much a magnet for a camera.

The photograph just above was taken with a Sony a6000 using a Zeiss/Sony 16-70mm f/4 lens. The others were taken with a Nikon D700 using a Nikkor 70-200mm f/4 lens. Note: The Sony camera is a small sensor camera.  The D700, of course, is full frame.  All were shot at 160 ISO, f/11, matrix metering with white balance set to cloudy.

My thanks to those of you who take a gander at this site every so often.  I appreciate your looks.  I wish you all a Joyous Holiday Season.  Blessings in the coming year.  See you in 2019!


Wondering the Dunes at Fort Macon State Park

Fort Macon State Park is the site of a meticulously restored fort of the American Civil War, a museum quality coastal education center and an unspoiled shoreline on the eastern tip of the Bogue Banks just off the North Carolina Coast.  The attraction for me is the vast shoreline. 

Just off the coast, one can see  manmade Radio Island, built from the seabed with sand dredged from the shipping channel to Morehead City.  It’s named for a radio station and antenna that operated on the island from 1940 until just after the turn of the century.  In the distance to the east  Shackleford Banks is visible.  It is home to a large herd of wild horses that date back centuries. It’s now closed to visitation.  Not visible but just beyond Shackleford Banks is the Cape Lookout Lighthouse and the Cape Lookout National Seashore, which with the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and National Seashore to the North, comprise America’s longest park.  Thanks for the visit.  See you next time.

Sony a6000 Mirrorless Camera

I picked up this camera used from MPB in New York in “Like New”condion for about half the price of a new one.  I also picked up the Sony 16-50mm kit lens.  More on that coming up.

The a6000 is quite a change from the big Nikon DSLR’s I haul around and that is one of the big pluses.  Another is that it takes marvelous pictures.  There are lots of negatives though.  First, ergonomics-wise, all the buttons on the camera feel exactly the same.  I have to take my eye from the viewfinder (electronic viewfinder) to see which button I am about to push.  I never realized how ingenious the engineers at Nikon are when it comes to making a camera feel comfortable in use until I started fooling with this Sony.  Another major negative is the setup menu. It is incredibly complicated and needlessly so. It takes forever to set the camera up for use.   The manual that comes with the camera is pretty thin.  I find myself going to google to figure out how to do things.

A couple of other cons.  The battery is way too weak for the camera.  You might get 90 shots on one charge, but even that is iffy.  You’ll need to carry multiple batteries on an outing. The single memory card fits in a slot in the battery compartment on the bottom of the camera. It’s very hard to grasp when it’s time to remove it.

As for shooting, the a/6000 supports RAW and Jpeg images. . I  don’t use auto ISO on my Nikons and I’m not at all impressed with that setting on the a6000.    The Aperture Priority and Shutter priority shooting modes work fine,  but I don’t like the manual mode on this camera.  It’s very complicated to use without engaging the Auto ISO.  I’ve pretty much settled on matrix metering on the a6000.   I use spot metering a lot in shooting at dawn with my big Nikons and it’s a breeze with the Auto Exposure Lock  but I have yet to figure out exactly how to use spot metering  and exposure lock in the manual mode on this camera.  I’ll reserve judgement until I have more time to grasp the learning curve.

As for the 16-50mm kit lens that comes with the camera when bought new, it’s terrible.  It’s not even remotely sharp and frankly, to me, it is unusable. My advice: get rid of it and buy the Sony/ Zeiss  E-16-70mm f/4 OSS (Optical Steady Shot) Lens.  It’s pricey but worth every dollar.    My wife who tired of me griping about the 16-50mm gave me the 16-70mm for Christmas.  I got to take several shots with it to whet my appetite before she retrieved it to wrap up for Christmas Day.   It’s one of the sharpest lenses I have ever used.   The photos tell the story.

I was impressed enough to pick up a Sony 1.8/ 35mm prime to pair with the 16-70.  It’s a nice fit.   As with anything new, the a6000 will take some time to get acquainted with, particularly the complex menu system.  Right now, I’m still going to school.  Stay tuned.  Thanks for the look and have a good week ahead.